Ballot, The Bullet, and the Grand Refusal
by Michael Rectenwald, CLG Founder and Chair
"Counterterrorism officials" are talking of "postponing"
the upcoming elections. Postponing the November elections, they say, might
be necessary if there is a terrorist attack at election time. The option
is being denied by Rice and other Bush administration officials, but Homeland
Security Secretary Tom Ridge warned last week that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda
network may attack within the USA to try to disrupt the elections.
Regardless, Homeland Security, and DeForest B. Soaries Jr., chairman of
the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, have already disrupted the elections.
Soaries, who was hired to help localities improve their voting systems,
may be doing more to drive voters from the polls. Low voter turnout happens
to be the formula for a Republican "victory." And, such terrorism
warnings make us think more about terrorism than regime change. But let
the adminstration take heed: we fear nothing more than this regime
And we are really afraid that the potential loss by Bush may occasion
an attack. We are not saying how the attack and the polls might be connected;
we are not pointing fingers. But, as Republican strategists debate the
possibility like something they themselves are considering for their party's
success, we cannot help but wonder: just who, if anyone, is considering/planning/promoting
Regardless, a postponed election, or the playing the fear factor for
low voter turnout, are acts of terrorism in themselves. We are already
being attacked. This warning is yet another in a series of attacks on
our rights, on our democratic system, on our freedom, and on our self-determination.
A postponed election, or what is far more likely, one conducted under
the surveillance of military and police posted at polling places and along
routes to polling places, will amount to intimidation and the abrogation
of voting rights, at the very least, and the complete loss of any semblance
of democracy, at the worst.
In 1964, Malcolm X posed the question to the government: 'The
Ballot or the Bullet."' Without representation, Malcolm roared,
rather than "I have a dream," the racist, antidemocratic government
might expect to hear instead, "I have a rifle!" Today, we might
make the same clarion call to arms.
Yet, while purely passive resistance will be utterly ineffectual, the
condition of red or orange 'alert' will allow resistance to be classified
as 'terrorism,' with militants facing imprisonment without charges, or
worse. Today, perhaps like yesterday, the call to arms would be sheer
Under such circumstances, should officials attempt to cancel or inject
fear into the elections, the only possible solution is the Grand
Refusal. The Grand Refusal was Herbert Marcuse's term for the
complete rejection of the techno-military government and the whole gambit
of repressive state and ideological apparatuses. Unlike other Frankfurt
School theorists, Marcuse had a pragmatic side, and suggested, under inspiration
from the sixties revolts, the notion of a complete refusal of the system.
The refusal would begin on the planned election day, and last for as long
as necessary. On election day, this would mean showing up at polling places
ready to vote, and demanding access to the ballot. It would be demanding
the vote with our feet, until the vote with the ballot is granted. It
would mean, for many voters, intimidation, but a refusal to succumb
Thus, the Grand Refusal will be first and foremost a refusal of the election
postponement or curtailment, and a demand to vote. This will be a decentralized
refusal and demonstration by hundreds of millions of registered voters:
Democrats, Greens, Independents, and Republicans alike. All are asked
to refuse the fear tactics, and all are welcomed in the refusal. The election
is not a partisan issue. It's the democratic process itself. Thus, all
true patriots must thus take part in the voter turnout demonstration,
and continue to refuse until the election is undertaken. This process
will be a massive refusal, but also, it will be a great lesson in democracy
The refusal will mean more than this if voters turn out for an election
that does not take place. The Grand Refusal would then mean, among other
things: massive walkouts, demonstrations, the refusal to participate in
the system at large. It would mean the continual voting with our feet
by refusing to participate in a politico-economic system that does not
deem us worthy of representation, regardless of its appeals to our so-called
'safety.' The only way to affect the system will be a continuing refusal
to work, to be 'entertained,' and to consume at 'normal' levels. We would
live by our wits, have courage, and shut the system down that refuses
us. In any case, the claims to protect us will be proven false by their
police brutality against us, when we refuse to acknowledge a danger that
has no known source, other than the government.
To you who listen to the fearmongers, and prefer your work and your "safety"
to your freedom and democracy, I give you the words of Samuel Adams, who
wrote in 1776:
If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude
better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace.
We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which
feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget
that ye were our countrymen.
But in any case, the claims to protect us will be betrayed by their brutality
against us, and the wealth is all theirs in the end. We refuse to hear
them and heed the call to abjure our rights. All who have courage will
stand up, walk out, and refuse to listen to them, refuse their media,
refuse their consolation prizes, refuse their guilt, refuse their lies,
refuse their tyranny, and refuse their fake government!
So which will it be, oh "Homeland Security," police, election
commissioner, Bush, Cheney, media mouthpieces, liars, one and all? Will
it be the ballot, or the Grand Refusal (and the bullet)? All the bullets
will be your own, not ours, although we paid for them. You may shoot us
with the dollars you robbed from us, just as you have the Iraqis. You
may kill us with our lost wages and services. But we will not be betrayed
by a government supposedly intent on "protecting" us, and your
slaughter of us will prove you to be complete liars. But even this lie
The Ballot, The Bullet, and the Grand Refusal,
Part 2: "The
Revolution Will Be Webcast!"
July 13, 2004
Citizens For Legitimate Government