We've suffered for 18 years under the Tories, no doubt about that - reduced liberties, increased inequality, social breakdown, ecological destruction, poverty and authoritarian, centralised government. There is no doubt about it, its time for a change! But what kind?
For 18 years we've had the politicians and party hacks saying voting is the only means of changing things. And the self-styled "realists" are right! After years of us voting for the "lesser evil" we seen a massive change -- we now have a an "opposition" that The Sun can support! We now have the Tory Party Mark II in the shape of "New Labour." Times have indeed changed - usually Labour waited until it got elected before it sold out.
New Labour has given four promises on its economic policies:
- No loosening on controls for public sector pay.
- Maintaining the Tory ceiling on planned public spending for two years.
- No negotiations on altering government department budgets
- A fundamental review of the allocation of state resources.
In other words, Labour plans to govern within the financial strategy set down by Major's government for nearly half its time in office! Given the cuts Labour councils have happily imposed across the country we can expect any "review" to be more of the same (Tory) policies. And lets not forget that it was Labour who started the cuts into the NHS and slave Labour schemes for the unemployed that Thatcher was famous for. Or that Labour used troops to break strikes (little wonder that Blair won't get rid of the Tory anti-union laws).
Of course, all the parties claim that they are better than the others. Perhaps we should vote for the less evil one? No, because the lesser evil is still an evil. During the last elections in Belgium (for example) the Social Democrats said they were the guardians of the welfare state against rightwing freemarket liberalism. As a result they are now the government with the Christian Democrats and their policies are attacking the working class and generally doing what the rightwing was going to do.
And there is nothing like a so-called socialist party introducing cuts and breaking strikes to damage the credibility of socialism in people's eyes! So vote Blair (with or without illusions) for another 4 years of Toryism and the putting back the case for *real* socialism by another 10 years!
Not that voting for other politicians will make any difference. The reality is that politicians are puppets. Real power lies in the state bureaucracy and big business. Faced with these powers, we have seen left-wing governments introduce Thatcherite policies across the world - from Spain to New Zealand.
So even if we elected a radical party, they would be powerless to change anything important and, like Labour in the 1970s, soon be forced to attack us in the interests of capitalism. Politicians come and go, but the state bureaucracy and big business remain forever!
Support for nationalist parties in Wales and Scotland is growing. This is because people think independence will give them more say in what happens to them. But local government still imposes cuts as do small states like Denmark and Belgium. We want more that a choice between English and Scottish/Welsh bosses and politicians. Only independence from states and capitalism can produce real self-government (i.e. anarchy). Until this happens, independence will only mean a change in rulers.
So, "realism" will result in another 5 years of Toryism, more attacks and cuts, no matter who gets in. For anarchists, the real "idealism" is to imagine that our problems can be solved by the very institutions that cause them in the first place! What happens in our communities, workplace and environment is too important to be left to politicians - or the ruling elite who control governments.
Because of this anarchists reject political parties and electioneering. Electioneering has always been the death of radicalism. Politicial parties are only radical when they don't stand a chance of election. As the German Greens show, once elected even radical parties soon become the same as the rest. Its the means used, not the individuals involved, which is the problem. The Labour Party was once considered radical! So anarchists reject the idea of using elections as a means to change things - it will only produce yet another saga of compromise and betrayal.
Voting is not part of the solution, its part of the problem. Voting makes us look to others to fight or battles for us. This stops constructive self-activity and direct action, stops the building of alternatives in our communities and workplaces. Voting breds apathy and apathy is our worse enemy. Little wonder that Blair would rather we voted Tory than not vote at all.
Anarchists argue that the only way to not waste your vote is to spoil it! We are the only political movement who argue that nothing will change unless you act for yourself, take back the power and fight the system directly. Only Direct Action breaks down apathy and gets results -- and its the first steps towards real freedom, towards a free and just society.
Not voting is not enough - we need to actively struggle for an alternative to both voting and the current system. Just as the right to vote was won after a long series of struggles, so the creation of a free, libertarian socialist society will be the product of social struggle. And such a society can only be created by all the working class, not some small group of party hacks.
Only by organising and fighting back together in our communities and workplaces can we really change things. That is where our power lies, that is where we can create a real alternnative. By so doing we can impose by direct action that which politicians can never give us from Parliament.
By co-operating together as equals we can create the spirit of revolt needed to resist oppression and get reforms in the here and now. Only this can create a new world in our hearts and start a revolution of hope. Such a revolution lies not in the state, but where we live and work. Its there where we must organise and fight back. And only there can we plant the seeds of a new world. And by resistance there we can change the world!
Anarchists reject the phoney choice between state and private capitalism that is on offer at election time. We are in favour of something you can't vote for - a new society. What is worth fighting for cannot be given or voted for - only you can create it by your own efforts! Real choice begins when we reject the farce of elections and start to resist to exist.