Why I’m still not voting

Why I’m still not voting

Corbyn, rather than being the saviour of the working class in Britain, demonstrates the futility of even the best of intentions when operating within logic and limits of capitalist democracy.

Alright, I'll admit it: I have a soft spot for Jeremy Corbyn. I feel like he's the left-wing grandfather I never had. I like his elbow patches, his allotment, his cycling about and making jam. As the old platitude goes, I could imagine having a beer with him.

He's a politician, but he probably is authentic in his beliefs. And, at least in my lifetime, he's the first politician with socialist principles to have a legitimate shot at achieving the highest level of state power.

Ultimately, though, I still won’t be voting for him.

The Enemy Within: the PLP

“What?! You want another five years of the Tories? Don’t you care about [insert issue here]? How could you not vote Corbyn?

Well, firstly, because, unless you live in Islington North, you can’t vote Corbyn. You can vote for your local Labour MP who, in all likelihood, probably one of the three-quarters of MPs who tried to get rid of Corbyn with their no confidence vote. We’re being asked to vote for the same MPs who, when they stood in the 2015 general election, ran on a platform where they promised to work within George Osbourne’s spending plans and refused to reverse the cuts that had already been made.

It’s also worth remembering that some of these people - people like Tom Watson and Hilary Benn - have been MPs since Labour were last in power: they were there for the introduction of ‘managed markets’ and ‘Private Finance Initiatives’ into the NHS, or when the Labour government contracted ATOS to do Work Capability Assessments, or when they introduced the proto-Bedroom Tax in the form of the Local Housing Allowance to ‘incentivise’ private tenants to move into cheaper accommodation.

Are we supposed to believe these same MPs have had a change of heart and will pursue Corbyn’s social democratic policies?

The fact is, the PLP will continue to sabotage Corbyn at every turn (by resigning from important posts, publicly criticising him and his progressive policies; in fact, continuing everything they’ve been doing up to now).
And Corbyn will be forced to compromise. In fact, he already has: first, he decided not to call a whip on the November 2015 Syria airstrikes vote thus ensuring the result would be in favour. Second, he refused to call on Labour councils to resist budget cuts, which has resulted in councils shedding services and attacking pay, in some cases, such as Durham and Derby Teaching Assistants by as much as 25%.

Yet these are exactly the types of principled stands on which Corbyn established his credentials as an activist MP.

Now, obviously Corbyn didn’t do these things because he secretly loves war and budget cuts; he was trying to maintain party unity of his party. But his party is, ultimately, a capitalist party which not only aspires to manage a capitalist state but where one in six peers have financial interests in private healthcare and numerous councillors and MPs have links to property developers.

So do I think Corbyn is basically the same as the Tories? No, of course not. But do I think the Labour Right are basically the same as the Tories? Yeah, pretty much. And, in most cases, that’s who we’re being asked to vote for in this election.

The Enemy Without: Capital

Most worryingly for Corbyn (and his supporters) is that all these compromises with the Parliamentary Labour Party are while pressures on him are relatively mild. Should Corbyn win the election, Corbyn's social democratic policies would undoubtedly see a backlash from big business in the form of capital flight and non-cooperation if not outright sabotage.

We only have to look at the economic effects since Brexit to see what market jitters can do to an economy: devalued currency, price rises on imports (and, therefore, price rises in shops and supermarkets), banks and companies talking about moving operations abroad, outflows of capital, etc etc.

And this is due only to the uncertainty of moving from one kind of conservative neoliberalism to another. Imagine what would happen if the shift was to the kind of social democracy Corbyn is advocating! In fact, it would probably look a little like what happened to the Labour governments of the 1960s and 1970s, which ended in them taking a loan from the IMF along with a package of cuts and controls.

Right-wing economists aren't wrong about capital flight or businesses shedding jobs when wages are raised because that’s exactly how bosses react when their profits are squeezed. That is how bosses wage their half of the class war.

So whether through through raw economic forces or through the concerted activity of capital in the political realm, brakes will be put on Corbyn's reforms. He'll have very little choice but to compromise on his program or face all the consequences that come with a slowing or stagnating economy. Corbyn's beliefs – no matter how authentic they may be – will quickly come up against the reality of managing British capitalism.

Getting out of the election cycle

But I get it: Corbyn's a breath of fresh air. He talks the talk and, no doubt, he wants to walk the walk. And, to be honest, if people want to vote Labour, that’s fine. It’s not a crime against the class or whatever.

