From the January 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard
Vote for a Case not a Face
In our recent by-election campaign in North Paddington we laid stress on the fact that we attached no special significance to our choice of a candidate. We made it quite clear that we approached the electorate with an object in view—that of Socialism, which implies the complete dispossession of the entire capitalist class and the reorganisation of society on the basis of production solely for use.
We hold that when a majority understand the nature of Capitalism, understand the futility of electing leaders to reform it, and that a complete change of the basis of society is both necessary and possible, then they will democratically elect their representatives for this sole object.
If we take a look at elections today, we find that the candidates of other political parties pander to a variety of tastes and requirements, and play off one group of people against another. “Something for everybody” might well be their motto. It is an encouraging sign that our political opponents are recognising the fundamental difference between us and other parties, though their statement of the position is usually not quite as we would put it. Thus The Glasgow Herald (19.11.53) wrote that:
“ . . . they need not undertake all the degrading business of making him (the candidate) known to North Paddingtonians, cataloguing his virtues, giving him opportunities to kiss babies. Individuals count for nothing with the S.P.G.B., who acknowledge no leaders, have never swerved from the principles laid down in 1904, and proudly remain the only political party who implore the electors not to vote for them unless in full understanding and agreement with what they stand for.”
Since the majority of workers think along capitalist lines, it is quite simple for the Tory, Liberal, Labour, Communist and other candidates to come along with plenty of promises – promises that they can in no way fulfil. Knowing how workers identify themselves with “our country”, “our exports (or imports)”, these parties can always hold out the threat of “our interests” being at stake – when all that is meant is that capitalist interests are at stake.
“Working men have no country” is as true a statement today as when Marx first said it. When the worker realises that he possesses nothing but his ability to work, which he sells to the capitalist to enable him to live, then he will have different ideas about voting for someone to represent him. He will only elect a delegate to carry out his wishes and who would be powerless to do otherwise. Be that candidate painter or plumber, clerk or bus driver, typist or cook—it will not matter. That he undertakes to carry out what he will be democratically elected for will be the only concern; not as now, when candidates parade their “good looks”, “war records”, “homely backgrounds” and all the other dope that is used as what the Americans call “sucker bait”.
We can understand how the press in general, seeking "news" in preference to stating facts, registers surprise at our reluctance to give a life-story of the candidate. How gladly its reporters mop up any little tit-bit to make news; how they pester us all day long for photographs, age, profession or job, hobby and what not. As they and their employers all support the retention of a capitalist system of society, it is too much to expect that they will give much prominence to stating the case of a party that seeks its complete abolition. Nevertheless, they do make small mentions, usually by means of "selective suppression"—that is, the selection from what we well them of what they think they ought to print.
In such a way is the wider spread of our propaganda made difficult. Not having the vast resources of other parties for propaganda—giant press organisations, the B.B.C. with radio and television (both barred to us)—we have to depend on our monthly journal, occasional pamphlets, outdoor propaganda, and the voluntary help so tirelessly given by our members. Our funds are always inadequate for the amount of activity we would like to indulge in.
Sympathisers might take note of this and assist us financially and otherwise. There is always plenty to do for those anxious to help. You will be able to assist in a comradely atmosphere, and will find pleasure in doing something worthwhile, instead of just giving a blank cheque at election times to the supporters of Capitalism.
You will find no “Great Men” in the S.P.G.B. The parts that its members play are varied, but no attempt is made to measure one against the other—the keynote is co-operative effort, as it will be in socialist society. One of our objections to the existence of “Very Important Persons” is that it presupposes that some persons are accounted of little importance. We are a band of ordinary folk, but each is as unimportant (and therefore each is as important) as the other, whether chosen for speaker, secretary, organiser or by-election candidate.