Do Anarchists Vote in State Elections?

It obviously depends on the individual anarchist whether or not they choose to participate in the political process, but I'm writing this piece to point out that the act of voting in state elections stands in direct contradiction with anarchy. If an anarchist chooses to vote, that action has nothing to do with furthering anarchy or anarchist principles. No anarchist worth their salt would pressure other anarchists into voting for their favorite politician.

It almost seems silly to point out how surreal it would be to see anarchists stumping for politicians, but every time election season is approaching, certain self-proclaimed anarchists flood anarchist spaces on social media and try to shame us into voting. They always make dramatic moralist claims like "If you don't vote for this politician, their opponent will put my life in danger. If you don't support this "progressive" ruler, you obviously don't care about (insert marginalized group) lives and are no comrade of mine!"

Voting for a political candidate in a representative democracy is a direct legitimization of their authority - over you and everyone in your community. It's like inviting them to rule you. By voting, you're declaring your support for the system and appointing a politician to act as your political representative for however many years their term lasts for. That politician now speaks for you, makes your decisions for you, acts in your name.

By supporting a politician, you make yourself culpable for whatever actions that ruler then takes during their reign in power. The more power the position has, the more harm they'll be able to do. If you're voting for a president of a nation state, for example, you can bet they'll make decisions that will cause death and suffering for countless people.

There is no way to vote for change under capitalism. The system in a neoliberal capitalist state only exists to serve the elite wealthy classes. To enable them to horde more and more wealth by exploiting your labor and to protect that wealth from you. Socialists who think they can reform the state from within are not anarchists, even if they claim to be. A lot of democratic socialists will claim to be anarchists to get you to support their candidate. They'll insist lots of anarchists have joined their organization. They'll sometimes even claim their candidate will fight for anarchy if they get elected.

Democratic socialists accept the state as a legitimate vector for change and believe it can be made to work for the people if we just elect the right sort of politicians; typically "progressive" liberals that support some friendlier policies and promise to use their power to advocate for social justice.

Anarchists, on the other hand, reject all authority as illegitimate and don't accept being ruled by anyone; no matter how "progressive" the prospective ruler professes to be. Anyone telling you they're an anarchist while trying to get you to choose a "better" ruler, or a "lesser" evil is either lying to you or themselves.

Putting nicer liberals in positions of power might seem like a good idea on first inspection, but it ignores the simple reality that all power corrupts. All throughout history, no system of rulers and obeyers has made us freer. Every single power hierarchy has rapidly descended into tyranny. Giving a person power and expecting them to not use it to cement even more power for themselves is as foolish as Charlie Brown trying to kick the football while Lucy holds it. Power is an addictive drug and people that posses it can no longer be trusted to serve your interests when those interests now completely contradict with their own. The powerful have very little in common with the powerless.

Trying to "fix" hierarchies so they appear, on the surface, to be less brutally unjust, can actually hurt anarchy, because it convinces radicals to compromise and settle-for and grow complacent by accepting a supposedly kinder ruler.

How this typically plays out:

The ruler the radicals helped elect is quickly corrupted by the system that has granted them so much power that their ego is in overdrive. As the "voice of the people", the ruler is convinced they can do no wrong and that their actions are in service of "the greater good" or "the revolution".

The people who promoted and voted for the ruler, after eagerly celebrating their success, will spend the next several years working hard to justify to their egos the increasingly horrible things the ruler then inevitably does while in office.

They'll now spend their energy smugly explaining to everyone who will listen that the ruler's oppressive actions are in their best interests ultimately. That the ruler is simply thinking ahead; playing 3D chess, that compromises have to be made to aid the revolution. That reform takes time. That they can't be expected to not take money from lobbyists or deport immigrants or imprison poor people or wage war overseas because "that's how the system works". They have to work within the confines of the system now so they are able to one day do good; when they have enough power to accomplish it!

The "progressive" politician will soon be indistinguishable from every other politician shilling their way up the hierarchy, and their radical supporters will have abandoned every radical inclination they ever had to justify supporting their "team". Empty revolutionary rhetoric will have replaced anarchist methods like direct action and mutual aid, and words like "socialism", "progressive" and "revolution" that were used in the political campaign will have been stripped of all their value and meaning, convincing everyone that socialism is just more of the same and not worth fighting for in the future.

The wonderful thing is, the people that stumped so fervently; shaming everyone into voting for their shiny new ruler will never have to accept any culpability for their part in bringing the ruler to power. The whole point of democracy is to shift responsibility from the individual to the intangible and indomitable system. The institutions of democracy work hard to convince the individual they have no right to self-determination beyond casting a vote for the system's pre-approved ruler A or pre-approved ruler B.