But as an American who's relocated to Britain in the past decade, I can remember my friends getting really excited about Obama back in 2007. Needless to say, my American friends no longer have such a rosy view of Obama.

Fast forward ten years and a lot my friends here in Britain have those same levels of excitement about Corbyn; a man whose program is far to the left of Obama and would be significantly more difficult to implement.

The history of left-wing politicians is one of moving rightward in government. Whether Syriza implementing EU austerity measures, the Irish Green Party overseeing an onshore Shell refinery project they had previously opposed, the Italian Communist Party’s ‘historical compromise’ with the right-wing Mafia-aligned Christian Democrats (and countless other examples), the reality of governing a capitalist state ensures that even honest social goals are compromised when wielding state power becomes a reality.

None of this should be taken to mean that I’m just ‘waiting for the revolution’ (I’m not) or don't want to improve our conditions in the here and now (I do). But it’s not by voting that we improve our conditions; it’s through struggle.

It was through sustained levels of class struggle in post-war Britain ensured the working class could extract concessions from capital on both the workplace and state levels. It’s through rebuilding that collective strength - in the workplace, in community organisations, or elsewhere - that we can do so again.

So while it might be nice to have a drink with Jezza, seeing him elevated to the position of prime minister is not the way we'll see social democracy re-established as the framework of British politics. Rather, we'd need to to bring back the levels of class power that existed in the decades after the Second World War. And we won't achieve that by voting.

Thanks to Ed for his edits and suggestions.

Posted By

Chilli Sauce
Jun 5 2017 18:37

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  • Whether through through raw economic forces or through the concerted activity of capital in the political realm, brakes will be put on Corbyn's reforms. He'll have very little choice but to compromise or face all the consequences that come with a slowing or stagnating economy.

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Comments

Craftwork
Jun 7 2017 18:26
Noah Fence wrote:
An ICT friend just wrote this as a response to some of the crazy shit we've both been bumping into...

http://www.leftcom.org/en/articles/2017-06-07/anarcho-corbynism-and-supp...

Yes, key point here:

In one sense, the desire to play some sort of a role within the movements which attract significant working class support and channel the very real discontent which the trajectory of the capitalist crisis is brewing is one we can identify with. However, that participation, that intervention, can only be within precise limits which concede nothing to the snares and illusions hiding behind sugared phrases and “old men bearing gifts”.

For revolutionaries, withdrawal into isolated theoretical work (if that) is no solution. The point however, is not to commit political suicide, kneeling before the five-minute fashions and the momentarily popular, but to find ways to intervene as revolutionaries, defending revolutionary perspectives, on the difficult terrain which is presented to us by capitalism's trajectory. This may not yield immediate numerically significant victories but it can spread awareness that revolutionary organisation exists and sow a seed which may sprout when the next capitalist crash smashes against the conditions which maintain passivity and the safety nets of welfare and the ability to sleep walk through life are definitively jettisoned by a profit desperate capitalism.
[....]
We cannot say when the dam will burst and the tables will be overturned, but we know there is only mounting crisis in store for us under capitalism and that the pre-constructed revolutionary organisation, fruit of patient intervention, has an essential role as a solid political reference point for a class driven by desperation into a fight back. A class dominated by illusions and misconceptions carefully grafted onto them by a ruling class. Amongst these misconceptions is the snare of democracy under capitalism, the parliamentary road to socialism, confidence in trade unions and the Labour Party which the NE anarchists and any others who have abandoned the abstentionist position to vote for the class enemy are fortifying.

Given an intense level of class struggle, we can get our message through to the class in general. But the precondition is we have a significant organisation built up in the preceding period.

zugzwang
Jun 7 2017 18:57
Iktomi wrote:
Didn't Chomsky say that voters in SWING states should hold their noses and vote Clinton in order to keep out the greater republican threat? And that voters in safe blue states can vote how they want?

Yes, but nobody seems to agree with the Chomster here (I'm on the fence myself). It's all in the piece I linked to above.

Iktomi
Jun 7 2017 19:30
Quote:
Yes, but nobody seems to agree with the Chomster here (I'm on the fence myself). It's all in the piece I linked to above.

