Making the Case for an Election Boycott: Why the Left Should Refrain from US Imperialism's Electoral Charade

by Danny Haiphong

The left should not participate in, “and thus provide consent for, the rule of imperialism every four years.” Say “No” to the charade. “Barack Obama's two-term presidency has been a lesson for the entire left that voting for a Wall Street politician within the imperialist state can only bring more misery and political confusion, not less.”


Making the Case for an Election Boycott: Why the Left Should Refrain from US Imperialism's Electoral Charade

by Danny Haiphong

The two-party US political system more clearly than ever works exclusively in the interests of the imperialist ruling class.”

There are many dangerous trends emerging from progressive and revolutionary forces in the US. One of the most concerning is a growing focus on electoral campaigns as a tactic to achieve grassroots objectives.  The electoral victories of Kshama Sawant, Chokwe Lumumba (Rest in Power), and Ras Baracka are a clear indication of popular discontent with austerity, gentrification, and privatization in US cities under capitalist siege.  However, whatever encouragement these victories provide cannot resolve the contradictions of US capitalism. The primary purpose of US capitalism's state machinery is to manage the affairs of the ruling class. This poses the important question of whether electing representatives into political office is a worthy tactic for the left or whether it should be abandoned all together. 

 Historical Context of Capitalist State-Reform and the US left

The English colonizers, after defeating the British Crown in the American (counter) Revolution, made it clear that African slaves, property-less Whites, women, and indigenous people would have zero decision-making power in who would represent them in the newly formed US nation-state. As US capitalism industrialized, property restrictions were lessened to further privilege White Americans into "citizenship" at the expense of Black and indigenous people. From the very beginning, electoral politics were a stage where capitalists performed for the state power needed to manage the profits obtained from racism and labor exploitation.

US government hostility to the interests of the working class and oppressed understandably deterred the left from pushing revolutionary goals through electoral politics.  Prominent socialists like Eugene Debs ran for President a handful of times with little success. For the most part, leftists understood that running candidates for political office was a drain on resources and political morale. So, rather than run candidates, the left organized people to win concrete victories from the capitalist state in specific historical moments.  Progressive labor and civil rights legislation, such as the Civil Rights Act and the National Labor Relations Act, were won because the collective organization of workers and victims of white supremacy presented a direct threat to the interests of capitalism. What made such gains so important was how they expanded popular vision of what was possible and at the same time failed to fully transform the inherent antagonisms of the US capitalist social order. Poor Black and colonized peoples in the US, largely excluded from state-reforms, saw no other option but to demand complete self-determination and liberation from capitalist domination. 

George Jackson warned that imperialism ensured that the US government could no longer reform itself in the last stage of capitalism.”

George Jackson was a leader of the Black liberation movement that was partly inspired by inadequate state-reforms.  Jackson wrote extensively in his book Blood in my Eye (1971) on the changing nature of capitalist state-reform. He learned quickly from his experiences organizing for the Black liberation movement from behind the walls that there was nothing left that Black America could wrestle from the US capitalist state. The conditions of the working class were on the decline. Prior reforms had improved the economic conditions of White America while doing virtually nothing for the economic needs of poor Black and indigenous nations.  Jackson concluded that these developments were evidence of US capitalism's last stage: imperialism.

 Jackson warned that imperialism ensured that the US government could no longer reform itself in the last stage of capitalism to appease certain sectors of its exploited subjects. And he was, and still is, correct. The ruling class went on an offensive that has yet to end, brutally repressing revolutionary upheaval in the US while making calculated and necessary changes to ensure the survival of capitalism on the global stage. Some of these changes included ending of the Vietnam War, monopolizing corporate power into the realm of finance, and most importantly for the purposes of this article, opening up avenues to Black candidacy in corporate and political office. These "reforms" isolated revolutionary organizations like the Black Panther Party and re-directed popular energy toward what the imperialist ruling class deemed acceptable forms of political participation.

