Theresa May has called a general election for the 8th of June, in the hope that a victory will increase the legitimacy of her negotiations to exit the EU. The Socialist Party will most likely contest a token constituency or two but where exactly will be decided later.
Are elections and voting a waste of time? After all, don’t anarchists say that if voting changed anything it would be illegal? Many anti-parliamentarians in their criticisms, tend to argue that all "parliamentary" parties, (within which they include the Socialist Party,) have in the past, and in the present, betrayed the working class; that Parliament is not the real seat of power but a "talking-shop"; that when the Socialist Party contests elections it perpetuates what they see as harmful illusions about law, the state and parliamentary democracy and are therefore no different from any other political party. For sure, voting has not changed the most fundamental reality that needs to be changed - the reality that is capitalism, for it is this economic system that is ultimately responsible for the despair and desperation that currently exists in so much of the world.
Nevertheless, the critics of the Socialist Party's position fail to appreciate the different content of the term "parliamentary" as applied to orthodox parties and to the Socialist Party. We indeed hold it essential that the transformation to a new society be started by formal democratic methods—that is, by persuasion and the secret ballot. For there is no other way of ascertaining accurately the views of the population. While elections may seem to be irrelevant, people should not turn their back on the electoral system as such. The result of a properly conducted ballot will make it clear, in the event of an overwhelming socialist vote, to any minority that they are the minority and that any attempt to oppose the desires of the majority by violence would be futile. The formal establishment of the socialist majority's control of the state avoids the possibility of effective use of its forces against the revolutionary movement. An attempt to establish a socialist society by ignoring the democratic process gives any recalcitrant minority, the excuse for possibly violent anti-socialist action justified by the claim that the alleged majority did not in fact exist or that the assumed majority was not likely to be a consistent or decisive one. The electoral system can be used to effect the revolutionary act of abolishing capitalism by signalling that a majority of ordinary people fully understand and want to effect that change.
Despite their shortcomings, elections to a parliament based on universal suffrage are still the best method available for workers to express a majority desire for socialism. The ruling class who monopolise the ownership of wealth do so through their control of parliament by capitalist parties elected by workers. Control of parliament by representatives of a conscious revolutionary movement will enable the bureaucratic-military apparatus to be dismantled and the oppressive forces of the state to be neutralised, so that Socialism may be introduced with the least possible violence and disruption. The institution is not completely at fault; it is just that people's ideas have not yet developed beyond belief in leaders and dependence on a political elite. When enough of us join together determined to end destitution and deprivation we can transform elections into a means of doing away with a society of minority rule in favour of real democracy and equality.
The Socialist Party adopts a policy of trying to gain control of the machinery of government through the ballot box by campaigning on an exclusively socialist programme without seeking support on a policy of reforms; while supporting parliamentary action they refused to advocate reforms. This has remained its policy to this day. Mandating delegates, voting on resolutions and membership ballots are democratic practices for ensuring that the members of an organisation control that organisation – and as such key procedures in any organisation genuinely seeking socialism. Socialism can only be a fully democratic society in which everybody will have an equal say in the ways things are run. This means that it can only come about democratically, both in the sense of being the expressed will of the working class and in the sense of the working class being organised democratically – without leaders, but with mandated delegates – to achieve it. The socialist movement must stand firmly by democracy, by the methods of socialist education and political organisation, and the method of gaining control of the machinery of government and the armed forces through the vote where possible and only with the backing of a majority of convinced socialists.
We appeal to those who are committed to the concept of a self-organised majority revolution without leaders to abandon their dogmatic opposition to the working class forming a political party to contest elections to eventually win control of political power, not to form a government but to immediately abolish capitalism and usher in the class-free, state-free, money-free, wage-free society that real socialism will be. The socialist message is that workers should think long and hard before casting their vote. it would be difficult in one short article to prove any case beyond question, especially a case as big as this. All we can do is give you the bare bones so we won't be surprised if we haven't convinced you straight off. We're not magicians. If you don't have questions to ask then we're not doing our job properly, or you're not giving it a sufficent thought. We hope you do have questions and will contact us to answer them. It's all up to you. The future is in your hands.