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 OC.org, 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
12/31/11

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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Oh, really, Gisele? And what sort of change do you want to promote now?

Not change in government, of course.

Not changing the Constitution or the influence of money in politics, because those are monumental changes that would take time.

So what change are you promoting now? Perhaps electing a few more good people to the Harper government? Would that be an acceptable change, since it wouldn't change anything in government or change the influence of money in politics? You obviously don't want to change the current "representative" system of government. You don't want us to stop training dictators because we've been doing that for decades, you're fully aware of it, and it would take too much time to change.

What are the safe, comfortable, reasonable, changes that can be accomplished right now that you and the overwhelming majority of the middle class want? A few more channels on cable TV? More latte flavors at Starbucks? A bit less democracy to ensure social order because so many people aren't enlightened or wise?

What change do you want that you feel certain won't be the answer to all or even any of mankind's ills?

What change are you promoting, Gisele?

What change are you promoting, Gisele?

What change are you promoting, Gisele?

What change are you promoting, Gisele?

Answer the question, Gisele.

Not some obscure time in the future when you become wise and enlightened, but right now.

What change are you promoting, Gisele?

It's always good to know who and what you're up against.

I went to John Perkins' website and saw this video: http://www.johnperkins.org/?page_id=15 (the one at the bottom of the page)

It's probably the best high level analysis of what's going on in our world I've seen.

This will be of particular interest to you, Giselle, because it reveals the identity of the enemy with pinpoint accuracy.

The video also answers your question, Giselle, that you posed elsewhere, about what is so different about now, as compared to when the New Deal reforms were passed. The corporatocracy is orders of magnitude more pervasive, powerful and dangerous than it was then.

If anyone has earned the right to be a bitter, hard headed defeatist, it's John Perkins, who served the corporatocracy for most of his career.

He should see the hopelessness of trying to reform government. He, of all people, should be the one to say, "It's hopeless to go up against the corporatocracy. The only thing we can really do is accelerate it's eventual collapse."

And of course, the collapse of the corporate empire is inevitable, if not from an uprising of the people, then from environmental disaster. All empires eventually collapse, but this one has an expiration date not too far in the future.

And of course, when the empire does collapse, it will leave the rotting shell of civilization behind it, causing unimaginable suffering.

And yet, here is a quote from the same John Perkins:

"Let us choose to alter our dreams to create a more Earth-honoring society, redefine our interaction with the natural world, and redirect our energies toward a more balanced future. We can create anything we dream. We all have the power to re-dream the world and to redefine the role humans play in it.

Let us choose peace over war, richness of spirit and love over greed, freedom of religion instead of prejudice, and a green and sustainable economy over an unsustainable greed-based economy.

We can dream this new Earth-based dream together -- and each of our dreams with their powerful intent will create a better world for future generations."

That doesn't sound like someone who thinks reform is a lost cause, and he of all people knows exactly what we're up against. I'm with Perkins on this one.

One more thing. Why hasn't Perkins been killed for pulling back the curtain? Well, like Nader, Chomsky, and others, he's been marginalized. Check out this review of Perkins' book, Confessions of an Economic Hitman by Publisher's Weekly:

"Perkins spent the 1970s working as an economic planner for an international consulting firm, a job that took him to exotic locales like Indonesia and Panama, helping wealthy corporations exploit developing nations as, he claims, a not entirely unwitting front for the National Security Agency. He says he was trained early in his career by a glamorous older woman as one of many "economic hit men" advancing the cause of corporate hegemony. He also says he has wanted to tell his story for the last two decades, but his shadowy masters have either bought him off or threatened him until now. The story as presented is implausible to say the least, offering so few details that Perkins often seems paranoid, and the simplistic political analysis doesn’t enhance his credibility. Despite the claim that his work left him wracked with guilt, the artless prose is emotionally flat and generally comes across as a personal crisis of conscience blown up to monstrous proportions, casting Perkins as a victim not only of his own neuroses over class and money but of dark forces beyond his control. His claim to have assisted the House of Saud in strengthening its ties to American power brokers may be timely enough to attract some attention, but the yarn he spins is ultimately unconvincing, except perhaps to conspiracy buffs."

LOL

Getting OWS to make demands is a politcal strategy. To be effective, demands have to be made on somebody with the power to accede to those demands. That can only be our current government.

True enough.

Since they have no credible way to back up their demands, government won't accede to their demands.

In my opinion, nothing short of a national strike, blockades of every port, major highway and railroad in the country, and a million activists in the streets of Washington, D.C. will be enough to force the government to accept the needed reforms to create a functioning representative democracy. (I know, I know--the only type of democracy that is real is direct democracy). And maybe even that won't be enough.

And then, instead of a unified movement, OWS will become warring camps of Obama supporters, Ron Paul supporters, Republican nominee supporters, Green Party nominee supporters, supporters of independent OWS candidates, and people intending to vote for Mickey Mouse, None of the Above, Nobody, or cast blank ballots.

