Anarchists don’t vote

An essay explaining why anarchists don’t vote written by renowned French geographer, writer and anarchist Elisée Reclus in 1885.

 

Everything that can be said about the suffrage may be summed up in a sentence.

 

To vote is to give up your own power.

 

To elect a master or many, for a long or short time, is to resign one’s liberty.

 

Call it an absolute monarch, a constitutional king, or a simple M.P., the candidate that you raise to the throne, to the seat, or to the easy chair, he will always be your master. They are persons that you put “above” the law, since they have the power of making the laws, and because it is their mission to see that they are obeyed.

 

To vote is befitting of idiots.

 

It is as foolish as believing that men, of the same make as ourselves, will acquire in a moment, at the ringing of a bell, the knowledge and the understanding of everything. Of course it is so. Your elected person shall have to legislate on every subject under the moon; how a box of matches should or should not be made, or how to make war; how to improve the agriculture, or how best to kill a tribe of Arabs or a few Negroes. Probably you believe that their intelligence will grow in proportion to the variety of subjects they have to give their minds to; but history and experience teaches otherwise.

 

The possession of power has a maddening influence; parliaments have always wrought unhappiness.

 

In ruling assemblies, in a fatal manner, the will prevails of those below the average, both morally and intellectually.

 

To vote is to prepare shameful treachery and traitors.

 

Electors do certainly believe in the honesty of the candidates, and this is to a certain extent existing while the fervor and the heat of the contest remains.

 

But every day has its to-morrow. As soon as the conditions alter, likewise do men change. To-day your candidate bows humbly before your presence; to-morrow he will say “pish” to you. From a cadger of votes he has turned to be a master of yours.

 

How can a worker, enrolled by you amongst the ruling class, be the same as before, since now he can speak in terms of equality with the other oppressors? Look at the servility of any one of them, written all over his face, after paying a call to a “captain of industry,” or when the King invites him to the ante-chamber of his court!

 

The atmosphere of the “House” is not for deep breathing; it is corrupt. If you send one of yourselves in a foul place, you must not be surprised afterwards if he comes back in a rotten condition.

 

Therefore, do not part with your freedom.

 

Don’t vote!

 

Instead of intrusting the defence of your interests to Others, see to the matter by yourselves. Instead of trying to choose advisers that will guide you in future actions, do the thing yourselves, and do it now! Men of good will shall not have to look long in vain for the opportunity.

 

To put on others’ shoulders the responsibility of one’s actions is cowardice.

 

Don’t vote!

 

 

What happens when you don’t like the company BAE Systems – you buy shares of course and you go to the AGM

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      What do you do when a company does things that you think are immoral, the legalities questionable and they trade in war. You buy a share of it.

My motto is “Every form of protest is valid in the right context” and “by any means possible” this now seems to include buying shares in companies I hate the most.

What seemed way to early Wednesday morning members of CAAT and volunteers all gathered in Waterloo in the lovely 1901 Arts Club. There was the usual introductions and nods over the buzz that hovered in the room. Pieces of paper being shared, Pom poms being stuffed into socks, various attempts at smuggling our carnival wares into the meeting were being attempted in all 4 corners of the room. I must say putting party poppers down my bra made me laugh as these may well be construed as explosives. People volunteered to ask the questions, some to be the cheerleaders and of course the welcome to the newly appointed Mr Carr which I was more than happy to take on. People rehearsed songs and we were all taken through the bingo, practising what noises where to go along side which words. It may all seem very juvenile but the reality is this is about disrupting the AGM not contributing to it. Everyone I know involved in the Campaign Against the Arms Trade is a pacifist. The tactics are relentless objections to the business of the war machine, the companies in bed with these dealers such as The London transport museum who at present sponsored by Thales (50% of Thales business is arms manufacturing. Thales makes missiles, drones and aircraft carriers) and the dinners laid on at our expense to court deals with dictators and human rights criminals. We will be present in every way shape and form that we can.

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So satisfied that we knew what each one of us was doing we all buddied up and made our way to the train station. This year B.A.E systems had taken their AGM out of London and based it at Farnborough. Perhaps they were naive in the belief that protesters wouldn’t bother travelling that far. They obviously underestimate our resolve.

