Monday, March 31, 2014

Of the people, by the people, for the people

The idea of socialism is simple. By socialism, the Socialist Party understands the realisation of a condition of an all-embracing true society. Present day society is that of the capitalist and wage-earner, of rich and poor. Socialism stands for social or community property. Capitalism stands for private property. Socialism is a society without classes. Capitalism is divided into classes—the class owning property and the propertyless working class. The basic principles of socialist society are diametrically opposite to those of capitalist society in which we live. War between the proletariat and the capitalist for their respective shares in the produce; on one side, wages, on the other, profits; each side exerting itself to carry off a maximum.

We can easily understand, therefore, why the great majority of landlords, employers of labour, financiers and the like are opposed to socialism. Their very existence is at stake. They do not merely reject the theory of socialism, but actively and bitterly fight every movement which is in any way associated with the struggle for socialism. From this the socialist draws the conclusion, therefore, that the class primarily interested in the change from private property to social property is the working class.

People do not start their lives with fully developed theories about systems of society. It is impossible to provide more than a basic picture now, the general principles will depend in their particular details on the actual conditions at the time. Under capitalism, labour is a commodity. Workers are used as replaceable parts, extensions of machines

The socialist option is the only alternative. Its aim to replace the present capitalist system, with its inherent injustice and inhumanity, by a social order from which the domination and exploitation of one class by another will be eliminated.There will be an end to all class distinction and consequently an end to the class-war. All the members of society are at once and with equal title co-proprietors and co-producers. The State, in the oppressive sense of the word, will cease to exist, it being nothing more than a means of maintaining order by force. The government of men gives place to the administration of things.

Freedom and liberty, which so far have been but mere words for the great majority of mankind, will become a  living reality. Liberty provides the means of accomplishing our will and therefore of satisfying our wants.

Commercial production of exchange-values with an end to realising profit will disappear, and be replaced by the co-operative production of use-values for consumption with a view to satisfying social wants. In place of robbing and exploiting one another, we will all help one another.

Our goal is a socialist world based on common ownership of  resources and industry, cooperation, production for use and genuine democracy. Only socialism can turn the boundless potential of all peoples and resources to the creation of a world free from tyranny, greed, poverty and exploitation. The faults and flaws of the capitalist system  are too deep, the power of the corporations too great, the chasm separating the compulsions of profit and the needs of people too wide, for anything less to succeed. The half-measures of reform- minded governments have buckled under pressure from the recession, and passed vicious legislation, slashing social services and trampling the basic rights of workers.  Welfare state policies won by hard struggles, are faltering. In these harsh economic times, corporations hold governments to ransom through their control of desperately needed investment. Capitalism has failed, and so have efforts to reform it. As socialists we believe society’s main problem is the capitalist system itself. While joining together with other progressive people to achieve common goals and we  uphold that the only real solution is socialism. Only in socialism do people have the means to collectively decide the direction their society will take and how they will participate in it.

Multinational corporate business empires, of a size unimaginable to previous generations, treat the entire planet as their domain. They are a law unto themselves, free to roam the globe in search of cheaper labour, more exploitable resources, more pliant governments and greater profits. They have distorted the economic development of the world so fundamentally—that the resources they waste , for instance, could eliminate hunger in the world. If harnessed to popular administration and planning, new technology could help us achieve an era of abundance for all, release us from monotonous toil and enrich our store of accessible knowledge.

The needs of people, not profit, are the driving force of a socialist society. This wholesale reconstruction will be accomplished by democratising all levels of society. Great social changes that are called revolutions cannot, or rather can no longer, be accomplished by a minority. A revolutionary minority, no matter how intelligent and energetic, is not enough, in modern societies at least, to bring about a revolution. The co-operation and adhesion of a majority, and an immense majority, are needed. A society takes on a new form only when the immense majority of the individuals who compose it demand or accept a great change. The socialist revolution will not be accomplished by the action, or the sudden stroke of a bold minority, but by the defiant and harmonious will of the immense majority of the citizens. Whoever depends on physical force to bring about the revolution, and gives up the method of winning over the immense majority of the citizens to our ideas, will give up at the same time any possibility of transforming the social system. The socialist revolution, on the contrary must not rest content after it has abolished capitalism; it must create the new type under which production is to be carried on and the relations of property are to be regulated.

