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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I think, right now, people are ready to march in the hundreds of thousands if not millions. Occupy, as a movement, failed to connect. A mass movement requires the support of the majority. This was a movement that began with broad support and lost it as it became a movement primarily for activists and university students. The black community was hardly involved. The movement started with the right focus, the wealthy, but then went all over the place as activists used the movement to promote their pet causes.

Well, what is else new. If the Left wasn't a circular firing squad it wouldn't know itself. 

Gisele, have you checked out ?

Gisele, as it happens the woman was not illiterate, and was very educated and well-spoken. Not confronting Oprah with harsh realities was a decision, and instead the woman argued calmly, reasonably, and nonconfrontationally.

But while I don't know exactly what was in that woman's mind, I do know what it takes (with apologies to Kipling) to be on national TV with a superstar and millions of people watching, and stick to your principles when all around are losing theirs and blaming it on you.

You don't know what Occupy was or is, or even if it is losing or gaining support. At the bottom of the List of Grievances Occupy stated what it was doing and offered any help it could give to others who were also "working in the spirit of direct democracy."

The Civil Rights movement led to some cosmetic changes, but there are now more blacks in prison than ever before, blacks still have a lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality than whites in the US, blacks are still subjected to more police brutality and killed by the police more often than whites, blacks are still executed disproportionately for the same crimes as whites, the average income for blacks is much lower than for whites, a greater percentage of blacks are unemployed, and real change simply did not happen.

In 2000 there wasn't a single black in the US Senate and there had never been a black President. People who represent the 1%, like Barack Obama, Condoleeza Rice, and Clarence Thomas are just tokens, not indications of progress, as none of them are progressive in the least. Even in the days of slavery there were blacks who worked in the big houses and were treated better than those who worked in the fields.

You don't know what Occupiers want. You know that you don't want direct democracy, which, by the way, does not necessarily mean living in small tribal societies, but you don't know what everyone else wants.

You are putting words into the entire Occupy Movement that were never there, and ignoring the words that were and are.

In Egypt people did march in the hundreds of thousands, and even millions. The US government supplied the Egyptian military with the money, weapons, and training, including many tons of tear gas, to suppress those protests. The only reason the US hasn't killed thousands and arrested tens of thousands here in the US also, as it does everywhere else, is because many who oppose the US government aren't stupid enough to make targets of themselves. That doesn't mean that they don't oppose capitalism and imperialism, it means that they know how many millions of people have been killed by capitalism and imperialism (particularly the military veterans who took part in those killings), know exactly how capitalism and imperialism operate (that's why they're opposed to capitalism and imperialism), and are still looking for effective ways to bring abouit peace through social and economic justice.

I wish you the best of luck in Canada voting out Harper and electing more progressive people to your government. I don't think you can or will, and I think that as things get more and more totalitarian there, as they have been getting here, you'll probably just say that's what people want and criticize anyone who objects as being an anarchist or out of touch with what most people want.

If the woman you are referring to was so articulate then I see no reason to put words in her mouth. Also, people can be extremely intelligent and still be illiterate. In fact some of them are extremely intelligent and they manage to conceal it for decades.

I do know how Occupy started. Adbusters called for the occupation of Wall Street on Sept.17th.  Direct democracy was the way they chose to organize. It was not part of the original mandate which was purely financial. I know the US is an evil empire but that has nothing to do with how well or how poorly Occupy is doing as a movement.

I do know that overall support has dwindled. It's common knowledge. Aside from decreasing numbers of participants and decreasing donations and media reports I think I am much more hooked in to the middle class than you are. Victoria has also stated that the people she deals with would not go for a radical change like direct democracy. Mr. Blue mentioned he can't get the support of two people in his family.They would rather vote Democrat than risk another Republican president.

The Civil Rights movement did make advances. At the time there were separate drinking fountains for "colored". Are there still many examples of extreme prejudice, absolutely, which makes my point. To get as much as they did took hundreds of thousands of people marching. They were motivated in a way people have not been motivated by Occupy and that is just a fact.

It's not enough to be "right". Change requires the support of the majority. Obviously the occupiers that have decided to go with electoral politics disagree with you which illustrates my point that "Occupy" is not a monolithic movement. If there were so many supporters of direct democracy thousands upon thousands of people would have been at the Occupy marches with signs promoting it. My daughter has been to D.C., Boston and New York so I do have some first hand information apart from the blogs that are online describing the way things went at their locations.

Yes, Gisele, you are much more hooked in to the middle class than I am. I'm not middle class. I never was. My parents were working class. I'm lower class and have lived in what the US calls extreme poverty most of my life, including right now.

Maybe in Canada you still have a strong middle class. That's supposed to be the bulwark of democracy, a strong middle class. Here in the US we have a rapidly shrinking middle class. I have only one friend who is middle class, but she and her husband both work two jobs each.

