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+1 vote
Hello guys!
So, I live in Costa Rica and elections are in less than 3 weeks (February 2nd, to be exact). I'm 15 years old and, although I can't vote, I'm worried that the people are just going to continue obeying the State and supporting the status quo. I also want to say that, even though I don't consider myself an anarchist, I have the urge to do something. But, before even deciding what I'm going to do, I wanted to ask you guys what I could do to create consciousness about the State's actions. I won't probably do something with a major impact since people my age aren't really taken seriously, but at least I can think of something to do in the next 4 years... Or you could also convince me of not doing something and just being patient, which sometimes is better than doing something stupid.
Anyway, thanks for your help.
by (130 points)
ummm, not sure what you're worried about. people are definitely going to continue obeying the state and supporting the status quo.

since you take yourself out of the realm of anarchist, but are posting on an anarchist site, i'm not entirely sure what you're asking for.

but in general to someone who a) is raising the topic of elections, b) seems alone, my suggestion would be to consider elections a time when people think about things that they don't normally (perhaps) think about, like what the government has NOT done for them, and has done TO them, and whatever conversations you get into with people, to encourage them to think of themselves as capable and able to solve their own problems (or at least of that as a goal worth having).

and to look for people who you like to talk to about these topics, and build relationships with them (to the extent that that's appropriate--or maybe a little bit past that extent).
Well, that was more like an explanation of one of my concerns...

I wanted to see some anarchistic ideas to this situation, so that's why I posted this question here. I should've been more specific with that...

Well, thanks for your answer. It seems pretty reasonable :)
Last time there was an election in the country I live in, I stayed in bed and then wrote a pretentious comment on facebook about the flaws of representative democracy and had an argument with my friends about how voting in such elections is both useless because it cannot and will never bring about meaningful change and about how it is potentially detrimental because it leads to political dis-empowerment. So having successfully alienated my friends and having not voted for any fascist oppressors, I felt quite good about myself and went to practice my shooting skills.

3 Answers

–1 vote
There are anarchists who believe that voting is just validating the state (probably the majority of anarchists) and that is certainly very true.  But some parties are still marginally more tolerable than others.

I live in the UK and the three main parties are the Liberal Democrats, Labour, and the Conservatives.  Although all three are effectively the same party, the Capitalist Party, they are all slightly different.  The Conservatives are quite right-wing and work almost exclusively for the capitalists (with the occasional suggestion of a nod to the working classes  to either win votes or avoid revolution). Labour are, in theory, the party of the working classes, though they aren't and never have been and their policies are, generally, ever so slightly less oppressive than the Conservative's.  The Liberal Democrats are the most left-wing of the three, though they still work almost exclusively for the capitalist class they do slightly less harm and slightly more good than the other two.  In truth the difference between the three is marginal, most people don't even notice it, but it is there and it makes a difference for some people, usually society's most vulnerable.

By no means am I telling you that you should vote.  Chances are your vote won't mean a thing because you live in a "safe constituency" anyway.  But if you live in a constituency where your vote could make a difference to people's lives then it is surely worth taking that into consideration.

Just remember that we can't vote our way to a better society.  All political parties work in the interests of themselves, capitalists and/or other powerful institutions.  The most you can achieve through the electoral system is minor benefits to a few people's lives.  It is entirely up to you whether you think there may be benefits in your particular situation (and with whatever political beliefs you have).
by (290 points)
Should that read "If you accept that exclusively using direct action is a non-negotiable principle for anarchists..."?

As I tried to make clear (but possibly didn't), voting is not the way to an anarchist society, it is merely a "socialist activity" (my term for an activity that won't bring about revolution but may improve the lives of some).

While I absolutely do reject representative-based decision making, I am stuck in a situation where decisions relevant to me are going to be made by somebody "representing" me.  I have no choice about that at the time being.  The only choice I have is who is going to "represent" me (not that there actually is much choice or that my voice could be loud enough to change anything).

