Exactly what is this abstentionism?

It is not the “specter that is haunting Europe” (that would demand much more) but everyone is talking about it.  The number of people who don’t turn out to vote is increasing, while the economic crisis, with its inevitable ups and downs, is deepening and spreading and everywhere (from Spain to Egypt, from France to Venezuela, from Hungary to Italy and so on, all around the world) election days, people’s consultations of all descriptions, democratic rituals of all types are proliferating – from the collection of signatures for one problem or another, right up to the huge, multi-million-dollar show of the U.S. Presidentials.  “Democratic mobilitation” is unceasing:  it echoes from country to country, amplified in all the media, creating a deafening noise and resorting to all sorts of brain conditioning, raising an immense cloud of dust that settles over everything, hiding reality from the eye.  At the same time, dazed by scandals large and small, revelations and disappointments, family quarrels and the rebounding of accusations and curses, faced with this huge World Festival of Democracy, the “people” turn out to vote in decreasing numbers, in line with a trend that was already evident in the “world’s greatest democracy”, the United States of America (save for the trend being suddenly reversed on one occasion or another, amidst general rejoicing).  

In the middle of it all, between the increasingly insistent recourse to the vote and the reaction of rejecting it, flourish groups, individuals and formations (which often wither quite quickly), in a range of different positions, going from “left” to right, with discourse marked by the most banal demagogic rhetoric, at times aggressive, populist, vulgar, at others made up of fine sentiments, concern and apprehension – always wavering between the two extremes (which are not extremes but Siamese twins):  the appeal to “more democracy” (“real democracy”, “grassroots democracy”, “people’s democracy”) and the manipulative amplification of all the reasons for disaffection (the “distance between the Palace and the real country”, the “rejection of Politics”, the “disgust for the Parties” and so on).

But exactly what is this abstentionism?

It is the child of the eminently bourgeois “freedom to think and reason with your own head”: the eternal illusion that the individual can count for something in a world which, on the contrary, crushes him and annuls him every day under the weight of the ruling ideology and his material working and living conditions.  It is a pathetic “demand for attention” (“if you won’t help us, we shall abstain”), made to bodies (the municipality, the region, the State, the President, etc.) which continue to be seen as impartial, interested in the common good, the expression of an abstract “res publica”.It is the child of the indecision and frustration which arises out of being locked in the narrow enclosure of parliamentary and institutional games, where parties and mini-parties, groups and individuals show their worst side and it is unclear what they are aiming at – a dance of increasingly decrepit wax statues.  It is a mere bleat (“Do something!”), thinking it’s going somewhere just because it identifies with a percentage that grows with every election day.

All this is of no interest to us communists.  Whether they vote or don’t vote is indifferent to us, given these premises and characteristics.

Our abstentionism has quite different origins and perspectives.  It arises out of an analysis of how bourgeois society has developed over time, an analysis of the nature of the State, of the role and function of democracy and of the actual, profound reality of democratic institutions, at whatever level.  In a society divided into classes, like bourgeois society, the ruling class dominates with all the means at its disposal: material living conditions, military power in all its forms, schools, family, religion, ideology in general.  The State is the tool for organizing this dominion; democracy isone of the covers enfolding this dominion:  it has never hesitated to use the iron fist and when (at the same pace as the evolution of the economy in an increasingly centralized form, typical of the imperialist age) it felt threatened, it turned into despotism, fascism – and this same mutation transformed it profoundly, in an irreversible, definitive manner, increasingly draining the democratic institutions of which it sings the praises of any sense and function. The real decisions are actually taken by bodies of experts that are the direct expression of the demands of capital as an anonymous power.

Our abstentionism thus arises out of the scientifically-based consideration (supported now by the experience of centuries) that the proletariat and communists can expect nothing from representational organisms at any level – not even by considering them as useful tools for spreading their own propaganda.  Instead, they are organisms that cage in the dominated class, preventing it from showing its real, antagonistic identity, deviating and draining the pressure it exerts, driven by forces surging up from the social sub-strata, stopping it from coming out into the battlefield and making its own organizational strength felt, and convincing it instead to delegate the solution of its problems to others (still remaining, however, in the framework of “things as they stand”).

We communists denounce and repudiate both the circumstance that sees proletarians bow their heads and deposit their votes in the urns, and the whimsical abstentionism which, if skillfully worked on from the sidelines by politicians, the media and opinion-makers, is ready to change into its exact opposite.   The essential element for us is areturn to the struggle: the understanding (perhaps merely instinctive) that it is necessary to start fighting together again to defend ourselves from the attack that capital inevitably leads (in its expansionist phase and in times of crisis) on our living and working conditions. It is the experience – gained at our own physical cost - telling us that decisions regarding our own existence and that of future generations cannot be delegated to anyone; it is the perception that in order to seize power, the same democratic institutions will have to be dismantled – all of them.  Proletarians must not be placed under the illusion that one mask or other is “a bit better” than the other:they should be coming out onto the streets, making their voices heard, not letting themselves be intimidated by the forces of law and order ranged against them or be taken in by the speeches of the politicians and union leaders who have been tools of the enemy for too long now; they should not let the ground be taken from beneath their feet by appeals to “conciliation”, the “higher interests of the Country”, all the trash that the ruling class has been using for over a century now to deceive them.They must take their future into their own hands.  They will always find us, not only at their side in their daily struggles to defend themselves from the attacks of capital, but ready and organized to guide them in their historical task, to seize power.  And at that point, the vote will be revealed as the perfidy it really is.

 International Communist Party

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