Anarchism and Democracy - Starting The Revolution

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LeighGionaire
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May 22 2004 22:42
Anarchism and Democracy - Starting The Revolution

Why won't Anarchists take part in democratic elections?

I understand that the ultimate goal of Anarchism is to do away with both government and capitalism, but surely it is logical to take part in a democratic election? Otherwise how do you know that the majority of people hold the same views as yourself, thus 'justifying' the cause so to speak?

If Anarchists are unwilling to resort to armed confrontation with the state then the ONLY option left is the democratic process, surely?

How else are we going to get the ideological revolution we are all striving for?

Mike Harman
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May 22 2004 23:28

If no real choice is offered, people should at least go in and spoil papers - the only way to register dissent within the electoral process without actually voting.

Anonymous
May 23 2004 00:35

I'm quoting (sort of) some blokes who work at mcdonalds:

"If I vote Labour I can work for £4.20 an hour, if tory £4.10 an hour, if Scottish Nationalist I can earn £4.10 an hour and wear a kilt, Liberal Democrat £4.10 an hour and wear woolly jumpers"

All politicians are thieves and liers.

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Spartacus
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May 23 2004 11:44

the reason anarchists don't engage in electoral politics, apart from the usual stuff about all politicians being wankers, power corrupting so any "anarchist" politicians would become corrupt, and the fact that if we criticise other politicians for being power hungry people will then be suspicious to say the least if we say "but if you vote for us we will do what we say we will", there is the fact that electoral politics goes completely against anarchist principles.

with electoral politics you are asking people to hand over power over their lives to you so that you can deal with them, whereas anarchists want people to empower themselves, and sort out their lives directly with those affected by the decisions. if some "anarchist" party got a large amount of votes (which is unlikely anyway because of the various biases within the system, but in the hypothetical situation that they did), that would not necessarily mean that anarchism was popular. the only way to know if anarchism is popular is if people start organising themselves in anarchist ways to run their own lives and resist the system that prevents them doing so.

also, anarchists aren't unwilling to resort to armed confrontation with the state, we just don't do it as an elitist force trying to make a coup, and prefer to do it when the odds of success are reasonably high so that there isn't unecessary sacrifice.

LJOS
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May 24 2004 13:27

Though obviously there will never be an 'Anarchist party', and shouldn't be, I'm not sure that simply not voting is useful at all; pragmatically, since we don't have a 'fill in blank' like some countries do, there's no difference between not voting due to apathy and not due to protest. Also, isn't a vote against the BNP and other bastards something to be proud of? And no vote at all rather helpful to the party in Government? Choose the lesser evil, my friends.

Oh, and indulge me: what is 'spoiling papers'? LJOS is but a lowly teen and hasn't even been able to vote before...

Steve
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May 24 2004 13:55

You can't vote against the BNP you have to vote for someone. It's not a case of the lesser evil it's a matter of principal. If you stand for the politics of direct action in its widest sense then you can't say you're against voting except when the fascists are standing. We should stick to our ideas and not look for easy options.

A spoilt paper is when you go to vote but write something on the ballot paper or don't put a cross against anything.

LJOS
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May 24 2004 14:24
Quote:
You can't vote against the BNP you have to vote for someone

Erm, I realise that much! wink I was talking about voting tactically so that the BNP don't achieve any gains. In my opinion they are fascists, or at least fascistic, and certainly are standing...

Quote:
It's not a case of the lesser evil it's a matter of principal.

Unfortunately, it seems to be the principle of 'all or nothing', which I don't think will get Anarchists anywhere.

How does spoiling a paper 'register dissent'? Surely all papers that are spoilt, regardless of the reason, just get lumped into one category? Same as my 'not voting as a protest might as well be the same as not voting due to apathy' argument, isn't it?

Steve
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May 24 2004 15:15

The way to stop fascists is not through voting. I live in the North West so who do I vote for to stop the fascists? In the local elections anyone, even Tory if they have the best chance? (Actually the BNP getting councillors has gone against them in Burnley where they have shown themselves to be just as useless as the rest.)