Suppose that to-morrow the whole capitalist system is abolished. Imagine that all capitalistic claims on production cease, all commercial profit, all dividends and industrial profits are abolished; if this destruction of capitalism were not instantly supplemented by Socialist organisation, if society did not know at once how and by whom labour was to be carried on,  if, society was not able to ensure the proper working of a new social system, the Revolution would be lost in one day. This new social system cannot be created and inspired by a minority. It can only function with the approval of an immense majority of the citizens. It is this majority that will  create from capitalistic chaos, the various types of social property, co-operative and communal. In this enormous task of social construction, the immense majority of the citizens must co-operate. We must never forget for the first time since the beginning of human history, a great upheaval will have for its aim, not the substitution of one class for another, but the destruction of classes, the inauguration of a universal humanity. The character and object of the socialist revolution is the common good. In the socialism, the co-ordination of effort will not be maintained by the authority of one class over another, but will come as the result of the free will of associated producers. How, then, can a system based on the free collaboration of all be instituted against the will, or even without the will, of the greater number? It can only succeed by the general and almost unanimous desire of the community. Destined for the benefit of all, it must be prepared and accepted by practically all. The  thing about Socialism is precisely that it is not the regime of a minority. It cannot, therefore, and ought not, to be imposed by a minority

The working class is beginning to awaken from its long slumber and we call on those who aspire to see a socialist sunrise to step forward and help sweep away the long dark night of capitalism.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

William Morris and Socialism

The Socialist Party’s vision of a stateless, wageless, moneyless society is very close to anarchists like Peter Kropotkin in terms of both principles and practice, in the matter of how to organise and maintain a decentralised, collectivised, steady state, ecological society, in which both social responsibility and personal freedom are given equal emphasis, and guaranteed. It is also closely akin to the aspirations of William Morris.

The steady state economy forms a complete contrast to the capitalist economy in which, as Marx wrote, accumulation is Moses and all the prophets. The accumulative logic of capital ensures an endless ‘growth for growth’s sake’, turning finite needs into infinite wants to keep human beings trapped on a ceaseless treadmill. Once human needs are understood as finite, then the absurdity of the capital system is exposed.  In a steady-state economy, production is geared towards the satisfaction of needs rather than making profits through the inflation of wants. There is also the need to replace and repair the existing stock of means of production, both raw materials and instruments of production. The result is an economy which is geared to the satisfaction of people’s needs as opposed to blindly, endlessly accumulating more and more means of production in order to facilitate further accumulation. Such a system is a nihilism, endless, pointless – accumulation for the sake of further accumulation. A communist society would build thestock of means of production up to this level, and gear it towards the satisfaction of needs. At this point, accumulation, and even the further expansion of the stock of means of production, would cease and production levels stabilized. Economic growth – endless accumulation for the sake of accumulation – is unsustainable. Socialism is where economics and ecology are reunited,  based on a sustainable relationship of human society with the rest of nature, a life-affirming system of production which is in balance with the capacity of the biosphere to renew and replenish itself after supplying human with all they need.

“Free men … must lead simple lives and have simple pleasures: and if weshudder away from that necessity now, it is because we are not free men,and have in consequence wrapped up our lives in such a complexity of dependence that we have grown feeble and helpless." - William Morris,
The Society of the Future

The socialist society of the future will be characterised by simplicity but we should not confused simplicity with poverty or drabness for variety of life was as much an aim of socialism as equality. factories – ‘banded workshops’ as William Morris described them- may well be necessary, either to conserve energy through collective enterprise or to produce an article on a larger scale. In such collective workshops,individuals combine to work together to produce, for instance, metal (which needs smelting), and pottery and glass (which need large kilns) but the minerals will be extracted with as little pollution as possible with  widespread use both of wind and water power, and energy generated by renewable resources. Socialists envisages a free, unstratified distribution of goods. Whilst no-one is prevented from taking less than they desire, people learn to take no more than they need, since a scaling back of wants has redefined abundance beyond artificial scarcity.  Production for needs as against for profit thus produces a sufficiency which is able to satisfy the requirements of society, whilst also eliminating waste. Socialism as a society is able to lessen its deleterious impact on nature – and on human beings - by abolishing the production of waste, production geared to profit and false wants. By transforming the nature of work, the eco-socialist community of the future is able to reduce its use of energy and conserve natural resources, slowing down the rate at which productive human activity converts them from the ‘raw’ state to waste. The result is a changed relationship between individuals in society and between society and nature.