Seems straightforward to me. The consequences of not voting tactically is the accelerating imiseration of the working class, destruction of the environment, threat of nuclear war, etc. Voting is certainly not a replacement for organizing and given the choice I would of course choose the latter. No doubt electoralism is a dead end for revolutionary goals. But for the goal of survival of the working class and environment I choose to hold my nose and vote the lesser evil.

Noah Fence
Jun 7 2017 19:31
Quote:
I'm on the fence myself

I wondered who that was, now get the fuck off of me!

Khawaga
Jun 7 2017 19:36
Quote:
The consequences of not voting tactically is the accelerating imiseration of the working class, destruction of the environment, threat of nuclear war, etc.

I'd say the consequence of voting has given us "the accelerating imiseration of the working class, destruction of the environment, threat of nuclear war, etc." That has actually happened; Labour reversing all of these things, well, that's just wishful thinking (although, of course, I wish they would do it).

Iktomi
Jun 7 2017 19:51

Sorry I'm not familiar enough with U.K. Politics to comment. I was talking more about the US and Trump v Clinton. Along with the great article zugzwang linked to. But I think the article can be generalized to voting anywhere.

Noah Fence
Jun 7 2017 19:51

Yet again we have "lesser evil" being bandied about as though it's a given without any qualification at all. So where's the evidence? History? A party transformed under a new leader or simply the good guy factor? Well, obviously not so I guess it's a myopic speculation or desperate delusion.

Khawaga
Jun 7 2017 20:15

My point exactly, Noah.

Iktomi
Jun 7 2017 21:10

https://chomsky.info/an-eight-point-brief-for-lev-lesser-evil-voting/

Rather than rewrite all of the points made in this piece may I ask you to read it and then respond to it? It's pretty short.

I think it's interesting that you put "lesser evil" in quotes. As if it were a fictional concept. That I think is the real delusion.
"This includes the recognition that far right victories not only impose terrible suffering on the most vulnerable segments of society but also function as a powerful weapon in the hands of the establishment center, which, now in opposition can posture as the 'reasonable' alternative."

Noah Fence
Jun 7 2017 22:02

Firstly, we're talking about Labour here, not Trump but even if we use Trump as a (rather spurious)parallel, I'm far from convinced. I know very little about US politics but it seems obvious to me that Trump's rannygazoo will either tail off or he'll be out on his ear. Let's not forget what drives real policy, capital and capital isn't gonna be blown that far off course in the long run. Take his recent withdrawal from the climate change agreement for example, the investment and research in green energy isn't going to stop overnight, that's a big ship to turn around, especially unilaterally, Trumps bluster and bombast is, at least in the short to medium term, exactly that, loud but instubstantial Still, as I say, I'm no expert and I stand ready to be corrected but back to UK and I still insist that there are no indications that Labour are the lesser evil. The only evidence we have that has any weight at all is history and as has been shown many times, the history of the Labour Party is equally steeped with the stench of anti working class criminality as the Conservative Party. Indeed, the most recent Labour government went on a brutal neo-liberal rampage that made Thatcher look like a fucking girl guide.
Sorry comrade, but you're gonna have to do a whole lot better than that to convince me.

zugzwang
Jun 7 2017 21:56
Noah Fence wrote:
Quote:
I'm on the fence myself

I wondered who that was, now get the fuck off of me!

Well spotted.

Noah Fence
Jun 7 2017 22:00

I've just noticed "far right victories". Are you saying May and co are of the far right? Ah, come on, that's ridiculous. If she is, then so are the majority of the Labour Party, ffs, there's not much more than a fag paper between them.

Chilli Sauce
Jun 7 2017 22:13

A rannygazoo? A randy kazoo? Noah, are you secretly a 1940s cartoon villain?

Chilli Sauce
Jun 7 2017 22:18
zugzwang wrote:
Noah Fence wrote:
Quote:
I'm on the fence myself

I wondered who that was, now get the fuck off of me!

Well spotted.

Man, knowing all that Noah can get up in just 10 minutes, I would get the fuck away from that fence ZZ.

zugzwang
Jun 8 2017 00:33
Noah Fence wrote:
... Let's not forget what drives real policy, capital and capital isn't gonna be blown that far off course in the long run. Take his recent withdrawal from the climate change agreement for example, the investment and research in green energy isn't going to stop overnight, that's a big ship to turn around, especially unilaterally, Trumps bluster and bombast is, at least in the short to medium term is exactly that, loud but instubstantial Still, as I say, I'm no expert and I stand ready to be corrected but back to UK and I still insist that there are no indications that Labour are the lesser evil. ...

