WHY I WON’T VOTE, by Dr. W.E.B. Dubois, The Nation, 20 October 1956

Dubois 2

On October 20, 1956, W. E. B. Du Bois delivers this eloquent indictment of US politics while explaining to Nation readers why he won’t vote in the upcoming Presidential election. Du Bois condemns both Democrats and Republicans for their indifferent positions on the influence of corporate wealth, racial inequality, arms proliferation and unaffordable health care.

Since I was twenty-one in 1889, I have in theory followed the voting plan strongly advocated by Sidney Lens in The Nation of August 4, i.e., voting for a third party even when its chances were hopeless, if the main parties were unsatisfactory; or, in absence of a third choice, voting for the lesser of two evils. My action, however, had to be limited by the candidates’ attitude toward Negroes. Of my adult life, I have spent twenty-three years living and teaching in the South, where my voting choice was not asked. I was disfranchised by law or administration. In the North I lived in all thirty-two years, covering eight Presidential elections. In 1912 I wanted to support Theodore Roosevelt, but his Bull Moose convention dodged the Negro problem and I tried to help elect Wilson as a liberal Southerner. Under Wilson came the worst attempt at Jim Crow legislation and discrimination in civil service that we had experienced since the Civil War. In 1916 I took Hughes as the lesser of two evils. He promised Negroes nothing and kept his word. In 1920, I supported Harding because of his promise to liberate Haiti. In 1924, I voted for La Follette, although I knew he could not be elected. In 1928, Negroes faced absolute dilemma. Neither Hoover nor Smith wanted the Negro vote and both publicly insulted us. I voted for Norman Thomas and the Socialists, although the Socialists had attempted to Jim Crow Negro members in the South. In 1932 I voted for Franklin Roosevelt, since Hoover was unthinkable and Roosevelt’s attitude toward workers most realistic. I was again in the South from 1934 until 1944. Technically I could vote, but the election in which I could vote was a farce. The real election was the White Primary.

Retired “for age” in 1944, I returned to the North and found a party to my liking. In 1948, I voted the Progressive ticket for Henry Wallace and in 1952 for Vincent Hallinan.

In 1956, I shall not go to the polls. I have not registered. I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no “two evils” exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say. There is no third party. On the Presidential ballot in a few states (seventeen in 1952), a “Socialist” Party will appear. Few will hear its appeal because it will have almost no opportunity to take part in the campaign and explain its platform. If a voter organizes or advocates a real third-party movement, he may be accused of seeking to overthrow this government by “force and violence.” Anything he advocates by way of significant reform will be called “Communist” and will of necessity be Communist in the sense that it must advocate such things as government ownership of the means of production; government in business; the limitation of private profit; social medicine, government housing and federal aid to education; the total abolition of race bias; and the welfare state. These things are on every Communist program; these things are the aim of socialism. Any American who advocates them today, no matter how sincerely, stands in danger of losing his job, surrendering his social status and perhaps landing in jail. The witnesses against him may be liars or insane or criminals. These witnesses need give no proof for their charges and may not even be known or appear in person. They may be in the pay of the United States Government. A.D.A.’s and “Liberals” are not third parties; they seek to act as tails to kites. But since the kites are self-propelled and radar-controlled, tails are quite superfluous and rather silly.

The present Administration is carrying on the greatest preparation for war in the history of mankind. Stevenson promises to maintain or increase this effort. The weight of our taxation is unbearable and rests mainly and deliberately on the poor. This Administration is dominated and directed by wealth and for the accumulation of wealth. It runs smoothly like a well-organized industry and should do so because industry runs it for the benefit of industry. Corporate wealth profits as never before in history. We turn over the national resources to private profit and have few funds left for education, health or housing. Our crime, especially juvenile crime, is increasing. Its increase is perfectly logical; for a generation we have been teaching our youth to kill, destroy, steal and rape in war; what can we expect in peace? We let men take wealth which is not theirs; if the seizure is “legal” we call it high profits and the profiteers help decide what is legal. If the theft is “illegal” the thief can fight it out in court, with excellent chances to win if he receives the accolade of the right newspapers. Gambling in home, church and on the stock market is increasing and all prices are rising. It costs three times his salary to elect a Senator and many millions to elect a President. This money comes from the very corporations which today are the government. This in a real democracy would be enough to turn the party responsible out of power. Yet this we cannot do.

