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Don't Just Vote, Get Active

Nationwide Call to Action:
Don’t Just [Not] Vote, Get Active

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.

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

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,

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. Join in also
via the "Just Don't Vote, Get Active"
Web site at

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