Change is urgently needed in our world. As a result of ecological destruction, species are dying so fast that we are officially in the 6th great mass extinction of earth’s history: our species may not have long in this world if the food chain continues to be wiped out in this way. 36 million people starve to death every year (1 every second). Nuclear weapons continue to threaten us with annihilation. 3 billion people (about half the world population) live in poverty and 1 billion people live in extreme poverty. But the only inbuilt mechanism for change in our society is voting. And hopes for bringing genuine change in society through voting are slim at best.
Firstly, there is no substantial difference between the parties that have any chance of winning. New Labour is a carbon copy of the Conservatives: they both support unregulated business control; they both support a big government providing subsidies to big business; they both support maintaining a large and aggressive army; and they both support cutting funds from the parts of the government that provide a safety net for poor people. In their times in power, both Labour and the Conservatives have maintained an aggressive foreign policy, aimed at exploiting poor countries for the benefit of rich ones and regularly starting wars to expand and maintain this exploitation. Both parties represent the elite constituencies in the state-capitalist system they support and preside over. Even the Liberal Democrats, proclaimed to offer a genuine change from Labour and Conservative politics, represent just a softer version of the same policies. In the run up to the election Nick Clegg has being making grandiose promises about things he will do to improve the miserable state of British politics, but has recently admitted that he will be able to do none of these things. In other words, the Lib Dems in power would mean pretty much par for the course. Lib Dems, New Labour, Conservatives, there’s no real difference. And no other party has any chance of winning.
There are very good reasons for this. Because of the way the electoral system is set up, a party needs extensive funds to get into power. It needs these funds for campaigning, buying ad and billboard space, hiring speech-writers and propagandists, the whole shebang. In order to get that money the parties have to go to the sources that have enough money to fund them, which, because of the inequities of state-capitalism, are the large corporations. So the majority of parties’ funding comes from the largest and most powerful corporations. And the party with the most funding generally wins, for obvious reasons (explained and proved by political scientist Thomas Ferguson). This means that by the time a party gets into power, it owes lots of money to the corporations that have funded it and has to follow the policies that those corporations want – invariably ones that bring them profit, generally at the expense of everyone else. So a party cannot get into power, or even near it, without becoming a servant of the corporations that run the state-capitalist system. Labour’s gradual drift over the past 100 years from a left-wing party representing the working-class to a right-wing party representing the elite business-class is evidence of this. All of this means that even if we do vote in a different party, they will have to follow the same fundamental state-capitalist programs as their predecessors – the ones that are destroying the ecosystem, causing mass impoverishment and starvation and bringing widespread misery.
But even if by some miracle a party could break out of the state-capitalist system and get the funds to run a good campaign, it would still have almost no chance of winning. Because of our first-past-the-post system, most of us have no influence over who wins in our constituencies. The New Economics Foundation has worked out that, based on our actual ability to change who gets into power with our votes, most Britons have about a quarter of a vote. They also worked out that “only 2.6 per cent of the UK electorate have anything like a fair share of democratic power.” What this means is that we live in a very undemocratic system.
But even if our votes could make a difference, we would still live in an undemocratic system. Democracy is about public participation. Limiting public participation to periodically voting to choose which group of elites gets to make the decisions is not genuine democracy. In reality the public has no genuine decision-making power over issues that affect them immensely.
In other words, we live in a doubly flawed democracy: the public not only has very limited participation in decision-making, but is also prevented from being able to use this limited participation to bring any changes. To bring the changes that we need to prevent catastrophe, we need a complete overhaul of the exploitative and destructive state-capitalist system and the elite rule that it fosters. Voting is not enough to achieve this.