Angry not apathetic: what anarchists do instead of voting - Anarchist Federation

As the 2015 general election approaches, the Anarchist Federation explains the anarchist alternative to voting for social change.

Submitted by Steven. on April 20, 2015

The general election is here, and once again the parties are all over us like a rash, promising that they will fix things. But you don’t have to be an anarchist to know that nothing changes, whoever gets in. This is why politicians are keen on new methods such as postal voting. Labour, Tory, Liberal Democrat, nationalist (Plaid Cymru, SNP, Sinn Fein), ‘principled’ or ‘radical’ (Green Party, or leftists in some alliance), or nationalist-racist (UKIP etc), the fundamentals of the system are the same.

Whether we have the present electoral system or proportional representation, or however many people vote or don’t vote in an election or referendum, as we have just seen in Scotland, capitalism is at the driving wheel globally. As working class people, we are exploited whether we can take part in ‘free’ elections or live under an authoritarian regime. Capitalists and property owners continue to control the wealth that we create, and they protect it through the police, legal system, and military.

You can’t complain

Non-voters are told that, “If you don't vote you can't complain”. But voting under these circumstances is just pretending that the system we have is basically alright. It lets the winning party off the hook. The fact is, we have next to no say in the decisions that get taken by the people we elect. This is called ‘representative democracy’. Anarchists organise by ‘direct democracy’, where we can have a say in every decision, if we want to. We don’t put our power in someone else’s hands, so no one can betray us and abuse it. This really could work globally! Ask us how...

Campaigning against voting

A “don't vote” campaign on its own is just as much a waste of time. The same goes for a protest vote for a leftist or novelty candidate. The time and money spent campaigning could be better used fixing some of the problems we face in our lives. Protesting, whether it is spoiling a ballot paper or marching in the street, fails to offer any real challenge. So, anarchists say, vote, or don’t vote. It won’t make any difference. What is more important, is to realise that elections prop up a corrupt system and divert us from winning real change.

Don’t vote, organise!

We should organise with our neighbours, workmates, other people we have shared interests with, and others who don’t have the privileges that some people have. We are the experts on what we need, and on the best way to run things for the common good. We need to use direct action to achieve this. Direct action is where we solve a problem without someone else representing us. By this we mean, not just protesting and asking for change, but things like occupying, sabotaging, working to rule, refusing to pay their prices or their rent, and striking (but not waiting for union leaders to tell us when we can and can’t!).

For example, when workers aren’t paid the wages owed them, rather than asking the government to give us better legal protection, we take action to force employers to pay. The Department for Work & Pensions has even named the Anarchist Federation and the Solidarity Federation among groups that are a serious threat to workfare, because we have shut down programmes. This was achieved with only a few hundred people. Imagine what could be done with thousands!

Taking it back

In reality, people are understandably afraid of taking the state on. But direct action doesn’t have to mean an all-out fight to defeat capitalism in one go. Anarchists do think that ultimately, there has to be a full revolution. But by confronting the system directly at any point we can start to take control. In fact, all the good things we think of as having been created by the state – free health care, free education, health & safety laws to protect us at work, housing regulations, sick pay, unemployment benefits, pensions – came about historically to put an end to organised campaigns of collective direct action that threatened their power. And where we would fail as individuals, together we can win.



9 years 2 months ago

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Submitted by Spikymike on April 25, 2015

Generally agree with the content of this and have actually encouraged others thinking of voting positively to read it, except I'm not sure any kind of 'don't vote' campaign is worth the effort frankly? Some people will still vote - I mean even I have very rarely in the past and given, if we are honest - it's a case at present of 'What anarchists do instead of voting' is really only a part-time activity by we anarchist and communist minorities whether individuals vote or not is probably just irrelevant?


9 years 2 months ago

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Submitted by GyolanNt on April 27, 2015

Why have elections or political parties?

In his semi-comic novel, I WON’T VOTE ANYMORE! A tale of passion and politics, Dr. Paul I. Jacobs questions the need for both elections and political parties.

Some of the characters play with the idea that members of the United States House of Representatives should be chosen by a lottery.

It would work like this:

“An enormous fishbowl contains the names of each adult citizen in a particular election district on separate sheets of paper.

“Every two years a slip of paper is chosen at random from the bowl, and the person named on it becomes that district’s Representative in Congress.

“That’s the model,” says Emily, “Of course, a computerized list would actually be used, not a fishbowl.”

Emily has their attention.
“Right now, in 2012, how many members of the House of Representatives are women? Any guesses?”
Some whispering and muttering, but nobody offers a guess.
Finally, Emily says, “Seventy-six of the 435, or a little over 17%.

Quoted with the author’s permission

Noah Fence

9 years 2 months ago

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Submitted by Noah Fence on April 27, 2015

I thought this was pretty good. I've got a shit load of hard copies to give out on Friday but I doubt it will influence a change of mind in even a single case if they are already planning on voting. Oh Christ.
One thing election related that may interest and enlighten you is that 'the only bad thing about UKIP is that they will lift the smoking ban in pubs.' The source of this vital piece of information? My sister, who was once a candidate to stand as a Tory councillor! Almost as good as my old man who, on admitting that there is somewhat too much racism around, pointed out that there wasn't as much when there weren't as many foreigners and therefore concluded that the best solution to combat racism is to not have any foreigners here!!! Get your head round that little beauty and be sure to bear in mind he has lived in Thailand for the last 15 years. You couldn't make this shit up, could you.


9 years 2 months ago

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Submitted by ajjohnstone on April 28, 2015

Webby, i lived in South India and presently in North East Thailand and i can vouch for what you say about your dad's attitude.

I have met many ex-pats who have explained the reason to me that they were living abroad as - there are too many foreigners in the UK - I exaggerate not..Incredibly they don't see the absurdity of their present situation.

But dig a bit deeper...and the reason is that they are little different from any other economic migrant's effort to improve their condition...the pound in their pension goes further in a country where the cost of living is a lot less...(to be100% honest, my main motive for packing my bags when i took my early retirement)

I try to avoid local expats who's main purpose in life is to sit in a bar with others from the "home" country, wherever that may be (it is globalised now) , and share complaints and derogatory jokes about their supposed "adopted"country. (again, for sake of honesty, the times i do actually associate, is to watch the Barclay's League in a bar)

Also remember they live a style that harks back to the days of the Raj...the amount of deference given by the locals to ex-pats is determined by size of their wallet to the local people's income.

Jacques Roux

9 years 2 months ago

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Submitted by Jacques Roux on May 6, 2015


Generally agree with the content of this and have actually encouraged others thinking of voting positively to read it, except I'm not sure any kind of 'don't vote' campaign is worth the effort frankly?

?? This article is saying that voting is irrelevant.


9 years 2 months ago

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Submitted by Spikymike on May 6, 2015

J-R, Ok I was just referring back to the qualifying ''..on it's own'' in the article and the periodic reoccurance of 'Don't vote' campaigns by different anarchist groups.