My anarchist friends are fond of telling me that if voting could change the system it would be illegal.
They may be right. After witnessing the 2016 elections and others so-called exercises in democracy that have occurred in the United States recently, and also factoring in other strange Republican-Party shenanigans over the years like the photo ID to vote, my anarchist friends may be on to something.
Let’s face it: The Founding Fathers organized this country as a restricted democracy. Some of them did not wish to leave the government, as they said, to “the rabble,” and they identified the rabble as anyone who was not a white, male property owner over the age of 25. Furthermore, they insured that an Electoral College would elect the President of the United States would be elected, and not by a majority popular vote. We did not have direct election of US senators until 1913. Women were not granted the right to vote until 1920. Native Americans were not even considered citizens until 1924. And the Republicans are still conniving on how to deny African–Americans the right to vote!
The Founding Fathers engineered the political system from day one to limit the vote rather than encourage it. Today, the engineering continues. Integral to my nerdy fashion of being a trend watcher of the worldly scene, and offering my own personal view in this Diatribe, it looks like part of the major unwritten political struggles between the Democrats and Republicans involves the authoritarian tactics of the Republican Party against the more libertarian defenses of the Democrats, especially and definitely in regards to voting rights. Let there be no mistake about this: Presidents come and go, but the real power is in the courts. If the Republicans control the courts, they control the Constitution and the nation. Voting rights are the one thing that really keeps the GOP from eventually controlling the courts. We as socialists recognize a major political game, which we need to recognize because any issue concerning voting rights will also involve the Socialist Party and our access to the ballot.
The whole nature of the Electoral College — and in the Republican Party today it is probably comprised predominantly of the usual white-male-property-owners-over-the-age-of-25 — was designed to have party-trained activists ensure the selection of the President rather than risk a direct election of the most important position in the nation by the “rabble.” It is all about protecting the states, we are told. (Yeah, we have heard this “state’s rights” stuff before, and in not so glamorous a light.)
In view of the current 2016 election, maybe my anarchist friends should have warned us more about the reciprocal effect of voting: It’s a scenario of telling the American people to “be careful what you wish for.” Hopefully in 2016 we have not elected the reincarnation of Germany in 1933.
Somewhere down the line Socialists have believed that the abolition of capitalism could be achieved through political means, that somehow we could vote out capitalism and vote in a cooperative commonwealth of economic democracy. That is what corporate “democracy” has been putting into our heads for the past 240 years.
What this corporate “democracy” always factored in, with a little help from its selected representatives who drank its Kool-Aid and cashed its checks, was the economic power of its corporate elites to buy whatever they wanted, especially “democracy”.
Even while we must continue our political struggles against racism, gender discrimination, economic injustice, and especially all things Trump, if we really think that we will be able to “vote out” corporate crony capitalism, and simply vote in economic democracy, then we are very sorely mistaken. Politics are good and fine — they let us know that we are really participating for a democratic social order using the established rules of the ruling corporate elite — but achieving economic democracy will be a little more difficult.
(And, on the flip side, if we think that somehow we will be able to overthrow capitalism by some sort of uprising of the masses, in some sort of revolution with armed workers militias waving red flags on the barricades and the like, then we will definitely need a reality check — this scenario is not going to happen unless Trump really turns into a major asshole! This is the United States in 2016. If we are going to have a revolution, let’s all first move into the 21st century and approach 21st century capitalism with a new model of 21st century socialism. Let’s leave all the dead revolutions and revolutionaries to be discussed on the history list serves. Our revolution needs to be alive, fluid, contemporary, modern, and must flex with the times.)
If we want to defeat the capitalist system, then we must resolve not to participate in it.
To abolish and vanquish corporate capitalism, we need to replace that capitalist economic order with an alternative economic system. Period.
We will have to build the new economic system inside and outside of the framework of the old, and probably from its detritus. The old concept of rising from the “ashes of the old”, as popularized by the Industrial Workers of the World, comes to mind. This is not something we can vote in.
This idea used to be dismissed as “utopian.” The scientific-socialist model dismissed this idea as precisely that — the working model became one of being able to vote socialism into office or take over by force, power, and oppression. Both of these models have failed in the United States.
And even as various the working “utopian” models also largely collapsed, usually destroyed by unscrupulous outside agents, economic conditions in the capitalist world, or sectarian infighting, maybe it’s time for a working synthesis of the various models we have learned from in the past.
Obviously, let’s continue the political work. Let’s continue to support and vote for the Socialist candidates working within the corporate political system. Let us even support like-minded folks. Let us continue to protest against the injustices that The System is going to throw at us. Thus our revolution will be televised; we should make use of the corporate media, Facebook, the Internet, Twitter, etc., to advance our anti-capitalist agenda. By any means necessary, as they say.
But let us not make any illusions in our own mind that we are going to change The System by these means alone.
As socialists, we need to develop that alternative economic system within the existing system. Let us start building that alternative.
If we really want to change the economic system, then we need to be able to operate and survive outside of their economic system. A revolutionary transition must be able to provide alternative economic survival outside of the corporate system or we continue to be trapped within the capitalist web.
OK, easily said. Everyone has got a mouthful of nice sounding rhetoric.
So how do we do this?
Economist Gar Alperovitz has been working on this idea for decades. There exists a US Federation of Worker Owned Cooperatives. Farmers have been working through cooperative associations for decades. The Mondragon collective in Spain has thrived for years.
Let’s start with a few easy steps:
- Join a credit union instead of a bank.
- Join a labor union; organize a labor union. Organized labor is still the best tool against corporate capitalism.
- Join a co-op.
- Put the boycotts to work.
- Work outside of the established system. Work under the table.
- Trade your labor. Barter. Use the Gray Market.
- Work with your neighbors for common projects.
- Become as self-sufficient as you can.
- Do not put more money into the System than you have to.
- Undermine the existing illegitimate economic system in your own ingenious ways.
OK, so maybe this hippie-style revolution will not happen overnight, and you get frustrated and quit being a socialist because the socialists aren’t doing anything quick enough. And you do have a good day job. Maybe it’s not your glass of wine.
Well, guess what, comrades. It’s something that will take the long haul. I cannot tell you how to individually do this. Each person’s life and circumstances are different.
So now let’s think outside the box. Here is where our Socialists and our organizations might begin to earn their merit badges by organizing a few possible scenarios:
What if our communities used the legal notion of “eminent domain” to repossess abandoned mills and factories to provide jobs for the unemployed?
What if unemployed seamstresses from Fuerza Unida in San Antonio provided labor for a clothing collective in Chicago with textiles from a repossessed mill in North Carolina using cotton or flax donated from a farmer’s cooperative?
What if your labor union, credit union, or neighborhood group started working with other local groups to provide a communal day-care center, staffed by volunteers?
What if a farmer’s coop began providing food to a homeless shelter in exchange for farm labor? What if unemployed workers began constructing homes for homeless people using materials donated from the recycling of construction sites?
What if all of the above scenarios were connected together into a nationwide network of similar organizations using the same grassroots economic principles?
What if this nationwide network could eventually exist outside the framework of the corporate capitalist system?
What if we worked to organize this network?
We are only limited by our imaginations and fears. May our organizing be versed towards the building of the new society, not only through our art and poetry and love, and not just through our protestations against the old, but also towards actively building the Future.
We have a world to win, as they say.