They make em' different in Australia: Parlimentarianism and anarchy

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Antonio de cleyre
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Mar 6 2012 12:16
They make em' different in Australia: Parlimentarianism and anarchy

The considerable majority of Australian anarchists I know are, or have been members of the Greens party- or have close associations with it. I've only ever met two Australian anarchists who supported abstention from voting*, and these were almost apologetic, acknowledging that others might want to vote for the Greens in their no vote campaign materials.

It must be emphaised that these folks are, despite their sympathy for parlimentarianism, otherwise quite orthodox in their theory and practice. They are also quite adamant that they are anarchists and come from a variety of perspectives.

The Greens party are quite decidedly left of the conventional centre, especially the NSW branch. However they are not overwhelming radical- they don't explicitly call for socialism, for example. Most anarchists point to structural features of the Greens- their explicit embrace of federalism, their use of extensive direct democracy with features of consensus decision making for both internal party management and policy platforms etc etc.

I've even met an elected Greens parlimentarian who describes themselves as an anarchist- albeit only in private settings. Personally given some decisions this particular parlimentarian has made I find this a little hard to accept- although I'm always releuctant to set myself up as a judge of who is and isn't a "true" anarchist.

It's certainly true that a number of self described anarchists have been involved in parlimentarianism across time- is it ever advisable for an anarchist to engage in such structures? If so, what kinds of engagement are acceptable, if not- why is such engagement unacceptable. Diverse opinions welcome.

*To be clear, I'm sure I've met more than these two- but it just didn't come up in conversation. On the other hand I've met at least a dozen and a half self described anarchists who proudly state that they vote Greens.

bastarx
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Mar 6 2012 12:50

I'll grant you that Australian anarchism is pretty dumb on the whole, just look at that recent Sedition abomination, but I really find it hard to believe that 90% of the anarchists you've met have been part of the Greens.

Or is this an unrepresentative sample gleaned from a Greens branch meeting? No doubt some of them would wrongly describe themselves as anarchists.

NSW Greens state MP Jamie Parker is an ex-anarchist for example. I believe he was involved with Jura Books in the 90s.

Antonio de cleyre
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Mar 6 2012 12:54
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but I really find it hard to believe that 90% of the anarchists you've met have been part of the Greens.

No I said that 90% vote for the Greens.

I said that a "considerable majority" (probs about 60-70%) either:

-Are members of the Greens
-Have been members of the Greens
-Have fairly close associations with the Greens

I've never actually attended a Greens branch meeting.

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Serge Forward
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Mar 6 2012 13:15
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Most anarchists point to structural features of the Greens- their explicit embrace of federalism, their use of extensive direct democracy with features of consensus decision making for both internal party management and policy platforms etc etc.

Yes yes, but what has all this got to do with anarchism or libertarian communism in any meaningful sense? How do these Australian anarchists you know actually bridge the political gulf that exists between opposition to capitalism, anti statism, free communism versus Green Party politics, active participation in the parliamentary system, support for a 'fairer and greener form of exploitation' and outright collusion with the political wing of the ruling class?

riot_dude
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Mar 6 2012 14:22

I don't know any that are members of the Greens, nor any that used to be (although they may keep that to themselves).

I know plenty who don't vote, and I don't really know any that actually encourage people to vote.

'Uncle' Joe Toscano runs for elections (although he isn't enrolled and in 2004 he ran on a 'vote informal' platform - but he appears to have wanted people to vote for him in subsequent elections). He's a bit of a weird one though and doesn't really have much to do with the anarchist 'scene' (for the lack of a better word).

Yr experiences are at odds with mine.

no1
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Mar 6 2012 16:08

I can't see any problem with anarchists voting in elections, as long as they realise that it's inconsequential. It only becomes problematic if anarchists or anarchist organisations advocate voting (or not voting) as a meaningful political activity.

