Active boycott

Zeynep Tufekcioglu zeynept at
Sat May 25 12:41:23 MDT 1996

I'll argue the case for active boycott, but not for the US. The postscript was
there because I was wondering why that option was not being argued about.

I won't argue the US case because I'm not up to the facts of that country, and
don't know exactly how much of an organisation they've got there. I still feel
there are some arguments *for* the tactic the US, I'll just point them out
later in the post.

I think that many of the Bolshevik tactics should be viewed within the light
of the conditions of the day. They were still under the Tsar, and elections
was a new, un-tested medium. The way Bolsheviks could use the fight for
the right to unionise, forming "illegal red unions" were related to the fact
that the right to unionise was illegal, and most union activity proved ripe
ground for revolutionary work. Unions are still places to work for
revolutionaries, but now for example, it has a new focus, the trade union
aristocrat/bureaucrats, which I believe did not exist when Lenin was alive.

The Bolsheviks of course did contradict themselves throughout their
history, which is besides the point, but just a general reminder against
importing their concrete proposals for a certain era into today's politics.

So, what Lenin said there matters not really.

>	"an active boycott ... is unthinkable without a clear, precise and
>	immediate slogan. Only an armed uprising can be that slogan."

Anyway, your crucial question is this:

>The point is that as long as there is no *immediate* alternative to
>parliament then what is the point of boycotting?

About which you say,
>Of course there can be other situations than armed uprising where
>boycott can be used, but it has to be argued very concretely. I
>would argue that as an immediate armed uprising is not on the agenda
>(neither in the US, nor in Turkey) and as revolutionaries are still a
>small minority that "active boycott" is not to be considered.

Immediately, I argue the case for Turkey, as I've joined active boycott
campaigns in the last elections.

An active boycott was due in Turkey because

1-In the last parliament, they had the police pick by force the pro-Kurdish
deputies, who were; in spite of the fact that the state ran an undisguised
campaign of terror, openly killing high-profile activists and bombing election
offices and newspapers; elected by overwhelming majority of the people in
Kurdish areas in the South-East. They're still in prison, a fact that clearly
demonstrates parliament does not pass the minimum of bourgeois norms, as
fuzzy as these norms already are.

2-Election after election, nothing changes we all now that. But, in last
December, a lot of the Turkish population also had made the conclusion.
The election was called to *legitimise* the worn-down reputation of the
sitting parliament. We've decided it was appropriate to push the point in.
The campaign was "no to the illegitimate parliament, which takes orders
>from the IMF and the National Security Council, not the toiling people"

3-The parliament needed legitimisation not because it was really running the
country, because a new austerity package was due. The campaign was ran
as a "no to austerity package parliament".

4-Around 7 million Kurdish peasants forced to migrate from their villages,
(the number is approximate, I think it would not be less than 5 million at the
worst case) were not able to register, because the election law very
explicitly prevented them. So, the campaign was "we stand by the Kurdish
people whose voice is being shut-off".

5-The voting age was lowered to 18, but only two weeks on only working
hours were allowed for registration for these new voters. Working class
youth of course could not register, which was their aim. So, "no to the
parliament which is deaf to the working class youth".

6-Needless to say, the election law was very anti-democratic, as any party
with 10 percent of the vote could not send deputies. This was clearly aimed
against the left.

The population of Turkey is around 60 million. Voting segment is around 30
million. Now, the numbers I give below are approximate. Today is Saturday,
I'll check them Monday from a library and correct if they're anywhere
substantially wrong. They are from an article I had written, I doubt if I
misremember them or mistyped them then.

(Btw, there was a financial penalty against absenteeism, to stop the boycott.
And for weeks before the election, they ruling class ran "vote or shut-up"

1- 5 million registered voters did not vote. I think around 1 million consists
   of lazy folks, the rest did not go to the polls on purpose.
2- 7 million Kurdish peasants were already excluded.
3- 1-2 million working class youth were already excluded.

The leftist parties that did enter the elections got 1.5 million of the
votes, but hit the 10 percent ceiling (3 million) so could not participate
in the
parliament anyway.

What happened since then? The coalition that was formed afterwards is
almost down as it was weak in spite of the fact it claimed 46 percent of the
vote, with outside-government support from a 14 percent party. Because the
parliament could not make the claim to legitimacy. They could not introduce
the austerity package in spite of the parliamentary majority, and the
overwhelming wish. Almost everyone is waiting for early elections, just 6
months after the last. (The IMF even suggested that it be postponed until a
strong government could be formed. See, the government is weak in spite of
the parliamentary numbers).

Actually, analysing voting patterns is I think a bit misleading, I go for
analysing the number of organised people on both sides, which determines
the results in the end. The "active majority" if you will. But, parliamentary
elections do shed some light to the mood.

I confess that I have an allergy to voting. There was one time the
revolutionary left was voting which I disagreed then but now I think it was
the right thing to do. I was going to go cast my vote like a good li'l trooper,
but mirable dictu, I got incredibly high fever to the point of delirium on the
election day, which also miraculously cleared up the next day. I think I may
be suffering from a case of undifferentiated somatoform election withdrawal

As for the U.S., there is so much one can say from so far away, but in the
US, as far as I know;

1- There is no public service that provides free and equal air-time to all
candidates, so from the start the election is determined by money.
2- It takes a lot of money to run, millions of dollars, so from the start the
   working class is obviously not meant to run.
3- The 9 second sound-bite average is a clear argument for what does not
   count in the US elections.

But, if the US left does not have an organisation strong enough to boycott en
masse, it may well run independent (I am clearly against supporting the
Democrats, there seems no excuse for that, and I know about the Gingrich
gang, and all the rest). Or it may boycott, on principle which also depends
on how strong you are. I don't know. It depends on the mood of the country
as well.


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