You are not going to get a history lesson on voting rights here. If you don't already know that history in very clear terms then you should stop talking about voting immediately and you shouldn't resume the discussion until you have strengthened your knowledge significantly about how we came upon the vote in the first place. Instead, we are going to focus on this question of empowering the disenfranchised. One of the reasons we can never get to the core issues around important issues like voting is because of the bourgeoisie liberal establishment and its dominance of left messaging within social justice environments in the West. This bourgeoisie liberal establishment hates everything about capitalism except capitalism itself. Of course, this is like saying you love everything about fried chicken except how it tastes. The problem being there is absolutely no where to go in left politics discussions as long as you are operating within that bourgeoisie liberal framework because they will never permit anyone to even suggest there is something out here different from capitalism. For the sake of discussion, let's just pretend the bourgeoisie liberal establishment doesn't dominate left discourse. I can easily envision a world where they don't because from an ideological and philosophical standpoint they don't control the discourse within the revolutionary Pan-African movement, although they do control discourse within the broader progressive African community within the U.S. So, lets step out and just pretend that they don't control any discourse anywhere. In this new environment there are several things we would consider. First, without question, voting is a tactic which means its a mechanism we use to achieve an objective. It isn't the objective itself, meaning its not a principle of the movement that can never, ever be challenged in any way. Not only should we discuss voting as a tactic, meaning we should talk about it in terms of how we can use it, or not use it. And, we should talk about using or not using it in the context of building power for those disenfranchised communities.
To have this discussion in a healthy way requires us to acknowledge that there are many different ways of engaging power for humanity. There is revolutionary organizing. There is mass movement building. There is electoral politics. There is anarchist work. Many things. And all of them have viability and all of them should always be on the table. So, please stop this fantasy that the only viable method of community engagement is voting within the capitalist system. Stop acting like anything else is the ravings of an insane person. The insanity is suggesting that the only tool available to oppressed people is the electoral system controlled by the people doing the oppressing.
The best possible solution to all of this is a multi-pronged movement where several of these things are taking place in cooperation with one another. In other words, revolutionary organizing happens. This is where revolutionaries are organizing to build capacity to destroy the existing political, economic, and social order to build something better in its place ala one unified socialist Africa, etc. And, there is no reason for anyone to object to this because you have your own lane from which to engage from. While that's happening, mass movement work is taking place. This is where issues are mobilized around police terrorism, housing justice, homophobia, patriarchy, etc. We recruit people to engage in massive movement work to educate around these issues and to challenge the power structure in how it enforces the systems of oppression against these ills. Meanwhile, in building these movements, we earn concessions from the system which makes it weaker while providing a venue for those who wish to enter the movements to have a place to do that while also giving them a pathway to pursue more focused work around the issues they care about. How that looks is maybe the anti-police terrorism activist comes to the point where they no longer see going to city council meetings and demanding police accountability as viable. Maybe they come to the point where they begin to see that the system that uses the police, the capitalist system, is the problem and they decide to become a revolutionary organizer. Or, they decide they want to be a person who lobbies for better police accountability laws so they go to law school and pursue that in organized fashion. We are for either pathway because each way gives us more capacity. We are not even opposed to the person who decides that the path they wish to take is supporting certain individual candidates for office and/or initiatives to be voted on by the people. They believe this because they are convinced using these methods to pursue policy changes is the best way to move us forward. Our only issue with this approach isn't that its electoral politics based. Our challenge here is that the approach cannot just be individuals voting in individuals. This approach has to be tied to movement building in some way where there is a push for policy to address the problems. The movement piece is essential because without a movement to push the people who are being elected, history is full of examples of campaign promises being about as good as the constitution that promotes the process - worthless. And we must add that by movement we mean mass e.g. not everyone participating being only those sanctioned by the capitalist democratic party. A true mass movement would include people from all segments described here and all of them would be welcome. If that's not happening, that's not what we are talking about.
Even this short analysis provides much more context and perspective than what generally passes as such in the greater society. People who advocate voting should stop (immediately) telling people that if they don't vote in capitalist elections, they don't have a right to complain about the results. This is the most unscientific and ill-logical argument ever invented. There are scores of activists who have made outstanding contributions without voting. The Universal Negro Improvement Association? The Nation of Islam? The Black Panther Party?, etc., etc. Its not about whether you agree with any of those organizations. The point is you would have to be an idiot to argue that none of them made significant contributions to our forward progress simply because they didn't endorse the tactic of voting. Our criteria for evaluating people's right to talk about the problems cannot be based solely on whether our not they participate in the function sanctioned by the system oppressing them. The criteria should be broadened to require us to participate in any one of the struggles for human progress articulated above. And, it should include requiring the voting activists to build that movement to support their work. These are the types of discussions we have to start having if we wish to get stronger and if we truly wish to win. Yes, we understand the evilness and absurdity of those in power right now, but stop asking us to choose one rapist over another. We want to stop all rape and everyone should support our right to want to do so. Let's figure out how we can do that because this is the approach which will actually start to yield tangible results for us. That capacity building to improve the lot for the disenfranchised? No one in the electoral realm is in a bragging position as it relates to those disenfranchised and blaming those who don't vote is empty and weak. Record people voted for Obama and the change he promised never happened for the masses of his people as well as humanity and no degree of window dressing and blackening of capitalism will ever change that.
I can predict, successfully, that even if those cretins in power are voted out next month on all levels, this doesn't spell prosperity for the disenfranchised. Since no one in their right mind can effectively argue otherwise, why don't we stop playing this stupid game and figure out how we can make all of the above discussed happen? If you truly care about forward progress, this is without question the way to get it. Its also the approach those who sacrificed the most for the vote advocated. Stop being dishonest and ignoring the analysis of those people in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee like Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown), Ethel Minor, Ruby Doris Robinson, Cleve Sellers, Mukassa Dada (Willie Ricks), and others gave us about voting because they said an awful lot. And, they went to jail and were beaten and tortured for the vote while those of you judgmentally bad breathing the need to vote today have sacrificed very little, if anything. Clearly, your way isn't working so stop pushing it down everyone's throats. Just because you happen to have the system providing you more resources to push your position doesn't validate it. It actually makes it more suspect so let's talk more about that and all of these issues and let's talk about them now and going forward until we can resolve it. That's who a true discussion about voting should and needs to proceed.