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Election anarchism more than just doing nothing

Nov 25th, 2011 | By | Category: Latest News, News

MORE than 20% of eligible voters did not vote in the last election and many anarchists will again be part of that statistic this time.

Unlike those who cannot be bothered to turn up on the day, anarchists make a deliberate choice to avoid the polling booths.

Local anarchist Sam Buchanan says there is a cynicism about voting, because to effect real change in society people need to actually participate at a much higher level than just voting or not voting.

Anarchists believe that to achieve a free and more equal society, radical change through direct action is needed.

But he says there is a strong moral argument against voting is anarchists do not want to give their political power over to someone else.

“Voting is an act that says ‘I’m delegating my political rights to another person’ and you’re doing that usually with a degree of ignorance as to what they really stand for, but also with no control on what they actually do.”

Mr Buchanan says when we vote we are effectively hiring someone for a job, who is then able to go and do whatever he or she likes.

“If someone says ‘Do you vote?’ I always say ‘That’s terribly irresponsible – I would never do that’.

“Would you hire me on a contract for three years, where I can’t be sacked no matter how bad a job I do and even if I do the opposite of what I promised to do in the job you can’t do anything about it for three years?”

However, he says some anarchists do vote, usually on the lesser of two evils theory: “You know, we’ll vote for the ones who aren’t quite as bad as the other ones.

“It’s voting without the great expectation that anything much will change,” he says.

With the advent of MMP, some anarchists shifted their focus to supporting the Green Party in the belief that change could be possible through parliamentary politics with a fairer electoral system in play.

“MMP does potentially deliver more power to minor parties but ultimately they have very little power, you may get into parliament but once you’re there cabinet runs the country and the PM gets to pick who’s in cabinet.”

Mr Buchanan says small parties every now and then force some influence on governments but doesn’t see the Greens as having achieved much.

“I’m repeatedly asking Green Party members what they’ve achieved and it seems to come down to home insulation.”

He says it is a good thing but wonders if all the hours put into the Green Party might have been better spent by people just going out and insulating homes.

“I suspect we would have got more insulation done that way than by forming a political party that’s taken enormous amounts of energy and money and volunteer time.”

There is also a concern about the amount of money needed to run a political campaign.

“The system is biased towards the wealthy,” he says.

Another anarchist, Jamie Palmer, says he will not be voting because parliamentary politics is a “divide and rule” distraction which prevents people from uniting.

He says people should not be fooled into thinking that voting gives them some control over how the country is run.

“Elections are a farce deluding people into thinking they have a choice. They don’t. It’s predetermined who wins.”

Anarchists encourage people to put their energy into community projects rather than running and campaigning for political parties.

In the past, New Zealand anarchists have run campaigns about not voting, mostly with a satirical bent, ridiculing the whole electoral system.

In the 1990s, the Mcgillicuddy Serious Party candidates campaigned with the slogan: “I’m running but don’t vote for me. I wouldn’t trust me to run the country.”

Wellington graffiti artists have been echoing an anarchist mistrust of political representation with their message “Keep calm and carry on believing they represent you.”


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