Editorial from the June 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard
Have the millions of workers who were fooled in 1979 by the bogus promises of the Tories learnt not to trust their social destinies to these guardians at the gate of capitalist privilege? Certainly, many blame Thatcher and her party rather than capitalism itself for the sick condition of society today. Capitalism is the cause of poverty, mass unemployment and the weapons of mass destruction. As open defenders of the capitalist system, the Tories undoubtedly belong in the political museum of bankrupt ideologies.
Then there is the Society for Devious Politicians (the SDP) who, together with their Liberal allies, aim to woo those who have lost faith in the two main capitalist parties. They stand before the working class with a bag of vague, stale and unworkable policies which we are supposed to believe will make capitalism decent and pleasant. Recent local election results have indicated that few workers arc prepared to waste their votes on the non-alternative, presented by the new party of old opportunists. The unity of the Alliance is cemented by their joint commitment to the continuation of the anti-social, destructive, insecure profit system. A vote for the Alliance is a vote for more of the disgusting same.
So, is Labour the only alternative? Desperate Labour canvassers plead for working class votes on the basis that anything would be better than Thatcher. Socialists do not want something better than Thatcher (what a limited ambition!) but something better than capitalism.
The trade union leaders who have united with Labour governments in the past to impose anti-working class incomes policies and productivity deals are preparing once again to drag the organised workers into an alliance with a Labour administration of capitalism. Workers must make clear to the Labour mis-leaders that never again will a Labour government receive the support of those over whose exploitation it presides. Socialists have clear memories of the winter of 1978/79 when Labour ministers used all the power they could muster to attack the striking public service workers. We remember Grunwick, where workers were struggling for trade union recognition, and the Labour government sent in the Special Patrol Group (which it established) to smash up the picket line.
The Left, who spend most of their time between elections devising plans to “smash the state” (1789-style) and writing articles pointing out that the Labour Party cannot be distinguished by its actions from the Tories, changes from a playful monster into a slave of political opportunism when the election bell rings and the faithful are called to work like horses (or sheep) for the return of a Labour government. For all of their rhetoric about agreeing with the socialist objective “in the long-term”, the Leftist sects will fight like mad for the return of Labour-controlled capitalism
Even those who concede that a Labour government will be no more able to control the anarchy of capitalism than their Tory and Alliance mirror reflections might still cling to the false hope that Labour in office will at least end or reduce Britain's nuclear stockpiles. Such voters will be disappointed as they have been before. A Labour government started the work on the British atomic bomb; the Foot-led Labour opposition demanded that British troops participate in the Falklands slaughter last year. A Labour government would stay within the nuclear-based NATO alliance; it would be forced to defend British capitalist interests in the most effective way possible. The only hope of ending the dangers of international trade rivalry and military conflict is to get rid of capitalism.
Any worker who votes Labour, after all the experience of the last half century, is an enemy to himself and his class. The workers must put the reformists of the Labour Party where they belong: on the political scrap-heap. Labour, Alliance and Tory all stand for the profit system and therefore they and their rotten system must be destroyed by democratic action.
What, then, is the alternative? In 1979 approximately 25 per cent of those entitled to vote did not do so. An election is a valuable political instrument for the working class; to abstain is to abandon the power of the vote. Many of those who do not vote believe that there is no alternative to the present system; it is the urgent task of socialists to show them the democratic revolutionary alternative.
If you are a convinced socialist you should vote for your principles whether there is a socialist candidate in your constituency or not. Where there is no socialist candidate, write SOCIALISM across your ballot paper. But do not leave it at that. Persuade your friends, relatives and workmates to consider the socialist case. Give your support to the socialist campaign in Islington where there is a genuine socialist candidate. Use this election as an opportunity to join the Socialist Party (we know that there are many workers who have been meaning to join us for a long time) or to persuade your fellow workers to do so. No effort can be too great in relation to the urgent political task which faces us.
In this election the choice, as always, is simple: capitalism or socialism; chaos or sanity. We know which side we are on. Do you?