In the European elections Respect? Green? More and more people are not voting and part of that can be put down to apathy but I think most because of an increasing distrust of the system. It doesn't help if the one political current who have constantly called for people not to vote then start saying vote in certain circumstances.

The whole system is set up to absorb pressure for change into acceptable channels. Of course the state will say that not voting is down to apathy, we have to go beyond that argument and build an alternative based on direct action.

Ceannairc
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May 24 2004 23:10

My answer to the point about how to overthrow government without armed revolution:

1. Get most of the people in the coutry on your side. This is probably the hardest part, but surely we need the support of a significant majority before we can start a revolution anyway. You can't force freedom on people!

2. Prepare anarchist alternatives to government and hierarchial businesses.

3. Boycott ALL government activity. No taxes, no government workers, no government. 650 arseholes cannot run the country from London without workers, money and supplies.

To those who don't believe that a peaceful transition is possible, see what happened in Georgia last year:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3229266.stm

"The country's armed forces have so far not intervened in events, and it is unclear whether they would enforce the state of emergency called by Mr Shevardnadze [the ousted president].

Armed personnel carriers have been spotted on Tbilisi's streets, but security forces allowed demonstrators into parliament - some even offering words of encouragement, says BBC correspondent Chloe Arnold.

They later made no attempt to stop protesters storming the presidential residence."

LiveFastDiarrea
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May 24 2004 23:41

But what happened in Georgia was just a change between one mainstream party and another. There was no threat to the state people just wanted it to be slightly different. They may as well have just called a new election for all the change that was made.

Ceannairc
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May 24 2004 23:52

true, but it was the change that people wanted. If anarchism had been as popular, then it might have been an anarchist state by now. My point was that the army is made up of ordinary people who decided not to intervene even though it meant violating their orders. That means that it IS possible to make a largely peaceful transition and so avoid blood in the streets etc.

Steve
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May 25 2004 07:47

Ceannairc,

1. I don’t think it’s as necessary as you think to have the majority of people converted to anarchism; there will always be a lot of people who will ‘go with the flow’ as it were.

2. Yes we have to build alternative structures so there is a practical example of how to organise in every aspect of our lives. In the workplace, the community and in our social and cultural lives. Only then will people be able to experience organising in a different way to the hierarchical methods we have all been brought up with.

3. Will come in time. Once 2 is achieved we start to make more and more demands until there is a stand off between the state and the workers’ organisations. Of course it’s at this point (if not before) that the state will resort to repression and violence and its than we have to be ready to defend ourselves and push forward.

That’s not a blueprint, just an outline. We have to start the preparations now even though these things are a long way off. That’s why I believe we have to start building anarchist organisations within our workplaces and our communities.

LeighGionaire
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May 25 2004 12:00
Steve wrote:

3. Will come in time. Once 2 is achieved we start to make more and more demands until there is a stand off between the state and the workers’ organisations.

The vast majority of people in the U.K work in non-essential jobs. If they went on strike it would make little difference to the government I.M.O.

Personally I still don't see much of a problem with Anarchists standing in elections. What is wrong with working from within the system and destroying it from the inside out? I think that would be a far easier option then trying to destroy the system from the outside. Also, it gets the principles of Anarchist theory to a broader spectrum of society. Mention Anarchism to most people I know and they think it's something to do with the old punk movement and the Sex Pistols!

Steve
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May 25 2004 12:15
LeighGionaire wrote:
Personally I still don't see much of a problem with Anarchists standing in elections. What is wrong with working from within the system and destroying it from the inside out? I think that would be a far easier option then trying to destroy the system from the outside. Also, it gets the principles of Anarchist theory to a broader spectrum of society. Mention Anarchism to most people I know and they think it's something to do with the old punk movement and the Sex Pistols!

It may seem like the easier option but what you would end up with is certainly not anarchism. One of the principles of anarchist theory is direct action. How can we justify working within a system that is diametrically opposed to all our principles? The ends and the means must be compatible otherwise we are no better than those we criticise.

