“I don’t need to spend this morning rethinking my view on violent overthrow of the government, do I?” I teased my husband as he prepared to leave for work.
My morning emails included one telling me that: “Unless you unequivocally reject parliamentary politics (as 50% of people already have) you cannot even begin to think seriously about building the kind of mass movement capable of ending colonialism capitalism imperialism, and that will reflect in your organizing.”
The context of that comment is my lack of support for a Revolutionary Communist Party inspired boycott of the election campaign. Despite believing that this is an incredibly disappointing election, called for petty reasons with no obvious progressive option, I’ve already voted in the advanced poll and will be driving others to vote on election day. I don’t reject parliamentary politics and I don’t believe that all the non-voters do either.
I believe there is a lot of work that needs to be done to bring about changes to our electoral system. We need proportional representation or at least instant run-off voting. We need to be okay with minority governments, have a punishment for parties or individuals held in contempt of parliament and we need to make sure that Elections Canada is independently able to assess election fraud or voter suppression.
I also believe there needs to be a lot of work done to transform the NDP into a useful left wing party. Yes, there are still some progressive things in their platform, but they’ve been moving right far too long. The NDP want to be in power, which requires being elected, which requires manpower/money which requires volunteers/donors. If we want to make a difference we have to get in there and be the volunteers and donors, and use that to hold the party accountable. And we need to be the opinion makers that shape the public so that campaigns can be fought and won with progressive politics. We need to show them it can be won by progressive politics.
Some people say that if you don’t vote you can’t complain about the results, and others say that if you do vote you can’t complain because you’re legitimizing the game that is elections. And I say anyone can complain but if you want to make change it will take a hell of a lot more than voting to do so. But voting is a start.
Unless you can honestly look at the parties and see absolutely no difference – no matter how small – then you should still try to get the better party in power. There is a difference between Hudak‘s out-and-unapologetic-austerity measures and the trying-to-pretend-they-aren’t-austerity-measures-position of the other parties. It will be easier to fight back against austerity measures promoted by parties that want to at least pretend they are progressive. Protests, direct action and other forms of non-electoral politics will work better if we have a government in that wants to at least pretend it is progressive.
In an online post discussing the organizing of the boycott here in Sudbury, I saw someone advocating for people to decline their ballot rather than simply not show up. (Declining a ballot would mean going to the voting station, so it takes more work than simply not voting.) The number of declined ballots would show up and be publicly known, where as simply not voting lets a person appear part of the apathetic crowd. Though they won’t say so those organizing the boycott probably don’t support declining the ballot for exactly that reason. They don’t want the world to know what small amount of support they have, but want to be able to pretend that everyone who doesn’t vote does so for the same reason they do. There’s plenty of reason to not bother voting that doesn’t mean you want “colonial capitalism imperialism” overthrown. There are lots of people who still want a party worth voting for and still quite a bit such a party could do to improve things if they got in. It will take more work than voting to get a worthwhile party and then put it in power, but that doesn’t mean not to vote.
Vote. Then do more. That’s my theory.