We anarchists are often ridiculed and criticised for our attitude towards voting and to representative democracy as a whole. We view the system of having individuals representing us in council or government as giving up our freedom. We all know that these people do whatever they want once elected and rarely keep the promises they made in order to win votes. Anarchism comes from the Greek an-archos meaning without leaders.Democracy to us is everyone having an equal voice. If we organised in our communities and workplaces into groups and made decisions based on consensus we could do without those people who claim to represent us.
An example of what we mean can be seen from the It’s Our City anti-ESG campaign. This group was set up by people, including but not exclusively councillors, in order to stop the destruction of the city centre. Around 16,000 people agreed with them and signed a petition to show their support. At this point, we believe, the democratic thing to do would have been open public meetings to decide on the direction of the campaign. We would have pushed for the picketing of council meetings, city centre rallies and other forms of direct action. Not everyone would have agreed with us, but at least in open meetings people could have shared their ideas.
Unfortunately the self appointed leadership of It’s Our City decided that 16,000 signatures meant 16,000 votes. Behind closed doors they turned a vibrant community wide campaign into a political party. This was anything but a democratic decision. Cynics would say they let their egos and hunger for power get the better of them. In the end they failed to win the election. But it would make no difference if they had won control of the council; people who claim to be the solution always end up as the problem. Tony Blair and Barak Obama are evidence of that. Leading members of the It’s Our County party supported the election of Jesse ‘sod the poor’ Norman, so it’s clear their political views aren’t very different to the people they claim to oppose.
When It’s Our City was being wound up, Hereford Solidarity League tried to push for an open and democratic continuation of the campaign, but organisers refused, thinking that we wanted to take over. We thought that there would be support for direct action, as numerous community based campaigns have successfully used this in the past. This would have allowed supporters to use their own voice, rather than rely on other councillors to talk for them. As we now know only a lack of money stands between the council and their ESG plans. We hope that future campaigns learn from the mistakes of It’s Our City and not allow politicians to get in the way of democracy.