Opposing Electoral Voting in A Time of War
This was a part of a panel discussion in Minneapolis titled, Electoral Voting in the Time of War, so that is the way it is addressed.
Before I give my response to electoral voting in the time of war I would first like to pose a question and that question is what kind of world do we want to live in?
For me I want to live in a world that has fundamental core values of equality, environmental protection, direct democracy, decentralized power and pro-community based institutions where everyone has a direct say on how they conduct their lives and to have a say to the proportion of how ecological and political and social issues affects them. Instead of a rights-based society we need to advocate for a society that is needs based.
We need to re-examine what it means to put our effort into campaigns that essentially take away the fervor and real direct democracy from our workplaces and our communities and place it in the hands of elected officials.
When it is time to go out and vote in November we in the antiwar movement will be hoping for a better president. But when we vote we legitimize the system by saying it is ok to do what is that you do. By the system I don’t mean some ominous thing that hangs out there in outer space but I believe that the system can be broken down into two parts. First, the government, which we could say, is the official line of never-ending candidates and elected politicians that serve a limited time in an office and then there is the state. I am using the state here as those political and cultural structures that are hardwired into the system that don’t and won’t change over time just because of some vote. To name a few of these structures that don’t move, the military industrial complex, the prison industrial complex, laws of property rights to ensure class privilege, homeland security, mass media, etc.
Now history has proven that we can elect a president that might do a few reforms here and there but because of these placements of the state the president is left virtually powerless to enact any real systemic change, and that is not to say that the person who becomes president would want to do that in the first place. An example would be if the president wanted to help redistribute the wealth into a classless society the president would see a revolt of the magnitude that would and could only be compared to the likes of the civil war, congress would revolt against the president, the military industrial complex would revolt, capital would disinvest or isolate the United States
As far as the antiwar movement being involved in the electoral elections we need to realize the position that we our endorsing. Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution states that, the President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States. So when the antiwar movement votes for president they are voting for this position. To think that the president would not honor that role is a far cry from reality. This is akin to asking a police officer not to be a police officer while they are being a police officer. By voting for this position we are reinforcing a system of empire and of war.
We in the antiwar movement who use the non-violent paradigm tend to replicate at home what we are fighting against abroad when we vote in the elections. We fight against the perpetrated violence committed by the troops of both sides but here at home we legitimize a system that gives the state the power to be the only enforcer of legitimate violence as an institution. The violence that the state partakes in is negative sanctions against the poor, paramilitary police forces, police brutality, prisons, surveillance, Cointelpro, death penalty, and many other violent actions. The elected official could try to reform some of these issues but these are the type of practices that help keep class privilege intact.
When we vote in the American system we are giving our collective community empowerment over to an elected few that uphold the capitalist system. When these people take power we enter into a paternalist relationship and we collectively lose our voice and power. They tell us what our values are, they never ask. Every time there has been any real reform done such as civil rights, Medicaid, welfare, the eight-hour workday, affirmative action, environmental controls, etc. it was through long hard battles by the people and not by a few elected officials. And when we allow this to go on over time these same elected officials will over time erode these very reforms. We can see it now in the erosion of affirmative action in Michigan, Bush’s cutting overtime pay, etc. Instead as anarchists we believe that we should empower and put our effort into direct action. By direct action I am referring to protests, wild-cat strikes, general strikes, sit-downs, council-communism, participatory democracy, restorative justice, consumer boycotts, and again etc. What direct action basically means is to act for yourself instead of getting a politician to act for you. When we practice direct action, it shatters the dependency and marginalization created by living in a hierarchical society. We realize that we can conduct our own lives in an ethical manner without relying on the police state.
Yet as anarchists we do not advocate for apathy around not voting, instead of voting we need to advocate and agitate to form real direct democracy in our work place and in our communities and to fight inequality and all of its ugly heads.
Instead of the anti-war movement putting its energy into getting a democrat in office, or anybody but Bush, we should be organizing outside of accepted paths of change (like electoral voting) and building a real threat to the state and capital powers. Towards a revolutionary organized anarchist resistance!