Tag Archives: elections

Repost: Brief response to ‘4 Reasons Working-Class Radicals Should Vote Labour’ on the Novara Media Website | LibCom

Brief response to ‘4 Reasons Working-Class Radicals Should Vote Labour’ on the Novara Media Website | LibCom  (Click for full article)

Brief response to '4 Reasons Working-Class Radicals Should Vote Labour’ on the Novara Media Website

“…the only interest the Labour Party has in trade unions is a financial one. As long as the unions continue to spunk millions into Labour’s coffers, they will continue to pretend to represent working people. When then money is stopped – watch Labour run!”

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Stop your preaching about voting – it relegates real struggle while supporting a sham that is destroying the world

There is a world beyond the ballot boxOne Glasgow AFed member writes:

Am probably not voting today. And I dare a single one of you to *seriously* tell me that’s because I don’t engage in politics. I might go along and chuck the greens a vote, but very firmly with my nose held and purely just to add to the proportion tallied against vaguely progressive politics. Elections are a sham and what we do in our every day life is a million times more important. In fact some argue that that elections act to entrench a system that I believe to be a part of why this world/society is such a frigging inhumane hole. So maybe not voting will be a more significant tally – of those disenfranchised from representative bollocks. And no, Labour winning is not progressive or better in any meaningful way. Though at least those who are gullible enough to vote for them are probably doing it for nice reasons. Unlike what an absolute selfish, heartless, stupid arsehole you’d have to be to actively vote Tory.

The thing that pisses me off most is those who tell me that I’m obligated or guilty if I choose to abstain from it. Some of those even acknowledge that the system is rigged, and yet still say we should engage! Just read a great comment on that : “If a race was rigged, you wouldn’t run it in the hope that you might make the organisers feel bad about illegitimately disqualifying you; if a game’s rules were unfair you wouldn’t play it and complain about how unfair it was. you find a different game, or you change the rules of that one.”

There’s a thing that happens when you’re vegetarian or vegan. You quietly order your dinner and don’t comment on anybody else’s, but anyway the meat eaters at the table start to chime in. Some of them are obv attempts to be friendly/assauge shame “I eat meat but I really enjoy vegetarian food too and have cut down on my meat consumption” whereas others (in my experience this is the absolute majority of comments) “I couldn’t give up meat. I love it too much. Vegetarians are so preachy.” And I try and ignore this and get on with my personal ethical choices, and wish they’d stick to theirs, or if they feel that guilty and defensive about it, try and get their absolution elsewhere. Because really, if you feel a nagging guilt that what you’re doing is wrong, and yet still do it just because you enjoy it, that’s pretty fucked up. Something is oppressive or not. Its fine to talk about how choices are compromised under capitalism – I would totally agree with you, and have similar qualms about not being vegan. But in that case don’t start pushing your meat into my face and telling me that its all ok. And if you’re fine about it, then why did you feel the need to bring it up with me in the first place?

Feels similar at election time. I don’t think I have a go at anybody about their political inaction for the 1824 days when there’s not an election. So why suddenly do I get all this bullshit around election time? This constant noise around the importance of voting plays just one purpose; it relegates down all the actual constructive politics people do in favour of something that is useless in ever effecting change.

Vote or don’t vote. I don’t care. But preaching about how important it is to keep the tories out, or how not voting is irresponsible is actively harming real moves to make actual progressive change. So STFU.

Compassionate voting…

It’s the general election today troops. We’re getting a say in who rules us for the next five years or so. If you have to vote then vote for your local rando and get them an MP’s job and off the benefits. Be kind and compassionate.

Repost: If you care about politics, don’t vote | Ray Filar

If you care about politics, don’t vote | RAY FILAR (Click for full article)

Ray don't vote
“Even where governments have been voted in on substantially different platforms – as with the 1945 Labour government – political power remains concentrated in the same place. Voting doesn’t change the current system, it maintains it. Political engagement isn’t voting, it’s dismantling party politics altogether. It’s abolishing parliament. And short of that, it’s having a truly participatory democracy where peoples’ choices feed through to representation. If you want to engage with politics, forget about the election.”

Repost: Vote With Your Feet! | SolFed

Vote With Your Feet! | SolFed (Click for full article)

protest_0

“Voting is a waste of time and only serves to dull our anger. On the other hand anarchist tactics – grassroots organising and direct action – are making a difference right now. If all of us who don’t vote got together and took action (voted “with our feet”), then we could take back all the rights and benefits we lost under the last Tory government, with more besides. So let’s get organised, get active, and give ’em hell!”

