The following is a leaflet entitled, ‘The Folly of Voting’. It was published by Freedom Press in 1904. There is a small, faint photocopy of it in the first issue of ‘The Raven’ in 1987, but unfortunately it is not clear enough to be scanned and blown up. As it is unlikely an electronic version exists, and as I have far too much time on my hands, I have typed the whole thing out, for your reading pleasure.
I shall not vote in the coming general election.
I am fully aware that this will be of little consequence so far as the result of the contest is concerned, and that is one of the reasons for not voting.
But I have other reasons, chief among them being that I do not believe in government by the majority, nor the minority either.
I do not believe in government at all.
The ballot system of government is a dismal failure, even supposing it, for a moment, to be right in theory.
Thus, some of those who seek election do so either for direct emoluments they hope to gain, or indirectly to advance their own interests and satisfy their vanity. Such men will not sacrifice their own ends for the public weal.
Many candidates are, however, in the beginning, fairly honest in their motives and intentions. But a man who enters the political world soon finds out that, fraud, cunning, hypocrisy, and trickery, are freely used by his opponents, and to successfully cope with them he must adopt their tactics.
He thinks he is justified by expediency in doing this, and perhaps honestly believes that he can use these weapons to gain victory for an honest cause. But he is mistaken. Fraud and falsehood can never serve a righteous end. The man who uses trickery, even to vanquish wrong, is already a trickster and is no better morally, than he who uses trickery for avowedly dishonourable purposes.
But, unfortunately for the honest candidate, zealous for the public good, who refuses to sully himself with deception and fraud – all the political forces are against him. By refusing to be all things to all men, and failing to pander to popular prejudice and ignorance, he fails to secure the favour of the mass and the unscrupulous demagogue, who makes many vain promises, wins.
The really honest man who falls into the snare of politics ever figures as the unsuccessful candidate.
Political corruption and dishonesty is so notoriously apparent that even believers in government, advocates of the political action, are fully conscious of it. Yet they go on voting, with the faint hope that, in some mysterious way, conditions will be changed, and that, after a while, enough pure men will be elected to ensure an honest administration of public affairs.
Their hopes are never realised. New men are put in and new parties assume control, but the same results ensue. The real trouble is with the system, not with those who administer it. The very nature and principle of government, of human authority, is demoralising, corrupting, and wrong.
As long as human nature is what it is, we cannot expect men in power to disregard their individual interests, nor to escape the damning influences of power of their better self.
The man who votes, even though he votes for the defeated candidate, gives his sanction to the whole scheme, and process of election, authority, and coercion.
I do not wish to be governed, I do not acknowledge, and will not admit the right of any man, or body of men to rule over me; I do not wish to govern others. I know of no moral or social right that I have to do so, and consequently I decline to impose my views on others through the agency of the ballot, and thus set in motion; the whole paraphernalia of force and violence –policemen, judges, executioners, soldiers, tax gatherers, etc., used to coerce others into doing as I think they ought to do.
I want for every man, woman, and child, the right to govern themselves, to direct their own affairs, to live their own lives. This can never be whilst private property, the be-all and end-all of government exists.
Think, workers, and you will acknowledge that it is for the defence of property that all this electioneering, this legislating, this making and unmaking of laws whose name is legion, takes place. To defend the property you have created, the houses you have built, the food you have grown, the clothes you have made – from you, the rightful owners.
And you maffick and lose time and quarrel with one another and act like lunatics generally because your masters generously allow you to make a cross on a piece of paper; and if you have been good and voted as they wish you to, they throw you a crumb from the loaf you have toiled to make and which they have stolen from you and you smugly return them thanks.
Learn to be men, free men, who depend on no master, who feed no idle, gilded loafers, who cower not beneath oppression, but who assert their right to life, liberty, and all the pursuits of happiness.
I believe that you can become this; I believe you can if you will, attain a free life, socially, economically, industrially, that is why I beg you to leave off following the red herring of politics, and instead, to refuse to obey the dictates of the gabblers of St Stephen’s and to support the lazy thieves of the thrice damned trinity – landowners, capitalists, parsons.
He who must be free, himself, must strike the blow!