Boycott the Vote!

George Jackson's analysis points to the need to direct political energy away from participation in the imperialist state.  Popular mistrust in the US government is at a high point, as shown by low voter-turnouts and percentages of Presidential and Congressional approval.  However, the political vacuum created by imperialism has strengthened the illusion of legitimacy around running candidates for political office. This contradiction exists despite the fact that the two-party US political system more clearly than ever works exclusively in the interests of the imperialist ruling class. 

The political party for bankrupt liberal leftists, the Democratic Party, has jointly expanded the prison state, austerity, surveillance, war, poverty, and by extension, corporate rule with its Republican counterparts. Still, both Democrats and Republicans rhetorically perform a show of opposition for the corporate media. And in no other historical period has any President provided a more effective assault on oppressed people for the imperialist ruling class. Barack Obama's two-term presidency has been a lesson for the entire left that voting for a Wall Street politician within the imperialist state can only bring more misery and political confusion, not less.

Occupy Chicago activists burned their voter registration cards outside of Obama's campaign office.”

So while some organizations like Socialist Alternative are seeking city council victories to achieve goals such as a $15 per/hour minimum wage, others are organizing to boycott US electoral politics all together. In 2012, a group of organizers campaigned for an election boycott of the Presidential election.  The campaign emphasized a shift in consciousness around the act of voting.  Instead of voting for the Democratic or Republican Parties of imperialism and legitimizing their rule, the campaign called on people to actively withhold their vote.  This meant not only being absent from the polls as individuals, but also collectively organizing others to withhold their vote in opposition to the electoral charade of the capitalist class.

Although Obama was re-elected President, the efforts of boycott organizers were not in vein. Numerous tactics were employed to make the stand against US imperialism's elections visible. Occupy Chicago activists burned their voter registration cards outside of Obama's campaign office. Organizer Terri Lee and others presented the idea of an election boycott to as many media sources and events as possible, which included venues such as the Left Forum.  As a collective, the boycott organizers were most concerned with positioning themselves as a left movement that refused to vote in, and thus provide consent for, the rule of imperialism every four years.  This is an important position that deserves serious ideological and practical consideration from leftist formations in the US imperial center.


 US governmental elections are advertised as a staple of Western "democracy" by the imperialist ruling class. However, the fact remains that elections under this racist, capitalist, neo-colonial system only legitimize the rule of the capitalist class over its exploited subjects.  Electoral politics are movement killers, not movement builders. In the 1970's, the Oakland chapter of the Black Panther Party split with the more militant chapters around the country and began focusing on mayoral and city council campaigns.  Each campaign drained the resources of the Party and diluted the revolutionary ideological foundation that had once inspired young, working class Black Americans.

Sawant’s election has helped begin the process of removing the "Fight for $15" out of the streets and into the seats of bourgeois government.”

Kshama Sawant's city council victory in Seattle will inevitably run into similar issues in the fight for a $15/hr minimum wage. It already appears her election has helped begin the process of removing the "Fight for $15" out of the streets and into the seats of bourgeois government.  Additionally, Sawant's recent appearances on Democracy Now! alarmingly argued for mass movement forces to run "third party" candidates for political office and emulate her victory around the country. If history is our guide, than Sawant's strategy needs reconsideration.  Malcolm X, in his speech The Ballot or the Bullet, cautioned Black left political forces on the limitations of merely exercising the right to vote with a vow of non-violence despite the white racist terror that awaited them at the polls.  In this period, the right to vote has been rolled back by the same imperialist state the vote legitimizes.  The US imperialist system only guarantees incorporation of revolutionary and progressive objectives into the imperialist state machinery.  This spells defeat of, not victory for, working class power in contrary to what Sawant claims.

