Friday, 28 December 2012

People who want change must not allow themselves to be co-opted by the system

We live in a 'democracy'. A flawed democracy for sure, one with an anachronistic first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system, and consequently a parliament which fails to reflect the will of the British people. And in the second decade of the 21st century we have an unelected 'second chamber', a thing that would be regarded as absurdly undemocratic in most other countries, and something which you won't find in nations which our politicians criticise - like Chavez's Venezuela. 

What's more, we don't have a written constitution which people can refer to, and rely upon. Our constitutional arrangements are shrouded in mystery, and the goalposts appear to be moved, almost at will, to suit the needs of those in power. There can be no doubt that this 'democratic' system continues to be maintained because it benefits the alliance of monarchy, politicians, media magnates, capitalists and other 'establishment' figures who make up the British 'ruling class'.

The electoral hurdles are there to make sure that radicals and small parties find it very hard to make a breakthrough and get a toe hold in local or national government, but the story doesn't end there, because once elected, councillors and MPs find there are 'rules' that they are supposed to follow, and naturally enough the 'rules' are intended to make sure that they conform. The idea is that if you manage to get yourself elected you must then be co-opted you must become part of the system.

But if Parties and individuals want to get elected and bring about radical change they must avoid being co-opted at all costs, and they must retain their radical edge. 'Rules' are there to be changed, and broken if necessary. Many of the 'rules' are about how people are expected to behave rather than actual written codes. Please note that I'm not suggesting that anyone should make a martyr of themselves and end up getting fined or thrown into gaol. What I mean is that the 'rules' should be actively resisted by any legal means possible, especially peaceful democratic protest and direct action involving party members, supporters and trade unionists. In other words 'kick up a stink' and ruthlessly expose the corruption and anti-democratic nature of the system and its supporters. Don't co-operate with it, challenge it!

For example, if you are elected on a platform to oppose the cuts - oppose them at every opportunity!  A cut is a cut is a cut. There are no 'good' cuts in the Coalition's austerity programme, so vote against them, and work with trade unions and local community groups to defend jobs and protect local services. Form alliances with your local community from which you will gain trust and future electoral support. Once you have been seen to conform with 'the system' you simply become 'like all the rest' and lose credibility, and support - you become just another politician closing libraries and hospitals. Here is a quote from Deborah Mattinson's illuminating New Statesman article, based on in-depth electoral research  - 'Tony, you're just like all the rest' - [link above and well worth reading]:
"A conventional wisdom has grown up around the electoral success of new Labour. It is that to win elections you have to stifle radicalism; that being in touch with those vital "Middle England" voters is at odds with the needs of the Labour core vote; and that anything that challenges top-down thinking is somehow old-fashioned, certainly old Labour. Yet floating voters, and women in particular, were voting for something radically different in 1997. They wanted to see real change - [my italics] "
Of course there are some that will argue that this isn't 'grown up politics', and that 'with power comes responsibility'. But that is just playing into the hands of the the very people whose interests are served by the system. The real responsibility of power is to be true to your ideals and the people who elected you. Change is possible, but only if you don't do as you are told. Change the system, don't let the system change you!

1 comment:

Simon Hales said...

Great post Howard :) All Green Party members who have been elected or are running for election to any position should make this required reading!