See, only the system can provide for you, citizen. Trust in the system. The system is great. Don't fight the system. You can't defeat the system. Just ask the system for freedom and maybe you'll be granted some - If the system is feeling generous anyway. Vote for ruler B today!

Anarchists! Pull yourselves together. Capitalism and statism simply cannot be voted away. As Emma Goldman famously said:

If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal.

by ziq


There are 48 Comments

This is like veganism for voting. And reads like the person who wrote it isn’t even old enough to vote.

even non-anarchists don’t vote, for non-anarchist reasons. if you vote it means you’re a nerd that likes doing queues to feel important.


“If you vote for someone and they win, you are culpable for everything they ever do in office.” really...this is not how ethics work. Unless you’re living a life of nonstop total illegalism then you’re responsible for everything that happens because you paid for stuff or whatever. If you want to look at it that way, fine- you will stress yourself out half to death within a few years, but at least be consistent and not just preachy: what actually makes voting so much worse than work and consumption on a material and ethical vs. totally symbolic and abstract level? I have voted in iffy congressional elections because the more dems in the more chance there will be more funds for the social services that I and a lot of my community depend on, so that we have more of our lives free to do something more interesting than merely surviving. I vote early and it takes me 2 minutes to fill out the card. It’s not my ideal at all but it’s just something I’m able to do because of how shit works right now, and I take 2 minutes every couple years to do it if I think it’s worth the effort. But please don’t let me stop you from preaching about righteous anarchist purity. It will amuse me. Try not to get popped for shoplifting though.

You sound kind of defensive, jabbing your finger at a hypothetical illegalist who's judging you.

I just think the burden of proof lies with the "anarchist" voter to explain how they can reconcile an anti-state position with democratic participation in that government.

Like, you're the one making it complicated, not me. Vestigial liberalism makes for some contradictions, I get it. I'm far from "pure" but my position is more coherent than yours.

my pureness is more positional
my vestigial is more appendix
my kink is jabbing my finger at the judging illegalist

Illegalism is a natural extension of the most basic anarchist reasoning, not so for voting.

Clarity of thought is the only "purity" that interests me. Also water purity ... Ok there's a few other kinds ... Whatever! Go vote in an election loser!

i meant jabbing my finger in a sexual way, consensually, because illegalists turn me on. also, something about “natural extension”. and how could i have clarity of thought when my mind is clearly in the gutter?

This illegalist is hugely turned off by your voting. Maybe you should swear off it and up your chances with the cool kids?

the thing is, i am not the voter anon. voter anon left to vote or something liberal. it’s been me (flirty nonsense tease anon) since it got fun ; )

Is that you dear? Thinking yourself considerably more clever than you actually are? As usual?

we’ve not talked to or met before, but thanks for calling me dear, it’s the kind of interaction i’m lookimg for ; )
i’m also the anon who posted the jokey nonsense comments on the cop post. i don’t vote, and last elections my patents didn’t vote because they got caught up binge-watching a netflix series. they’re not “woke” by any standard. how much of a masochistic naive bootlicker do you have to be to want to vote?
(harsh language is virtue signaling, i’m actually very empathetic towards voters. if voter anon returns maybe they can join us in our illegalist fingering) ; )

if that's what you call me...w/e

coherent positions and other rhetorical sleight of hand are second nature for white male settlers...i don't think i have anything to reconcile. i have the right to vote so i use it as best befits me & my class; i have no illusions about its outcome being ideal. i also have a driver's license and i drive on roads paid for by taxes; hbu?

i think you are both ridiculing my interpolation of a "hypothetical illegalist" and also larping as that illegalist by portraying yourself as "coherent". when you settle on which you are i guess we can get into it more.

Oh wow ... Are you for real? Time to break out the dime store psychoanalysis here cuz look at this gold mine! If you're just a troll, I'm humbled by your brilliance but let's assume you're serious cuz it's more fun!

You imply I'm a "white settler" and that somehow relates to your bullshit defence of liberal garbage and then, barely missing a beat, accuse ME of rhetorical trickery! A classic bit of projection. Too good!

You should probably fuck off back to Facebook if you need to throw IdPol liberal smoke bombs every time somebody points out how you're not making sense. That shit don't fly here lol

Why vote when i can have group sex or take a nap or any other enjoyable thing that will have more of a positive impact on my life?

Voting is not some position or activity; it is a ritual of political reification. Many people know already the basics, that those you find on the list of candidates were pre-selected, that you never choose which power they'll have, if any, and for the time they are into office they just can tell you to fuck off and do whatever some rich contributors tells them to. How many more books you need about it?

