Views from the streets of Crystal Palace

Hang on to your voteHang on to your vote!

Build People’s Assemblies!

Britain is heading for a crisis general election. The outcome for ordinary people will be the same whichever of the major parties comes out on top or joins together to form a coalition or even a national government. Jobs, services, pensions and wages will be sacrificed to appease the very financiers who helped wreck the economy in the first place.

So we should hang on to our votes at this election; they are too precious to waste on New Labour and should certainly not be handed over to the Tories or Liberal Democrats. Holding on to our votes will deny all these parties the legitimacy they seek or a mandate to wreck services.

Ordinary men and women fought for the right to vote so that their interests could be represented in Parliament. The present system does not give them that. It is democratic in name only. So we should treasure our votes and work instead to create a new democratic constitution where voting will mean something once again.

We do not buy into the argument that we have to vote for Gordon Brown’s party to “keep the Tories out”. New Labour has shown since 1997 that it is as much a business party as the Tories and has no legitimate claim to represent working people’s interests. Successive Blair/Brown governments have privatised, cut benefits, invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and encouraged ruthless, free-market capitalism. What Thatcher and the Tories began, New Labour has taken much further.

Their commitment to corporate-driven globalisation helped create the conditions for the collapse of an economy driven by debt. Bailing out the banks at the taxpayers’ expense – which all the major parties supported – has all but bankrupted the state. Inside New Labour itself, there is no internal democracy. It has been transformed into a party that speaks the language of the Tories, and in government it acts as the corporate management team for global corporate and financial power. That is why New Labour has retained all the Tory anti-union laws.

Britain is more unequal than ever before, with those on lowest incomes barely able to scrape by without recourse to loan sharks, while state-owned banks continue to pay fantastic bonuses. For them it’s business as usual; for the rest it’s the pain of the recession – unemployment, wage cuts and homelessness – and the threat of another Great Depression.

Inequality shows itself in other ways too, with the state assuming draconian powers to create an oppressive surveillance society, undermining human and social rights with thousands of new offences and the use of anti-terror laws to block protest. New Labour has demonised young working-class people and minority ethnic communities especially, allowing the neo-fascist BNP to make headway.

Those few MPs who have fought New Labour’s policies in and outside Parliament, like John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn, for example, deserve your vote on election day. Others who set out to reinforce illusions in the present Parliamentary system are misleading the electorate.

The present political system is incapable of finding solutions to the problems pressing in on all sides – climate change, the economic crisis and the slide to an authoritarian state.
Democracy roughly translates from the original Greek as “people power”. Nothing could be further from the reality in today’s Britain. Parliament itself is a symbolic piece of theatre, put on to disguise and mask the real centres of economic and financial power.

The government uses the House of Commons to rubber-stamp its decisions. It is answerable not to Parliament or the people but to global corporations, bankers and unelected bodies like the World Trade Organisation and the European Union bureaucracy. In short, ordinary voters are denied access to real power or even the opportunity to influence events by voting.

That is why people are more and more reluctant to vote. A recent survey by the Hansard Society showed that fewer and fewer people considered Parliament "relevant" to their lives, with only 19% listing it as one of the most influential institutions in the UK – down 11% from 2004. Only 54% of people said they were "certain" to vote.

Participation among young, working class voters was likely to be especially low – with fewer than one in four saying they would definitely vote – signalling their "mistrust" of politicians. The Electoral Commission believes that more than 3.5 million young people may not be registered. Its research suggests 56% of 17-25 year olds are not on the electoral roll.

We need to consider how we can transfer power away from the present political system and build a real democracy that not only serves, but is also run by ordinary people.

How can this be achieved? We could start by setting up People’s Assemblies throughout the country, made up of elected representatives from every section of the community (excluding bankers!) as well as political organisations, environmental movements and other campaigns that oppose the status quo.

Assemblies would aim to give people confidence that they can run and manage their own communities and workplaces. They will have to discuss how to achieve ownership and control over local resources, including land, finance, production, food distribution, housing and transport.

If we can build support for Assemblies on a massive scale nationally, people would be in a position to establish alternative, new democratic structures that would replace existing centres of power through mass revolutionary actions like those seen in Eastern Europe that brought down the Stalinist regimes.

A new democratic state system of People’s Assemblies would be able to tackle issues like the budget deficit in a way that defies financial power. Instead of having to “balance the books” to appease the moneylenders, the message would be “It’s not our debt and we won’t pay it”. The financial system could then be reorganised to benefit society and not speculators.

