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Gustavo Esteva
La Jornada, 13th April, 2015

It is healthy to discuss the electoral issue throughout the entire country. A minority are preparing to participate, or not, in the exercise without reflecting on it. On the rise, however, is the number of those who wonder seriously, perhaps as never before, whether it makes sense to vote.

We are in a disastrous condition. Half of Mexican families cannot leave their houses at night or let their children play in the street. We live in fear. The number of dead, kidnapped, disappeared, attacked or assaulted are on the rise, as are the unemployed and people living below the poverty line. Education, health and transport services are in open decline. Freedoms are routinely canceled and rights regularly violated. One village after another is forced to put up stiff resistance, because the lands they won with a revolution [Mexican Revolution, 1910-1917] are threatened. One-half of Mexico’s territory has been handed over to private corporations, and the government conspires with them to evict their rightful owners. Environmental destruction deepens and causes irreversible damage.

The list of evils is endless. They are becoming increasingly serious. We cannot go on like this. Is it possible to drive the needed change either by voting or abstaining? Seemingly, neither a radical discrediting of the group in power by means of adverse votes nor an [electoral] boycott will make a difference, since a massive and overwhelming electoral victory may turn out to be insignificant in the face of the disaster. Changing the partisan composition of some governmental agencies and delegitimizing the political leaders would not have a major impact on the situation. Actually, no election result would be relevant … except for those who want to grab a piece of the political pie.
The level of incompetence and corruption of the current government is almost unbeatable. But it wouln’t be enough to remove them and put in others, even if the new ones were angels of goodness, honesty and competence, which we certainly do not see among the candidates. Changing the people and even the policies isn’t sufficient. We need to replace the same institutions and the economic and political regimen to which they relate, and this cannot be done from above through social engineering. Neither voting for them or throwing them out will work.

Substantive discussion is dodged by arguing that not voting strengthens the Party of the Institutional Revolutionary [PRI], or that this “strategic” foxhole of the political struggle shouldn’t be abandoned and that there are “reliable” candidates or parties, or that voting is an inalienable right and duty and new devices will prevent fraud … They are fragile arguments. The fact that a party is increasing its level of acceptance by dirty tricks [Green Ecology Party] that violate the rules of the game well illustrates the nature of an election day that will have the same vices as always. Voting will not remedy the evils we suffer. But neither will not voting, as was proved six years ago, when two-thirds of Mexicans didn’t go to the polls.

We are not responsible for what has happened and is happening. But we must accept our responsibility for letting this degradation occur. We cannot continue delegating the remedy to others, because the remedy necessarily involves each one of us. It is about, nothing more or less, rebuilding our torn and partially destroyed society, recovering what is left of the country, creating a new truly democratic social order in which democracy is not reduced to a marketing circus organized by the governing minority for its own reproduction in order that the one-percent might perpetuate itself in power.
There are no universal recipes for what we need to do. In each person’s arena, with the organization appropriate to our various circumstances, we must get to work. There are places where it seems possible to put us in control of our lives and organize effective resistance. In others, we will have to settle for less. In all cases, our imagination and our courage will be needed.

Instead of our actions being irrelevant, it’s about making irrelevant the politicians and their system of domination, [it’s about] dismantling the need for all state apparatuses and private corporations.

One definition of insanity is expecting a different result to be produced by performing the same action. We have voted and not voted with the same unsatisfactory results. Why expect that now might be different?
Not voting can express an effective rejection of the political classes and reflect a clear awareness of the situation. But we must not allow abstention to be confused with apathy or indifference. This stance will make sense when taken by organizations capable of confronting in a dignified manner the perfect storm in which we find ourselves. This is not a question of single individuals voting or not voting depending on the mood of the day. It is about groups, collectives, communities and organizations, large and small, who have decided to struggle, because only then can they live and express their attitude in an organized way.
Translated by Jane Brundage