Don't Just Vote-Get Active: A Community Non-Partisan Voters' Guide 2004
Don't Just Vote-Get Active: A Community Non-Partisan Voters' Guide 2004
by CrimethInc

Joining the chorus of self-described anarchists [Chris Crass, Cindy Milstein, Howard Ehrlich (Social Anarchism), Sun Frog (Fifth Estate), Slug & Lettuce, unfortunately, the list is still growing] who feel that voting, while having its problems, might not be a totally horrible thing to do (at least this year), "Don't Just Vote-Get Active" is yet another let-down from the occasionally inspiring collection of folks known as CrimethInc. As alternative propaganda to the pro-voting trash coming from Republicans, Democrats, Greens, minority advocacy groups, pop stars, and former counter-cultural figures like Jello Biafra, this brief 4-page newsprint handout had some potential to subvert the liberal inclination to participate in the electoral process, but it falls short. Don't Just Vote-Get Active does address some basic anarchist ideas concerning voting, representation, autonomy, and most importantly direct action. In fact, it goes out of its way to promote direct action as the most effective method of empowerment and creating change in our lives.

The problem for me is the constant recurrence of the word "JUST", as in "don't JUST vote!" This implies, along with straight-up saying it a few times, that it's fine to vote, JUST do other things as well. Don't Just Vote states: "[Anti-authoritarians] 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." This is the same liberal hogwash that claims that the system is only broken, and not fundamentally problematic. Like starry-eyed activists who knock on my door asking for donations to save the whales, they sort of understand that their campaigns are ultimately pointless, but they have such momentum under their feet and energy invested in the system that they just can't let go. My instincts tell me that the authors of Don't Just Vote don't actually believe that voting does anything but encourage the assholes, but instead throw in the "don't JUST vote!" to reach people who have a hard time making the break. They seem to feel that it may be too difficult for some to go "cold turkey" from the system's logic. Instead, they offer a soothing middle ground by claiming that the anti-voting position presents a "false dichotomy" and that by "refusing to take a stand" on the subject of voting, one "evades thoughtless dismissals but instead raises entirely new questions without being alienating." So what we are left with is the unfortunately wishy-washy CrimethInc. non-position again.

The most troubling segment of this particular anti-propaganda is in the "But What Should I Do?" section. Beyond the proposals for more pointless banner hangs and "Don't Just Vote" signs and hand-outs at your local Food Not Bombs, they encourage people to "Go ahead and register to vote, so you can put up stickers or graffiti in the voting booth to remind your fellow citizens where the real power lies!" This is not only a pathetic gesture, but also incredibly irresponsible to encourage anyone to register with the state, or be put on yet another list. Like the symbolic and meaningless protests at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, some anarchists would prefer to play these endless charades and pretend that they are changing anything. I say, don't JUST be active, WAKE THE FUCK UP!


Keywords: CrimethInc, election, voting
Topic: Leftism

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Review - Published in GA issue #18 - Fall/Winter 2004
PO Box 11331, Eugene, OR 97440 Email: collective[at]greenanarchy.org