2000s >> 2001 >> no-1163-june-2001

Editorial: Join the protest

With the electoral circus in full swing the parties have been competing with one another in a seemingly endless round of pledges, promises, scare stories and counter claims. And the longer this circus goes on, the less interest most voters show in it. The news media openly spends more time telling us about “the election” itself – its stratagems and ruses – than about the policies on offer from any of the parties. It is hardly surprising given the paucity of the products on show.

The election is carried out as if the two main protagonists are marketing agencies selling two superficially different (but nevertheless fundamentally identical) management teams. The tools of their trade are the typical marketing techniques employed by corporate business everywhere – “spin”, “positioning” in relation to key target sectors, junk mail and cold calling of those in a targeted market niche, all refracted through the magnifying glass of the “focus group”.

Is it any wonder the electorate react with a cold shrug of apathy? The only time the campaign thus far has come to life was when a manager from one of the competing teams hit an egg-wielding farmer’s boy on the campaign trail in North Wales. Nothing of any significance happened and no great issues were debated as a result but it provided a spectacle for a society that thrives on periodic spectacular events to relieve the boredom and passivity.

Who wants to endlessly discuss whether there’s a £20 billion hole in one of the team’s tax and spending plans or whether the other team will abolish the ceiling on the upper rate of National Insurance contributions when we can watch Thumper give the Yokel a left-arm jab on the nightly news? All the arguments are just froth, of course, anyway – how many can (hand on heart) say that they are definitely always better off under one type of management team rather than the other? Very few and they’re usually the ones with money enough not to care too much either way.

For the rest of us – the majority who struggle along from week to week while the people with real money in society get even more money and the politicians play their games to distract our attention from it – it’s one long yawn. A nagging irrelevance that won’t go away. An advertising war in which we are the collateral damage.

But something interesting is happening if you look hard enough. The serfs in this giant political soap suds war are revolting. Fewer than ever wish to take sides between the teams on offer and the near-identical brands they are promoting. In recent elections for the European parliament, local government and parliamentary by-elections increasing numbers of voters are signalling that they’ve had enough. They’re staying at home, sitting on their hands.

This is an encouraging sign, but is one which is of itself a reflection of the passive mentality today’s market-driven consumer society promotes and which the political process encourages. Far better would be a positive refusal to line up behind the teams on offer, a refusal to join in their pointless games. In other words, a protest.

As socialists, we write in this journal as people who wish to help change the world in a positive direction, not get our bums on seats of ministerial cars of play lap-dog to the rich (and getting richer). So in this election we call on the “silent majority”, unhappy – and even disgusted – by the performance of the clowns in this political circus, to protest by spoiling their ballot papers. In so doing they will be taking part in the democratic forum yet at the same time withdrawing their consent from those who would rule over them in the name of wealth for the few and tedium for the rest of us.

Where no candidate standing for the one genuine alternative to the present system – a world socialist society of free access to available wealth – is on offer in this election, socialists and those in general agreement with our cause will be writing “WORLD SOCIALISM” across our ballot papers.

So our voice will be heard. We will not allow it to be stifled under a welter of mindless political psychobabble. And the more people who agree with us and do the same, the louder the voice and the more effective the protest against the whole ridiculous charade currently being played out before us in the name of our interests.

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