In the welter of initials, we should not be misled into thinking that the SPGB, the Socialist Party of Great Britain, is just another left-wing group. Its goal is a class-free society and rejects all reformist and opportunist methods of struggle. It takes the political and economic education of the workers seriously.
As Marxists, the Socialist Party maintains that our society is divided into classes based on groups of people standing in the same relationship to the means of production. Under the capitalist mode of production the principal classes in society are the capitalist class and the working class. Their historically-determined production relations form the basis, the economic structure of capitalist society. The capitalist class owns the means of production, the workers work for this class for wages; having no means of production of their own, they are forced to sell their labour power for what they can get. They are thus an exploited class.
As Marxists, we hold that the interests of these classes are antagonistic and irreconcilable and that a constant struggle goes on between them over the division of the wealth that. society produces. The exploiting class, the capitalists of today, have their economic basis in the private ownership of the means of production. It is this ownership which determines the distribution of social wealth; the exploiters are rich, the exploited are poor.
As Marxists, we view the ability of the present ruling class, the capitalists, to maintain their power is due to their control the government and use it in their own interests against the rest of society. No one can understand the main political questions of our time without an understanding of the state, and of its connection with classes and class struggle. The government protects the capitalist class by protecting the source of its economic strength, private property. It uses its control of government to write down its will and call it law. It uses its control of government to enforce its will, the law. The law is the voice of the ruling class.
So the basic premise of the Socialist Party is that we live in a class society. Our aim is to abolish exploitation and therefore to abolish classes. Socialism is a system based on global solidarity and cooperation. If the people ran society, providing a decent life – housing, health care, education and so on – would be no problem. If instead of the idea that society should be run to maximise business profits society was run collectively and democratically by workers, it’s clear the economy would be vastly more productive than it is today. At present the processes of government by which the capitalist class rules is called the democratic form of government. Democracy literally means “rule of the people”. Since the capitalist class is a small minority but the majority of people support the present system and therefore the capitalist class controls the government only as long as the majority of the voters permit them to. The right to vote for the propertyless was one of a number of concessions which a confident capitalist class made during an earlier period. Nevertheless, the essence of the state is that it is an instrument for the oppression of one class by another.
Capitalism inevitably produces exploitation and poverty, war, national oppression, the oppression of women, poisonous pollution, environmental destruction and waste of human and natural resources, none of which can be consistently eliminated without the socialist transformation of society. But how can the apologists for the status quo claim that capitalism promotes innovation when the majority of the world’s population are condemned to a life of mind and body destroying toil? The idea that the 1% gained all their wealth through hard work or an “entrepreneurial spirit” is rubbish. They gained it from exploiting the labour of workers. If workers ran society, all that vast wealth could be used to improve society. Socialism is an economic system in which society’s resources are controlled democratically by the people.
Most people who call themselves socialists are still dominated by the idea that socialism is about expanding the sphere of activity of the state. For them, the key criterion of socialism is the nationalisation of property. The more militant their socialism, they assume, the more they must favour state property. A distinguishing mark of the Labour Left is its advocacy of some sort of nationalisation. Judgements about the ‘socialist’ character of various regimes are based on the degree of state ownership. A travesty of ideas appears passes for socialism today because Marx and Engels did not identify socialism with nationalisation of property. Like them, the Socialist Party's attitude to the state is one of unremitting hostility. Far from wishing to epand the State's activities, we seek to do away with it, in its entirety. Those who oppose class exploitation must, necessarily, oppose the state. This is not simply because the state supports exploitation, but because it is itself directly a form of exploitation. The main task of all governments is the suppression and exploitation of the toiling masses. Socialists who wish to maintain the existing state are simply not serious. Like Engels, the Socialist Party looks forward to the time when the state will end its life ‘in the Museum of Antiquities, by the side of the spinning wheel and the bronze axe’. What an appealing vision.
Socialism abolishes the chaos of capitalist production and social organisation; it does away with the dog-eat-dog competition of capitalism, the breeder of poverty, racism and war. Socialism marks the birth of an era of prosperity for the workers. Under capitalism, wealth piles up in the hands of the parasitic owners of the industries, while the actual producers live at barely subsistence level. There will be no artificial limits placed upon production by the need to sell in a flooded market but production will be carried on for the benefit of all the people. There cannot possibly be “exploited” when there is no ruling, owning class, no class to get a rake-off from the worker’s production.