Labour leader Keir Starmer’s tangle with someone in a pub this week emerged as a highlight of the campaign for the 6 May elections in England. That’s because the rest of the campaign has been so uninspiring.
For revolutionaries, although elections matter, the battle on the streets and in the workplaces is always more important.
Building the movements over the police bill, climate change and racism, and encouraging more strikes are all more crucial than the 6 May vote. That’s particularly true as Starmer has relentlessly driven Labour rightwards.
Labour has no policies to challenge the rich or a deadly system that has failed so clearly and completely during coronavirus.
Nevertheless in most places socialists will have to vote Labour.
We want to see the Tories lose. If Boris Johnson and his coterie emerge with smiles on their faces after these elections, it will depress many activists. It will encourage the idea that the Tories can escape from any disaster.
More fundamentally, Labour is still not the same as the Tories. It retains some withered connections with working class organisation through its links with the trade union leaders.
The exception is where a small number of credible socialist candidates are standing. For example, in the Liverpool mayor election Roger Bannister of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition has consistently won respectable votes. He is confronting’s Labour’s capitulation to the Tories in the city.
The choice would have been wider if Labour lefts such as Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell had reacted to Starmer’s assaults by creating a new party.
But they remain trapped in the iron cage of Labour. They remain in a party that won’t even let its former leader be a Labour MP, and which this week suspended a councillor for calling prince Philip a “massive racist”.
In Scotland we can’t call for a Labour vote. Here a central issue before voters is whether the Scottish parliament will have a majority for an independence referendum—and Labour remains staunchly unionist.
At the same time many pro-independence forces, in the Scottish National Party and Alba, are completely unacceptable because of their pro-capitalist and bigoted politics. So in Scotland we say vote left and fight for independence.
The poverty of choice at the ballot box reflects a deeper crisis of the left.
Over three million people globally have died because of the ruling class handling of the pandemic. Hundreds of millions, particularly in the poorest countries, face being abandoned without vaccines, or hurled into poverty by lost jobs and slashed wages.
But socialist forces have not yet emerged on a mass scale to challenge the system.
Filling that gap through struggle and socialist politics is far more important than any vote.