To Vote or Not to Vote: For Anarchists, Is There Only One True Way?

By Tim Hjersted / filmsforaction.org
May 31, 2015
4
To Vote or Not to Vote: For Anarchists, Is There Only One True Way?
People can say with conviction and confidence that voting will never make a difference - but it's still a belief, and possibly one that may be too ideological for our own good, as it can skew our perception of reality.
 
I can think of many examples where voting has made a difference, especially when you look to other countries beyond the US. Voting never led to the pure anarchist dream revolution, but holding out for something pure like that in the current political climate may be as much a fantasy as believing wholeheartedly in voting.
 
I certainly don't put much faith in voting. But saying it never will or never has made a difference is pure belief. A more accurate belief in my opinion is that voting is currently the least effective tool in the activist toolbox, but it can still have its uses.
 
My commitment remains centered on putting 99% of my time and efforts into activist organizing, amplifying indy media and other non-electoral solutions.
 
I think it's fine that we can all do different things. Some can vote, some can not vote. Some can do a 90/10 split between activism and election politics. Some can do 99/1 (like myself), some can do (100/0) and some can do 70/30, 40/60 or any other combination if they really want to.
 
All of these are better than 0/0, which is a far greater problem than whether people put energy into voting or not. Honestly if more people upped their participation on the activism side, it would make this whole debate about whether to vote irrelevant. If both the vote and non-vote sides can agree that we should put most of our efforts into activism, then the whole debate about that last 1% of our time becomes a moot point.
 
I think that it's interesting that anarchists have gained a reputation for trying so hard to convince everyone to act the same as they do (100/0 as has become the popular norm). 
 
Whatever happened to a diversity of tactics and a plurality of complimentary perspectives? There's some serious irony here because it's as if the pure 'never vote' anarchists want everyone to be like them, and if you don't agree, then you're a 'fake anarchist' or a 'filthy liberal'. This sounds like ideology and dogma to me, using shame to get people to conform. 
 
The idea that all 'true anarchists' don't support voting is also false. Notably, Noam Chomsky, one of the most prominent modern 
anarchists, supports voting. And Crimethinc, a well-known collective in anarchist circles, promoted the "don't just vote" position in a 2004 political campaign (PDF), encouraging direct action as a more effective activist strategy, while avoiding getting mired in the 'vote/don't vote' debate entirely by stating that it is simply the least effective strategy to have a say in society. 
 
There are certainly dozens of good arguments to not participate in electoral politics, but there are also anarchists who are aware of the limitations of voting but choose to also put a few minutes into voting for practical purposes. I don't think either choice is 'the one right way.' But the arguments for anarchists participating more in elections, and not less, are pretty compelling. They're worth considering, at least, before deciding to stick with the don't-vote stance.
 
By all means, if you don't want to vote, please carry on and don't change.

I just think that encouraging people to do what they want and doing what you want yourself seems more anarchist to me than telling everyone we've all gotta think and act the same.
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