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

Noah Fence
Jun 8 2017 16:53

I've noticed the soft left socdems actually hallelujahing over the promise of more cops on the streets. I thought that was the privelidge of what used to be, when I were a lad, the bowler hat and tightly furled umbrella brigade. The world's gone mad I tell you!!!

S. Artesian
Jul 15 2017 04:34

Removed in protest of Libcom policies allowing posting of texts by racists

Noah Fence
Jun 9 2017 04:04

Well, he is a very nice man...

Spikymike
Jun 9 2017 10:13

Just wanted to say that whilst I'm in general agreement with the thrust of Chilli's blog and others that have posted statements against support for Corbyn and the UK Labour Party that I'd caution against referring to Corbyn's 'socialist principles' as these quoted 'social-democratic' policies amount to little more than a commitment to a slightly different mix of state and private ownership and/or control of capital. This 'social-democracy' is but a pale reflection of it's historic European origins and in today's more globally integrated capitalist economy full bloodied national state capitalist economies are surely a thing of the past, but such a limited mix is still possible (as evident elsewhere) and up for debate between capitalist politicians in the context of a deepening economic and social crisis. Such policies as most here would understand them are neither socialist nor in anyway anti-capitalist.

cantdocartwheels
Jun 10 2017 09:25

ain't that the problem with this type of article though, i mean by basing your argument around social democracy and by not actually spelling out what socialism or communism is you run the risk of condemning yourselves to irrelevancy. After all considering that the radical left and anarcho milieu at present is at a pretty low ebb in uk even compared with say 2009-11, trying to out anti-austerity a labour left electoral surge seems unlikely to have any effect atm Obviosuly knowing the authors i know that they're solid and its not theyre intention at all but if you just talk anti-auterity not you know socialism then eventually you end up sort of fighting for the left of centre ground so to speak.

Other problem i'd have is the ''social democracy i impossible because of capital flight'' argument. It is I admit worth talking about capital flight, but to claim reforms are impossible is pretty historically inaccurate and we wouldn't have free healthcare if that were true. Its also worth mentioning that its the sort of argument that can just as easily be used against militant trade unionism or even environmentalism as social democratic reforms, so i'd be wary of over emphasising it,

That said its not a bad article overall, its free from some of the moralising of some similar, Didn't convince me not to vote labour this time round though. As i've said elsewhere on here, when your wife can't vote because she's an EU migrant and the tories basically want to kick you out of the country a principled abstentionism just didn't have the appeal of previous years for me. .

Chilli Sauce
Jun 10 2017 14:42

Hey Cantdo, good to see you round these parts.

I'd say, quickly, that I don't think either of us as the authors, subscribe to the idea that capital flight makes or has made social democracy impossible.

It's more that without the organization and power to demand social democratic reforms and then fight against the backlash, social democracy will be impossible. Corbyn as individual - or even Corbynism as a movement - doesn't have the ability to counteract the sort of response his even fairly moderate reforms would garner.

That was part of the idea in those final three paragraphs, but maybe it didn't come across?

Ed
Jun 12 2017 20:35

So, looking back since the election, I think one weakness in this piece is that it doesn't discuss Brexit and how that would effect any attempts at Corbyn instating social democracy.

Just as stream of consciousness: I think a lot of the assumptions on the left/centre-left have been basically 'May is being a dick and she's fucking up any prospect of a decent Brexit with her hard Brexit stance'. To a certain extent this is true (she's being a dick, she's angling for a hard Brexit) but I think the underlying assumption for a lot of Corbynistas is that a) Corbyn would do it better, and b) the EU would be more willing to work with Corbyn to come to a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Now, I'm not sure how much of that is true. It's hard to say one way or the other obviously (and I'd be interested in other people's thoughts on this) but given that the EU is essentially a neo-liberal institution that was happy to ravage Greece, and comments by people in Europe (Macron called it Brexit "a crime", for instance), the idea that the EU would be happy for Britain to leave and then set up its own prosperous social democratic Scandinavian utopia seems really unlikely to me. As Bronwyn Curtis from the Society of Business Economists said “it comes down to money. The UK is the country that initiated the ‘divorce’ and Europe will want to make the UK pay the highest price possible.” I think that's probably right, especially considering you'd get other countries (like Italy, with their anti-EU Five Star Movement one of the biggest parties) to start thinking they could leave as well. It's a matter of survival for the EU.

So what would this mean for Corbyn? How would he deliver on his promises to roll back austerity when the economy looks like it could nosedive again (and even further) in the next few years? I'm no economist but he seems hemmed in on all sides: he has to deliver social democracy and Brexit with a PLP who are almost unanimous Remainers that hate him and his politics, an EU that wants to see Brexit fail, inheriting Donald fucking Trump as his main geo-political ally, capital already ready to fly depending on how Brexit goes before we even start talking about social democracy and redistributing wealth!

Or is this all just bollocks?

Anti War
Jun 14 2017 16:03

In reply to 'Serge Forward' on Sylvia Pankhurst, I agree we need to do so much more than recycle platitudes from a more revolutionary period.

But it is only by looking at contemporary events through the prism of the past upheavals that actually created institutions like elections, the Labour Party and the welfare state that we can understand present events.

History may not give us the answers as to what to do in the present but it can, at least, show us what not do: e.g. vote Labour.

The quotes compiled in this article, 'Voting as Counter-Revolution – how the politicians who gave us the vote saw things 100 years ago', certainly helped me understand the world better than dozens of articles now being churned out by all those former radicals turned Corbynistas!