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
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.
Why This Campaign?
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.
The Strengths of This Campaign
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.
Invitation to Participate
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.