Polish bishops urge faithful to vote on 'Election Day'

Image from CIA website

Polish bishops lick State ass - again
The Polish bishops were wrong to put out an appeal to the flock on Sunday: Voting on Election Day is not an 'obligation', but rather an automation. And for many who are sour with the Law and Justice Party's 2 year rule, it will be form of desperation to kick them out - desperation to the point that they may very well vote into parliament a Law and Justice-lite party.

Let me first define what I mean by automation:
the use of automatic machinery (humans over 18 years old) in manufacturing and data-processing, so that entire procedures (capitalist) can be automatically controlled with minimal or no human intervention (460 politicians and a handful of corporate overlords).

St. Paul's letter to the Romans chapter 13 is usually used by Christian advocates to elect 'authorities' to power by the false democratic parliamentary electioneering process. The religious leaders believe politicians can create an equitable and just society and lead us all into the kingdom of heaven - or something like that.

Pauline pro-Statism
The King James version of the bible quotes St. Paul's epistle to the Romans 13:1-2 as
'Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.'

But as we know, nothing is black and white when it comes to Church-State relations. When State leaders like Hitler, Stalin, etc. persecuted church authorities and their followers (even though Hitler received support from the Catholic church in the form of the 1933 Concordat and the editor of his 'Mein Kampf' was a Catholic priest, Father Bernhard Stempfle; while the Russian Orthodox church gave Stalin loans and blessed his army), most religious leaders claim their power did not derive from God. God and religion was just used when deemed of important propaganda value for the furthering of totally fucked up forms of socio-political control.

Boycotting Elections
Those who argue against voting in elections probably fall into two classes: the anarchists, and the apathetic. The anarchists are so democratic they don't believe voting into power assholes who support the capitalist system, or assholes who stupidly believe they can change a stinkingly exclusive parliamentary system which feeds on impoverishing the majority of humanity through neo-liberal economic policies and national self-interest - and furthermore, from the arms trade to cynical strings-attached foreign 'aid'. Corporations and the global free market rule the economy of Poland, so socialist-minded politicians can effect little change in power.

The case of anarchists against elections can be read further here and here.

The apathetic may fall into 2 further sub-classes: on election day the majority either prefer to primarily go shopping, spending hours choosing a new handbag; play their latest computer game to improve their target practice of shooting cyber machine guns; will be so sick from the previous night on the beer that they can hardly get to the toilet never mind the polling booth; or secondly just plain and honestly realise that the election grants them a false choice which has little to do with their daily reality and struggle, and therefore have lost heart and interest in the whole process. They do not politically agitate against elections - they just flick the channel over to another station each time a political debate or advert pops up on the TV screen.

A false democracy
Secular anarchists politically organise against and avoid ticking the ballot papers in such elections. Funny isn't it, in a supposed democratic elections it's not even possible to vote, 'None of the above.' Instead you have to spoil your vote. When the public hear announced, '2,136 votes were spoiled,' they automatically think, 'My God, what a bunch of assholes who can't even tick a box properly.' It is not considered as a protest vote.

This is another reason why anarchists don't vote in such elections - you don't have an option to register your preference that indeed no one at all gets elected, or that the parliamentary system sucks. Anarchists are not against voting, on the contrary, they vote frequently in consensus-driven groups using participatory democratic methods to ensure all have an equal voice.

Parallels between religious and secular anarchists
There are many things which divide secular and religious anarchists from being at one, though many groups from both sides co-operate on a host of issues. Philosophically they can cross paths quite often, from Leo Tolstoy's non-violence to Ellul's anti-industrialism. And they are at one as regards not voting in such elections as will take place in Poland on October 21st.

Abstaining from increasing the voter turnout rate, they may argue with Bakunin's words: 'No Gods, No Masters' to combat religious and State rulers and misleaders. Interestingly, from the viewpoint of Poland being predominantly Christian, religious anarchist intellectuals like Ellul would endorse Bakunin's words, recognising that this is exactly how religious and State authority has been portrayed for millenia. But he also stresses that the 'No Gods' part should depend on what image of God one holds. For him, God being love, the dictum 'No Love, No Masters' doesn't ring as well.

Who controls who?
Christian anarchists are at one with secular anarchists when they argue that the Church has always been a pawn for the State in it's control of the masses. Napoleon put it cynically, but accurately: 'The priests control the people, the bishops control the priests, and I control the bishops.' So secular and religious anarchists are at one when it comes to boycotting State elections. Anarchists almost always take political positions during referendums as they offer a real choice on an issue of public importance - whether Poland should host the proposed U.S. anti-ballistic missile defence system, for example.

On the margins
As regards arguing against voting in elections, religious anarchists are of course as marginal amongst their own faith group as secular anarchist groups are amongst the general tide of the State-supporting populace of most nations. However, the poor attendance at elections from the citizens of countries like Poland is symptomatic of that population's disillusionment with the organs of the State - the corruption of the judiciary, the violence of the cops and State security services , the greed and full-of-shite politicians in government, the gutlessness of the opposition parliamentarians, the incompetence of local authorities.

