Do Anarchists Vote?

Thanks to Lois for the question!

Generally, Anarchists are against voting. For a number of reasons:

On principle, it provides legitimacy to the government and the system.

Anarchists don’t believe there should be rulers who decide things for others. Representative democracies try to solve this by allowing the people to choose who makes the decisions. But voting is still choosing the rulers, it just feels nicer.

Participating in that system by voting provides it with legitimacy and approval. It allows those in government to say “See? The system works. The people are voting”.

Voting pacifies the people.

Voting gives people the illusion that the rulers are representing them, are working for them, or that the government is them (“A government of the people, by the people, and for the people”). When in reality it is clear that most politicians represent corporate “persons” more than their living, breathing constituents.

And for many people voting is the only legitimate way to engage in the system. And governments like it that way because it is a release valve for discontent: “Oh something is wrong? Don’t change the system, just change the people. It’s the [Republican’s, Democrat’s, Fill-in-the-blank-party-here] fault! Just vote for us!”

“For non-corporate human citizens there’s a ‘Democracy Theme Park’ where we can pull levers on voting machines and talk into microphones at hearings. But don’t worry, they’re not connected to anything and nobody’s listening except us”. – Jane Ann Morris

It doesn’t change much either way

Beyond the theory and the principle, I think the main reasons Anarchists don’t vote is because we don’t see it change much and we don’t see much of a difference between candidates.

When your politics are so different than the main parties, the candidates look more and more similar. Do you want the left wing or right wing of the Capitalist Party?

It’s like voting between two Republicans or two Democrats. Imagine choosing between McCain and Romney for President. Yes, you could find some differences. And I bet in a campaign they would seem huge and important. But really, the differences are small. So why spend a lot of energy choosing?

Alternate answer from A.K. Applegate:

Yes! And also no! Anarchists have historically had a variety of views about whether or not one should vote. Some say you might as well because it only takes five minutes and there’s at least a slight chance you will advance our goals of a world based on liberty, equality, ecology, and solidarity. Others say that voting means you’re consenting to this intolerable system and if you wish to maintain your moral integrity, you can’t take part willingly in the state’s legitimizing procedures at all.

The one point almost all anarchists agree on is that the state and the capitalist class will never let us vote away their power. Our dreams cannot fit in their ballot boxes and voting is, at best, only going to win small reforms; at worst, it siphons away energy and attention from efforts that can really change things: direct action and revolution. Emma Goldman said, “If voting did anything, they’d make it illegal.” Every two years we have a national election in the United States and things always seem to go the same way they’ve always gone, the elites do whatever they want and urgent reforms that solid majorities of the population want never materialize. It’s not that anarchists oppose democracy, far from it; it’s that we think the electoral “democracies” in the world aren’t real, and participating in them is a waste of time.

So what do you do on election day? Whatever the fuck you want, whatever you think will help and can still sleep at night after doing. The important thing is what you do every other day besides election day. Are you waiting for the next election, or are you getting people together to force change, whether the powers that be like it or not?

What do you think? Do you vote? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!

Looking for Collaborators

I am restarting Ask an Anarchist soon! Yay!

And it would be way more fun and interesting to do this with a team (or at least a partner). Would you or someone you know be interested in answering questions about Anarchism?

If so, please contact me here. Thank you! 🙂


Branches in a Storm


Epic blanket fort at The Academy

Last winter, there was a slight freeze followed by a strong wind storm that blew down brittle branches and downed many trees in Eugene. Power was out for a lot of the city and there were branches everywhere. In response, the community house where I live made a rockin’ blanket fort in the living room and watched the Lord of the Rings. A good time was had by all (except probably for the city workers who had to clean up the mess).

The next morning, a bunch of branches blocked part of the sidewalk near the house. They stayed there for probably two weeks while city workers focused on more important power outages and major blockages.

A small vision of anarchy

As I walked around the branches blocking the sidewalk, I realized that in an anarchist society, they would have already been cleaned up. The day after the storm someone would have gone out, seen the damage, asked a few neighbors for a saw and some assistance, and the neighborhood could have removed the branches in a few hours. Maybe other neighbors could have cooked dinner for the workers and there could have been a nice potluck afterwards where people could warm up. Everyone could have gone home feeling a little closer to their neighbors, knowing they helped contribute to the well being of the community.

But, of course, that didn’t happen. There are many reasons it didn’t happen: People are tired after a long day of producing wealth and leisure for others; there are no (or few) pre-existing ties between neighbors, making it awkward to knock on a stranger’s door; it could take away the city workers’ jobs; we are told that it is not in our interest to do work that doesn’t directly benefit us; and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were illegal for individuals to clean up storm debris. Everyone waited for the City to take care of it for them. How much faster could the roads have been cleaned if people felt empowered to take action?

Where did the power go?

This is a minor example of a much larger problem. The current system discourages people from solving problems themselves so they will depend on other institutions (government, businesses) to solve problems for them. Everyone is trained and taught to give away power to someone else: First at school, then in jobs, and in government, we are always deferring to someone else to make decisions. So, when something needs to get done, we expect someone else to take care of it, like they do everything else.


Do we really need a product to hold used apple cores? And you could eat way more of that apple!

You can see it in the government, which makes new laws for every little nuisance. You can see it in the court system, where people turn to the government to solve interpersonal problems.And you can see it in products that solve non-existent problems.

“When ignorance reigns in society and disorder in the minds of men, laws are multiplied, legislation is expected to do everything, and each fresh law being a fresh miscalculation, men are continually led to demand from law what can proceed only from themselves, from their own education and their own morality.” – Kropotkin

Let’s stop deferring


So let’s stop deferring! Even if it’s just a little bit at a time, it’s a good muscle to strengthen. Next time there is a storm, I will ask the neighborhood for help so we can clean up as a community. It will remind me, and others, that we don’t need other people do to everything for us and can accomplish great things if we work together. And the next time there is a need, it will be that much easier!

Can you think of any other examples where people defer to others? Is there anything you’ve thought about doing with a community? Let us know in the comments!