12 September 2022
by Sergei Davidis
Yes, as before, it’s better to participate in the “elections” than not, and it’s worth heeding the recommendations of Smart Voting.
Honor and praise to the activists who, despite fantastic pressure, are doing what can be done in a situation of total lawlessness and repressions, people like Konstantin Yankauskas or Yulia Galyamina, who are not giving up despite the fact that they themselves were not allowed to participate in the “elections” and who are making maximum use of available means.
It’s actually rather boring to repeat over and over all the arguments, but after the unleashing of full-scale war against Ukraine, although any immediate benefit from participating in the “elections” dropped even more than before, participation even in such “elections” is still valuable both for preserving the practice of coordinating actions, the very capability of joint actions, and for preserving the habit of civic participation, political agency, and so on.
Dramatic Babchenko-style exclamations derisively contrasting participation in “elections” to the criminal war Russia is waging and the tragedy of the Ukrainian people are wrong from both the strategic and tactical standpoints.
From the strategic because whatever the victories we all desire and the heroic Ukrainian armed forces achieve, they are not going to take Moscow or drive out Putin. Removing the dictatorship and building democracy in Russia will remain the responsibility of Russians, and the practices, habits, and political and social capital acquired by participating in the “elections” by both the candidates and the voters will be critically important for this.
Conversations about “legitimation” have absolutely no grounds in the current situation since a real choice is made from available and achievable options. The alternative to participation in the “elections” isn’t a speculative “active boycott” campaign, to say nothing of a popular uprising, but simply escapist nonparticipation, which legitimizes the regime to a much greater degree.
From the tactical standpoint, exalted criticism of participation in the “elections” is wrong for essentially the same reasons. For the overwhelming majority of the dictator’s opponents who are contemplating whether it’s worth it to go vote, the choice is not between participating in the voting and more effective ways to oppose the regime and support Ukraine. These ways are not an alternative to voting and/or are too complicated and risky for the majority to view them as a realistic possibility for themselves.
Translated by Marian Schwartz