Tag Archives: GE2015

Post-election thoughts pt1: The SNP

Some thoughts by one of our members on the SNP in light of the recent election results. You can also read another member’s response here.

yellow tories

The leadership of the SNP must be the happiest people with the recent election results outside of the Tory front bench. Everything has lined up perfectly for them. But why would I say this when the polls were strongly hinting that the SNP could have been part of a coalition government and forced more devolved powers to Scotland? Surely they have missed out on making things better for the working classes here in Scotland?

The SNP as a political party doesn’t have the goal of making things “fairer” or to look out for us. That is the rhetoric of any opposition party the world over, and it is used to build membership and support. Once in power the SNP would get on with the same job that every government has, running the state 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. At the moment that means implementing austerity and progressing the privatisation of public services; the working class will always be hard done-by.

The puzzle for the SNP  is that the segment of capitalist interest they fight would benefit most from independence. If they were seen to be helping run Britain then they would have a harder time looking out for their own interests. By missing out on coalition they also miss out on the LibDem problem of being a supporting part of whatever cuts the government were making. However, would the same fate awaited them as hit the LibDems, that of rapidly destroying their base of support? Not quite, but kinda.

The twist here in Scotland is that the SNP can always play the Westminster card, and they do, time-and-time-again. If something goes wrong, no matter what, it is down to London (or Tories or some other boogieman) and the solution is independence. It doesn’t matter that the horrendous attack on working class services by Edinburgh council are SNP led, or that they have clearly shown that they have no intention of scrapping Trident as they intend to remain in NATO, or even that a whole host of their white paper promises are for things already devolved to Holyrood. These are not the failings of the SNP, liberal democracy, or a capitalist system. Nope. It is all Westminster.

The problem for the SNP is that to keep voters on-side for now they need to be seen to be centre-left. This means giving us in the working class just enough concessions to make things look like they are trying their best until they can secure independence and then get on with looking out for their  interests in the way they want to. The less the SNP have obvious control over the better they look. If powers are devolved slowly, bit-by-bit, then they would either have to concede more and harm their interests or it would become clearer that they are just the same as any other party.

So for the SNP having a Conservative majority is perfect: they can fight and lose to them and look great while awaiting another referendum, and at the same time any flack can be avoided by saying the Tory’s are the cause and that the failure to provide opposition was the failure of the Labour Party in England.

My other thought on the SNP landslide is that it stands as another landmark point in the furthering of nationalist views in Scotland. The role of nationalism is to hide the struggle between ruling class and working class, having us in the working class to support actions that prop up a part of the ruling class rather than work on understanding our own interests and fighting to have our lot improved. Now the main narrative is that things will be made better if we get behind independence, something which has no guarantees and diverts us from taking part in grassroots struggles where we can make a marked improvement in our lives.

At the same time we can look at the voting figures in England and get a rough feeling over why people voted a certain way. On the other hand it is far more difficult to judge up here in Scotland, where the SNP present themselves as whatever will be popular in the area (so centre-left in Glasgow and centre-right almost everywhere else). Add to this the feeling of disappointment over the lack of change post-referendum and it becomes impossible to get a measure for the views of the SNP voter base. My feeling is that this time around most of their voters want a better society and some real change, but that they have been set-up for future disappointment as the SNP  fulfils it’s role as a part of the machinery of a neo-liberal social democracy.

So, if it is just a case that the yellow tories are in, what should we be doing? I’ll be putting up a post in the next few days with some more hopeful and proactive thoughts on that topic.

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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!”

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!