Op-Ed: The student movement must organise radical demands beyond electoralism

TCDSU President-Elect László Molnárfi writes on how “voting alone will not make society better in the long-run”

The passing of our emergency motion at the recent Union of Students Ireland (USI) Congress to take a position of no-confidence in the government has been met with applause from all corners of the third-level sector. This is certainly a step in the right direction to politicise the student movement. However, it should not be considered the be-all and end-all of our aims, and in fact is nothing more than a necessary step within the struggle against the social and economic system that exploits the working-class and through austerity policies commits social murder against the people. This system, capitalism, has managed to remain in place no small part due to the faux democracy that the ballot box offers, the illusions it provides to people about the possibility of change and the legitimacy it derives therein.

The illusion of electoralism must be broken. Representative democracy is a complete and utter failure. There is no meaningful opportunity to participate in governance under parliamentarianism, no matter which party wins the upcoming elections. The Dáil is and always has been resigned to manage the worst excesses of the economy, to a larger or smaller extent with better or worse policies, but the underlying logic of competition, profit-making and greed remains as the basis of social organising so long as we live under the yoke of capitalism.

If we observe the nature of liberal democracy, we see that it oscillates between parties which are pro-capitalist, in different guises, with different names and different policies. None of them can offer solutions to the fundamental crisis of capitalism, so these parties switch and replace each other while the capitalist machine remains in place. The reason for the rise of the far-right, for example, is the failure of liberal left, centre and right-wing parties to provide meaningful solutions to meet the needs of the people in terms of housing, healthcare and living standards.

By participating in elections, we can shift the Overton window to the left, and achieve small victories. However, we should never become intoxicated with the power of the ballot box, and make false promises. Voting alone will not make society better in the long-run since capitalism is designed to claw back our gains. We must, alongside electoralism, organise in trade unions, student unions and grassroots groups against capitalist dictatorship, for
socialist democracy.