May 22 conferenceA World to Win has published a draft Manifesto of Revolutionary Solutions that explains in greater detail what we stand for. At a conference in London on Saturday May 22 we launch AWTW as an international organisation committed to working flat out for this alternative.

Register today to attend this important conference.

16 March 2010

Your comments

Mary says:

I diagree with all the party policies in 1. immigration 2. Health service
Everybody is talking about patients what about the poor doctors, who devote their whole life to others. When it comes to GP's you only talk about them being highly paid. They are like labourers. You dont take into account the number of hours each doctor does. Yes theoretically they are fixed. Ask any doctor how many hours they work for. They are like Zombies with night duty. Nobody talks about that. They become abnormal people. Lots of them are single into there 30's. If they are married they have no time for their homes. They only have to think of others - patients. They have poor diets and poor health unlike office workers who sit comfortably and have a good time for the money they earn. So if any of you can prove to me that you will see to this in action not in words or not saying that this has been looked after by GP clinician head who is also supporting the present MP's, my vote will be for you.

Ray says:

"People do not make revolution eagerly any more than they do war. There is this difference, however, that in war compulsion plays the decisive rôle, in revolution there is no compulsion except that of circumstances. A revolution takes place only when there is no other way out. And the insurrection, which rises above a revolution like a peak in the mountain chain of its events, can no more be evoked at will than the revolution as a whole. The masses advance and retreat several times before they make up their minds to the final assault." L D Trotsky - History of the Russian Revolution

Peter says:

So the majority of the UK voters will not get what they want! There is not one single party that covers anything like all the bases! So the real question is what do we all want and what will we do to achieve it?
The really sad answer is nothing as revolution for most is either too scarey or just too much effort! So sit around and take what you get! We are empowered to do something what are you waiting for?

Fiona says:

On a somewhat pedantic note maybe, it was the Liberal Party that was founded in 1859 but the Whigs no longer exist. The Lib-Dems were cobbled together in the eighties so they are correct when they refer to themselves as the newest party and the others as the 'old parties.' However the other points Paul makes about them are absolutely accurate. Clegg has a prettier face than the others and also projected himself better causing a kind of mass swoon throughout the nation. A few slightly more progressive reforms here and there but essentially the same.

Paul says:

Brian's remarks are have an air of desperation about them. The Lib Dems are Britain's oldest capitalist party, going back to 1859. How could you possibly vote for them? They are proposing savage cuts in spending like the other parties. How can you possibly vote for them? As to PR opening the floodgates to "revolution or fundamental reform", you must be joking! Italy elects its deputies by PR. I rest my case. The truth is that the present political system is beyond reform. That's why the People's Assembly road is the best one to go down.

Brian says:

Mark: I disagree with your analysis and, with apologies, Vote Weakest Party is just plain stupid. It will convey no message at all.

There is a hung parliament strategy - Hang em. And it's based on voting for the Lib Dems solely on the premise that they will deliver a fairer voting system on which we can then start to build.

Not voting or daft voting will achieve nothing.

Brian says:

Not voting will achieve nothing! Whilst it is absolutely obvious that human beings must work towards a fundamentally different way of living on this planet the approach has to be incremental. The Greeks are revolting and nothing will become of it. Their day is a long way of.

But here the only tactical step that makes sense is to hold one's nose and vote Lib Dem. They will die if they fail to deliver proportional representation. And if they succeed the flood gates of the millions of votes that do not today have representation will be opened. And then revolution or fundamental reform will rise to the top of the political agenda.
If you don't vote you're wasting your vote!

Phil says:

In the constituency where I live, we have the choice of voting for one of the big three or UKIP. 4 ways of shooting yourself in the head, basically.

Ray says:

There is clear distinction between the scientific method of Marxism which guides the theory and practice of AWTW and that of all other ideologies, as recently expressed by Robert. In the time honoured method of libertarian anarchism nothing less than a total revolutionary plan will suffice for the 'best for us all' sceptics. It's not that they have a perspective or programme of their own for even a half revolution - so rather than engage the real world they adopt an unhistorical holier than thou contemplative superiority. It is clear that the capitalist state 's anarchy in 'free markets' reveals the bankruptcy of their ideology too. To criticise a programme suggests you have an ideal model by way of comparison. If so state it. But you should also outline the material stages society will pass through as you profess 'to know' during these 'nights of working it out'. You say we must leap from capitalist society to total communism in the course of a week. Have I misinterpreted your ideal? How childish does this sound to those seriously considering their future today. When confronted with the real, living material world honest strugglers face the facts and seek to overcome them. Not in a bed of dreams that achieves satisfaction in contemplative alienation.

