Workers' Liberty #62


Vote Labour? Tell me why

Much of the left has been turned upside down in recent years over the question of standing candidates against the Labour Party. Blairism and the huge changes wrought inside the Labour Party have forced even the most loyal of Labour loyalists to re-consider their position.

By Selina White

But having opened the door to the possibility of anti-Labour candidatures, one is immediately confronted with another question - what do you do where you don't stand?

It is an undeniable fact that there will not be socialist alternative candidates standing in every seat. If we had the wherewithal on the left to put up that many candidates, we'd be in a much better position than we are now! In London, there will be opponents to the left of the official Labour candidates in most, if not all, of the GLA seats and, of course, for the Mayoral election. But in much of the rest of the country, the working class will be left with the familiar choice of Labour, Liberal Democrat or Conservative.

So what should the left say to workers in places like Corby, Hemel Hempstead and Woking? Should we give a blanket endorsement of Labour candidates except where we have stood against them? Should we argue that the there are no candidates worth voting for except our own?

It seems to me that we cannot ask workers to vote for socialist alternative candidates in one area, and expect them to turn out for Labour as though nothing has changed in another area. But equally, a blanket abstention can all too easily lead towards the position that "politics" are "not for the working class". Already there are elements of this train of thought in the disaffiliation motions doing the rounds in various trade unions. We should not give credence to the notion that the working class has no role to play in bourgeois elections.

I would argue that we should offer an active role for the working class to play in elections everywhere. We should demand of all candidates that they tell us how they would be accountable to the working class in their constituencies. It is a valid question to put to both Labour candidates and "left" alternatives. We should make clear that only candidates who make themselves accountable to the labour movement deserve our support.

This is not a question of one policy or another, where a Lib-Dem, a Green or even the Monster Raving Looney Party might have a better answer than some of the Labour candidates. This is a basic question of class representation. If a Labour candidate has not at least thought about how to be accountable to the class that they claim to represent then they don't deserve the support of that class.

Green or Lib-Dem candidates, no matter how good their formal policies on a whole range of issue may be, do not even pretend to stand in the interests of the working class. The Labour Party is the party of the working class and whilst that remains true, candidates who make the effort to link up with the formal structures of the labour movement still deserve our support. We are not simply in a similar situation to the United States, where all too often the only choice offered to voters is between clearly bourgeois candidates.

In some areas, this policy will undoubtedly result in workers not having a credible candidate to vote for. But if the analysis of the Labour Party that we have developed is true, then we should be brave enough to admit that most of the official candidates do not in any way represent the labour movement, and moreover, have no interest in doing so. They simply are not worthy of our support.

I would suggest that the changes in the Party structure introduced by Blair have created a formal division of the Party between the bulk of the membership and trade union affiliates on one side and the bureaucracy, councillors and the PLP on the other side. Only by conscious effort have a few MPs and councillors bridged that gap. This creates the curious anomaly that whilst the Labour Party as a whole remains a bourgeois workers' Party, the candidates and MPs can, if they choose, have no involvement with the labour movement whatever. In this situation, support and membership of the Party does not necessarily and naturally lead to support for the elected so-called representatives of the Party, since in fact they don't represent the Party at all, even in the limited form that Labour MPs once did.

In the European elections, our formal position was support for Labour. But very few of our readers will have noticed. It was a policy that was so embarrassing, we hid the few references to it in hidden corners of our publications. Perhaps it's time that we trusted our instincts a little: if we really don't want to tell anyone that we're voting Labour, maybe its because we shouldn't be doing it.

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