Sunday, October 10, 2004

Another Round With Some 'No Voting' Anarchists

Debate On the Slogan, 'Don't Just Vote'
from Chicago Indymedia

By Makhno
07 Oct 2004
Let's change that slogan around a little bit, shall we? Instead of "Don't just vote", make it "Just Don't Vote!". Remember, no matter who you vote for, the government wins. Why are so many so-called American "anarchists" so reluctant to take a hard line against voting?


by Carl Davidson
07 Oct 2004
Maybe, Makhno, its because they don't want to sound like aristocrats or Southern segregationists, who have always deplored the idea of the rabble going to the polls.

Must be the ongoing impact of the American revolution, the extention of the franchise after the Civil War, the Chartists in England, the Women's Suffrage movement, and the 1960s fight for the right to vote for Blacks in the South. Some ideas are just pesky and seem to stick around...

by Pagan Anarchist
07 Oct 2004
Yeah, this statist thing has been a pesky idea that americans seem unable to shake off. That so called revolution could only get up the gumption to take a baby step towards freedom. Time to unload the baggage and demand the whole thing. It simply cannot be done by voting. Do what you will but expect the same old results and understand you perpetuated it.


by Carl Davidson
07 Oct 2004

Re: Pagan 'It simply cannot be done by voting.'

Well, Pagan, I can't think of anyone the left who thinks it can be done ONLY by voting. There are some who think it can be done MAINLY by voting, but I'm not one of them.

Given the fact that we have 'polyarchic' or 'dollarocracy' elections, rather than far more democratic contests, I can understand your disdain, but why give up the tactic altogether?

In fact, how do you run a society, or even a large organization, without having folks registering their opinions and getting the lay of the political landscape? Consensus is fine for small groups and Quaker meetings. But on larger scales, we debate, propose, vote, elect delegates, hold them accountable, etc, don't we?

There are some examples of societies where folks don't vote, such as the feudal "organic communities" under absolute monarchs or pharonic slavocracies, but I assume that's not what you mean.

I always assumed anarchism meant 'No Rulers' (An Archos, from the Greek), but not 'No Voting', so tell me more about what you DO mean....


by Makhno
08 Oct 2004

Carl, You have hit the nail on the head. The larger, more formally-structured and more complex an organization is, the more likely that some form of political decision-making such as voting will have to be employed. As an anarchist, I see several problems with voting:

(1) It is a form of domination. One individual or group is imposing their will on another individual or group through the process of majority rule.

(2) It is a binary, yes/no form of decision/making, with no allowance for uncertainties, ambiguities, or changes of opinion (unless one waits for the next formal election).

(3) It is impersonal and dehumanizing. Through voting, one is reduced to an interchangeable number or statistic.

If an organization is so large and complex that voting seems to be the only option for making decisions, then perhaps people should question the rationale for such a social structure in the first place.


by Effortless Struggle
08 Oct 2004

carl wrote: 'But on larger scales, we debate, propose, vote, elect delegates, hold them accountable, etc, don't we?'

No. Actually we do not do any of those things.

The "debates" are exclusionary to candidates who might truly represent anyone.

We propose and are unheard.

Most of us do not vote. Those who do vote are not counted, and can be easily contradicted by the electoral college.

We do not elect delegates. We do not elect representatives. "Government is the shadow of big business cast onto society." Read Chomsky and consider it.

Hold them accountable. Oh yeah, we have the means to do that. When will you realized that this system is rigged against its subjects.

Finally, no one can represent my interests better than me. Fuck the vote.

On the other hand, Carl. It was a good try to use some historical explanations for why to use the slogan "Don't Just Vote." I would say they are mostly verosimilar but not accurate reasons for why this language has been chosen.

Primarily, anarchists believe in "Just Don't Vote", but using "Don't Just Vote" gets us beyond the fruitless, endless debate as to whether or not voting matters and onto more productive ACTION. Action being something Makhno may be unfamiliar with.

So we're saying: go take 10 minutes or whatever to vote, and then what are you doing in the rest of your life? Of course, the weakness of "Don't Just Vote" is that it doesn't encourage people to move beyond campaigning for candidates, which I think pagan anarchist and makhno would both agree with me that this needs to be encouraged.

Of course, I would encourage anarchists to stop wasting their time on campaigners and go out to the masses that do not vote, do not campaign and start making connections there.


by Carl Davidson

09 Oct 2004
RE: Effortless

I think you mixing up two things here, 'Effortless.' My description of a democratic process was not of our current electoral setup, which I described as a 'dolloracy' worthy of some disdain, but of how we try to run our own large-scale organizations beyond the consensus method appropriate to smaller groups. We should work toward a society where its actual elections are far more democratic, but we're not there yet by any means.


by My Two Cents
10 Oct 2004

I would agree with Carl along these lines; the act of voting itself takes little effort or time, and from that little effort/time there could be some beneficial change for some people.

I don't think the presidential election has enough legitamacy to even cast a ballot for a major candidate, but it may be worth the few minutes it takes to pick various local representatives and judges that aren't racist or homophobic if there are any running.

What I have a real problem with is people calling themselves progressives or activists, and spending months or even years doing little but electoral organizing, ala Carl D.

What a waste of time and energy, and I do wonder how some people feel being sold out by candidates they've been asked to support. I suspect pinning hopes for change on political candidates leaves many feeling disenfranchised and disempowered. That's the point if you ask me.


by Carl Davidson
10 Oct 2004

'Two Cents' Says: 'What I have a real problem with is people calling themselves progressives or activists, and spending months or even years doing little but electoral organizing, ala Carl D.'

Sorry, 'Two Cents', but I'm not a very good example for your argument. My main orgainizing over the past five or more years has been in the community technology movement. We've build CTCNet-Chicago, a federation of about 75 CTCs in low-income neighborhoods, plus I worked of the national board of CTCNET, where we have 1500 CTCs across the country. Aside from that, I've worked with ex-offenders fighting for job training, helped build antiwar mass actions, and engaged in ongoing theoretical work around globalization through the Global Studies Association.

In the past, it's true I worked in the Harold Washington Campaign, I've helped a bit in Helen Shiller's campaigns, with my local alderman, Rey Colon, and helped the New Party/ACORN in a few races.

It's also true that I've been speaking up on Indymedia defending our Peace & Justice Voters 2004 registration and GOTV drive against it's anarchist and left critics, but I'm never been an "elections are the main thing" guy.

[If you're interested, look it up on,,,, and ]

But even so, what's wrong with folks who are? Progressive electoral work is a lot more than 10 minutes in a voting booth. It's really getting to know all your neighbors, building independent block, precinct and ward clubs, doing ongoing political education, protests at city hall and congressional offices, building alliances with other progressive groups to work together, etc.

Most on the left would agree, I think, that at least at some phase of the effort to radically transform this country, the people are going to have to create, among other things, dynamic popular organizations that can win seats and even majorities in legislative bodies, even if only to prove decisively - not just to a handful, but to millions - that extra-parlimentary means are required to carry the struggle through to the end.

What wrong with some folks starting that process now? If it's not your cup of tea, don't bother, but why trash folks who do?

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