I think you underestimate peoples' capacity to think, Mark. If these proposals are turned down, I don't think Occupiers will obediently file into the voting booth like so many cattle. When you calculate in the downward death spiral the government is engaged in, I think the movement will only grow stronger. More and more people will refuse to vote in a system they know doesn't represent them.

When Occupiers sign a voter registration form, they're signing the death warrant of the Occupy Movement.

Voting is meaningless without democracy. If Occupiers were blind enough to participate in a oligarchical system, then what you're saying would be true. I don't think they are.


I hope you're right, Mr. Blue. Just because the Occupiers in San Diego are that blind, doesn't necessarily mean that other Occupiers are. I've heard that OWS NYC is debating demands. I'd like to be more optimistic, but it is difficult knowing that political operatives are numerous, experienced, and have large think tanks and billions of dollars in corporate backing behind them, while many Occupiers are unfamiliar with the tactics of political strategists. Having seen how easily Occupy San Diego was co-opted despite my constant warnings, I may be selling other Occupiers short, but the best I can do is reserve judgment for now.

Fair enough.

Has it ever occured to you that people just don't want what you want? Maybe the San Diego occupiers aren't blind, they just don't want the same thing you do.

I have no way of knowing exactly what the San Diego occupiers are thinking, but they may be underestimating how thoroughly the political system is gamed. Calling them "blind" does seem kind of like name calling, though. :)

Right, you probably shouldn't have used that word and I definitely shouldn't have repeated it. ;)

Touche. :)

Is the system really that different then when the "New Deal" was created?

The occupy movement began as an objection to Wall Street bankers getting away without paying for their sins and letting the taxpayer pick up the tab. That is what Adbusters called for. Activists, not the people, decided to use it as a means of illustrating direct democracy and a different way of running a society.In fact many people involved in Occupy specifically stated they were not anti-capitalist. 

You have nothing to support your claim that most non-voters are better informed and care more deeply than voters. Yes, people say the politicians are all the same. That does not mean they want to do away with the state and federal governments. You are extrapolating that. If you asked them, "Are you willing to do without any formal government at all, and live in small groups that would make their own decisions, a tribal society?" my bet is they would say, HELL NO. Why don't you ask them that rather than just asking if they like the current crop of politicians?

You are putting words into that woman's mouth. You are making assumptions about her you could not possibly know. It's more likely that she is illiterate and didn't want anyone to know so she couldn't tell Oprah why she didn't want to sign-up.

Occupy was never a unified movement. It was a bunch of activists with different pet projects from day 1. They were joined by university students, a few representatives from each generation, and a bunch of homeless people. In the states it has stayed fairly focused on the economic problems. Middle-class people remain the majority and it's just my opinion but I am 100% sure the middle-class doesn't want to do away with our current form of government. I'd be surprised if even 10% of people supported your preference for "direct-democracy".

Occupy was never a "direct democracy" movement. It never identifed itself as such. That is just the method people chose for self-organization because not having any leaders is a good tactic.If Occupy had identified itself as a movement for "direct democracy" then I believe it would have lost support within days and would have a very tiny bank-account.

Occupy lost support as it went along because there were no demands and the actual camps had radical signs all over the place. I didn't see hundreds of thousands of people, not even tens of thousands, rushing down to Wall Street to stop the eviction or help protesters set back up. Occupying foreclosed homes is popular because that is what people are angry about.

History tells us that mass movements of people can force change even under dictatorships. There is no reason to believe that has suddenly become impossible. Occupy just hasn't been able to gather enough popular support.That is a failure on the part of the movement.The civil rights movement forced change because it has majority support.

If even 30% of the people wanted our current form of government gone people would have been demonstrating in the hundreds of thousands. They would have been dancing around the camps supporting "direct democracy". So far Occupy has failed to capture broad support. In my opinion, that is because it got too radical and lacked focus. If anything, getting involved in electoral politics at this point could help gather more support by reducing the taint of radicalism.

Occupiers are choosing to support politicians whom they percieve to be more progressive as compared to the other available choices because they don't want a direct democracy. There never was any unity supporting direct-democracy as a replacement for the current system. It was just a way to run the camps and the movement, nothing more.

I agree with you here, Gisele. And yet, I don't know that we can say Occupy didn't gain enough support -- it's still early in the game and next year will be a new inning.

I think Occupy did something that needed to be done -- it called attention to the problem, it changed the focus and the national dialog, and it showed that there is still fire in the belly among many people to directly confront the system.

But I do understand that many of the anarchist types who started the movement did not want it to turn into another MoveOn Democratic shill front group -- and look at how MoveOn tried to co-opt it from the beginning, SHAMELESSLY as usual.

I think even if Occupy remains the radical direct-action front line, they will be opening up space for the rest of us to do whatever we feel needs to be done. We can't all agree on that. And maybe it's not the right thing for Occupy to do anything other than hold that front line and confront the system. Maybe the reformers need to do their work without the Occupy name, and without its explicit support.

But there is no national aligned coalition yet to make the kind of systemic changes many people want. That will have to come together in 2012 and I know many people are working on that right now.

These are just my feelings right now and they are subject to change without notice! I'm just learning as I go.

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