Saturday, 2 April 2011

Why I Don't Endorse Voting in the May 2nd Elections [English]

By Rowland Túpac Keshena 

This was originally posted on the excellent blog Speed of Dreams.

If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal – Emma Goldman
With the announcement of the dissolving of the current Harper settler government in Ottawa and the scheduling of yet another election (the 3rd in my 5 1/2 years of being in Canada) for May 2nd, the topic has come up a lot in my circle of friends and other contacts of who one should vote for, or shouldn’t vote for, and why. Indeed, this discussion started to pop up before the official announcement of the election, as it was pretty clear that the government was going to fall. So I’ve had quite a bit of time to put some thought into my answer to this now very common question.

So what do I think? Well, as the title of this post would I hope imply, I don’t endorse voting in the federal election, or actually provincial elections either when those roll around. None of the major federal parties (Green, Conservative, NDP & Liberal) reflect my views on things. This of course should be obvious. I consider myself a revolutionary communist, I don’t really try and conceal that, and of course none of the major parties, even the most left elements of the NDP, espouse politics even remotely close to that. But then again, I don’t endorse voting for the Communist Party of Canada (original flavour or Marxist-Leninist), or the so-called revolutionary elements within the NDP either. So obviously my objections to the elections run a little deeper than the fact that there are no communists on the ballot.

The quote from Emma Goldman that I started off with touches on the surface of what I actually believe. As she said, so aptly, if voting was going to change anything, they’d make it illegal. She means that voting ain’t gonna change shit! So why isn’t voting going to change anything? Sure it might bring about more or less superficial changes in society (welfare, queer rights etc.), but the fact is that the very basis of Canadian, and for that matter wider North American, society is what prevents, and always has, and always will prevent, “change” through the electoral process.

At its core North America (the states popularly known as the United States, Canada and Quebéc) is a settler-colonial society. This means that the principal contradiction, the one that defines all class struggle in the society between the working class and the bourgeoisie, is between the colonizer and the colonized. Some leftists, especially those who advocate voting for parties like the NDP and even most that don’t, will not fully interrogate this, but it is the reality of the situation here.

So what does this translate into in terms of electoral politics?

It means this: all political parties that run in elections, even the most left-wing of the social democratic formations, are parties of a settler-colonial government, vying on behalf of this or that element within the settler nation (or nations, in the case of Canada) labour aristocracy to be chief exploiter of the colonized peoples. These parties, again we include the most supposedly left-wing factions, will NEVER be interested in any kind of meaningful national self-determination for the colonized nations. This is not because they’re not smart, and don’t realize the nature of things, it is because of the very opposite in fact. They know the game. They know the score. They know that their very existence is rooted in the existence of the colonial state, and as such they have a vested national and class interest in the maintaining of the current colonial state of affairs.
Working with or within these formations of the colonizer labour aristocracy and complete and utter waste of time and energy for serious revolutionaries on this continent, and in this country. Again, as it bears repeating, even the most left-wing factions, both in and outside the social democratic NDP organizations, because they do not want to alienate the core of their labour aristocracy voting bloc, will never take anything resembling a strong anti-imperialist stance, on any issue, and definitely will never do anything approaching true internationalism with the anti-colonial struggles WITHIN North America, aside from perhaps every once in a while saying some harsher than usual words regarding the abuse of the “rights” of the colonized, which are of course “rights” understood in a Fanonian sense as something to be granted, and thus also taken away, by the colonial state.

So that’s why I do not endorse voting for any of the parties in the May 2nd election. I hope you, whether you are Native or an ally, will give some thought to this if you choose to enter the voting booth come next month.


  1. I'd like to disagree. The Communist Party is very much supportive of the colonized First Nations people.

    Try stating this argument to people within our Party and Youth League who were there for the Caledonia struggle. Or hell, I was there for the Tyendinaga struggle back in 2009, you're stating it to me right now and I can easily tell you it isn't true.

    The CPC, quite clearly in its constitution, supports the right to self-determination of the First Nations people, and clearly outlines that they are an oppressed people who deserve the right to their own sovereignty.

    Your argument is very cynical. By not voting, all you're doing is making it easier for the other parties to get in. What could it hurt to vote Communist, honestly?

  2. I suspect you mean the CPC program and not the constitution, as a term search of the constitution just now showed neither mention of the words aboriginal, first nation(s), indian, native, indigenous or self-determination, while the program does talk about those things.

    Anyway, does the CPC support the complete obliteration of the imperialist-colonial settler entities currently known as "Canada" and "Quebec" and recognize the entirety of the North American continent as the seized and occupied national territory of the indigenous people?

    What I read in the party program is some flowery talk about self-government and autonomy, with superficial recognition of the right to self-determination, but no specific recognition of every inch of Canadian and Quebecois land as the national territory of the indigenous people to which they posses the right to self-determination over.

    In fact, the CPC's own suggestion of relations in Canada between colonizer and colonized is improved relations between the Native bantustans and the white government:

    "Such a new constitutional arrangement must also guarantee the full participation of Aboriginal peoples and protect and extend their inherent national rights, including the right to genuine self-government, the right to consent over any change in their Constitutional status, and the right to accelerated economic, social and national development."

    This isn't about soverignty or self-government or autonomy within the context of some kind of socialist Canada, it's about the complete destruction of Canada and related entities.

