The return of a Socialist Party candidate does not then mean the immediate realisation of a programme of palliatives commonly set before the electors by the rest of the parties. The election of a Socialist Party member to any public body at present is only valuable in so far as it is the return of a disturber of the political peace. Until socialism attains a foothold any seat captured must simply be regarded as a means of spoiling the political intrigues and games played by the politicians.
As William Morris wrote: “I believe that the Socialists will certainly send members to Parliament when they are strong enough to do so: in itself, I see no harm in that, so long as it is understood that they go there as rebels...”
Britain's oldest socialist party, the Socialist Party of Great Britain (1904) consists of working men and women and has no funding save from its own donations. It has no leaders and has no wish for followers either and never has done, it holds that the emancipation of the working class is the task of the working class itself.
A vote for the SPGB candidate or writing “world socialism” across your ballot paper says a plague on all the parties of capitalism and is a vote for your self-emancipation. The Socialist Party does not want a mere protest vote, but an active politically conscious one supporting the democratic post-capitalist society, of common ownership,(not state ownership), production for use and free access run by our selves, not governments over people but the people administering over the commonly owned resources. Hardly anyone dares conceive of a society after capitalism, so powerful is its hold on the collective mind. But we dare.
Voting for the lesser of two evils is not the same as choosing to switch a runaway train to another track so it kills one person instead of five if you do nothing. In this hypothetical case, there are only two choices. But when faced with two repulsive candidates for office, there are other choices – abstain from voting or vote for a third party candidate, or write someone in. The rationale presented by those arguing for a vote for the lesser evil is that supporting an “independent” candidate should be seen to be a “spoiler” and instead their message make sure the least-worst of the capitalist politicians wins at all costs!
If you vote for the lesser of two evils, you’re compromising your political values and you’re sabotaging future real change. You’re guaranteeing the ruling class will put you in this position again and again. Lesser evilism proclaims “there is no alternative,” and works to enforce that claim, inducing people to knowingly vote for parties that do not represent their views or interests. Stampeded by revulsion and fear, we are left with the choice of voting for the mainstream and right-wing whose strategy then enables a further rightward drift. The more the “left” compromises and capitulates, the more boldly the conservatives express their vision and the further to the right the mainstream moves. Every year, the Left concedes more ground to the right, under the mistaken impression that this will bring everything closer to the centre to capture more votes. In fact, there is no centre. The Left tailor their appeal to undecided voters and narrows the terms of political debate. As long as voters engage in lesser evilism, workers miss out on the political opportunities that elections should present.
There are those liberals, progressives or populists, all concerned, well-meaning individuals who decry society’s illnesses but possess no clear idea of their fundamental cause. They see around them the unequal distribution of wealth, endless war, rampant racism, unemployment, and people's diminishing expectations yet hold no coherent analysis of how such injustices come about. They favour amending the current system, hoping that gradually, bit-by-bit, it can be converted into something fundamentally different.
Socialists understand that the drive for profits conflicts with the needs of humanity as a whole and to solve society’s fundamental problems, capitalism must go. Eliminating capitalism means placing industry under common ownership and workers control; building new institutions of democracy to replace the State and creating workplace- and community-based, regional and national committees of working people to democratically plan and run the economy. This perspective calls for replacing the current political and economic system from top to bottom with a new system, democratically run by working people which prioritises human needs and not profits.
Socialists are often asked to point to a single successful example where socialism has created the utopia that we advocate. If non-existence of an ideal result were grounds for declaring an approach a failure, then the capitalism can be condemned on those very grounds—doubly so, in fact, since promises and pledges of golden ages to come have resulted in only further injustice, violence and devastation that we see all around us and which has been implemented countless times through history. However, the unfortunate truth is that no socialist revolution has yet occurred.
Working people are required to take over the management and running of the economy, and to do so they have to organise. They have to be on board with the socialist idea and be clear on the goal. They have to be willing and able to fight for political and economic power in their own name. Workers have to know as to who’s on which side, who their friends and who their enemies are. Forming a separate third ‘labour’ party is not enough. To truly break free of “lesser evilism” means to build a party of, by and for the working class – a socialist party. A “new party of the left” or “new party of the 99%” is too vague. Anyone envisioning such a party sees whatever they want to see in it and will inevitably provide the vehicle for every reformer who seeks to rearrange everything at the top without challenging the underlying economic system. Language is important because it can be used to enlighten or to deceive. Those who describe themselves as socialist and pretends to be in favour of some kind of revolution yet protects and defends the status quo are deceivers. We should remember that success is not measured by how many people you have marching behind your banner, but by the number of people marching behind your banner in the right direction.
The working class produces everything. Although its distribution is highly unequal, all of our society’s wealth has its origin in the labour of ordinary people. This gives us tremendous power.
Bill MartinRICHMOND BARNES:Adam BuickSOUTHWARK BOROUGH AND BANKSIDE:Kevin Parkin