We should try to think differently about voting, because four years of moaning that politicians won’t do anything, followed by six months of ‘oh maybe Labour’ or ‘the Greens might get in’, followed by remembering they do sweet Fanny Adams, ad nauseum, ends in nothing other than cheese and wine for the ‘Chipping Norton set‘.
1. The anarchists are right, but to an extent.
My Italian anarchist friend laughs at me when I talk about electoral politics: “Mechanical, John, mechanical!” And he’s right – some of the reasons for voting are kind of ludicrous.
Voting entails handing over power for someone to govern you, and to cede your autonomy to that someone else, who will then lie, restrict your freedom and do things that you specifically asked them to not. It is also true that voting means you accept that the law is coincident with morality when it really, blatantly, obviously is not. This much of the anarchist critique holds.
But to get to the stage where we do not relinquish our power to govern our society, and where our communities do not need the police, and to get to a place where experiments like Occupy, a ‘post-bureaucratic society’, have become the norm, we could try make life a little easier for ourselves first.
We must remember that one of the reasons for such sustained right-wing dominance is the fact that since 1979 they have gone after the ‘red bases’ of the universities, the trade unions, the mining communities, the art schools and housing estates.
We have to look at their power-bases – from where they generate strength – and one of them is their electoral seat. We have to start going after these and that means voting them out. And, to do it by their own logic. Revenge would be sweet.
3. Enter Nick Clegg.
…to take but one example. The austerity-enabler brazenly lied on TV in 2010. This is worth going over: he lied about tuition fees, public sector cuts and deals with Tories. These lies are the only thing propping up the Tories. Taking him out would be a big scalp. Even if the Labour candidate against Clegg is no better – because Labour still stands for neoliberalism – evicting Clegg is a good move.
4. #whocares? They all lie.
Which is why Nick Clegg really is pure evil: he continues to play ‘Nice Nick’ because the 2010 attempt at sincerity worked. The very reason we’re so pissed off and disillusioned and don’t believe in the point of elections is because of people like Nick Clegg. Tony Benn had a phrase, the ‘corruption of the powerless’. Clegg aids such corruption by making us feel this is the best we can get: the least worse option.
5. Scotland is showing this can be resisted.
20 year old Glasgow University student Mhairi Black is on course to unseat Douglas Alexander – Shadow Foreign Secretary. Getting rid of as much neoliberal deadwood as we can through voting is one way of breaking capitalism’s claim to be compatible with democracy.
6. This is a broader project.
Scotland now looks set to get rid of every single pro-austerity MP. You can see one of the next steps: taking the mainstream media. Their print media is already beginning to be colonised by left-wing independents. Look at The National and The Herald. The anti-austerity agenda has already bent The Scottish Sun to its will.
7. We don’t need it! We have social media!
But here’s the rub: national papers focus the nation’s attention at a particular object at a particular time, i.e. the morning commute to work – this creates a sense of what Sara Ahmed calls ‘shared time‘. It is this device that gives the ‘water cooler effect‘. Indy Ref’s Yes campaign moved from social media to becoming part of the shared sense of what was happening through sheer social media volume. But it had to constantly box against the print media’s superior reach.
8. Beyond the election.
It is imperative we see beyond the election, and resist the five-year timeline. Many sections of society – the universities, the estates, many unions – are simply in open rebellion against the government, but we lack some of the means to land sucker-punches. Our struggles happen every day. 7 May is just one of these days.
9. If the SNP is scary, imagine this.
The press is losing its shit at the strength of the SNP, but imagine another substantial power bloc of even more gutsy, anti-austerity MPs in parliament. An ‘anti-Team-Westminster’ in Westminster would only help even more extra-parliamentary flourishing.
In short, I’m suggesting that this is a fight on all fronts. After the crash in 2008, we weren’t ready in 2010, and the neoliberals absolutely killed it. Scotland has got its shit together now, but overall we’re still not ready to fight on the Westminster Front in 2015. We’ve got to be ready for the next step: the Labour minority government’s pasokification, due anytime around 2018.
Hoisting the right-wing by their own petard is just one sweet, sweet step. Once we have repurposed the voting system to secure widespread democratic mandates we then have to figure out how to take on the markets. You can’t vote neoliberalism away, though Syriza is working on it, but we are entering a new phase. To quote Plutarch Heavensbee from The Hunger Games: “It’s new territory but I’m hopeful we can win.”
This article was edited on 4 May 2015. Previously it mistakenly stated Mhairi Black is on course to unseat Danny Alexander.