An organized election boycott has the potential of channeling the mistrust that most left-leaning folks have with the US imperial state into concrete political action. Instead of electing city council members, let's confront our municipal officials that are hell-bent on selling neighborhoods and assets to the corporate ruling class.  Let's confront our elected officials in Washington for their service of empire and corporate power.  The left’s most important task in this period is to take principled positions against US imperialism. Electing "third party" candidates into this machinery won't do this, but campaigns such as an election boycott give us a chance to fight for transformation of the imperialist system we so desperately need.

Danny Haiphong is an activist and case manager in the Greater Boston area. You can contact Danny at: [email protected]




Kshama Sawant is not the lesser evil

and unlike Obama and OWS she is giving us real results.   Unlike Obama and OWS she doesn't ally herself with dangerous right wingers.  In Obama's case the neocons and the banks,  In OWS case, Alex Jones/Ron Paul conspiracy facsists, and racist nutbags like Cliven Bundy.

The state will reflect the ideology of whomever controls it.  It won't always be unregulated capitalism. 

It is understandable that victory in achieving a 15 dollar minimum wage would demobilize activist on that issue.  We won!  It is a good thing.  We have other issues we need to move on to, like getting it implemented quicker, like climate change, and true
"Universal Health Insurance."  We don't live to protest.   We have goals.  Success will do more to inspire protest than failure after failure after failure, and lots of camping with Libertarian White Supremacists, who hate us.


Personally, I am not convinced....

that ALL participation in electoral ventures amounts to complicity with evil.  Election seasons are when people are listening, and if we are not out there advancing some analyses and some solutions when people are listening, when will we do this?

Although I am in the GA Green Party I am no electoral fetishist.  Elections don't solve every problem, and the Green Party in my state does not exist simply to field candidates for office, but to use electoral as well as other tools to bring about some fundamental change.  There are times when there's nobody to vote for, and at those times people really should not vote.  But ruling out elections and electoral participation altogether seems misguided.  

And I think Malcolm walked back on his own "no vote" position, as he did on many other topics, before his death.  Hopefully the young author will enjoy a long life, and sufficient time to do the same. 


I support a public, vocal, attention-grabbing Election Boycott efforts for the following reasons:


 It is an approach that rejects the entire system in its entirety and does not focus on any particular party or candidate. 



Since elections are an area where politicians need our participation to uphold the charade that we have chosen and supported them -- it's an ideal arena to publicly reject them and all they stand for. 


As time, money, energy and resources are limited -- when they are spent on dead-end electoral endeavors -- they deplete energy, attention and focus that can be better spent organizing from outside the system and pushing against it. 



Zinn famously said, "We are citizens. They are politicans". The public seems to get confused when a citizen among us crosses over and choses to become a politician. 

We like the individual and their views, platforms, beliefs -- but the electoral game is a game created, designed and played by them for them. 

We are stronger and more threatening to the system if we refrain from joining their  electoral contraption. 

The line between 'them' and 'us' should be a hard and thick one to be clear about the distinction. 



 - Not only do any nominal Third Party victories not alter the system or the vast wealth-gap, but  -- ironically -- they also aid the Capitalist Class who depend on the perception that 'elections work'. When a few alternative candidates get in -- the perception is that 'the system works'. And that trust that the system is just and working -- is exactly what the Ruling Elite need you to believe. 

- An analogy would be that casinos must provide a 'sprinkle of wins' here and there to perpetuate the idea that you too 'can be a winner'. In the end, however, the house always wins and advances. Same with the system -- sure they will permit an occasional 'win' as it helps uphold the notion that the electoral process is fair and just and that it 'works'. 



The Ruling Class spends billions during a presidential election to court and woo voters -- and citizens respond to the campaign courting by going to the polls and voting. The public complies (though, less and less...). If we refuse participation in a cohensive, public way we are communicating, "We reject this charade and we reject your rule."  It is a method for delegitimizing their rule. 



Election Boycotting en masse can be a very strong, militant, defiant action when done publicly and loudly. 