We arrived at the station and a luxury coach was waiting to ferry the shareholders to the meeting. To say we stood out a little is a bit of an understatement. In the knowledge that you had your voting slip in your pocket and there was no way B.A.E could refuse you into their meeting made you feel like a child and a gleeful triumph before you were even in there. We went into the large aircraft hanger which was adorned with huge promotional material using the words such as Innovative Bold and Trusted . So we were meeted and greeted and some of us went and registered our questions and were seated in specific areas and the others scattered themselves around the seating areas. There were a lot of us, there were also a lot of suits.

We all took our seats and the Introductions of the panel began. The accolades bouncing off the credentials were blinding. Mr Carr the newly appointed chairman-designate of BAE recently leaving Centrica ( Check out Fracking) too take up the position and is a member of the U.K. prime minister’s Business Advisory Group introduced himself and explained his role within BAE and his position and relationships with other companies. During these what can only be describes as egotistical fawning accolades the CAAT bingo was in full swing and the very purpose of our visit the disruption of the AGM had begun. With the house keeping and the programme of the day explained we moved to the questions that had been lodged by shareholders. Some where postal but most were there in person.
So it began we stood up one by one with a continuous flow of uncomfortable questions such as “would BAE staff stop supporting equipment such as armoured vehicles or fighter aircraft if they knew they were being used against democracy protesters or an international aggression?” One by one Mr Carr responded to the questions but as we know a response is not necessarily an answer and so it continued. He was so so smooth he had obviously been briefed on the fact that protesters would be there and he was prepared. Lots of rhetoric on regulations and rules. On how they ensure that all their sub contractors provide good conditions for their workforce, how many apprenticeships they are investing and how out of 5,000 employees they had some women.

During the Q&A a group of 3 cheerleaders jumped up and broke out what can only be described as a Morcambe and Wise moment genius and hilarious in their Union Jack outfits and poms poms. These were removed and the day progressed, more heckling and more questions and the security got more and more visible as they decided to come and sit along side people they had obviously highlighted as protesters. Then my time came and I went to the podium. Give me a microphone and the board of directors of BAE and this is what you get my welcome to MR Carr…..

“Passionate” was his comeback and admitted that he knew nothing that he was going to say was going to change my mind. But he tried to justify the unhealthy connections with No 10 and not a lot else.
The questions continued and we were asked to cast our votes which I did and said No to everything including the vote about donations to government which he said was there because it was an old voting sheets we had been given. So were the shareholders being given voting forms that weren’t valid or was he lying?

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The day came to an end with some of us having been physically removed and some still around to pick up our packed lunch provided by BAE systems for the shareholders. Whilst we were standing round with our bags of food. I was more than surprised to find myself face to face with Mr Carr. His words were something along the lines that I was memorable, passionate and a presence that was one that could be not be ignored and he felt the need to come and talk to me to continue the conversation. So with my ego flattered by his charm, I must admit I did find his willingness to continue talking to me admirable although I am not fooling myself that this was nothing other than PR.
So the follow on conversation went something like this……….

” I understand that you are running a profitable organisation and profit is the name of the game and you are a defence company. But I have one request just one. Would your company be willing to donate 1% of it’s profits towards conflict resolution. We all know that before conflict turns to violence there is usually a build up over months sometimes years. Would it not be more advantageous and moral to go into the area with trained personal to get all sides around the table and work towards peaceful resolutions. This may take months even years but the cost in the long term would be far less than the long term costs of war, for the people, the children, the mothers, the sisters, the fathers, the sons, and the country. The long lasting psychological effects on the populations and the knock effects through resentment, anger and retaliation are ones we can not even quantify. What is happening is a catch 22 situation where countries/people/groups are armed and then more people are armed to defend and so on and so forth. So in fact Mr Carr your idea of peace and my idea of peace seem to be two entirely different things. My kind of peace means that your business would not have clients like Bahrain and Saudia Arabia if we initiated conflict resolutions before we started selling weapons of death. This would enable your company to use all it’s amazing technology and skills to benefit the world not destroy it. ”    Simple solution to me.
Once again his response was not an answer but a suggestion, he thought I should go into the field of conflict resolution as he thought I could make a difference, with my passion and belief. Mr Carr hate to break it to you that’s what I am doing and why I am here in the first place. Please stand up and be counted you could lead the way ……………
P.S. Mr Carr I know you are going to be reading this and as much as you think you have earnt the title I would never call a fellow human Lord or Sir it holds no weight with me what so ever.

