Why should I/you join a political party?

Now that Jeremy Corbyn has won his second leadership election I find myself with a dilemma. Should I join the Labour party, the party who lost me as a voter during the Blair years? Part of me says yes, but the other part of me, the part that has anarchist sympathies, says I shouldn’t. I have been thinking it through for over a month now and I still can’t come up with an answer.

I am openly a libertarian socialist - basically I believe in paying taxes, stronger workers rights and a strong co-operative movement, welfare, decentralisation where possible and the freedom to do whatever you like to yourself as long as there is no intent to do harm to others. However there does not seem to be any organisation in the labour party that reflects those views, either they lean authoritarian or right wing (sometimes both).

What worries me is that I will have to do all the work changing things. I am disabled, both physically and psychologically, and I have already burned out this year. I know I can’t do it alone. I doubt that I am electable, I have visible scars and damage from self harm, and I don’t do conventional femininity except as an occasional choice (Makeup makes the skin on my face peel off. Even the stuff for sensitive skin, but stress does that too). That’s before we get to the whole swearing allegiance to the queen thing.

I’m not asking other people whether I should join or not, but I don’t think I am the only person in this situation, whether it’s Labour in the UK or the Democrats in the US. Maybe talking about it will help.


I totally get where you’re coming from, regarding political parties. The ones in power (whether the Dems or GOP here in the US or Labour and Tories there), tend to not be very representative of the electorate and as such, you have large groups of people who feel alienated from the political system. I think that even if you weren’t burnt out or not living with a disability, or presented as “normal” by our cultural standards, you’d still have a hard time making any head way in advocating for changes. The media here and there are so invested in maintaining the status quo, that you really have to make some noise to get any attention when you’re advocating for any major changes. Few people have any faith in the system any more to actually be responsive and do ANYTHING PRODUCTIVE at all and I think that’s true across the spectrum.

I don’t know… we’ve been told that the internet will change all of this, open up new democratic, people to people spaces, and yet it doesn’t seem that way, does it. You still have the problem of spaces being corporate enough to crack down on any productive dissent and the mass media still misrepresents anything that doesn’t fit within the mainstream narrative. Spaces for hashing out alternatives seem few and far between, as we all end up in these internet walled gardens, which often have very specific demographics and I think causes more divisions than useful political conversations. Just look at how political threads fall apart around here - so imagine the rest of the internet.

So, I don’t know how to build up alternatives, with the way things are right now. There seem to be spaces, but they tend to be less useful in translating change to real life.

And I think this is a great and necessary conversation to have, if only for the sake of catharsis.


If the Labour party sees your posts here, the NEC will ban you for being an entryist :wink:

I am not, and have not been, a member of any party. In the US, it seems that the more important time to vote is during the primary season, here, anyway, because the result in the general for most runs is a given, so in many states being a party member (or at least registered to a party is important). But here the primary/caucus is open, so there’s no need to be in the party for that…

I guess there’s also the thought that voting is the least you can do, and if you want to sway the party in a direction, showing up and volunteering (which probably means fundraising more than anything, I guess) might have more influence…


If they do that then I know that they aren’t the party for me, and I will move on.

Pretty much this, and I have concerns that Momentum are too authoritarian and I want to offer an alternative left wing view to that.

Tom Watson’s talk at EMF in 2014 has had some influence.


I’m thinking of groups like Momentum, who managed to get Jeremy Corbyn elected leader twice. They didn’t come out of nowhere, although it would seem that way if you believe the press.

Having looked at the wiki article on Jon Lansman though, it seems like you still need to know the right people. I know some people who have contact with senior people in the Labour party, unfortunately they are the wrong people.

I guess I need to start using that Oxford Union card that I got when I first came to Oxford and tried to get into higher education (I got it when I was at Ruskin College, the Oxford Union don’t do that deal with them anymore).


In the USA, it depends on your state laws, especially those governing primary voting.

Where I live, if you are registered independent, you get to vote in zero primaries.

I am a registered Republican. I voted against George W. Bush four times.

There are basically no advantages to registering with a clearly dominant party in a US state. Register with the smallest party that gets to vote in a primary, that’s where your vote has the most influence.

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I had to register for a party to try (and fail) to keep my state from passing a state amendment banning gay marriage because they wouldn’t let me vote in the primary unless I switched from unaffiliated.

