On June the 8th, Britain will have its occasional ration of democracy with the opportunity to vote in the General Election. At every election, we are told that if we don't vote for Tweedle Dum, Tweedle Dumber will be elected so we should vote for Tweedle Dum. We tend to forget that the lesser evil is still an evil. This politics of fear in the end has delivered everything that we were originally afraid of. The longer the capitalist society stays, the worse things will get. No matter how much we are inclined to ignore it, we will not be able to escape this reality. The present economy only works for the very few. The electorate is facing elections in which there is almost no prospect of a constructive debate. The question will be which representatives of the elite do the voters hate more? An election frenzy seizes the country because they have all been brought up to believe that voting is crucial in determining their destiny, that the most important act a citizen can engage in is to go to the polls and choose one of the mediocrities who have already been chosen for them. A democracy cannot function without a public that is properly informed. You can’t have a mandate if the electorate has no idea what it’s voting for. Ritualised elections now offer a choice between heavily marketed political brands rather than competing aspirational visions.
Elections aren't necessarily the be all and end all, but they do matter. Political parties are associations of individuals and groups organised to defend specific class interests. They seek political power to best defend and advance these interests. Elections pose the question as to which class will run the system. The aim is to convince the electorate that the result would be "change", a relief from the present misery and a path to a better future. Socialists counter that the better life offered by the ruling class’s standard-bearers cannot be achieved in the framework of capitalism. And, in fact, all the injustices that so many recognise as a reality in today’s world - racism, poverty, endless war, climate change, sexism, cuts in health care, education, pensions, and jobs - are inherent in the capitalist system itself. For all its democratic claims, this election campaign serves mainly to obscure the truths about our unequal society. Its important feature is the absence of real choice. It's all very well having a vote - but are you normally given any real options? Let's face it, if it wasn't for the politician's photo on the front of the election leaflet, could you tell which party was which? It's tempting, in the absence of any real alternative, to get drawn into the phony war that is political debate today. Whether Labour, Tory, Lib Dem or UKIP they all spout the same promises. But it always amounts to the same thing - they offer no alternative to the present way of running society. Do you really think who wins an election makes any difference to how you live? And do politicians (whether left-wing or right-wing) actually have much real power anyway? Okay, they get to open a new supermarket or factory, but it's capitalism and the market system which closes them down.
What is voting? It’s a chance to tell the country and the world what your vision of government and society really is. If you can't vote for what you believe in or don't believe in what you vote for, then, voting means nothing. An unprincipled vote is a wasted vote. You aren’t standing up for what you believe in by voting “the lesser of two evils.” You have sold out your personal beliefs. We vote to tell everyone else which choice we think best represents the direction which we want the country to go. When you vote, you gain a certain power that a non-voter doesn’t have; the power to change the status quo. If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. In other words, if you want change, then create change. So rather than waste your vote on what you consider the lesser evil, Labour or Tory, cast a meaningful ballot that clearly says what you believe. If the difference between Conservative and Labour is that one party truthfully promises evil, and the other deceitfully promises good, surely the right thing to do is to judge the difference too small to be worth calculating, and walk away from that Hobson's choice.
For power to be lodged in the hands of the people does not mean merely that they are to have the widest possible franchise and equal voting power. It implies that the people are to have control of all social institutions, a say in all social activities, the self-management social life. Such a condition of affairs presupposes at the very outset the common ownership by the people of all the means of life. Across the world there are countless examples of sweeping changing to political landscapes from one election to the next. Political freedom offers the best means to make that change, and the tools are to hand were the workers to take them up. Nothing short of fundamental system change will bring about an end to the economic exploitation, corporate control, and perpetual wars. Our time and our energy should be spent in educating, agitating, organising our co-workers in the workplace, in the neighbourhood, in the schools and colleges. For socialists, it eventually comes down to the need to take sides. Whose side are you on? The upside of an almost total disenchantment on the part of the electorate with politics-and business -as-usual or an authentic message for real change that will make a difference. There are only two paths to the future. One is in the service of capitalism. The other is a democratic revolt for socialism.
The Socialist Party will have the only candidates standing in these elections who will be saying to the electorate "We do not want your vote unless you understand what our positions are and fully agree with them"! If you want to vote for our party we're delighted. But we don't really want votes based on a misreading of what we are about. We are not promising to deliver socialism to you. We are not putting ourselves forward as leaders. This new society can only be achieved if we join together to strive for it. If you want it, then it is something you have to bring about yourselves along with others in concerted co-operation and action.
|"you have turned your Parliament House into a dung-market"|
News From Nowhere, William Morris