1990s >> 1997 >> no-1111-march-1997

An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Voting

The Tories are right. The next Labour government will end in tears, just as every other Labour government has. But so has every Tory government. In fact all governments end in tears for the great majority of the population.

Since every government in Britain since the first world war has been either a Tory government, a Labour government or a combination of the two, the minimum conclusion that a rational voter would draw is never to vote Labour or Tory again.

“Hear, hear”, the Liberal politician will say, “Vote Liberal”. But this wouldn’t be a rational course of action either. This would be to assume that Tory’ and Labour governments fail because of the personal failings of Tory and Labour politicians since the only thing that distinguishes the Liberals from Tories and Labourites is that they are different people. Everything else is the same; their approach to politics (promising to do things for people) and the framework within which they see themselves operating (the profit-motivated, market-governed system) are identical. But there is no reason to think that Liberal politicians are any more, or any less, honest or competent than Tory or Labour politicians.

The fact is that the personality of those who form the government is irrelevant. Even if they were all sincere, incorruptible and efficient, as opposed to, say, power-hungry, money-seeking careerists, it wouldn’t matter. They would still fail. A government of super-competent saints too would end in tears.

The reason is simple. Contrary to the claims of politicians, governments cannot control the levels of production, employment and consumption, These are the result of the blind workings of the profit- driven market system and go up and down according to whether the rate of profit is rising or falling.

Governments can’t make the economy work in accordance with their desires but have to adapt their policies to what the economy requires, and the profit system requires that priority lx given to making profits over everything else and in particular over spending to meet the needs of the majority of the population. Which is why all governments end in tears.

In short, the government does not control the economy, the economy controls the government.

Going Fishing
The lesson is clear. What is required is not a change of government but a change of economic system. A change of bums on the ministerial benches in the House of Commons is an utter irrelevancy for almost everybody except the politicians concerned. Insofar as this is what is at stake in elections then the rational course of action for a voter is to abstain.

The thing to do on election day would be to go fishing or to spend your day digging the garden or doing some home repairs. Millions will be doing this and they won’t be wrong. At least they will be behaving in a more intelligent way than the millions who will be trotting along to the polling stations and voting for one or other rival hand of professional politicians.

But it is still a rather negative reaction. Abstaining is, quite literally, doing nothing, which can be seen as accepting that nothing can be done to end the misery people have to suffer whichever party or parties form the government. This in fact is probably what most abstentionists think but this is going too far. Something can be done to escape from the vale of tears the profit system imposes on ordinary people. The profit system can be abolished and replaced by one geared directly to meeting people’s needs instead of to making profits for a privileged few.

But this will only come about if we make it come about. This is why those of us who want this change have organised ourselves into a Socialist Party, not with the purpose of rivalling the other parties in their bid to form the government—a government formed by us would also end in tears—but with the aim of publicising the fact that there is an alternative to the profit system: a socialist system of society based on common ownership, democratic control and production for use not profit.

Such a system can only come about when a majority of people want it and organise themselves to get it. So the sort of politics we are talking about is not that of trusting in professional politicians to do things for you but is a do-it-yourself politics, with people themselves organising at work and where they live to take control of their own lives by working to change the economic basis of society.

Voting has a part to play in bringing about this change. Although governments don’t control the economy they do control the forces of political repression, so it would be stupid to leave the machinery of government in the hands of supporters of the privileged few who benefit from the profit system. At some stage those who want socialism will have to mount an electoral challenge to the parties of the profit system and defeat them at the polls.

Voting Usefully
This means that voting isn’t in itself useless. It doesn’t serve much use today when there’s no real choice but it can in the future. When there is a socialist majority it can be used to remove from power those who support class privilege and the profit motive, so opening the way for ordinary people to carry out by their own efforts the socialist transformation of society.

Even today those who realise that what is required is a change of economic system and not a change of government can do something more positive than merely abstaining. They can cast a write-in vote for socialism by writing the word “SOCIALISM” across their ballot paper. That way you reject the view that whoever forms the government makes a difference while at the same time showing that you think that the vote can serve a useful purpose at a later date.
The number of us who want socialism is relatively small at the moment but we are still strong enough to put up socialist candidates in a number of constituencies in the coming election, in five to be precise (London Vauxhall, Glasgow Kelvin, Livingston, Jarrow and Easington).

These socialist candidates are not offered as leaders. They will make no promises to do things for people. They are merely names on the ballot paper to allow those who reject the profit system and want socialism to register the fact. In the extremely unlikely event of them being elected, they would just be the messengers of those who voted for them, delegates mandated to go to the House of Commons to use it as a megaphone to broadcast the case for socialism more widely.

So, if you reject the profit system and want socialism, the best thing to do in the coming election is, depending on where you live, either write “SOCIALISM” across your ballot paper or put an X against the name of the Socialist candidate.

Abstain if you like, but whatever you do don’t vote for one of the parties that supports the profit system and wants to form the government, That way, when the next government, whatever it is, ends in tears you can say “Don’t blame me. I didn’t vote for any of them”. If you ignore this advice, you will only have yourself to blame for what will inevitably happen

Adam Buick