Socialism is a community of equals, in which each and all would have full and free access to the means of production, which would be used to produce useful things for the satisfaction of individual and collective needs of the community. In a socialist society, production for use would replace production geared towards buying and selling on a market with a view to making profits for a privileged owning class. In socialism  all associating and cooperating individuals are able to satisfy their needs, freely and fully; they do not have to pay for the useful things they need but take them from the stores according to a self-assessment of their own needs. It is a society which has abolished buying or selling as well as money, and  there is free access to goods and services according to self-defined needs. The means of production, owned by no individual or sectional group, but used by all according to need. An intrinsic feature of the socialist society is constituted by cooperative decision-making arrangements powered from the base upwards. In asocialist society, the coercive functions of a central state would no longer be required, whilst any administrative activities would be devolved to local communities, groups of producers and federation of local and industrial organisations. All men and women will have a share in the responsibility of the administration of things, whether in a commune, or a ward, or a parish, small scale units being desirable so that the greatest possible number of persons might be interested in public affairs. General assemblies  of all the members of the community would be the decision-making body in these communities and decisions would be based on consensus, with majority vote only required as a last resort. A participatory socialist democaracy society will be voluntary in the sense that all people will agree in its broad principles when it is fairly established, and will trust to it as affording mankind the best kind of life possible – i.e., due opportunity free to everyone for the satisfaction of his needs.  A local community could not be, or would want to be, self-sufficient, and will be inter-linked with other communities for specific purposes. These links would be established on a federal basis, so that the political power of centralised states would be dissolved into independent free communities living in  harmonious federation with each other, managing their own affairs by the free consent of their members. The regional bodies would be made up of delegates sent by the local communities. Just as the basic unit of political administration would be the local community, so the basic unit of the economy would be the local workers council. Those in the same trade or industry would organise themselves into abody for the purposes of controlling production in that particular branch. In like manner to the local communities in politics, these industrial bodies would federate on a national and a world basis. Production would be primarily for local use, supplemented as necessary by transfers of essential materials and products not available everywhere between regions arranged by co-ordinating centres at regional and world levels.

It is something of a misnomer to argue that socialism is based on the common ownership of the means of production. In truth, with socialism the means of production are owned by no one,neither individual nor group, and certainly not the state; socialist society is a system of non-ownership. The concept of property has given way to production solely for use, with property rights in the means of production being replaced by commonly agreed and adhered to social arrangements which allow free access to the means of production for use according to need

This concept of socialism is often labeled ‘utopian’  but if the definition of ‘utopian’ is the pursuit of an end or an ideal in abstraction from the means of its realisation, the Socialist Party deny the charge. Ours is not an ideal social system which is the product of the imagination, but  connected to the means of its realisation – the creative political agency of the working class. We are a political party that possesses a clear vision not only about the basic features of the future society - common ownership in place of private property, production and distribution according to need and use as against buying and selling for exchange value – but about the means of reaching that end. We advocate the class struggle in a class war against the plutocracy. Revolution is  a process whereby workers learn to organise themselves and develop the ability to administer their own affairs in their own collective interest. Part and parcel of the revolution is that, in struggling to change society, workers also change themselves. The socialist revolution does not arise simply when a sufficient number of workers have had their otherwise empty heads filled with socialist propaganda. Rather it is that, through their own experiences of struggle, first within capitalism and ultimately against capitalism,workers come to understand not only how to fight but also what it is that they are fighting for. Discontent is not enough, though it is natural and inevitable. The discontented must know what they are aiming at.

Through their possession of the means of production, capitalists compel the workers to sell their labour power for wages which are less than its true value, the surplus value being appropriated by capital. This exploitation is the basis of class struggle. We argue for human co-operation to replace the system of class exploitation and commercial competition but we are well aware that such co-operation was possible only on the basis of certain social relations. The prerequisite for human cooperation is the establishment of a classless society. Conflict is endemic to the capital system.  You cannot have profit-making without competition, individual, corporate, and national; but you may work for a livelihood without competing and you may combine instead of competing. A system of exploitation and domination is incapable of generating the conditions which promote the flourishing of human life. In such a system, labour ceases to be the creative means of human self-expression and merely becomes the means to making money and profits. The result is dehumanisation and degradation. The privilege enjoyed by the capitalist class has nothing to do with talent and ingenuity but is but the privilege of the robber by force of arms.

Attempts at social reform can end up ameliorating the workers’ condition at the expense of the workers freedom, independence and initiative. The workers remain workers within an oppressive, exploitative and alienated system. Political changes is  are done not for  the workers but by them. There is little point in the workers exchanging one form of class rule for another.regardless of how  rational and well-meaning it claims to be. The workers remain workers, with all that that entails with respect to the dehumanisation of labour.