Robert says:

If AWTW proposes revolution what is the point of pursuing half a revolution? I agree that no true revolution could be accomplished overnight, but I thought the point of this website & meetings was to discuss what is best for us all - this will take several nights - why stop halfway?

Ray says:

Robert, to apprehend the property of the few by the many is the crucial ground of revolution. From that transition can begin the change in all social relations. It is simply libertarian idealism to suggest accomplishing EVERYTHING on day one in one's head. And a conscious lie to propound otherwise.

Paul says:

No! The character of the candidates is not the issue. TUSC is standing on an entirely reformist platform with a perspective of creating a Labour Party Mark II. It does not feature the economic/financial crisis and certainly offers no analysis of or challenge to the parliamentary system. And yet the SP claims to be a Marxist organisation. Can't see how you can support this.

Phil says:

I have reconsidered my categorization of TUSC as a 'bourgeois' political formation in the light of the fact that their list of candidates and supporters contains a good number of consistent class fighters, such as Keith Gibson - the leader of the victorious Lindsey oil refinery strike. TUSC is not standing in my locality, so I will be spoiling my ballot paper, but I think it would be principled for people to cast a critical vote for TUSC where it is standing (only in 42 constituencies). Would AWTW also call for a critical vote for TUSC candidates?

Robert says:

I found much in your manifesto to be laudable until I saw:
"A not-for-profit system of production, distribution and exchange..."
So there is still "exchange" i.e. a monetary system? No revolution here then.

Mick says:

If we cast our minds back to the election of this New Labour we see it as a result of the disgust of the middle class to the clear trough feeding of the rump of Majors government, in fact the entire period of Thatcherism as an exercise in greed and backhanding. Notable in the victory , Martin Bell stood simply on this question. Blair declared that they could think the unthinkable as the majority gave a mandate to do as they pleased. The unthinkable ? To cut disability benefits, something Thatcher and Major failed to do as the minister in charge had a daughter and she told the press. Blair et al did it. These creatures, caught at the same trough must not be vindicated in any circumstance, certainly not a vote, so preciously gained. A no vote other than for those that stand for at least honesty if not a full socialist program is essential. All those that can should campaign in the constituencies of these people and propagate the socialist alternative. A united front bringing together all those that believe in honesty, even if their other policies are not in harmony, or socialist, is essential.

Phil says:

In the forthcoming elections, I may vote Green in the local, but will spoil the national ballot. It does seem that whoever you vote for the same (or similar) bag of monkeys gets in. I can just about stomach the thought of voting for a representative for my local area (though I'd much prefer direct democracy), but parliament is stuffed to the rafters with self-serving individuals who base their policies on big business interests.

Ray says:

There is I believe, confusion about the purpose of the campaign by A World to Win to hold onto your vote during this coming general election. Precisely because our manifesto doesn’t say any of its proposals can become reality without the actual building of assemblies, this is therefore not just a propaganda vote against the status quo in a benignly negative call.

It is statement and political re-orientation against the status quo under conditions which we have identified as requiring new economic and political formations to replace the structures which are currently an impediment to realising a socialised democracy. You will have to firstly, in your own mind, arrive at this definitive conclusion before you would consider yourself able to go amongst others with a constructive attitude.

It is not a take it or leave it question. Those that retain belief in any of the present parties ability to reform or revolutionise from within, the present corporately controlled parliamentary system, will of course oppose this call to action in varying degrees. But we are not playing with words here. It is not a call for abstention but a necessary demand to build with a positivism for this social necessity. We don’t ignore the programmes or manifestos of other proponents who claim to have socialist aspirations but we can and must reveal the limitations that their perspectives are confined to.

Kirsty says:

I have to agree with the many that have expressed discontent with the idea of not voting. I think it is an insult to those that have fought for the right to vote and will only give the impression of apathy. We should vote Green or Socialist where posible to increase the number of representatives in parliment - this would actually be helpful. Or spoil your ballot paper if needed. As David says we can still join the 'Peoples Assemblies'.

