Turn Your Discontent
So, Let's Vote!... but Why?
Everywhere, there is some dissatisfaction with the culture, society, or people of a given nation. There is something about every individual's personal environment that they want to change, whether it is to make themselves more comfortable, with greater ease, or freer, with greater liberty. In modern republics, the common way of trying to influence one's surroundings to better suit their tastes is through voting and parliamentary campaigning.
This is not to say that people do not depend on their individual efforts to achieve their individual gains. But people feel overpowered by certain social factors that are often completely beyond their individual ability -- whether it is destruction of the global environment, wars between governments, or an entrenched, hereditary class of poor and propertyless. As these are enormous characteristics of an entire society, one individual's energies alone cannot change the wind carrying the sails of civilization.
The dissatisfaction with some part of the individual's environment leads towards collective action or cooperative efforts. It is impossible for one single thread to knit the entire social fabric that best fits everyone's interests. But it is this environment which either warms and soothes us, or does not reach to cover all parts and leaves some without security or liberty. The individual, simply by their personal tastes and preferences, has a basic, self-interest in having their social environment allow them enough opportunity to grow and develop.
So, let's vote! -- this is the typical cry of those who have felt ignored, neglected, or forgotten by society's organization. By choosing someone to fill a public office who cares about our cause, we can utilize our individual strength to make a collective push in the direction of our choosing. For the single person, involvement in the election of one party or person over another may very well be the only way to participate in collective efforts of social change. Problems like poverty, unemployment, and inequality are so vast and deep that it would be impossible for any single person to take them on individually.
For the Power of the Political Party's Brains
A campaign for public office would never work if it's sole message was the election of a person. This is the essential attribute of political campaigning, but it must always be watered down with popular phrases, tradition, and appeal. While pushing for "a new world," or "a better existence," or "a harmonious society," political activists do not actually realize that they are only trying to convince others to vote for someone. For all the depth and content of whatever message they bring, their solution is and always has been narrow: a single individual, possessing the right powers of government, can produce for us this magnificent vision. But, the vision is always presented as dependent upon whatever given personality.
For all the greatest changes that are expected in society, whether it is the end of poverty or unemployment or environmental destruction, all of our hopes are within this one personality. All of our hopes are with the political party of the personality, and to advance its representatives to as many, high-ranking positions in every social institution. This is the mindset of the political party's activist, who treats the advancement of their party's leader as equivalent to the advancement of the stated principles of their party.
Success is achieving political power for the leader. With this, they are now capable of enacting some of the changes, reforms, or revolutions that may be desired by their party's membership. Like those who had the power and neglected their duties to end homelessness and unemployment, these representatives will have the power but will act thoroughly to carry through the peoples' wishes. It is now with the strength of dominion that the party's leaders act. At their disposal is the legislative power of the government and its administrative organs, the police and the military, the schools and the universities. With all of this power, equality and justice can be given fairly according to sound and rational principles.
It is with the power of dominion that the political party's rulers put their reforms into action. It was with political dominion that the previous rulers have neglected their duties or failed to uphold the will of their people. And, with the very same tool that caused the problem, the politician is capable of solving the problem. This is the ideology of politics, no matter what flavor it may take. It could be Nationalist or Socialist, Liberal or Conservative, Communist or Capitalist. By being a political party and participating in elections, this organization intends to establish its changes to society through making its party leaders into masters of government.
Power... as the Solution to Power's Excesses?
In this process, from beginning to end, something may startle the political activist: the election is not for a change of conditions, but for a change of masters. It does not revolve the social environment effecting the individual, but it revolves those who hold office in the state. There is a real conflict and contradiction here for the ardent student of social change. It was through the dominion of a previous master, no matter what party affiliation, who helped facilitate or create the current conditions of our social environment. This is true no matter who national history you consult. The difficulty is that a method of oppression and exploitation is now being heralded as a method of emancipation and liberty.
All of the dissatisfaction that has led up to the creation of the party, from the poverty of the masses to the sacrifice of the youth in wars, was brought about by the dominion of a master over society. The problems that a new master is going to solve are a product of the mastery of the few over the many. Thus, the political party, for all of its focus on change and the improvement of society, only intends to maintain the power structures that led up to the current state of affairs in our society. By being involved in recent political activity, the activists do not always understand how these tactics have been used for centuries -- and how they have always yielded the same, typical results.
If there as an alternate to this method of change by governmental mastery, it is only to be found in an anti-government ideology and activity. If we are going to solve the problems caused by domination of the authorities, it is not going to be by establishing "the right-minded authorities." This tactic has produced universal failure, whether the statesman or politician is inspired by Maoism or Catholicism, by Nation or Class. For there to be genuine, social change, it must be accomplished outside of the state. It must not be legislated by the rulers of government in a senate, but it must be legislated by the people themselves in the streets.