Glen Ford of BAR gave a speech in which he identified 'those who do harm to the people' -- that is the very definition of the politicians in this vile capitalist system. They harm us. They produce laws and policies that bring us pain, suffering and hardship. It seems foolish to cooperate by going to the polls just because they spent a lot of money and did a little show for us to manipulate us to the polls. 

They court us via their elaborate campaigns -- and we should stand them up! 

Won't they look silly and politically impotent if they do their little dance, spend a fortune and we give them a thumb to the nose on their big day? 


Electoral Activism is a trap

It is not so in all countries, but in this country electoral activism steers people away from real activism and meaningful change.

What better way to enslave a man than to give him the vote and tell him he's free.”—Albert Camus.

Nothing has changed since H. Rap Brown said this:


The Electoral Conversation has not changed much at all

I watched that video by H. Rap Brown and what he said is nearly identical the the electoral conversations we are hearing today! 

One thing I like about the Election Boycott approach is that it inserts a NEW APPROACH into the mix. 

In fact, we nearly have an "Election Boycott" happening now given the low voter turnout numbers. The only problem is that this is spun by Corporate Media as 'apathy' and 'indifference' (Why don't they care?...) 

This low voter turnout is the largest segment of the electorate -- non-voters are by far the majority -- the trouble is it is done solo and in isolation and is publicly known WHY people are staying home in such large numbers. 

When we don't grab the mic and the headlines and declare our reasons ---- the truth is not known. 

We need a loud, public, vocal, clear, present, noisy Election Boycott message: "We reject Capitalism and the electoral system upon which it rests!" 

I believe we need an organized, prinicipled non-voting strategy. 

Confront? Specify.

Does the author of this piece have any concrete ideas in what to do regarding "confronting" office holders? How are they to be confronted? Are they to be forced to enact legislation that meets the People's needs? Are they to be incarcerated for their crimes (& then replaced, or should their positions be abolished altogether)? Are there any suggestions for how, in lieu of govt., the People's needs are to be met? Vaguely demanding confrontation with office holders (even if necessary) without solutions or some kind of concrete plan regarding confrontation or how to obey the needs of the People either with or without govt. is of little or no use to the community or any movement for justice. 

Valid criticism

Because of the time i needed to take constructing an argument validating an organized election boycott, it was hard for me to make this article an entire plan for one.  When I say confront, I guess I should of been more specific or use different words. Confront is vague, and I think that it could mean many things. I would personally, and this is the work I am doing now, begin focusing on actions and studies that get at re-building the principles of a left movement for our time. Confronting our elected officials would be to speak out, organize forums, write, actively boycott elections, and participate in direct actions that have concrete goals to them.  I think an organized boycott election of let's say the Presidential elections could be a visible and powerful statement against imperialism that could galvanize trust in the left again.  Of course, it is up to all of us to figure out how to do this. I don't have all the answers, and I certaintly wouldn't want to be the sole authority over what this would look like. If you have any suggestions on how this could be more effective in your opinion please email!


I appreciate the comments coming from someone with lots of organizing experience and years of work.  I take your point into consideration. My piece was coming from a place of frustration. I may be young, but still cannot be patient as I see grassroots campaign after grassroots campaign be moved into the seats of bourgeois governance, ready to be picked a part by the vultures of capital.  I think that an organized election boycott of this year's 2016 election should be considered.  We have had 8 years of more effective evil, do we want 4 more of let's say, Hilary Clinton?

I am for anything that de-legitamized the imperialist system but I would not argue ONLY for a boycott of elections, but rather an organized call to withdraw our vote out of principle. It could be a timely tactic, and one that can really get a debate going among the people about whether this so called "democratic" system is really that, or even desireable at all.

I am still learning while we fight. But I know, WE will win!



Yes! Stop our stamp of approval to corporate-rule!