The “other” party has surrendered all party differences in foreign affairs, and foreign affairs are our most important affairs today and take most of our taxes. Even in domestic affairs how does Stevenson differ from Eisenhower? He uses better English than Dulles, thank God! He has a sly humor, where Eisenhower has none. Beyond this Stevenson stands on the race question in the South not far from where his godfather Adlai stood sixty-three years ago, which reconciles him to the South. He has no clear policy on war or preparation for war; on water and flood control; on reduction of taxation; on the welfare state. He wavers on civil rights and his party blocked civil rights in the Senate until Douglas of Illinois admitted that the Democratic Senate would and could stop even the right of Senators to vote. Douglas had a right to complain. Three million voters sent him to the Senate to speak for them. His voice was drowned and his vote nullified by Eastland, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who was elected by 151,000 voters. This is the democracy in the United States which we peddle abroad.

Negroes hope to muster 400,000 votes in 1956. Where will they cast them? What have the Republicans done to enforce the education decision of the Supreme Court? What they advertised as fair employment was exactly nothing, and Nixon was just the man to explain it. What has the Administration done to rescue Negro workers, the most impoverished group in the nation, half of whom receive less than half the median wage of the nation, while the nation sends billions abroad to protect oil investments and help employ slave labor in the Union of South Africa and the Rhodesias? Very well, and will the party of Talmadge, Eastland and Ellender do better than the Republicans if the Negroes return them to office?

I have no advice for others in this election. Are you voting Democratic? Well and good; all I ask is why? Are you voting for Eisenhower and his smooth team of bright ghost writers? Again, why? Will your helpless vote either way support or restore democracy to America?

Is the refusal to vote in this phony election a counsel of despair? No, it is dogged hope. It is hope that if twenty-five million voters refrain from voting in 1956 because of their own accord and not because of a sly wink from Khrushchev, this might make the American people ask how much longer this dumb farce can proceed without even a whimper of protest. Yet if we protest, off the nation goes to Russia and China. Fifty-five American ministers and philanthropists are asking the Soviet Union “to face manfully the doubts and promptings of their conscience.” Can not these do-gooders face their own consciences? Can they not see that American culture is rotting away: our honesty, our human sympathy; our literature, save what we import from abroad? Our only “review” of literature has wisely dropped “literature” from its name. Our manners are gone and the one thing we want is to be rich–to show off. Success is measured by income. University education is for income, not culture, and is partially supported by private industry. We are not training poets or musicians, but atomic engineers. Business is built on successful lying called advertising. We want money in vast amount, no matter how we get it. So we have it, and what then?

Is the answer the election of 1956? We can make a sick man President and set him to a job which would strain a man in robust health. So he dies, and what do we get to lead us? With Stevenson and Nixon, with Eisenhower and Eastland, we remain in the same mess. I will be no party to it and that will make little difference. You will take large part and bravely march to the polls, and that also will make no difference. Stop running Russia and giving Chinese advice when we cannot rule ourselves decently. Stop yelling about a democracy we do not have. Democracy is dead in the United States. Yet there is still nothing to replace real democracy. Drop the chains, then, that bind our brains. Drive the money-changers from the seats of the Cabinet and the halls of Congress. Call back some faint spirit of Jefferson and Lincoln, and when again we can hold a fair election on real issues, let’s vote, and not till then. Is this impossible? Then democracy in America is impossible.

 

Welcome to EarthColony.net: THE I.Q. ANALOGY, by Dr. Steven Nur Ahmed

Book Cover Earthcolony

Aristotle’s influence on Western Culture and particularly on American secular society is so substantial that one can say without reservation that we live in an Aristotelian society.  His theories pervade every aspect of our social institutions.  We operate educationally on the basis of his scientific assumptions.  The founders of the United States were all educated within the framework of Latin, Roman law, and the Greek Classics and thus our constitution is an articulation of his theory of democratic government along with some Roman civil law.[1]

 

In the previous chapter, we noted Aristotle’s definition of ‘Man’: ‘Man is a rational animal’. That definition abounds with implications. For, it is the rational animal that breaks away from his wholeness with nature. It is the rational animal who in so doing sets in motion an infinite series of derivative divisions within himself which in-turn fractures his vision of nature into segregated illusions of oneness.  It is the rational animal that is thrown out of oneness and who can never again grasp his common denominator with all in all.  But where does this take us?

 

It takes us to Aristotle’s fundamental assumptions which support his theory of development.  His argument that what brings matter into existence and what maintains it as an ‘actually’ existing thing in relation to a ‘potentially’ existing thing necessarily determines social arrangements between all creatures. The unavoidable conclusion is that since Aristotle defines human beings as rational animals, then rationality is that instrument by means of which social hierarchy is politicized to sketch out and measure differences of all sorts between people.[2] 

 

For Aristotle, there is a ‘natural’ division between human beings which is similar to the division between inorganic and organic matter. It is that there is a division analogous to the division between non-rational animals and rational animals. Within the rational animal category he states that there are lines which segregate humans into different classes, statuses, gender roles, and roles.

