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(en) US, Don't Just [not] Vote, Get Political - update of Nationwide Call to Action - Our Dreams Will Never Fit in Their Ballot Boxes

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 29 Aug 2004 08:17:49 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
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It’s election time again, and so-called politics has come to
the forefront of public discourse. Liberals and radicals alike have
squandered quite a bit of energy debating the old question of
whether or not to vote; the answer, of course, is that it’s the
wrong question. Liberals have been so fixated on elections as to
ignore the issue of whether representation even equals
democracy, and whether voting even equals politics.
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 voting is not what gives power
to politicians, just as abstention cannot take it away from them;
they have decision-making power because representative
democracy intentionally places it in the hands of a few, and
because we fail to take it away from them by deliberately applying
it ourselves through horizontal forms of self-governance. To go
beyond the debate over voting, and to struggle for popular power,
the terms “democracy” and “politics” themselves
must be set anew. Democracy should be delinked from the
notion of representation and reclaimed as face-to-face
decision-making structures that empower everybody to
participate in politics. Politics, in turn, should be disconnected
from the notion that political participation is equivalent to the
occasional act of voting and that the management of society
should be left to professional politicians. Instead we should
reinvent politics as the ongoing process of deliberating over and
making social decisions together in ways that are ethical and
egalitarian. By attempting to reshape power so as to connect
political questions with popular participation, we can begin to
unlock the vast potential dormant in our communities, our
relationships, and ourselves, and push toward the liberatory
forms of freedom we envision.

The Don’t Just Vote Campaign

On election day, we are calling for a nationwide campaign in
communities across the country to emphasize the power of direct
action and direct democracy. Such a campaign will try to contest
the notion that democracy can or should be representative, that
the act of voting for such representatives constitutes politics, or
that power should be held by a few. On every political, social, and
economic issue, we seek to assert agency over our lives. Equally,
we strive to forge bonds that connect people in and between
communities as we struggle to improve the world. We also seek
to build a political culture that asks ethical questions. This
necessitates that we turn public space into lively hubs for
dialogue. All this forms the ground that allows us to experiment
with direct democracy as an alternative to representation. On
November 2, then, we encourage people in cities, villages, and
neighborhoods to bring others together to illustrate a variety of
ways to make and implement decisions without mediation or
hierarchy, in order to meet peoples’ needs and their desires.
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
election day in creative experiments in self-determination and
collective action. At the end of the day or in the weeks to come,
we encourage communities to reconvene and compare which
approach was more meaningful and empowering: ballot-box
voting or direct engagement without representatives. We hope
this campaign is not an end in itself but rather a catalyst for
ongoing efforts to build a free and directly democratic society.

The Strengths of This Campaign

The Don’t Just Vote campaign has numerous strengths.
First, it addresses a subject already foremost in the public mind.
By refusing to take a stand on the false dichotomy of voting
versus not voting, we reframe the discussion altogether. A
campaign that declines to take sides, but instead raises entirely
new questions can be provocative without being alienating.
Second, it’s both global and local. We don’t have to
amass activists in 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 across the country, and thus it is an excellent
occasion for us to develop an alternative political practice. Third,
the broadness of the 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 can participate in:
from anti-capitalist activists to senior citizens demanding better
health care, from prisoner solidarity groups to high school
students doing counter-recruitment work. It is a campaign that
can include many types of direct action and direct democracy:
from free schools at the polls, to guerrilla gardening that remakes
local parks, to mock “workers councils” or “town
meetings” that encourage community self-management.
Finally, this campaign gives us a chance to put our values into
practice while inspiring a sense of hope. We can also forge bonds
among community members, challenge the climate of fear and
alienation, test our notions of mutual aid and critical solidarity,
and build an anti-authoritarian movement.

Invitation to Participate

All are welcome to join this decentralized campaign. Let’s
dream up and practice the many ways we can take power out of
the hands of the elite, and redistribute it to everyone through a
network of free communities and neighborhoods. We do this not
to gain control over others but to attain control together –
over how we provide each other with shelter, education, art, and
food, over how we resolve conflicts and determine our own lives.
Election day will be a flashpoint for many concerns and desires.
Afterward, people will likely 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 has the potential to wield collectively. Join us,
with your friends and neighbors, to highlight the great things we
can do when we cut out the middleperson. Don’t just vote,
get political.

So What Could We Do?

1) Make creative use of polling places. For instance, if
“public” schools are used, students could attempt to
make them more public and more democratic. Students can
organize free schools in which they determine the curriculum,
teach the classes, and invite anyone from the community to
attend. Their curriculum could address everything from what it
means to be an active political agent versus a (non)voter, to the
increasing attempts to turn schools into military recruitment
centers, to the standardization of knowledge, and more.

2) Illustrate liberatory visions on public spaces. Outdoor public
walls are a great way to communicate ideas while encouraging
community engagement and having a good time. Bring people,
paint, and an empty exterior wall together, and mix. On election
day, dream up a design together that expresses your collective
visions for a free and more democratic society, and then paint a
mural from those ideas. This could be the start of community
discussions to make public space a matter of public decision

3) Mock the elections with a mock town meeting. For one, host a
people’s assembly during election night, as the results are
coming in. Set up TVs and/or radios to hear and discuss the
results together in a public setting, but more important, use that
space to initiate a community dialogue on how we want to make
social/political decisions over the long haul. Or hold a town
meeting outside the fancy digs where Democrats or Republicans
are hosting their election night parties, and discuss moving
beyond electoral politics and toward face-to-face forms of

4) Put food (and everything else) into the hands of the people.
Many of us already self-organize alternative ways to meet our
needs and desires through cooperative projects providing free
goods and services such as bikes, housing, and child care. But on
election day, we could attempt to bring these tentative examples
of “life after capitalism” out into the community at large
while involving more people, contesting the market economy,
and connecting our experiments in a “moral economy” to
direct democracy. For instance, organize free health clinics to
meet people’s needs and teach first-aid skills, followed by a
community assembly to discuss visions for self-governed and
free health care.

5) These are only a few ideas. Please develop your own creative
strategies and share them with others on www.dontjustvote.com.

Information and Resources

For a downloadable copy of this flyer, all ready to be shared in
your area, see
www.freesocietycollective.org/archives/dontjustvote.pdf For
further writings on the topics of direct action and direct
democracy, also see www.dontjustvote.com. And please feel free
to post your ideas, responses, reports, and suggestions to the
Don’t Just Vote website as well as a link to your local
Don’t Just Vote campaign.

This version of the Don’t Just Vote campaign is a rewrite of
the original call posted on www.dontjustvote.com If you’d
like to get in touch with us about this flyer in particular, please
e-mail: dontjustvote@freesocietycollective.org

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