A ride on the merry-go-round
Taking part in a general election is rather like having a ride on a merry-go-round. It is noisy, gaudy, exciting. It has something to divert us, even though temporarily, from the problems of the day. And when it is all over and we get down from our horse, we have a distinct impression of having been here before.
The election programmes of the capitalist parties in 1966 all told us about their plans for dealing with certain social ills. They told us about building a safer world, where the weapons of destruction are kept firmly under control and where war is a disappearing fear. They had a lot about poverty and of how they had the final solution to want and insecurity. In some cases, they pinned it down to particular issues; like housing, which they said was a simple matter of trusting them to provide decent homes for everyone.
Any elector with a stomach strong enough could have ploughed through several of these programmes, all making the same sort of promises about the same problems. And any elector with a memory long enough could recall that he was served up with the same stuff in the election of 1964 — or 1959, 1955, 1951, 1950 . . . and that in fact there had always been the same high sounding plans and empty assurances, for as long as there had been votes to win.
One thing which is absolutely certain now is that it will be no different in 1970. It does not need any talent for clairvoyance to know that in this election we shall be assailed by Labour, Conservative, Liberal, “Communist” with manifestoes which are blockbusters of promises. And they will be talking about war, poverty, wages, housing, insecurity . . .
Another certainty is that the voters, who are the working class, will be sufficiently impressed by these programmes to make their choice between the parties presenting them. The electors will actually consider whether they will accept the dud cheques of the Labour Party in preference to those of the Tories. They will argue about which capitalist party shall be given the chance to deceive them, exploit them and suppress them for the next five years. And having chosen they will sit up all night on polling day to watch open-mouthed for the result of this non-race.
Having done this, and having given power to one or other of the parties of capitalism, the working class will return to their problems — war, poverty, housing, disease and so on. Until the next election comes round, when the merry-go-round will start again and the manifestoes will come out telling us how easy it is to stop all these social ills.
One of the most dangerous features of the merry-go-round is that it is a diversion. The workers are impressed with the glamour of it all; they think it important, whether Wilson supports the right football team and whether Heath is married. They become caught up in the razzmatazz of the election and argue as if there were some fundamental difference between Labour and Tory and the others. They have their ride on the merry-go-round—and they pay for it.
In other words, among the confusion and the deception and the glamour, the real issues and the fundamental interests are submerged. What matters in this election, and in all the others, and in fact all the time, is not which party is given the job of running capitalism, reformed or unreformed. As long as capitalism continues so will its problems—and so far no one has been able to think up any way of having capitalism without war, poverty, famine and the like.
What matters is whether the working class will take this chance to look at a more basic programme — nothing less than dealing with the cause of their problems instead of meddling with their symptoms. This means a fundamental questioning of capitalism—its property basis, its privileges, its false principle of leadership. It would be a useful start in this, to look back at those old election promises, to compare them and the current ones and to contrast all of them with the facts of reality and achievement.
It is only the shortest step from this, to replacing capitalism with a society based on the common ownership of the means of production; to building a world without classes, frontiers, racial divisions, privileges; without want amid riches. The urgent problem for the working class now is to replace capitalism with Socialists—to stop the merry-go- round and get off.
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The Socialist Party is to contest two seats in the general election on June 18 — Hornsey and Clap- ham, both in London.
Candidate: F. Simkins
52, Clapham High St., S.W.4. 01-622-3811
Candidate : E. Grant
159 Turnpike Lane, N.8
Members and sympathisers are urged to contact their nearest election room to help in this socialist election campaign.
Please send donations to the Parliamentary Fund, c/o Treasurer, The Socialist Party of Great Britain, 52, Clapham High Street, S.W.4.