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(en) Britain, Anarchist federation: 'Why bother voting?' Anti-manifesto for 2010 election

Date Sat, 26 Jun 2010 11:23:13 +0300

A 4 page anti-manifesto for the 2010 General Election is available for download from AF website: http://www.afed.org.uk/pdfs/afed_election_2010_why_bother_voting.pdf plus poster and sticker designs, and links to other relevant anarchist anti-election material and events: ---- Front page ---- WHY BOTHER VOTING? ---- "When it comes to solving your problems, voting is about as effective as wishing on a star." ---- The general election is here, and once again the parties are falling over themselves to promise us the earth. They talk blandly about âfairnessâ, âopportunityâ, âsecurityâ and âa better futureâ, doing their best to avoid saying anything meaningful. ---- But a whopping 83% of the UK general public do not trust politicians, according to a 2009 poll.

Just 13% think that they tell the truth. MPs came bottom of the list of least trusted occupations â even lower than journalists and lawyers! This is hardly surprising. If anything, itâs hard to work out what the 13% who do still trust politicians are thinking â have they ever paid attention to an election campaign?

Everyone knows that parties make promises in their manifestos that they have no intention of keeping. For example, when first elected 13 years ago, Labour promised to end child poverty by 2010. Today 4m children in Britain are living in poverty â more than in any other European country. Itâs not hard to find other examples of politicians lying through their teeth, from local councillors trying to inflate their own importance, to the massive pack of lies Tony Blair came out with to justify the invasion of Iraq. Events of 2009 further underlined how untrustworthy our rulers are, as many of them were revealed to be fiddling their expenses â despite earning Â64,766 a year â and using various other sleazy tricks, such as employing members of their own families. Meanwhile many of the rest of have to scrape by on a minimum wage of Â5.80 an hour.

Despite superficial differences in their rhetoric, in reality life under any of the parties will feature the same things â cuts to public services, attacks on pensions, over-crowded classrooms, job losses, poor housing, under-equipped hospitals, poor public transport, and more war. Before the economic crisis, politicians were coming out with wild claims about the end of the cycle of boom and bust â an idea few of them would defend today. Then when the banks went into meltdown, they threw billions of pounds at them. The official cost of the bank bailout is a staggering Â850 billion. Thatâs a bill we will be forced to pay through cuts in public spending, no matter which party wins the election. Labour cuts will hurt as much as Tory cuts or Liberal Democrat cuts or Scottish or Welsh nationalist cuts.

Governments donât serve us, whether theyâre Labour, Tory, Lib Dem, BNP, SNP, Sinn FÃin, Green or whatever. And the âalternativeâ leftwing parties are no better. Respect promised to be a radical alternative to traditional parties, but all it produced was George Gallowayâs cat impressions on Celebrity Big Brother.

But now itâs election time and politicians want our vote, so theyâre desperate to convince us that they care what we think. Like spam emailers or nuisance callers trying to sell us car insurance we donât need, they turn up on our doorsteps, push their leaflets through our letterboxes, and appear every night on our TVs. Of course once they get into parliament they wonât give us another thought for the next five years. But at the moment, theyâre all over us like a rash.

Well, weâre all busy nowadays, and there are a lot of things that are more important, more useful, or just more fun than voting. Itâs hard to blame people who canât see the point of trudging down to their local polling booth to put a cross next to the name of someone who doesnât really care what they think. The simple truth is that our ârepresentativesâ donât represent us, and voting doesnât give us any say in the decisions that really matter. Thatâs why turnout in elections is dropping right across Europe â not because people are lazy or apathetic, but because they know that voting doesnât change anything.

In fact people are realising that voting isnât part of the solution â itâs part of the problem. Voting means accepting this rotten set-up, pretending that we have a meaningful say in how things are run. The fact is that politicians couldnât really change anything even if they wanted to, because of the way the political system is set up. The main aim of parliament is to keep things going the way they always have, so that a rich few at the top have all the power and the vast majority of us have none. Voting just props the whole system up by making it look democratic.

Not voting or spoiling your ballot paper is a symbol of wanting something better. The millions and millions of us who wonât vote will be doing so because we donât believe the lies the politicians come out with, because we recognise that theyâre a part of our problems, not the answer to them, and because we want a better world.

Instead of voting for some politicianâs empty promises to solve our problems, weâll be talking to the people around us â our friends, families, neighbours and workmates â about what we can actually do to solve our problems ourselves. We believe that real change comes through direct action, solidarity and campaigning. Wonât you join us?


