January 16, 2012

MLK Day: Vote For The 99%


I’m still enjoying my working vacation from regular posting, but since it’s MLK Day I thought I’d link my post from a year ago, One Big Birmingham Jail, for anyone who didn’t see it or has forgotten it.
Rereading it a year later, I think it holds up well and makes the right argument. I’ll recommend one section as especially topical. King gave as one of his criteria justifying direct action that the people attempted in good faith to negotiate and met a brick wall.

Not that we the people owe it to those who are in principle our public servants to negotiate with them, but nevertheless we have done so ad nauseum. What more profound negotiation can there be than the 2008 election where the people definitively voted for “change”, wrongly thinking there was a candidate who stood for change, because he systematically lied to that effect…

And what about the negotiation over the TARP? The people raged against it. In some congressional offices the calls and messages were over a thousand to one against. Nowhere was there anything but a huge majority against the Bailout. (That McCain didn’t roll the dice and oppose the TARP, run against the TARP, try to turn his fortunes around by turning the election into a referendum on the TARP, proves not only his political incompetence, but also the fact that we have nothing but sham “elections” which offer no meaningful choice at all.) We can multiply the examples – the health racket bailout, the war, Big Ag subsidies, almost any instance of corporate welfare.

No, we’ve done all we can to negotiate. The fact is, representative democracy itself, the periodic elections, were supposed to constitute such negotiations. But we see that this was always a sham. The opposite party never did anything but lie to the people, and never felt the slightest obligation to live up to his promises after the election. Indeed, many ideologues of pseudo-democracy (if not the practicing liar politicians themselves) have explicitly argued that the “representative” has no obligation to his constituents at all after the election is over, but is free to “vote his conscience”, conscience here being a euphemism for corrupt personal interest.

Reasonable people have to concede that the “negotiation” failed. We can never have a responsible, responsive, legitimate government in the form of representative democracy. It’s a structural fraud.

Since the kleptocracy will devote the year to astroturfing the people into this anti-political farce of an election, our goal has to be to get people to repudiate everything having to do with this phony anti-politics and turn instead to the real politics of direct action and movement-building on a self-management basis. The Occupy movement is the street vanguard, while the food/relocalization movement is the primary long run battleground and most fertile soil for the real democratic movement roots.
But when anyone tells you to “vote”, they’re telling you to continue to negotiate with those whose bad faith has been proven beyond any doubt at all. They’re calling for continued negotiation with proven terrorists. They’re calling for appeasement.
Don’t listen to the Neville Chamberlains and pro-fascist Fifth Columnists of our day. Reject the election. Vote For The 99%. That means vote with your feet (away from the ballot box), with your wallet (Move Your Money, and purge as many rents from your life as possible), with your mind, with your soul.


  1. Thanks, Russ. And I re-read your excellent post on MLK from last year!

    “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
    ― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham City Jail

    Comment by Frank Lavarre — January 16, 2012 @ 8:00 am

    • You’re welcome Frank, and thanks.

      Comment by Russ — January 16, 2012 @ 9:49 am

  2. Nice work, Russ. I do think it’s a good idea to first make the attempt to fight conventionally,if only to expose the outrage to the mainstream. But voting is generally a stupid self-deception, especially outside of the very local level.
    I need to work on Moving my Money…
    Of course, the more we incorporate time banking and the like, the more we vote with our soul. Homeschooling , alternative education,and Freecycling are other ways to vote with mind and soul and free ourselves.

    Keep up the good work 🙂

    Comment by DualPersonality — January 16, 2012 @ 8:41 am

    • Thanks DP.

      it’s a good idea to first make the attempt to fight conventionally

      Yes, but we’ve been doing that for hundreds of years and we see where it’s gotten us. It’s enough already, isn’t it?

      Thanks for pointing out other real votes we can cast.

      Now move that money! 🙂

      Comment by Russ — January 16, 2012 @ 9:48 am

  3. The powers that be will remain in power till the public understands the propaganda of right to life, race, and gay rights are minor problems 21st century. What we should really be concerned about this curtailment of civil liberties, and the deep penetration of neoliberals like Robert Rubin and Hamilton project types. It is the propaganda use of identity politics mentioned above that keep people from focusing on the real issues.

    “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
    ― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham City Jail

    Comment by Frank Lavarre — January 16, 2012 @ 8:00 am

    Comment by beene — January 16, 2012 @ 11:27 am

    • We shouldn’t disparage things that matter to others, but always call for all issues to be placed in the structural context. No matter what one cares about, it’s under corporate assault and manipulation. One thing both sides of any culture war issue can agree upon is that neither Reps nor Dems really care about the thing, but only pretend to in order to manipulate electoral tribalism, to keep the 99% fighting among itself.

      It’s not any particular issue, but the system manipulation of it.

      Comment by Russ — January 17, 2012 @ 5:42 am

  4. Somebody asked me who I was going to vote for in the upcoming election. Without thinking about it, I told him “nobody.” I was somewhat stunned by my answer because I have voted in every election that I could since I turned 18 (I turn 45 this year), but I suddenly realized that I’ve been pushed to a point where I feel I cannot in good conscience participate in the farce any longer.

