Steve Ryan responds to recent debate over who – if anyone – we should vote for in the general election
So the general election is in May, probably on the 6th. As a left, what should be our position as regards voting? This question has always exercised the left and sometimes seen some strange conclusions.
This year is a very difficult one. Clearly the Labour party bears no resemblance at all to any kind of workers’ party. The memory of the minimum wage and tax credits is a very distant one as Labour ploughs on with cuts in the public sector , more privatisation than the Tories managed, war, the expenses scandal… the list grows each day.
Given this it is easy to forget just how bad the Tories would be. They are the clear party of the rich, and recent statements about only allowing “clever” people to teach, etc clearly show where we would be going if they get in.
No point mentioning Lib Dems – Tory lite – so what of the position to the left of Labour?
Depressingly the conclusion has to be there isn’t anything. The collapse of pretty well all attempts to build something from the Socialist Alliance to the SSP should have been a lesson to all – but as usual wasn’t – as the Trot groups hopped from initiative to initiative.
The Greens can be positioned well to the left of Labour, despite some strange ideas. Caroline Lucas looks set to take Brighton, with outside chances of success in Norwich.
Certainly because of the dire situation some on the left are reverting to the “vote Labour with no illusions” slogan of the ’70s and ’80s. All this of course misses the point for communists.
Voting in any government , no matter how left it looks, within capitalism is at best a tactic. It gives space to operate . Obviously some governments are better than others – BNP, anyone? This election is important, because of this. The recent survey of social attitudes shows a marked shift to the right in public thinking. The policies of successive Tory and Labour governments have enabled this. Indeed it was deliberate, to push their neo-liberal agenda.
As such the left need to fight hard to gain space for workers to hear our ideas. It means that the left’s support in the election should be given:
– to progressive candidates to up their vote, demonstrating there is a voice to the left of Labour. There are opportunities such as the Greens and whatever is to the left in your area
– to keep out the BNP, in Barking for example: this would mean voting Labour.
Doing this would retain a vote on the left, and ensure defeat for the BNP’s Parliamentary hopes
However, and here is the crux of the matter the situation up to the election is a good one to argue for communism. Workers are disillusioned, beaten down with the recession. It is vital that an real alternative is presented to them to fight for
Strikes will up as the recession returns and workers are pushed to the limit, especially in the public sector. PCS is already balloting for example. This gives big opportunities to argue for communism and self management. The strikes should be wherever possible pushed hard, placed in the hands of strike committees not union bosses. Rank and file groups should be built, the National Shop Stewards Network is a good already existing organisation to push this.
Public meetings, street sales and actions should be upped to gain a “presence”. Action against the BNP should be redoubled
In short as the election moves the left should be organising a massive counter attack on capital, rather than angsting about who to vote for. Such an attack will sharply focus the clear differences between our agenda and that of politicians and bosses. It will start to win over – and back – layers of the working class to communist ideas, the start of a new workers’ movement.