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http://www.caat.org.uk/

Occupy Wonga May Day

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With the banking crisis seeming a distant memory to some the knock on effect is becoming very evident. People having spent all their savings, given up their holidays and the cars have been sold on at rubbish prices. What we are seeing now is the people that have used all their reserves are now loosing the fight. The appearance of payday loan companies on every high street and in some deprived areas 2 or 3 tells us that for many of us these companies are now part of the fabric of our existence. There are lots of reasons for the increased use of these companies rising cost of living, energy prices, bedroom tax, cuts in benefits and wage freezes. If you are disabled you are 3 times more likely to take out a payday loan than any other group of people. To me this is the cruel reality that the crisis has hit our most vulnerable and working classes whilst the bankers that we bailed out are once again enjoying their bonuses and record profits.

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On May day Occupy London decided to take to the streets to highlight the immoral business of Payday loans and in particular the company Wonga. The reason that Wonga stood out above other payday loan companies was because of their slick style of marketing. They have flooded our screens with adverts involving nice friendly old folks. The very people we associate with stability and honesty. The adverts are everywhere, everyone knows the Wonga puppets. With outrageous APR and openly admitting that their market is in deprived areas there is nothing nice, safe or friendly about this company. If anything their techniques are sinister. Advertising on children’s T.V. is blatantly grooming our children into perceiving the life of debt as normal. This is not OK on any level and an abuse of people we should as a social country be protecting. The payments to MP’s, the involvement in local councils shows how entrenched they have become in our so called democratically elected bodies. Debt is the new commodity.

So we set about researching our prey and wow that proved to be very difficult. The company carries out all it’s business on line. The people behind the company are nicely tucked away in foreign lands and found that the company had no presence on the ground. No one you can go and talk to if your struggling, no phone numbers if you are in need of advice or guidance. They did once have an office that was owned by the Queen who also has some interest in these companies along with the Church of England , the Roman Catholic Church, We could target any number of companies involved in Wonga but we wanted Wonga itself.

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With May day looming we still had no target, and Wonga soon to be floated on the stock market we still felt was our only option. So we continued, we had meetings, we promoted, we designed, we invited, we had banner making workshops, we reviewed press lists, we looked at Wonga’s relationships with government bodies , football teams and we had sleepless nights. The more we researched the more we knew that we were spot on. We organised speakers for the day David Graeber to talk about debt and Barb Jacobson to talk about Basic income. We also had people from DPAC (Disabled People against the Cuts) and Fuel Poverty action to talk about how these companies where effecting their members. After the speeches Occupy London were to hold a roving GA which was to have no agenda. The agenda to be decided by the people that were in attendance. Democracy at it’s purest level. It was all in place we just had nowhere to go.

As you often find with things that are right and just, information comes from the strangest of places and a little bird told us that Wonga had recently taken the whole 4th floor of the famous Black cat building in Camden town. This was a cause for a minor celebration in itself. We now had a physical target. Armed with this information we ran some checks and found a little piece in the Telegraph from February confirming this. But nowhere else was there any information relating to the company being in the building. Names of all the other companies residing there where proudly displaid in the foyer to the left of reception, Asos, various advertising companies, Cancer research, but nothing that indicated that Wonga had any presence. Our reconnaissance team casually walked into the building and asked the receptionist innocently if they could talk to somebody from Wonga about their loan and on cue the receptionist confirmed that Wonga were there by saying that they do not see anybody regarding loans and that needs to be done on-line. Even a joke was passed about how they where unapproachable. So content in the knowledge that the company were there we had a renewed enthusiasm and preparations continued.

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May day arrived and the rain came with it. As in tradition all the unions and various social organisations gathered in Clerkenwell Green. The day was set as a memorial for Bob Crow and Tony Benn and as such had a huge turn out. The plan for the day was to join the parade and show our respects to the 2 icons of the left at Trafalgar Square. Then Occupy London was to move on from the march and go and Occupy Wonga. From the moment we arrived we had our assigned police presence. Not approaching us but writing in their little note books our descriptions, our movements and the general observations of our activities. I must add here that nothing that was arranged was done in secret and our facebook presence and event page was very public for all to see. We had no intent of criminal activity just a simple protest.