 

At each degree up and down the social hierarchy there is a ratio of greater or lesser ‘intellectual power’ in relation to greater or lesser ‘bodily power’ for the caste or class and for each individual. This social principle is consistent with Aristotle’s assumption of the ratio of potency to actuality (p:a).  It is the capacity and ability to reason and what is more, to reason with foresight. It follows, therefore, that Aristotle concludes that socially, some are fated to be despotos (dictator) and others doulos (slave). [3] 

 

For Aristotle the superiority of reason is manifested as social advantage for some persons as opposed to disadvantage for others. Aristotle supports this premise with his observations taken from the natural environment. For example, mating competition between animals is the most striking example of the natural dominance of some over other persons. The greater aggression of some makes them rulers while others are naturally subordinated to them.  So pervasive and consistent is this pattern in the natural order that Aristotle defines it as a law of nature or ‘necessity’.[4]  That thesis leads him to the next inference. As a law of nature, it must be manifested in the complex of greater and lesser social statuses possessed by human beings, too.  And, again, Aristotle finds its manifestation described as a ratio of greater or lesser intellectual power in relation to greater or lesser physical power.  He rationalizes social inequality by saying: “It is thus clear that, just as some are by nature free, so others are by nature slaves and for these latter the condition of slavery is both beneficial and just.”[5] 

 

What would crystallize from this line of reasoning and be drawn on throughout the following two thousand years of anthropology is the ‘I.Q. analogy’. Aristotle states it thus: “…all men who differ from others as much as the body differs from the soul, or an animal from a man…all such are by nature slave,…”[6] Slavery is not only natural it is just and beneficial for  slaves.

 

This rationalization would be espoused many times in the ante-bellum south of the United States to justify the enslavement of Africans.  Eventually, it would also manifest in other derivative anthropologies and finally it would serve as a conclusion of   eugenics.[7]  But Aristotle does not stop there, he goes on further to develop his argument and so we too must go on tracing over his thoughts as they meander through his lectures and writings. 

 

Not only does Aristotle make the argument that there are natural intra-group divisions marked by higher or lower intelligence, but there are inter-group divisions marked by the same types of intellectual divisions.  He calls them ‘natural characters’. His hypothesis is that geography and climate are associated with the moral characteristics of a people.  But each human group he argues is divided in two different ways, first, as ‘ethnos’ or culture, and secondly, as ‘genos’ or race.

 

He says that the nations inhabiting the cold regions are not so intelligent though they possess a strong will.  He then says that the nations of Asia are intelligent, but lack will.  These people, he says, are suitable as slaves.  He finally says that the Greek ‘genos’ (race) participates in both intelligence and ‘will’ and that this is so because it occupies a middle geographical and climatic position. 

 

He concludes that the Greeks are capable of ruling all mankind.  But he adds something which underscores his definition of genos; he says that the various Greek cultures when compared to one another manifest the same differences as do the Asiatic and Northern European peoples in comparison to the Greek genos.[8]  Such would ultimately be called the ‘master race’. 

 

The institutionalization of Aristotle’s theory in modern form combined with the two primitive human insecurities, i.e., sexuality and fear are the reasons for human aggression and the varied assortment of vices such as greed.  All of this can be summed up in one word: ‘evil’.  And there is no innocent party. For both the dictator and slave reverse roles through the course of history and are locked into a perpetual embrace as they act out the dance of mutual malevolence.    

 

 

 

 

 


[1] Aristotle, Politics

[2] The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy, by Nicholas Lemann; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2000

[3] Aristotle, Politics, Book 1, Chapter 1, 1252b: “The element which is able, by virtue of its intelligence, to exercise forethought is naturally a ruling and master element; the element which is able, by virtue of its bodily power, to do what the other element plans, is a ruled element, which is naturally in a state of slavery…” Adopted from: Great Books of The Western World

[4] Aristotle, Politics, book 1, chapter V, subsection 8: “There is a principle of rule and subordination in nature at large; it appears especially in the realm of animate creation.”

[5] Ibid, 1255b

[6] Ibid, Book I, chapter V, subsection 8

[7] Classification of Men According to Their Natural Gifts, by Francis Galton

[8] Ibid, Book VII, adopted from Aristotle in twenty-three volumes, XXI Politics, Translation by H. Backham, Harvard University Press, CambridgeMassachusetts, London, England, 1932