Why we are in the GLC Elections

In next month’s Greater London Council elections there will be Socialist candidates standing for the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of a society based on the common ownership of the means of living.

We are aware that many people think the Socialist issue does not belong in local elections. The big questions of society — economic policies, international disputes, legislation which affects standards of living — are in the hands of central government. Local government is about things which must go on regardless of the state of society: drains and dustbins, road surfaces, running schools, providing dwellings. There is a widely held belief that “politics” is irrelevant to local government and should be kept out of it.

Unfortunately this picture is a mistaken one. Councils large and small are the branches of central government and exist to put its policies into practice. Their powers are laid down by Acts of Parliament and they are controlled legally and financially by the Government. The number of houses a council may build: its liberality in granting planning applications and welfare services; its expenditure on education — these are all dictates from the policies of central government. Councils help to run capitalism and operate its reforms.

Socialists are not concerned with reforms, but we are very much concerned with the conditions they attempt to remedy or palliate. Throughout this century, working men and women have been deluded that a change at an election — another party and another policy — will solve the problems for them. The truth is that these problems arise from the capitalist system we live under. People need housing, state-run schooling for their children and “welfare” because they are wage-workers, producing wealth but denied access to it. While the unending awfulness of the housing problem is discussed, there is a surplus of housing. It is not a housing problem at all; it is an aspect of the working-class situation.

In every field of local (as well as central) government administration the position is the same. Education, hospitals, roads, industrial planning: every one is a shambles. Other parties and their supporters say: “But what is your practical programme?” Ask them what theirs is! To carry on muddling? To apply inadequate measures derived from policies made futile by a system which cannot be controlled? Ask them how they propose to solve the problems of London, or any other city, when those problems are rooted in the capitalist organization of society.

Indeed a practical programme is needed. Clearly it must be quite different from the chronically unsuccessful policies of the Labour and Conservative parties and the ragtag sections who want to replace them. Clearly, too, the matter is urgent. The Socialist Party of Great Britain has a policy which will end for ever the state of affairs these parties cannot overcome. It is a simple cause-and-effect proposition: if, as we have shown again and again, capitalism itself produces the problems, the only solution is to abolish capitalism and put Socialism in its place.

The Socialist Party candidates are not saying “Elect us, trust us, that is what we will try to do”. Far from it: our case is that Socialism cannot be presented to or imposed on people by leaders, even well-meaning ones. The condition for it is the working class understanding and wanting it, and giving the mandate to Socialist candidates to take possession of the powers of government and establish it. Those are the only kind of votes we want, and one of the reasons for standing in this election is to show our position in contrast with the sham appeals of the pro-capitalist parties.

There must be many who approve (or think they approve) the Socialist case but say: “There is only a small number of candidates. If they were all elected to the Greater London Council they would not be able to establish Socialism.” We know that. The number of candidates reflects our resources: as more people join and support us, it will grow. Nevertheless, every vote now cast consciously for Socialism is a step towards political control and a fresh notification that the future is ours. And if you have begun to understand what capitalism is and does, you have no alternative — the days of voting for the continuation of capitalism are over, and only Socialism will do.

Robert Barltrop