AOH :: BADBR-08.TXT|
BAD BROADSIDE no. 8: Real anarchists don't vote!
VOTING ANARCHISTS: AN OXYMORON OR WHAT?
BAD Broadside #8
While historically anarchists assiduously avoided any involvement with
electoral politics, in more recent times, at least in the United States,
some anarchists have advocated voting.
The arguments these voting anarchists put forward are generally the
same as those put forward by other leftists who are unable or unwilling to
completely sever their connection to the political process. They argue that
voting for their candidate, usually described as a lesser evil and usually
(if not always) a Democrat, is necessary to prevent United States aggression
against some favoured revolutionary state (like Sandinista Nicaragua), is
some sort of self-defense against the more conservative candidate, or is
merely better than "apathy", as some describe abstention from voting.
While one could argue against voting simply because it rarely, if ever,
accomplishes any of the goals its advocates claim it can, there is a more
fundamental reason for anarchists to oppose voting: voting in government
elections is an inherently authoritarian activity, and authoritarian means
never yield libertarian results.
The primary reason why anti-statists should not vote, and in fact
should oppose voting, is that the very act of voting is an attempt on the
part of voters to delegate to another a power that they could not justly
possess themselves. Government is based on coercion. While states of
various sorts provide some services and benefits to residents of their
jurisdictions, the institution of government also utilizes cops, courts,
the military, the IRS, etc, to coercively interfere in the lives of its
Anarchists argue that no one, whether in or out of government should
have such power. If this is true, anarchists, who oppose political power
and coercion of any sort, cannot consistently advocate voting. Individuals
should not have the authority to coerce others, and therefore they should
not put themselves in a position to delegate such authority to third
parties, which is the essence of voting. While some argue that they vote
only in self-defense, the consequence of their voting is that their
candidate coerces others who choose not to participate in the process, and
therefore this method of self-defense should be unacceptable to anarchists.
Besides being unethical for an anti-authoritarian in and of itself,
participation in electoral politics serves to legitimize the whole political
process and the existence of government. If people did not vote, the
democratic theory of government would lose its legitimacy and politicians
would have to justify their rule on the basis of something other than the
alleged consent of the governed. This, hopefully, would make the true
nature of the state more obvious to the governed. And such a revelation
would have the potential to motivate people to challenge, evade, or ignore
government interference and coercion.
Even if anarchists could ethically participate in voting, there is one
major reason to boycott the process: any candidate anarchists help elect
will implement interventionist policies and initiate coercive actions, the
results of which will be incompatible with anarchist goals. While voting
for a Democrat may arguably make intervention in Cuba or Nicaragua less
likely, it could make matters worse in Israel/Palestine or South Africa.
(Neither the ANC nor the PLO will take a position on the United States
presidential election, basically because they support Bush but are
embarrassed to admit this publicly.) Voters claim that a Republican will
make things worse economically for working and/or poor people in the United
States; however increased taxes, which will certainly be enacted by a
Democratic president, will further impoverish the working people from whom
they are extorted. Additionally, while people fear a Supreme Court with a
Republican-appointed majority, individual justices are unpredictable (like
Sandra Day O'Connor), and Democratic judges are as willing to coercively
interfere in our lives as are Republicans.
Besides not yielding the desired results, voting by anarchists entails
another weakness. Even if every anarchist in the United States voted in the
presidential election, it would not influence the outcome. There are few
enough anarchists about that their individual votes are meaningless, since
elections are decided by millions of votes.
If voting anarchists seriously believe that voting can ethically be
done, even by anarchists, then they should consider entering the political
process fully and campaigning for presidential candidates. If it's
acceptable for them to vote, it's acceptable for their candidates to hold
power in a coercive government, and it's acceptable for them to encourage
others to vote. I have not seen any anarchists argue for active involvement
in the Democratic party, but this is a logical outcome of anarchist
arguments for voting. If these people aren't comfortable urging others to
vote for their candidates, they should rethink the justifications for their
Non-voting on the part of anarchists is not a sign of apathy. On the
contrary, it is a sign of rejection of the political, i.e. coercive, means
of dealing with problems and living our lives. If, as anarchists, we are
serious about finding new ways of living and interacting, it would behoove
us to stay out of the swamp of electoral politics and maintain our
traditional opposition to involvement with electoral politics in any form.
Please send two copies of any review or reprint
of all or part of this to:
Boston Anarchist Drinking Brigade
PO Box 1323
Cambridge, MA 02238
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