Replying to Gary was Re: Once more on you know what...

Matt D. mattd at
Sat Dec 16 14:07:26 MST 2000

Gary wrote:

> I would also have tried very hard to get as many workers and other
> oppressed layers as possible to vote for Nader.  That would, I know, have
> made Bush's task all that much easier. But a large vote for the Greens
> would have been a clear signal to the Democrats that they were bleeding to
> the Left.

Would a vote for Nader be better than an equally well-publicized, leftist
abstention campaign?  Why?  And what effect are we trying to have on the
Democrats?  Make them "more representative" of their "base" among the "poor
and disenfrachised"?

I know next to nothing about Australian politics.  What little I do know
comes from your often excellent posts on the subject.  But I wonder if
you're not looking at the situation in the U.S. through a somewhat distorted
lens.  Particularly, you seem to have some notion that the Democratic Party
is somehow, in some sense, "really" more on the side of our class than the

> Yet as I interpret your line those who sought to vote were making a
> mistake.  They were in some way "behind" those who abstained.  So how
> you criticize those who like Harris also tried to encourage
> abstentionism?  According to your logic was she not an unwitting
> of political enlightenment for the poor of Florida who tried to vote?

She was indeed, at least potentially, just such an instrument.  Whether any
"enlightenment" -- maybe it would be less condescending to say "political
education" -- is spread and takes root depends on how the movement responds.
Inaugural demos that focus on the bourgeoisie's contempt for supposedly
sacred "rights" are good.  Demos that focus on how "Gore was deprived of his
victory" are not.

Exposures that analyze how elections are a game run by the man to fool the
people are good.  Analyses that worry about "counting every vote" WITHOUT
taking up the question of how the whole elections circus is used to
*constrain* choices, to *marginalize* folks who don't accept the system on
its own terms (and no, I don't mean our millionaire friend Mr. Nader), to
*muffle* authentic voices of discontent, to *channel* the more-or-less
inchoate disatisfaction felt by folks from many strata into a system that
the professional ideologists can then use to *blame* people for making a
"bad choice" if they're unhappy with the state -- these kinds of analyses
are bad.

> The problem with Anarchist thought is that it is all too much of the "one
> key fits all" variety.

I thought we were going to try and move away from this, Liberal.

> It seems to me that looking from here at
> the USA the fact that some 60% of the population either are excluded or
> exclude themselves for the electoral process works primarily to the
> of the powerful.

This is because you enterain a notion that the "electoral process" of our
latter day imperium has anything more than a (very attenuated) entirely
formal relationship to the localized, yeoman agriculture and petty commodity
production based, "democratic" institutions of the pre-civil war U.S.  Our
elections do *not* determine anything except *maybe*, *sometimes*  *very
slight* *marginal* variations in the rate at which the bourgeoisie draws
blood from our veins.  (And they usually don't even determine that.  A
single Seattle is worth an infinitude of Gore victories in affecting the
internal debates of the ruling class.)

Now, I ask again, how much of our *very limited* resources should we invest
in possibly having some miniscule influence on this aspect of the class
struggle (which, after all, is not the crux of the class struggle, wouldn't
you agree)?  Particularly in light of the fact that there are substantial,
well funded organizations already in the business of handling these matters
(for example, the unions).  I suggest that this is not a good deployment of
what little communists have to offer here in the States.  Whatever we say or
do, it should be *different* from what the unions, the environmental
organizations, the so-called "human rights" NGO's, etc. are *already doing*.

Most Americans already recognize that voting does not give them any more
ability to determine their destiny than not voting.  This is a *correct*
analyis, but largely unarticulated and "unconscious" (for our purposes,
we'll take this to mean "internally unarticulated" -- still experienced as
an "intuition" or "hunch").  What reds need to do is gather and sum up that
concrete experience, concentrate and sharpen it, and bring it back to the
people in a way that lets them take the struggle higher (including on the
level of folks' own self-understanding).  Not join in the chorus -- led, of
course, by the professional lackeys of the bourgeoisie -- that condemns them
for "not caring" or "dropping out".

-- Matt D.

P.S.  There is a group of Americans who have a very conscious and articulate
understanding of the complete insignificance of voting.  These are those at
the heights of state power and the top of the bourgeois food chain.  Until
Dubya tapped him for VP, Dick Cheney, for example, hadn't voted since the
'70s or some such time, if I recall correctly.

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