The results are in, and once again, the British electorate have voted in the party the rich and their friends in the media told them to. Despite pre-election predictions of hung parliaments, “progressive” coalitions, or minority governments, the Conservatives walk away from this election with a slender majority, having increased their share of seats in parliament to 330. Another five years of Tory government now seems assured.
There are those on the left who are greeting this news with despair. Despite it’s history of betrayal and failure, every election season the British left lines up behind the Labour Party time and time again. This campaign was no exception. The trade unions, of course, backed Labour to the hilt. Even the left-wing nationalist SNP and the anti-austerity Green Party were touting themselves as eligible partners to a Labour government. Many on the radical left were trying to talk themselves into believing a Labour victory would bring meaningful social change just a fraction closer. Even for those of us who put no stock in parliamentary politics it’s easy to slip into the habit of rooting for the parliamentary opposition. Just the mere fact of them nominally opposing the repulsive Tory crooks who’ve been in power for the last five years made Miliband and his outfit instantly seem sympathetic.
But the truth is these people have nothing to offer us and we know it. We’ve been down this road before, for 13 long years of Labour administered misery. This is the party that brought you tuition fees and the Iraq War. They are not friends to the working class. They never have been.
As anarchists, we’re critical of voting and elections in general as a strategy for change. For a summary of the anarchist arguments against electoralism, it’s worth reading the recent series by Phil Dickens for libcom.org – amongst other things, the idea that we can get what we need by just voting for a different set of politicians to run everything fosters illusions in the very system we’re trying to oppose. As Phil puts it:
parties can’t pull the state leftward, but mass social movements can force concessions from it. The former is a massive drain of time, energy and effort from the latter. Worse, it creates the illusion that the latter isn’t necessary since we can just vote ‘radically’ instead of all that inconvenient hard work of organising and fighting.
No government, Labour or Tory, will offer us anything unless we fight for it. Left-wing electoralism, when it succeeds in capturing state power, encourages us to trust the state and in state officials, bureaucrats and politicians – instead of trusting each other, and our own collective ability to take action and change things. But the other side of this problem is that when left-wing parties fail, as the Labour party did catastrophically this time round, those who’ve invested so much, both emotionally and physically, in electoral success are faced with despair. We see friends and comrades who believed a Labour government would bring at least some relief from the horrors of Tory austerity now downhearted, defeated, at the point of giving up hope altogether. This is just another pitfall of the tried and tested and failed strategy of trying to vote things better.
So to all of you out there who were disappointed with the result of Thursday’s ballot: you have our sympathies, but remember, Miliband’s loss is not ours. The Labour Party has failed you, but they would have failed you anyway. Your best chance to make things better isn’t some Oxford-educated millionaire with a red rosette – it’s ordinary people getting together to fight back. It’s your workmates, your neighbours. We’re still here. We’re not going away. Our struggle will go on, under this government, and the next one, and the one after that, until they have no governments left to throw at us. Until we win.