Get Out There And Vote
Deaglán de Bréadún
There’s an Anarchist poster around town to the effect that, If voting changed anything they’d ban it. Or maybe it was, Don’t vote – it only encourages them. I know the arguments: parliamentary democracy is fixed in favour of the privileged, there’s no point, etc.
The alternative is anarchy
These arguments are not without some substance. If you have money or, very importantly in this country, if you are part of a political dynasty, you generally have a much better chance of getting elected than the ordinary Joe or Jane Soap.
There’s also the influence of big business over the parliamentary process. Property developers are generally regarded as having carried undue weight with the decision-makers in our own system, for example. Then there are the lobbyists, special interest groups and so on, who seek to push Government Ministers in particular directions. And the way our politicians and their British counterparts are milking the system is far from edifying.
Nevertheless when you look at countries that don’t have a democratic voting system, the ordinary people are generally worse off. Free speech and freedom of the press are rarely on offer. And corruption, as bad as it is in some democratic countries, seems to be far worse in totalitarian dictatorships (in the absence of a free press, it is hard to be definitive, which is one of the reasons they don’t allow a free press). All these issues come forcefully to mind as we mark the 20th anniversary of the dreadful Tienanmen massacre.
Who would argue that the democratically-elected Labour government in postwar Britain did not introduce many changes that were beneficial to the general public, particularly in education and healthcare?
Sadly, it is harder to point to examples nearer home, but suggestions are welcome. One thinks of Noel Browne’s crusade against TB and Donogh O’Malley’s introduction of free secondary education as well as the more recent abolition of third-level fees by Labour’s Niamh Bhreathnach (fees are on the way back now, of course).
The anarchist philosophy of grassroots democracy with no overarching state, and society being run by workers’ councils and community fora, is a very attractive one in theory. Anyone who reads Gerald Brenan’s The Spanish Labyrinth with its lyrical descriptions of shopfloor rule in Barcelona will be an anarchist for a day or two afterwards.
But the current and existing cultural and educational level of the general public – and I know someone will call me an elitist, but it’s true – means that a social structure like that will ultimately run into the sand. Look at the way the Soviets in Russia, which were trumpeted as a superior form of democracy, ended up by paving the way for the worst dictatorship in history (even more dreadful than the utterly horrific and appalling regime instigated by Adolf Hitler).
So, put aside the cynicism for one day at least and get out there and vote. A lot of people died so we could have the privilege.