Some of you are deeply stuck into ideology, that you forgot that institutions aren't taken down this way... simply by arguing with some people. It's useless to be convincing people against voting when they still work, pay their taxes, respect the Law even when not under direct constraints, and so on. It's an entire system build out of institutions that most people, likely including YOU, are supporting.

You know why this isn't insightful? Choice. There's literally no reason that an anarchist has to vote in countries where it isn't penalized in some way, therefore they must opt to do so … for reasons (that aren't anarchist).

These other institutions you speak of usually deploy varying degrees of coercion. Apples and oranges comparison.

Unified anarchists can do whatever their owned desires drive them to do, including voting, but let me make this very loud and clear, sensualist nihilists DON'T VOTE !!

When one weighs up all the consequences, voting has always led to Auschwitz one way or the other, of a popular elected scapegoat of all cultures, because all ideologies need easy defenceless scapegoats. Listing all democratically chosen indigenous genocides in the preceding four centuries of slaughter is an arduous task. Why just pick on Hitler, he was your grandfather, your lover, your own elected hero!

appeal to power (ie landlord) if there is a dispute, with say, a noisy twat of a neighbour, etc., etc. So what's the big deal with voting or not?

You're coming here to ask us that? Why don't you ask those involved in the first place, i.e. the duped voters that still believe in Santa Claus, then you may have better-informed questions to ask around here?

difference to the millions that do vote. Also, why is working, paying taxes, rent etc etc, which also supports the system,allowed but voting is a no-no! Anarchists can be so dumb. Voting can alleviate some suffering for some so why be so ideological about it? Anarchists, purer than pure is that it!

anarchists (and others) do often find ways to not work and/or not pay rent. voting, unlike those things, is entirely (in most places) voluntary activity. so the comparison is odd.
that said, there are certainly arguments for reform, but whether reformists/reformism could be described as anarchist, that's perhaps a question worth more than your comment gives it.

Exactly. Even calling cops in some specific context may be an option that's very hard to overcome as anarchists, for how the socio-political conditions can make it nearly mandatory to call the cops. What makes the real difference between the common sheeple and an anarchist is how the latter may be re-evaluating what's the best thing to do in a given context, and would try to avoid calling the pigs if there are little constraints to it. The sheeple calls the cops out of an inherently cowardly insecurity sentiment and also blind trust in official authorities. There's nothing ever rational about it.

"a few anarchists not voting makes no difference to the millions that do vote. "

Which can be rephrased as: "one of a few individuals makes no difference to whatever the millions are into. So what?

Because a billion people gave their lives away to Fedbook, I should?

Authoritarian idiocy at its finest.

Voting is a mass psychological process, it's not defined by acute individual calculative dynamics. It makes NO sense to vote from a game theory perspective for instance. Voting is determined by elective psychological body structures. IF you have an interest in a result going one way or the other then what you want to do is take part in the upstream debate and discussion on the given issue and take the fruits of the voting results later on. A preferential voting result is based on these prior reified collective mindsets that manifest in electoral bodies on election day.

Now the obvious problem with voting is the psychological reality that structures it which can only be authoritarian and hierarchical. The reason why anarchists don't vote is because they believe in solving problems more directly. Not voting is part of the process of defacing the currency of voting. Even if you have a personal interest in a result your ONE vote will probably not determine it. It's in the hands of which electoral body of voting is stronger and that the way you help determine that again is by taking part in pre/non-voting upstream debate discussion. In either even, just stay home and masterbate and see if the psychological structure goes your way.

I basically agree, it made me cringe, and I voted.

Good thing none of y’all can tell me what to do :)

i voted once, the first time i was able to, for the novelty, try anything once sort of deal you know, but not since.

speaking of trying things......; )

"Good thing none of y’all can tell me what to do "

Well the people you voted for DO!

Let's not.

I have always believed in the use of every tool in the toolbox-and that diversity of tactics cuts both ways. I endorse those who voted against Trump and I endorse those who fought against him in the streets on Jan 20 or at any time before or since. In war you concern yourself with winning more than with purity, or you find yourself focussed on the consequences of losing. The question of endorsing those who voted against Trump and who may vote him out in 2020 (or even those who might impeach him before then), is rather like the question faced by the YPG/YPJ of whether or not to accept help from the US in their fight against Daesh, the common enemy of all in that region.

It was once said that Hitler won a key vote (not sure if it was an election or a bill in the Reichstag) by a single vote. What would you do if you had a time machine, a pair of ballots valid for that vote, and a partner to cast a second vote? Almost any of Hitler's rivals would have made WWII shorter by being less effective, and probably the Holocaust would not have happened at all.