William Morris summed up our task:
 “ The real business of Socialists is to impress on the workers the fact thatthey are a class, whereas they ought to be Society...The work that lies before us at present is to make Socialists, to cover the country with a network of associations composed of men who feel their antagonism to the dominant classes, and have no temptation to waste their time in the thousand follies of party politics...” (Socialism and Politics’, 1885)

“I say that our business is more than ever Education…It is too much to hope that the
whole working class can be educated in theaims of Socialism in due time, before other surprises take place. But we must hope that a strong party can be so educated. Educated in economics,in organisation, and in administration. To such a body of men all the aspirations and vague opinion of the oppressed multitudes would drift, little by little they would be educated by them, if the march of events would give us time…We must be no mere debating club, or philosophical society; we must take part in all really popular movements when we can make our own views on them unmistakeably clear; that is a most importantpart of the education in organisation.Education towards Revolution seems to me to express in three words whatour policy should be..”

Without an organised political party embodying a theoretical consciousness of socialism, any spontaneous revolt would dissipate its energies and fall to the counter-revolution. The task facing socialists is to aid the conscious attacks on the system by all those who feel themselves wronged by it. The real business of socialists is to instil the aim of the workers becoming the masters of their own destinies and of  their own lives. The socialist objective is to form a vast labour organisation of all the workers who have awoke to the fact that they are wage-slaves and the purpose  of this labour organisation is the overthrow of capitalism and the achievement of socialism, its weapons would be those of solidarity and cooperation; the strike and the boycott.

But Morris understood the limits of socialist agitation and once again emphasised that
 “Our business .. is the making of Socialists, i.e. convincing people that Socialism is good for them and is possible. When we have enough people of that way of thinking, they will find out what action is necessary for putting their principles in practice. Until we have that mass of opinion, action for a general change that will benefit the whole people is impossible. Have we that body of opinion or anything like it? Surely not… Though there are a great many who believe it possible to compel their masters .. to behave better to them, and though they are prepared to compel them … all but a very small minority are not prepared to do without masters. They do not believe in their own capacity to undertake the management of affairs, and to be responsible for their life in this world. When they are so prepared, then Socialism will be realised; but nothing can push it on a day in advance of that time.” (Commonweal, November 15th, 1890)

A socialist party has a twofold task, to provide the theory of the struggle in order to give direction to the spontaneous movement of the workers, and to participate alongside the workers in the class struggle, whatever form it takes.

Abridged and adapted from a paper by Peter Critchley that can be found here

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Big Bucks for Big Bangs

The international capitalist class may lament a world-wide recession, but it does not curb their lavish military spending.'The U.S. Air Force is "holding tight" to a target of $550 million for each new long-range bomber in a fleet of up to 100 aircraft, excluding research and development costs, an Air Force official said on Tuesday. ...... The Air Force planned to spend nearly $12 billion on the bomber program over the next five years, said spokesman Ed Gulick.' (Reuter, 11 March) Some members of the capitalists class in US may regret the state spending on welfare or health programmes but their is not much reluctance when it comes to armament expenditure.

The Socialist Party Approach

The immediate goal of the Socialist Party is the social revolution: agitation and education are our principal means. We clearly separate ourselves from reformism. Socialists want to remove the cause of all iniquities, all exploitation, all poverty and crime and the root cause is private property. We know that all the promised reforms will not be realised, and that they mostly only ameliorate the lot of one group of workers usually at the expense of other workers. The new names with which socialism such as ‘21st Century’are being baptised merely serve as pretexts for reform within the framework of capitalism. Social reforms, no matter however profound they may be, are not enough for the building of socialism. When the workers demand improvements,wage rises, cuts in working hours, better working conditions; when they go on strike to defend their dignity or to affirm their solidarity with a companion fired or mistreated by bosses, we have to say to them that none of this resolves the real issue. We argue for the need for the revolution, for the abolition of private property and the State. We do everything possible to widen and generalise the movement.

