Yesterday, polling stations across Trinidad & Tobago opened to the public. It was my first time voting in a general election. People lined up, their ballots were cast, and their fingers were inked.
It’s important to exercise one’s civic duties after all.
This year, the United National Congress (UNC) ran a divisive, racist campaign, chock full of damaging misinformation, Trumpian rhetoric, and inconsistent policy. As a result, people came out in droves, despite the pandemic, to exercise the rights secured by suffrage.
It was a close race. But the People’s National Movement (PNM), not without their flaws, was rallied behind and came out on top, securing the majority. The administration of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley will be continuing for another five years.
However, as an anarchist, there’s something I must express. Something I wish the ardent activists of electoral politics would grasp.
Voting is not enough.
Understand that representative democracy cannot truly represent and advocate for the interests of the whole. Voting attempts to provide the population with the illusion of change, while in reality, it reinforces the current system. A policy here and there may change, the faces may change, but the system of a wealthy minority ruling a poorer majority remains.
The mindset of representative democracy provides a blueprint of habits and rituals that one remains unthinkingly stuck to, regardless of effectiveness. We’re forced to operate within the framework of the existing, inflexible system.
“If voting made a difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.”
We’re stuck on the hamster wheel, perpetually voting for the lesser of two evils. We reinforce the idea that society is divided into order-givers and order-takers. But why should we base our society on a compromise with evil and corruption? We’re trapped in a Sisyphean struggle against the same unrelenting issues, year after year.
It’s time to take back our power. If you truly care about change, you need to do more than just vote. Voting has never revolutionized the status quo. We must all become actively involved in developing a better world. Our best hope begins with direct action, not outsourcing responsibility to the ruler of the day.
“To elect a master or many, for a long or short time, is to resign one’s liberty. Instead of entrusting the defense 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!”
Direct action channels our energies towards true accomplishment, as we use our power to directly reach particular goals rather than appealing to the authorities.
Instead of waiting for the government, we need to tackle problems as a community. Instead of perpetuating a culture of passivity and complicity in larger institutions and habits beyond reproach, we need to cultivate active engagement every step of the way.
“Direct action is, ultimately, the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free.”
Direct action is a more effective means for people to have a say in society than voting is. Voting is a lottery. Your preferred candidate may not get elected and all the time and energy put into supporting them are wasted. In our political climate, smaller parties have no chance of securing power, while factionalism builds deep divides within the populace.
With direct action, you can be sure that your work will offer some kind of results. The experience you gain, lessons learnt, and networks and connections built up in the process cannot be taken away from you.
Also, while voting is only possible when election time comes around, direct action can be applied whenever the need arises. Relying on electoralism means you can only address whatever topics are current in the political agendas of candidates, while direct action can be applied to deal with the issues in every aspect of your life.
What must be done?
- We need to build alternative economies through co-operatives, libraries of things, credit unions, and local purchasing.
- We need to build affinity groups, skill workshops, community gardens, and popular assemblies to affect change and make decisions on a community level.
- We need to build unions to fight the battles and protect the interests of workers, students, and others across the nation.
As an anarchist, my philosophy demands flexibility (rather than rigid legalism) and consensus (rather than coercion). I truly believe we need to fight for a chance to live as human beings should live.
For more resources, here’s a full guide to direct action.