The Anarchist Case Against Voting and Elections

Choose or lose? Hillary Clinton? Barack Obama? Ron Paul? Choose and lose!

Anarchists are opposed to voting in elections and participating in election campaigns. Anarchists think that direct action and other alternatives are more likely to result in a better society than electing Candidate X to political office. Anarchists are also anti-statist and anti-hierarchy and see electoralism as contrary to our goals and practice. And much of so-called "democracy" is bogus and undemocratic, as over half of Americans who don't vote understand.

Anarchist Perspectives on Voting and Elections

Making history or just repeating it?
This is, of course, not the first time Marxists have urged us to the polls. Marx himself argued working class to take part in bourgeois elections and institutions. The net effect was simply to prove his anarchist opponents right. The "revolutionary" Social Democratic Parties across the world quickly became bureaucratic, top-down and opportunist. Revolutionary rhetoric simply disguised a deeply reformist practice. When the First World War broke out, the bourgeois chickens came home to roost in the "socialist" parties -- across the globe, the "socialists" supported their ruling class in the conflict.

As Decision 2004 approaches, the apathetic masses rage through the streets
At some point between now and November, 2004, another too-familiar American ritual will begin to be acted out, as the predictable litany of complaints are lodged against the American populace. The less-than-1-in-4 turnout of eligible American voters will be analyzed, and the causes mourned. On the editorial pages of newspapers across America the citizenry will be portrayed as too lazy, too apathetic to bother to stop by their local polling station and mark an X on a ballot. With great sanctimony, readers will be reminded of the blood that was shed to preserve the sacred right to select one's leaders.

Anti-election activities in Montreal and Quebec City
by Jaggi Singh
MONTREAL, November, 22, 2000 -- In just five short days, like sheep to slaughter, millions of so-called citizens of the Canadian state will be heading to the polls to exercise their "right" to choose the men and women who will invariably screw them over for the next 3-5 years.

The truth about electoral politics
by Michael Chisari
We hear constantly that the USA is a "democracy", as though everything that occurs in this society is due to the will of the people. This is completely false, and any basic knowledge of history and political science will prove this point.

Never Mind The Ballots!
by Sabate Anarchist Collective (NEFAC)
The fake democracy that the ruling class uses to control us will prove once again this fall that we have no voice in their political game.

Voting booth

Electoral politics "is a shell game;' don't vote
by Kevin Keating
IN MY neighborhood, the Mission, many tenants, working people, desperate housing activists and even a few self-styled anarchists are elated by Tom Ammiano's surprisingly strong showing in the Nov. 2 election.

Review: Anarchists, elections and democracy
A spectre (to paraphrase Karl Marx) was haunting the ruling class of most European countries in the aftermath of the French revolution in 1798. That spectre was democracy.

The Green Dilemma
by Brian Leslie
I have no confidence that the Green Party, if it ever succeeds in forming a government, will have managed to retain its present determination to devolve power ...

Voting Anarchists: An Oxymoron or What?
by Boston Anarchist Drinking Brigade
While historically anarchists assiduously avoided any involvement with electoral politics, in more recent times, at least in the united states, some anarchists have advocated voting. The arguments these voting anarchists put forward are generally the same as those put forward by other leftists who are unable or unwilling to completely sever their connection to the political process.

Why Anarchists don't vote in Elections
by Workers Solidarity
We are used to being promised the sun, moon and stars in elections only to receive cuts, cuts and cuts. Is this just because all politicians are liars or are there deeper reasons? Abstention from elections has been an anarchist tactic from the time of Bakunin. In this article we look at some of the reasons anarchists advocate abstention/spoilt votes.

No Political Solutions
by Laure Akai
Over and over again the Russian people are told that if they elect the right politicians, reforms will be carried out and their lives will be better.

If voting changed would be illegal
by Ray Cunningham
Over the centuries, thousands of people have fought and died for the right to vote in free elections. From wars of independence, to the women's suffrage movement, to the struggle against apartheid, the right to vote has been seen as a necessary part of freedom and equality.

Vote for peace by staying home
by Colman McCarthy
Citizens who believe that America's international conflicts should be solved with military violence should vote. Those of the opposite bent - that military violence is immoral, ineffective and an incalculable waste of public money - should not vote.

