• Hubert Marlin

Boycott and Democracy The Scam of the Empty Chair

The term boycott would not exist if the cupidity of capitalism was not so venal. In 1879 Charles Cunningham Boycott (1832-1897), working as landlord for John Crichton, Earl of Erne, County of Mayo, Ireland, had thought it advisable to continue keeping at high rate the rent of farmers, who, while the great famine was raging, obviously did not have the means to afford it anymore. The measures taken in the context of a campaign to end the crisis, which provided for fair rents, fixed tenure and free sale, were considered inhuman; because in fact the real plan was focused on eviction, to rent to the highest bidder.

Local Irish Land League activists, began a campaign that was followed, using harsh methods, including threatening Cunningham Boycott employees, and Lord Erne's seasonal workers, to stop working. The isolation campaign against Boycott in the local community led to the ruin of the employer of Charles C. Boycott, who by then gave his name to the phenomenon advocating embargoes as leverage. The boycott has since gone through time and beyond the Irish County of Mayo and has become something vital in the maneuvers of pressure to force a country or institution to obey certain injunctions based on the legitimacy or profit of the party exercising pressure.\ The term legitimacy has its full weight when one talks about boycotts, or embargoes because the legitimacy conferred by causes like the aggressions of the people, and the destruction of material goods within the framework of a dictatorial or bloodthirsty regime, does not always bring solutions to people who suffer from a political regime, but often gives the advantage to those who benefit from a regime change. There is an antagonistic configuration, that often destroys during the power struggle, those who have been the reason for the international sanctions of embargoes or boycotts against a regime, and the regime itself that would have committed the irreparable. The open secret that often suggests that interventions against a country, boycotts and embargoes are made to protect the weak, has since circumnavigated the world more than once, but it still seems to emulate, for the simple reason that in a situation of crisis, there are often several pretenders in ambush, who can plot together or fight against each other for the safeguard of their interests.

And higher is the number of claimants to profits, resulting from a conflict, higher and better are the chances of success of the manipulation aiming to evoke a noble reason, to advance shadowy agendas. In the political arenas of developing countries, Boycott is a phenomenon that is increasingly used, like its corollary the embargo, to often seize power by malice. While it is true that Third World governments often hold the power with iron fists, creating legal frameworks that promote their sustainability in power, it is obvious that some in choosing the boycott simply want to show the world that the system is not egalitarian, and that in this configuration it would be impossible to change regimes by the so called democratic means. In third world countries, those who boycott elections or resort to civil disobedience usually understand that the only way to regime change, is often violence or isolation. Since the political game is confiscated, the only way left for them, is to break this barrier and in this perspective, there is generally two hypotheses. Those who take the path of guerrilla, warfare, and hope by weapons to change things and those who use both, warfare, and popular demonstrations, and usually rely on the hyper-violence of dictatorial authorities in the repression of this armed or populist movement to force the intervention of international forces from the West or the United Nations, to influence the expected change of regime. Boycotts and embargoes imposed on entities, however, are more successful if they lead to a war that comes to complete the work of the wear of the insulation, which often weaken entities that then become easier to dismantle.

The boycott, when it comes to participatory democracy with the phenomenon of elections which holding, and results are either rejected or contested, is only a method to conquer power, through legitimacy or not. It is used, as in the context of embargoes of the so-called international community towards certain countries, to put pressure on a point that would bring down a government. However, boycotting is not always effective. In the context of the Olympics as it was advocated against Berlin in 1936 with the rise of Nazism and Hitler, the boycott did not serve much purpose, because at the time, the games were not a market likely to bring billions of Deutsche Mark to Nazi Germany, who would have used this money to wage war. The Olympics were no less an ideological asset. They helped the Nazis to convince the Germans of the greatness of Germany in preparation for the world war. If some countries that wanted to boycott these games had succeeded in their campaign, it would not have changed much on the Nazi agenda, if yes to reinforce the mistrust of the German people towards foreigners who had dared to sulk their party. The results of boycotts remain mixed because in most cases, they seem more like a flight forward that often allows dictatorships to continue their rule. In the past, several dictatorships in Africa and Latin America have often infiltrated the opposition movements to inspire them to adopt boycott ideas that at the same time eliminated their political opponents, opening them a freeway to power. In this respect the blank vote is a carte blanche to the dictatorship.

In addition there is a perverse effect of the boycott in the context for example of the “dead cities” in the English-speaking part of Cameroon, the slowdown in commercial activities has minor consequences for the administration quarreled, and serious outcomes for the population who loses the means to gather currency for traders and manufactured goods and food products for customers; while the low taxation on this kind of activity does not in any way harm the central administration, which remains master of the most coveted resources such as oil. There would be a change of tone if the secessionist rebels, if they stormed oil refineries in these areas, thereby harming both the central administration and its pimps, which are the foreign multinationals that exploit these resources. The boycott in general does not have a legal framework that can become law. However, so far, the only exception comes from Romania where in 2012 in a referendum on the legitimacy of the presidential term of Traian Basescu, the majority of Romanians, 86% according to a survey called for his dismissal, because of the crisis in which the country had been plunged by the austerity measures, dictated by the European Union. Only 46% of the voters went to polls, the vote was canceled because they had not reached the 50% mark, and Basescu saved his post. If the abstentions exceeded 50% in an election, creating a major condition leading to the cancelation of the poll, this would pose a major problem directly related to the rejection of the political class. Why should elections in one country be shunned while those who shun are enough to find a candidate to defend their ideals? The boycott or massive non-participation in the elections that we see more and more, including in the Western democracies, is an admission of failure of democracy, because if peoples refuse to interfere with what they now consider as a political masquerade, it implies that the system is far from satisfying them, in their aspiration of social and economic wellbeing. In Third World countries, if there are monolithic dictatorships that cling to power and discourage any attempt to regime change, in the West the political class formatted by one of the oldest molds, remains in business for the same results. The preservation of an old regime, through the change of faces.In the United States, for example, for more than two hundred years, only two political parties control the White House and the Congress, and that is anything but political stagnation. From a moral and political point of view, boycott, blank vote, or abstention have a value, especially in the influence of the masses towards the stunted legitimacy of the leaders, who since then govern with a minority of votes expressed in their favor (in France the current president has a legitimacy of about 30% if one considers, those who voted in his favor). From a legal point of view a poll despite a high rate of abstention or boycott, remains valid, because the principle that "who does not say word consents" is applied. In democracies, the best way to be heard is to express oneself at the ballot box instead of staying home on polling day or storming the streets to contest an election you refused to participate. The boycott forces, in general must make prerequisites to their participation in elections. Prerequisites such as reviewing the constitution or the electoral code to ensure fairness when it is the main vector for refusing to take part in elections, should be paramount. Revisions of the rules of the game can only be made within the framework of a participative and non-isolationist democracy. All who call in boycott, must first analyze the effectiveness of this weapon, which is often a simple means of pressure that cannot prevent an election especially if the opponent who is sure to prevail has a certain electoral base. When the Boycott forces are strong enough instead of boycotting they have to take part in the elections by proposing alternative programs that do not only deal with the postulate of denial. On the contrary, they must mobilize these forces to impose the change they want to see through the ballot box.


Hubert Marlin



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