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jonthom
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Mar 6 2012 17:32

fwiw: in the UK while I've not found many anarchists who support the Greens, I have come across a number of Greens who used to be anarchists, and in general I've come across a bit more mutual tolerance than one would expect between anarchos and, say, Labour or whatever. (this is one of our local Green councillors for example.)

there's probably a few reasons for this; a number of anarchists for whom anarchism is basically direct-action liberalism and so moving to the Greens isn't that much of a leap, plus the less centralised structure, greater likelihood of encountering them in activist campaigns, seeming more chilled than endless trot calls to "build the revolutionary party", etc.

not sure it's that significant in the grand scheme of things to be fair.

jolasmo
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Mar 6 2012 17:56
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there's probably a few reasons for this; a number of anarchists for whom anarchism is basically direct-action liberalism and so moving to the Greens isn't that much of a leap, plus the less centralised structure, greater likelihood of encountering them in activist campaigns, seeming more chilled than endless trot calls to "build the revolutionary party", etc.

not sure it's that significant in the grand scheme of things to be fair.

Jesus remember that Green Party fuckwit on the bus on M26? SAY NO TO VIOLENCE!

~J.

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jonthom
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Mar 6 2012 18:21

First down the hummus mines come the revolution.

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Uncreative
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Mar 6 2012 19:01

Fuck the greens, seriously. You should ask your Green voting anarcho mates what they think of the first Green council in the UKs treatment of travellers, or the German Green party and their fabulous record in power, or any of the other Green parties that have had any success electorally. They're all shite.

Incidentally, my first political meeting was a Green party meeting in Hebden Bridge in the run up to an election. I went because i thought of myself as a libertarian socialist, and was somewhat disheartened by the fact that the candidate they were standing was a small business owner who thought the party should 'move away from socialism' (everyone else was silent or agreed), and bigged himself up for having a couple of solar panels on his house.

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Croy
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Mar 6 2012 21:39

I thought anarchists should not vote and would be pretty adament but 'no1's comment does seem sort of reasonable, i.e do whatever but so long as it is not an anarchist action your taking and you wont see any thing happen that will be anarchist as a result

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Serge Forward
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Mar 7 2012 00:06

Croydonian, it's not so much that anarchists should not vote and it's not really a big deal if some anarchist occasionally thinks it might be a worthwhile thing to do in a certain situation... but anarchists should certainly not be giving any credence to the parliamentary system, or to any organisations that function as parliamentary parties with the aim of 'running capitalism' or 'reforming capitalism' according to their particular political platform.

bastarx
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Mar 7 2012 00:41

For non-Astrayan comrades it's worth pointing out that being registered to vote and voting are both compulsory here. Which might explain the supposed keenness of anarchos to vote Green. However they don't make a huge effort to have everyone registered as apparently around 10% of the eligible population is not registered.

princess mob
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Mar 7 2012 01:12

I don't feel any great need to defend the honour of the australian anarchist mileue, but, like Peter & riot_dude, I'm really curious about your sampling method: I can't think of any anarchists I know who are members of/closely associated with the Greens. (Unless you count maintaining a friendship/calling in favours from Jamie Parker or so on).

I think it is worth pointing out not only that voting is compulsory (well, attending a polling place is compulsory, there's no compulsion to actually cast a valid vote), but that parlimentarianism is really strong in Australia. The history of the labour movement is very strongly tied to the history of the Labor party, which gained a degree of power relatively early by world standards. This isn't an argument for anarchists accepting/advocating parlimentary methods, I'm just saying it makes it harder to talk about other methods without sounding completely off the wall.

As for 'no vote' campaign materials (for whatver they're worth), I remember when working with some people on posters and stuff around the 2007 election, we did make the decision to argue 'don't just vote' rather than 'don't vote'. This was partly because even though we had no love for the Labor Party (or the Greens for that matter), we certainly sympathised with the desire to see the Liberal Party voted out. It was also because we didn't see that not voting, as a single act, was any more meaningful than voting.

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soc
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Mar 7 2012 10:51
Peter wrote:
For non-Astrayan comrades it's worth pointing out that being registered to vote and voting are both compulsory here. Which might explain the supposed keenness of anarchos to vote Green. However they don't make a huge effort to have everyone registered as apparently around 10% of the eligible population is not registered.

Wow, I didn't know that! Do they fine you, if you don't register and you don't vote? But anyway, I guess people give their votes privately, in a cabin, so they can just throw an empty paper in to the ballot box, no?

Compulsory voting... for fuck sake!