    Canada, Quebec and all settler nations were birthed on this land as parasitic and predatory, and to advocate for anything other than the recognition that they must be complete and utterly destroyed and all the land recognized as the national territory of the indigenous people is just distractionary at best.

  3. The CPC's position, as the last poster just recognized, is not at all one about sovereignty: it's similar to the USA's Revolutionary Communist Party's position on indigenous self-determination that, also using the language of "sovereignty", wasn't at all anti-colonial and caused a serious division in the left at the time.

    I would also like to take issue with the last statement of the initial post where the CPC-defender argues: "all you're doing is making it easier for the other parties to get in. What could it hurt to vote Communist, honestly?" But if a "communist" government gets into power through a bourgeois process it is not revolutionary and, at the end of the day, no different from the other governments. This is a fact that was historically proved by the German SDP in the Second International: both Lenin and Luxemburg understood the danger of this position - a danger demonstrated by the SDP's collaboration with imperialism and eventually the nascent fascist movement. Hence Luxemburg's famous article about reform or revolution: communist parties cannot change anything by entering the bourgeois parliamentarian process and, in point of fact, become bourgeoisified.

  4. I don't trust a communist party that beleives in th electoral process. Perhaps the CPC should just vote NDP? I mean, would it hurt - They pay lip service to your ideals, and you pay lip service to "Anonymous said... I suspect you..."s ideals.

    Your argument is very cynical. By voting for a party that won't win, all you're doing is making it easier for the other parties to get in. What could it hurt to vote NDP, honestly?

  5. All valid points, but I see the conclusion of "not voting" to be self-defeating. It's like going to cry in the corner instead coming to the table to an adult discussion. We need far more political participation, at the polling booth, and in between elections, to defeat the CPC. Baby steps!

  6. This analogy is somewhat problematic. How exactly is voting akin to an "adult discussion"? No discussion really takes place when you participate in a farce that is nothing more than, to paraphrase Lenin, the ruling classes arguing amongst each other to decide who will best misrepresent the people. Nor does the act of casting a ballot foster any political participation, unless checking a box for one exploiter over another is somehow "participatory."

    The point of this campaign is to build something outside of what masquerades as democracy and to get people thinking outside of the ballot box, the boundaries we are told to accept as "democratic." This is not about defeating the CPC, either, which is a strange claim to make: the CPC just participates in bourgeois parliamentarianism and, at the end of the day, is rather inconsequential.

  7. I feel that I am very much on the same page as you, so I understand your frustration. However, this is counterproductive to your cause, since in not voting, you do in fact vote. It sounds a bit odd, but there are parties (well, there's at least one) who will benefit from people not voting, and of course the others will lose from it, and the population of people that are anywhere near as aware as you about the true foundations of Canada Inc. is not big enough compared to those who are oblivious or simply apathetic.

    Dualist assumptions that Parties "will never take anything resembling a strong anti-imperialist stance" only contribute to the apathy. Change happens gradually, and from within. Standing outside trying to shout in changes nothing; its like yelling at a rock to move. Instead, people need to be informed about the land that is currently being occupied, and I believe that the most effective way to educate the largest number of people will be from within the system itself.

    The spirit of the land is not ideological, it moves. We can move with it again if we hire the wise teachers and learn the wise teachings. Colonialism is alive and well, no doubt, and today it looks like corporate fascism, but if all we are looking at is how the monster dominates, we will be blind to where it is weak; that is, where it is most susceptible to change. We need to be vigilant in our awareness, and work together.

    There is no "us" and "them". You must support that belief as a proponent of communism. That narrative is propaganda at its finest; and there is no bigger threat to the unity we need right now than subscribing to it.

    Please vote. Democracy is dead in every other sense, but we are on the verge of corporate totalitarianism right now, so every small action counts, even if that means voting for the "party" that you believe has the least closed mind, and would be most likely to at least listen to the truth.

    salam alaikum


  8. This entry is by a supporter, and one that focuses on a specific yet important area, and only speaks to one facet of the boycott. There are other important and relevant areas that this boycott speaks to you. Please read the larger arguments (including those indicated by the "About" page) before deciding whether or not you can agree with us.

  9. Not voting? Sounds like Conservative propaganda to me! If you don't like the candidates, become one and let your vote be heard not your silence! Boycotting does nothing. Being silent does nothing. No one knows you're boycotting if you're not voting for change!!

  10. How exactly does this sound like "Conservative propaganda" when conservatives go out of their way to organize people to vote? Your arguments about how boycotting "does nothing" or that it is "being silent" don't even respond to the arguments made about this campaign in the numerous entries and statements on this site. One of the main arguments is that voting does not equate changing the system and, historically, it never has: every progressive change has come from outside of the parliamentary system and always will. We are arguing for building a movement that is actually progressive, not something that is caught up in the ritualistic fervour of ballot-casting that masquerades as "democratic."

  11. Not voting is not being silent. Boycotting the elections is a protest in itself. Don't forget, it's all about getting votes, not about people. What will they do if there are no votes? The tragedy of voting now is that the three major political parties in Canada are clowns of the same circus company, doesn't matter how different they claim to be. They all dance to the same corporate tunes of corporations like PCC (Power Corporation of Canada). I wouldn't give my vote to any of these losers because they don't deserve it. I'll save it for the platform that will eventually be born out of this muddle. Because there are a lot of people out there like you and me. It has only started.

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