Editorial from the March 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard
It will have come to the attention of some workers, that the UK franchise for administrating the market system on behalf of the owners of this part of the planet (the capitalist class) will shortly be up for grabs. There is, in other words, an election on. Tenders are invited from political parties devoid of principles and eager to represent the interests of the UK capitalist class, whether in battles with capitalists from other regions, or with the demands of its local working class.
The only problem in this cosy arrangement is that a few centuries back, in order for the capitalists to triumph over the aristocracy who held power previously, the working class had to be brought on -side.
As land gave way to industry as the economic powerhouse of the state, the new boss class (capitalist class) sought liberation from the restrictions that suited the old rulers (landlords). At the same time the new working class – who actually worked in factories producing the wealth that the upper classes fought over – were not lying down. Freed from serfdom they were able to demand – and win – political freedom: the vote.
So the system has a weak link, an Achilles heel: the political authority of capitalism requires to be regularly reinforced by support at the ballot box. Once every four or five years therefore, we all get our 15 seconds of heady power at our fingertips in the form of a stub of pencil and a scrap of paper.
The first shots in the battle between the main parties have been fired. This campaign looks like being the most vacuous yet, substituting personalities for policies, and making the ‘X-Factor’ and ‘Britain's Got Talent’ look like principled mechanisms for decision-making.
For most of its lifetime Labour at least pretended to have some sort of affinity to working class interests – while expertly shafting us year after year. Thankfully, no pretence at any sort of ideological difference between the parties is maintained by anyone in the know. It used to be said that you couldn't slip a cigarette paper between the policies of the respective parties. Our preferred analogy nowadays would of course refer to a credit card.
The Socialist Party here and our companion parties in the World Socialist Movement do not fetishise parliament. But neither do we see any contradiction in including it – where it exists – as an essential part of the toolkit for making a democratic revolution. The vote in the hands of the working class has only one real use – as a means to unambiguously express majority support (when that happens) for the revolutionary change from production for profit to production for need.
We don't see the vote as the only part of the sort of peaceful and democratic revolution we seek. Far from it, but while it is there we think it should be used. Socialism will only work with the active, informed participation of the many – in stark contrast to the sideshow in people’s lives that this election will be.