Active abstention isn't the answer either

The penultimate part in a series looking at and debunking specific 'tactical voting' strategies and election narratives from an anti-electoral perspective.

Submitted by Phil on March 7, 2015

I’ve dealt with holding your nose to vote Labour, third parties as an alternative, and the ideas that if only we reformed the voting system or tackled voter apathy then elections would mean something. But what about not voting? Do I seriously advocate that as a solution?

Well, no. I don’t.

Anarchists don’t advocate not voting, we rather don’t advocate voting. See the difference? We also don’t advocate line dancing, this doesn’t mean that actively not line dancing is a solution to anything.

If you want to vote, go ahead.

My objections aren’t to the act of voting. They’re to:

  • The social stigma some attempt to apply to those who don’t vote.
  • The ridiculous illusions people have in voting and representative democracy more generally, which are often a barrier to being aware of our own collective power as a class through direct action.
  • The enormous amount of time, energy and resources expended on getting people to vote for this or that candidate, which could be better used organising in the community or the workplace. And which indeed often stops or limits people doing that since human beings tend to have a finite amount of time and energy spare.
  • So much of the fucking left who’ve seen this all play out so many times wilfully refuse to know better because this time it’ll be different. Wanna buy our party line in newspaper format?

But aren’t there some who think that not voting can be some kind of weapon or tactic?

Possibly. I don’t think it’s a great many people, but I have heard the arguments before. If we actively en masse spoil our ballot papers, then we show the politicians that it’s not apathy. They have to count the spoiled ballots, so they know that we’re there.

Yeah, and then what?

A few points:

  • There are many reasons for not choosing any of the candidates on the ballot paper, most non-revolutionary and many actively reactionary. In itself it doesn’t say anything.
  • If spoiled ballots ever reach a critical mass that politicians have to react to they’ll take the interpretation that suits their agenda.
  • Reaching that critical mass comes under the same ‘waste of time, energy and resources’ label as election campaigning.
  • Somebody will always vote. Sorry.
  • Even if they didn’t, would the government then turn around and go ‘okay, we’ll abolish ourselves?’ Of course not.

So what, then? If voting is pointless and not voting is equally pointless, what’s the answer?

Well, I’ve alluded to it in every single one of these posts, but I’ll go into more depth in the final part of this series. [Spoiler: it involves organising and direct action.]