Eddie Izzard and the Yes to AV Campaign

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Humour's a funny thing. Some people love Charlie Chaplin, others prefer Buster Keaton. For some slapstick's the thing, for others witty wordplay.

Eddie Izzard is a divisive figure: some acclaiming him as one of the greatest ever standups, with references to the Cat Drilling Behind The Sofa or the Cake Or Death routine, while others sit blank faced at a guy who just seems to ramble on about stuff. Some of his latest material might just convince the doubters.

As the campaign around the AV Referendum fails to interest anyone, with even hardened politicians openly confessing that it's a really boring subject, both sides have started saying just about anything to generate some interest. Enter, stage left, Mr Izzard on behalf of the Yes to AV campaign.

He claims that the AV system of voting “will mean MPs will have to work harder to get your vote.” The AV system will “put power in the hands of the people." Ultimately the Yes to AV campaign was "pushing for civilisation".

Against this typical product of Izzard's whimsical comedy stylings there are some snappy come-backs. The Tories have warned that AV is crazy, undemocratic, unBritish and favours extremists (although the right-wing extremists of the BNP are actually campaigning against AV.) On the left you can read that “A vote for AV is a vote for cuts” and see opposition from Trotskyists, many unions, and the Socialist Party that says that AV will “entrench the power of the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.” Meanwhile the Weekly Worker is campaigning for Yes because it will help parties that are marginalised by the existing system. Alan Thornett of Socialist Resistance says “A yes vote should be seen as a small step in the direction of further reform.” The PCS and CWU unions recommend a Yes vote.

No one is talking about the distinctions between the D'Hondt and Sainte-Laguë methods or CPO-STV against Schulze STV; it's all very crude stuff. David Cameron says that First-Past-The-Past is used by half the world, without mentioning that Britain's system is unique in Europe. Everyone is devoted to fairness and democracy, and how individuals can best get to express their preferences.

Have you heard the one about class society?

For or against electoral reform, they all talk about power. And in capitalist society the ruling class, the class that exercises power, the class that holds state power, is the bourgeoisie, the class that is dependent on the exploitation of the labour power of the working class. In different countries there are many ways that the bourgeoisie has evolved for its domination over all aspects of social life, but all are concentrated in the dictatorship of the capitalist state.

Dictatorship? The ideologues of democracy will throw their hands up in horror. Dictatorship is the word they use for the regimes of North Korea, Turkmenistan and Saudi Arabia. In Europe we have democracy.

But democracy has always been a form of class rule. In Ancient Athens democracy meant the rule of a (male) slave owning class to the exclusion of the majority, that is women, slaves (even when freed), and resident foreigners. In modern democracy all the important decisions that affect our lives are made behind closed doors by a class that uses elections as just one of the spectacles that conceal the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. The sanctity of the individual's right to express themselves and participate in the democratic circus goes along with a decision-making process which is only concerned with the interests of the bourgeoisie, in response to the economic crisis, its imperialist interests and against the threat posed by the working class. The bourgeoisie takes nothing else into account, not in parliament, nor in the corridors of real power.

The central division in capitalist society is not between AV and FPTP, not between constitutional monarchies, republics and parliamentary democracies, not even between democracies and various 'authoritarian' regimes.

The big split in contemporary society is between the working class and the ruling capitalist class. The working class can not take over the state apparatus that exists for its repression and continuing exploitation, it needs to destroy the capitalist state, democratic or otherwise, and establish its own domination. Instead of democracy what is needed is the open and frank domination of the working class, a class with no new relations of exploitation to introduce. Where democracy depends on individual alienation, separation from each other and with no control over our lives, a future classless society can only be based on a fundamental human solidarity in all relations.

To conclude on a banal note: when even politicians think the AV referendum is boring, who are we to disagree? Capitalism will continue until the development of the collective struggles of the working class make it a force that can confront the capitalist class, rather than voting for its figureheads.  

Car 3/4/11