The holocaust would have happened with or without Hitler, Stalin perpetrated a hidden holocaust, and voting is a State-building tool.

Suppose you have two parties both wanting to build a pipeline through your tribe's land, but both of which consider it a low to moderate priority. They hate each other on some other, higher priority so you vote to divide them, half from one party and half from the other, with the intention of gridlocking debate on that other priority so they don't get to the pipeline bill at all. This is a simple example, but the overall point is that tools used to put something together can also be used or "abused" to take it apart.

Never, ever rely on politicians and voting, we all understand that. What is in debate here is using something (or condeming others for using something) that although NOT reliable can throw up additional roadblocks in what our enemies are doing. Sure as hell Trump is weaker since the last election-and that might make the Wall/No Wall difference.

I didn't think about that! Thanks, I'm revising my whole take on voting and going to start using it that way, without looking like a liberal dork when I go to the voting booth!

Why the hell do people keep insisting they're arguing against a "purity" strawman?

That's been smacked down multiple times in this thread and countless times elsewhere. Voting is fuckin stupid and doesn't do anything and a serious anarchist position doesn't require that we rehash why. It's not about "purity".

Even your hitler example is weeeak. Pure conjecture at best, likely liberal historical revision at worst.

Once again, voting outcomes are determined by which electoral body process is more quantitatively superior to the other, that's it. It's an INHERENTLY homogenizing psychological process that anarchists should be pouring water on. The way that you stop Hitler is to libertarianize the world before during or after ww1 and prevent the further integration of state capital and labour which made Hitler and the holocaust possible to begin with. There is no democracy to be found in this process. Just insurgent federations and society disowning individuals.

In 1933 the Social Democratic Party decided that Hitler had to be defeated in the election for president. So they campaigned and voted for von Hindenberg, a very conservative (but not fascist) general. Apparently they believed that fascism could be defeated through elections. Hindenberg won. After some maneuvering, Hindenberg appointed Hitler as chancellor. (Hitler never won a majority in a vote.) So even in this extreme situation, when the choices were all or nothing (unlike today, when Trump is very bad but not a fascist), voting for the "lesser evil" did not work.

It is significant that the recent Shutdown finally generated serious talk of a "general strike" of federal workers or at least of airline workers. This is a major reason the Shutdown was ended; it could not be permitted to reach such a level. This is the direction in which to look: independent popular action.

Okay, Wayne, perhaps you aren't dreaming too high and there was indeed a growing possibility of general strike. You're in a better position than I am to know this. Yet even at that... what this would have meant in the current geopolitical context?

What would history say about the Social Democrats if they had said Hitler was no better or worse than any other candidate, stayed home from the election, told their followers to do the same, and Hitler in the end was either elected outright or installed by Hindenburg?

Would you condemn someone for asking a politician in the Reichstag to vote NO on the Enabling Act, or for more potently threatening to release compromising information about that politician if they didn't vote NO?

"It is significant that the recent Shutdown finally generated serious talk of a "general strike" of federal workers or at least of airline workers. This is a major reason the Shutdown was ended; it could not be permitted to reach such a level." Hahahaha... No, you're dreaming.

External context, bro. The Shutdown was pushed through an offer the Democrats had to refuse. Putin knew it, and yet he failed. The U.S. government has been the target of a soft war since 2016... which goal is to weaken the world's biggest superpower and fuck it up through a debilitating internal political conflict, where the most potent anti-Russian officials get sacked. Some of it has worked.

Other question: What was the major external conflict happening during the Paris Commune?

The premise of the article is all wrong. The question is not what an individual anarchist or a few isolated anarchists should do during an election. I don't really care; it doesn't make much difference either way. The question is what we anarchists advocate should be done by big movements and large numbers of people: the unions, the African-American community, LGBT people, organized feminists, the environmental/ecological movement, etc., etc. I say that we should openly advocate that such powerful forces (which are generally the base of the Democratic Party) should not put their energy, money, and human power into the Democrats or any other electoral activity. Instead they should be doing union organizing, community organizing, local strikes and general strikes, mass civil disobedience, popular street demonstrations, and general hell raising. This is the direction in which to go, the only effective way to stop the right and to move toward a revolutionary perspective.

In 1932, the Social Democrats should have sought an alliance with the Communists and other leftists to organize a general strike if Hitler were elected. They should have, for several years before this, been organizing united front actions to drive the Nazis off the streets, break up their meetings, shut down their newspapers, and defend all left meetings, halls, and papers against the Nazis (such a strategy had been advocated by the anarchs-syndicalists in Italy in the 1920s against the Fascists, but the Socialists and Communists would not participate). Social problems are not solved through electoral activities.

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