The March edition of The Teacher, the National Union of Teachers’ magazine, anticipates the general election on its front cover. It shows a large X amid the slogan, “MAKE YOUR MARK Elections 2010. Vote to stop the BNP”. By its constitution the NUT cannot support or promote any political party. But it appears campaigning against one is permissible.
And yet whichever of the main parties union members vote for will form a government opposed to NUT policy. Inside the magazine is a Charter For Teachers election supplement, setting out what the NUT regards as the central educational issues needing to be addressed. None of the big three parties is advocating anything close to this NUT wish list. And that’s what this document will remain, a wish list, unless the union, and that means an active membership, is prepared to fight for it against governments of whatever stripe.
An underlying agenda is apparent: general dissatisfaction with the political process could lead to the legitimacy of parliamentarianism being brought into question. An electorate that opts for mass abstention would be dangerous for the state. So mainstream parties, unable to address popular concerns such as migration, the EU, the whole creaking edifice of finance capitalism, adopt the negative approach. Cameron holds forth the spectre of another five years of Brown, who responds with warnings of Tory destruction of public services, while the Lib-Dems politely vilify both.
If there is wavering among the electorate then opposing a bogeyman might just entice voters to vote. The Teacher carries articles in support of its campaign to stop the BNP. In one entitled “Every vote counts”, it says, “…what anti-fascists do makes a real difference, that turnout is crucial and that every vote counts.” So it subscribes to a campaign to have teachers vote for politicians who’ll act against the Charter For Teachers. That’s the practical result of electing Labour or Tories (or Lib-Dems). A second article, “If the BNP won Barking…” makes a similar argument.
The threat of fascism comes not from the BNP, but from capitalism in crisis and decline, increasingly desperate to nullify the potential of the working class to act in its own best interests. The working class must set its own agenda and act upon it. Such is true democracy. Even if the BNP were to vanish from the political scene the conditions fostering its creed and support would continue to exist.
The state acts in the best interests of capitalism and the ballot box cannot change that. A slogan better serving NUT members and the entire working class could be, “Elections 2010, don’t vote, but stop capitalism. MAKE YOUR MARX”.