American voters have the responsibility of pulling the plug on the corporate power structure simply because we are the only people in the world who can do it, but time is running short. By continuing to give our stamp of approval to the corporate agenda -by voting democrat for the sake of "defeating the republicans"- we are not only criminally delusional but we are willling acomplices of our government's ongoing crimes against humanity. And celebrating "our nation's first black president" does not absolve us from those crimes.

Obama/BushSrJr/ClintonBillHillary are clearly the same, and I refuse to participate in the murder of humanity by supporting this "left" fist of corporate rule.

Since becoming painfully aware that demoblicans are simply the "left" fist of the same corporate power structure that the republocrat "right" fist is (after Bill Clinton's heinous WTO decisions in 1999) I have refused to participate in it's murder of humanity and the obnoxious cowardly delusion that "we must vote for the corporate-left to defeat corporate-right" puppet show farce.

It's like when you realize your hand is on a metaphorical knife that is killing something you love, YOU TAKE YOUR HAND OFF THAT KNIFE!! Right?

But no one sees it that way and they scream at me for "causing Bush to win" because I voted for Nader twice in 2000 and 2004, (and Jill Stein in 2012) yet they are unwilling to admit they have directly caused the unprecedented power of 1%'s and the expansion of Bush's ugliest policies.

This is no longer a fight against the republicans, and it never was. It is a fight against ourselves for refusing to see the puppeteer behind the "left/right" paradigm.

I have asked my friends and family, until I'm blue in the face and despairing from rage, that if the main reason for being against republicans is because of their policies, then WHY would anyone support people who expand all those same ugly policies, as Obama has done and Hillary is gearing up to do?

The cognitive dissonance of people who still fall for the "left" fisted puppetry of the corporate power structure is simply unreal... and I don't understand why hardly anyone speaks out against this unbearable hypocrisy!

Anyway, more power to you and thank for having the guts to speak out against the corporate-controlled puppet show.

Calling Democrats "left" is just plain silly.

If you do that, the terms "left" and "right" are indeed meaningless.  But we DO need a compass, and calling Democrats "left" is deliberately confusing ourselves, like calling daylight and the absence of daylight the same thing.  

Why on earth would one throw away valuable reference points because your enemy decided to misname them for its own benefit? 

And no, calling ourselves anti-corporate is nowhere near enough.  Libertarians occasionally make that claim too.  Don't you think we ought to distinguish ourselves from those mopes?

Bruce, indeed.

While the Terri cult tries to make it sound like the majority of voters back them, they do not. She pops up every other year, like good paid operative to try and get people to think its empowering to hand the last vestige of our power away.

If we are truly leftists, we should work hard at grassroots to create a populist party with teeth.  Vote Socialist, vote Green.  Intentionally disenfranchising ourselves serves only the Koch brothers, who are well funded and will get the vote out.

It is making it a concrete certainty that the most corporate, racist, and predatory capitalist has won. Its counter-intuitive and counter-productive.

Like People of Color are not already disenfranchised by the system enough?  She wants you to embrace it?  They make it hard for populists and the traditional left to vote for a reason - they fear our power.  We outnumber them.

And this ridiculous BS plays right into their hands. 

Ok, I see giving the boycott people their air time, but I certainly hope BAR isn't going to embrace this, or I will have lost all respect for it as a tool for radical change.

You cannot withhold that which you do not have...

Pretending that low voter turnout from many causes amounts to a boycott is fundamentally dishonest, and fools nobody but the people making the absurd claim.  An election boycott is a legitimate political strategy, but one well beyond the means, in the US at least, of those making that claim, since you can only withhold votes that you COULD deliver if you wanted to.  

It's quite true that campaigns are most often where movements go to die or be betrayed.  It's also true that campaigns have oft been mistaken, accidentally and deliberately, for peoples movements, and that nascent movements have frequently been thwarted by funneling their activists energies into political campaigns.  Electoral campaigns are time limited, ridgily choreopgraphed affairs bounded by law, media, money and custom, where movements are essentially lawless, and that's a good thing.  I don't see any reason, any time for voting for Democrats or Republicans, that's for sure, not on any level from school board to the White House.