Robbie says:

I have also visited the TUSC website and their policies are all about making capitalism a little nicer and naively suggest that New Labour might be more vulnerable to trade union pressure - not seen much of this with the BA strike (even when they receive millions from the BA workers' union) nor Royal Mail: perhaps this is why they don't figure in a page about the need to replace capitalism!

Ray says:

Derek you agree that we have made the facility here for offering progressive ideas in contributing to this page's discussion - but you didn't suggest where you agree or disagree with our outline yourself. I visited the TUSC page and disagreed with a number of their proposals but found no entitlement to outline them or redirect readers this way.

Pat says:

I am very sceptical about an abstension on voting, better to make your vote not count than give it to the Labour Party and Tory Party freely. After seeing the dirty tricks dept of both stealing votes from those who haven't used their vote. All the parties would sieze on the opportunity to gain from your unused vote, be cautious when recommending a non-vote please, it could turn out to be a further nail in our coffins. Our politicians have been rigging our votes for years, they are not about to change now. As a pensioner none of the parties give me any solutions to my future, I don't ever vote any of three main parties anyway so it won't make any difference to them, but I would hate to think my vote went to parties which I totally disagree with, where a pensioners fate is so uncertain. So, when considering whether to vote or not take heed, you could be responsible for the next government after all.

Frances says:

I think everyone should turn up on voting day and mark their ballot paper -- that way the established parties wont be able to claim that the electorate is 'just apathetic'. If you can support a Green or Socialist candidate, that's fine, or otherwise spoil your ballot by writing 'none of the above' or other message you think fits the bill. If millions turn up and spoil their ballots or vote for small parties that fact will have to be picked up and given publicity -- it would be a good starting point for the development of alternative assemblies.

Derek says:

I am a little surprised that the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (and indeed the Socialist Labour Party for that matter) has not figured in this discussion. A coalition between trade unions and socialists created the Labour Party (the one Brown and Blair stabbed in the back) Anyone who is interested can go to the website

Ray says:

Laura, a number of participants in a climate camp group came to court yesterday after being subject to a massive police operation to smash and intimidate them last April, during the G20 protests. Whether they were pacifist Greens, anarchist Blacks and Reds or neither of those, wasn’t the issue. The police action was found to be unwarranted and disproportionate to the actual threat they posed. Two of them were awarded £6,000 by way of the courts compensation (with another possible £250,000 being offered in a group claim to those involved). The police were nowhere officially condemned by the state in parliament and they refused point blank to apologise for their illegal assault.

The state, in the form of police, acts with impunity for the ‘democracy’ they ‘serve’, and can readily incur the costs, which come from the public purse, as did similarly, the bankers bail-out. The criticism of their weaponry is etched on the participants memories with more tangible force than their own intimidated weapon of criticism - and the state know it. The state and all the parties in Westminster accept these forms of economic and armed ‘terrorism’ against what they perceive as a social danger and carry on regardless. Much more secretly hidden are discussions considering events possibly involving many more ordinary ‘voters’. The assemblies that we propose are precisely the bulwark necessary to represent the ‘conspired and lied to’ majority in this developing economic and political crisis. This is the world in which we live.

Jonathon says:

Address to Laura and Lucy, those who they give voice to, and represent. Isn’t this the point?

You have made a genuine contribution, and widened your influence.

There are two main forms of abstention: from the vote itself and voting for an avowedly abstentionist candidate. Another aspect I heard of widely, and not unexpectedly given the passions, was the spoilt vote with comments on the Paper as to the Iraq war. A counting of these and a seat by PR would really make a difference. Collection of these would give an interesting’ expression, a mandate, and allow the development of the whole debate. But we are not allowed that. And these are within family discussions, or work groups, an ‘I’m going to spoil my vote’ group, not an organised abstentionist discussion as a result of discussion and consultation. Not democratic, but anti this form of democracy, by its nature. All these ‘forms’ show the embryonic People Assemblies, as does any riot. The latter (except when the state instigates through agent provocateurs) an expression precisely of the lack of a say, and the right to protest, and confrontation by state forces. Parliamentary democracy of the form now expressed is a state force – an organizing moment, contradictory (which is where Laura and Lucy hold out hope: though it is riddled with contradictions) but through its unelected and unaccountably Executive a State force non-the-less.

The apparently archaic rituals on entering Parliament; the oath, the role of the speaker, etc, and the control by the Executive knobble expression and debate, let alone legislative reform for any that enter ‘on the left’. Though the record of The Green’s in Europe bring into question a lot of these hoped for contentions as to ‘the left’, especially when in coalitions.