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Devrim
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Mar 7 2012 11:05
soc wrote:
Compulsory voting... for fuck sake!

It is not the only country that has it. Belgium and Turkey are two others that immediatly spring to mind.

Devrim

riot_dude
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Mar 7 2012 12:21
soc wrote:
Peter wrote:
For non-Astrayan comrades it's worth pointing out that being registered to vote and voting are both compulsory here. Which might explain the supposed keenness of anarchos to vote Green. However they don't make a huge effort to have everyone registered as apparently around 10% of the eligible population is not registered.

Wow, I didn't know that! Do they fine you, if you don't register and you don't vote? But anyway, I guess people give their votes privately, in a cabin, so they can just throw an empty paper in to the ballot box, no?

Compulsory voting... for fuck sake!

As princess mob notes, you don't have to cast a valid vote.
So if you are enrolled you do have to show up on election day and get your name marked off the role otherwise you get fined. I'm enrolled so I just hand it in blank. I think around 5% of votes are invalid, due to being blank, defaced, filled in incorrectly, etc.

bastarx
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Mar 7 2012 13:40
princess mob wrote:
As for 'no vote' campaign materials (for whatver they're worth), I remember when working with some people on posters and stuff around the 2007 election, we did make the decision to argue 'don't just vote' rather than 'don't vote'. This was partly because even though we had no love for the Labor Party (or the Greens for that matter), we certainly sympathised with the desire to see the Liberal Party voted out. It was also because we didn't see that not voting, as a single act, was any more meaningful than voting.

I'd be embarrassed to admit to such a load of fail.

What has the Liberals being voted out of office got us?

Repeal of Workchoices? In name only.

Withdrawal from Iraq? Only so troops could be sent to Afghanistan.

Withdrawal from Afghanistan? See above.

Better treatment of welfare recipients? You've got to be fucking kidding.

An end to the NT intervention? Hell no, but indigenous Australians did get a meaningless apology.

Gay marriage? Nope, the ALP can't even deliver that holy grail of middle class identity politics.

bastarx
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Mar 8 2012 01:34

I'll just add all of the above was entirely predictable before the 2007 election.

princess mob
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Mar 8 2012 05:43
Peter wrote:
princess mob wrote:
As for 'no vote' campaign materials (for whatver they're worth), I remember when working with some people on posters and stuff around the 2007 election, we did make the decision to argue 'don't just vote' rather than 'don't vote'. This was partly because even though we had no love for the Labor Party (or the Greens for that matter), we certainly sympathised with the desire to see the Liberal Party voted out. It was also because we didn't see that not voting, as a single act, was any more meaningful than voting.

I'd be embarrassed to admit to such a load of fail.

What has the Liberals being voted out of office got us?

Repeal of Workchoices? In name only.

Withdrawal from Iraq? Only so troops could be sent to Afghanistan.

Withdrawal from Afghanistan? See above.

Better treatment of welfare recipients? You've got to be fucking kidding.

An end to the NT intervention? Hell no, but indigenous Australians did get a meaningless apology.

Gay marriage? Nope, the ALP can't even deliver that holy grail of middle class identity politics.

well, if I only talked about things I couldn't be embarassed by I'd have a lot less to talk about...

Look, I agree: you don't need to lecture me about the entirely predictable evils of the Labor party.

My point more generally is that the problem with voting isn't that it's some magic act that actually, say, legitimises the government. The problem is the illusion of change, the idea that you Have Your Say then have to shut up because that's all the say you get and everything else will be taken care of. So whether or not people vote is actually irrelevant: what matters is what else goes on.

These days I'd tend more to leaving the whole sorry mess alone, but saying 'don't just vote' in 2007 was never about supporting Labor or the Greens, or about joining in the general left chorus of 'Howard is the root of all evil'.

It's not advocating voting or supporting any party to recognise that people generally do vote, and that many people are motivated in voting by a desire to get rid of the government that exists, even as everyone knows at the same time that when you kick out one party you're going to get a new government that isn't going to be any better. But that desire for some kind of change could be the starting point for talking about what it would actually take to actually make it.

Anyway, we're getting away from the important question of the thread: why are 60% of australian anarchists in the Greens?