And I am pretty sure that the stuff some commenters have said, that "left and right are irrelevant" is about as deeply mistaken as saying there is no north or south, no up or down.  There is a direction out of this mess, just as surely as there was s direction into it, and you do not find that direction by throwong away your compass.  You're always going to be oriented towards or away from something, even if it's something you affirm by vigorously denying its existience.

Answering most of the arguments presented here will probably take another piece, maybe titled "Why Elections Still Matter".  I will try to come up with it in the next month or so.

Thanks to all the people who commented on this article, here and on Facebook.  The problem with Facebook of course is that those comments go away when the river flows a little past it, and these stick to the article for all time.  It's possible that more people actually see these comments than see the ones on Facebook as well.

Why still using misleading "right/left" lingo?

There are certain sentiments in this article that I agree with whole-heartedly!! But boycotting non-corporate candidates is just what the 1% wants. And it is also long overdue to put an end the misleading "left/right" lingo, rejecting it outright once and for all.

For all those who claim to be against Bush and Republicans, it is time to admit that it is unforgivably delusional to insist on voting for the 1%'s 'left' fist as the only "realistic" way to prevent the 1%'s "right" fist from winning.  With Obama's continuing defecation all over everything Martin Luther King Jr stood for, it is painfully clear that voting for the "left" fist of corporate rule is the only means by which the corporate power structure, and it's "right" fist have to gain more power.

Voting for the "left" fist of corporate rule is like pulling the emergency brake while keeping the foot on the gas in a car that is just about to go over a cliff. The car is still going to go over the cliff! The end result is going to be the same. So, in order to avoid going over the cliff we must take our collective foot OFF the gas pedal by rejecting the entire corporate framwork of who is "realistic" for us to vote for, and step on the brakes, back up, and turn the car around!

Unfortunately, the movement to boycott the vote ignores this reality and inevitably stops short of stepping on the brakes and turning the car around by stupidly putting all it's efforts into convincing everyone into giving up voting altogether. The end result is still going to be the same, and the car is still going to go over the cliff!!

The inevitable result of boycotting the vote will yet again be more power for the 1%, and what the hell is the point of that?!!?!

If the very survival of humanity throughout the world is dependent on American willingness to pull the plug on corporate rule (and it is!!!), then boycotting the vote is not an option for anyone with a shred of decency!! 

Besides, with all the communication tools at our disposal, there is no excuse for Americans not accomplishing a landslide election of someone that is not a corporate puppet, like Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney, or Jill Stein or tons of people. (What was the landslide in 2008 all about if it wasn't about being against Bush's policies? How did 'Yes We Can' turn into 'No We Can't' so quickly?) The only thing in our way is our corporate-induced, cowardly belief that it is "unrealistic" for us to try -which by the way, also happens to be the main sentiment of the movement to boycott the vote.

Meanwhile, ignoring the puppeteer behind the two "left/right" puppets is not just intolerable, it is downright criminal and must be given the same resounding 'no!' we normally reserve only for republicans. The stupidity of the Germans who allowed the Nazi takeover or the Russians who allowed the takeover by Stalin, is no match to the stupidity of Obama-apologists who STILL insist that we must all vote for the "left" fist of corporate rule to defeat the "right" fist of corporate rule.  

It is time to mobilize against the "left" and give it the same resounding 'no' we give to the "right" -by rejecting the entire corporate puppet show along with the "right/left" lingo that goes with it.

So, instead of calling ourselves "the left," why not call ourselves AGAINST CORPORATE RULE, and reject the whole misleading "left/right" lingo for the corporate puppetry it really represents. 