An sang su chi suggests the boycotting of elections. At what point and under what conditions might she support them? Now reverse the situation: imagine that the conditions under Westminster, and therefore under New Labour or Tory, or a coalition, was going backwards in time. Imagine, for the sake of argument that what was here previously to now, represented the best of possible reforms under any form of Government with the City of London, Big Business, The IMF, and military interests from the US as a counter pressure. Is now the time, going backwards, to enter elections? And it certainly isn’t ‘a progressive form’ and neither Lucy nor Laura suggests it is. If one looks at Obama and the hysterical opposition and the ‘Tea -‘ groups developing then note the divisions in the US make the right consider putting pressure in other formations ready for the next fight.: And this is a Whitehouse that has made so many concessions that the best coverage is done on John Stewart’s satire programme, not any news station.

For the percentages go to:

Tim says:

People are sometimes angry when I tell them that I do not vote. They mention the struggle and sacrifice of individuals throughout history who have given their lives to obtain the right to vote. This is an attempt to shame me into voting. Sometimes it does make me feel guilty. But I like to think that if these people were alive today and could see the sham of democracy that has been created by the corrupt individuals that prowl the corridors of power they would understand why ordinary people do not vote. If people such as the suffragettes and others were alive today they might be the very people at the forefront of the campaign urging people not to vote. The fewer people that vote the more the current corrupt and decadent political class will be starved of the oxygen of democratic legitimacy. If anyone needed further convincing of this course of action then watching last night’s [22/3/10] Ch4 Despatches programme must surely have provided it. The sickening sight of the feckless trio of ex-Ministers, Hoon, Byers and Hewitt caught with their noses in the trough provides yet another example of the discreditable behaviour of the self serving individuals that are our democratically elected representatives. Whilst there may be a few good apples in the barrel the majority are rotten along with the system that sustains them in power. Surely it is the responsibility of every citizen NOT to vote and in abstaining to keep the hope of democracy alive.

John says:

The polarisation of opinions well demonstrates the dilemma we face. If we vote, we engage with the rotten system we want to change, which is a contradiction in terms. If we don't vote, we cut ourselves off from any political power at all, which is counter-productive.

But there is a "third way"; a way we can use our votes in a completely new and very powerful way to drive the politicians of ALL parties to adopt, and eventually implement, the policies we desire. In fact, if you go to you'll see that it's already happening and how you can play your part.

You might like to check it out.

Bruce says:

Most people, who are objecting to the principal "Hang on to your vote!" seem to be forgetting the next and crucial part of the slogan? Build people's assemblies!

Abstaining is not what is being asked for here but to use your vote it in a revolutionary way to signal your intent to build peoples assemblies. Its not a passive exercises, like in this Election, your vote (hanging on to it) will mean your participation in the building of and fighting for new democratic struggles. A democracy in which we act instead of being acted on, a working democracy.

Strikes, Occupations, Street protests and peoples assemblies etc all raise the question who holds the power, owns the means of production and runs this country day to day? These actions are not the parliamentary model of democracy and are opposed by the state, with the full range of forces that it has at its disposal, but are forms of working peoples Democracy, in action.

Voting is not, like the state would have us believe, about the prerequisite to striking, it’s a tool for them to disrupt and divide workers action, the strike itself is the vote, the withdrawing of Labour the action. Capitalism dose not fear the vote per se but the action. You can have referendums till you drop or till you get the answer the state wants, or just ignore the result altogether or declare it illegal. So, don't hold on to your vote, because it is an empty gesture that just happens to be travelling in the right direction. If you're not also prepared to Build Peoples Assemblies, as well!

Laura says:

Well said, Lucy.

Not all political parties are the same - some were formed as direct action against the status quo, just like what you are trying to do now - and the Green Party is one of them!

The Greens massively promote the principle and practice that decisions should taken at the most local level possible and given half a chance they would set up people's assemblies exactly like those that you propose.
Honestly - read the policies, they're much more radical than you might think.

Does anyone really think that if enough people don't vote/spoil their ballots then the main political holy trinity will just burst into tears and give up power?

I know formal politics is frustrating, and no one is suggesting that the ONLY way we should involve ourselves in real democracy is by voting, but as Lucy points out, voting for a party that actually represents what you think (and would welcome your active involvement and viewpoint with wide open arms if you chose to give it) is a hugely positive democratic move.

If we all did this, we could radically change the country - and then the world - within the next decade or so.