Parliament or Democracy?

From the 1850s onwards, against a background of great new wealth in society and a working class that was more independent and resourceful, the 'problem of democracy' became urgent for the rich and powerful. In general wealth was rising throughout society, but so was the greed of those who owned the new factories, mines and plantations. The key question was: what was to be done about the general demand for democracy, and about the incessant clamour for political rights which, during the revolutions of 1848, had almost got completely out of hand?

Maintaining their privilege and wealth while generally conceding a semblance of democracy was the principal aim of the 'rich and privileged' during the second half of the 19th century. Parliament is a means of diffusing democracy, of channelling real struggles into a safe dead-end. Time and time again it has become a graveyard for the workers' movement.

SPECIAL FOCUS: Why Democrats and Republicans are different sides of the same coin

John Pilger:Bush Or Kerry? Look Closely And The Danger Is The Same
A myth equal to the fable of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is gaining strength on both sides of the Atlantic. It is that John Kerry offers a world-view different from that of George W Bush. Watch this big lie grow as Kerry is crowned the Democratic candidate and the "anyone but Bush" movement becomes a liberal cause celebre.

Mickey Z: A brief history of the Democrats
Jimmy Carter was a president who claimed that human rights was "the soul of our foreign policy" despite making an agreement with Baby Doc Duvalier to not accept the asylum claims of Haitian refugees. His duplicity, however, was not limited to our hemisphere; Carter also earned his Nobel Prize in Southeast Asia. In Cambodia, Jimmy Carter and his national security aide, Zbigniew Brzezinski made an "untiring effort to find peaceful solutions" by initiating a joint U.S.-Thai operation in 1979 known as Task Force 80 which, for ten years, propped up the notorious Khmer Rouge under the all-purpose banner of anti-Communism. "Small wonder present U.S.-originating stories about the Khmer Rouge end abruptly in 1979," says journalist Alexander Cockburn. Interestingly, just two years earlier, Carter displayed his "respect for human rights" when he explained how the US owed no debt to Vietnam. He justified this belief because the "destruction was mutual."

"Candidates say "vote for me, and I will do so-and-so for you." Few believe them, but more important, a different process is unthinkable: that in their unions, political clubs, and other popular organizations people should formulate their own plans and projects and put forth candidates to represent them. Even more unthinkable is that the general public should have a voice in decisions about investment, production, the character of work, and other basic aspects of life. The minimal conditions for functioning democracy have been removed far beyond thought, a remarkable victory of the doctrinal system." -- Noam Chomsky

Anarchist FAQ: What do anarchists do instead of voting?

Why are gays and lesbians supporting Clinton

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.

Anarchist FAQ: Does rejecting electioneering mean that anarchists are apolitical?

Gun Control Poster

No. Far from it. The "apolitical" nature of anarchism is Marxian nonsense. As it desires to fundamentally change society, anarchism can be nothing but political. However, anarchism does reject (as we have seen) "normal" political as ineffectual and corrupting. However, many (particularly Marxists) implies this reject of the con of capitalist politics means that anarchists concentration on purely "economic" issues like wages, working conditions and so forth.

Surely we should vote for reformist parties in order to show them up for what they are?

Some Leninist socialists (like the British Socialist Workers Party and their offshoots like ISO in the USA) argue that we should urge people to vote for Labour and other social democratic parties. This is because of two reasons.

Firstly, it is argued, radicals will be able to reach more people by being seen to support popular, trade union based parties. If they do not, then they are in danger of alienating sizeable sections of the working class by arguing that such parties will be no better than explicitly pro-capitalist ones.

The second argument, and the more important one, is that by electing reformist parties into office the experience of living under such a government will shatter whatever illusions its supporters had in them. In other words, by getting reformist parties elected into office they will be given the test of experience. And when they betray their supporters to protect the status quo the experience will radicalise those who voted for them, who will then seek out real socialist parties (namely the likes of the SWP and ISO).

Anarchists reject these arguments for three reasons.

Whoever you vote for, government wins

Anti-Voting Websites

Edible Ballot Society


The Anarchist Case Against Clinton, Gore, and the Democratic Party
Anarchists Go to the Republican and Democratic Conventions