AFed: The case against voting in Sunday Herald

The Anarchist Federation were asked  by the local national newspaper to take part in a written argument about voting and non-voting. The two pieces as published can be seen here at LibCom. The unedited version of the submitted piece is below the fold. It is punchier.

Let’s get two things clear. Refusal to vote and political apathy are not the same thing. Parliamentary elections and democratic participation are not the same thing.

Earlier this week, the Institute for Fiscal Studies reported that all 3 main parties are intending massive public spending cuts and all 3 are refusing to say where the axe will fall. If we aren’t told what we’re voting for, then our choice is less informed than that between Pepsi or Coke. If voting is so important, why do politicians treat it (and us) with such contempt? If people died for democracy, how dare we settle for a twice-a-decade trip to a closed library or church-hall?

We can afford to indulge bankers on 7-figure salaries, but we can’t afford bus passes or sponge baths for pensioners. Who voted for that? Even if we accepted that these cuts are “necessary,” they are demanded from us in return for a decision we had no say in: the bailout of a failed, toxic financial sector. On May 6th we’re asked to return again to the rigged casino to hand over our voices and leave politics to those who know best.

After a year of fury directed at politicians, whoever enters No 10, the sure winner will be the political class. Expenses fraud will be quietly wrapped-up, some faces will change but the status quo will be secure. The winner will be able to claim legitimacy for whatever programme they choose to reveal on May 7th. Votes for “alternative” parties won’t change that — they’re a distraction from the struggle to control our own lives. It’s a two-way contest between the political class and the rest of us; any vote is a vote for the existing system.

Solemn commentators tell us that more votes are cast in the X-Factor than in elections. Apt comparison: whichever singer you vote for, Simon Cowell gets richer and there’ll be a few cosmetic changes for next year’s competition. The song remains the same. Time to take confidence in our own abilities and take centre stage in our own lives, dance to a tune of our choosing.

Scotland has a rich tradition of anti-parliamentary politics, from Clydeside rent strikes, through Guy Aldred to today’s direct action campaigns. We didn’t get rid of the poll tax by voting. We stood together in our neighbourhoods and we refused to pay it. We won’t stop these cuts at the ballot box either.

The last eighteen months have seen some inspiring struggles in which ordinary people were willing to take on seemingly impossible odds. Secondary picketing burst back onto the scene as workers flouted anti-strike laws, parents occupied primary schools in Glasgow and Lanarkshire, workers at Prisme packaging occupied their factory in Dundee. The strikes of public sector workers, campaigns to save green spaces or community centres, direct action against open cast mines throughout Scotland, all deserve ongoing solidarity and support.

With a growing number not voting, the spectacle of elections becomes less relevant, more obviously divorced from the real politics which is taking place. Pundits will claim that if you don’t vote you have no right to complain, but to shun the sham of Parliamentary democracy in favour using our hearts, minds, energy and time to make real change in this society is no bad thing.

Don’t relinquish your power, we need real control and real democracy.

It’s your democratic heritage, don’t waste it on Westminster.