Since change has been accomplished through social efforts, and it has been done against dominion established by political efforts, any real social movement must necessarily be Anarchist. It may not call itself this in title, but it must act and behave as an Anarchist organization. Change is not accomplished by lobbying congress, by sending politicians to the senate, by petitions and voting. It is accomplished by cooperative, voluntary effort of inspired individuals who feel a need for change. The establishment of the first eight-hour workday, as in Catalonia in 1919, or the abolishment of the Tzar, as in Russia in 1917, are both examples of social efforts that succeeded. The people did not rely on the power of their political leaders, but on their own strength, to create liberty for themselves.
The Worst Effect of Voting -- Pacification
If there is one effect of voting, it is to pacify the people. Voting in monarchy, whether the British or French Monarchy, the Russian or the Roman, was always developed as a means of legitimizing the government. Hitler and Stalin did not succeed to power by dictatorship, but by the election of their people. It was not a direct and free election, as no election can be or ever has been. As in the so-called "Modern Republic" of the United States, it is typical to hear government officials to destroying votes or courts electing senators as opposed to votes. This is, on top, of a denial of universal suffrage -- a phrase where "universal" first meant "White men, aged 21 with property," and today, has only been made somewhat more universal, but not universal.
The extension of the vote to other sections of the nation, in the United States as in the Roman Empire, was to quell the peoples' insurrections and demands to change their social environment. Instead of giving people the choice to vote in changing their situation, they are given the choice to vote on a person who change the situation. If their choice does not fulfill the peoples' objectives, and only upholds dominant trends, as politicians typically do, then they will have themselves to blame -- and, at their feet, they will have what may look like a solution to this. "Elect somebody else, then!" and the motions of the social order continue to revolve without actually covering any distance.
The problem is not your current master or the system of mastery: it is motivating and organizing the public in the election of a candidate that will improve conditions for all of society. Your energies, then, are directed toward the population, and in trying to convince them to act on their own behalf in the election of a new master. Problems like poverty and unemployment, war and exploitation, will excite your passions, but the crowds act like a herd of stupid animals, unable of collectively making the right choice in masters. Single people, then, try to exert their influence over the people, spreading their message and their hope -- to elect politician A, B, or C.
For every voter under an elective form of government, there is another channel for directing your energies in influencing the whole structure of our social environment. But this involvement is nothing ever so complicated or meaningful as organizing people to change their environment. The only tactic left is to convince others of the necessity of choosing some person as a master that they have never met or even heard of. With so many voters in society, every activist and agitator under this system will find some group to perpetually listen to their campaign rhetoric. And in the end, with everyone agitating for some office-holder, an average medium of political power is reached.
Most importantly, the people have become thoroughly convinced that their problems are with the people who elect the master, and not the system of mastery itself. Those with this training try to change society by influencing the votes of others. Through this, they are pacified from real change. They are not directly antagonizing the forms of social organization that keep them subjugated, exploited, dominated, and controlled. They are only attacking other members of the same republic for not having either the courage, the honor, or the foresight to pick the right governor. Though, in the past few centuries of this methodology, there has never been a right choice when it simply came to the matter of serving the needs and interests of the masses.
Freedom Cannot Come From Choosing A Master
Dissatisfaction of society comes from how it is organized and how this affects the individual. It is not simply a matter of personal fortune, as every individual must suffer the chance of nature. It is the issue of unnecessary and arbitrary restraints imposed by the laws of a social organization, often directed by someone, who for a certain amount of time, has unquestionable power. For every, arbitrary interference with our lives that has dissatisfied us, there has been an authority employing law against the people. There has been a power in society that has established and maintained a threatening social environment, where the common individual has no choice in change. Or, at least, the only choice is another master, whose promise of real change can only be as real as the last politician's.
Freedom and opportunity has never been accomplished by masters. It has only been achieved by the masses organizing cooperatively for their own self-interests. Some leaders may have come, who either have done nothing and accepted glory for the movement by being its "director." And other leaders may simply have been those who had no legislative or political power, but were able to crystallize the ideas of the people into meaningful plan of action. But in each case, it was strictly the people who achieved the situation that granted the many their freedom, peace, and equality. No single person can erect a palace, and the glorious power of liberty cannot be without the struggle of the common people.
For a world that does not have these serious social ills, without poverty or hunger or war or domination, we must not fight for one leader over another, one politician against another -- we must fight for a world without masters. We must envision a world where every person possesses an equal voice in determining the conditions of their own social environment -- where people are directly responsible for their own situation and have full opportunity for development.