There is nothing to stop you trying this method. Just don't pretend it's anarchist. As Joe Strummer once said "He who fucks nuns will later join the church"

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JoeMaguire
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May 25 2004 13:07

Leigh, talk about elections is really about which direction you intend on taking. So I think its more to do with practicing a means by which power can be devolved to the individual rather than misplaced somewhere else.

But really I think its important to understand the logic of your tactics in the long and short term. For example central to why I dont believe in an anti-fascist vote is because a fascist vote is fueled by the failure of the centre-left governments which attack the workers they claim to represent, so a vote for these guys bolsters apathy and resentment.

But Id be interested to hear where you think and how we could participate in elections, there was quite a good article I read about the Sinn Fein tactic being adopted by anarchists, in that you stand for election but on winning you would refuse the post arguing the power you got was wrong/trivial etc. This seemed more pragmatic than some would like but the reality is that, 1) elections are very time consuming and costly, 2) the impact you have would have is questionable. But im not going to lecture someone if they voted, I just think its tactically incorrect.

Anonymous
May 25 2004 18:37
Quote:
I was talking about voting tactically so that the BNP don't achieve any gains. In my opinion they are fascists, or at least fascistic, and certainly are standing...

In terms of voting tactically so the BNP won't get in, it does put you in a dodgy position. Think about it this way: The people who vote BNP ARE legitimately pissed off. The white working class of Britain HAVE been fucked around by the successive Labour and Tory governments. By telling people to vote Labour or Tory to keep the BNP out of office you're asking people to vote for the same people that made them turn to the BNP in the first place! Looking at it like that, it seems mad to call for people to vote Labour to keep the BNP out. Fucking hell, try going to a run down estate and tell people to vote Labour! You won't make any progress that way. If you encourage people to vote Labour (or anyone else) you're just perpetuating the conditions in which the BNP thrive.

What we're saying is that people shouldn't vote for anyone coz none of the parties will improve our day to day lives, not even the BNP. We need to build our alternatives within communities and encourage DIRECT ACTION against the fascists. If you see your local BNP activist, give them a slap. BNP leaflet comes through your door, get some mates together and confiscate them. Give them no space for their ideas. They're cunts, treat them as such. I'm proud to be part of this tradition of militant anti-fascism spanning back to the 1920's against Mussolini.

PS This is my first election and I'm not even registering. I don't care if 'they' (whoever 'they' are) think I'm apathetic. Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you different...that's all I care about.

Mike Harman
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May 25 2004 19:54

Spoilt Papers:

Yes, spoilt papers are counted indiscriminately but are generally seen as a form of protest (rather than not being able to put a tick in a box - that's more unlikely no?) than apathy. Also, I'm not sure about this, but I have a feeling that if something legible is written on the ballot paper, the person counting it has to stand up and read it. Tiny audience, but still.

There's not usually more than a few dozen spoilt papers, so they're generally ignored. But I always thought it'd be interesting to do a "spoil your paper" campaign - if 20-30% of papers were spoiled, those numbers would be pretty much unheard of and show real dissatisfaction with the electoral process - it'd be hard for people to say that the public is apathetic, or that the low turn-out was due to the weather or something, a big turn-out by people who wouldn't normally vote, only in order to deface papers (plus the extra time for the counting clerks reading them out) would at least make news.

LeighGionaire
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May 26 2004 23:57
Brizzulz wrote:
I'm quoting (sort of) some blokes who work at mcdonalds:

"If I vote Labour I can work for £4.20 an hour, if tory £4.10 an hour, if Scottish Nationalist I can earn £4.10 an hour and wear a kilt, Liberal Democrat £4.10 an hour and wear woolly jumpers"

All politicians are thieves and liers.

Well that could be because there is no 'Anarchist' option to vote for.

Also, just because all current politicians are thieves and liars doesn't mean it has to stay that way.

