The British general election of 2019 finally begins

As mentioned in a recent column and throughout Brexit, the divisions in the UK on membership of the European Union is a Conservative Party issue that the public was invited to get itself embroiled in. The public obliged but in doing so many people voted in such a way to cause the maximum damage to the establishment by refusing to vote in the way establishment figures wished them to. The result was a vote to leave the EU.

Now we face a general election in the UK, the second since the referendum result. In 2017 Theresa May attempted to get an increased majority but failed spectacularly, stumbled on until she was replaced by Boris Johnson in the summer. Likewise, Johnson has stumbled on but took a very bombastic approach to government, twisting and turning and blaming every problem on Labour and parliament, even those events he was directly responsible for.

This general election is a very important moment in British politics. Whichever party forms the next government, if it has a majority it will pursue its vision of Brexit and set the agenda on other policies. I have lived under a Tory government as much as I have lived under a Labour one as an adult. When I take my childhood into account the year of Thatcher and Major Tory rule come into play. Those Labour years under Blair and Brown merely resembled Conservative rule. I am sick of conservatism ruling and ruining our lives.

I believe that this election represents the best opportunity we have had in my lifetime of ridding ourselves of conservatism and getting rid of it for decades. Don’t worry, I’m not going to urge anyone to vote. I know anarchists that do vote and I know anarchists that refuse to even consider the option. What I would say is that the idea that anarchists never vote is actually a cliché. For some it is a strict rule but for others voting is a tactic. While I am no fan of social democracy, the ‘socialism’ of Labour, I would never criticise anyone who was so fed up with the Tories that they sought to get rid of them from government.

We have witnessed a decade of austerity. We have witnessed a decade of deaths in our communities because of the heartless Tory approach to welfare. We have witnessed an ever changing economy where zero hours contracts have come to the fore. We have witnessed the hostile environment regarding people who seek to live here and the scandal of the Windrush generation and the betrayal they have faced from the racist state.

However, we have also witnessed a decade of disobedience against the establishment which could be seen as a trend. In the early part of the decade we saw the youth rise up against the Cameron government. This took the form of middle class students rioting against an end to grants and in working-class communities it saw the taking over of the streets by young people in several days of anger. In both circumstances the state eventually crushed the resistance and did so with unusually high sentences.

The Occupy! movement which briefly took the world by storm could also be seen as part of this challenge to the establishment. It lasted several months in London and raised issues around the economy. It was only a matter of time before the tents were dismantled but the movement elevated issues around how protests operate in terms of structure and demands, elements which resonate profoundly with anarchist techniques.

We have also seen a decade of large and small protests, large and small strike actions. Large strikes and protests look impressive but rarely succeed. The way small actions have been successful over the last decade has been really encouraging, whether we are talking about strike action by unions like the United Voices of the World or the various housing campaigns highlighting the devastating gentrification around the country.  

By the middle of the decade, we were once again at the polls and the Conservatives were returned with a majority and the belief that they could solve their internal divisions on Europe by involving the people. This vote became the latest way in which people could rebel and that is perhaps what resulted in a small but significant victory for the Leave side of the argument.

The UK population now has a new opportunity to rebel. It also has an opportunity to take Brexit as an issue away from the Conservative Party. Whilst the Tories may have successfully embroiled the whole country in their internal divisions, the prospect of delivering a different government would successfully take the issue off them and leave them squabbling among themselves over it. If the Tories lose this election they will surely be out of power for a generation, small, lonely and getting older all the time.

While anarchism is not the social democracy of the Labour Party, we should be aware that we are not going to create an anarchist society between now and December 12th. We will end up with either the Tories or the Labour Party in power on December 13th. Some will vote some will not but we can be united in one thing: our absolute hatred of capitalism. A Conservative victory will propel our society even further towards the dreams of the neoliberals. A Labour victory will not result in an end to capitalism. For all the talk of ‘socialism’, Labour has spent the last few years courting the business community who they will rely on in power. If you vote for Labour, you vote not just for the bits of their manifesto you agree with but those that you find abhorrent. That’s the awful deal offered to the public in liberal democracy. Labour will present a radically different alternative to the public but it will not result in the destruction of capitalism. What it will do is provide us with a rest from the worst horrors of economic inequality. I can recognise the attraction of this and I can also understand the purists urging people not to vote.

Jon Bigger

Photo: Guy Smallman