NOTE: This discussion was originally classified as "hosted" but has now been moved to the "member initiated" category.  In the view of the OC Stewards, what is taking place here is a debate rather than dialogue.  In a "hosted" discussion here at, we request that balanced participation be encouraged and that regular summaries occur recognizing all the views being presented.  

While we have no objections to people using the OC forum to engage in debates, as long as they don't cross the line into personal attacks, such discussion is not what we are seeking in the "hosted" category.  

Ben Roberts

We are delighted to have Occupy Cafe member Mark E. Smith offer this hosted discussion on the provocative idea of an "election boycott."  

As "host," Mark will strive to keep the conversation orderly, offer regular summaries of the perspectives being presented and encourage balanced participation among all those who are engaged.  Here's Mark's initial summary:

An election boycott is the only known way to nonviolently delegitimize a government. It doesn't overthrow the government, it simply denies it the consent of the governed so that the government can no longer claim to have the people's consent. Among the many forms of noncompliance, such as removing money from big banks, boycotting corporate brands, withdrawing from the system and creating alternative systems, learning to live on less so as not to have to pay taxes, etc., refusing to vote can be one of the most crucial and effective tactics.

Thank you, Mark, for volunteering your services as "host!"

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Please stop trying to convince me of your views and positions, or sway me any longer. I get it, Mark. I've taken the full course and I'm a graduate. I'm very aware of Blessed Unrest. Thanks for the link.

My apologies, Victoria. I thought perhaps you hadn't seen the link because you seemed to be saying that bad things are headed our way.

Most of us know that unless there is radical change, bad things are indeed headed our way--bad things caused by bad systems. So we're working to change those systems. Not just to patch some minor reforms on them, because that won't slow global warming, end poverty, or stop wars, but systemic change. 

We're not frightened of change or of the unknown. We're scared shitless of the known, of what is happening and will continue to get worse unless there is radical systemic change. 

A lot of people are worried about the NDAA. But there's no uncertainty about it, as some media pundits suggest. We can see it in action by looking at videos of Egypt where a military regime we armed and trained, and their law enforcement agencies, are carrying out the things we paid and ordered them to do in the way we trained them to do it. There's no uncertainty that the reason for the Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, the NDAA, the billions of dollars our government has spent equipping even the smallest towns with riot control gear, is so that the US government can do the same things here it is doing there, suppressing civil dissent in the most violent ways imaginable. 

Oh wait--that's just Mad Mark. Everyone else is still hoping that our government won't do those things to us. After all, they don't really know. Just because it does it to other people, doesn't mean it would do the same to us. So until it happens to them, it's just Mad Mark's ravings.

I've always wondered about a particular learning disability that seems prevalent among US Americans. We can't seem to learn from the mistakes of others. Each individual has to beat their own personal forehead bloody against each and every wall before we figure out that we're not accomplishing anything and consider thinking about ways to go over, under, around, or effectively knock down the walls. Our national spirit of rugged individuality, maybe. And please don't ask me to square that with rampant conformity, because I can't. 

So maybe you and Mr. Blue are right and there are still people whose foreheads aren't bloody enough yet. But even among those of us with old scarred foreheads, I still see people saying, "One more once." So I'm not counting on people learning anything that way. And I think education ought to be a lot less bloody. Personally I prefer to get mine from books and from other people.

Uh-huh. Maybe if the people get their hearts broken and their heads bashed in a few more times, they'll stop worrying about anarchists breaking shop windows and blocking consensus, and recognize that government is their enemy. 

I don't see it. Anarchists are against government. People who are against anarchists, therefore are in favor of government and trying to protect the government against the anarchists. Not that the anarchists are any real threat to government, but they're very disorganized, rebellious, chaotic, and they dress funny. Not at all like the cops in their starched, crisp uniforms or the politicians in their custom-made suits. 

I'm not against government, I just prefer self-governance, democracy, government of, by, and for the people, to tyranny. That apparently sounds like an extremely anarchist idea to many. Ya think old Abe Lincoln was a closet anarchist? He did dress kinda funny, but I think that's how politicians dressed in those days.

Maybe they'll stop being against Anarchists finally, Mark, who knows. 

Maybe if Anarchists stopped dressing funny and bathed more often it would help make the medicine go down for the more washed masses. And don't give me shit, I've lived with them, I know how stinky it gets in those collectives.

Anyway, I didn't mean to come back here to debate you, just wanted to share the link.



