History repeats itself, Marx once said, first as tragedy, then as farce. On this occasion, why then are we not laughing?
In 1973, twelve months before the February 1974 general election called by the Conservative Prime Minister Ted Heath took place an episode of ‘The Likely Lads’ called ‘No Hiding Place’ was broadcast. The episode centered on the efforts of Bob and Terry to avoid knowing the result of the football game between England and Bulgaria until the televised evening highlights. A mate bet them otherwise and so they spent the whole day trying to stay away from any situation which would spoil the outcome of the match for them before they had seen it.
In 1974 the Tories lost to Labour by four seats. The Liberals won fourteen seats. Following unsuccessful attempts to persuade the Liberals to take part in a coalition government Heath resigned and a minority Labour Government took power with Wilson becoming Prime Minister for the second time.
‘You have got what you voted for’ proclaimed the front page of that May 1974 Socialist Standard:
“In the last few weeks the politicians and commentators have been disputing about what the electors wanted, what the new Government will do, what will be in its next budget, will the polices work…They are wasting their time and yours. The main outlines of your future in the next few years are already determined, and it would be just the same with a Tory Government, a Tory-Lib coalition, or a three-party government – a little more there, a little less here but nothing essentially different.”
Every time I drive along Oystermouth Road toward Swansea University I pass Swansea prison I imagine what is happening behind those walls and what it must be like for the individuals locked into a repressive system there. I can never avoid the following words flying into my mind: ‘Norman Stanley Fletcher, you have pleaded guilty to the charges brought by this court, and it is now my duty to pass sentence…you will go to prison for five years.’ Not for one moment do I think that reality is anything like Ronnie Barker’s humorous television portrayal of incarceration, ‘Porridge’. Five years is now going to be a fixed parliamentary term too apparently. Metaphorically speaking we are all still ‘banged up’ by capitalism until the majority gain socialist understanding and decide to set everyone free.
6 May, 2010, no political party reaches the 326 seat target required to form a government and ‘run’ British capitalism.
The working class majority may not have declared decisively in favour of one or three of the political parties which aspire to run capitalism on behalf of Great Britain plc but certainly, in May, they chose not to vote for themselves. So what were they voting for? It has been suggested that if voting actually achieved anything it would be made illegal or abolished – unless you keep on voting for the continuation of the present social system.
The Socialist Standard of May 1974 provides an explanation: “On a superficial view the electors who voted…wanted different policies, Tory, Labour, Liberal; or Scottish, Welsh and Irish Nationalism. What in fact they voted for is capitalism with small variations of no importance. Capitalism with a face lift; capitalism inside or outside Europe; capitalism with a degree of autonomy in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The voters wanted capitalism not Socialism. They have got what they voted for.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same, as the French say. Despite their efforts Terry and Bob discovered that the game had been called off. Their efforts had been for nowt. The result of the 2010 election was impossible to avoid. The working class chose not to abolish the wages system this time around. The question is how long it is going to be before you vote for real change. Vote for yourselves. Vote for Socialism!