Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Why the choice between voting systems doesn't matter in the slightest

It emerges, today, that a bill to allow a referendum on reforming the voting system has passed through the Houses of Parliament. As such, on 5th May, people will be able to choose whether or not to abandon the First Past the Post (FPTP) voting systen in favour of the Alternative Vote (AV).

There are a number of arguments both for and against adopting AV as a voting system. There is also an argument that we shouldn't be arguing FPTP versus AV as the real alternative is Proportional Representation (PR) and this is just a sideshow to distract from real voting reform. Some even argue that in the campaign for fairer votes, AV is a step backwards.

My own opinion on the matter is somewhat more straightforward;
What we are opposed to is not the very act of voting, but the practice of electoral politics. That is, the system wherein a cross-section of the public gets a say in who runs a given body – party/union executives, local councils, national governments, etc – but that body, once elected, holds autonomy to make decisions as it sees fit, regardless of the will of those it theoretically answers to. This is bourgeois or parliamentary democracy, and to anarchists it isn’t actually democratic at all.

What it boils down to is not decision-making by the people, but the people delegating that decision-making power away to persons assumed to know better on such matters. This is not exercising power, but surrendering it.
This doesn't change if the method of surrendering power is "fairer" or "more representative" of which party people choose. We are still choosing from a range of parties whose only differences "are strategic – reflecting differences of opinion amongst the ruling class."

Whether we have AV, FPTP, PR, or any other model, the fact remains that "whoever you vote for, the government wins," and "the working class remain under the yoke of one or other set of bosses out for themselves." Not only that, but campaigning around votes "takes an enormous amount of energy, time, and resources," all of which "could be much better spent building practical alternatives to the current system."

as long as people continue to participate in the electoral system, they are validating the same governance that we are fighting against. If voting changes nothing, and that is exactly the point I have been arguing, why freely offer the ruling class the pretence of a democratic mandate? Why expend so much energy on the process?

Electoralism is nothing but a dead-end road. Especially now, as we once more face a heightened period of class struggle and austerity measures, it has the potential to be the pressure-release which completely derail active resistance. If people want change, they need to reject the ballot box and get on the street to make it for themselves. 
Need I say more?