Well, no expert myself, but the president has executive powers, can sign executive orders/memoranda, can veto legislation, can pardon people or commute sentences - and with congress being controlled by Republicans, he can successfully pursue such campaign rhetoric as further slashing taxes for the rich, cutting what little social spending there is and further distributing income upward, etc. It might be inevitable that we eventually turn to green alternatives, but what about the meantime under Trump? The first version of his travel ban had its effects while it was in effect (are we to just rely on the sanity of other parts of government?) - the unwelcome reception, protests etc., to it as well I'm sure was a part in getting it taken down (it's a pity there's this whole 'Resist Trump' but less of a 'resist capital,' or even support for reforms that could help the the poor and most vulnerable). The conception of him being a puppet of capital, while mostly correct, is not entirely so I don't believe.

Noah Fence
Jun 7 2017 22:44
Chilli Sauce wrote:
A rannygazoo? A randy kazoo? Noah, are you secretly a 1940s cartoon villain?

I've plenty more treats in my archaic language vault, time to sleep now but I'll leave you with 'oddsbodykins'!

Iktomi
Jun 8 2017 01:13
Quote:
I know very little about US politics but it seems obvious to me that Trump's rannygazoo will either tail off or he'll be out on his ear.

Trump himself? Certainly. The rightward shift in politics that he and others represent shows no signs of letting up however.

"One of these candidates, Trump, denies the existence of global warming, calls for increasing use of fossil fuels, dismantling of environmental regulations and refuses assistance to India and other developing nations as called for in the Paris agreement, the combination of which could, in four years, take us to a catastrophic tipping point. Trump has also pledged to deport 11 million Mexican immigrants, offered to provide for the defense of supporters who have assaulted African American protestors at his rallies, stated his “openness to using nuclear weapons”, supports a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and regards “the police in this country as absolutely mistreated and misunderstood” while having “done an unbelievable job of keeping law and order.” Trump has also pledged to increase military spending while cutting taxes on the rich, hence shredding what remains of the social welfare “safety net” despite pretenses."

Would you rather have a BNP dominated parliament or a labor one? But honestly I'm not here to convince you of my moral superiority. Just to question the pragmatism of your position. Also, I know fuckall about the U.K.

Noah Fence
Jun 8 2017 08:52
Quote:
Would you rather have a BNP dominated parliament or a labor one?

I can't answer that because deciding between what particular authority our freedom is crushed by is not my strong point. Cop outs to one side though, we're not talking about that here. I've challenged two things here, firstly, that voting for a capitalist government is incongruous and harmful inside of anarchist thought and strategy and secondly, that the assumption that Labour are the lesser of two evils. Neither you or anybody else have provided any convincing argument to the contrary, at least nobody has even begun to convince me on either point.

ajjohnstone
Jun 8 2017 09:25

In Swansea West, Battersea and Corbyn's own constituency, you have the option of voting for the SPGB. smile

Noah Fence
Jun 8 2017 09:46
ajjohnstone wrote:
In Swansea West, Battersea and Corbyn's own constituency, you have the option of voting for the SPGB. :)

Next time I'm living in one of those constituencies I promise I'll give it a go, today though, I'm too busy to vote, even for the leader of the Tooting Popular Front, Robert Lindsay, who happens to be my Green candidate. Yes, too busy - I've got some very important paint I've got to watch dry.

Auld-bod
Jun 8 2017 10:27

Roll up! Roll Up!
For one day only, the political circus is in your area!
Remember people died so you can enjoy these clowns.
Stand in line and kiss the ass of your choice!

Oh thingamajigs! I’ve only gone and spoiled my ticket!

ajjohnstone
Jun 8 2017 11:23

leader of the Tooting Popular Front, wolfie smith
Coincidental, i been citing him today on our party discussion forum ..."Power to the people"

Scallywag
Jun 8 2017 12:14

For an article that never even said don't vote, people sure are cracking up about it:

http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/the-anarchist-revolt-against-the-...

http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/anarchists-it-is-our-duty-to-vote...

They also aren't even bothering to take on the arguments, its just repeats of the same platitude that anarchists should take 10 mins to vote for the lesser evil and that if we don't then we don't care about people.

epk
Jun 8 2017 12:31

Voting is a rite of consecration between subject (or rather, citizen) and the state.