***I hope I didn't write this all in vain (not "vein" as in blood vein), but I  probably did. Also, just in case, the word "then" is used in sentences like- If blah blah blah, then blah blah blah. And the word "than" is used in sentences like- This is better than, worse than, different than...etc.***


Bruce A. Dixon, first of all, thanks for running the Election Boycott article in BAR. It's about time that pubs on the left started to pay attention to what the great majority of working class people are doing to register their protests against an illegitimate criminal government. And more working class people are boycotting than any other form of protest. And since BAR is the best publication of political analysis and commentary in America, it's appropriate that you are one of the first to feature an article on the subject. 

In your comment about the article you seem to be under the misapprehension that we boycotters vow or pledge to never vote again and never support voting. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Personally, I support voting in any legitimate democracy. Even many election systems under the capitalist classes around the world are sometimes democratic and working people should vote in them, as a rule. 

Obviously, the entire reason for our boycott, and for all working people refusing to vote in phony elections that only serve the purpose of validating an invalid government and plutocratic state, is to bring about democracy, genuine democracy, so that we can vote in good conscience with the knowledge that we are not simply complying with a criminal regime's need for our consent to their rule. 

Even Hitler valued getting a high vote--although no more than one-third of the people ever voted for him! And the American capitalist ruling class can fairly be said to be obsessed with getting out the vote for their phony elections. Why? Because they depend on that vote to prop up their phony persona around the world as a champion of democracy and freedom, the opposite of what they really champion. And because no dictatorship can long survive without the consent of the people. Let's yank the rug out from under them.  

Good piece,

and well argued; especially appreciate the references to George Jackson's writings. I am strongly sympathetic to the abstention argument, and agree that participation in the electoral process generally serves only the interests of the ruling class, bestowing upon the corrupt and unrepresentative regimes in power the imprimateur of legitimacy. 

I struggle with embracing total abstention (even temporary), however, for two reasons. The first, as noted by other commenters, is the success and efficacy of electoral participation seems to me significantly greater at more local levels, and that radical/revolutionary movements can affect tangible changes through electing city/municipal officeholders and voting for/against referenda. While it certainly represents a compromise with the system, the potential for bettering the lives of the poor and marginalized without being beholden to party machines suggests to me that such a compromise may be justifiable.

My other qualm is one of tactics; I heartily endorse not voting for all federal office candidates (and most statewide as well) of either major or third parties, as doing so validates the so-called "democractic process" that legitimizes (at least to the general public) the ruling class duopoly. Yet how can this protest be registered as such by simple abstention, rather than apathy or indifferent acceptance of the status quo? Would it not be more clarion to "vote," but to write-in a candidate such as "No One?" If "No One" were to receive a significant percentage of votes, say for president, wouldn't that be both a rallying cry for dissidents as well as a clear signal to the ruling class that the jig is up? 

This has been the strategy I've employed personally in recent elections, though I'm not thoroughly convinced it's the best one to follow and arguments like that presented by Danny Haiphong are thought provoking and persuasive. Thanks to Danny for the hearty food for thought. And big thanks to BAR for providing a venue for this piece, and all the other absolutely essential journalism and commentary featured here regularly. 


Brilliant suggestion

J.J. Mack what you've suggested about writing in "No one" votes in Federal elections is brilliant!  I think I might try it!  I, too, have reservations complete abstinence from voting esp. at the local & state level for the reasons you just stated.  I think many leftists have answer to question, "What's the alternativr?"  They're so caught up in the emotional high they experience from protesting or holding rallies that that's all they want to do. Others want to "destroy the system" although they're really not serious. It's just chic to talk like that in their social circles. Bottomline it's not a question of either. It's  "and" and "both.  Engage in electoral politics & protest politics. Violence as well as non-violence..  Freedom and justice should be fought for by any means necessary!

Left, right, left, right. 

Left, right, left, right.  There needs to be another term for people whose politics are TRULY left.  The real left shouldn't have to share association with posers such as Democracy Now, HuffPo, Jon Stewart, Democratic party, Michael Moore, etc, etc.  Just a thought.