If it were a choice between direct action and voting then every anarchist should absolutely choose direct action.  Fortunately there is nothing to stop us from doing both... until the revolution, when the ridiculous idea of representative-based decision-making can be dropped altogether in favour of syndicalism ;)
It is absurd to think that you have a choice about who will represent you in a parliamentary system. Please read this:
i would say the issue with voting is that no matter what you vote for, what gets passed will be used by people who want the opposite of what we want, which is more power in the hands of the state.
"It is absurd to think that you have a choice about who will represent you in a parliamentary system."

It is also absurd to think that I would have to reiterate my opinion: you have almost no choice over who will "represent" you.  There is a small opportunity, for those in the right areas, to make a small difference.

And please don't throw Bob Black at me (that article wouldn't load for me, by the way).  I'd actually rather live in a capitalist society than a primitivist one, there is less poverty, less suffering, less oppression and many other benefits.  In fact, I'd even rather go for an anti-statist neoliberal's (ancap) ideal society.

"i would say the issue with voting is that no matter what you vote for, what gets passed will be used by people who want the opposite of what we want, which is more power in the hands of the state."

And exactly the same will happen if you don't vote.  At least voting can, in the right circumstances, keep out the more zealous parties and slow down the neoliberal progress.  Surely it is better to have a party who will revoke 10 important regulations than one who will revoke 20 of them, a party who will slightly increase minimum wage rather than one who will leave it as it is (or even reduce it), a party who might at least consider a ban on fracking rather than one who wouldn't consider it under any circumstances.

Like I've tried to point out, the differences between the main parties are small (microscopic even), but it can still make a difference.

Once again, I'm not telling people they should vote and I'm not saying it is the way to a desirable society.  It is merely a (sometimes) potential way to make a small difference.  It won't make the world a better place, but it may slow down the rate at which it becomes worse.
Alright then, here's Malatesta:

"In many countries, the proletariat participates nominally in the election of the government. This is a concession which the bourgeois (i.e., proprietory) class have made, either to avail themselves of popular support in the strife against royal or aristocratic power, or to divert the attention of the people from their own emancipation by giving them an apparent share in political power. However, whether the bourgeoisie foresaw it or not, when first they conceded to the people the right to vote, the fact is that the right has proved in reality a mockery, serving only to consolidate the power of the bourgeoisie, while giving to the most energetic only of the proletariat the illusory hope of arriving at power.

So also with universal suffrage – we might say, especially with universal suffrage – the government has remained the servant and police of the bourgeois class. How could it be otherwise? If the government should reach the point of becoming hostile, if the hope of democracy should ever be more than a delusion deceiving the people, the proprietory class, menaced in its interests would at once rebel and would use all the force and influence that come from the possession of wealth, to reduce the government to the simple function of acting as policeman."

or Colin Ward:
especially here
"But it is the anarchists who, for well over a century, have been the most consistent advocates of conscientiously staying away from the poll. Since anarchism implies an aspiration for a decentralised non-governmental society, it makes no sense from an anarchist point of view to elect representatives to form a central government. If you want no government, what is the point of listening to the promises of a better government? As Thoreau put it: ‘Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence. A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight.’

The various streams of 19th century anarchist thought were united together in their opposition to participation in elections. Most of them shared with the early Marxists the view that the State was simply the executive committee of the ruling classes.

Political democracy, they declared, was just a facade concealing the real effective power of the owners of capital and land. If the workers withdrew their labour power the capitalist class would be impotent and its State would fall to pieces. For the anarcho-syndicalists, every industrial dispute was to be fought through to the bitter end with no compromise. The culminating general strike would make the ruling class powerless and the people would take over through their own forms of industrial organisation, providing goods and services. under workers’ control. Parliamentary elections were not merely irrelevant, they were a ruling-class conspiracy to divert workers’ attention from the real struggle."

–1 vote
If you accept that direct action is a non-negotiable principle for anarchists, then it follows conclusively that all anarchists must reject electoralism and other forms of representative-based decision making. It's really that simple.
by (570 points)
+1 vote
Here is my ultimate attitude about participating in politics: I don't do it, but I don't think of it as being a tactical way of making the "world a better place". as was said before people will continue to obey the state and fool themselves with its delusions of a "better future". Putting yourself in the mentality that you need to somehow change this puts you in the same from of mind as everyone else who is paying close attention to election season and arguing.