What do we mean by social revolution? Some radicals who call themselves “revolutionaries”,  mean an insurrection that will carry them to power. The people will do the fighting but they will be the officers in charge. But the revolution and society we conceive of can only be made by and for the people from the bottom up, not from top down. This being understood, the revolution obviously can’t be the work of a party or even a coalition of parties. It demands the participation  of the majority of the working class. Without this it would a coup d’etat, a putsch, not a revolution. Workers have no need of leaders: they are quite capable of delegating one of their own with a particular specific task, as long as they are on their guard and ensure precautions are provided. Workers need to learn from each other, so to form and share common aspirations and create a community of ideas. It is only through this that workers unite, even if they don’t have the same organisation.  It is necessary that in each association there be a means of agitating the great social questions, that all ideas be discussed, that the workers be intellectually prepared for the task incumbent upon them: that of renewing society.

No revolution has ever been a carbon copy of another. At the same time, however, if the truth be told, all revolutions have been identical on one essential matter, and that is, the taking of power. A socialist revolution inevitably implies the taking of power, depriving the capitalist class of its property. How this is done, what methods are resorted to—such things of course will vary. The British worker may do it one way yet the Indian worker another; but that is a matter of form, not of essence. A real revolution is not something that goes on within the state or its institutions or among its politicians. It comes from below, from those who have always been forgotten; those who have been misled; those who leaders have considered merely an election fodder to garner votes. It succeeds when it puts an end to party politicking, and have organised themselves through their own decision-making and knowledge, whether or not they have read one syllable of Marxist writing.

 If the economic effects of strikes are partial, transitory, and often non-existent or disastrous, that doesn’t change the fact that every strike is an act of dignity, an act of  revolt, and serves to get workers used to thinking of the boss as an enemy. A striker is already no longer a slave unlike those who submit unquestioningly to his or employer. He or she is already on the path of revolution and our task is merely to point this out and hasten them along the road. We must demonstrate our principles in action. We must prove that socialism isn’t an abstract concept, a utopian dream, or a distant vision, but destined to renew the world and establishing it on foundations of fraternity and mutual aid. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Who Needs Leaders

Originally posted at the Countercurrents website.

For Ourselves Alone

In 1916, in Everett, Washington State, USA, a ferry filled with Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) free-speech activists attempted to dock and was met by the local sheriff, along with armed deputies. According to lore, when the sheriff asked, “Who are your leaders?” the response from the ferry was a shout from everyone aboard, declaring, “We are all leaders here.”

Visitors to the Countercurrents website will always come across interesting articles but they will also encounter many posts that call for correct leadership and make demands for better leaders. People tend to accept as true the things they hear over and over again. But repetition doesn't make things true. Because the truth and the facts often contradict "common knowledge", socialists have to show that "common knowledge" is wrong. 

Marx believed that, as the workers gained more experience of the class struggle and the workings of capitalism, it would become more consciously socialist and democratically organised by the workers themselves. The emergence of socialist understanding out of the experience of the workers could thus be said to be "spontaneous" in the sense that it would require no intervention by people outside the working class to bring it about. Socialist propaganda and agitation would indeed be necessary, but would come to be carried out by workers themselves, whose socialist ideas would have been derived from an interpretation of their class experience of capitalism. The end result would be an independent movement of the socialist-minded and democratically organised working class aimed at winning control of political power in order to abolish capitalism. As Marx and Engels put it in the Communist manifesto, “The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.” Like it or not, this is not the same analysis made by Lenin or Trotsky.

Leadership is one of those problematic words that needs qualifying. When we say "don’t follow leaders" we mean by this something very specific - a narrow political sense of the term - to denote the idea of surrendering power to an individual or group to change society on our behalf. We are not promoting the false idea that socialism is about "making everyone equal" in their endowments, abilities and so on. There will always exist those who will be better orators or write more lucidly than others. Writers or speakers are NOT leaders. Their function is to spread knowledge and understanding, as teachers. There is a big difference between those that produce propaganda and so on, and helps promote the popular will where people accept decisions because they have been convinced by the case and have freely chosen to do so and a vanguard in the common sense of the word, meaning a party seeking to gain power over the masses. Revolution will be a process of self-education. Without the active participation of the mass of the working class in the fight for a communist/stateless society cannot even be contemplated. It was Joseph Dietzgen, described by Marx as the workers philosopher, who declared:
 "If a worker wants to take part in the self-emancipation of his class, the basic requirement is that he should cease allowing others to teach him and should set about teaching himself." 
This is quite a different concept from that one arguing that we must have leaders (great men) to direct their followers (blind supporters) into a socialist society. Socialists are catalytic agents, acting on our fellow workers and all others, the triggering agent that transforms majority ideas from bourgeois into revolutionary ones. 

