Electoral disenchantment with the major parties does not in itself imply greater political opportunities for the Marxist left. Unlike, say, the Liberals, the left is not simply an alternative party (or parties) which can hope to exploit any disintegration in the two-party system. Rather, the Marxist left represents another system of politics, ideologically and in some cases organisationally divorced from the political culture of British liberal democracy. To transfer one’s political loyalty from Labour to the Liberals is not the same as transferring from Labour to the Marxist left. Whereas the former may involve little more than a change in voting preference, the latter suggests a commitment to a wholly different style of politics, and involves favouring a group or party which organises its support in a qualitatively different fashion to that of ‘conventional’ or ‘within-system’ parties. Anti-system parties are, by definition, extraneous to conventional politics: to abandon conventional politics and to support an anti-system party is thus to undergo a much more serious change than is implied by the transfer of loyalties from one conventional party to another.
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