It’s a bit of a contentious issue among the population, is voting.
Some deliberately and militantly abstain. Me, I’m an anarchist who has both purposefully abstained and voted before, and a small number of my mates with a range of opinions on the subject are too. But let’s face it most of the people who will not be voting in this election would never identify themselves as such. Even at the last General Election in 2017 which had higher numbers than the previous two, there was still just an overall 69% turnout, with some constituencies being as low as 53.5%.
So why don’t they use their vote ? Lots of reasons, most of them perfectly valid. For many it’s simply because they are poor. If you think the days when the only citizens deemed worthy of voting were the rich, then look again. People don’t like to be on the electoral register when they are in debt as it can be used to trace them. Photo ID has suddenly and very deliberately been introduced by the Tories just in time for this election, despite no evidence that it prevents electoral fraud, and the concern is that this will prevent people from further being able to attend the polls. Across the Atlantic, the Republicans pulled a similar stunt last year by bringing in even more rigid measures which required any ID used to contain a residential address- a huge problem for rural First Nations citizens, many of who rely on PO Boxes for mail which isn’t being accepted at the poll stations. Others are just so completely disengaged with politics that they make no connection between why their lives are so hard.
But I saw something the other day that made me realise that people not voting is particularly helping the Conservative Party at the minute. Don’t believe me, listen to MP Tobias Ellwood last week talking about why the Conservatives will not be allowing 16-17 year olds to vote. He doesn’t even hide it. He literally says that they won’t allow a large section of the population- who they are happy to take tax from- to vote because they know they will lose power. If that does not teach you that they love it when we don’t vote because it actively enables them, I don’t know what will. Yes, it’s wrong and it absolutely must change but this is what we have in the here and now whether we accept that or not.
I get it. I’ve switched the channel over before because I just can’t bear the white noise of the absolute garbage that they spout. I’ve swore blind I will not go to the ballot because I don’t trust a single one of them. I’m not fluent in jargon and spin and just don’t know what the very fuck they are going on about half the time. With everyone suddenly talking like some learned political scientist in Brexit discussions, I’ve had to ask my friends to explain it to me slowly, like they were trying to teach a toddler about complex bureaucratic and economic structures.
I don’t like participating in a political system that I’ve been forced to grow up in and that has always felt profoundly unnatural to me. Playing their game- so to speak- doesn’t fit with who I am, my identity and core beliefs. I still believe Emma Goldman when she said “if voting changed anything they’d make it illegal”. A change of government isn’t going to destroy capitalism and it would be naïve to think it would.
But I didn’t realise until recently that they rigged the game so they get even bigger prizes when we refuse to play.
So I am voting, because most our citizens are too exhausted and gaslighted to take to the streets and drag them out of Westminster right now.
I’m voting because I cannot tolerate my mam being forced into another benefits medical assessment by someone entirely unqualified, where she will be deemed fit to work, then tortured as she is forced to type with deformed hands at mandatory computer courses, despite a doctor’s note explicitly telling them she should not use keyboards. I’m terrified I will find her dead from her chronic respiratory condition because her gas ran out and she was too proud to tell me so I could put something on the meter.
I’m voting because I cannot bear the shame and guilt of looking one of my service users in the eyes again and watching them fill up as I tell them there isn’t a refuge in the whole of the country for them and their bairns to escape their abuser.
I’m voting because I don’t want any more people to die because they were saving that last bit of their inhaler “for absolute emergencies”.
I’m voting because I can’t pretend the NHS isn’t being privatised and I’m listening to the people who have been fighting for this for years. Activist doctors and nurses who are showing me the evidence that plans are already in place to force an American style health insurance system on us and I know what the consequences of that are for everyone. Because I know what my fellow neuro patients across the pond are paying for the MRI’s and EEG’s I’ve been receiving over the years, regardless of whether they have insurance or not.
I’m voting because I work in an area where I’m dealing with little kids who still believe in Santa being picked up by the police for removing food from supermarket shelves to feed their even younger, hungry siblings.
Voting is certainly not the only thing I am doing to try and bring about these changes- I’m too distrustful of anyone who chooses politics as a career to rely on that alone- but I will use it now I am in a position that I can do so.
One of the things I hear most is “where is the evidence that a Labour or any other government has made any real change for the working class”. You’re right in thinking that in most of our lifetimes, there isn’t any. But speak to someone who grew up in the 20’s and 30’s who tell of life before social housing and the NHS. Tales of multiple kids in one family dying in the space of a few years because they couldn’t afford a doctor. Thirteen people sleeping in one room, covered in lice. This was normal working class life back then and if you speak to anyone working in a field where they encounter child poverty today, it is not an overreaction to think we could see those days again. Those things developed because working class people were within the movements and the politics of the time, not simply obeying them. They developed because that same working class were changed from war and they weren’t going back to the slums when they had already proved to themselves and the state that they knew how to bring down a regime.
We will never put all of our faith in one man or one government. No politician should be subject to anything other than absolute scrutiny. Everyone is accountable at all times. I don’t believe a Corbyn led Labour government will solve all our problems nor do I think he is any kind of messiah or above criticism- and I certainly won’t be putting my boots up if Labour win in the belief that our work is done.
Voting isn’t an alternative to organising ourselves, direct action and a DIY ethos. It’s just one of many tactics that I’m prepared to use if necessary. Because the system relies on the masses to conform to it, but not to engage with it, and it starts to become very anxious when they do.
If I only vote in only one General Election it will be this one. Will I fall out with those who won’t because of their politics? No, in the same way I wouldn’t with abstainers who don’t because they can’t risk the bailiffs kicking down their door the minute they sign up, or are worried it will help an abusive ex partner find them. It’s not okay to vilify people for not voting as the reasons are often complex and personal, and it isn’t okay to tell people that “they deserve what they get” for abstaining, as I have seen people do in the past. But similarly, I’ll no longer allow anyone to try and shame me for doing so. You still have my love and respect and I see you for the work that you do and the love that you bring in to your communities, never tiring for a moment. We will still always need that fire in the world and never think for one moment that we are not fighting the same battle, because while this discussion will come up time and time again with us, we cannot let it become a divide.
But if you are in a position to vote, I would ask that you at least just consider what I’ve said, if only for a moment. There is no such thing as selling out when you are still so fierce in your resistance and it’s not a completely stupid idea to pull out one extra card on them that they don’t expect. It’s an unusual situation we are in right now where we cant say there is no difference between the two main party leaders. We can kick Tories out of office by placing one letter in a box, and if you don’t think that won’t bring at least some respite for the people who are taking the force of the blow of austerity measures, then you are looking in the wrong places. We use our real energies for continuing to build the world we dream of when we close our eyes.
Killing Joke- Another Bloody Election