I strongly believe that meaningful democracy can only truly be built from below, by cooperation between neighbours and direct, popular control over local resources. In the current electoral system in the UK, citizens basically allow all decisions to be made by a small group of politicians, who can be corrupted much more easily than whole communities by the money of powerful, exploitative, and self-interested individuals. Therefore, the most effective way to move towards a society in which the best interests of working people always come first is to take power away from the political class, and place it in the hands of the workers. This should be the primary aim of democratic activists.
Whilst gradually changing power structures from below, however, my opinion is that we should also work to change the political establishment that governs from above wherever possible. Simply speaking, a Labour government would be better than a Conservative government; a Green government would be better than a Labour government; a Left Unity government would be better than a Green government; and a form of directly democratic workers’ control would be better than any of the governments mentioned above. But we need to be realistic, and realise that the possibility of the latter occurring is not possible through the current electoral system of the UK. The ‘none of the above’ option, meanwhile, has no significant impact, and is effectively the same as not voting at all or simply accepting that the most powerful and best funded candidates will be the inevitable victors.
Therefore, we are left with choices on a sliding scale of acceptability. The first electoral choice for working voters should be Left Unity or TUSC candidates, for example, who seek to bring together the divided British left and take a firm stand against austerity and in favour of progressive socialist measures. The second choice, then, should be the Green Party, as they also stand for progress, but to a lesser extent. Then, for comrades in Scotland or Wales, the following preference would be the SNP or Plaid Cymru, even though the nationalist elements within those parties should be looked upon critically. Finally, if none of these options are present, a Labour candidate is clearly preferable to a Conservative one, though the former has gradually abandoned working voters and should therefore be supported only as a last resort.
The most important point we should remember, however, is that true democratic control and real justice begin with us and our neighbours. Voting may determine the type of political environment we have to work in for the next five years, but true change requires our active participation on a frequent basis.