Our parents are grateful because they’re voting. We’re the first generation to say that voting is worthless.
— Marta Solanis
Elections have become a charade, run by the public relations industry.
— Noam Chomsky
Millions of global citizens agree with the young Spanish woman and the older American intellectual quoted above, most obviously many in Egypt and Wisconsin. Though the popular uprisings in that nation and that state are hopeful signs of democracy in the making, resort to the electoral process only proves the truth of their words. That process is owned and controlled by the entrenched state power of financial interests and until money is taken out of the supposedly democratic electoral process, it is indeed ultimately worthless.
Analysts and apologists for the electoral defeat of an exciting democratic movement in Wisconsin are especially galling when they search for excuses and place blame everywhere but on themselves. Somehow surprised at the introduction of millions of dollars into the election, they seem to have missed much of American history. While it is true that a fairly recent Supreme Court ruling made it possible to shove even more money into the election business, that political mall has been the property of the wealthiest financial interests since the nation began. That things are getting even worse in electoral politics is just another sign that they’re getting worse for everything and everyone but the owner-controllers of society.
That top 1% and its professional servant class in the upper levels of the 99% are getting richer and will continue to do so if we let them take the movement further from real change and guide it to worthless campaigns guaranteed to bring out billions of dollars in support of the status quo, as it is doing for the November elections in America. That presidential vote will be called the most important one in history, as they are almost all dubbed by the public relations/advertising departments of the parties of capital. Millions of sincere voters will flock to the polls with that belief firmly established by state propaganda for the two corporate parties, each claiming to offer change with neither meaning of substance but only of style with the same basic content:
The profit system will rule under the control of private economic forces, and it will continue to make life miserable for more people while adding to the morally, if not always legally, criminal wealth of a relatively tiny group. That group at the top may contain a few more who are labeled people of color, multi ethnic, gay or other subdivisions, but the majority will have far more members of these so-called minorities who need to see their and our common state and stop allowing themselves to be permanently divided into sub-human or special-race categories.
The people who worked so hard to oppose the Wisconsin Governor’s attack on workers and social spending took inspiring action. But the moment it was routed into electoral policy, especially the ridiculous notion that the governor would be thrown out for the very political beliefs which got him elected only one year before, the whole movement was sidetracked if not derailed.
Unions aroused to political action as almost never before, this time aligned with great sectors of the general public which is overwhelmingly non-union, soon became their all too usual lock-step supporters of the democratic party. A movement partly initiated because of an attack on collective bargaining – really never more than a sop to capital that has helped keep unions docile and divided – became one run by a party that relied on a campaign in support of the same candidate who had been defeated a year before. Its opposition amounted to charging alleged scandal in the governor’s past rather than any rallying of the public to a populist program behind a newly expanded populist base.
Collective bargaining has long been the affirmative action of the working class, keeping it divided while doling out special benefits to chosen sectors of that class. Meanwhile most workers remained unorganized, which is exactly what the owner-controllers of society wanted and continue to get. The attack on it could have offered an opportunity – and still may – for unions to speak and act for all workers, not just “their” members, as was the original purpose of organizing unions. And the people who rallied to the union’s support at seeing attacks on their own security if allowing these assaults to continue on others, were acting as members of a majority and not some authority selected minority fighting for its rights while being separated from everyone else’s.
The opportunity was lost in a wasted effort that lead to hurt feelings, recrimination and the all too usual scapegoating and blaming directed at all but the most responsible for the defeat: those who demanded a foolish recall and were drubbed by an even greater margin than the Wisconsin governor had achieved the first time. They even lost the votes of many union members, showing again how out of touch the leadership of both the worthless party and its captive unions are with the common people who make up the seemingly mythical 99%. That magic percentile now falls from the lips of electoral hustlers; the very political class that keeps it divided among minorities, identity groups, and thus helpless to act as a majority speaking with one voice. We can only hope the activists who had – and have – a real critique of the politics and economics at the root of our problem will remain steadfast and not lose any of the faith that motivated them into action.
The Spanish woman and Chomsky were hardly speaking against democracy but only pointing out what citizens in Egypt and Wisconsin have learned: a process under the control of ruling minorities cannot pass the test of democracy and must be dealt with before we can have elections that bring people and parties to power which represent the changes we desperately need, in Wisconsin, America, Egypt and all over the world.
The elections in Greece will at least offer that electorate a party and candidate representing a totally different way of organizing society and using its wealth. Until we can all have such electoral choices, there is no sense taking up time and energy to simply ensure that state power remains in the hands of 1% capital and its house servants while the majority continues to see their collective future disintegrating.
We need to vote with actions that make the political process truly democratic, and those actions will demand strikes, refusals to cooperate with authority, withholding of services by other means and more, along with electoral work only when it can make a difference and not simply reaffirm power in a new suit, dress, or some other label to reduce a potentially powerful majority to the relatively helpless group of minorities it has been manipulated into becoming.