Tuesday, 27 January 2015
Why vote in elections ??
Today spamming my timeline on twitter is the Unite Union my former union who are cheerleading for the Labour Party victim blaming the disabled and the poor into voting. If you dont vote you dont have a voice they crow. I used to be involved in TUSC and various trotskyists activities to give the "working class" a political voice. I no longer think this is the way to go “Don’t vote? don’t complain” “A + B are both wrong” “Pick one or you’ll be ignored” *picks A* “This is awful” “You voted for it!" are all lines i hear so much. For a trade union to be pushing this sickening line is really taking the piss. lets be honest no one is against voting as and of itself its just its role it plays in watering down disent and diverting militant campaigns into dead ends. Also, what Unite are ignoring in the middle of blaming disabled people is that often polling stations are SIMPLY NOT ACCESSIBLE as many blind people like myself have found in the past. Only around 25% of polling stations at the last European Elections had accessible templates to enable the blind and partially sighted to vote. The RNIB and other blind charity's are campaigning for a online voting system which i wouldnt be against to be honest as enabling disabled people to vote easier if they so wish should be a right they hold. Even if like me they may choose not to participatea nd vote there still should be the chance for all no matter your disability to vote independently for yourself if you so wish. Even as anarchists we can agree with that. Alot of good stuff is written on the anarchist faq which i will quote below. "While anarchists reject electioneering and voting, it does not mean that we are politically apathetic. Indeed, part of the reason why anarchists reject voting is because we think that voting is not part of the solution, its part of the problem. This is because it endorses an unjust and unfree political system and makes us look to others to fight our battles for us. It blocks constructive self-activity and direct action. It stops the building of alternatives in our communities and workplaces. Voting breeds apathy and apathy is our worse enemy. Given that we have had universal suffrage for well over 50 years in many countries and we have seen the rise of Labour and Radical parties aiming to use that system to effect change in a socialistic manner, it seems strange that we are probably further away from socialism than when they started. The simple fact is that these parties have spent so much time trying to win elections that they have stopped even thinking about creating socialist alternatives in our communities and workplaces. That is in itself enough to prove that electioneering, far from eliminating apathy, in fact helps to create it. At its most basic, voting implies agreement with the status quo. It is worth quoting the Scottish libertarian socialist James Kelman at length on this: "State propaganda insists that the reason why at least 40 percent of the voting public don't vote at all is because they have no feelings one way or the other. They say the same thing in the USA, where some 85 percent of the population are apparently 'apolitical' since they don't bother registering a vote. Rejection of the political system is inadmissible as far as the state is concerned . . . Of course the one thing that does happen when you vote is that someone else has endorsed an unfair political system . . . A vote for any party or any individual is always a vote for the political system. You can interpret your vote in whichever way you like but it remains an endorsement of the apparatus . . . If there was any possibility that the apparatus could effect a change in the system then they would dismantle it immediately. In other words the political system is an integral state institution, designed and refined to perpetuate its own existence. Ruling authority fixes the agenda by which the public are allowed 'to enter the political arena' and that's the fix they've settled on." [Some Recent Attacks, p. 87] We are taught from an early age that voting in elections is right and a duty. In US schools, for example, children elect class presidents and other officers. Often mini-general elections are held to "educate" children in "democracy." Periodically, election coverage monopolises the media. We are made to feel guilty about shirking our "civic responsibility" if we do not vote. Countries that have no elections, or only rigged elections, are regarded as failures. As a result, elections have become a quasi-religious ritual. Yet, in reality, "elections in practice have served well to maintain dominant power structures such as private property, the military, male domination, and economic inequality. None of these has been seriously threatened through voting. It is from the point of view of radical critics that elections are most limiting." ["Democracy without Elections", pp. 123-36, Reinventing Anarchy, Again, Howard J. Ehrlich (ed.), p. 124] Elections serve the interests of state power in other ways. First, voting helps to legitimate government; hence suffrage has often been expanded at times when there was little popular demand for it but when mass support of government was crucial, as during a war or revolution. Second, it comes to be seen as the only legitimate form of political participation, thus making it likely that any revolts by oppressed or marginalised groups will be viewed by the general public as illegitimate. It helps focus attention away from direct action and building new social structures back into institutions which the ruling class can easily control. The general election during the May '68 revolt in France, for example, helped diffuse the revolutionary situation, as did the elections during the Argentine revolt against neo-liberalism in the early 2000s. So by turning political participation into the "safe" activities of campaigning and voting, elections have reduced the risk of more radical direct action as well as building a false sense of power and sovereignty among the general population. Voting disempowers the grassroots by diverting energy from