The reason we obsess about where to place our vote is a symbol of our disempowerment not our power. I’ve been following/commenting in a LONG thread with Facebook friends and contacts about how to vote in Scotland – SNP, Corbyn, Westmonster, Holyrood. It entirely focuses on which party to vote for and entirely leaves out what happens beyond the election. An election is a moment but politics is a process. “They” (the elite, the 1%, the State, the Corporations) want us to focus on elections and our vote to the exclusion of all the big questions about how we live, who rules, who the state serves, how can we rescue the eco-system from destruction.
At the same time we have to say that the vote remains an important thing, as we can see by how desperate the propaganda is as the general election hots up – the polls, the debates, the set-piece speeches, the attempts to hide or expose the weaknesses of different politicians. It is all designed to give a fraudulent sense of a system that functions. In reality “they” need us to vote, to give legitimacy to the empty shell of democracy which we are offered.
The Observer’s research into the complex web of manipulation of the Brexit referendum vote underlines just how extensive the corruption of the voting process is now. The two “leave” campaigns, one “official” led by Gove and Johnson, the other “extreme” led by UKIP, pretended to be different but were in fact co-operating behind the scenes, with connections in to the alt.right of the USA. They learned lessons from Alt.Right and in turn Alt.Right learned lessons from them which they used in the Trump election. Of course that’s not to go along with some pro-Europe campaigners who claim that people were just stupid and manipulated by propaganda. Millions had their own entirely valid reasons for voting to leave the EU, as we’ve explored in previous posts. Yes supporters in Scotland are still in shock at the up-front, barefaced, one-sided coverage by the mainstream media, especially the BBC, of the referendum campaign. Yet in both cases and in spite of it, real politics was going on, on the streets and in workplaces and homes – and this is something to build on.
Another discussion/campaign on social media is to “guilt-trip” or use “divide and rule” to get different groups in society to go out and vote. Young people are told “register to vote now or your future will be decided by over-65s, who always vote”. And women are told “you have to vote because the suffragettes suffered and died for you”. But this presentation of things reinforces the idea that the vote is a thing in and of itself and not a means to a better end for people. Young people will only vote if they truly feel that it will make a difference to their lives – if 2.4m of them have not registered, it is because they don’t believe it will. And as for the Suffragettes, as an election special in the anarchist journal Lib.Com points out:
For the record, the suffragettes’ demand was that women should be balloted wherever men were. They weren’t fighting for every woman in perpetuity to be guilt-tripped into supporting any political system that used the ballot box to legitimise itself. They trusted future women to make their own decisions. Sylvia Pankhurst, for one, lived to reject parliamentary democracy as an “out of date machine” and refused to cast a vote or stand for election herself. This election, she’d be angry with every party’s participation in cuts to essential women’s services, not the women who spoil their ballots or stay away.
We are told that our only role in democracy is as voting cyphers. Every now and then we vote – and then we are deemed to have given permission to every kind of abuse, war, austerity and corruption. We need to reject that premise and build a movement for real democracy to embody that rejection.