Just do whatever is in your best interests....if you can think of some fun way to screw with the normal order of things then do it, but don't act out of a sense of obligation or moral fear.
'the same frame of mind' - (minor typo, happens to all of us)

The phrase that comes to mind here is 'Throw the brick that's at hand.'
I agree wholeheartedly that elections could be an opportunity to screw with order, my intentions though tend more to malice than humour.
Voting won't change the system - it's not just anarchists that see this, most people do given the low turnouts to the ballot box.  But the political spectacle shoves the issues of society and governance into everyone faces - why not exploit that temporary consciousness (and inate resentment)?  We know that whichever lying candidate buys their way into office, they will be bought off and betray their supporters - why not plant worms in those supporters' minds now, that will hatch when they realize they have been betrayed, rather than leaving fallow their anger resentment and alienation?  ('Hows that hopey changey thing goin for ya?')  Infiltrating a political campaign office might be worthwhile, in certain circumstance, given the vast amounts of personal data they now collect on people.
I would connect this to the questions about jury duty/nullification, and similar ideas - we don't respect these aspects of the State, and we don't expect them to make our lives less miserable in any sensible way, but that doesn't mean we wouldn't fuck with them given the opportunity  rather than just standing off to the side with our noses in the air.
like i said, whatever you want to do, im just making an egoist argument. Just avoid fear based thought that drives the political system, like "we could become like nazi germany if we don't vote democrat!!", its not any different than "we MUST fight the system, think about how bad things are gonna be!"
"Just do whatever is in your best interests"

This is why anarchists tend not to bother with post-leftists.  Exactly what is the difference between post-leftism and capitalism again?
Your studious avoidance of the actual arguments being made, while endlessly intoning "post-left equals capitalism" marks you as an ignoramus.
leftisteve, have you read the answers/questions here about what post-left is? and what we consider to be the salient points?
i'm curious about the questions that you respond to here, which are not about what you believe (ie, you're not explaining points about anarcho-syndicalism), nor do you ask questions of what we think (which presumably you'd do on the threads that have to do with post-left definitions, etc.)...
i would not call you an ignoramus, but you do seem more interested in swinging blindly than in making your swings count for much...
Reading "post-leftist" texts is counter-productive when you encounter post-leftism wherever you go.  I've seen "post-leftism" in action too much to be concerned with what it theoretically is.  In actuality it is a movement based on the following ideas:

1) Attack any suggestion of helping anyone.  If your actions are not entirely self-motivated then you aren't a post-leftist.  This seems to be the primary activity of the typical post-leftist.
2) Either bomb the working classes or at least advocate bombing the working classes.  Simply not being socialist is not enough, post-leftist seem to feel a desperate need to actually attack the people that actual anarchists try to help and work with.  Because a lot of people don't realize that post-leftists are not anarchists this leaves us with the bad name that your lot deserve.  The media are only too happy to blame us for your crimes.

And that's it.  Post-leftism (or anti-leftism, or, most accurately of all: anti-anarchism) in a nutshell.  If this isn't what post-leftism is about then maybe it would be worth telling a post-leftist or two.

Also, the reason I don't bother to do more than point out that post-leftism (anti-anarchism) isn't anarchism is because the one lesson any potential anarchist can learn from this site is that it has nothing to do with anarchism and if they want to know more they should ask an anarchist.  Anything I write here will get downvoted to oblivion and verbally attacked for not advocating the slaughter of the working classes.

Incidentally, if you don't like my definition of post-leftism then perhaps you would be kind enough to change the name of this website to "postleftism101" and stop giving people false information about anarchism.  Then I'll leave you alone and won't bother you with my very accurate definition of post-leftism.
Delusions. Everything you don't like is "post-leftist," just like anything a Stalinist doesn't like is "fascist." Get a grip. As someone who was present during the time the tendency that is called post-left anarchy by its proponents was coalescing, I can assure you that nobody I know advocates anything like what your boogeyman caricatures do. Of course you won't believe me because you're too busy denouncing other anarchists for not being like you to actually try to read two or three pages -- let alone two or three paragraphs. Good luck with your dogmatic 19th century perspective and strategies. Your lack of understanding of history and the development of anarchist theory makes you irrelevant. Let us know when you've started your anarchist revolution comrade.
I don't criticize anarchists, only post-leftists.

