This was the 14th election of my lifetime. The earliest I can recall with any clarity was 1979, when I was a sixth form politics student and Thatcher came to power. By the next one, 1983, I was old enough to vote but didn’t, as by then I had been an anarchist for several years.
1979 marked the beginning of 18 long years of Tory ascendency and when Blair came to power in 1997 it felt like a watershed to many. Stories of people dancing in the streets in the early hours are not apocryphal. Nevertheless New Labour was pretty awful – especially for political activists.
Blair & Co. were very popular for about 10 years but first the Iraq War, then the economic crash of 2008, ruined that and the ConDem coalition took over from 2010. They have ruthlessly pursued their austerity agenda, targeting the poorest and most vulnerable in society while the rich have never had it so good.
2015 was different in that it was the first social media election. Facebook and Twitter were around five years ago but they were far less popular then. This time they became the platforms on which a bitter feud between Green Party and Labour Party supporters was played out every day of the campaign.
With the shock result came the blame game. Those who voted Green were told they had let in the Tories while me and others who didn’t participate in the farce of parliamentary democracy were roundly condemned as just as responsible for the all the bad things that will occur over the next five years as the perpetrators themselves.
Someone on Facebook said the only way I could earn redemption for not voting Labour was by going to the cull zones when the badger massacre starts this summer. A ludicrous idea if you think about it because my vote would have made not a jot of difference. Equally I could ask the Labour voters whether they would have become anti-vivisection campaigners had Labour been elected.
There is a long history of animal rights groups turning into cheerleaders for Labour when elections roll around. In the eighties and nineties campaigns like Putting Animals Into Politics, Mobilisation for Laboratory Animals and Manifesto for Animals tried to get Labour elected and failed. They were run by national organisations like the BUAV, League Against Cruel Sports, Compassion in World Farming, etc, and were generally ignored or condemned by activists as an expensive waste of money.
It’s a shame, therefore, that the grassroots chose to get mixed up in this sorry mess this time. The main culprit was Cull the Tories whose strategy spectacularly backfired. As the results rolled in they were forced to confront the disaster on Facebook: “Every household in Cardiff North was leafletted by “stop the cull” activists, but the tories have held onto it”. Oh dear!
The result has seen collective hand-wringing on the left, followed by deep reflection for Labour and its supporters. But for revolutionaries it has been a dismal few days as well. Although an anarchist, I have definitely not been gloating or saying “I told you so!”. That over 11 million people voted for a party that has heaped so much misery and suffering on ordinary people.
Labour believes it lost because it was too left-wing and didn’t attract the “aspirational” middle classes. In fact as I spelled out in my post on Labour and the working class last week, the party was far from being left wing or even social democratic in the conventional sense.Unfortunately the promised post on Labour and animals never got published due to another problem with network23.org’s servers.
In the end the Tories won because the electorate – in England – didn’t warm to their “austerity-lite” package of further cuts to public spending and benefits and because they were blamed for the crash in the first place. Miliband’s tactic of putting clear-red water between him and New Labour backfired.
It’s obvious that Labour has failed and will now quickly revert to a slightly less rabid version of the Tories. In any case we’re stuck with the latter until at least 2020 by which time Labour could have morphed into something as bad or even worse than Blair’s brigade. We will have to organise to resist the onslaught of further cuts and austerity ourselves.
Although I would never fall into the trap of saying “things have to get worse before they get better”, perhaps another five years of cuts, social cleansing, benefit sanctions, badger culls, etc , can concentrate the minds of those on the left who aren’t content with the “lesser of the two evils” option and want to radically shake things up.
The signs so far are promising. Within a day of the election result there was a 2,000 strong demo outside Downing Street. People are angry at the prospect of the Tories and fighting back. As Johnny Void said on his blog:
What recent events show is that the days of boring A to B marches, with routes agreed in advance with police and heavy stewarding, are clearly no longer what people want. If thousands are prepared to take to the streets then that should be the only mandate necessary. Fuck asking permission, there is no law anyway that says you have to go crawling to the authorities before you can hold a static demonstration. And if that demonstration is so strong it can take the streets then there is fuck all anyone can do to stop it.
Many more protests are being organised across the country with big ones called for in London on 30 May by UK Uncut and 20 June by the People’s Assembly. Martin Wright of Class War, speaking on Ian Bone’s blog, reckons there will be a “summer of turmoil”. Who knows? He could be right.
But the fightback isn’t just about mass shows of defiance. In March 2011 about 100,000 people marched against austerity and there was black bloc disorder in central London. It didn’t bring down the government.
According to So, the government got in… on libgcom.org, there is no single blueprint for creating a mass movement “that effectively resists the attacks we face as a class…We need to pick winnable battles, draw more people in by showing that our methods work, and escalate as our numbers grow.”
And for the animal rights movement it consists of doing what it has always done best, organising locally and getting activists out onto the streets. It was heartening to see the latest British Heartless Foundation day of action on Saturday 9 May, just two days after the election.
As libcom.org says:
So, with the voting done, the only effective thing we can do is build up resistance from the ground. Otherwise, in five years’ time, we’ll still have nothing else but the desperate, futile hope that Labour aren’t as bad. And make no mistake – that’s a sure sign of a broken movement.