It’s not OK to be an Anarchist and Vote

anarchocom2Tim Hjersted recently posted a fine article entitled “Anarchists Who Vote Versus Anarchists Who Don’t Vote: Is There Really Only One True Way?” over at www.filmsforaction.org. In this article he argues that it may be better for anarchists to look at voting as a tool in the activist toolbox, albeit, a very ineffective tool he admits. He then discusses the ratio of an activist’s time spent on activism vs. electoral politics and makes the point that it is better to be 50/50 compared to 0/0. Finally, he makes the point that notable anarchists like Noam Chomsky did indeed support voting.

You can read the article here.

voteAs an anarchist, voting is repulsive to me. The very idea of giving the state recognition and ultimately legitimizing the political process seems to be in direct conflict with being an anarchist. If we did not take part in the voting, the wars, the police oppression, and so on, the state would lose the legitimacy that it requires to exist.

It is less important that voting is considered ineffective compared to the legitimacy of the state that your vote signals. I don’t care for the debate on whether it does some good or no good, because even the best option in this scenario is a minor band-aid on various issues.

Instead, I care much more that voting in government elections is an inherently authoritarian activity.

A pillar of anarchism is to eliminate unneeded hierarchies, and voting, instead, legitimizes this undesirable hierarchy. To vote is to give up your power and signal a master. This ‘master’ (master can be replaced by president, mayor, monarch, king, etc.) has now been giving recognition to proceed as he/she will. This individual will ultimately legislate across a platform of various subjects. It is quite foolish to expect this human being to be more competent than any other giving human being (especially the experts in the respective fields on the subject at hand) regarding  the material. Through voting, you have imputed positive feedback towards this individual’s (really, the government’s) hierarchy over you.

Essentially, if it’s acceptable to vote, then it is acceptable for their candidates to hold power in a coercive government. If anarchists vote, then it is acceptable for them to encourage others to vote, and in this cycle, they become a part of the democratic party. This is clearly antithesis to anarchism.

 

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For further reading on the Anarchist case against voting: Here.

7 thoughts on “It’s not OK to be an Anarchist and Vote”

  1. But voting of one form or another is prevalent in all societies, of all scales. It is a way of making decisions as a community by listening to everyone’s voice. There is nothing wrong with the mechanism of voting, for it allows respect of views within a community. In modern politics, the propaganda, vote manipulation and dynamics of mass scale voting might be problematic and disdainful…. but do you really not believe that voting has a place when a problem is facing a group of say 30 people? Voting is effectively the act of listening to others. It is the scale, and use of voting that is the problem, not the mechanism itself.

    1. Actually, in many small traditional societies (many Guinean tribes for example), voting doesn’t happen. This is because they consider that voting always leaves losers. Since there is only the choice between one or the other option, there will be people who’s choice will have been discarded, obviously. This is not an accepted outcome, and so (democratic) consensus is preferred. This is obtained by discussing the problem until a solution is found that everyone can agree on. There might be times when one has to compromise more than others, but it is always something everyone can live with (when someone really can’t live with a particular consensus, he is free to opt out of whatever it is that is being discussed).

    2. I would have to disagree. Most intentional communities I have stayed with, and know of, see consensus decision making as a far more effective, if slightly more time consuming, way of resolving differences. very few are democratic in that sense. But it works best on a small scale, hence part of the reason behind anarchism 🙂 Voting just divides people into rival factions which is really unhealthy in communities and on a bigger scale as in authoritarian states, ie. divide and conquer!! The problem is that in such situations nearly half the people feel resentment they have lost and that can make a group lose its cohesion and fall apart. With consensus decision making everyone wins…ish. But its much better overall. As to your point about historically, there are certainly cultures who used consensus. Like the Maori’s and the Talking stick, which is really nice idea.

  2. What about voting, but leaving the ballot paper blank or crossing out the candidates names and writing ‘None of the above’
    Is that just as bad as actually voting for a candidate, or would that be an acceptable form of protest in your eyes and not just working within a broken system?.

  3. You might want to just go ahead and say that you oppose any form of centralized representative government, then. How do you prevent or stop racial or other forms of discrimination, or landlords oppressing tenants, or employers oppressing workers?

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