grassroots action. After all, the goal of electoral politics is to elect a representative who will act for us. Therefore, instead of taking direct action to solve problems ourselves, action becomes indirect, though the government. This is an insidiously easy trap to fall into, as we have been conditioned in hierarchical society from day one into attitudes of passivity and obedience, which gives most of us a deep-seated tendency to leave important matters to the "experts" and "authorities." Kropotkin described well the net effect: "Vote! Greater men that you will tell you the moment when the self-annihilation of capital has been accomplished. They will then expropriate the few usurpers left . . . and you will be freed without having taken any more trouble than that of writing on a bit of paper the name of the man whom the heads of your faction of the party told you to vote for!" [quoted by Ruth Kinna, "Kropotkin's theory of Mutual Aid in Historical Context", pp. 259-283, International Review of Social History, No. 40, pp. 265-6] Ironically, voting has legitimated the growth of state power to such an extent that the state is now beyond any real popular control by the form of participation that made that growth possible. Nevertheless, the idea that electoral participation means popular control of government is so deeply implanted in people's psyches that even the most overtly sceptical radical often cannot fully free themselves from it. Therefore, voting has the important political implication of encouraging people to identify with state power and to justify the status quo. In addition, it feeds the illusion that the state is neutral and that electing parties to office means that people have control over their own lives. Moreover, elections have a tendency to make people passive, to look for salvation from above and not from their own self-activity. As such it produces a division between leaders and led, with the voters turned into spectators of activity, not the participants within it. All this does not mean, obviously, that anarchists prefer dictatorship or an "enlightened" monarchy. Far from it, democratising state power can be an important step towards abolishing it. All anarchists agree with Bakunin when he argued that "the most imperfect republic is a thousand times better that even the most enlightened monarchy." [quoted by Daniel Guerin, Anarchism, p. 20] It simply means that anarchists refuse to join in with the farce of electioneering, particularly when there are more effective means available for changing things for the better. Anarchists reject the idea that our problems can be solved by the very institutions that cause them in the first place! If genuine social change needs mass participation then, by definition, using elections will undermine that. This applies to within the party as well, for working "within the system" disempowers grassroots activists, as can be seen by the Green party in Germany during the early eighties. The coalitions into which the Greens entered with Social Democrats in the German legislature often had the effect of strengthening the status quo by co-opting those whose energies might otherwise have gone into more radical and effective forms of activism. Principles were ignored in favour of having some influence, so producing watered-down legislation which tinkered with the system rather than transforming it. the state is more complicated than the simple organ of the economically dominant class pictured by Marxists. There are continual struggles both inside and outside the state bureaucracies, struggles that influence policies and empower different groups of people. This can produce clashes with the ruling elite, while the need of the state to defend the system as a whole causes conflict with the interests of sections of the capitalist class. Due to this, many radical parties believe that the state is neutral and so it makes sense to work within it -- for example, to obtain labour, consumer, and environmental protection laws. However, this reasoning ignores the fact that the organisational structure of the state is not neutral. To quote Brian Martin: "The basic anarchist insight is that the structure of the state, as a centralised administrative apparatus, is inherently flawed from the point of view of human freedom and equality. Even though the state can be used occasionally for valuable ends, as a means the state is flawed and impossible to reform. The non-reformable aspects of the state include, centrally, its monopoly over 'legitimate' violence and its consequent power to coerce for the purpose of war, internal control, taxation and the protection of property and bureaucratic privilege. To attempt to reform these is frankly utopian. At its most basic, anarchists support abstentionism because "participation in elections means the transfer of one's will and decisions to another, which is contrary to the fundamental principles of anarchism." [Emma Goldman, Vision on Fire, p. 89] For, as Proudhon stressed, in a statist democracy, the people "is limited to choosing, every three or four years, its chiefs and its imposters." [quoted by George Woodcock, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, p. 152] If you reject hierarchy then participating in a system by which you elect those who will govern you is almost like adding insult to injury! For, as Luigi Galleani pointed out, "whoever has the political competence to choose his own rulers is, by implication, also competent to do without them." [The End of Anarchism?, p. 37] In other words, because anarchists reject the idea of authority, we reject the idea that picking the authority (be it bosses or politicians) makes us free. Therefore, anarchists reject governmental elections in the name of self-government and free association. We refuse to vote as voting is endorsing authoritarian social structures. We are (in effect) being asked to make obligations to the state, not our fellow citizens, and so anarchists reject the symbolic process by which our liberty is alienated from us." with extracts from the excellent anarchist faq http://www.infoshop.org/AnarchistFAQSectionJ2#secj29