Labour and the unions

Ed Miliband addresses the Trades Union Congress

The infatuation of the trade unions with the Labour party should be nothing other than mystifying for ordinary workers. Whether it is ‘Unions Together’ or TUC voter registration drives, trade union members amongst us should feel deeply insulted at being asked to prop-up the Labour party as the best available solution, argues the Anarchist Federation.

The Labour Party was set up in the early twentieth century as a political wing of the trade union movement. Despite the rose-tinted view of history, it has continually regulated workers under capitalism. It is not a case of Labour having ‘lost its way’ and needing recapturing. To echo the anarchist Rudolf Rocker, political parties and elections haven’t brought workers “a hair’s breadth closer to socialism.”

The ‘Special Relationship’

The TUC and parts of the left continually present us with a picture of Labour which has nothing in common with its actual actions. They tell us that we still have a ‘special relationship’, and that despite its failings, the Labour Party stands-up best for ordinary working people. So we should support it ‘without illusions’, because it is better than the Tories. Not that you would notice! All the major parties support austerity against the working class. This is irrefutable, and Labour even says as much.

What remains of the dwindling trade union movement is essentially shackled by harsh restrictive anti-union laws and a totally compliant TUC leadership. These laws tell us how to manage our affairs, seriously restrict our ability to withdraw labour, and tell us who we can and can’t expel, which means that we have to accept scabbing in our own unions. They restrict free association in a way that no other organisation can under British law and are regularly condemned by the International Labour Organisation, which is hardly a hotbed of radicalism. The only time Labour repealed anti-union laws was when its hand was forced by a mass grassroots workers movement in the 1970s.

Overturning these present laws and rebuilding a militant culture around the workplace is going to require not the politics of the ballot box, but sheer will and the determination to oppose so-called ‘representatives’ in both the Labour Party and the TUC. Their class interests under capitalism are intimately linked; our interests begin and end with us.

What the Suffragettes did for us

Suffragettes march in Bermondsey, south London, 1911

An anarchist responds to the guilt-tripping of women which occurs every election time about how suffragettes fought for women’s’ right to vote.

It’s election time again, and anarchist women are once more being lectured on doing our duty to those who died for our vote.

For the record, the suffragettes’ demand was that women should be balloted wherever men were. They weren’t fighting for every woman in perpetuity to be guilt-tripped into supporting any political system that used the ballot box to legitimise itself. They trusted future women to make their own decisions. Sylvia Pankhurst, for one, lived to reject parliamentary democracy as an “out of date machine” and refused to cast a vote or stand for election herself. This election, she’d be angry with every party’s participation in cuts to essential women’s services, not the women who spoil their ballots or stay away.

More than the vote

There was a lot more to the suffragettes than just the vote. They were about women’s solidarity, our ability to work and fight together, to write and speak from our own experience, not just on the vote but on sexual, social and vocational freedoms, like fair pay and reproductive rights. Being denied the vote was an insult to women as intelligent, rational human beings, regardless of how much use the vote itself was. Using the vote was almost beside the point compared to what it would mean for women to have the vote, to not be seen as mere extensions of their husbands.

Getting the vote was a victory largely because of what women achieved through the process of fighting for it. The speeches, publications, smashed windows, battles with police, martial arts training, imprisonments, hunger strikes, resistance to force-feeding and refusal to give in: these did more to raise the status and confidence of women, as public and political people, than the vote itself ever has. Much more than having women MPs or careerists who have cynically used women’s struggles to promote themselves.

Telling us that we have to vote because votes for women were hard won, is condescending, paternalistic shit. Working class men also fought for the right to vote, but are much less criticised if they suggest that there are more effective means of change than the ballot box. For women, voting is turned into an issue of conformity rather than conscience, in direct opposition to who suffragettes were and what they fought for. The suffragettes never intended their campaigning to stop with getting the vote. Many continued fighting when their leaders were co-opted. They weren’t satisfied, and they didn’t intend us to be.

Co-option

The suffragettes achieved their aims because they were a radical, inspirational and effective direct action movement. They achieved incredible things for themselves and for future generations of women. Yes, they deserve our respect and our gratitude. But more than that, they deserve our study and our effort to comprehend the full enormity and complexity of their struggle. They deserve better than to be reduced to a single-issue sound-bite.

