When we vote for anyone or anything, we should always do so with our head, heart, hands and feet.
Chileans who enthusiastically expropriated more than 60 (!) Walmart-owned department stores just last week voted with their hands.
The tens of thousands of Chicago teachers who defied yet another mayoral boss to go on strike for worker dignity and the kids they teach voted with their hearts.
When Carola Rackete captained the Sea Watch 3 to escort international workers and refugees to safe havens across the walls of fortress Europe, she voted with her feet.
Before being run out of town, Gregory Stevens, the queer First Baptist Church of Palo Alto pastor voted with his head when he declared: “The tech industry is motivated by endless profit, elite status, rampant greed, and the myth that their technologies are somehow always improving the world”
When we engage in multifarious forms of direct action, we are voting without ballots. What we do in our daily lives to strengthen revolutionary movements is our preferred form of voting.
In short, when we vote through direct action we demand nothing of our ruling class; on the contrary, we act so as to achieve everything. We say to them: everything we want is in the end of you.
In a capitalist democracy we also may vote as a ‘citizen’, but begrudgingly and with the full knowledge that this routinized, bought and paid for and largely symbolic act is still an act of will, however much it is diluted through representation. Then, if a particular candidate might be assessed as furthering our more important votes for direct democracy, then we vote in these bourgeois elections, for something greater than democracy many times removed.
In this presidential election there is only one candidate who passes such a litmus test: Bernie Sanders. It seems to me that the only presidential candidate worthy of our ‘vote’ is the one who has been leading a ‘political revolution’ within a political party (Democratic) that is itself quite at odds with such a revolution. One can criticize the Sanders campaign on a variety of fronts from the left and below, but we should bear three things in mind.
First, the Democratic Socialists of America is a member in good standing of our larger political family. Their strategy of organizing within the Democratic Party is Quixotic, but it is bearing fruit. It should garner our tactical support.
Sanders has been making the same speech for forty-years, a source of both consternation, because it hasn’t changed, but also consistency and reliability, as we know full well what his political philosophy and program are. He’s a known quantity. Sanders is no neophyte to the struggle against inequality, nor is he a triangulator or schemer. He is, for better or worse, a democratic socialist within the American tradition–what most elsewhere we might more accurately describe as a social democrat. We can reason from here what a Sanders presidency might look like, warts and all. And such a thing would be a political revolution of sorts.
Second, and of more importance is the DSA itself, and the 50,000 or so new members that have recently signed up. It is instructive to note that during its convention in August, 2017 the DSA withdrew from the so-called ‘Socialist International’. The SI has long counted such august ‘socialist’ parties as the PRI in Mexico, the French Socialist Party, and the SPD in Germany. As such it is neither socialist nor internationalist. While the DSA’s withdrawal was a positive development, it remains to be seen whether the Sanders Presidential campaign will amount to a net positive or negative for our movement. Has his campaign, replete with ad nauseam funding pleas and other trappings of capitalist electoral politics, inadvertently stalled the growth of membership and development of the DSA? Is the Sanders campaign both a source of growth for socialism but also a limit to its horizons? We can influence the answers to these questions.
Third, all other candidates are outspoken defenders of the capitalist order; they do not have a place within our political traditions. They cannot be trusted nor supported, at least not so long as an obvious better alternative is available.
Vote often, vote everywhere, vote as though our lives depended on it. Vote Sanders for President–at least while he represents a move towards our more full-throated revolution. But above all continue to vote in all the ways that will truly make a difference. Remember–direct action gets the goods.
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