Monday, 26 March 2012

Anarchism Lost, So Go Vote

If we conceive of politics as a struggle between the forces of liberty and the forces of authoritarianism, political events become transparent. This is perhaps the primary advantage of anarchism over standard liberalism or conservatism: it more accurately accounts for the tendency of politicians to accrue more power to themselves. Every time the citizen's right to autonomy is defended, we score a small victory; every time the State enforces another restriction or corporate subsidy, we suffer a defeat.

Let's not shit ourselves, then: we lost. The State isn't winning, it won centuries ago. Is there any route by which we might extricate ourselves from involvement in its bloody machinations? Well, no. Can we meaningfully impair its ability to imprison people and kill people? Again, no. Can we defend ourselves against it, or ensure that we won't be caught up in its next wave of violence? Of course not.

In fact, if we want to involve ourselves in politics at all, we are forced to do so along statist lines: by voting for political parties that, to put it mildly, are not compatible with an anarchist position. I contend that we actually have an obligation to vote according to small differences - slight improvements in domestic policy, like abortion rights, gaymarriage - and ignore the rest. It makes me almost physically sick to recommend this.

Some people argue that we ought not to vote, and that by doing so we lend legitimacy to a dreadful institution. The only appropriate response to this, of course, is a hearty laugh. The dreadful institution will not be legitimized or de-legitimized by our voting; it gains its legitimacy by the simple fact that it has all the guns. If you vote for a political party that goes on to start a war, you are at best only symbolically responsible. Actual responsibility presupposes a chain of cause and effect that, where foreign policy is concerned, is totally absent in the electoral process (as many of the same anti-voting anarchists will happily tell you.) This is the final victory of the State: it restricts our moral choices so that voting for the slightly, slightly less evil party is the right thing to do.

6 comments:

  1. The dreadful institution will not be legitimized or de-legitimized by our voting; it gains its legitimacy by the simple fact that it has all the guns.

    Very well said.

    Like another guy said well: "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun."

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't vote because any vote that I might cast will be more than nullified by some fraud scheme, whether it be dead people voting absentee, voting machine "malfunction," or just the supreme court intervening to throw the election.

    Besides, it makes sense for me not to vote because voting according to how I view the world would (I hope) make politics more accommodating to humanitarian objectives, which, of course, would function only to assist the elite to cover its wolf's body in sheep's clothing. I have no interest in helping them in that regard.

    In fact, I say the more authoritarian they become the better of we are. Because eventually people will get mad enough to take out their guns and pitchforks - and then we might see some change, however unlikely that may be.

    As a matter for the here and now, however, not voting gives me license to share my non-voting views with polite company who are otherwise predisposed to vote. Making a difference among a group of friends is much more important than fooling myself into thinking that my vote is having some effect.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Pied Cow, the only sentence I disagree with in your comment is this: "Because eventually people will get mad enough to take out their guns and pitchforks - and then we might see some change, however unlikely that may be."

    Ain't gonna happen - and if it does happen, we're not going to see any change for the better. Now my policy is to suffer any and all attempts at self-deception as a matter of principle, so I can accept people who need to believe that I'm wrong, but if we're speaking honestly: politics has always been and will always be awful.

    ReplyDelete
  4. After having posted my comment I had much the same feeling: if people actually become angry enough to get out their guns and pitchforks the result will not be good.

    It might be satisfying to see these sons-o-bitches finally get something of a comeuppance, but still, the result will not be good.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What if the "sons of bitches" are often...or always..."us"?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Brian, to my mind that's buying into the democracy myth: that we as citizens create our country, and thus its varied crimes and atrocities reflect corresponding faults in our individual moral characters. Bullshit, man. Power corrupts. If you don't have power, you're likely to be a damn side less corrupt than if you do.

    ReplyDelete