Is it apathy or anarchy that keeps the majority from voting? In truth, it is the former. Nevertheless, organising around the latter can touch a chord with those who feel like they would like their voice heard, just not in the only way that is seemingly offered. Social revolutions must come from the grassroots if they are not to mimic the hierarchies we wish to be destroyed.

Even Christ didn't like the State
Countless examples throughout the world's history proves that the Christians Polish bishops are appealing to should not be so gullible as to believe the State is an instrument for the betterment of humankind. This is evidently more difficult in Poland where the church played an important role in resisting the much detested 50 years of State communist control. Yet the willingness of PiS and LPR to work closely with the anti-semitic, racist, homo-bashing Catholic fundamentalist lunatics from Radio Maryia/TRWAM TV station led by Fr. Teddy Rydzyk is a terribly dangerous path for Poland to go down. Civil liberties continue to be breached and withdrawn on a daily basis here with State agencies leading the witch-hunt.

One example for Christians should be quite obvious really: their saviour, after all, was crucified with the consent of the ruling State and religious authorities. Furthermore, the early Christians were persecuted as lion-fodder in the Roman Empire - but after falling into favour through an early 4th century pact with the Roman Emperor Constantine, Christianity was legalised by Theodosius 80 years later.

Christian anarchists argue that this is when things went downhill for their faith.

Church and State
Jacques Ellul reminds us in his book 'Christian Anarchism' that the hierarchs in the church have a strong tendency to generally go with the political establishment tide:
French Christianity being monarchist under Louis XIV, revolutionary in 1792, Napoleonic in 1800, republican in 1875, and in process of becoming socialist in 1950. The theologies of liberation and revolution seem to me to be simple attempts to adapt Christianity to circumstances. (p.44)

There are exceptions of course. Poland being one of the more recent countries that overthrew an authoritarian system with the help of the national and international (authoritarian) church. Nevertheless, it is estimated that possibly up to 15% of priests collaborated with the State communists. But all in all the Polish church (hierarchs and ordinary folks)was a chief nemesis of the USSR's nomenklatura and its' puppets. The repression they endured from 1949-89 is testimony to this.

Things were somewhat different not only under the Sandinistas in Nicaragua but also under Hromstadt's Presbyterian rule in Hungary, to name but a few places where the church had its' tentacles in the ministries of communist governments.

Don't believe the bishops
So in keeping with their support for the State machine, Polish bishops have delivered homilies from a pastoral letter to their respective flocks of priests and parishioners, about the obligation they each have to vote. It seems like there was no room for a mention from the bishops of the legitimacy of Catholics being 'conscientious objectors.' Refusing to vote is the more true obligation of Christians than supporting a corrupt State. Getting rid of the bishops should then be the next step for the faithful to democratise their lives.

The power of the church
The majority of Poles being Catholic and 50% of them being regular Sunday mass attendees, the propaganda value for supporting the current nature of the State and those Catholic conservatives who have been holding the reins of power is of course, immense. The actual advantage to the ruling right-wing party of Law and Justice in terms of votes, immeasurable.

The last turn out in the general election, 40% 2 years ago, was the worst in recent European history. Not a good sign that people have faith that things will change whether they vote or not.

My bet is on a 55% turnout this time around.
My bet is that sweet fuck all will change one way or the other.


uden said…
Actually the greatest shame is that beacuse Postcommunist elites dominate the Polish Politics - which is something people seem to accept unquestioning - people don't even use opportunities for worker participation or direct democracy. I wonder what every happened to the idea of Spoldzielnia's for housing and schools they still exist but in reality most people are prepare to take a back seat on actually having a say over what happens in there own lives. The same is the case with unions - which is shocking given that Solidarnosc achieved more than the IWW ever has.
Damien Moran said…
'in reality most people are prepare to take a back seat on actually having a say over what happens in there own lives.'

Never a truer phrase written.

Activists in the west are usually very shocked indeed to hear that Poland has the lowest percent membership in trade unions in Europe.
Solidarnosc certainly achieved a lot, but it failed to capitalise on the huge movement that it had built. It was built on hierarchical structures from the beginning, and when the elites joined the corrupt communist powers in parliament it made a huge mistake.

The fact is that the major unions in most western countries (SIPTU in Ireland, maybe AFL-CIO IN U.S.) are now just used to bolster faltering leftist/liberal party members' profiles. A small amount of paid professionals doing everything for the workers rather than a wider base of union volunteers facilitating the workers to do everything for themselves keeps the majority in a unhealthy, undemocratic co-dependent relationship with elites who have their own vested interests (career advancement, wages, political opportunities, etc.).
uden said…
Indeed, true. I would really like to see some kind of viable union on the scale of CNT in Spain organised in Poland.
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