The left-right paridigm is a farce.  Both sides feed their followers a false narrative that blames the other side and milk politically incorrect and entertainment distractions to keep followers misinformed and ignorant.  This has allowed the empire to wreak havoc on the economic, social, and physical well being of the masses.

It's past time for people to stop voting for ANYONE associated with the two-party mafia.  Continuing to do so only ensures the worsening of your and the world's destruction.   While there needs to be less emphasis on "getting out the vote" and more on mobilizing to tackle issues at the grassroots level, the voting process is not a total waste of time.  Candidates outside the two-party mafia can make a difference if they are TRULY committed to breaking from the left-right paridigm and willing to fight for the masses.    This is especially true at the local and state levels and it can be the same at the national level once alternative (for lack of a better word) candidates increase in numbers.  This takes time but to make it happen people have to erase the "these candidates can't win" mindset and work to get such candidates elected.  In addition, people must be willing to listen to and support others, be they candidates or not, whose views don't jibe 100% with their own.  You may not be on the same page with another but if both of you are in the same book you can work together.


Third Party Cycling and Lack of Militant Movement Building

It appears that many more are now done with 'the two parties'. Since Obama has been elected it has become evident that the Democrats have nothing to offer us. 

So when we put down the Democrats....then what?? For too many decades the answer has been to circle around a variety of third party alternatives. 

Danny's essay strongly suggests  that that is not the path to take. 

I think the key question to ask is this one: 

What is the strongest collective action we could take during the election fiasco? 

Something we've not yet attempted en masse is to stage a robust, organized, public Election Boycott. 

I believe Danny has laid out the case and his argument is quite solid. 

Circling around the Third Party alternatives has been tried for decades and with nothing to really show for the efforts. The system has assured no entrance. The election of one alternative city council member does nothing to alter capitailsm or address the huge wealth-gap. 

We need to do more and try something different. 

Let's band together for a massive Election Boycott next electoral extravaganza. 



Local Possibilities?

I wrote this piece published on BAR's webpage ( because after decades of a well-honed anti-electoral purism I feel it's important to consider the fact that local politicians may be able to redefine what it means to be "mayor" or "city council member" and offer tangible--however humble and delimited--victories during these desperate times.  Especially when they end up running almost single issue campaigns, as Baraka (education) and Sawant (minimum wage) have done.  They are expected to return results on these issues, no matter what else they do or don't do. If they don't return results on highlighted platform issues, we'll have more names to add to the list of politicians who fail their grassroots supporters... what's new????

Assuming that local politicians, by definition, will always be compromised by official political cultures, and realities like funding and bureaucratic governance issues, we should engage them with autonomous accountability standards that realistically assess possibilities within the very limited context of statecraft/ government.  (And we shouldn't let all our energy be zapped by their every move.)  That said, does it always undermine a revolutionary left/ anti-capitalist agenda to engage local electoral politics?  Not necessarily if it's done with a certain kind of revolutionary disposition. (Panthers' electoralism debates and practices aids us in thinking about this issue.)

After all, the ballot box can only ever go so far.  Think of the inherent revolutionary limits of a mayor's politics when it comes to the police force they oversee.  They can't abolish it--rendering the position of "mayor" only so effective, according to my standards.  "The streets" and "the state" have a permanent division guaranteed by the system itself. Policing offers us this glaring (and depressing) example when people get too naively excited about progressive municipal change. 

As for federal elections, both strategies of engaging them through rigorous "educational" criticism of candidates' necessarily corporate by design platforms or through an organized boycott will both still concede the political spotlight to the statecraft process during electoral times--which always seem to be right around the corner from the elections we just endured.  The corporate state always wins in this respect, it seems, again, by simple design.

Election Boycott Update: Website, Twitter & More


Inspired by the growing interest and exploration of Election Boycotting,  Election Boycott Advocates now have a new (almost complete!) website devoted to electoral defiance.  

It can be found here:

Blog posts on Election Boycotting are welcome and encouraged.