Ah yes. We may have a greater percentage of blacks in prison than ever before, and more blacks imprisoned than were slaves, but we no longer have separate drinking fountains, so we must be making progress. I keep saying that "progress and development" are euphemisms for slavery and genocide, and you keep saying we're making progress.

Change does not require the support of the majority. The overwhelming majority of US Americans were vehemently opposed to the bank bailouts. The government pushed the bailouts through anyway, against the will of the majority, and then set their spin doctors to work to convince people that it had been necessary. Some people were convinced, but a tiny minority of anarchists at Occupy apparently were not. The majority are quite happy that the banks got bailed out and we got sold out, because they're still middle class. In your dreams.

I meant that if people want to change what the government is doing it takes a majority. If the majority of representatives were anarchist then no, you wouldn't need a majority.Seeing as they are not the majority it would take a majority of citizens who feel strongly enough to take to the streets.

I used the civil rights movement as an example that a few thousand people in occupy camps is not enough. Even for moderate change it takes hundreds of thousands, like in the civil rights movement, not thousands, like in the occupy movement.

Even in the US, the middle-class (and above) are still the majority as well as being most likely to vote. Unless you can convince those people to support direct democracy it isn't going to happen.

No, the middle-class is not at all happy about the banks being bailed out. They are very angry about it. It seems as though in your world view there are only two options. Either someone is happy with the current government or they want direct democracy. One can be unhappy with the way the US is being run and still not want direct democracy. You seem to think if you can just convince people how terrible things are then they will choose direct democracy. People do know how terrible things are. That doesn't mean they want to change their entire way of life. They just want to head back to the "New Deal" type situation or to the balance that existed during the 60s and 70s.

Gisele, millions of people took to the streets to try to stop the invasion of Iraq and million of people took to the streets in Egypt, but nothing changed.

The middle class in not the majority in the US,. 49% of people in the US are living in poverty. The middle class was once the majority in the US. That was a long, long time ago.

Studies have shown that just because people are low-income doesn't mean they don't consider themselves middle-class. I'm low-income as is my adult daugher but we still consider ourselves middle-class.

If everyone poor voted that could make an impact but they don't. They vote in much smaller numbers. That gives the political power to the middle-class and up.

Egypt isn't a democracy and they did plenty. They got rid of Mubarak. I know, the same people are still in power. Nevertheless the people are not giving up because they saw that they can make a difference. Change never comes easily.

While many protested the war in Iraq others supported it. Other things count too. Protests have to continue, like with the women's movement and civil rights. Civil rights isn't over yet either. As you noted there is still a great deal of prejudice and maltreatment. Nothing works overnight. Maybe you are right and nothing at all will change. There will be no advancement. It still beats what you are offering for the simple reason that people will not go for it. To my mind that means you have zero chance at least for the next 50 years if not more. There are scandinavian countries doing very well in my opinion even though they are representative governments. Venezuela is in trouble but that is because of the deep poverty and rampant corruption. Chavez is working on it but it takes time.

I hope that efforts by vote-activists will have some impact on the elections. Not make them perfect, just some impact. That depends on people's willingness to vote too. Aside from that I think it will take another two years at least. Again, it depends on the willingness of people to demonsrate regularly in very high numbers. I don't mean two years to make things perfect. I don't expect that ever. I think it is possible that 5 to 10 years could bring a lot of improvement if people are willing to get on the streets for it.

If millions of people taking to the streets didn't do a thing then thousands certainly won't make a difference. That is what Occupy is, thousands. Those thousands don't even agree with the not-voting thing. If trying to change the system is a lost cause then replacing the government by not voting is an even worse lost cause because it has even less chance of ever happening.

Okay, Gisele, if you're not middle class, but you consider yourself middle class, you're lying to yourself. You consider yourself middle class, but you know that you're really not. So what else might you be lying to yourself about?

And if you'll lie to yourself, why should I think that you wouldn't lie to me?

Maybe you really know that the efforts by vote activists won't have any impact, but you consider that they will, maybe, in a few years, because you enjoy lying to yourself when you really know better.

Maybe you support the status quo and don't want change, but you consider that you want change, because you enjoy lying to yourself and to others when you really know otherwise.

I can't convince you that you're not middle class when you already know that you're not middle class but consider yourself middle class anyway. If you choose not to accept reality, that's your right. There may be millions of people off in la-la-land with you, all lying to themselves that they are what they're not, and that things aren't as they are.

The first person to say that the world wasn't flat, the first person to say that the earth wasn't the center of the universe, and the first person to say that it was possible to build a flying machine were all alone with millions of people calling them fools, idiots, heretics, and probably smelly anarchists. But the earth isn't flat, it isn't the center of the universe, and the sky is full of flying machines. So enjoy your imaginary status in your majoritarian world. The real world is still here, whether or not you accept it, whether or not you want it, and whether or not you are capable of admitting it.

