The general election: (1) what anarchists do instead of voting

It couldn’t possibly have failed to escape the attention of anyone living in the UK that a general election is due soon. In fact it’s almost exactly two month’s away and all the parties and the press are beside themselves with excitement. Social media is full of it too with many of my Facebook friends discussing who they should vote for.

This is a blog about anarchism and animal rights and over the next few weeks I will be making the case that it’s futile to expect meaningful change to come out of the election. In particular I’m going to be dismantling the view that we should vote Labour in order to improve the lot of animals and indeed ourselves.

But to get the ball rolling I’d like to make some points from the latest special election edition of the Anarchist Federation bulletin, “Resistance”, entitled Angry not Apathetic. It’s available on the web and can also be downloaded as a pdf.

The main argument put forward is not don’t vote and do nothing, it’s organise “with our neighbours, workmates, other people we have shared interests with, and others who don’t have the privileges that some people have.” This is how we can bring about real change, not by putting a X on a ballot paper every five years.

Labour was founded as the party of the trade union movement but throughout its history it has “continually regulated workers under capitalism” and “what remains of the dwindling trade union movement is essentially shackled by harsh restrictive anti-union laws and a totally compliant TUC leadership.”

Many left wing voters opted for the Lib Dems at the last election, especially due to their pledge to abolish tuition fees. As is usually the case with politicians they reneged on that and have propped up the Tories for the last five years. Now in 2015 the Green Party is presented as the radical alternative but experience of them in power in Brighton has led to one worker there calling them: “F***ing Tories on bikes!”

Despite trumpeting calls for the living wage, they joined forces with the Tories on Brighton council in attempting to impose a “pay modernisation” scheme on low-paid workers, meaning some faced a paycut of up to £4,000 a year. Another example of a leftwing party failing to live up to expectations is happening right now in Greece where Syriza “will now be the political wing of the repressive state apparatus.”

Women are continually told they have to vote because of the suffragettes, thus:

voting is turned into an issue of conformity rather than conscience, in direct opposition to who suffragettes were and what they fought for. They never intended their campaigning to stop with getting the vote. Many continued fighting when their leaders were co-opted. They weren’t satisfied, and they didn’t intend us to be. 

Finally the bulletin looks at the new poster boy revolutionary, Russell Brand. Although he claims to believe in many of the things that anarchists do, he “is not qualified to be the spokesperson of the revolution”, especially as his ideas around violence and the state are very naive. It’s all very well talking about the power of “Love” but he disagrees with the need to defend the revolution: “We should use as little violence as possible, but we have to defend the gains we make.”

There’s a lot more that anarchists have to say on elections, parliamentary democracy vs direct democracy and the like and much of it can be found on the web. But “What Anarchists Do Instead of Voting” is a good place to start as an introduction to class struggle anti-authoritarian politics.

Next up, why political parties won’t bring about animal rights.

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