LeighGionaire
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May 27 2004 00:10
GenerationTerrorist wrote:
the reason anarchists don't engage in electoral politics, apart from the usual stuff about all politicians being wankers, power corrupting so any "anarchist" politicians would become corrupt, and the fact that if we criticise other politicians for being power hungry people will then be suspicious to say the least if we say "but if you vote for us we will do what we say we will", there is the fact that electoral politics goes completely against anarchist principles.

But aren't Anarchist principles based upon 'voluntary association'? It could be argued that our democracy is a 'voluntary association', If I truely dislike it that much nobody is going to stop me emigrating are they?

Quote:

with electoral politics you are asking people to hand over power over their lives to you so that you can deal with them,

Not true. In a democracy you are agreeing with somebody's opinion. If nobody represents your views there is nothing stopping you forming your own political party, as the fascists of the Far Right have discovered.

Quote:

whereas anarchists want people to empower themselves, and sort out their lives directly with those affected by the decisions. if some "anarchist" party got a large amount of votes (which is unlikely anyway because of the various biases within the system, but in the hypothetical situation that they did), that would not necessarily mean that anarchism was popular. the only way to know if anarchism is popular is if people start organising themselves in anarchist ways to run their own lives and resist the system that prevents them doing so.

.

Simple remedy. If an Anarchist party gained power without a clear majority of the vote (say around 55%) they immediately resign their posts and call another election.

Quote:
also, anarchists aren't unwilling to resort to armed confrontation with the state, we just don't do it as an elitist force trying to make a coup, and prefer to do it when the odds of success are reasonably high so that there isn't unecessary sacrifice.

If you take power via the democratic process there is no need for armed confrontation whatsoever.

LeighGionaire
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May 27 2004 00:19
Steve wrote:
Ceannairc,

1. I don’t think it’s as necessary as you think to have the majority of people converted to anarchism; there will always be a lot of people who will ‘go with the flow’ as it were.

Well I disagree with this. Without the majority you will never get Anarchism. I.M.O any people who 'go with the flow' so to speak will drift towards Fascism rather that Anarchism . I believe that Anarchism is an 'enlightened' philosophy, whilst the majority of people are still trapped within the confines of tribalism/nationalism.

LeighGionaire
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May 27 2004 00:37
october_lost wrote:
Leigh, talk about elections is really about which direction you intend on taking. So I think its more to do with practicing a means by which power can be devolved to the individual rather than misplaced somewhere else.

But really I think its important to understand the logic of your tactics in the long and short term. For example central to why I dont believe in an anti-fascist vote is because a fascist vote is fueled by the failure of the centre-left governments which attack the workers they claim to represent, so a vote for these guys bolsters apathy and resentment.

But Id be interested to hear where you think and how we could participate in elections, there was quite a good article I read about the Sinn Fein tactic being adopted by anarchists, in that you stand for election but on winning you would refuse the post arguing the power you got was wrong/trivial etc. This seemed more pragmatic than some would like but the reality is that, 1) elections are very time consuming and costly, 2) the impact you have would have is questionable. But im not going to lecture someone if they voted, I just think its tactically incorrect.

October Lost,

I'm using this thread to formulate my own opinions as to whether democracy can be used as a tool/tactic to further the Anarchist cause. I haven't yet come to a final conclusion. I have a few ideas rattling around my head but I'd like to give them more thought before putting them forward for general ridicule. wink

AlexA
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May 27 2004 10:23

Leigh, interesting discussion.

While a nice idea, that you could change the world without any violence, I think that if any anarchist/socialist/workers' movement was powerful enough to actually start to threaten the profits of corporations and the power of the state, that's when the state would start to clamp down violently.

Even when people with good intentions (maybe...) get elected - like Allende in Chile or Lula now in Brazil, they are still constrained by the structure they inherit. So they either "sell out" like Lula is now to big business/IMF/etc. or else they try to implement reforms like Allende (or Chavez now), and then get overthrown in a right-wing military coup.

Simply relying on the "law" (i.e. you're a "legal", "democratically-elected" government) to protect you isn't really enough if you threaten power.