Ray says:

Peter had earlier raised the problem he has (not unlike a number amongst the impressionable lefts) when looking around and seeing only doom outside the palace of Westminster - but does he see serenity within? He proffers a fallacious argument for Westminster’s ‘democracy’ by suggesting that Parliament is a bastion of security against reaction and social division in the form of the BNP. The influence of the BNP is projected and deepened precisely amongst the most deprived and ‘cut loose from politics‘ - the jobless disenfranchised working class surplus to requirements and middle-class professionals feeling themselves forced lower in social status economically by the seeming omnipotence of this selfsame sham ‘democracy’.

The demands of corporate power, whether in a credit boom (optimism) or credit-crunch bust (pessimism) through their representatives in Parliament, dictate the tune by basing economic life on their profitability credo. He who pays or out rightly buys the piper - calls the tune. Westminster both in Commons and Lords, pass laws to suppress both organised and disorganised labour. A vote for representation to parliament is far less important than a vote to defend your living standards (unless you’re an elite) and a cogent example is displayed in the present BA cabin crew workers strike. Whereby aspirational middle-class people and ‘their union’ are facing the full artillery of the state and its vast press media of psychological battalions to batter them to ground in their fight against a corporate employer for their rights to live and his right to extract global rates of profitability - to pay both shareholder and owed bank.

The very same banks who trumpeted the dawn of the boom only to demand (when their symphony became discordant) that ’their’ leaders in the brass section (Brown, Darling and Lord Myers) impose a socialised levy on the present and future generations of workers and middle classes, to bail out the banks to bring the orchestra back to their key. To conclude the metaphor - What’s music to their ears is a discordant blast in ours. In December the High Court (of course a ‘High’ court), interpreted and promulgated Westminster’s laws to illegalise a cabin crews ballot for strike action on ‘legal’ arguments found that, despite having the overwhelming majority in favour of the action or no-action strike, it couldn’t go ahead. The tops of corporate power are strengthened by government laws - and those of us outside of these laws can only be strengthened by the support we organise in opposition.

Therein lies the rub to Peter’s argument. In the face of those fighting to build a more solid and co-ordinated defence of jobs and rights, and where they are successful outside parliament, the BNP show their faces rarely. You see, the BNP if it were to aspire to achieve Nazism (your epithet), would and does seek to break up and destroy organised labour, but therein lies its dilemma, to build itself from amongst the souls who are socially desperate and thrown onto the heap of ‘surplus to requirements‘ to make more lumpen or socially scabby, it takes strength from the prevarications of those that have no other answers. Yes they have to be physically fought when and where they physically attack. Our assembly representatives have to be in the forefront of these defences against all racist, anti-union and socialist attacks. Defence only makes sense when related to attack. If you’re in a fight firstly identify who prepares the political ground for those reactionary recruiting corporals. Reaction on the part of the state and those agencies and would-be thugs, whether paid or volunteer, who would step forward to take society back to barbarism, shall best be opposed only by our willingness and capacity to organise for a tangible alternative with real socialised ‘democracy’. Away with facades of Westminster’s democracy. The present state is riven with internal and external crises - they prolong and would continue to impose their failings on us all.

My vote shall only be cast at a forum as and when there is an assembly which attracts my adherence and collaboration with a validated legitimacy, large or small. We’ll know it when we see and are part of it. Westminster is not for me and will not defend me. It is no longer legitimate for it is not in its birth but in its death pangs. I urge all others who also feel the same to do the same - or in this case - not to do -come May. There is much to think and act upon and we should go about it with confidence amongst ‘our constituents’ armed as we are with our manifesto. Positively, I say all the more power to the peoples assemblies - or whatever their concluding name shall be. On that label I really am and will remain ’democratic’ - I pledge

Penny says:

I understand why Robbie says if people choose to make a mark on election day they are not beyond the pale as far as AWTW is concerned.

Nevertheless refusing to vote in this election would be an important and significant step for people to take. If that were not the case, the policy of ‘hang on to your vote’ would not be worth pursuing.

If people go down this route together, it will represent an important break with the current ideology.

It would show that we, the people, can shrug off the lifeless form of the current parliament, with its grasping MPs and empty rhetoric, and let it drop to the ground like a stinking old overcoat.

That would give us a far greater sense of our own power than going to the ballot box.

It is a strange contradiction that a vote in this election is a symbol of our powerlessness rather than our power.