(They did it in a primary because in my state Dems don’t even show up for elections where they’re not voting for the presidency and they wanted to make extra sure.)

If I was running for office in the U.S. (even in a different state with less evil), I’d have to run as a democrat if I wanted to be elected. I don’t know how things translate for the U.K. but in the U.S. if you want to get elected, you nearly have to join a party.


There have been some independents get elected, one of the more famous ones was Martin Bell, who stood as an anti-corruption candidate against Neil Hamilton in one of the safest seats in the country. There have been a few successful Save the NHS candidates too but generally you need to be part of a party.


Do I have to? It’s such a frightening place.

For myself, I’ve nearly given up on national or even state political parties or politics in general. I mean, I vote, but that’s about it, other than the occasional angry letter to my gun-toting, white, Protestant Congressmen. I live in the deepest of the deep South USA, so my efforts were fairly futile on that front. Instead, I’ve gotten much more involved in local politics, campaigning for school board candidates in particular. Actual change has resulted, and that’s really empowering.


Every party inexplicably manages to be diametrically opposed to me on more than 50% of things. It doesn’t seem mathematically possible, but why expect politicians to follow the laws of mathematics?


In the US we have a 2 party system which, if it is going away, is not going away quickly. You can use the internet to build quickly coalitions online, but the only way to translate the policies of your coalitions to the parties is by getting off the keyboard and into the party. The DLC took over the Democrats 30 years ago really quickly (one senate election cycle) by showing up in force. It can be done even quicker today, but change isn’t going to happen if people disappointed by the primary decide the party is hopeless and don’t do anything.

I think the situation in England is a little different, taking over a party is harder (making Corbyn’s achievement more impressive), but I do think Labour is worth saving as a brand.

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I do think I’m aware of all that and agree with you. But thanks… :+1:

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Yes, and there is some potential for that. We’ve seen things like Occupy Wall Street and Arab Spring, but it takes a lot to get from that to forming a cohesive group and rising to power. Open democratic people-to-people spaces don’t inherently provide a charismatic leader, a spin artist who can craft sweet soundbites and propaganda and keep the focus on just a few points that all the diverse followers can agree on, or some larger way to keep people’s dedication up and sustain the momentum of a movement.

We may see that happen. I think the level of success that Bernie Sanders’ campaign had was an indicator that that sort of thing is getting closer, even if it didn’t happen this time and was ostensibly within the Democrat party.

Democratic party, and there was nothing ostensible about it. Sanders stood for core Democratic principles, and there is no reason that his supporters can’t capitalize on this to reform the party other than the will to do so.

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OWS was fun while it lasted, but it had no teeth. It couldn’t affect public policy because it was led by the people, and legislators at the US national level couldn’t give half a crap about the people unless those people are donors. Plus, the mainstream media painted OWS as a bunch of Millennial trustafarians hanging out in the park while all the good honest people are at work. I don’t care what the MSM has to say, but they did undermine OWS’ reputation while treating old racist white men in funny Colonial clothes like they had a serious point :confused:

I would have liked to see OWS try to elect people to congress, but that wouldn’t have happened. Besides, the Tea Party people who got elected either got absorbed into the Establishment long ago, got voted out, or both.

I can think of one reason. Bernie Sanders and his supporters want to change the rules of the game. Why would someone who is winning the game want to change the rules so that they would lose? Instead they’ll use the same rhetoric they used against OWS: “Silly Millennials living off their parents, never worked a day in their lives, they don’t know how the world really works, they just want rainbows and unicorns.” They can afford to disenfranchise the far left, because that’s only like 5-10% and a good chunk of that percentage is third party voters anyway. Also, these disenfranchised left voters won’t easily be able to unite, because their goals are too diffuse and because there’s still third party hate because of Nader.

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[quote=“LearnedCoward, post:15, topic:86260, full:true”]
I can think of one reason. Bernie Sanders and his supporters want to change the rules of the game. Why would someone who is winning the game want to change the rules so that they would lose? [/quote]
The DNC is fundamentally a small-d democratic organization. When you show up to your local and state party meetings you can stand for party leadership positions and vote for such positions just like anyone else. If progressives show up in force, they can get control of the local party, then the state parties, and finally the national party. The first step has already happened in some places.


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