Once more on you know what...

Jose G. Perez jg_perez at SPAMbellsouth.net
Sun Dec 17 00:51:03 MST 2000


>>The fact that this -reasonable from the abstract point of view of the
bourgeois idea sounds outrageous is precisely why I think that proposing
mandatory voting may become a strong club in our hands, sorry, YOUR hands,
comrades. But of course, I may be (most probably I am) shooting on my
foot.<<

Nestor,

    I propose we make common cause in a partial way, i.e., around a whole
series of reforms that will make it POSSIBLE for many more working people to
vote, namely:

    1. Making election day a paid holiday. The bourgeois press never tires
of telling us how elections are the "festival" of (their) democracy; well if
so, then THAT should be worthy of making a public holiday.
    2. Elimination of the racist laws that prevent someone who is a "felon"
from voting. In principle, I am even for murderers on death row voting, as
the only difference between them and, say Colin Powell, James Baker or
Doubleya's dad is where they live. This is going to be well beyond the level
of understanding of most people, so as a practical slogan, I would say, once
you're out of prison and have "paid your debt to society" according to the
bourgeois state's lights, ALL your rights should be automatically restored.
We'll have to leave the matter of those who are actually serving sentences
to the National Assembly of People's Power, where I'm sure the
representatives of this layer of the population will play a prominent role.
    3. Systematic organization of electoral participation in county and city
jails (where countless people are held "pending trial," not having been
convicted of any offense).
    4. Presumptive qualification of all voters. That is, ANYONE may show up
on election day and vote; if they are not on the list of registered voters,
their votes should be segregated together with an affidavit sworn by the
voter of his/her eligibility. A local judge would then rule on whether the
voter is qualified. For that purpose, judges (of which there are no
shortage) should be in many or all precincts, since no court would be in
session that day (see #1 above).
    5. Specific, widely-publicized rules to facilitate voting by those who
do not speak English or have difficulty reading or seeing, allowing them to
bring someone of their own choosing to help them.
    6. Relaxation of the rules on absentee balloting. With modern,
computerized systems, there is no reason to require such ballots to be
presented weeks ahead of the vote, or to try to limit the number of persons
who can submit absentee ballots.
    7. Universal adoption of paper ballots which can be read equally well by
hand and by OCR equipment and elimination of both lever and punch-card
voting machines. Automatic segregation and hand-reading of all ballots
rejected by machines as unreadable.
    8. Elimination of undemocratic institutions like the Electoral College
and the Senate.
One person, one vote, no matter who you are or where you live.
    9. Automatic qualification for ballot status of all national parties in
all states, with qualification in some number of states, (say, 10 states or
states representing 20% of the population) automatically giving you status
in ALL jurisdictions.

    Once we have adopted these and other reforms to eliminate the countless
obstacles the bourgeoisie has placed to working people voting, THEN we can
talk about making voting "mandatory," to raise "mandatory" voting in the
United States NOW is to give the bourgeois state one more club with which to
punish our class. First, they make voting very difficult or impossible for
many working people. Then they are going to fine you because they succeeded
in not allowing you to vote.

    Philosophically, however, I disagree with you that citizens have an
"obligation" to society to vote, leaving aside, for now, that, obviously,
this "obligation" would be annulled by the nature of THIS society, which
belongs to the enemy class, and whether and how we participate in THEIR
elections is, for working-class revolutionaries, simply a tactical question
on what is the best way to get rid of their rule. On THAT score I can well
imagine circumstances, and I'm sure you can too, where a revolutionary
working class will boycott a bourgeois electoral farce; but of course, no
silly law imposing a $100 fine for NOT voting is going to stop us when the
time comes.

    Philosophically, I think the RIGHT to vote includes the right NOT to
vote, just as the right to speak includes the right NOT to speak. Forcing me
to participate can in no way REALLY "force" me, I can always cast a blank or
spoiled ballot, even if not voting is punishable by death. The only purpose
of the rule would be to legitimize the electoral process as truly
representative of the will of the people. Under bourgeois society, even the
most democratic, that is, essentially, a lie. And I believe that, following
the abolition of class rule, the legitimacy of the collective social
institutions should derive exclusively from the free choice of the members
of society. It is the people who are the source of legitimacy, the source of
"sovereignty" (to use a term current now, but which I'm sure by then will
have become a quaint historical relic).