    Unfortunately, choosing not to participate merely secures the power of the ever-shrinking minority that does. If only there were a way to participate while demonstrating that the process is a sham.

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — January 16, 2012 @ 11:12 pm

    • I have begun refusing my ballots in our provincial elections, which is counted in a separate category (ie not merely spoiled). It’s not currently possible to refuse ballots in the federal elections, so I think I will join the Edible Ballot Society and eat the ballot next time.

      Comment by paper mac — January 16, 2012 @ 11:44 pm

    • Unfortunately, choosing not to participate merely secures the power of the ever-shrinking minority that does. If only there were a way to participate while demonstrating that the process is a sham.

      It seems to me that for 20% of the electorate to vote between two pro-bank candidates achieves the exact same result as if 80% did so, except that the illegitimacy of the system is far more visible. That ever-shrinking minority doesn’t vote a different result from what a larger turnout would vote. The system offerings are the same either way.

      Plus, those who decide not to vote could be inspired to take action in other ways. The spread of the active abstention consciousness, in itself a negative, could help build positive alternative action.

      So there’s no practical reason to vote, and a possible practical upside to not voting.

      I’ll stipulate again that ballot questions and local elections may be different. Certainly the entire 99% in California should go vote for GMO labeling. But the rule applies especially to Federal elections.

      Comment by Russ — January 17, 2012 @ 5:38 am

  5. Not sure if you’re a Zizek fan, Russ, but I thought this was worth a glance- http://www.lrb.co.uk/2012/01/11/slavoj-zizek/the-revolt-of-the-salaried-bourgeoisie

    I really hope that come spring Occupy is able to pick up some of the momentum it’s lost over the winter and carry on with the occupations of foreclosed homes on a much larger scale. I’d like to see more integration with and concern for the agenda of existing POC activist groups as well. That happened toward the end of their tenure here to an extent when the Mohawk warriors got involved, but it didn’t last long. Hopefully this year things will gel a bit more.

    Comment by paper mac — January 16, 2012 @ 11:54 pm

    • I only had time to skim the piece for now, but I’ll read it later. My initial impression is that it’s describing the same phenomena I referred to with my “We’re All Lumpenproles Now” concept. The mass middle class was a product of cheap, plentiful oil and the oligopoly-formation stage of capitalism. It’s now being liquidated.

      There’s also the issue of the privatization of general knowledge. My contention is that under such circumstances general knowledge itself can become a weapon against us, and where we can’t use elements of it to our advantage, we’re better off without those elements. Even anarchists tend to resist that conclusion.

      Occupy is just getting started. I expect it to resurge with the warmer weather, bigger and with a better focus. People are already seeing that:

      1. The refusal to “petition” with “demands” is the right track.

      2. But just to occupy ground, while a potent symbol, won’t be sufficient.

      3. So we need active occupation vectors. Sure enough, people are hitting upon organized squatting as a tactic.


      We’ve also already seen the introduction of the MST concept, from its own members visiting OWS.


      That’s exactly the kind of stuff I’ve been proposing for a few years now.

      Comment by Russ — January 17, 2012 @ 6:21 am

      • Correct – O – Rouny Russ. Da miffled class was the last stop customer in a bombed out world, assembly lines needed customers, war was good but, transition thingy. BTW is it cool with you to link ya to occupy Brisbane?

        A large rodent.

        Comment by skippy — January 22, 2012 @ 9:00 am

      • What’s up? Go ahead and link, if it’s not reformist claptrap. I haven’t been following Australian politics lately. It sounds like the key is to fight resource extractors.

        Are you still having a good time at Naked Capitalism?

        I think what this world needs is a gung-ho can-do food movement blog. So far as I know that site doesn’t exist yet, so my goal is to turn Volatility into that. The food sector will provide the template for all other sectors and issues. That’s the main idea I’m mulling over in my vacation.

        Comment by Russ — January 22, 2012 @ 11:38 am

  6. Hi Russ,

    Hope you are enjoying your vacation and study.

    Good that you brought up Naked Capitalism. The comment section at NC is not what it used to be since you, Down South, Toby and Tao Jonesing have moved on.

    It would be a good thing if you could drop a line or two in the comment section once in a while.

    I am sure that I am speaking for the majority of the NC readers here.

    Comment by René — January 24, 2012 @ 3:31 pm

    • Thanks Rene! That makes it feel worthwhile.

      You commenters at NC should demand that we come back. (I didn’t know Toby and Tao had quit.)

      I have to admit that without reading NC, I’ve become pretty ignorant about current events. (Needless to say, I don’t read the corporate media. But I guess NC was becoming that way anyway.)

      Comment by Russ — January 24, 2012 @ 7:20 pm

      • You’re not missing anything by not reading NC.

