"One more time around might do it" - Soundgarden
Russell Brand is a likeable figure and one of the few celebrities to become involved in working-class struggles in the UK. But his recent volte face over electoralism - shifting from the position that you shouldn't vote if there's nothing to vote for, to supporting the Labour Party - does him no favours. Remembering 1997 and its aftermath should be enough to dispel any illusions that Labour offers a real alternative to the Conservatives (awful as they have been over the past five years). In fact, the Labour Party has not even tried to disguise its intention to continue the ongoing attacks on working class people, pledging a continuation of workfare and welfare caps that will devastate the lives of Britain's poorest and vowing to clamp down on immigration.
Brand is not the only left-wing commentator beckoning us towards the ballot box to vote for capitalists on Thursday. In a piece that leaves no leftist cliché unused, the supposed anarchist John Sheil urges the reader to cast her vote in order to block the progress of 'neoliberalism'. Mark Fisher, in a more sophisticated register, argues similarly, applauding the recent resurgence of 'popular leftism'. For both Fisher and Sheil, this movement includes the Scottish National Party - a party so radical that it is backed by top Scottish businesspeople and the Scottish Sun. Indeed, like teenaged hipsters who have just discovered their latest favourite band, many on the English, as well as the Scottish left are now hyping the SNP as the next big thing, a supposed 'anti-austerity' party à la Syriza.
In her recent New Statesman article on the election, Laurie Penny acknowledges that the most widespread arguments made in support of voting for capitalist parties (e.g. 'if you don't vote you can't complain') are nonsensical and that voting cannot be the only route to radical political change; but she nonetheless advocates voting 'left' in order to keep the right-wing rotters, such as UKIP, from power.
This is a fundamentally conservative position. Nothing is more serviceable to the British ruling class than the notion that parties such as UKIP pose a 'threat to democracy': it's an idea that can be used to sow illusions in the system. That is why UKIP and its representatives are excoriated by mainstream politicians and company CEOs and are the butt of endless jokes in social media memes and BBC comedy programmes, from The Now Show to Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle (much as I love Lee, his UKIP-bashing is easily the cheapest part of his act). The mockery of fatuous bigots and extremists gives the liberal soul the warm glow of moral superiority; but in the end it only serves to insulate the mainstream political parties - parties that have brought far more misery to immigrants than UKIP ever could - from criticism. It is dominant ideology dressed up as satirical subversion.
Having said all of that, tabloid rent-a-gob Katie Hopkins has pledged to leave the UK if Labour wins the election and in light of this, I have never been so tempted to vote. A more sober historical and theoretical reflection, however, tells me that there is no 'progressive' capitalist party that can halt, let alone reverse the all-too-evident decline of the capitalist system. We need to get rid of capitalism and that cannot be done by voting for Labour or any of the other faux 'progressive' parties.