Link to .pdf format


Additional text - ANTI-MANIFESTO - below the links

Sticker designs:


Poster designs:

More short texts:



Solfed: Vote for change? http://libcom.org/library/vote-change (Article taken from the Spring 2010 issue of Catalyst).

Liverpool Solfed anti-election 'The Other Campaign' material: http://theothercampaign2010.wordpress.com/

Class War anti-election 'Wankers' material: http://www.londonclasswar.org/newswire/index.php?itemid=415

South Wales anti-election 'Vote Nobody' material: http://www.myspace.com/votenobody

Meeting in Bristol:

Steve Mills and Ian Bone relate their experiences of contemporary interventions into the electoral process including The Alarm the Swansea based forerunner of The Bristolian, the legendary anarchist tabloid Class War and the Vote Nobody campaign of 2001. These two renowned local troublemakers will also provide their own searing critique of the upcoming General Election.

Date: Monday 12th April 2010
Venue: The Stag & Hounds, 74 Old Market Street, BS2 0EJ
Time: 7:30pm
Price: Donation
Speakers: Steve Mills, Ian Bone.
Related Link: http://www.brh.org.uk/election2010/mills-bone.html



Time for change - The Tory masterplan to make everything even worse

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Gordon Brownâs
government is that theyâve managed to be so terrible that even
the Tories look like a decent alternative. But now that Labour
have demonstrated their utter incompetence, what do the Tories
have to offer? Their âplan for changeâ starts by promising to
spend less â in other words, to cut wages and fire people. Thatâs
the unemployment problem sorted, then! They also promise
âa government that is unashamedly pro-aspirationâ â which
translated into English seems to mean âa government that is pro-
rich people getting even richerâ.

The Tories also say that their priorities are summed up in three letters:
NHS. Thatâs a bit like a fox saying that itâs going to make hens a
priority â it might be true, but not in a good way. For example, theyâre
promising to introduce a âpayment-by-resultsâ system throughout the
NHS, which will mean that healthcare providers who are struggling
to cope will face budget cuts rather than the extra resources they
need. The Tories also promise to apply the free-market obsession
with âchoiceâ (which usually means privatisation) to healthcare. Of
course, if everyone had a decent GP surgery and hospital in their local
area, thereâd be no need to âchooseâ another one, but the Tories are
determined to introduce competition to every area of life. When you
look at the state of the privatised railways, Cameronâs promise to
âopen up the NHS to include new independent providersâ starts to
sound very scary indeed.
Of course, behind all the friendly, inclusive rhetoric, some things
havenât changed about the Tories, and their promise to be âpro-
aspirationâ definitely doesnât include supporting workers who
aspire to improve or defend their pay. Cameron has warned
trade unionists that they face a âvery determinedâ group of
people, and says that he âwould be very happy to strengthenâ
laws against workers taking workplace action to improve their
pay or conditions. He may say that he hates âbig governmentâ,
but Cameron clearly thinks that itâs a good thing when it stops
ordinary people from acting together to protect themselves.

Class War? - Labour offer no choice for the working class

The Labour Party have a pretty impossible job ahead of them at
the moment: having completely buggered up the economy, they
now have to convince voters that they should carry on running
everything (or at least trying to). Itâs unlikely to work, but itâs worth
taking a look at their attempts to win us over.

Their âChoice for Britainâ manifesto sets out their âproposals for a
post-crisis economyâ. It includes a tough line on bonuses which
promises that there will be âno return to business as usual in the
banksâ â which is a bit rich coming from the party that was so
shamelessly (Gordon) Brown-nosing the banks right up until the

very moment of the crash in 2008. But in case the anti-bankers
pledge makes Labour sound a bit too different from the Tories,
the manifesto goes on to state that they stand âresolutely in the
centre ground of British politicsâ â bad news for anyone who still
deludes themselves that Labour might uphold any left-wing values.
They also promise to âface up to hard facts and common senseâ
â which is a bit late now, but seems to translate into the same
thing the Tories are promising: wage cuts and job losses.

Labour have a tricky problem here, as they need to make
themselves look different from the opposition while getting ready
to implement exactly the same anti-working-class measures as
the Tories. So in a desperate attempt to move the discussion
away from actual policies, theyâve tried to launch what the media
have dubbed a âclass warâ campaign, playing up the presence
of Eton-educated toffs among Cameronâs team. There is some
truth in this, because the tax-dodging aristos that populate the
Tory leadership are obviously going to look out for their own class
interests. But raising the question of class is a very dangerous
move for Labour. Considering the Labour Minister for Defence
Equipment is a Cambridge graduate named Quentin who spent
twenty years as a Tory MP and claimed over Â20,000 for repairs
to the bell tower of his Â5m house, itâs hard to see them as
champions of the poor and downtrodden.

