“Compromisers and schemers will still erect parties to serve their personal ends and satiate their lust for being worshipped; intellectual mannikins will still perch themselves upon the shoulders of the workers and imagining their high altitude is the result of transcendent ability on their part will call the world to witness how great they are; but they will be deprived of their power to delude the real revolutionist by the simple fact of the existence of a political party of Socialists dominated by and resting upon the economic movement of the working class.” James Connolly
A worker does not live alone on a desert island but is a member of a social community. We cannot do without food, clothing and shelter. In the earliest period of history society was based on the clan or tribe. Everything was pretty much owned and shared in common. There was no privately-owned property, no government, no rulers and ruled, no laws in the sense in which we know them today.
A feature of the present economic recession is that workers are beginning to once again take their ﬁrst determined steps in independent political action. Workers are being driven to this course by the ever-growing oppression of the employers and the increased use of the governmental powers against them in their struggles. Many on th Left are now thinking and asking: How can the left-wing in this country be unified and strengthened? For many members of the working class it is a sincere aspiration.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain is for the unity. But it must be a unity of socialism and socialists. The unity with opponents – with people who have other aims and other interests, is not socialist unity. To accept into our party or to merge with another that possesses objectives entirely opposite to our own would indeed be foolish ...it would be party suicide. We cannot trade our principles, we cannot compromise, we cannot make any agreement with the ruling system. We must fight it to a finish so that socialism may arise.
The socialist does not lower its struggle to the level of potential allies but instead it urges those possible allies to raise the level of their struggle. The socialist does not fight for the half-hearted demands to “improve” capitalism, but demands that others abandon their timidity and fight resolutely to abolish capitalism. The strength and power of socialism rests in the fact that that the labouring class is exploited and oppressed by the capitalist class, and that within capitalist society effective reforms, which will put an end to class rule and class exploitation, are impossible. The socialist must not simply seek unity, but create unity on its own terms.
The existence of a class-conscious working class is an essential precondition for a socialist revolution. Class consciousness embraces a range of perceptions and commitments including an understanding that there is a distinct working class that one is part of, whose interests are counterposed to the capitalist class; a sense of solidarity with other members of one’s class; a belief in the need for and the possibility of successful struggles—political as well as economic—to advance the interests of one’s class; a conviction that the working-class majority can and should become the dominant political force in society (“winning the battle of democracy,” as Marx and Engels put it), reconstructing the economy so that it is collectively owned by all, democratically controlled by all, and operated in the interests of all—making possible the dignity and free development of each person in society.
It involves an understanding of the insight that was contained in the preamble of the American Federation of Labor from 1886 to 1955:
“A struggle is going on in all the nations of the civilized world, between the oppressors and the oppressed of all countries, a struggle between the capitalist and the laborer, which grows in intensity from year to year, and will work disastrous results to the toiling millions, if they are not combined for mutual protection and benefit.”
Not all workers have absorbed this insight into their consciousness, but those who have done so can be said to possess at least an elementary form of class consciousness. Such consciousness does not exist automatically in one’s brain simply because one sells his or her labour power for wages or a salary. The working class are going to unite, economically and politically, for their emancipation. A united, class-conscious working class on the economic ﬁeld has long been needed — needed by the workers, needed by the Socialist Party, and needed, above all, as an essential part of the labor movement.
The socialist task is not to deny democracy, but to expand it and make it more complete. That is the true socialist tradition. The socialists, throughout the history of our movement, have always valued and defended bourgeois democratic rights, restricted as they were; and have utilised them for the education and organisation of the workers in the struggle to establish full democracy by abolishing the capitalist rule altogether. The Socialist Party declares that the workers will free themselves from the exploitation and oppression which is their lot under the existing system of industries through their use of political power. The struggle of the proletariat for emancipation must be fought along political lines. Poverty starts with plunder; it is man-made and a political issue. Poverty will begin to end the moment poor people organise themselves and act politically to better their situation.”
Although a Trotskyist, James Cannon made this important observation:
“The surest way to lose one’s fighting faith is to succumb to one’s immediate environment; to see things only as they are and not as they are changing and must change; to see only what is before one’s eyes and imagine that it is permanent.”