We’ll be honest, the election results have come as a bit of a shock to us. Today, we were expecting to be entering a period of grubby politicking in the scrabble to form a coalition government. However, a confused and uninspiring Labour campaign failed to capitalise on 5 years of austerity and the collapse of the Liberal Democrats. Instead it was the Conservatives – running a campaign that confidently claimed austerity was working and which mobilised English nationalist fears of a SNP-by-proxy Labour government – who profited. Rather than a Labour led coalition likely aiming to deliver “austerity-lite” – not even a Plan B – we have a Conservative government guaranteeing more austerity, the privatisation of the NHS, the continued scapegoating of migrants and society’s poorest, the exacerbation of English nationalism and a potential exit from the European Union.
Against this Plan A which offers only misery for the majority, many have turned towards other alternatives. The SNP won a huge victory in Scotland on an anti-austerity (and left nationalist) ticket, whilst in England, despite Farage failing to win in Thanet, UKIP came second in at least 90 seats in both the North and the South. Whilst it’s worrying that national populism is becoming the opposition vote in a number of places, today’s election results should not be interpreted as a landslide shift in popular opinion towards the right. This election was decided by a small number of swing voters, in a small number of swing seats, with only a fifth of the country’s adult population actually voting for the Conservatives. The third of the adult population that didn’t vote are less likely to be apathetic, but rather disenfranchised by the hopeless political visions on offer.
We must not be fooled into thinking this electoral majority mirrors the perspective of the peoples of Britain – neither of the major political parties have been able to build a convincing political narrative around their election campaigns, beyond promising to make the “difficult choices needed” to maintain the “new normal” of a “balanced books” economy. We should not despair, the majority still want a world beyond the new normal of austerity.
Whilst a coalition between Labour and the smaller anti-austerity parties would have been a less miserable result – implementing less cuts (perhaps even retracting some) and providing an easier opponent than the Tories – it would have not been anywhere near enough. Once again, it feels important to remind ourselves that we cannot receive what we want through the ballot box. The ongoing crisis of capitalism and its management through austerity is complemented by a crisis of the left. The times we find ourselves in are difficult ones: the traditional sources of power for the organised left can no longer be relied upon and old theories are no longer fit to task. Those wishing to see a good life for all are faced with an economic crisis with no easy way out, increasingly authoritarian states, the far-right gaining traction in the Global North and looming ecological disaster. Now is not the time to withdraw into reading groups or aloof online discussion forums but rather to clearly criticise the society we find ourselves in and to begin to develop the tools and social power needed for large scale social change. The necessity to keep organising, to keep developing plans, and building our counter-power continues.
In response to the election campaign Plan C Manchester have been releasing a demand a day for the last 50 working days as a modest contribution to that ever-present question for the Left of “what is to be done” or rather “what is to be done differently” . The final demand however, is not modest at all. “Everything for Everyone” is a demand that stands in the tradition of the cries for “Omnia Sunt Communia”, “Land and Freedom” and “All Power to the Soviets”. It is the demand for the good life for all of us: one free of the domination of capitalism, the state, nationalism, sexism, racism and other forms of oppression, as well as one in which society does not undermine the ecological foundations for its existence. This society will not come about overnight through an election or even a “revolution” (as popularly understood), but will happen unevenly through different spheres of society and in different places. The size and scale of the social change we are committed to requires long term strategies and structures in order to build social power: the power to put our plans into practice and apply leverage to the political demands which will emerge.
Not all of these demands are what we could consider Plan C demands, and not all of them are things we would fight for. In making our final demand “Everything for Everyone”, we are really stating a wish – the wish for a society that surpasses what we are told is ‘possible’ or is idly dismissed as ‘utopian’. If politics is the art of the impossible, then these elections confirm the absence of a force capable of realising different futures. We think certain demands may form part of the toolbox towards building other futures – but it’s never just about what you fight for, but about how you fight for them. We’re not sure what these tactics are, but we’re having these discussions, and we invite you to take part.
As the dust settles from this election, we need to turn any feelings of despair we might have into a common desire to change the world. And we need to do this collectively. Whether you consider joining Plan C, another organisation, or starting your own group, the only way to enact the futures we want is for us to do it ourselves. The ballot box alone will never be enough.
Plan C Manchester
Image by: Josh Macphee justseeds