    However, we are not (yet) facing the responsibilities of constituting
the new order, our job is to get rid of this order. It may well be --I can
see why someone from Argentina would feel this way-- that making voting
mandatory in specific places and circumstances can even be a protection of
the right to vote, a way of preventing the repressive forces from singling
out for reprisals enemies who "dare" to vote. Today, death squad or goon
squad reprisals against people for voting are well-nigh unheard of in the
United States (though as I said before, such reprisals are a time-honored
tradition in this republic which only disappeared less than 40 years ago),
so there is no need to adopt a mandatory voting rule from this angle, and
the OTHER impediments to effective exercise of the franchise are much more
important. Insofar as voting rights go, it is those we should focus on.

José

----- Original Message -----
From: "Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky" <Gorojovsky at arnet.com.ar>
To: <marxism at lists.panix.com>
Sent: Friday, December 15, 2000 6:21 PM
Subject: Re: Once more on you know what...


En relación a Re: Once more on you know what...,
el 15 Dec 00, a las 8:12, Jose G. Perez dijo:

[Mandatory voting]...
>     is not more democratic ... in the here and now, today, to punish
people
> for NOT voting is just one MORE repressive tool in the hands of the
> bourgeoisie.

This is characteristic. I am not speaking of the State PUNISHING anyone for
not
voting, I am thinking of a struggle to obtain from the bourgeois state the
conditions that make popular vote effective and crash the pitiful and
reactionary system that plagues American politics. One of these conditions
is,
so to say, to claim that if the State has a right to draft people to defend
the
Nation, then it must accept that these people are not hindered from voting
in
any way. This is abstract, I know, but it is not me who can put this in
concrete, specifically USA terms.

>
>     All the reforms in the world are worthless in "fixing" U.S. bourgeois
> democracy. It is, as we say in Spanish, a "democracía," with the emphasis
on the
> "CIA."

Certainly so (Translation for non-Spanish speakers: in Spanish we do not say
"Cee-Eye-Aye", we read the "word" cía).  I am not proposing that anybody
"fixes" anything, I am suggesting that the proper implementation of
universal
vote runs so much against the interests of the bourgeois political machine
in
the United States that it may -perhaps- become an interesting front of
struggle. Thus, I also agree with what follows:

>
>     Defense of the right to vote of working people and especially the
> oppressed peoples who have historically been systematically denied this
> right is NOT THE SAME as trying to make bourgeois "democracy" more truly
> democratic. We need the former the better to fight to OVERTHROW bourgeois
> democracy.

And what I suggest is that perhaps, in the conditions of the United States,
bourgeois democracy cannot be reformatted. This is precisely why I suggest
that
struggling for the enforcement of a truly representative "bourgeois voting
system" may be revulsive for people who have been taught that their
democratic
system is the best possible one, nay, perfect! Well, it is not perfect at
all.
A truly democratic system would have to ensure that every citizen can vote.
This, the American system certainly does not ensure. What's more, it ensures
exactly the opposite. Of course that I agree in that

> Making bourgeois democracy "work" or even "work better" is a
> hopelessly utopian quest.

Although, if you ask me, I prefer Argentinean roguish bourgeois democracy to
Argentinean criminal military-oligarchic rule... It is easier to organize
for
revolution under the former than under the latter. My proposition does not
run
against the following, which is only common sense:

>
>     As Fidel explained in a recent interview with Salvadoran journalist
> Mauricio Funes, it is impossible to speak of democracy in any meaningful
> sense when one man has $90 billion and the other sleeps under a bridge.
For "one
> person, one vote" to be meaningful, there must be substantive equality for
the
> "one person" compared to other "one persons."

But I guess there are more persons sleeping under bridges than persons who
have
$90 billion. This is the idea. Of course, the rich ones can always buy the
poor
ones. But there is a limit, again, in that you cannot buy a whole class that
is
supposed to pay _you_ for your living standards, property, and so on.

[...]

>
>     Making voting "mandatory" in no way furthers [concrete working-class]
> fights. It is like requiring everyone to buy a newspaper in order to
further
> "freedom of the press." That is not the way to make working class votes
count.
> The way to make our vote count is to organize ourselves independently of
> the ruling class parties and put up our own candidates.

A bad example, IMHO. Under the conditions of bourgeois regimes, however, the
equivalent of "mandatory voting" would be "equal financing of the press, no
matter what are its political orientations" and a ban on advertising.  This
would put the NYT at the level of any anarchist leaflet, and "people" would
be
allowed to choose freely from the dictatorship of money.

The fact that this -reasonable from the abstract point of view of the
bourgeois-
idea sounds outrageous is precisely why I think that proposing mandatory
voting
may become a strong club in our hands, sorry, YOUR hands, comrades. But of
course, I may be (most probably I am) shooting on my foot.

Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
gorojovsky at arnet.com.ar








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