Election day rapidly approaches for the European elections. There’s a district council seat open as well where I am, but I’m guessing that won’t be quite as relevant to most of my readers, even the ones who actually live in Europe.
Last month, I wrote about my intention to contact the top candidates for each of the parties that had even an outside chance of gaining my vote. As well as doing this, I have been using BBC’s iPlayer service to watch the Party Election Broadcasts for the election. Not all are relevant (the Northern Ireland or Scottish parties, and Plaid Cymru in Wales, will talk about issues specific to those nations). There are several parties in the election who are not fielding a ticket in the Eastern Region, but are contesting other seats. It is rather intriguing to see what they have to say for themselves.
One really scary element is the number of nationalist, racist, anti-Europe parties there are in the field. In my region, there’s “An Independence From Europe”, the BNP, the English Democrats and UKIP, but elsewhere there’s another group, the “Britain First” party, whose PEB was one of the most vile and islamophobic things I’ve ever seen. In one sense, it’s encouraging: with so many to choose from, hopefully the racist bigot vote will be split. On the other hand, if there’s enough of a movement for there to be that many groups expressing their vicious xenophobic views in enough regions to get themselves a PEB, then the people who uphold the values of openness and democracy have to be worried and ready to take a stand.
There are also leftwing anti-Europe parties. In England, there’s the No2EU ticket; the Socialist Labour Party, judging by their PEB, appear to be standing in Wales on a similar anti-EU platform (they also have actor/comic Ricky Tomlinson on their side). Their website says they are contesting some local election seats in England.
The No2EU PEB was mostly the same, but I noticed that for one image they appropriated the tarot for their point. Unfortunately, they also demonstrated that they don’t know what the cards mean. Wishing to show how the ideology of the market curtails democratic expression, they declared “Democracy trumped!” and showed an image of two cards: “Death” labelled “The Market” being placed over “Justice”, labelled “Democracy”. While a reasonable case could be made for representing democracy using Justice, I would have thought Temperance (meaning balance, harmony, blending) or The Lovers (representing a choice to be made) would have been better. Organisations like No2EU seem to equate democracy with fairness and appropriate allocation of resources so in their minds, Justice might have seemed a reasonable representation. But “Death” represents renewal, in the sense of the end of one project and the start of another. Given the message that No2EU wish to convey, The Devil would be a much more suitable choice (in the Connelly deck, The Devil is even renamed “Materialism”). It always rankles when organisations misuse cultural imagery (I’m not too happy about individuals doing it either, but I’m sure I am not entirely innocent).
Being very much impressed by the writing of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (especially Engels – much better on a range of social justice issues), but also concerned that a simple rejection of the EU is not going to help the long-term goals of socialism and/or communism, I am pleased to see that (again, not standing in the Eastern Region, but still contesting European and Local Government seats elsewhere in England) there is another socialist option, the Socialist Party of Great Britain, who are affiliated with World Socialist Movement. WSM is avowedly Menshevik in their historical analysis and on their website claim to be the first to have analysed Soviet Russia as a “State Capitalism” system, and basically explain why everybody else is wrong about Marxism. This approach reminded me of reading about Islam, the text explaining why Judaism and Christianity were impure, flawed versions of the original True Religion handed by God (Allah, Jehovah, YHWH) to Abraham. WSM seem to want to hark back to a One True Marxism as revealed by the great Prophet Karl Marx (to be fair, the beard does create a sort of Biblical patriarch appearance).
The SPGB PEB paints a picture of how I imagine a fully-developed communist society to look, but is surprisingly vague (along with the WSM’s website) on how we would actually get there. More to the point, they are also silent on what they would actually do if any of their candidates were elected to the European Parliament.
They are also very big on the idea of “no leaders, no governments”. I looked at the SPGB website and clicked on “Members: Rulebook” and found a surprisingly hierarchical structure described for a party that believes in “no leaders”. There is also the fact that social groups in the past who have tried to establish a “no leaders” policy have tended to end up with just as deep divisions of power and inequality of voice, but with fewer opportunities to counter them and less recognition of the hierarchies that are developing. This, in turn, tends to make abusers harder to identify and stop. Which is to say, in order to prevent leaders emerging and exploiting others, some form of government structure or social oversight may be needed. It’s a great aim of equal involvement and participation, but it’s not enough to say it; there are structural issues that have to be overcome. (Plus, what happens to all us introverts who don’t engage well with large groups and often feel excluded in them?)
SPGB and WSM seem to claim rigidly rational analysis, but ultimately are based on idealism. I believe the vision of the future that SPGB describe is possible and can be achieved. Hopefully, even in my lifetime! But I have yet to see any clarity of thought about how to get there. The WSM, for instance, insists that it must be a “peaceful” and “global” revolution (apparently, workers worldwide will just one day simultaneously and spontaneously decide to enact socialism and that will be that). The responses to the “Arab Spring” and “Occupy” movements ought to demonstrate that, while a revolution may have peaceful intentions, it’s unlikely that the forces of Capital will just put down their guns and say “alright, you win”. That analysis was explained to me by the Socialist Workers Student Society back when I was in university, a naïve young socialist who back then believed in just the sort of peaceful revolution the WSM describes. After seeing first-hand how the State uses force against peaceful protesters, or just ignores them entirely, I am less certain of the effectiveness of such non-violent principles. (Of course, the WSM website has a page explaining why parties like the SWP are wrong-headed.)
I’ll be interested to see how the various socialist options do in their regions, but not hopeful that any of them will lead to revolution any time soon!
So, that was the PEBs of parties you might not have known were standing.
I noted at the top of this post that I wrote to EU candidates (though none of the xenophobic, racist, etc anti-EU tickets, and not the Tories) standing in my area. I wasn’t able to find any source for email addresses for the No2EU candidates, even though many of them make their living as journalists for leftwing publications (evidenced by the search results on DuckDuckGo). I wrote to the central office asking for email contact with the candidates but received no reply. I will therefore not vote for them.
The Christian Peoples Alliance was more helpful, and I did receive correspondence from their candidates. The response was rather shorter than I hoped for, but intriguing nonetheless. Sadly, it didn’t illuminate as much as I hoped. Since it is unlikely that their views of Christianity fit well with my own (though there was nothing obvious to say one way or the other) I will be unlikely to cast my vote there. I really was just curious about their ethos anyway.
The Labour Party candidates have not got back to me, and apart from a “interesting questions”, I haven’t heard from the LibDems either.
The Green Party lead candidate, on the other hand, was kind enough reply with their Eastern Region manifesto attached, and the Green Party’s policy document on sex workers’ rights. The policy document outlines a position that seems indistinguishable from the “New Zealand model” of full decriminalisation favoured by sex workers’ rights organisations such as ECP, IUSW and so on. The manifesto dealt with the questions of workers’ rights raised by the No2EU campaign, and set out a practical approach to dealing with those issues within the EU. They also are committed to reforming the EU to make it more democratic, another key issue I asked about.
Therefore, I will be probably be voting Green on Thursday.