Antonio de cleyre
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Mar 8 2012 09:13

"Anyway, we're getting away from the important question of the thread: why are 60% of australian anarchists in the Greens?"

Again, it's nowhere near this many anarchists in the Greens. I said 60-70% are in the Greens, or have been in the Greens at some point, or have a signficant connection to the Greens (are seriously considering joining, for example.)

bastarx
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Mar 8 2012 10:34

I'm pretty suspicious of the whole "don't just vote" thing too. Why not just say nothing?

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@ndy
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Apr 23 2012 14:53

They make 'em different on libcom.

...what can be said at all can be said clearly; and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.

klaus u
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Apr 23 2012 18:39
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My point more generally is that the problem with voting isn't that it's some magic act that actually, say, legitimises the government.

Voting is nothing but a way to legitimises the government and if you give a vote you say: "I want this party to rule".

As they say: "In an election, a choice is made for the personnel who will remit the laws and lead government business for a certain period of time. Elections sort the members of a community into leaders and led – the latter choose the former to set up a state apparatus whose most important offices are decided by the election and who manage the national business from their offices."

alb
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Apr 24 2012 06:06
klaus u wrote:
Voting is nothing but a way to legitimises the government and if you give a vote you say: "I want this party to rule".

This is not quite true. It's true only if you vote for a party that says it wants to form a government or pass laws. It wouldn't be true if the party said it only wanted to go into parliament to use as a tribune from which to propagate anti-capitalist ideas. And it wouldn't be true if you cast a blank or spoiled vote as a vote for "none of the above".

alb
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Apr 24 2012 06:21

Returning to Australia, I think that in some elections there under the Alternative Vote system for a ballot paper to be valid you have to place all the candidates in order of preference. Can someone here from down under confirm this?

In any event I have an election address issued by the "Socialist Alliance" there for a federal election in 2004 which gives the following voting advice:

Quote:
The Socialist Alliance ... gives its preference to the Greens before the other parliamentary parties.
At elections time the Socialist Alliance puts Labor before the Coalition.
At election time Socialist Alliance places the Democrats after Labor and before the Coalition.
At election time the Socialist Alliance always places the Liberal and National parties after the ALP and the Democrats.
Socialist Alliance always places racist organisations like One Nation last.

This would be the equivalent of saying in Britain, Vote in this order: Trotskyist, Green, Labour, Liberal, Tory, BNP (though I imagine other Trotskyist groups would say vote Labour 2nd and Green 3rd).

So those anarchists in Australia who want a Green government would have to vote for a lot more than that if they wanted their vote to count. Or maybe by just voting Green they knew they were casting an invalid vote?

bastarx
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Apr 24 2012 06:44

Yes you have to put a number next to all candidates thusly 1,2,3...X.

1,2,2,2... used to be a valid vote. However old Maoist Albert Langer found out in the 96 election that although it was valid advocating it lands you in jail. Afterwards the law was changed so this was no longer a valid vote. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Langer

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Apr 24 2012 15:35

Imo, casting a vote for a candidate/party, by which ever voting system, not spoiling the ballot paper or anything, implies you think a type of capitalism, government and policy expresses your political preference. Anarchissts should not vote on principle.
Even if there was an option to write "none of the above" I would not do it, whats the point in that?

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@ndy
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Apr 25 2012 14:31

And when I buy stuff I'm endorsing commodity-exchange.

Therefore, I should stop buying stuff.

"So those anarchists in Australia who want a Green government would have to vote for a lot more than that if they wanted their vote to count. Or maybe by just voting Green they knew they were casting an invalid vote?"

What is I don't even.

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Apr 25 2012 18:38

I would say that is quite diffferent @ndy.

Spassmaschine
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Apr 25 2012 20:38

Well the obvious difference is dropping out of 'commodity-exchange' is a choice between reproducing capitalist relations and reduced quality of life and likely starvation, whereas spoiling your ballot or voting green is rather meaningless either way. In so far as one's name is on the electoral roll and one wishes to avoid a fine, submitting a blank ballot would seem the option requiring the least effort. Writing or drawing something silly might offer a small amount of entertainment; numbering all candidates in sequence with the Greens first has the same (in)consequence for slightly more effort; if that gets your rocks off then that's a bit weird I guess, but whatever.