Quoth redditor blue_delicious (in regards to using the occupy movement to shut down a major port)
This is idiotic. Just vote! If you want things to change, you need to work hard registering people to vote. Get people registered and run OWS endorsed candidates in Democratic primaries. If you start winning primaries against establishment Democrats, the rest of the Democrats will start listening.
Head, meet desk.
This is the most infuriating argument I see coming from liberals, and especially the headstrong ones who will say it with a moralizing and smug attitude. In the sense that if you don’t adhere to this principle, you’re immature and deserve what you get.
I’ve already pointed the past why voting is against our interests, so I won’t rehash my arguments but I will point out the sheer “insanity”1 of this sentiment. Liberal parties like the Democrats of the USA, or the PASOK of Greece and especially their more enthusiastic supporters have been arguing thus for decades now. That not only people need to vote, but that voting for minor parties is just as harmful. Rather, the only course of action is to try to merge your ideology into a larger party and try to affect their policies from within.
But how many times does this tactic needs to fail before they might start recognizing that it does not work? Using all your energy to simply promote a spokesperson into politics has such small returns that it’s essentially a waste of effort. So you got your OWS candidate into your democratic primaries. Now they need to be elected to run, thus more effort needs to be extended. A new candidate is almost impossible to be elected the first time, so the best you will hope for, is some small position in the government where they need to “prove” and “market” themselves until the next elections. So remember, don’t rock the boat in order to show how well your candidate maintains order and thus brings in more voters.
Immediately, you’ve set back the demands of the OWS movement by 4 years (at best), which might as well be an eternity. Not only will the OWS fury and passion have dissipated by the next elections (thus basically removing all the voting base of the OWS candidate) but your efforts will have achieved nothing at all, except put another pretty and convincing face in office. A person you have no idea will continue to support popular sentiments rather than simply play the game of politics like everyone else and thus get corrupted in no time flat.
The OWS movement, within a scant few months of simple occupations and direct action, is already shaking the world, as liberal as it already is. Just by the fact that it inspires, radicalizes and agitates people and thus goads the state machine to greater repression, which in turn radicalizes onlookers and fence sitters even more. And if anarchists and other autonomists manage to successfully agitate for more significant direct action, then more and more people will join, just because the improvements in their lives will be immediate. At the moment this is still an anarchist’s wet dream of course, but direct action movements have a proven record for snowball effects. It is precisely the reason why the state reaction is swift and brutal.
Using all your energy to mold such a movement into a toothless electioneering campaign is a waste and most likely fatal to it. But even if, against all odds, such a grass-roots movement manages to sustain itself for 4 years until the next elections (and the whole system hasn’t collapsed by then anyway), then you still have to fight to put your own candidate in office, at which point, you’re already playing by their rules and not yours. You will have lost all the autonomist support, and the best you can hope is that you can muster a campaign as big as Obama’s, despite a completely disillusioned voting base and a huge lobby on the other side running candidates with more history and corporate backing then you’ll ever get with your fresh and hostile-to-their interests OWS person.
It is very likely that you won’t get them elected the next time either, or the time after that. And by that time, OWS will be in the annals of history and your OWS candidate will be just another democrat with a grass-roots history. Kinda like Obama, and look how that turned out, where that was a liberal victory where “all the stars were right” so to speak.
And even if, and that’s a huge “if”, you manage to get a “radical candidate” (*snort*) elected, you still have no certainty they’ll do what they say, that the bureaucracy will let them, or that the right reaction won’t intervene and destabilize via right-wing populists (after all, you’ve now aligned yourself perfectly to the democrats, which makes them an easy target for teabaggers) and, if worse comes to worst, military intervention.
In short, following such misguided proposals, when you have a red-hot social movement behind you, is the absolute worst thing you could do. Not only is the chance to get someone radical actually elected immediately slim to none, not only is it unlikely they’ll achieve anything even if they manage to get elected, but worst of all, your movements momentum will simply be wasted on trying to achieve useless things in the far future, rather than actually improving things and therefore snowballing in the here and now.
- Occupy and Anarchism’s Gift of Democracy – David Graeber (libcom.org)
- Occupy the Democratic Party? No way!
- In the classic definitional sense of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. [↩]