Anarchists Against Voting

7 Feb

 This is an article I wrote for the school newspaper- Hampshire College’s The Climax. They told me only 650 words, which made it very difficult to make my argument in this op-ed. Comments would be welcome, as I would like to develop a much stronger piece for future use in a zine.

Anarchists Against Voting

With all of the blame for lack of voter turn out in elections being placed on apathy, some important reasons that can be behind the decision to not vote or participate in elections are overlooked. Not voting is not necessarily a decision made out of apathy. Voting, and thinking that voting is empowering and counts as genuine participation in the political arena is much more apathetic than not voting.
As an anarchist I am against voting. Many anarchists beliefs are in opposition to the ideas of voting, particularly in large national elections. Anarchists are against government, but not against organization. The organization of the government in the U.S.A. right now is that of a ‘democracy’ (but actually, a republic). Democracy is the rule of the majority over the minority. Which is, inherently, oppression of the minority. This is a completely unjust situation, and against what anarchists stand for.
Another reason anarchists have to be against voting is opposition the principle of representation. The concept of a representative government goes against what anarchy stands for. It is completely ridiculous to think that a couple hundred politicians could possibly be able to represent the multitude of voices and opinions in this country. No one should have to have someone else represent them, no one should have more representation than anyone else, we should all be able to represent ourselves, equally.
A popular quote, often attributed to the famed anarchist Emma Goldman is, “if voting changed anything they’d make it illegal”. The validity of this simple idea is obvious. If there was any chance of vast improvements in the government and economy through voting, (which would cause financial harm to the people in government and corporations controlling the government), voting would be prohibited. Voting is a token gesture intended to make the people feel in control while maintaining dominance over them.
Voting implies agreement with the status quo of ‘democracy’, capitalism, and the power of the state. Participation in the voting process adds to the perceived legitimacy of the state and government.
Voting disempowers grassroots and direct action by averting energy from such activities and suggesting that there exists an easier solution to problems (i.e.. The electoral process and lobbying politicians).
From an anarchist point of view it is obvious that the government does not serve the people, but rather serves its own and corporate interests. Largely the government preserves its own power as well as other dominant power structures- private property.  Regardless of the politician or party you vote for you are voting for an oppressive political system.
Some people have argued that voting is necessary, in order to prevent some total jerk from being elected into office. Voting out of fear is an unsavory idea. Others have argued that one candidate is slightly better than another. The lesser of two evils vote is also unpleasant, and points to the worthlessness of our government. An important factor to consider when voting for the lesser of two evils is that what a politician says they will do while campaigning, and what they end up doing once elected are generally totally different things.
While I understand the points about how voting is perceived as a privilege and many people are happy to have the privilege of voting, and how people fought and even died for the right to vote, none of those reasons makes me think voting is important. I believe that people have been tricked into thinking that voting was something important. I think it is sad that many people see voting every couple years as the most participation and influence they will have in their entire lives over the system that governs them. There should be a localized process that allows people to represent themselves, come to consensus, and establish real control over their lives.
Voting is a hoax. Time spent voting is time wasted. Wake up and see that the government does not work for you. Start finding ways to create actual change in society.

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8 Responses to “Anarchists Against Voting”

  1. The Red Son February 7, 2008 at 6:45 pm #

    Interesting post, comrade. My point would be that if voting is a powerless, meaningless act, then there is inherently nothing wrong with preforming the act. As long as I am conscious about the limitation and problematic nature of it, what harm is there in voting? It perpetuates an oppressive and flawed system, but do you honestly believe their is no use in reform while we wait for the revolution. I am sure that you would now counter that reform is a way of appeasing people and that reform is counter-revolutionary. I dunno I don’t feel compelled or obligated to vote, but I also hate Hilary Clinton and if me casting a vote in the primary to contribute, however minutely to her not receiving the nomination, then I will take it in the second.

  2. The Red Son February 7, 2008 at 6:59 pm #

    Comment el segundo, isn’t free press also a token liberty? Could you make the claim “if free press and free speech changed anything, they’d be illegal?” Ergo, aren’t you flawed in your participation in the supposedly democratic act of blogging? and writing for the Climax? I am just playing devil’s advocate in order to critique of your argument.

  3. anarchymo February 8, 2008 at 1:44 pm #

    In response to your first comment, I think the potential problem in participating even while knowing the limitations of such participation is the extent to which participation adds legitimacy to the regime in power. When voter turn outs are low, it is clear to everyone that there is something wrong with the election process/government. When there is high participation they can claim that people are involved, excited, and being represented. No one I have ever seen on a ballot represents me.

    I’m definitely not a Mao-ist, who would suggest that we should exaccerbate the problems in society by wanting/helping total jerks to get into power, thus making people miserable, thus leading to a quicker social revolution. Maoists are total assholes. But I think any participation perpetuates the idea that there is hope. I also think not voting, and having conversations about why you are against voting exposes more people to the ideas about possibilites of change that exist outside of the government.
    If I talk about all these things on the way outside, some people will maybe shift a little more in my direction. And every little bit counts…

  4. anarchymo February 8, 2008 at 1:51 pm #

    I see your point in arguing that free press and free speech are token liberties, but I think it is obvious that words and ideas have long been key to social change. This is explains why under outwardly repressive regimes these liberties are often crushed.
    I mean think about the state of public education today. Not to be a total conspiracy theorist, but the poor education and misleading history kids are taught serves the government and capital well.

    I think in the U.S.A. free speech is a tool we still have, for now, and it is a positive tool. And I think that the many ways the government has especially of late, been trying to repress it show how powerful it is.
    For instance, the idea that treasonous or seditious speech is illegal still stands- that is what anarchists like EMma GOldman got kicked out of the States for. And now with the Patriot Act and Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (among others) which do place extreme limits on Freedom of Speech, with dire consequences for the violators…

  5. jamesrichmond February 18, 2008 at 4:59 pm #

    I plan to vote in all elections that are available for me. I also write congressional leaders, governors and other elected officials. We do have an effect when we do this. We may not get every law passed but people listen. Even though a letter writing campaign to ban illegally logged wood from being sold in the country failed, Staples took notice and stopped buying wood from Asia Pulp who is deforesting Indonesia. Some candidates are responding with plans for universal health care because voters have spoken. But political leaders only listen to voters, not people who don’t vote. Because we participate in local, state, and federal elections politicians listen to voters. We need more activists to vote and lend their voice. We need to overcome the people who vote based on meaningless commercials to buy their vote. This is the way that we can stop the politicians who create wars to make money, suppress evidence of global warming to sell oil, and save insurance companies money by not insuring 40% of Americans.

  6. variableveracity September 5, 2008 at 7:03 pm #

    Hey, I think this article is brilliant. With the upcoming election this fall, I am trying to educate myself, family and friends about the pointless act of voting. This country was bought and sold long time ago. It is one big corporation. I am trying to get the word out as much as possible. Thanks again!

  7. steve g. October 7, 2008 at 3:54 am #

    “you can do a hell of a lot more damage in the system than outside of it. that’s the final irony, i think.” ~stevo

  8. The Red Son November 4, 2008 at 10:12 pm #

    Seeing as today is election day, I felt compelled to repost the article on my blog:
    http://therevolutionscript.blogspot.com/2008/11/dont-vote-anarchists-against-voting.html

    Thanks again for the great article

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