On the Chesa Boudin Recall and Turning Electoralism Against Itself in the Imperial Core

By Brendan S.


There shouldn’t be any despair over this recall, it should be expected. The fact that abolitionists and anti-capitalists were even able to squeeze a DA into the SF government should be seen as an act of empowerment. Chesa was able to stand in this position for three years and make a lasting structural impact on the city, something few cities have the luxury of in the US.


A kid from a Weather Underground family making it to DA is unheard of and displays the popular power that exists even in the heart of a capitalist stronghold. Chesa isn’t going anywhere, and nor is the front against the police state. As late-stage capitalism continues to suffocate the general population, the front can only grow and immortalize from here on.


Before anyone screams “BuT oNlY sOciAl DeMocRaTs VoTe,” voting for genuine anti-capitalists and anti-statists who fight to demolish state structures does not make you a social democrat, it makes you an anti-capitalist and anti-statist. When the opportunity for immediate relief presents itself, it should be seized, both on the ballot and through direct action. Abandoning opportunities to do so is abandoning the folks that you claim solidarity with.


Relying on state electoralism for long-term change or self-assurance, however, is an illusion trapped in a cycle of virtue signaling and perpetual resentment. The emotional suspension between complacency and disaffection in the casually-engaged voter gradually corrodes the active psyche and degrades mental health in a manner that keeps the state in control of both the individual and community. Both work themselves to death whilst surrounded by campaign ads next to CCTV cameras, led by long-term electoralism to drown in the panopticon fishbowl.


With this in mind, not touching a ballot is understandable and should not be stigmatized. Direct action must always be prioritized and the electoral system cannot be legitimized. The electoral system can, however, be utilized to the immediate (not long-term) benefit of the general population whenever there is an opportunity to do so. Being aware of these opportunities can lead to some degree of meaningful change. Chesa showed us this in SF.


For those who advocate election boycotts, it is important to understand that election boycotts sometimes come with a significant risk to organizing when a state has not yet eroded or weakened. Election boycotts must be coordinated in unison with mobilization and across underclasses (or regionally in the case of the EZLN and KCK), otherwise the reaction is given a free pass to all existing offices while the state sustains its panopticon.


If a boycott leads to militarist takeover, there is little hope of organizing when every mobilized population is subsequently incarcerated, exiled, disarmed, and executed (Turkish, Sri Lankan, Yemeni, Indian states and plenty others hold historical examples of this). Revolutionary history teaches us that mobilization must begin before and during, not after, a fascist takeover. This is precisely why mobilization must be emphasized now while there is still a small threshold to.


When you find your circle and contribute to mobilizing, you will find that these words are not just idealist or esoteric glittering generalities, and that mobilization is already making an impact across the imperial core. Mobilizing against the state must be separated entirely from electoralism, but this does not mean electoralism cannot be bended to complement direct action in some cases. Electoralism can be utilized as a vehicle to turn electoralism against itself, especially when it complements direct action.