The history of the Labour Party offers a sad lesson to anyone whoâd
like to see a better world. Set up by people who genuinely wanted
to see a fairer and more equal society, it gradually abandoned
more and more of its values in the hope of gaining power, until it
reached its current sad state: utterly bereft of real identity or guiding
principles, and soon to be without any power either.

Whatâs the point of the Liberal Democrats?

If Labour and the Tories are fighting over the centre of a very
narrow political spectrum, where does that leave the Liberal
Democrats? To be fair, they have come up with a set of ideas
that do set them apart from the other two major parties. The only
problem is, they wonât be able to do anything about any of them.
After coming out with bold promises to scrap student tuition
nifestfees and to introduce free child care for two-year-olds, a citizenâs
pension, and free personal care for the elderly, Nick Clegg has
now admitted that thereâs no chance of them doing any of those
things. In fact he has declared that Britain needs âsavageâ cuts,
so thereâs clearly no way that public services would be safer in
Lib Dem hands than under the Tories. If they got into power, the
Lib Dems would face exactly the same task as the other two
parties: making sure that working-class people pay for as much
of the recession as possible, and that the market system that got
us into this mess carries on functioning as normal. The Lib Dems
will never challenge any of the basic assumptions of this crazy
economy, and so theyâre doomed to remain a poor imitation of
the other two parties: perhaps a bit blander and less nasty, but
still committed to keeping power in the hands of a tiny minority
and fighting any attempt by ordinary people to change things.

The British National Party - A radical alternative?

If thereâs one thing that everyone agrees on about the BNP, itâs
that theyâre different from the other parties. Anti-racists and
anti-fascists will tell you that the BNPâs different and worse, the
BNP will say that theyâre different and better, but they all agree
that theyâre different. Itâs a lot rarer to see anyone point out that,
in a lot of important ways, the BNP actually stand for keeping
things the same. They may talk big about scaring the political
elite and empowering ordinary people, but their promises are
just as hollow as the ones you hear from the other politicians.

It was perhaps last yearâs expenses scandal more than anything
else that discredited the mainstream political parties, and the
BNP would like you to think theyâre different. But a look at
their record shows theyâre as sleazy as the rest. In Barking
& Dagenham, seven BNP councillors attended only 27% of
meetings â but each still pocketed the full Â9,810 allowance.
One BNP councillor in Sandwell attended no meetings at all for
six months and was booted off the council â but he still took
his allowance. Theyâve avoided paying income tax and National
Insurance contributions by pretending that some staff were
self-employed, and their 2007 party accounts failed their audit

as several thousand pounds of expenditure were not properly
recorded. That wasnât a one-off mistake, either: their accounts
for 2008 were filed six months late, and an independent auditor
said that the records failed to âgive a true and fair viewâ of the
BNPâs finances. Theyâve now been fined five times in the last
two years for their dodgy account-keeping.

The fact that the BNP are a greedy bunch of expenses-fiddling
chancers should be enough to stop them posing as any kind of
alternative, but thereâs also the question of what they actually
stand for. They say they want âBritish jobs for British workersâ,
but in fact theyâre against any attempts by workers to protect
their jobs. Their confused attitude was shown in Merseyside
last year when they managed to get a whole six activists
together for a protest against the TUC. If it wasnât already clear
enough, their contempt for ordinary working-class people was
spelled out when their councillor Simon Smith declared that
âwhite working class scum will be swept away by a future BNP
government.â The BNP says that people who are sick of out-
of-touch toffs like David Cameron should vote instead for Nick
Griffin â but heâs really just another greedy, sleazy politician
born into a rich Tory family who was educated at a private
school before going on to study at Cambridge.

A lot of the time, anyone whoâd even consider voting for the
BNP is dismissed as a Nazi or unhinged. We donât think things
are quite that simple. The people who vote BNP because theyâre
scared or angry about issues like jobs and housing are right to
be angry â although theyâre wrong to blame these problems on
immigrants â and when the BNP say that mainstream politicians
have abandoned ordinary people theyâre telling the truth. The
difference is in how we react to these problems.