If you don't think post-leftists are like that then you should look at what is being advocated by post-leftists on sites like "anarchist"news.  Like all post-leftists they are only interested in the "criminal" aspects of anarchism (an inaccurate stereotype, but what do you expect from a post-leftist?) such as stealing, bombing and vandalizing.  Anything that might actually help somebody who needs help is shouted down as "leftist", "workerist" or any of your other silly insults.
oops, hit the wrong button (hence the "edited by"; nothing was changed, i promise)...
it's pretty ridiculous that your examples for post-leftist activity and/or beliefs are still nonspecifics like "things on anarchistnews"... not only are you not giving any particular example, but anews is known for its trolls, humor, and chaos.
you're doing a pretty pisspoor job of actually explaining your bile, instead of just demonstrating that you have some.
"anews is known for its trolls, humor, and chaos"

They call themselves post-leftists and, according to your own standards, that's all that matters.  We anarchists have to constantly explain that we are not selfish, arrogant, violent, anti-civilization, anti-work (what the hell does that even mean anyway?), anti-socialist, anti-technology, anti-organisation, or any other post-leftist ideas so now it is your turn to be labelled according to what people who label themselves post-leftists say and do.

As long as post-leftists attempt to sabotage the anarchist revolution I will do my utmost to associate the worst elements of anything remotely post-leftist (such as primitivism, "anarcho"-capitalism, spiritualism, spoilt rich kid rebellion (you know, before you go off to become investment bankers like daddy wants), attacks on the working class (like that primitivist guy who isn't Zerzan did.  Sorry, I don't want to dignify that murderer of wage slaves by actually remembering his name) all the rest of it) with post-leftists in general, whether they advocate the same policies or not (that's what we have to put up with).  There is so much crap coming from post-leftists that I have plenty to work with.

Why is it the only "activism" post-leftists want to do is to discourage activism?  If you people stopped working to the benefit of capitalism, statism and religion and instead put that effort into tearing those institutions down we might actually start getting somewhere.  But you'd much rather launch assaults on anybody who dares to suggest helping others.
"Why is it the only "activism" post-leftists want to do is to discourage activism?  If you people stopped working to the benefit of capitalism, statism and religion and instead put that effort into tearing those institutions down we might actually start getting somewhere."

well good question....why don't you start voting and supporting the state, then we would actually have true democracy! If it weren't for such lazy apathetic anarchists like yourself, we wouldn't have those lousy republicans blocking all of the democrat reforms!
is this guy a troll?
i would say this guy is an example of why "troll" is a term of limited usefulness. if you're asking if they're *only* posting to get a rise out of us, i don't think that is the case (although it's probably true that they enjoy the ideas of us getting riled up).
but maybe intention doesn't matter for someone to be trolling?
you decide!

also, ted kaczynski! ted kaczynski! what do i win?!

edit: RS666 - i guess the answer is just yes. sigh.
"also, ted kaczynski! ted kaczynski! what do i win?!"

You won the chance to show your support for murderers of the working classes.  Well done, you passed your post-leftist test with flying colours.
rs666:: (ok i'm ignoring the intervening bits...)

I agree with your answer, and mostly with your comment, my comment was mostly undirected thoughts - rereading that the tone may have seemed off without the context.
T.K. is supposed to have killed precisely 3 people. They were:

1985: Hugh Scruttona, a computer store owner
1994: Thomas J. Mosser, executive of PR firm Burson-Marsteller
1995: Gilbert Murray, president of timber industry lobbying group California Forestry Association

This somehow makes your (anarchisteve's) claim of 'murderer of wage slaves' rather laughable. I would even go so far as to say it makes me suspect your claim to be motivated by ideology rather than fact... but that may be going too far out on a limb.

PS I had to look all this up on wikipedia, I guess I'm not a very good post-leftist :'(