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.