I'm one of those reality-based people, and I have every bit as much right to remain solidly in touch with reality as you have to deny who you are, what you want, and what is really going on in the world.

What change are you promoting, Gisele?

To answer your question, I want to expose the individuals, the ruling class, that is behind the government. I expect that to take about a year and a half if I have help. I want to expose the corruption in government as a direct result of individual people, not faceless corporations. I want a reversal of tax-cuts for the wealthy. By about the 3 or 4 year mark I hope changes can be made in campaign financing. But, it all depends on if I can inspire millions of people to take to the streets. I want more protection for whistleblowers too. I want large numbers on police vests during crowd control so they will be easily viewable. I want a roll-back on invasions of privacy. None of it will happen if people don't take to the streets in large numbers.

Gisele, millions of people have taken to the streets in the past, and more recently in Egypt, and it did not bring about change.

The individuals, the ruling class, the Rockefellers, Rothschilds, Morgans, and the others of their ilk have been exposed. Everyone knows their names.

As long as our forms of government do not change, they will remain in power, controlling most of the economies of the world through their central banks. They do not want to pay taxes, they do not want their money out of politics, they do not want to protect whistleblowers, they do not want privacy protections for ordinary people, and they have spent billions and billions of dollars on Homeland Security, riot squads, and crowd control weapons just in case millions of people take to the streets again.

You want to preserve the status quo. You do not want change.

You promote only a method that does not work and results in lots of bloodshed.

The individual people whose names and faces we all know, who own those "faceless corporations" control your government and most of the governments of the world, and they're in the baby-killing business, the genocide-for-profit business, and you know it. You know every detail of it. And you're comfortable with it and do not want change because you like the current system of government. It may be a capitalist imperialist evil empire, but it's the only empire you have. So you'd like to encourage the discontents to go out into the streets in the millions and get beaten and arrested and shot and, if necessary bombed, and to fill the detention camps that have already been built in the US and are standing ready to hold millions of people, because you know that wouldn't bring about a change in government.

You're very clever, particularly in pretending to listen to and understand what others are saying, but you can never be persuaded because you don't agree with anything that might change the status quo.

One of the transformations that modern telecommunications have brought about is that today's fascists cannot claim, as the Nazis did, that they did not know. They know and everyone knows they know. They know we have been training dictators for decades and that those dictators torture and disappear thousands of innocent people who merely want change. They know we kill innocent babies in the millions to enrich already bloated trillionaires. There is not one atrocity that they don't know.

And while they might want a few minor, temporary reforms, primarily those which would benefit themselves, they do not want systemic change. They want the 1% to remain in control (although perhaps to drop a few more crumbs from the table their way), they want the brutal dictatorships and the baby-killing to continue. And they'd like millions of malcontents to go peacefully and nonviolently out into the streets unarmed and get themselves killed so they'd stop being such an annoyance to those who are content with the way things are. They reject all forms of nonviolent protest that might be effective and wouldn't get anyone killed, such as building alternative communities and transition towns (which they mischaracterize as small tribal societies), such as not paying taxes to support wars of aggression that have destroyed the middle class way of life in the countries that do the attacking almost as much as in the countries that are attacked, and such as election boycotts to withhold the consent of the governed, because those things could change the status quo.

During abolition there were many people who were shocked at the way that some masters treated their slaves and wanted the slaves to be treated better. But they were opposed to the abolition of slavery. They wanted reforms, not real change. And that's what they got, cosmetic reforms. Despite a Civil War, despite millions taking to the streets and even taking up arms, both capital punishment and slavery are still legal in the US as punishment for a crime. And a crime is whatever government says it is. If Obama says you're a terrorist, you don't get a trial, you don't get to face your accusers, you cannot bring witnesses and evidence on your own behalf, you don't get to know the charges against you, you just get assassinated in the middle of the night, or even in broad daylight on mainstream TV. Why not? It's perfectly legal. The Magna Carta has been repealed. Things are worse now with regard to human rights and individual liberties than they were in the 13th Century. I hear that Harper hasn't made that legal in Canada yet, but soon the Rockefellers and Rothschilds and Morgans and the rest of the 1% will insist that he do so. And you don't have a voice in it--besides, you'll be too busy trying to inspire people to get out in the streets to demand minor, temporary reforms from the government you want to remain in control.

Oh there's one change that you want. You'd like me to stop calling baby-killers, baby-killers, because it is rude, confrontational, impolite, and will never win any baby-killers over to my cause. Who is it that keeps saying that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar? Could it be the lobbyists and political operatives for the flies?


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