You can see this from the reasons people have given here in favour of voting – for historical, moral or romantic reasons, for the lesser of two evils, to protest – nobody claims it will make any improvement in the course of history.

It won’t prevent the continued bankrupting of the state in service of the corporations, or the mass sackings and misery about to be inflicted on the working class as a result.

Even stranger is that we all know it, really. The hollowing out of democracy is the capitalist system’s dirty little secret and it is time to say it out loud.

Breaking from this sham would be like taking a great breath of fresh air, opening our eyes to new possibilities – putting a first tentative toe in the water of revolution, you could say.

Through building our own People’s Assemblies we can consider how we want to live, with what kind of representative bodies, what kind of decision-making, what kind of economy, what kind of environment and what level of support for people to live a decent life. And we can make these into bodies that give freshness and new life to the concept of democracy.

Choosing to hang on to our vote in this election attributes greater value to the right to vote, not less.

Mike says:


Tim says:

Blessings be upon Penny and the whole AWTW crowd - "Hang on to your vote! Build People's Assemblies!" is exactly the right thing to do when the boss class demands our participation in their discredited, bankrupt, Parliamentary representative democracy. Better to expend our energies on building our own dynamic, blossoming Participatory direct democracy in People's Assemblies, to undermine the legitimacy of being governed by the Westminster snake pit. Up the Revolution, Peace & Love,

Peter says:

The problem with not voting is that it gives the Nazi BNP a free ride to Parliament. The only way to keep them out is to vote for someone else. In the longer-term socialists need to re-claim the Labour Party from the infiltrators who stole it. We also need to build our extra-Parliamentary forces, including our trades unions.

Phil says:

Unfortunately, one would have expected that many people are tied to the bourgeois 'electoral' principle because there is such a high level of political ignorance amongst middle England. The issue is actually very simple. If you give your vote to a bourgeois political party (and this includes TUSC) then you have alienated your own power and given it to the bourgeoisie. Instead, I agree with AWTW that one should use one's power by withholding one's vote and activating that power only on something that has pro-working class potential.

Robbie says:

We should make it more clear what the Hang On To Your Vote campaign is all about.

It is NOT a campaign for abstentions. IT IS A CALL TO ARMS.

If people want to put an X on a piece of paper, then please do so. But it doesn't matter where you put that X, or whether you put no X, the government, whatever flavour, will be making us pay for their crisis.

For people who value the sacrifices of previous generations, the challenge is to do what they did but at a higher level. The Chartists and Suffragettes did not build their movements by putting X on a piece of paper, nor did they die to put an X on a piece of paper. They built organisations of millions of people to have a say in their own lives. We have to face up to the conclusion that no matter how we vote we will have no say in our future. The present system and political parties only take note of the corporations.

So the Hang On To Your Vote campaign is issuing a challenge to build a movement that can create a world where we can have a say.

Martin says:

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing". Edmund Burke.
If you don't like the established parties, for heaven's sake, put your name in as an Independent candidate. You don't have to run a vigorous or expensive campaign, but you can make your views known and salve your conscience.

My motto is "The only good politician is a scared politician". Do something to scare the establishment!

David says:

I am struck by two considerations.

The first and lesser, though fundamental to our pale democracy, is that we are presented for the first time in my voting life with the real possibility of a hung parliament over which the Lib Dem's will have a chance to exert powerful influence. In the matter of up-ending the iniquitous 'first-past-the-post' system alone, it is a supreme opportunity. A resident of Swindon (South) and a supporter of neither Labour nor Conservative, I have been disenfranchised for over 40 years.

The second is the damnable N.I.R. which for any who have not forgone their imaginations in total, is a terrifying prospect, a linch-pin to interconnect all existing databases and far worse, the ultimate surveillance / tracking system which as surely as it was conceived by male minds easily stupefied by dangerous instincts, seeks vulgar domination. It has the most evil potential and will bind us with its serpentine intent until all hope is crushed.
Labour reeks with its lust for this menacing scheme and the Conservatives are sworn to delete it.

I can vote strategically to strengthen the Conservatives against incumbent Labour and for one, cannot bear the thought of doing nothing when presented with a threat I perceive with such foreboding, that my near despondency at our democratic (dis)order is a puddle to the unfathomable despair the N.I.R. promises.

If Labour gets back in, rue the day you didn't do your bit to keep them out, for the threat of global warming will be just 'hot-air' to the sear of their branding iron!