We marched proudly with the May Day parade and paid our respects to Tony and Bob. Listened to the tributes and stood in the pouring rain with thousands of comrades. It was special. Whilst this was going on we a received a phone call from a friend who just thought he would let us know he had been in Camden and there were vans of TSG parked outside the building and police lining the steps. This only confirmed to me that we had hit the target and it seemed the police had already been there from time.

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Come 3.00 O’clock people were getting twitchy and it was cold and wet. Even with the weather we managed to pull around 300 protesters as we marched from Trafalgar with our sound system, our banner and the press. We had a nice little mix going on, we had Anti-capitalists, Anarchists, Academics, Activists (loving the A list). We marched towards Camden stopping the traffic, closing the roads, Police frantically on the radio. Asking along the way “Can you tell us where your going?” Oh the games they play.

BmjudxMIEAEoX-pWe arrived at the Wonga offices to be greeted by lines of police guarding the building. A line on the bottom steps, with a second line half way and a line across the door. The side slopes entrances where we had hoped to be able to take the people in the wheel chairs to gain entry to the offices was blocked. So with a little jostling and pushing our entry to the building to protest at the company was denied. Our requests to talk to a representative of Wonga had been prevented by the assumption that we were there to commit a crime (I shall return to this important point). So we chanted and used the loud speaker to announce our presence. It wasn’t long before half the workers were hanging out of the windows a welcome break of the daily grind of selling shit to people.

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It was all a little too hectic to pull off a GA so we voted and got consensus to hold an open mike and so the speeches began and they were brilliant. David talking about the commodity debt and Barb explaining that if everybody was given a basic living income there would be no place for these comapnies. The speech from the DPAC member was emotional and depressing but the reality of the effects have to be heard. Fuel poverty action backed up the horrendous figures of people that had died because of fuel poverty and the use of pay day loans to try and meet the ever rising fossil fuel energy bills. Everybody had something to say, a pensioner said it perfectly when he said that at his age he shouldn’t have to be out on the streets protesting against the vile money lenders who trade in peoples misery.

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The police had relaxed and you could see as individuals they were nodding in agreement to the emotive speeches. You know that there was nothing that was being said that they couldn’t disagree with. A police officer came over and told us that all the employees had been sent home that we were “shouting at empty offices” as though that was a loss. Where I would had taken that as a win. The police protecting the building for hours before we got there, and the employees being sent home early. I bet they were well happy having an afternoon off rather than having to sell their souls to the money lenders. We finished our speeches and we told Wonga that this was only the start and we had them in their sights and we would be back. All in all a successful start to the Occupy Wonga campaign. At the end of the talks we cleared up any mess that had managed to accumulate i.e. soggy placards and the odd water bottle. The police watched us clean up in what could be only described as a look of respect on their faces. So we all drifted off some to dry off, some to the pub to feed back on the action and how we could improve it, what worked, what didn’t and some went to the students May Day Carnival.

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 So back to the police. It was evident that Wonga had been informed that a protest was being arranged targeting the payday loan companies. Yet there was no talk or plans of any criminal activity this was just an ordinary everyday protest at the corrupt and immoral finance system. So when did our police force become a private police force. Surely the police should only be in attendance if they are called because a criminal activity is taking place when infact the criminal/immoral activity that is taking place is by the very company they are protecting. I thought that was what companies like this had security for? Whilst outside the building we noticed that along side various inspectors we had been graced with the presence of a gold commander . Something I haven’t seen in years. Did it really warrant a Gold commander on the ground. What is the threat here? What role are the police playing here when they can inform a company that a protest is going to take place and then protect the building for the said company. That surely is not policing ? This is where once again they have crossed the line and become the enemy of the people rather than the servants of the people. One of the foundation stones of democracy is to be able to protest the Right to protest and the freedom of association. The police are here to protect the very people these companies are targeting but alas they have shown us their lack of independence. Maybe the day has come that we set up our own police force? Have we been left with any other options.