Editorial from the March 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard
Democracy: rule of the people by the people. The 1992 General Election: a chance to choose whether to be ruled over by Tweedledum or Tweedledee. The right to place a cross on a ballot paper every four or five years does not amount to democracy. To be governed is to be unfree.
The coming election will be a cynical exercise in manipulating workers’ minds to blame A or have hope in B as a way out of the mess of relative degrees of poverty which is the lot of the majority of us. Labourites and Lib-Dems will pretend that all of the problems of capitalism emanate from wicked Tory rule and could be remedied by them carrying out almost identical policies to the Tories. The Conservatives will lie that the workers have done well under them since 1979, despite the objective record of working-class hardship which only the socially blind cannot see around them. There will be smears: Kinnock the crypto-Stalinist; Major the secret puppet of the Thatcherite barbarians. There will be press launches in which political charades will take the form of tame rock concerts. There will be TV broadcasts in which your future will be sold to you by the same twisters who sell time shares and Fairy Liquid. There will be cheap, hollow slogans. There will be crass photo opportunities in which the previously inhuman shapes of Kenneth Clarke and Gerald Kaufman will pose with cuddly kiddies and dying geriatrics. There will be promises so big that all but the strongest will be crushed as they fall upon us.
For all of that, it is better to have the vote than not to have it. The workers in the Chartist movement of the last century were no fools in wanting their chance to determine who will rule. The wealthy who opposed votes for workers on the grounds that the working class is many and the property-owning rich parasites are few and therefore the many might end the social power of the few had a point. Sadly, the past century of working- class franchise has not yet justified those fears of real democracy. The workers have been persuaded to play the game: bought off by reforms and conned by leaders, the potential power of the vote has been wasted in every single election.
The answer is not to abandon the vote and ignore elections, but to work to create a politically-educated electorate of working men and women who understand where their interest lies. The battle, not just when the electoral whistle blows, but at all times, is to win workers’ minds; to make class-conscious workers. Such workers, currently only a small minority, will never waste their votes on electing leaders, nor will they support any policy designed to run the profit system which exploits and dominates them.
Socialists enter into the electoral contest, using it as a means of putting our revolutionary case for socialism to the widest number of fellow workers. In the coming election we shall put up one candidate, Richard Headicar, in the Holborn and St Pancras constituency. He is not a prospective leader, but a delegate to be used by workers who understand and support the socialist mandate. If elected, our delegate will be wholly accountable to the socialist majority which put him into parliament for the sole purpose of stating the socialist position and furthering the socialist cause. When enough socialist delegates are elected, here and throughout the world, the workers' conscious will shall be enacted: class ownership and control of the means of life will cease and the state, which is an instrument of class coercion will be abolished.
The socialist candidate in the coming election will receive negligible media attention and little chance to debate with his rivals who will be too busy engaging in manipulative stunts to dare to take on socialism in democratic debate. Our party will be charged £500 by the state for the right to join the electoral contest and then will meet with an unfair fight in which money, the means of communication and public prejudice will be stacked in favour of the pro-capitalism candidates. On our side we shall have little money and working-class supporters with constraints upon their time, but we shall not flinch from the fight, sure in the knowledge that the undeniable class interest of the vast majority is represented by Socialism which we alone stand for in this election.