Working class self-emancipation necessarily excludes the role of political leadership. Even if it could be conceived of a leader-ridden working class displacing the capitalist class from power such an immature class would be helpless to undertake the responsibilities of democratic socialist society. Socialism can't be created by decree or by force by a minority and will not be established by good leaders but by thinking men and women.  If workers really were as incapable of understanding socialism as some maintain, then socialism would be impossible since, by its very nature as a society based on voluntary cooperation, it can only come into being and work with the conscious consent and participation of the majority. 

As the current recession within capitalism continues, squeezing and stamping down upon the working class ever more relentlessly, alongside the growing realisation of the failure of all forms of running the system; then there is definitely a growing POTENTIAL for the escalation of struggle towards the overthrow of the system. Nevertheless, how many times has the potential been there in past moments of escalated struggle and capitalist crisis only to disappear or to be channelled into reformist, pro-capitalist directions? Discontent over wages or conditions can be a catalyst for socialist understanding but so can many other things such as concern about the environment or war or bad housing or the just the general culture of capitalism. Many political organisations profess to exist only for the purpose of assisting the working class. They have drawn up hosts of programmes of social reforms which they guarantee would, if the workers would only trust them and vote for them; solve all the ills which afflict the working class. 

Justifying their claim of being "revolutionary leaders”, the cadres are forever taking credit for organising the workers. It is as though they were taking credit for the rising of the sun, forgetting their basic Marxism that it is not ideas that make material conditions, but material conditions that give rise to ideas. Their case for leadership is simple. Most working-class people are too busy to engage in political action and so there’s a need for someone to dedicate their time and energies to represent working class people: professional, full-time advocates. It’s only logical that the professional politician, understanding better the decision making processes of power, represent us on our behalf. Too many people don't have the right political consciousness, and if we let them use too much democracy they will make counter-revolutionary decisions that sabotage the revolution. The masses just can't be trusted and have not evolved enough political consciousness to be pro-revolution. To solve the problem of widespread backward consciousness the party will organise “representatives” chosen from within its own ranks rather than freely elected by the masses. 

This idea that someone with a job and family cannot really understand the needs of the working class is farcical. Workers have nothing to gain and everything to lose by relying on leaders. 

Some radicals despite their sincere and dedicated activism will blame the workers for their. Other radicals with the best of intentions claim impressive “successes” and “victories” in every field except one. History have proven beyond any shadow of doubt that they have not remotely convinced the workers of the need for socialism. From their activities carried on in the name of socialism, the one thing conspicuous by its absence has been any mention of the socialist case. 

 A truly revolutionary workers organisation will not see itself as yet another leadership, but merely as an instrument of the working class to help generalise their experience of the class struggle, to make a total critique of their condition and of its causes, and to develop the mass revolutionary consciousness necessary if society is to be totally transformed. They will reject an organisational role and instead urge people to come to the realisation that they should take over their workplaces, communities, and put themselves in a position to control all of the decisions that effect them directly, and to run things themselves. A vanguard, in the sense of an enlightened minority seeking to gain power over others, can never achieve this aim, because it would have the power, rather than people having power over their own lives, collectively and individually. They would also be assuming the arrogance to think they have a monopoly of truth, rather than certain views which face dispute and discussion with others. 

A democratic leader-less movement would seek majority decision-making in local face-to-face assemblies and, where and when necessary, by fully accountable re-callable delegates. A representative is someone who makes decisions for the other people while a delegate, in contrast, carries out a mandate they have been given by the people who delegated them. In other words, they don't act as they think best, they act as they are told. Accepting leaders means handing over the right to make decisions to someone else. We don’t vote for leaders to implement this or that decision; we vote according to our ideological inclinations to give them a “free hand” to make decisions. The point is that the very mechanism of decision-making we have today is a product of the social system we live under. The whole premise of democratic-centralism is that a central authority dictates policy to everyone else, so no matter how democratically chosen it is,  it has to enforce its line and stifle dissent that makes this too difficult, which, in a revolutionary situation, there is bound to be a lot of. Democratic-centralism would exclude you from participation. In practical terms, the real vanguard would be the central committee of the Party. 

Structure doesn't necessarily mean a leader. The best examples of organisation historically can be found in the trade union movement at its best. Take the structures of trade union branches, these are a product of a long tradition of members debating, agreeing and renewing clear, transparent written rules that create a framework of mutual accountability, self-discipline and individual responsibility. They are there on paper, the responsibility of every member, to be used, contested and, once agreed, followed. That is not to deny that apathy and inertia can set in; the rules become a barrier to creative thinking and change; officials become corrupt or complacent. Yet the rules and basic principles remain.