        For instance, look at one of the topics for this morning, Wed. Jan 25, 2012:

        Is Schneiderman Selling Out? Joins Federal Committee That Looks Designed to Undermine AGs Against Mortgage Settlement Deal – 01/25/2012 – Yves Smith


        And so now Yves is pretending to be surprised and disappointed that Schneiderman is selling out like Elizabeth Warren and all the others. (Of course he’s not really selling out because he was never sincere in the first place, but it gives them something to talk about.)

        If there are any readers of this blog who still bother to look at NC from time to time and who haven’t been banned yet (like me) or stopped commenting (like Russ), then maybe someone should point out what Russ said about Scheidermann back on Sept. 7, 2011, (and anyone who went to the trouble of searching the blog archives (attempter+Schneidermann, DownSouth+Schneidermann, Tao Jonesing+Schneidermann, etc) could find similar comments going back for at least a year.

        (attempter on Schneidermann)

        attempter says:
        September 7, 2011 at 4:09 am

        “Assuming for the sake of argument that he’s sincere in all this, he still wants to work only within the same criminal system, and toward the same criminal goals, just in a “reformed” way. (He explicitly said his goal is to “restore faith” in the mortgage delusion. So he’s really pushing another version of the HAMP scam, just at the broader cultural level.)

        So in that case, he’ll end up destroyed on account of that he was neither hot nor cold but lukewarm. It’s not possible to fight the elites from within their premises.”

        Comment by Frank Lavarre — January 25, 2012 @ 5:43 am

      • Thank for remembering that, Frank. I never trusted any of them.

        Comment by Russ — January 25, 2012 @ 8:48 am

      • My favorite line from Yves’ Schneiderman article today is the very first sentence:

        “New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been celebrated as the progressive Great White Hope. “

        And who was one of the first to hail Mr. Schneiderman as such? Yves.

        See here: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/05/new-york-ag-schneiderman-investigating-goldman-morgan-stanley-bank-of-america-mortgage-operations.html

        One of my comments from that day:

        Tao Jonesing says:
        May 17, 2011 at 12:42 am

        I hope you don’t get a cramp in your crossed fingers.

        Spitzer actually tried to bring the banksters to justice and paid the price. Cuomo, learning from Spitzer’s mistake, decided to extort the bankers and, thus, joined their club.

        Schneiderman is following Cuomo and taking his entrance exam. The point is to launder the crimes into fines.

        “Note that this announcement effectively blows up the 50 state attorney general settlement talks.”

        Schneiderman is going to show the rest of the AGs how to play ball with the banksters. Just watch. He’s doing the opposite of blowing up the settlement talks: he’s going to make them a reality. He’s going to show how achieving the same results as what the broader set of talks are suggesting will be widely accepted by the voters of the state. The states need money, and the banksters are happy to pay them “fines” because they know they’ll get those fines back with a lot of interest.

        Comment by Tao Jonesing — January 25, 2012 @ 10:58 am

  7. Things have changed dramatically. Think NDAA and SOPA / PIPA. We are going to experience some sort of a revolution, maybe even this year. Its now or never.

    Comment by René — January 25, 2012 @ 8:36 am

    • I hope so!

      Comment by Russ — January 25, 2012 @ 8:49 am

  8. “I have to admit that without reading NC, I’ve become pretty ignorant about current events. “

    I’m becoming convinced that being ignorant about current events is a good thing, Russ. “Now-opia,” the focus on being up to the minute on the latest news, seems designed to blind us from the fact that the problems of yesterday were never solved. All that “staying current” means is that you have an opportunity to bitch and moan about the latest outrage while being distracted from the fact that previous outrage is still ongoing, too.

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — January 25, 2012 @ 10:21 pm

    • That’s a very interesting point, Tao.

      Comment by DualPersonality — January 29, 2012 @ 7:38 am

    • Yes, I think that’s true. I hardly ever feel that I’ve missed out on something because I seldom read any corporate media.

      It’s much better to actively seek knowledge according to a plan than to passively receive whatever randomly comes along. In the latter case, one’s likely to become the recipient not of randomness, but of the system’s propaganda.

      Comment by Russ — January 31, 2012 @ 11:49 am

  9. Hi Russ and gang. Been missing the daily dose of truth since the hibernation. If your still internetting, check out Arthur silber’s blog. Seems like his health is strong enough to keep us on the way. Xoxo, tawal

    Comment by tawal — January 28, 2012 @ 9:09 pm

    • Thanks tawal. Is Silber’s health better? Last I heard he sounded like he was physically dying.

      Comment by Russ — January 31, 2012 @ 11:49 am

      • He’s been ill for quite a long time. At least since 2005. He seems to suck it up until it is completely unbearable. Not sure the ailment(s), but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have health insurance. He seems to have perked up lately…. Must be an election year or something. Glad you’re keeping on. Looking forward to a lot of food related articles come planting time. Scouted out a small spot between two fences adjacent to my apartment complex. Looking to occupy (with permission, it may be part of our complex, need to see if the gardener mows it) come spring. Ciao!

        Comment by tawal — January 31, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

      • Maybe if it doesn’t get mown you can guerrilla garden there. But if it does, sometimes asking permission works.

        Comment by Russ — February 1, 2012 @ 12:29 am

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