Why not tactical voting?

Submitted by AWL on 6 November, 2019 - 8:49
tactical voting

Unity and pluralism are important. Labour needs to be a coalition rather than seek to make coalitions with non-socialist parties.

It needs more member control, more trade unions affiliating. It needs to readmit the unjustly expelled socialists, many hundreds of whom were purged without a hearing or even precise charges in 2015 and 2016. It needs to recruit, involve and represent working-class people in all our diversity.

But that is different from tactical voting, or agreements to stand down, of the type which Sinn Fein and SDLP have made in Northern Ireland. (Sinn Féin will stand down in favour of pro-Remain Unionists in East Belfast and North Down, and in favour of the SDLP in North Belfast).

Or from the type which Plaid Cymru, the Lib-Dems, and the Greens are discussing.

Or from the “independent” websites offering advice to voters about which pro-Remain candidate they should back, Lib-Dem or Labour, constituency-by-constituency.

Elections are not the be-all and end-all of politics. We see our job in politics as building an independent party based on the working class, equipping it with socialist policies, and helping it win a majority. Elections are primarily an opening to advance that effort.

In history that has meant starting from small beginnings. The Labour Party started even in a small way only after decades of workers mostly voting “tactically” for the Liberal Party as the only party likely to beat the Tories, and independent working-class candidates being squeezed out.

For its first 18 years, the Labour Party was mostly just a junior partner of the Liberals, tied to them by mostly behind-the-scenes deals.

Only in 1918, when Labour decided it would stand independently, did Labour’s history as a real force begin.

The same happens in constituencies. There are many which Labour has won only after years of building up from a position where it seemed to have “no chance”.

Labour can build support by arguing for its policies everywhere in the country — in every constituency. Because although there may be constituencies that Labour can never win under our current electoral system, there are no constituencies where there is no class struggle, no capitalism, no working-class political interests, no potential recruits and activists.

To put it another way, politics is not all about the single issue of Brexit.

The NHS and the Health and Social Care Act 2012 (backed by the Lib Dems) are also issues. Universal Credit (shaped by a coalition government including Lib Dems) is another. Education is another, and the Lib-Dems were joint architects of the increased student fees under the 2010-5 government.

With the capitalist system in crisis as it has obviously been since 2008, it makes no sense to vote for the Lib-Dems, who boast of being “the only pro-business party” and promise only to soften capitalism here and there.

The history of Labour forming coalitions and pacts with other parties is a sorry one.

In the 1970s a Labour government which had lost its majority negotiated a “Lib-Lab pact”. The Liberal leader of the time boasted that “now the banks can sleep quietly at night”, although truth to tell they were slumbering well already.

That pact paved the way for Thatcher’s Tory government in 1979.

Some deals with the Green may be a different matter, but without asserting working-class politics as central to how we organise, pacts with the Greens become a gateway to pacts with Lib Dems, nationalists, even Tories. The Greens advocate such pacts.

It is important to build bridges — but not the sort of bridges that our enemies can march across.

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