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+1 vote
There are some laws and policies that are really damaging. I'm sure we can find many examples, but for the sake of argument, let's use the drug war. Could direct action currently have the possibility of directly stopping the racism, criminalization, murder, and imprisonment of so many people, in the face of the state and all of the violence at its fingertips? If political pressure and voting are an effective option in ending the drug war, are they still unacceptable to most anarchists, even in the face of the tremendous suffering caused by the drug war?

Voting can never be anarchist in nature, but what about as a tool of anarchists? Are direct action and voting mutually exclusive? Can any attempt at stopping state violence against a population be considered inappropriate action? Does reform mean less to be oppressed by, but not enough to revolt... thereby serving the oppressors in keeping us complacent?
by (2.5k points)
edited by

1 Answer

–3 votes
Sorry to say this, but no, no, no.  "It's not the people who vote that count. It's the people who count the votes." (Josef Stalin)  The past twelve years of presidency have been quite sufficient proof that  voting does not change the man's mind whatever. If you really think George Bush and Barack Obama were elected by popular opinion, I don't know what I can do for you. The same goes for congressional decisions.

Also, if you're registered to vote, you're only participating in the government and also paying taxes to buy nice big shiny bombs.  

by (140 points)
Political pressure has changed things. Without the threat of state violence, would desegregation have happened? I wish I knew more history to further explore this question, but the major victories I can think of were enforced by the state through legislation and policy. Do you have any counter examples where direct action was the decisive factor?

Has anyone read Graeber's Direct Action book? Anything to add?
Do you have good examples of when legislation was the decisive factor? There are always minor victories in which the masses are satisfied to the point of not bothering the former elite but, the idea is still not to change the system, it's to live outside if its control.

I can only say that direct action is the decisive factor, when you take that action toward removing control from your life.

never herd of this book, but, I want to, do you have an isbn or full title?

Well that's my other question-- even if the ultimate end is anarchy, does that make it wrong to make palliative efforts in the face of oppression? It seems like a privileged position to say that we have to wait for a revolution before resorting to electoral politics if direct action isn't doing the job.

wtf? we have to wait for a revolution before resorting to electoral politics?!
what the fuck does privilege mean here? that the poor starving people who have been made to starve by the system we're fighting wouldn't be starving if we worked in the system?

some bullshit liberal reformism up in here all of a sudden.
No, but perhaps the imprisoned and criminalized people of the drug war wouldn't be suffering if we worked in the system. I don't see direct action ending the drug war before legislation does. It was the courts that ruled NYCs Clean Halls policy unconstitutional, and will help to end the NYPD's racist Stop and Frisk policy. Cop Watch didn't do it. Cop Block didn't do it. Political pressure and an ACLU lawsuit did it. Of course we're not going to end hunger but for other forms of oppression that people are being seriously damaged by, I think this is a valid question. This is anarchy101, right? Am I just supposed to know what to think already and accept ideas without critical thought?

Could you make your point more clear? When direct action doesn't work and people are getting fucked up, what do you do? Are you just saying legislation never helps anyone? Maybe there are some simple critiques of reformism that you could present?
Legislation never helps anyone but those making and then enforcing said legislation. Those with enough power already are the ones who initiate the legislative process. Sometimes they have good intentions (liberals), sometimes not (conservatives), but it matters little. The result is Law, which means criminals, which means more power to police, courts, and prisons. Legislation helps those people who like the police and courts and prisons.

Simple critique of reformism: it increases people's dependence on and support of the state.
Thanks lawrence. I'm at a loss as to how to avoid increasing dependence on and support of the state while actually stopping the damage, before the state is stopped.

Are y'all saying, for ex., that ending the violence of the drug war through legislation is not worth reinforcing the majority of people's steadfast belief in the state? Or are you saying that legislation can't do that? I have to argue with the last point- a number of countries have decriminalized drug use and treat it as a public health issue which has stopped criminalizing and killing people.
And yet it can be - and is - argued that decriminalization is the opposite of legislation...

Removing a given activity from the purview of the police and courts and prisons is not the same as expanding the power of the cops. But if you take a broader perspective of how decriminalization is proffered as a strategy, it is always merely an acknowledgement of legislators that the activity is so widespread that it makes no sense to try to curb it through punishment.

In short, you are making two different (and some might say, opposite) arguments at the same time.
Ok yes, decriminalization is not legislation (de-legislation?). Well then is voting for removing drug war laws/policies not worth strengthening peoples belief in mediation and representation?
Now you're changing the subject by bringing up the question of relative worth. You are no longer discussing strategy but morality.
I feel like I was always asking that. That's the troublesome part for me-- I just don't see a solution by way of direct action to the drug war, and I feel like I ethically can't stand by and watch it destroy people. I can point and shout and decry and state and capitalism and police etc. for creating this mess and try to organize on a grass roots level but it's no match against the destruction, not to mention the damage to 'South American' countries. So yea I guess my question is, can I morally justify letting this war continue because I don't want to reinforce electoral politics/mediation/state/etc. by voting?
You're asking the wrong question for this website and for most of the people who post here. Most of us do not hold to ideas of morality any more than we hold to ideas about rights.

However you justify your own actions is up to you. You do not need to have people you've never met approve of them, and you shouldn't ask us to anyway.

The problem is bridging the immense gap between what you say you want (voting and improved legislation) and what you say you want to support (direct action and grass roots organizing). You can certainly do both if it amuses you, but principled anarchists will call you out on the contradiction. Especially if you justify your actions using moralism and rights-based arguments.