Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The efficacy of Boycott movements, with a special consideration of their place in U.S. history

The United States of America is functionally a novelty in human history. Observing the material wealth at its disposal, its economy being four times the size of its nearest rival; its seemingly limitless reach of above seven hundred military installations cast to the wind like so many seeds to pollinate in some one hundred sixty odd countries across the globe; the luxuriant status its language holds in universities and cities at all points, even at protests denouncing its self-same functions - all point to its unprecedented arrival, never before witnessed in human history. Taking no other point as proof but the sheer scale of this government, at times exceeding the bounds of human comprehension, thus we should in no way underscore our participation, nor presume our elections at all innocent or in any way neutral.

Mirroring the world-encompassing scope of the U.S. government, there are examples of political struggles engaging in boycotts from all regions, all global corners. The most familiar recent international example may be as a tool of foreign policy for innumerable governments (such as regards apartheid South Africa, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict or protest of the Olympics). Yet more examples are found in popular movements.

No less a figure than Mahatma Gandhi in his struggle to liberate India with his Quit India movement found in the boycott an essential strategy which critically expanded the challenge to British rule at the same time as magnifying participation (specifically drawing previously excluded women into the movement with the “home-spun” drive).

In fact the sheer array of groups who utilize the boycott is in itself astounding. From Feminists (albeit under the neologism “girlcott”), to the European revolutionaries of 1848, the LGBT community in California and its on-going opposition to Proposition No. 8, to the National “Negro” Convention’s boycott of slave-produced goods in the 1830s – all find empowerment and voice to their dissent through this tool. Such disparate groups as OPEC, American Second Amendment supporters, and anti-capitalists all agree in comedy the means to their salvation: the boycott.

But we do not need to go as far abroad to find such perfect examples. The revolutionary struggle which forged the independence of the United States, and should be counted as essential to its nature began with recourse to this same strategy as in March 1769, in opposition to "taxation without representation," merchants in Philadelphia organized a boycott of British commodities. Since the founding of the world-shattering republic of the United States we as a people have not let the boycott lie peacefully.

Indeed its use was put to spectacular effect by African Americans during the US civil rights movement (notably the Montgomery Bus Boycott). Yet not only did the boycott spark the social revolutions of the 1960s, but also in labor movements (the United Farm Workers grape and lettuce boycott) and anti-Semitic campaigns in the U.S. (the successful Jewish boycott organized against Henry Ford in the USA, in the 1920s; the Jewish anti-Nazi boycott of German goods in Lithuania, the USA, Britain and Poland during 1933).

From these few examples, not hardly exhausting the subject, we may conclude the boycott has been profoundly successful in the cause of virtually every conceivable human right. Now we propose to utilize this particularly American form to protest the stagnation in our own great country’s political system, and ultimately to realize the promises of political openness in our time.

We call on all American people to boycott U.S. elections until our collective demands for a fair and open electorial process are met.

There is no better method to derail the current power elite – a boycott is voluntary and nonviolent, thus it is unable to be stopped by the law. Only recourse to violence and coercion stand as obstacles.

Let this stale history lesson be not in vain. Let not the hallowed actions of the great past paralyze our present condition. Two questions remain, which shall be answered in the following week:

1) What we expect to achieve in present situation.

2) How to join.