"If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal." ~ Emma Goldman, anarchist leader and philosopher
"It's time to bring the global pro-democracy movement into the belly of the beast." ~ Howie Hawkins, co-founder of the Green Party U.S.
During the last three years, I have on occasion described myself politically as an anarchist. And now I have a confession to make. I am not a very good anarchist. I write this now, as I believe there is still some utility to voting within the current capitalist-imperialist structure of the U.S. government. I vote for Green Party candidates. I have thought for a while now about this internal conflict of mine. I do believe that most humans have come to a point in their evolution where they don't really need a large centralized government managing their social customs, enacting laws over their lives. We certainly can now handle direct democracy and find it far more preferable over the corrupt and quite literally broken (well, it's not broken for the elite) form of representative government we have here in Washington, D.C. Well, we citizens of the District of Columbia don't even have that representation. So, why do I vote Green, and why am I recently becoming more involved with the local D.C. Statehood-Green Party if I call myself an anarchist?
Philosophically there is a lot in anarchism that I deeply agree with. However, I am not convinced that our society has completely lost all need for government. I think our society no longer needs, nor deserves, this current government. I think the poor and most vulnerable, and the most oppressed by The State, deserve protection. They deserve support from the community as a whole. And, no, small collective communities practicing their own direct democracy assemblies are not adequate at this point to fulfill these needs on their own. Perhaps sometime in the distant future when we have reverted, or are in a post-revolution landscape, have gone back to smaller, mostly agrarian communities we will be able to do this. But we don't have this capacity, or sadly in many cases, the willpower to provide this safety net.
Here in the imperial U.S. we live in a highly materialistic society where we love our small electronic gadgets built from minerals mined in places such as the Congo (the most violent place in the world thanks to armies owned by various corporations) and constructed by near-slave labor in China. I sometimes find it absurd and tragic when I find myself bemoaning materialism and what drives it -- capitalism -- with my other progressive friends via our smartphones. And this current capitalist-imperialist government continually gives corporate tax breaks and subsidies to these same multinational corporations who violate human rights in the name of profit.
Even many of my progressive friends who have adopted and supposedly fully embraced anarchism, pay taxes. They may not vote, but they still pay taxes -- lest they be put away inside the prison industrial complex in the imperial U.S. Why vote if you don't want to support or partake in "the system," but yet you still pay taxes to this monster which spends more than 50 percent of its discretionary spending on past, present and future wars abroad, and the police/surveillance state here at home?
I guess I vote, because I want to overturn the current imperial-capitalist structure by any means necessary. Yes, any means. I still protest. I still organize with others from various backgrounds and groups/organizations. And I see my involvement in the D.C. Statehood-Green Party also as an avenue to organize for a far more progressive, non-capitalist future, beyond simply the ballot box. [Because this coming revolution will rely on good old fashioned people power.] Although the ballot box is still part of my picture. I also, quite frankly, find myself in full agreement with the Green Party's Ten Key Values.
Although I have often shared the cynicism and rage against Election Day that Emma Goldman posits in the first quote in this essay, I think voting does/can make a significant difference in society, particularly to those most vulnerable. I spent a good part of today with Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, as they were recognizing that today was Human Rights Day; 65 years ago the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights was enacted. They demanded that the out of control military budget be cut, so that rights -- such as a right to food and a right to health care be preserved. Nearly half of all Americans are now living in poverty. That should be an eyeopener if it isn't already.
I also want to recognize the importance of anarchy in many social movements from the labor movement of the late 19th and early 20th century, to more recently Occupy. However, Occupy was not inspired by anarchy -- although its form of organizing and decision making borrows from the anarchist model. It was inspired largely by the pro-democracy movements happening around the globe, most notably the Arab Spring. Those movements were driven primarily by young people, many anti-authoritarian, but I would suggest they were not anarchist. They simply wanted to overthrow outdated, horribly corrupt, elitist regimes. As do I.