LJOS
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May 27 2004 12:29

Hmm. I'm finding myself pretty swayed, actually. Especially considering that the 'lesser evil' idea of tactical voting would involve the following train of thought:

'BNP? Tory? Labour? Sod that. Green? Respect? Not going far enough to implement change. SWP? Don't make me laugh!'

Ceannairc
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Jun 1 2004 11:29
alexa wrote:

While a nice idea, that you could change the world without any violence, I think that if any anarchist/socialist/workers' movement was powerful enough to actually start to threaten the profits of corporations and the power of the state, that's when the state would start to clamp down violently.

Of course this is always possible and if so then our tactics would have to change. On the other hand, many people in this country pride themselves on living in a "free" country and the response to such an act would be very bad for the government. Plus the state crackdown would depend on the cooperation of the army and suchlike and again I point to the Georgian situation. If we can at least get some sympathy from the government workers and armed forces, if not actual cooperation, and the public support we need then I reckon we could avoid this. But you never know whats going to happen...

AlexA
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Jun 1 2004 16:17
Ceannairc wrote:
But you never know whats going to happen...

Er, well you can never know, but you can look at what's happened to every revolutionary/radical movement in history - which is that whenever it's getting big enough to threaten profit or power, there is a huge violent clampdown by the State.

If you don't learn from history you're bound to perpetually repeat the mistakes of the past.

If you think Britain's such a "free" country - do you know what was happening in Northern Ireland a few years ago? Internment, state murder, torture, provocation... Or the miners' strike?

Anonymous
Jun 1 2004 18:42

steve writes

Quote:
If you stand for the politics of direct action in its widest sense then you can't say you're against voting except when the fascists are standing. We should stick to our ideas and not look for easy options.

This notion of sticking to certain 'ideas' ie.never voting is seriously mistaken when looking at how to neutralize fascists. But I guess that's why I call myself a libertarian Marxist- I think you have to look first at material reality before coming up with 'ideas'.In the particular case of the European elections-as its run on proportional representation- not voting actually ends up giving groups like the BNP a higher proportion of the vote.

As far as i'm concerned fascists like this should be opposed by ALL necessary means-which in this particular election includes voting against them(btw usually I don't vote in general or local elections but in this case there is a REAL reason to do so).

Steve
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Jun 1 2004 18:53

And who will you be voting for?

LeighGionaire
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Jun 1 2004 23:35
Steve wrote:
And who will you be voting for?

Well he'd probably vote for a Libertarian Socialist/Anarchist candidate if there was one! wink

foggedterminally
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Jun 3 2004 15:23

I seriously doubt that anarchism will ever be more than a minority ideology in Great Britain. Certain areas such as Northern Ireland or other areas where the British monarchy and their governmant is traditionally reviled may be sympathetic to anarchist thought where the abolishment of British governing is concerned, but as far as I know there is little historical evidence for anarchist sympathies in Britain when compared to continental Europe.

Could somebody with greater historical knowledge of anarchism please prove me wrong (please, or I'll have to move to France. They have nicer weather there).

Perhaps, rather than the wholesale destruction of our pseudo-democracy that would leave something of a vacuum, it would be better to create small-scale autonomous communities, proliferate these and lead by example. (here my lack of reading may embarrass me and you, but) something approaching a Trotskyan peaceful revolution, without power in the hands of the state, of course.

Ceannairc
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Jun 4 2004 10:23
alexa wrote:

If you think Britain's such a "free" country - do you know what was happening in Northern Ireland a few years ago? Internment, state murder, torture, provocation... Or the miners' strike?

I don't see britain as a free country, but I think others do.

AlexA
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Jun 4 2004 11:05
Ceannairc wrote:
alexa wrote:

If you think Britain's such a "free" country - do you know what was happening in Northern Ireland a few years ago? Internment, state murder, torture, provocation... Or the miners' strike?

I don't see britain as a free country, but I think others do.

Er, so if you do understand that, why argue for methods which rely on the state being nice, fluffy and lawful, when you know it won't? confused