So this polling day, whether you vote or organise or both, consider honouring the suffragettes’ memory by not using them as a stick to beat women with when they treat their vote exactly as the suffragettes did: as their own, to use or not, on their own terms.

Free education and the Liberal Democrats: a student’s perspective

A student member of the Anarchist Federation’s account of the Lib Dems’ promise on university tuition fees and the lessons learned.

Living in Sheffield at the time of the last election, I saw that there was massive voter turn-out and support for the Lib Dems amongst students. A tangible optimism and excitement existed in Nick Clegg’s constituency. Personally, I spoiled my ballot paper with, ‘If voting changed anything they’d make it illegal’. However, I did wonder whether a Lib-Dem rise could contest the New Labour/Conservative stalemate of neoliberal similarity.

Clegg now sports a satisfaction rating of minus-40 (Mori survey). This is well deserved. Instead of capping tuition fees he has overseen them triple to £9,000. Young people among many others who voted Lib-Dem have been left disillusioned by this, becoming disengaged from politics. What has been proven is not that young people are not interested in politics, but that politicians are not interested in young people.

Debt

I was lucky and only had to pay £3,000/year in fees. But I now owe the Students Loan Company £23,000. This increases by at least £30 a month due to interest, which started whilst I was still at university! I am persistently being hassled by them checking if I’m earning enough yet to start paying it back.

Neo-liberalisation

When I finished university I wanted to continue studying. However, funding for a social science Master’s degree is rare and most students are self-funded. I couldn’t stand the thought of incurring more debt by taking out a loan, so I gave up on the idea. I moved home and worked in a café trying to get out of my overdraft. I found out that there are no tuition fees in Sweden for EU citizens. I applied to Stockholm University and got in, paying living costs with money I’d earned in the café. I then found out I could return to the UK on an Erasmus exchange, avoiding tuition fees and even getting an EU grant!

This illustrates the lengths that you have to go to if you come from a background where higher education is unaffordable. Furthermore, it has taught me that a free education is feasible, but cannot be accomplished by relying on political parties and the establishment. The neo-liberalisation of higher education has proliferated under the Coalition. Education is becoming the preserve of the upper-middle-class. Research too must now be ‘competitive’, not expressing critical, independent thought.

To contest this, to strive for free education, the only way is to self-organise! The demise of the Lib-Dems has shown we cannot rely on any political party to deliver this. This is why we argue ‘Don’t Vote – Organise!’

 

This is what democracy looks like?

What follows is the very rough notes that where used for the introduction to the the first of our Angry Not Apathetic discussion groups. This evening we looked at what elections are, and the role of parliamentary/representative  democracy. It would be great to carry on what was a really engaged discussion, so if you were at the talk (or even if not) it would be awesome if you could put a summation of any points you either raised or took away in the comments bellow.

scum


This is what democracy looks like?

The general election is a contest to see who will win the job of running the state, so to understand elections, you need to understand the role of the state:

  • An organisation of all the lawmaking and law enforcing institutions within a specific territory.
  • Controlled and run by a small minority of people.
  • Claims that only violence that takes place with it’s sanction is legitimate.
  • Acts to protect the capitalist interests of a specific segment of the ruling class, while also keeping capitalism in check so it doesn’t all fall apart, as the success or failure of a state rests on the success or failure of capitalism within it.
  • To maintain social order and class society.

There are a whole lot of reasons thrown up for why elections make sense, none of which stand up to even a light level of scrutiny. Here are some of the most common:

Standing in elections gives a platform to talk politics
This was the reasoning behind the German socialist parties in the early 20th century, it has been the call of many small minority parties since, and today it is used by the anarchist group Class War. The thing is it wasn’t taking part in electoral politics that contributed any success these groups had, it was direct action at the points where we had struggles in our lives. If anything for CW formal involvement in elections has weakened their argument and made their position seem contradictory and muddled, while socialist parties just get trapped in a mire of elections and don’t go beyond that. Politics and power isn’t external in the state, it is everywhere and available to us, and pretending that elections are special hides that power from us.

