As the Brexit pantomime plays on, a General Election is now thrust upon us. Like all capitalist elections it will be a sham. About a third of the electorate (mostly working class) already have no illusions that a vote will do anything for them. In the UK the sham does not mean that ballot boxes will be stuffed with fake votes. Our rulers don’t need to do that. They have worked out how to get a result acceptable to the system without it.
A Cruel Deception
It is a cruel deception because it looks so plausible. The capitalists can sneer at the electoral failure of all those “socialists” who stand as candidates never to win. They can say that this proves that there is no support for socialism. In fact what it really proves is that without the millions of pounds required to fund newspapers or TV channels and set up media companies which constantly drip feed the capitalist message (whether of left or right) there is little hope that workers will vote for candidates who “have no chance”.
But the issue goes deeper than that. It is a way of getting us to accept that the system, however much we might hate what it does to us, is “democratic”. We thus accept it and its rules. In fact this “democratic consultation” is just a fig leaf. It disguises the nakedness of the capitalist dictatorship over us.
Individually workers are nobodies. We have zero clout. Collectively though we are a social force to be reckoned with. However, going into the polling booth is to enter “a fine and private place”. Here each individual is isolated. Faced with the choices on offer most go for the immediate. If the Tories offer to let you buy your council house, or Labour to scrap student loans, you might go for either even though you realise the promises will almost certainly be broken. The sense of being one on your own undermines the fact that our strength lies in collective action and fighting together. It is the same at work where more and more of us are on individual, part-time and precarious contracts. They want to undermine our capacity to act as a class.
Legitimising the System
In fact a cross on the ballot paper helps legitimise the system which has brought worsening living standards for two generations. It is like an invitation to be kicked in the teeth yet again.
To some this might seem far-fetched. After all our working class ancestors fought to get the vote. In this struggle they were shot, hanged, imprisoned and transported. But we still did not get the vote. The capitalist class only gradually conceded to it once they were sure elections would be no threat to their rule. By this time they had established a nation-wide police force and created political parties. One of these parties has always claimed to be fighting for “workers’ rights” (first the Liberals, and after World War One, Labour). “Workers’ rights” were sometimes conceded but only because the ruling class trembled that workers might go further and question the very existence of the whole system. Corbyn, and all the leftist hangers on, are selling a deception, a dangerous illusion.
The fantasy that capitalism can be reformed for the benefit of the majority. Hope for the hopeless. But capitalism today is not attacking the conditions of the majority and transferring ever more wealth to a tiny minority because the wrong party sits in Parliament. It is doing so because that is the only way capitalism can maintain profitability, the only way it can squeeze enough profits to carry on functioning.
There will be no end to exploitation through voting for a Parliament in which the ruling class always wins. As capitalism lurches towards another crash, there is no way that things are going to get better. If we are going to put up a real fight we have to organise for ourselves against all the attacks. In the course of this we can forge our own organisations to coordinate the fight and set up our own “democracy”. This would not be a “representative” system where you elect someone for five years and never see them again. It would be a direct system where workers delegate one another to workers’ councils. We can recall delegates when we need to, and mandate or re-elect them according to our real needs.
This is workers’ democracy if you like and it is vastly superior to the current system which works only for the moneybags of capital.
The above article is taken from the current edition (No. 49) of Aurora, bulletin of the Communist Workers’ Organisation.