No to AV!

WE ARE fast approaching the 5th May local elections and the referendum on the alternative voting system — or AV. This is an issue that confuses and diverts many progressive middle class intellectuals but the New Communist Party takes a consistent line based on an analysis of what will most benefit the working class.

First we must assert that AV or the current first-past-the-post or any other voting system within a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie is not going to bring us socialism. Such voting systems are designed to protect the interests of the bourgeoisie and to keep us workers under their thumb, while at the same time fooling us into thinking we are living in an egalitarian democracy.

We will never be allowed to vote on the issues that really matter — control of the economy including the big banks, the multinational companies, common ownership of the land and scrapping nuclear weapons and so on.

But that does not mean that we cannot wring some advantages for the workers out of the system so long as we understand these will be limited and may not last long. The existence of a party created by the trade unions to defend the interests of the workers within Parliament has led to some very important social reforms, the creation of the NHS and the structures of state welfare after the Second World War.

The Labour Party has never been a revolutionary party and it has always had a right wing, opportunist leadership. The ruling bourgeoisie were never going to allow it a free hand to implement a full working class agenda and the front line of the class struggle has existed inside that party since it was formed over a century ago, between the supporters of socialism and the supporters of capitalism.

And the working class, through the trade unions who pay for the party, have over the years been able to exert some influence over the party’s policies. That influence declined after the Thatcher government defeated the miners’ strike and then passed a succession of anti-union Acts. The weakened unions allowed the Labour Party to drift further and further to the right. But the basic structure of the party is still the same and there is still the potential for resurgent unions to increase their influence.

And the current battle against the cuts gives an opportunity for the unions to grow stronger again. Millions of workers are taking serious cuts in their living standards and are angry and are motivated to join their unions and to shake them up and get them fighting again.

This is the vital struggle that will mobilise, educate and organise workers, give them confidence in themselves as a class with huge potential power. And that struggle is more important than anything going on inside the Palace of Westminster.

Campaigning to change the voting system is a diversion into a blind alley that could only swap one system of being misled, oppressed and exploited with another.

Furthermore it would lead to a situation, as in so many other countries that have AV or other proportional representational voting systems, where it is extremely difficult for any one party to gain overall power. We would be eternally governed by coalitions and this will give all party leaders the excuse to plead that, as they only have partial power, they can rip up their election manifestos and do just what the banks and big business tell them.

It is incredibly hard to vote out the party you do not want because after the elections there will be period of bargaining between the parties to cobble together the biggest coalition. The least popular party may well be a part of that coalition; extremist right-wing fringe parties will be courted to add their small numbers to make a coalition viable — and will subsequently blackmail the government by threatening to bring it down if they are not appeased with extremist right-wing measures. We have seen this happen in Israel, Italy and other places.

The AV system will ensure we never in future get a Labour government that is not part of a coalition with other parties. And it will be far harder for the working class to exert any influence on it.

Let us leave the voting system as it is — we are not going to get any real improvement under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie — and focus on building the strength, power and confidence of the working class to throw out the whole bourgeois system and achieve the dictatorship of the working class.