Taken from the second edition of Partisan newspaper:
As the federal election campaign comes to a close, we write knowing more or less the results already. Despite the upturn reported by the corporate media for the New Democratic Party (NDP), it is almost certain that the Conservative Party will form the next government. Anyway, whatever the final outcome, we already know it won’t bring anything good for us workers. The only thing we don’t know is whether the dramatic decline in the participation rate will deepen, or if the propaganda campaign waged by the bourgeois parties and the media has managed to contain it for now.
As usual, except for a few promises that we knows are worth nothing, the campaign looked like a popularity contest on a reality TV show, where the voters were asked to choose the guy who looked the most sympathetic. In this system some praise as “the most democratic ever,” the form has long ago replaced the content.
A new element in this election campaign, and certainly one that represents a new hope for workers, is the boycott campaign that supporters of this newspaper have waged. Organized at the initiative of the Revolutionary Communist Party, the campaign brought together activists from Québec, Ontario and New Brunswick. For the first time, the slogan of boycotting the elections has resounded across the country.
Contrary to the claims of some who tried to denigrate it, this campaign has been anything but a manifestation of apathy over how things are going in Canadian society. By massively abstaining, millions of workers, youth and indigenous people will be expressing, each in their own way, their rejection of a system that runs only for the rich. One of the objectives of the boycott campaign was to transform this passive boycott into an active one, by expressing our desire to live in a society where power will be exercised by the working majority.
This campaign has generated strong and sometimes opposing reactions in some quarters. On the streets, in workplaces and schools, it left no one indifferent. Hundreds, even thousands of comments circulated on the Internet, ranging from enthusiastic support to outright condemnation: some have even openly wished to silence us, in the name of respect for “Canadian democratic values” (sic) —which says a lot about what they really are.
The Proletarian Revolutionary Action Committee (PRAC)-Toronto has promoted the boycott campaign through flyering and postering campaigns in several proletarian neighbourhoods across Toronto. The PRAC also organized three public events about campaign (two at the University of Toronto on March 19 and April 27 and one at Accents Bookstore on April 30) and have been interviewed about the campaign by a number of media outlets. These events provided a space for local organizations and activists to learn more about the campaign, voice any suggestions or criticisms and find out how they could get involved in spreading the messages behind the campaign and organizing for direct democracy over the long term.
People, like us, who are living and working in these proletarian neighbourhoods have welcomed the campaign and repeatedly emphasized their dissatisfaction with the democratic system to those who were flyering. Campaign organizers and community members keenly discussed and debated the need for a real people’s democracy and a different kind of government that no longer emphasizes profits over people.
There was common agreement that the working classes are not apathetic, but are in fact disaffected by an electoral system that represents the interests of the rich and throws us a few crumbs to fight over. In particular, people expressed anger at the law-and-order agenda of all the electoral parties and vociferously spoke about being victimized as communities by police brutality, and that they could not simply stand in the streets where they lived and worked without being harassed by the police.
They were disgusted that none of the parties were willing to invest dollars earmarked for defense spending into community infrastructure instead. Communities were furious that further tax cuts were being promised to the capitalists, while none of the candidates were discussing the expansion of better job possibilities for underemployed and marginalized peoples, nor did any of the parties share their feeling of dismay that the future did not look any better for their children. They encouraged members of PRAC-Toronto to keep organizing and mobilizing, as they knew that there was no future in this bankrupt corrupt system.
Comrades in Ottawa have also been actively promoting the 2011 Federal Election Boycott Campaign. After hosting a campaign launch on April 6, our activists hit the streets in force. Proletarian neighbourhoods and terminals, such as bus stops, were targeted with the campaign and this newspaper in order to reach the highest number of working class people possible in the short campaign period.
The response from workers and community members was positive, with many remarking that they had never voted, didn’t intend to start, and understood what the campaign was attempting to draw attention to.
“For the most part people have been pretty supportive,” said one activist when asked about the responses that had been received. “Of course there are some that are against it, but as soon as you move off the campuses and away from the richer parts of Ottawa, the working class really understands that there’s no future in bourgeois politics. The positive attitude of the masses toward the campaign shows me that we adopted the correct line in this case. We’re looking forward to using the campaign to build a bigger presence in working class parts of Ottawa.”
One repeated occurrence saw people rejecting any material or discussion to do with elections, until they saw or heard boycott’ associated with it. “Boycott the elections?!” and then, “Gimme one.”
In Québec, where the identification with the federal government is obviously weaker than in other provinces, the boycott campaign was generally well received. In Québec City, activists who circulated the first issue of Partisan quickly exhausted the 500 copies they asked for. They reported that reception was particularly enthusiastic among the proletarian youth. One should believe that calls for “Youth Vote Mobs” made by comedian Rick Mercer did not have a big impact in that part of the country...
In Montréal, in addition to distributing Partisan, The Red Flag newspaper and the initial statement of the campaign, thousands of posters were placed in popular neighbourhoods, on which appeared its main slogan: “Vote With Your Feet! No Democracy Without Peoples’ Power!” Several events were held at the Norman Bethune Bookstore and a large rally was held in the Centre-Sud district.
The boycott campaign was also part of the mobilization for the May 1st demonstration organized by the Anti-Capitalist Convergence. The event, which is in its fourth anniversary since its resurrection, is intended to enable proletarians and oppressed people to express their rejection of the ruling system, including the electoral circus.
In general, the campaign was received quite differently in proletarian milieu than within the traditional left, mistakenly believed to be “more politicized.” So-called leftists in this country still have a lot of illusions about the state and the bourgeois system, which is not necessarily the case for working poor who are struggling just to survive.
As the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty once said a few years ago: “It is impossible to deny that the vast and rapidly growing portion of the population that sees no reason to go to the polls is a matter of huge political significance. Contrary to the notions of some political snobs, this massive chunk of the population is not made up of stupid and apathetic sheep. They are poor and working people who make sacrifices and work hard to provide for their families. They are capable of acting very vigorously when they see something as meaningful and important. The ‘electoral process’, however, leaves them cold. They see no reason to support a candidate because, as far as they are concerned, ‘none of the above’ will deal with the injustices that beset their lives. Beneath the passive indignation that underlies this rejection of elections is a huge sense of grievance and anger. When it comes to life, it will not take the form of letter writing campaigns to MPPs.”