Elections are a form of social contestation, a bureaucratized struggle for
power among polemic constituencies. This is not battle of ideas, but a
battle of capacities. The party that will prevail is the party that has the
most resources to apply towards the contest. In other words, the party that
is endorsed by the most powerful, the collectively wealthiest, social
group, will inevitably win.
classes, representative of the classical economic incomes. Landlords,
Workers and Capitalists, have given us the Conservative, Labour and Liberal
parties respectively. These exist under slightly varying names in most
countries in the world. Each attempting to galvanise support among their
constituency into a force that can impose its will in the social arena.
Elections aren’t so much opportunities to change society as they are score-cards on the actual balance of power.
They reflect, they do not determine, class structure. Ultimately, the role of the State is to mediate among the classes on
behalf of the ruling class, and as major parties exist within the ruling
milieu, their own identity and composition reflects that of the State
itself: they also operate on behalf of the ruling class.
Major parities offer the ruling class agenda legitimacy among their
respective constituents, becoming not so much representatives of their
constituents to the ruling class, but representatives of the ruling class,
promoting the ruling class agenda to the class or community they represent.
As I argue in “Democracy Diner,” Democracy is like a restaurant with
only one thing on the menu, but you get to chose which waiter brings it to
you. Yet, while the dish being served may not be chosen by the voters, it’s
recipe is fundamentally determined by social conditions and the state of
the struggle among the classes. While class structure can not be toppled by
way of elections, elections are opportunities to mobilize, and to organize
toward the goal of building social power. In particular, social movements,
whether represented by a party or not, can connect popular concerns among
the masses with their own platform and program to build their support base.
related to the classical areas of contention within Capitalism; wages and
profits, property and social security, etc. Occasionally, however,
movements arise outside the framing of employment conditions, and
strike to the root of broad social issues. Women’s rights, civil rights,
the environmentalist movement, among others, built mass movements and
caused seismic shifts in society and government, whether or not this
manifested in representative parties, all parties had to operate within the
context of new social conditions. As it happens, Berlin is voting.
On September 18, the new members of the Abgeordnetshaus will be elected, a
bewildering variety of parties have campaign posters lining every street in
Berlin, from the inspiring, such as the quasi-situationist
anti-gentrification Berg Partie, to the amusing, such the Anarchistische
Pogo-Partei Deutschlands, the self-proclaimed party of “social parasites,”
to the repulsive; Berlin has a small array of quite disturbingly racist and
openly Islamophobic far-right parties. To, of course, the typical,
Germany’s major parties, including the requisite Conservative (CDU), Labour
(SPD), Liberal (FDP) and the idiosyncratic legacy of Germanys political
history, The Left Party and the Green Party. And this is to name just a
represent the interests of the ruling class, as it must. What is more
interesting is where influences of social movements can be seen on the
potential broad composition of the elected candidates. It doesn’t take long
to figure out what the story is here; scan the local polls and notice that
the Pirate Party is polling at near 5%. An amazing figure, currently ahead
of the Liberal FDP, a party that is part of the federal ruling coalition. The Pirate party is not a manifestation of an economic class so much as it
is the political effect of a mass movement that has been building power for
quite some time. Internet freedom, software patents, free software, online
data security and privacy, file sharing and copyright. These issues have
risen to prominence with a generation that has grown up with the internet
and has found itself in conflict. What new technology is making
possible is in conflict with what is permissible. At the same time cause célèbre like WikiLeaks and Anonymous titillate the newswires with insurrectionist exploits. The
internet has come of age as a theatre of conflict.