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Is Voting Where Activists Should Focus Their Energy?

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Many of us believe that  Harper represents an aberration from the democratic aspects of bourgeois parliamentarianism
Many of us believe that Harper represents an aberration from the democratic aspects of bourgeois parliamentarianism

As we get closer to October 19th here in Canada we are finding more and more people are telling us to go vote. People are telling their friends to vote, knocking on doors to encourage people to vote and writing articles about the importance of voting.

One article I read and found interesting was an article written by an old house-mate and friend of mine. Her name is Jess west and the article she wrote is titled "I was a conscious non-voter, here's what changed my mind". I enjoyed Reading this article, I found it was decently structured and it flowed well. What I enjoyed most about reading the article was the fact that it brought back memories from 7-10 years ago when I lived on the Halifax peninsula and was involved with the Anarchist community. At that time Halifax was a bit of a hub, small as it was, for Anarchists from the maritime s and beyond to gravitate to.

Between volunteering at The Grainery Co-op, Food Not Bombs, Halifax coalition Against poverty, The Halifax Peace Coalition, Palestinian solidarity ,Student Coalition Against War, Block The Empire, The Halifax MayDay Committee, Halifax Theater Collective and other formal and adhoc groups of which I was involved with, some more than others, I kept myself busy working towards the goal of building an ethos of shared collectivism that worked to end oppression exploitation and all forms of illegitimate authority. What was more impressive was the fact that we all seemed to be busy doing activism from the streets. Many of us Anarchists not only vocalized our disdain for capitalism, we acted in a way that made it clear we were against profit before people, greed before need, the cop, bourgeois elections and we acted for a society where the greatest possible freedom for all could be realized.

Like Jess, my ideas on voting have changed, maybe not to the extent hers have; I am still debating whether or not I am gonna vote in the upcoming election. I used to believe that voting was useless but over the years have come to the conclusion that if the citizenry is well educated and well organized, voting is not necessarily a counter-revolutionary action. I do want to be clear about a couple things though: I still believe that bourgeois elections are  a horrible way to facilitate the running of a society and I believe voting in such elections for an anarchist is the worst tool in the anarchist tool box.

I am not writing this to try and convince you of my position and I am not gonna try to convince you to vote or not to vote, that is your choice. I am writing this article to point out what I believe are  argumentative mistakes in Jess' article  because I believe it is important to represent our ideas to other so we can refine our capacity to reason and understand thus positioning ourselves to make the best decisions for us all going into the future.

I believe the first augmentative flaw  in Jess' article can be seen in the first paragraph. When writing about her chance to vote, Jess writes, “.......but when that day came I felt that my voice was not my vote. My voice was protesting. My voice was zines about anarchy, songs about revolution. My voice was refusing to take part in the system I abhorred.”

Jess is making an assertion here that protesting, writing zines about Anarchy and writing and singing songs about revolution are not to be considered as taking part in the system. The fact is, when I lived in Halifax and was involved in activism, I lived at woozley Farm where the oil bill had to be paid, the rent had to be paid, etc. I either paid for this with money from my parents or money from working a capitalist job. It is naive to think that you are not taking part in the system when your an activist in an urban or even rural center. Unless you live in isolation in the woods or in a commune not connected to the urban center, you are taking part in the system but being in the system does not mean your of the system

If being a zine making, singer song witting revolutionary in a city is not taking part in the system, then what does is mean to be taking part? I wish Jess had used different language in the article with regards to ways in which we can affect change because the way in which it is written gives the reader the inference that there are only 2 choices in life for Anarchists and other activists, either you vote or you doped out of the System.

The second major concern I have with jess' article regards the inference made about privilege and voting. Jess never gives a reason why our privilege means we must vote. I, much like Chomsky, who reiterated this point earlier this year in a dialogue with Lawrence Krauss, believe that privilege confers opportunity which confers responsibility. I Believe all of us who have privileges need to take action to make the world a more sane, just and compassionate place but making the world a better place does not necessarily mean voting and it is possible that voting may actually be counter productive

Jess does nothing but use appeal to emotion when suggesting that it is a privileged persons responsibility to vote. I also take issue with the oversimplification of the concept of privilege. Privilege is not an either/or and in the article, Jess, much like the drop out or take part issue, is using a false dicotomy, otherwise known as a logical fallacy or faulty reasoning.

As a white working class male I have a lot of privilege, much more than say a working class black women, but my position as a person in the working class, even though I am a white male, does not give me the same type of privilege as say Oprah Winfrey. There are overlapping privileges in society and different types of privileges, it is not as either/or as some like to make it

I also want to comment on the notion propagated in the article that “this time it is different”. Many of us believe that  Harper represents an aberration from the democratic aspects of bourgeois parliamentarianism. This kind of thinking clouds the reality of capitalism and bourgeois parliamentarianism, it frames the discussion about capitalism and bourgeois parliaments  in the context of bad apples and good apples and that if we get rid of bad apples that appear from time to time for no apparent reason, then everything will be A.O.K.

The stark reality is that Capitalism is not an immoral versus moral production whereby we can create good capitalism by getting rid of all the immoral actors. Capitalism is a mode of production that separates workers from owners, where stolen labor from workers becomes corporate profit that accumulates to the point that these  corporate monopolies have enormous economic power which enables them to buy political power

Some politicians will be bought that are of the fuzzy mitten variety and some will be bought that are of the iron fist variety. One form may throw out more crumbs to the masses which appears to be beneficial but in reality it is an attempt to buy us off and assuage our desires for real change that is needed. The problem we faces cannot be voted out. Voting could potentially act as a stop cap to enact important reforms in the system for the immediate short term like feeding the hungry and housing the homeless while we as a society educate and organize ourselves for broader revolutionary change such as ending an economic system that is intrinsically divisive. On the other hand, voting could just be a way for the ruling class to throw water on a fire. In times of revolutionary potential a chunk of the rulling class will form a temporary alliance with politicians that will provide a social peace, but such a social peace is nothing more than a tactic used by the ruling class to better galvanize their grip on power

In conclusion, I want to reassert that I am not hear to convince you to vote or not to vote, that is your choice and choice is the one thing we desire in the building of a free society. I also want to say that I present this because I believe it is important to represent our ideas to our communities so that rather than convinces people, we allow people to deconstruct and analyses what has been put forth so that people have the ability to use their capacity to reason and understand to it's fullest potential.

      Sbumitted by Aaron Doncaster


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