Well, the only anarchist I'm on speaking terms with, Victoria, despite being an employed metal worker (union), and dressing funny, is always fastidiously clean. He seems to shower several times a day, whenever possible, and although he does dress in black jeans and t-shirts, they're always freshly laundered. I've sat next to him at Occupy teach-ins on several occasions and there was no odor. We've exchanged books and I consider him a walking educational resource. 

I do know there are anarchists who are idiots, but I don't talk to idiots, not even if they're Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Green Party, or independent idiots. I live in a senior building and I know several senior citizens who rarely bathe and have an offensive odor. But I don't go around saying that old people stink.

And I also know a collective here in San Diego where everyone is scrupulously clean, as is the house they live in. I'm sorry you had bad experiences, but judging all anarchists and all collective by the ones you had the misfortune to encounter, is like judging all Jews by Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegal, and Lepke Buchalter. It's bigotry. Evil people exist within any race, religion, political party, nationality, or other category. Only bigots judge entire groups by their evil people. Even the Tea Party probably has some extremely misguided, but essentially non-evil people.

But since you're here, I'd like to ask you why some of the people who are most opposed to Communism, centralized government, are the same people demanding that there be a plan or model before they could support any movement? The Communists had lots of plans, 5-year-plans, 10-year-plans, and lots of theoretically great models, but I don't see that their plans and models made Communism a better or more successful system.


I'm only partly joking about the anarchists. But yes, I had really bad experiences. And they were smelly bad experiences.

Anyway, I really think you know the answer to your own question, don't you?

No, Victoria, I don't know the answer to my question. I'm not a lawyer or professional interrogator and I don't only ask questions if I already know the answer, I ask because I want to know.

I can try to guess, but I'm likely to be wrong. Maybe those who are opposed to Communism know full well that Communism was all about centralized government with lots of specific plans and detailed models, and that it failed, so they're asking Occupy to come up with specific plans and detailed models in hopes that will cause it to fail?

It doesn't make much sense, particularly in this context, but that's my best guess. 

But I can relate to the smelly bad experience thing. I worked for a short time for the Navy and they used corrosive smelly chemicals to clean aircraft parts. One drop gets on your skin and you stink for three days. I've never wanted to have anything to do with the Navy ever since.

No, I'd say people are asking for plans because they want them. They want plans more than they want uncertainty.

That's interesting, Victoria. Does our current system provide certainty? What is there about our electoral system that provides certainty? I haven't found anything, but you've been at it longer than me. How about our political system--any certainty there? I guess there's the certainty that the rich will continue to get richer and the poor will continue to get poorer, the certainty that the "defense" budget will continue to expand, the certainty that no matter who is elected, the 1% will still control the system, and the certainty that wages will keep getting lower and the cost of living will continue to rise. With those certainties, I think you're right--only people who want certainty, even if it is only the certainty that things will continue to get worse, more than uncertainty, would consider voting.

So that's how Communism rose and fell? Because people wanted plans more than uncertainty? Easy for me, in hindsight, to say that was pretty dumb, but it's certainly (ha!) not a mistake I'd want to repeat.


I'd say elections provide certainty that there is some kind of a system, that's all. Not that it will work well, but it gives a baseline for people to know what's happening and whether something is working well or not working well. Sort of like having a map. You may be lost, but if you have a map with a route mapped out, at least you know where you're lost from, where you're not, where you went astray. With no systems of governance, people assume there would be chaos. That's why they want to know what kind of systems of governance the anarchists in Occupy want -- not realizing they're talking to anarchists. 

I have one word for you to consider



Victoria, when I began conversing with you here in Occupy Cafe, I had no idea you were an anarchist. And from your comments, I came to believe that you didn't like anarchists,. But since you are involved, at least to this extent, with Occupy, unless your sole purpose is to destroy Occupy and you're some sort of infiltrator, according to your logic, you must be an anarchist. Who else would be involved in a movement for change rather than defending the certainty of the current system? that I know you're an anarchist, are you one of those anarchists who bathe, or one of those who don't?  ;)

And I have another nosy personal question, if you don't mind. You said that you'd had an unpleasant experience staying with smelly anarchists. I was homeless for many years and often ran into bad situations. My response, in self-preservation, was to leave any situation that looked (or smelled) bad and go somewhere else. What kept you from leaving?

Maybe I do already know the answer to that one. Was it the certainty of knowing where you were, no matter how awful that situation may have been, as opposed to the uncertainty of going someplace else when you couldn't be certain in advance if that would be better or worse?


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