Voting for the lesser of two evils
No matter who you vote for, the government that forms is going to undertake the same tasks. It may present them differently; in fact New Labour were able to be far harsher than he Tories due to the lack of criticism and scrutiny given to them by the unions. Parties outside of power will always be able to look better than those in. When we look at the policies and actions of government they have never been taken in direct reply to an election so much as the militancy and power of working class movements at any given time. Rather than pretend that elections have any real meaning we should look at ways or organising ourselves so that no mater who is in power, they will need to provide concessions to us as a working class.

A radical minority can pull the state leftwards
Nah, the ruling party will spin things to justify the plans it was going to undertake whatever. A radical minority will be ignored as it can’t be used to further the agenda of those in power (unless painted as a scapegoat and villain – red scare). On the other hand a minor far-right party (such as Golden Dawn or UKIP) can be used as the excuse to drive through harsh laws and reactionary positions because that is what the government wanted to do all along. BNP got used this way without even having an MP.

We need to change the way we vote!
The voting system being the used isn’t the barrier or the key to change. No matter how they are chosen, elected officials are largely unaccountable except to their own party and the tasks of government. Regardless of how they are selected, the main way to see real changes is through organising with those around us, while the electoral process itself is still a massive distraction from building this kind of working class power.

We need to counter voter apathy
This one is half-right. Apathy is a problem, but voting or not voting is beside the point. Apathy comes from a feeling that change is not possible, a feeling that the focus on voting creates. We need to work to build a culture where people feel they can resist the state and capitalism, but that won’t happen by posing a new candidate to vote for; that will only breed more apathy.

We can change the system from the inside
The closer a group gets to executive decision making the more it’s interests start to side with the status quo. We can see this recently with the SNP, where they dropped their pledge to leave NATO, thus indicating to others in power that their commitment to scrap trident is nothing more than hollow rhetoric and that once in power they would (with a regretful face on) keep things as they are.

In Conclusion: I’d argue that anarchism should be a tool for understanding how power and hierarchy works, and as such we should use it to be truthful about elections and work to demystify them. Pretending they are somehow important just holds us back.


 

Next month (on the 15th of April) we will be looking at the question of what anarchists actively put their time into, so keep your eyes peeled on this blog  for details of our second talk in this short series: Direct action gets the goods!

Cut Military Spending? Scrap Trident?

john stewart

In 1998, the UN estimated that we would need $40 billion annually to sustain the entire WORLD population. This translates to roughly $58 billion today and would cover housing, food, clothing, health care, education, and a lot lot more. Any one of the countries listed in the picture above could provide that money if that where all it took.

You might be thinking that all that is needed is for a party to get in that will get into power that can reform the system and divert some of the money to meeting our needs, but capitalism cannot be reformed.

The closer a group gets to controlling power, or at least as groups get absorbed into the decision making structure, the divisions between rich and poor disappear from view and the status quo becomes less and less flawed. Preserving the current order (with the odd cosmetic difference here and there) becomes the goal.

As elections draw near there will be more and more calls to scrap trident, with the vulture political parties circling around our anger and horror about nuclear war and hoping to pick it apart for votes. No matter if we vote or not, or if the candidate agrees with us or not, the demand to scrap trident, by itself, is doomed to failure.

Many supporters of the SNP, the Greens, and the smaller socialist parties all think that the lip service for scrapping trident that their parties give now will translate into action if only we all get behind them and vote them into power, but lets look at what has already happened to see what will come down the line.

As the SNP have gotten closer to power they have had to change their posture so that they look appropriate for that power. This has manifested in their U-turn on leaving NATO, instead guaranteeing that an independent Scotland with them at the helm would remain a member.

The Trident missiles themselves (if not the warheads on them) are an american weapons system housed at Faslane under lease to the Royal Navy through a NATO treaty. It is impossible to scrap it without leaving NATO and the pissing off the US government.

The only reason the Greens and smaller parties can get away with still saying they would leave NATO is because they are not getting any closer to power at this time. They can remain a minority voice that will ultimately be ignored by whoever has power.

So let’s keep in mind that the cry to scrap trident is falling on deaf ears and by itself leads to a dead end of supporting political parties and electoral politics. Instead, as we shout out for trident to be scrapped, let’s also start shouting out for what we really need – a world without wars and a life where our well-being is met because we are alive – and let’s do it through building working class power with those who are around us.

After all, why back one party when we can build so that any of them would have to give us what we want least we take it for ourselves? And if we can take it for ourselves, well, that’s where real freedom lies!