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50 Years Ago: The Election - What is at Stake?

On March 31st the electorate will once again go to the polls and perform the act which Socialists consider is of crucial importance to the way in which society is organised ― they will vote. Like other elections in the past, this one will generate its own groundless optimism. Once again, the illusion will be fostered that here is a fresh opportunity at last to solve the problems which have been a burden for so long. In spite of the enduring failure of all varieties of political parties to overcome such problems as war, poverty and the general chaos that is a constant feature of Capitalism, the Labour and Tory parties will go blandly into this election as if the experiences of the past had never occurred.

Once again, there will be the cheap traffic in promises. Once again, there will be the contrived differences between parties who are united in their defence of Capitalism. Once again, there will be the complete failure to face up to the realities of life in 1956. Once again, the politics of personalities, gimmickry and opportunism will take precedence over a serious understanding of the difficulties besetting society.

The records of both the Labour and Tory parties make a mockery of their claim to be the instruments of social improvement. The past policies of both these parties are an indictment which no amount of hollow phrase-mongering can overcome. For all their talk of progress and modernisation, their ideas and actions are imprisoned by the limitations of the status quo ― that is ― Capitalist society.

What is at stake in this election? What is it that the electorate by voting Labour, Tory or Liberal will endorse?

Whatever spurious disagreements will engage the Heaths and the Wilsons during this election, in fact they have a great deal in common. Socialists talk about the means of production and by this we mean all the instruments and technical know-how that man has developed for the purpose of producing wealth, from hand tools to nuclear power stations. All reformist politicians agree that these means of production should continue to be monopolised by a small privileged section of the population.

(from Socialist Standard, March 1966)