Those who vote feel less estranged from the government; are much more likely to believe the politicians have a mandate to rule and to act; are less likely to feel their wishes and interests don't count; are less likely to do something about it; and are more likely to believe they should invest efforts into getting other people to join these Capitalist political parties and try to effect reforms from within.

A boycott or abstinence from voting should not be an individual act, however, it's not "you and your conscience" or anything like that. If there was a demonstration or a strike during election day which would be targeted at the winning party, _any_ winning party - clearly underlying a pole of resistance to all government policy and its very power and legitimacy, I think it would be a much better idea to encourage people to participate in that than in voting in parliamentary elections.

(Also, even Corbyn's specific politics are horrible. WTF are you people talking about? He's pro-Capitalism, pro-State, pro-NATO, pro-Israel...)

Serge Forward
Jun 8 2017 12:59

Just been down t'polling station and.....

...spoilt my ballot (again) with a catchy communist slogan wink

jef costello
Jun 8 2017 15:31

It's really quite sad how many posts on my feed are about voting for Labour. I have healthcare professionals who somehow think Labour is going to do less damage than last time.

Anti War
Jun 8 2017 15:55

Sylvia Pankhurst said all that needed to be said even before the first Labour Government was elected:

Quote:
'The social patriotic parties of reform, like the British Labour Party, are everywhere aiding the capitalists to maintain the capitalist system, ... are everywhere working against the Communist revolution, and they are more dangerous to it than the aggressive capitalists because the reforms they seek to introduce may keep the capitalist regime going for some time to come.

When the social patriotic reformists come into power, they fight to stave off the workers' revolution with as strong a determination as that displayed by the capitalists, and more effectively, because they understand the methods and tactics and something of the idealism of the working class. …

We must not dissipate our energy in adding to the strength of the Labour Party; its rise to power is inevitable. We must concentrate on making a Communist movement that will vanquish it. The Labour Party will soon be forming a Government; the revolutionary opposition must make ready to attack it.' – Workers' Dreadnought, February 1920.

Chancy Gardener
Jun 8 2017 16:02
Serge Forward
Jun 8 2017 16:22
Anti War wrote:
Sylvia Pankhurst said all that needed to be said even before the first Labour Government was elected:

Quote:
'The social patriotic parties of reform, like the British Labour Party, are everywhere aiding the capitalists to maintain the capitalist system, ... are everywhere working against the Communist revolution, and they are more dangerous to it than the aggressive capitalists because the reforms they seek to introduce may keep the capitalist regime going for some time to come.

When the social patriotic reformists come into power, they fight to stave off the workers' revolution with as strong a determination as that displayed by the capitalists, and more effectively, because they understand the methods and tactics and something of the idealism of the working class. …

We must not dissipate our energy in adding to the strength of the Labour Party; its rise to power is inevitable. We must concentrate on making a Communist movement that will vanquish it. The Labour Party will soon be forming a Government; the revolutionary opposition must make ready to attack it.' – Workers' Dreadnought, February 1920.

And Pankhurst was absolutely right...

But that was said after revolutions in Russia and Germany, with mass social upheaval and class conscious workers with nothing to lose and everything to gain. None of that is on the cards at this moment in history and quoting Pankhurst is just words without at least a semi viable movement.

I understand people voting Corbyn in the current climate, especially with the class as de-politicised as it is, even though I don't agree with voting in elections. But quotes like Pankhurst’s in the context of today become almost platitudes and consequently useless, apart from serving as a reminder of how comparatively powerless we are now.

Reddebrek
Jun 8 2017 16:52
Quote:
Well, firstly, because, unless you live in Islington North, you can’t vote Corbyn. You can vote for your local Labour MP who, in all likelihood, probably one of the three-quarters of MPs who tried to get rid of Corbyn with their no confidence vote.

Just thought I'd add to this, the two constituencies in my area, Grimsby and Cleethorpes. The Grimsby constituency has an incumbent, Melanie Onn, she was part of the no confidence vote and walk out by the shadow cabinet that triggered the second leadership election. She also personally requested pro Corbyn members of the party be suspended.

In Cleethorpes the Labour candidate is Peter Keith, a man closely associated with the Labour right, manipulation of meetings, supporting cuts and also pushing for the suspension of pro Corbyn members. So while its possible to vote for the Labour party, it is impossible to cast a vote for Corbyn in this area, if you wanted too.