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Why do anarchists not vote?

+6 votes
asked Apr 5, 2010 by dot (52,060 points)
edited Apr 7, 2010 by dot
Some wit noted that the minute the Soviet Union fell apart freedom in the free world became much more expensive. Our constitutional rights have been indefinitely suspended, the entire voting system has been gerrymandered to death, congress has given the military the legal right to round citizens up like cattle and made all the necessary preparations, every police department is now using warrantless wiretaps and searches, the pentagon has sold them surplus military gear at cut rate prices, and the billionaire mayor of NYC arrested 26 reporters in one day only to receive a slap on the wrist, while the bankers that committed fraud and collapsed the world economy never saw a day in jail.

Frankly, I can't afford to vote and just don't see the point when in over ten years of asking nobody has been able to tell me the simple distinction between a lynch mob and democracy.

11 Answers

–7 votes
Because anarchists are against voting/democracy. However, as an anarchist, I do see the relevance in voting in local elections that will have a direct effect on my community.
answered Apr 6, 2010 by wally direct (250 points)
not sure how you think you've answered the question. anarchists don't vote because they're against voting?
or is your point that anarchists do vote? you say they don't, then you say as an anarchist you do, without explaining why small scale democracy is acceptable when large scale isn't.
not sure how voting in any election has anything to do with anarchy
–3 votes
Coming to anarchism from a skeptical point of view, I don't not vote on principle, but out of pragmatism. As Goldman (?) said once, "If voting changed anything, it would be illegal." I can respect those that don't vote on principle, but I wouldn't not vote in some election or ballot initiative that I thought I could actually have a positive influence in. The probability of such an occurrence, however, is low.
answered Apr 9, 2010 by enkidu (6,110 points)
"If voting changed anything, it would be illegal."
...Voting used to be Illegal for women, people of color, and poor people.
And voting is still impossible for a lot of people like prisoners and felons who are disproportionately people of color.
I don't think voting accomplishes much, but it only takes about five minutes.  I don't buy that crap about voting 'granting the state legitimacy,' as only 25-50% of the population votes anyways.
Saying "anarchist don't vote" is a dogmatic position based on some loose logic.  There is nothing inherently wrong with voting.  I think we can all agree that it would be great if no one voted, but to over-inflate the importance of whether or not YOU vote is a lifestylist perspective.
"it only takes about five minutes"
...you must live in a VERY different precinct than I, where it is firmly within the measurement of hours.

"Saying "anarchist don't vote" is a dogmatic position based on some loose logic."

Since I didn't make that claim I won't try to defend it.

"There is nothing inherently wrong with voting."

And you're so sure of this because...?

"to over-inflate the importance of whether or not YOU vote is a lifestylist perspective."

Does that make you a lifestylist? I speak to my own opinions because they are my own. I never claimed my personal choices are representative of anarchists in general.
@enkidu,
I was not calling you a lifestylist.  I was pointing out a trend in anarchism.  I am not saying you are a part of this trend. (How could I say that, I don't know you at all).  I only talk about it because it is relevant to the conversation.

I do not think it makes a damn bit of difference whether or not someone votes.  Voting is the absolute lowest level of social struggle to engage in.
I do not feel philosophically obligated, as an anarchist, to vote or not vote.

My comment about lifestylism was simply that if one person, acting as an individual, places a lot of importance behind whether or not they vote, then they are probably more interested in a search for a "pure" or "correct" way to live than revolution.
Ah, sorry for getting defensive. I believe you're right. Voting and not voting are both ineffectual. Crimethinc expressed this pretty well, I think, in a pamphlet for the 2004 US election.
+2 votes
An anarchist has a larger view of the world than it's political systems and politicians allow for. We must keep ahold of that perspective and it is not a simple task; we are constantly bombarded with the simplistic messages and world views conveyed by commercialism and politics. To effectively vote, one must engage with the dynamics and arguments that are being voted upon and this will necessarily narrow one's perspective. It is not that the act of voting in a vacuum is bad or destructive, in fact it just doesn't matter. But engaging in the liberal / conservative banter renders one relatively thoughtless.
answered Apr 15, 2010 by matt.the.prick (520 points)
i like m-t-p's response since it specifically addresses the impact of voting on the individual - which is (mostly as far as i can tell) to constrain imagination and placate.
+1 vote
Because voting grants legitimacy to the current political system and directs attention away from direct action.
answered Apr 23, 2010 by db0 (250 points)
+7 votes
there have been many specific arguments made against voting that deserve to be listed: here are three...

1) we don't believe in representation. even direct democracy is only one possibility (and an overly-valorized one) among many ways to resolve conflict or make decisions in a group, and is based on competition instead of on finding the best option

2) the act of voting in the current system does nothing but validate false
choices and confirm our own powerlessness over a system that is corrupt at its core

3) since the system itself is the problem, even in the case of the pure soul who might somehow find themselves in a position of power (as if the process of getting into office itself is not a process of compromise and power-brokering), this person will be forced to work the system or never get anything done.
inevitably, campaign promises that sound lovely will either not happen, or will happen in ways that lead to worse results.

there are more. perhaps i will add to this later.
answered May 17, 2010 by dot (52,060 points)
"the act of voting in the current system does nothing but validate false
choices and confirm our own powerlessness over a system that is corrupt at its core" -  voting in any political system does the same.
+2 votes
The word "voting", since it includes both electoral politics and signifying one's preference for a certain resolution, seems rather vague. Etymologically it comes from "a vow to do something", even more vague.