Unlike the BNP, we donât want you to vote for us and we donât
think you should trust us to solve all your problems. We want
to see ordinary people taking direct action to improve their
lives, and weâre committed to supporting this wherever we see
it happen. Compared to this genuine alternative, the BNPâs
big talk can be seen for what it really is: another set of empty
promises from another bunch of cynical politicians hoping to
line their pockets.

We canât go on like this they canât change things

We donât support any of the parties standing in this election.
They might come out with apparently different messages, but all
of them basically want to do the same thing: to keep the
economy functioning the way it does now, which means
trampling all over anyone who gets in its way. The fact is that,
after the bankersâ bailout, the next government is going to need
more money from somewhere, no matter which party gets in.
And all of the parties seem to think that money should come
from cuts to public services and workersâ pay.
For example, Nick Clegg recently announced that the Liberal
Democrats âcan no longer affordâ many of their key pledges
because âthe politics of plenty are over.â (Those of us living on
low wages might never have noticed âthe politics of plentyâ
starting in the first place, but never mind.) Cleggâs promises of
âsavage cutsâ are matched by similar promises of cuts by
Labour, not to mention Cameronâs declaration that heâd be âvery
happyâ to strengthen laws against workers trying to protect
their pay and conditions.
Itâs obvious that the problem goes deeper than any particular
politician or party. Thatâs why we want to see a fundamental
change in the way the economy is run, so that itâs brought
under the control of everyone in society. That might sound like a
big challenge, but we think it can be done. Itâs worth
remembering that the power of politicians is limited â not just by
the state of the economy, but also by what ordinary people will
let them get away with. The level of cuts we face wonât be
determined by which party gets in, but by how hard we fight
back. Well-organised communities and groups of workers have
managed to force governments to back down before, even
during a recession. The rich and privileged are well prepared to
defend their interests. We need to be organised and militant if
we donât want them to walk all over us.

The Practical option

Many people will agree with some of our arguments, but still
say you should vote anyway, because itâs the âpracticalâ or
ârealisticâ thing to do. But weâre convinced that voting is not
a realistic way to solve anyoneâs problems. Most of the time,
voting comes down to picking a politician because you like
some of the things they promise to do â or maybe just dislike
them a bit less than the other candidates â and then hoping
that theyâll live up to their promises, even though you have
no way of forcing them to, and theyâre often unable to do so
even if they want to. When it comes to solving your problems,
voting is about as effective as wishing on a star.

So what alternatives do anarchists suggest? Most of what we
propose can be described as âdirect actionâ. This is exactly what
it sounds like: people acting together to solve their problems
directly, without relying on anyone else to do it for them.
Perhaps the best-known and most obvious type of direct
action is the traditional workplace strike. There are many
examples of strikes winning real victories quickly, from the
Tower Hamlets College staff who saved jobs through strike
action last year, to the low-paid tube cleaners who managed
to win a living wage by bringing the London Underground to
a halt in 2007. How many examples can you think of where
people have improved their pay or saved their jobs by asking
a politician for help?

Traditional strikes arenât the only way to take direct action in
the workplace. There are also âgood work strikesâ, which are
designed to minimise disruption to the public while putting
as much pressure as possible on employers. At Mercy

Hospital in France, instead of endangering patients by going
on strike, staff just refused to fill in the paperwork to charge
them for treatment. The hospitalâs income was cut by half,
and the bosses gave in to all their demands in three days.
In New York, restaurant workers took strike action and lost,
so instead they started giving customers double helpings
and undercharging them for their meals, until the restaurant
owners gave in to some of their demands.
But direct action isnât just something that happens in the
workplace. For example, when the local council threatened
to close down a school in Lewisham, parents reacted by
taking direct action: they occupied the school building and
forced the council to back down. Another example of direct
action is when people refuse to put up with unaffordable rents
and decide to squat instead. Direct action can also be taken
against high prices, such as in Italy in the 1970s when people
in large groups would go into supermarkets, take what they
wanted from the shelves, and pay what they considered to be
a fair price instead of what the supermarket was asking. And
one of the most famous examples of effective direct action
on a massive scale here in the UK was when Thatcherâs poll
tax was beaten in the 1990s. Many people at the time were
claiming that the only way to stop the poll tax was to vote
Labour, but it was scrapped years before Labour got in,
thanks to a massive campaign based around people simply
refusing to pay.
So, are anarchists impractical dreamers? Itâs true that weâre
still a long way from achieving our goals. But when you look
at all the victories that direct action has achieved, it seems
a lot more practical than just putting your trust in a politician
and hoping that things will turn out all right.

Anarchist Federation
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