Eugene Debs an often overlooked socialist orator and union organiser once said:
“I am not a labor leader. I don’t want you to follow me or anyone else. If you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of the capitalist wilderness you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into this promised land if I could, because if I could lead you in, someone else could lead you out.”

These are not times for reform and tweaking the system. Capitalism is in the process of destroying the Earth. Forget about looking for leaders. What we need is a movement that rises from the people and empowers ourselves. People need to stop looking up, and start looking around. There is an old adage, if the people lead, the leaders will follow. People need organisations, and people need to come together. But by self-organisation from the root, you will find that you have got no leaders. 

Again to quote Debs:
“I never had much faith in leaders. I am willing to be charged with almost anything, rather than to be charged with being a leader. I am suspicious of leaders, and especially of the intellectual variety. Give me the rank and file every day in the week. If you go to the city of Washington, and you examine the pages of the Congressional Directory, you will find that almost all of those corporation lawyers and cowardly politicians, members of Congress, and mis-representatives of the masses — you will find that almost all of them claim, in glowing terms, that they have risen from the ranks to places of eminence and distinction. I am very glad I cannot make that claim for myself. I would be ashamed to admit that I had risen from the ranks. When I rise it will be with the ranks, and not from the ranks.”

Power to no one, and to every one!

Ourselves Alone

“Without the conscious will and the conscious action of the Proletariat there can be no socialism” - Rosa Luxemburg, November 1918, in Die Rote Fahne

There is an Eastern saying that a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step and for the workers that first step is socialist knowledge. Another ancient sage said do not put your trust in princes and today the Socialist Party extol our fellow workers to trust in yourself and your class, no matter what the “militant" self-appointed cadres may say to the contrary. We say study socialism for yourselves. Having acquired the requisite socialist understanding, the working class can emancipate themselves rather than rely on the befuddled humanitarian liberals and those leftist political clowns who claim the mantle of leaders over the people. Workers can be so easily fooled if they do not comprehend their class position in society because in  not understanding they fall for the lures and bait set to trap the unwary. People genuinely seek a way out of the mess of capitalism but possess little idea of the solution. Political opportunists set themselves up as “leaders” to mis-lead. This happens everywhere, everyday,  by placing faith in people whom they think know better than themselves and in doing so, workers hand over control of their political power to others. Nor is it a question of sincerity or good intentions. As Engels remarked “Honest opportunism is perhaps the most dangerous of all.”

 Trusting in political or labour leaders invariably leads to treachery and betrayal. Instead, the Socialist Party proposes class understanding, socialist knowledge and intelligent organisation with which the working class can win the class war we are all engaged in. Behind the veil of deceit and hypocrisy false messiahs know the game is up once workers have clear insight. So the intellectuals and academics ensure the language of socialism becomes so jargonised as to be incomprehensible to ordinary workers. They label the failures of capitalism as socialist experiments, and describe reformist projects of capitalism as socialistic. How many workers have grown weary and cynical with any kind of politics because they realised that “under socialism” they are badly off as ever before. Don’t be fooled by the window-dressing or duped by the description on the label.

The Socialist Party insists on working class understanding as the means to attain socialism. We cannot liberate you but we can provide the material for your education so that together we can work towards a better world. It is up to you, our fellow workers, to avail yourself of it. When the working class become conscious of the necessity to abolish the capitalist mode of production and establish a system of production and distribution where everything will be commonly owned and democratically controlled people will live as human beings and not exist for the profit of others. The world is ours. We presently live in a society where there is no community. We have only two opposing factions - exploiters and the exploited. The Socialist Party puts this proposition to our fellow workers: In the long run every worker will find him or herself faced with the inevitable conclusion that the day-to-day struggle can only be successful as far as the conditions of capitalism permit and behind this daily struggle lies the necessity for a change in social relations, with the abolition of the capitalist mode of production and its cardinal feature, the wages system.

Above all, realise how much depends upon you. A vote even for the Socialist Party is of no value unless it expresses a socialist consciousness. Understanding must precede action. Go to the polling station even if it is only to write “socialism” across the ballot paper, for if you cannot vote now for what you want, it is folly to vote for what you do not want. If the Socialist Party hopes to achieve socialism solely by our propaganda the outlook is not very bright. But we see workers discovering from their own experience that capitalism cannot solve its recurring crises or repeated armed conflicts. The Socialist Party task is simply to shorten the learning time.