Reasons I wouldn't vote (mostly in elections):
-Futility. Trying to elect a ruler in any system competent enough to gain a monopoly probably would not fundamentally challenge that system.
-Distraction. I would not desire to empower an elite at the expense of everyday people. I want people to have free agency, not coercive power. Empowering one sector of a population at the expense of everyone else would only at best distract me from actualizing anarchic relationships or demolishing hierarchical ones. Example: guerilla gardening, Food Not Bombs, and Black Panther food distribution offer useful examples of autonomy from the welfare state.
-Insufficiency. I can understand, and feel for, people voting in elections out of a perspective of self-preservation, or against their own enslavement. For example, a womyn trying to elect a politician who opposes the criminalization of abortion, or a man trying to elect a politician that opposes military conscription. At the same time, bandaids do not cure diseases, and shuffling a deck or changing the deck's players does not change the cards.
-Competition. Representative democracy/aristocracy institutionalizes competing factions, with all of the pitfalls of politics in place.
-Bureaucracy. Mass organizations tend towards sluggishness, and other hindrances.
-More futility. Even if I voted for someone to introduce systemic instability in furtherance of revolutionary conditions, that one vote would still count as much as a drop in an ocean with today's population sizes and the notion of "one person, one vote".
-Incompatibility. Representation relies on reduction and substitution, and always diminishes the represented. By necessity political representation filters out aspects and experiences, especially when politics removes representatives from the community/context they *supposedly* represent.
-Inconsistency. I would not willingly compromise certain convictions, namely, anti-authoritarianism.

So when would I vote? If it seemed effective, empowering, sufficient, non-oppressive, non-exploitative, direct, compatible and consistent with my principles, I would. I would vote to abolish a law if I felt my single vote had a chance of changing the outcome. I would probably also vote under duress. And I vote in consensus decisions, formally and informally, quite often.
answered May 18, 2010 by AutumnLeavesCascade (8,890 points)
–3 votes
Anarchists are constantly voting....In the USA there is a particularly strong anti-voting campaign in regard to presidential elections.

In Spain the CNT does actually vote in parliamentary elections, so the Anarcho-Syndicalists often split with the individualists on this one.


Anarchists very often vote in voluntary associations that use a form of democratic process that is non-binding on the minority, though most also reject giving the minority the power to block the majority.....they dont have to participate, but allowing a minority to block the majority on behalf of a group is tyranny.
answered Aug 28, 2011 by Nick_Djinn (200 points)
Anarchists do not vote because they do not believe in "government," and understand what "voting" is: an attempt to control your neighbor. In all "government" or "democracy," direct, representative, or "participatory," one group of individuals is attempting to pick a politician or "pass a law" to "govern" everyone else.. when 51% of "the people" vote for a politician, or directly for some "law," is that the will of "the people," or the will of 51% of "the people"? Does the "government" only apply it's "laws" to people who voted for the politician who proposed them and got them passed? Will the 'direct democracy' only apply it's "laws" to the 51% who said "yes, i agree with this law," ? If so, then they are not 'government,' they are simply a group voluntarily agreeing to follow some guideline.. they are not trying to "govern" anyone else, and although they might be picking someone to "govern" themselves, as long as they don't claim to 'govern' people who didnt vote, or voted against, then they would not be attempting to force involuntary collectivism upon people who do not wish it, as the state does currently
0 votes
Voting itself supports the rule of majority and no choice for the minority.  It is a lazy approach to the needs and values of people.  Why not ask what the people think before you tell them what you think and ask them to vote for it?  Let them choose from the 10 apparently best selections and the top three win.

There needs to be better ways of input, problem soving that is taken away from a party system and their political agendas.  

A lateral concept of communication looking for creative input and practcal problem solving would work: government in any form does not.
answered May 27, 2012 by afunctionalworld (2,030 points)
–3 votes
I would not agree with the tone of the question: seems dogmatic and coercive, even though there may be no intention to be.

To vote or not to vote is more of a question of reason.  Not to participate or to try to currently minimize the affects of government to the best of what the current situation offers.

The question already assumes the one position that is personally or generally accepted (almost appears to take an authoritative position), and doesn't seem to allow for individual reasoning even if the other views has the same conviction and desire of anarchy.
answered May 31, 2012 by afunctionalworld (2,030 points)
+1 vote
As an Anarchist and as a unique individual (in all modesty), I don't vote ( in electoral politics) because I believe all politicians are corrupt, the idea of a politician is unethical, and, ultimately, I do not want to legitimate this state, any state, or the very notion of the State. The very idea of a politician is in my opinion unethical, because how can anybody represent me/my views. I stopped voting in electoral politics once I started identifying as an Anarchist.

I don't want capitalism or marxism, but Anarchy. No authoritarianism or hierarchy of the mediated political body of the State (whether its national, state, or local) is want I strive for...

* I mention (in electoral politics), in reference to voting, because I have voted as part of volunteer collectives (its usually been in reference to getting an anarchist writer to town or adding anarchist and/or anti-authoritarian books to an infoshop type space.)

"If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal. "
- Emma Goldman

"...that’s the trap of the system. They want us to keep playing that shit, you know, keep on voting, which really means, vote for the slightly less awful person than the other. That guarantees that we’re stuck in this shit. No, no, that can’t be the answer, that just enables, legitimizes, and reproduces the lie of democracy. If we keep on doing that, then there really is no hope. The first and easiest thing is to drop out of that – don’t vote, don’t play the game the system sets up for us to play."
- John Zerzan
answered Mar 26, 2013 by Artificiality (8,160 points)
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