It is of importance to ask why at this point of time when in Britain and around the world the ramifications of the ongoing economic crisis has resulted to an unprecedented attack on workers around the world in every aspect of their life, such an importance is given to the changing of the current electoral system in Britain.
The short answer exposes the opportunistic and self centrist nature that characterizes the Liberal Democrats. In their knowledge that this marriage with the Tories will be short lived and facing future elections as a party in a coalition that has moved to impoverish further the British working class, they are attempting to provide themselves the best opportunity to stay afloat through the establishment of a new electoral law.
As Marxist however we need to go deeper in the changes that occur in bourgeois society and the effects they may have on the political position of the working class. It is without doubt that the tasks and needs of the British working class will not change regardless of the outcome of referendum. However it is important to tear away myths that attempt to disorientate workers from the fundamental truth that constitutes them as a class in opposition to a ruling class, as well as bring to light potential dangers that may hide deep in such changes.
Such a myth is the one that the supporters of the AV propagate i.e. that the new electoral system would bring once in place greater democracy.
The democratic status of an individual in a society however, is not counted by the number of ticks he/she can place on a ballot paper, rather than, the presence, that individual has in the daily processes of society. We certainly do not live in such a democracy but in a class divided capitalist democracy in which social processes are controlled by the industrial and financial oligarchies and the establishments that execute their will. In fact the only social process individuals do participate in on a daily basis is that of production. And since production is not socially controlled and organized but controlled and organized to selfishly execute the needs of its proprietors, and thus place the state and society in acquiring the role of preserving this state of affair, places those involved in the social process of production through the means of paid labor, as an exploited class existing in a democracy which operates to preserve this relationship.
The working class historically has managed through economic and political struggles to transcend these barriers, and establish means through which its interests and through that society’s interests as a whole, are represented in the daily social political processes of a state. The establishment of workers’ parties has been the culminations of those struggles and the absolute manifestation of the need of political representation in a bourgeois society.
Yet the bourgeoisie themselves through their economic and political influence have swiftly moved to transcend their own traditional political avenues by infiltrating those workers’ organizations from the day they were created. Their presence in those organizations through their political servants has meant that the political power workers possess in a society, and in general the outcome of the class struggle, is directly influenced by the state of the ongoing class struggle within the working class’ traditional historical parties.
The tasks of the British working class will not change regardless of the outcome of the referendum precisely because it is only through its daily political presence in their historic party, the Labour Party, can there be true political representation. Capitalist democracy is based upon political inactivity and apathy of the working class by convincing workers of their inadequacy of making a difference themselves. It is however the exact opposite that will allow us to move towards a more democratic society.
The proposed electoral reform presents no case of bettering democracy in Britain and those who advocate for its implementation, whether they be the Liberal Democrats or sectarian organizations of the left, do so in a selfish and opportunistic manner by feeling that such a law, in the case of the Liberal Democrats as stated above, will provide them a political cushion in the next elections, and in the case of left sectarian organizations, that it may enhance their chances of getting them their own 15 seconds of fame. Yet, it is precisely this opportunistic attitude that hides many dangers for the British working class. The sectarians in order to achieve glory and try to convince of the importance for their existence they themselves will become the servants of the bourgeoisie and thus will attempt to derail the working class from its main task of winning the ongoing class struggle present in the Labour Party.
If one takes a look around European countries with electoral systems that promote multi party parliaments, will almost always find a fragmented left without the case being the same for the right. The opportunism and philistinism of the sectarians is the one that allowed in 2004 Le Pen to go to the final round of the French presidential elections and will now allow as it looks, his daughter to have a similar opportunity. Examples of this nature can be found all round Europe and the world today as well as in the past. The Labour Party and the British working class must take a negative stance towards such political developments that the new electoral law might bring, but more importantly must take a negative stance conscious of the law’s emptiness and inability to resolve the existence of the inequalities and the undemocratic character of our society.