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Marx and Engels on the power of the vote

It's often pointed out that our political system is completely corrupted by money yet history teaches that people's influence on their governments is much more powerful than we usually imagine. It's weakened primarily by people's failure to do anything and the mistaken belief that we don't have the power to shape the world as we wish it to be.


Marx and Engels strongly supported political action in the sense of participating in elections. They stressed the importance of the vote. Engels explains that universal suffrage "in an England two-thirds of whose inhabitants are industrial proletarians means the exclusive political rule of the working class with all the revolutionary changes in social conditions which are inseparable from it." Marx argued along the same lines, for example, in 1855, he stated that "universal suffrage . . . implies the assumption of political power as means of satisfying [the workers'] social means" and, in Britain, &q…

The Revolutionary Vote

The capitalist system fails to supply the needs of the vast majority of people and it must be overthrown before the workers can have freedom. The ruling class is never going to solve its problems through the capitalist system, therefore, the objective conditions for revolution are going to crop up over and over again. But there is considerable difference of opinions as to the means by which this can be accomplished. Some advocate the ballot, or parliamentary action; some armed insurrection, or military action; and some the general strike, or industrial action.

Armed insurrection to have any reasonable chance of success the workers would need to have as large and well equipped an army as the capitalists. Yet the working class are unarmed and most unskilled in the use of weapons. They have no military organisation. They have no means of securing arms. An untrained, undisciplined and badly equipped army of workers going forth to overthrow the system might as well be committing suicide. …

Why Vote SPGB?

We should not over-emphasise the counting of noses at election time but it does serve as a barometer of the maturity of the working class. All the votes of the people would do the Socialist Party no good if we ceased to be a revolutionary party by modifying our principles for the sake of capturing a higher vote. Some Left parties have sought to make their propaganda so attractive that it serves as a bait for votes rather than as a means of education. The SPGB rejects such an electoral strategy judging the votes thus secured do not properly belong to us and does an injustice to our party as well as to those who cast them. These votes do not express a wish for socialism and in the next election they can equally be cast for another party. The Socialist Party has no interest in swinging these type of votes to its favour. It is better that these sort of votes are not cast for the Socialist Party, for they will only misrepresent the degree of progress the party and indicate a political pos…

Local Issues or Class Issues

When Scotland goes to the polls next week in the 2012 local council elections, voters may be confused about whether they are deciding on local or national issues. In some cases the electorate is being asked to vote on manifesto promises that can’t in fact be delivered locally declares the Public Finance web-site. Each of the political party manifestos for the local elections contain a mix of local pledges (not unexpected in local elections) but also pledges that can, in fact, only be made by a national government.  The most extreme example of this is a pledge to cut VAT – clearly a reserved matter with no powers in Scotland at any government level to do so.

What is important to recognise is that those so-called “local” issues that are high on the agenda of many in the local elections (such as the NHS, local housing and transport) are pressing issues everywhere else. But these are not really local issues after all. Its just that many people (and all of our opponents) think the soluti…