Clausewitz argued that war is a continuation of politics by other means. Yet, the only battlefield where you are likely to see the average politician is a battlefield of lies. The two skills every modern politician seems to need are: an ability to argue convincingly that he or she wants what the voters want, and an ability to lie endlessly when that is not delivered. Sometimes, a politician seems to forget what was promised in the first place. “Yeah, I promised peace, but to be perfectly honest, I think I really meant war.” Or: “I have no recollection of saying what I said and to be absolutely clear – it doesn’t matter. The real question is…”
In the days and decades when I tramped the streets, leafletting and knocking on doors at election times, with either myself as the candidate or another socialist, I encountered the most common comment about politicians: “they’re all the same.” There’s more than a little truth in this: in fact, there’s a huge, moon-sized truth in it. Frequently, all major political parties have been dented by elected politicians caught out lying. Donald Trump elevated lying to his one core principle- if something is true, lie and say it is not; if it’s not true- lie that it is.
There’s one main reason why all the big parties have so many proven liars among their politicians, and it is not that – power corrupts. The power to change things for the better never corrupts. The problem is whenever one party thinks they can run a corrupt system better than the last bunch of suits that tried and inevitably failed. That’s the main source of corruption in mainstream politics. The economic system is killing this planet but it is seen as inevitable by most politicians. The environment is being shredded from pollution and destruction. A handful of billionaires grew richer during the current pandemic, whilst millions of people died. The richest few waste vast amounts of wealth created by workers, whilst hundreds of millions of people starve to death or struggle to survive. That’s capitalism: the billionaire’s favourite system. You can’t tinker with it, like trying to make death slightly less final. Yet, at elections, mainstream parties compete to try to run this monstrosity a bit better than their rivals. Few admit it. ‘Vote for us, we’ll run the billionaire’s system better than the last lot did’ isn’t a catchy, vote-winning slogan. Unless you are a billionaire. But politicians need more than the half a dozen votes of the billionaire bosses who own the media, although that always helps.
The Tories claim to be for ‘the British people’ but are generally much keener to serve the top few than the majority millions. Frontline nurses fighting the war on Covid are worth a few extra biscuits in the latest budget, whilst millionaires get more millions from government contracts. Labour under Sir Somebody now stand for anything Jeremy Corbyn didn’t. The Labour flag should be white – for surrender; although, Labour politicians now tend to look a bit grey when the word ‘socialism’ is mentioned, so maybe they should have a grey flag. Labour and the Tories also squabble over the Union Jack. “We are the true inheritors of the spirit of the British Empire!” “No, we are, we hate more foreigners than you do!” I don’t care who wins that tussle. The Liberals – do they exist now? And the SNP? Well, they have just spent five years thinking about when it would be good to have another independence referendum – and have come up with… (drumroll) – another roadmap. They are in danger of becoming the OSP: the Ordnance Survey Party.
Lots of SNP and Labour members and voters want a just and fair society, and it must be frustrating when they see their leaders heading off in a different direction. SNP leaders have argued for keeping the billionaire monarchy in an ‘independent’ Scotland, and cutting the taxes of companies owned by billionaires, and re-joining the EU which promises more austerity for most of us and measures to protect big business and stop public ownership. And Labour can’t smirk about it much: forget about Labours’ Sir Thingy in London, what about the new millionaire boss of Scottish Labour? One of his first acts as leader was to praise suspended Aberdeen Labour councillors, who voted to cut services with the Tories. “How should I begin my leadership? Aha – there’s my foot; I think I’ll shoot it. That’ll show them.”
Politics shouldn’t be about voting for the least bad bad candidate. It’s not like we are all trapped in a voting booth for the Eurovision song contest.
I no longer stand in elections, but I still vote for socialists. Some standing this year are organised in the Scottish Trade Union & Socialist Coalition. I understand folk who say: “Yeah, they are good people but too small”. I’m assuming they mean the party is too small and not that the candidates are teeny weeny. And anyway, maybe you like the Eurovision Song Contest type of politics: bad hairdos, appalling dress sense, and songs with all the flair and sincerity of a drunk karaoke singer who really, really, really loves everybody. That’s okay. Disturbing, but it’s fine.
It’s just that – in my opinion, it’s good to support people who will not prop up a corrupt system, but fight to replace it. Candidates who have a track record in leading mass struggles. And, I’ve noticed – the kind of battlefields where you generally find socialists are the battlefields I’ve never left: within the daily struggles of the working class. Against poverty and despair, against injustice and prejudice. For an independent socialist Scotland and a socialist world.