13 mai 2004
We are calling for a national campaign to take advantage of this election year to emphasize the power of direct action and to present direct democracy as a viable alternative to representation. This campaign will include literature distribution, postering and stickering, demonstrations, educational events, and other forms of community outreach, both in our own communities and around the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. It will culminate in a nationwide day of direct action on November 2, election day.
On this day, people across the country will come together in groups both large and small to demonstrate the effectiveness of direct democracy as a way to make decisions without mediation or hierarchy, and of direct action as means to implement those decisions and create the kind of communities we desire. Those who wish to take an hour out of this day to cast a vote are welcome to do so ; but we urge you to spend the remainder of the election day in creative experiments in self-determination and cooperation. At the end of the day or in the weeks that follow, people can reconvene and compare which approach was more rewarding and empowering : ballot-box voting or direct engagement without representatives.
Elections in this country are the reddest of red herrings. Liberals have been so fixated on them as to forget most other means of applying power ; losses in elections have demoralized and disempowered the Left in general. Anti-authoritarians, on the other hand, while claiming not to recognize the sovereignty of any officials, elected or not, have nonetheless developed their own mythology around voting, attributing to it the mystical power to "legitimize" authority figures thus elected. But it is not voting that gives power to politicians, just as it is not not-voting that could take it away from them ; they have power because we place our power in their hands, because we fail to apply it deliberately ourselves.
Quite a bit of energy is squandered by liberals and radicals debating the old question of whether or not to vote ; the answer, of course, is that it’s the wrong question. For people to be able to focus on getting power back in their hands, the terms themselves have to be set anew. To sidestep the entire issue of voting, and instead focus all attention on the alternative ways to apply power, might save everyone a lot of wasted energy, and unlock the vast potential dormant in our communities, our relationships, ourselves.
As a national campaign, this has strengths going for it that few others do. First of all, it addresses a subject that is already foremost in the public mind. By refusing to take a stand on the false dichotomy presented by the media, or even the other false dichotomy presented by traditional radicalism or apathy, it evades thoughtless dismissals. A campaign that declines to take sides but instead raises entirely new questions can be provocative without being alienating. Second of all, it’s both global and local. We don’t have to try to get all concerned activists to come to one city to demonstrate around this issue ; on the contrary, this is a perfect time for people to act where they live, while feeling connected to a nationwide campaign. The election is an event of global importance that takes place in every neighborhood, an excellent occasion for us to develop a corresponding political practice.
Third, the broadness of the general theme— direct action and direct democracy—is such that participation is open to anyone, with any preferred style of tactics, at any desired level of engagement. This is a campaign that everyone in a community can participate in : from a chapter of Food Not Bombs to a senior citizens group demanding better health care, from a high school global justice club to an animal rights action group. It is a campaign that can include numerous types of direct action and direct democracy : from free schools at the polls to guerrilla gardening that remakes or rebuilds local parks, from community monitoring of otherwise unaccountable police to civil disobedience that shuts down military contractors. As with direct action and direct democracy in general, and in stark contrast to electoral politics, harmony is the only goal that must be sought between participants ; unanimity on specific strategies or objectives is unnecessary.
Election day will be a flashpoint for many concerns and desires this year. Afterward, we can be sure that people will retire from civic engagement in despair or relief-unless they’ve had a positive experience to remind them how much more they can do outside electoral politics. This is our chance to emphasize the political power everyone wields in their daily lives.
Join us, with your friends and neighbors, in whatever ways you see fit, in emphasizing the great things we can do when we cut out the middleman ! Don’t just vote — get active ! The idea is to dream up and practice the many ways we can take power out of the hands of the elite, be they elected or unelected, and redistribute it to everyone through a network of free communities and neighborhoods. We do not do this to gain control over others, but to attain control together-over how we provide each other with shelter, education, art, and information, over how we resolve conflicts, over how we share resources and ideas, over how we determine our own lives.
Like they say — if voting could change anything, it would be illegal ! ...and that goes for not voting, too.
This is a decentralized campaign. It belongs to no one, but all are welcome. Any individual or group that desires to participate is encouraged to take this text, rework it so it best expresses their views, and circulate it under their own name with their own contact information. The more different groups participate with different takes on the general idea, the better.
Ed. Note : This call was put together by a group of American anarchists who met after the NCOR conference in Washington, DC in Janaury. See also :
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