Having just read ‘Why the Left Should Oppose AV’ over at Socialist Unity, and seeing plenty of other criticism of AV from various left-wing blogs, I still can’t see what any of them are driving at.
Would I prefer STV or an additional member system? Yes. But is AV better than FPTP? The answer is also yes. I don’t see how anyone who calls themselves ‘progressive’ can oppose a change to our democratic model which allows people more choice. Once AV is in place, we can move on to seek PR, or any other preferable system, but there must be a journey towards this, and adopting AV is a step in the right direction.
It seems to be a theme on the left that partial reform is not enough, and this kind of thinking is dangerous. In Engels’ The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 he criticises this sort of “dogmatic” view. He writes:
They acknowledge no historic development, and wish to place the nation in a state of communism at once, overnight, not by the unavoidable march of its political development up to the point at which this transition becomes both possible and necessary.
This is not to say that we should only seek reform. Marx himself said that we should not “exaggerate… the ultimate working of these everyday struggles.” Reform without a revolutionary backdrop is ultimately futile, and hence is flawed, but within a broader revolutionary ideal, individual reforms can be beneficial.
As an example, let me use minimum wage regulations. It represents a victory of Labour against Capital, but doesn’t represent the end of wage-slavery, nor poverty. A Marxist, however, shouldn’t oppose a minimum wage on this basis (ie that the reform doesn’t go far enough). What is more important for the Marxist is to ensure that once the small victory has been gained over Capital, the forces of Labour demand more.
A TUSC candidate stood in my constituency in May, and I voted for him knowing full-well that my vote would be wasted. At least with AV, I’d have been able to back him as my first preference, putting a more realistic candidate as my second choice.
For those who are saying that this will play into the hands of the BNP, that is nonsense. The tone of the immigration debate in Westminster and in the press plays into the hands of the BNP, and this should be the focus of the left. The rise of the BNP is also due to New Labour’s shrinking commitment to the working class (perhaps using the word betrayal is a little strong, perhaps not), and their reluctance to contradict the tabloid press on the issue. Sort these issues out, treat the working class with respect, and the BNP should largely go away. The Left’s fear of the BNP is disproportionate.
Hope Not Hate managed to batter the BNP in Barking and Dagenham before the last election, and more of the same in the future can and will have an effect, whether we vote using AV or FPTP.