Pat says:

Mike has hit nail on the head. I intend to spoil my ballot paper by simply writing "none of the above" (unless we have a socialist candidate).

The right to vote is being taken from us by inducing antipathy toward all parties. By not voting, we give all politicians a mandate to say the public are disinterested in politics and can therefore be ignored. If people take the time to vote in their millions but reject current political parties, no excuse can be made by the political class.

Mike says:

The only legitimate way to register a vote and yet not vote is to spoil your ballot paper - this way your vote is counted but goes to none of the parties.

David says:

I'll vote for a socialist party, possibly a green party - more power to their elbows. That doesn't preclude us from joining your 'People's Assemblies'.

Bob says:

Having been schooled in the electoral traditions of James P. Cannon here in the US, I have to ask what happened to the concept of "critical support" (and as Cannon always stressed, "With emphasis on the critical!"). Certainly, not an iota of support to the new Labour traitors, or any other capitalist party-- but shouldn't it be considered for a group like TUSC (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition)? I think that this is what a "campaigning" organization would do to project a socialist voice into the electoral shell-game. I'm afraid that no matter how many paper calls are written urging a new constitution, popular assemblies, participatory councils etc it still amounts to an abstentionist posture which is politically fruitless.

Jim says:

I agree with Lucy. Everything you say about the current political system is correct but unless you are putting forward detailed plans for its overthrow and for the better system you propose we should replace it with (which I haven't yet seen!), we should use every means and every tool available to us, howevever imperfect, to create pressure for radical change and to promote the ongoing political debate that is essential if we want to inform, educate and involve the powerless majority. The current system is manifestly corrupt and inadequate, but it is still possible to change it by democratic means. A decision to opt out and not even try, without offering a practical alternative, would be an insulting betrayal to generations of brave men and women who struggled and suffered to create that possibility.

People's Assemblies are a good idea, as were the soviets. If we can develop alternative, effective and representative, decision making structures that challenge the existing set up, we might be able to replace it without violence, but all assemblies would run the same risk of being captured by unrepresentative factions and all assemblies would have to take difficult decisions: and since there will always be issues on which we cannot create a concensus, that would necessitate having to vote! Look ahead! At what stage and in what circumstances would you advise Assembly members Not to vote?

Universal suffrage is a hard won basic human right and an essential weapon in the struggle for social progress. Do not encourage people to discard it!

A poor choice is clearly better than no choice and can be used to promote and create better options

Tom says:

Hello I dont know whether I can agree with you. Yes I agree that the three main established puppet parties dont deserve our vote but the Greens and any left wing candidate that is not polarised in their agenda could well and should be offerred the possibilty of our support or your organisation and other broad left or left socialist labour or respect should be given support or get your supporters to stand. At least we can take reasoned minded who would not  and can see through the horror of the right being left to pick up the  votes that could go to us.

Mark says:

As I said in my talk at the AWTW Whitechapel event a few months ago, I think a vote campaign to ensure a hung parliament is the way to go. It looks like things are going that way anyway. But the percentage differences in parliament after the election matter. The best result would be the one that produces an absolute stalemate between the parties. For me, this is real politic strategy, not the idealistic approach that I think a no-vote-at-all represents at this stage. I would definitely support an effective vote boycott. But to be effective, such a boycott would have to decimate the vote turn out to the degree that it represented a national vote of no confidence in government itself, thereby causing a crisis of revolutionary proportions. I don't see that happening. The "lesser of evils" political imaginary is simply too strong. And most people want to do the "right thing." They want to exercise their only form of political participation, no matter how futile that is. A voting strategy to ensure a hung parliament is the next best thing.

I'm making a theoretical point, because neither a hung parliament vote strategy nor a boycott is currently anywhere near an organized stage.

However, my recommendation is to bite the bullet and vote for the weakest party in your district. Let's use the next 5 years to organize a national election boycott.

In the meantime, Vote Weakest Party in your constituency.

Lucy says:

I'm afraid that I disagree entirely with the concept that a wasted vote will deny the parties legitimacy. I agree that the three main parties offer few solutions but I believe that in a world where people die for the right to vote, we should strive to cast our vote if at all possible. Where alternative parties have candidates, eg the green party- people should be encouraged to vote here as it is only by increasing the support of these parties that the mainstream can be made to listen. A few hundred votes cast for the greens or other left wing parties will make a positive impact. A few hundred voters that stay away will not be missed.

Sadly I disagree so fundamentally with your position that I no longer support your manifesto.

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