Voters strike - Octave Mirbeau

Text by anarchist, Octave Mirbeau, arguing for abstention in the French elections. Published in 1888.

Submitted by GrouchoMarxist on March 13, 2012

One thing surprises me enormously - I dare say it amazes me - is that at the time of writing scientific, after countless experiments, after the scandals daily, it can exist even in our beloved France (as they say on the Budget) a voter, one voter, this irrational animal, inorganic, hallucinating, who will consent to put himself out of his business, his dreams or his pleasures, to vote for someone or something. When we reflect for a moment, this surprising phenomenon is he not to confuse the more subtle philosophies and confuse the reason? Where is the Balzac will give us the modern physiology of the voter? Charcot and who will explain the anatomy and mentality of this incurable insane? We are waiting.
I understand that a scammer is always the shareholders, the censorship advocates, the Opera Comique of dilettanti, the Constitutional subscribers, M.Carnot painters who celebrated his triumphal entry and rigid in a city of Languedoc, I understand Mr. Chantavoine persisting to find rhymes, I understand everything. But an MP or a senator or a president of Republic, or any, of all strange pranksters who claim an elective office, whatever it is, is a voter, that is to say irrêvé be the martyr unlikely that you feed on bread, you clothed in wool, you fat of his flesh, enriches you with his money, with the only prospect of receiving, in exchange for such extravagance, shots cudgel on his neck, kicked in the butt when it's not gunshots in the chest, in truth, this is beyond the concepts already pretty pessimistic that I had made so far of human folly in general, and especially French folly, our beloved and immortal folly, O chauvinist!

It is understood that I speak here of the voter warned, convinced the voter theorist, who thinks of him, poor devil, to act as a free citizen, spread its sovereignty, expressing opinions, impose - O admirable and disconcerting madness - political programs and social demands, and not the voter "who knows" and who cares, the one who sees in "the results of his omnipotence" that fun at the deli monarchist or a republican tipsy with wine. Sovereignty to that one is to pocharder expense of universal suffrage. He is right, as this only matters to him, and he does not care about the rest. He knows what he does. But the others?

Ah! yes, another! The serious, austere, the sovereign people, those who earn them feel intoxicated when they look and say, "I'm voter! Nothing is done by me. I am the basis of modern society. By my will, Floquet made laws which are bound thirty-six million men, and also Baugry Asson Alypius and Peter also. "How do any of it yet this ilk? How, if stubborn, so arrogant, so paradoxical as they are, do they not been long since discouraged and ashamed of their work? How can it happen that is found somewhere, even in the wilds of the moors of Britain lost, even in inaccessible caverns of the Cevennes and the Pyrenees, a man so stupid, so unreasonable, so blind to what is see, quite deaf to what is said, to vote blue, white or red, and nothing requires it, or without being paid without being drunk?

Which Baroque feeling, how mysterious suggestion may well obey this biped thinking, endowed with a will, it is alleged, and that goes away, proud of its right, provided he performs a duty, to file in a box any election any ballot, no matter what name he had written on it? ... What it must be well say, within itself, justifies or explains this act only extravagant? What does he hope? For, to consent to give greedy masters who are eating and the knock, he must say and hope that something extraordinary that we do not suspect. Must, by powerful brain deviations, corresponding member of the ideas in it to ideas of science, justice, devotion, work and honesty, must in the very names of Barbe and Baïhaut, no less than in those of Bouvier and Wilson, he discovered a special magic and that way, through a mirage, bloom and blossom in Vergoin Hubbard and promises of future happiness and immediate relief. And that is what is truly frightening. Nothing serves as a lesson, nor the most slapstick comedies, or the darkest tragedies.

Yet this is many centuries as the world lasts, that companies are going and succeed, like each other, a unique dominates all the stories: the protection for large, small crash. He can come to understand that he has a historical purpose is to pay for a lot of things he would never enjoy, and to die for political combinations which are none of his point.

What does he care whether Peter or John, who asked him his money and take life as it is obliged to divest himself of one, and give the other? Well! not. Between its thieves and murderers, he has preferences, and vote for the most rapacious and the most ferocious. He voted yesterday, he will vote tomorrow, he will always vote. Sheep go to slaughter. They do not say anything, them, and they want nothing. But at least they do not vote for the butcher who will kill them, and the bourgeois who will eat them. Dumber than animals, more herding the sheep, the voter selects and appoints his butcher's bourgeois. He made Revolutions to win this right.

O good voter, inexpressible fool, poor wretch, if, instead of letting you take the absurd tunes that you debiting every morning for a penny, newspapers large and small, blue or black, white or red, and are paid for your skin, if instead of believing the flattery which are chimeric caress thy vanity, which it surrounds your pathetic sovereignty in rags, if instead of stopping you, eternal bystander, before the heavy deception programs, if you read Sometimes, at the corner of your fire, Schopenhauer and Max Nordau, two philosophers who have long known about the masters and you, perhaps you would learn amazing things and useful. Perhaps, after reading them, would you be less eager to take on your grave, and the beautiful coat, then running to the polls where homicides, whatever name that you put, you put forward the name of your mortal enemy. They would tell you, as connoisseurs of humanity, that politics is an abominable lie, that everything is upside common sense, justice and law, and that you have nothing to do with it, which you the account is settled in the great book of human destinies.

After that dream, if you want, the paradise of lights and scents, fraternities impossible, the unreal happiness. It's good to dream, and it calms the pain. But do not ever meddle man in your dream, because where is the man, there's pain, hate and murder. Above all, remember that the man who solicits votes is, therefore, a dishonest man, because in exchange of the situation and fortune when you shoot it promise you a lot of wonderful things that he will not give you and it is not, moreover, in his power to give you. The man you students is neither your misery or your aspirations, nor anything about you, it represents only his own passions and interests, which are contrary to yours. To comfort you and revive the hopes that would quickly become disillusioned, does not imagine that the heart-rending spectacle which you attend today's special at a time or to a plan, and that this will pass. All times are equal, and also all regimes, that is to say they are worthless. So, go home, man, and make the strike of universal suffrage. You have nothing to lose, I'll answer, and this can have fun for a while. On the threshold of your door, closed to political beggars alms, you will look down the fighting, silently smoking your pipe.

And if there is, in a place unknown, an honest man who can govern you and love you, do not regret it. It would be too jealous of his dignity to mingle with the muddy struggle of parties, too proud to take a mandate from you than you ever accorded to the cynical audacity to insult and a lie.

I've told you, man, go home and do the strike.

(Le Figaro, 28/11/1888)