  The more socialist knowledge you acquire the more you will know the hows and whys. You will hold the key to the door to leading to peace and plenty but it is a door that can only be opened when the majority of your fellow workers are also in possession of the same key.

“When the International was formed we expressly formulated the battle-cry: the emancipation of the working class must be achieved by the working class itself. We cannot therefore co-operate with people who say that the workers are too uneducated to emancipate themselves and must first be freed from above” - Marx and Engels , circular letter, 1879

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Seven Million Die for Profit

In the desperate struggle to obtain bigger and bigger profits capitalism is polluting the atmosphere at an alarming rate. 'On Tuesday, the World Health Organization announced that air pollution, both indoors and outdoors, contributed to seven million deaths worldwide in 2012. More than one-third of those deaths occurred in fast-developing nations in Asia, including China and India.' (New York Times, 27 March) Seven million causalities and this is supposed to be peacetime! RD

The Rejectionists

Unlike other political parties we do not just want your vote but to gain your intelligent support for socialism. Knowledge is essential to political action. Socialists have a different way of looking at things.

The World Socialist Movement  rejects any conception of socialism which implies rule by an elite, a clique, a minority or a dictator. We reject any leader, good or bad. Leadership and hierarchies flourish only where there is ignorance.

The WSM rejects anything short of socialism - a classless, worldwide, fully democratic society based on common ownership of the means of production and distribution, with production for use and the principle of from each according to ability, to each according to need.

The WSM rejects the theory of the “lesser evil” or that “half a loaf is better than no bread” which leads to reformism and compromise.

The WSM rejects the idea that means and ends can be separated, that trickery and political scheming can be used to achieve socialism. Without mutual sincerity, without reciprocal trust among its members, it is impossible for a democratic party to conduct its affairs.

The WSM rejects any alliance or united fronts with other parties that work for the continuance of capitalism and rejects any tactic of boring from within pro-capitalist parties.

All that people want is the satisfaction of their needs. Socialism will not be the dull, dreary state-regulated regime that some would have us believe. But all the people, in free association, will control and administer the conditions of their life. People are essentially reasonable and where free to act reasonably, do so. When money is no longer required to access the necessities of living, when food clothing and shelter are free and no longer requires a person to sell his or her self-respect, no-one will be a thief, no one will be a tyrant. When all the avenues of happiness are open to everybody no-one can gain from corruption.

Most of us today think in terms of nations and countries. It is “your” country you think you are defending, it is “your” firm, “your”  job. Yet you don’t own the country. Your share in it would scarcely fill a flower-pot. This country is owned by those who own the factories, the real estate and the farms. The real owners are the small number of capitalists who hold shares and stock in  every industry but rarely ever see the factory they own. It is not your country - it is theirs.

We support the idea that after thousands of years of class rule and exploitation, productive labour can be changed to one of common co-operation for the use and benefit of all. Nothing less than the abolition of the wages system and the taking hold of the means of production will do. We therefore support any move to self-help and self-reliance of the working class towards that end. But we fully accept that the time for the socialist transformation comes only when a desire for socialist action has seeped deeply into the consciousness of workers and that there is no way of attaining the socialist goal if there is no self-activity of the working class. The vanguard theory of a group of enlightened minds possessed with a strong will is capable of marshalling workers towards freedom, (even behind their backs) has proved to be wrong road. The process of awakening the consciousness of our class cannot be speeded up by proclaiming radical slogans, passing revolutionary resolutions and proposing reformist platforms. Socialist understanding is a necessary requisite.

 Capitalism perverts and suppresses men’s and women’s social behaviour , labeling, categorising, and pigeon-holing every aspect of our individuality and every emotion, robbing life of all variety and colour . Society’s irrationality itself leads to mental illness and psychological disturbance in the population. We are deprived of everything but the barest necessities that are cheap and shoddy. Is it no wonder many seek various forms of escapism. For sure, socialism is not going to be some Earthly paradise flowing with milk and honey. Nor do we place any reliance on people becoming angels  but we do assume that people will live rational lives and are given an opportunity to live as human beings. Economic changes will produce changes in the moral, ethical, artistic and sexual ideas of society. The head-fixing industries, schools and universities, the media, the churches, make us feel it is a desirable trait to be humble, to submit to our “betters” and recognise our lowly inferiority as the natural order. They accuse socialists of advocating uniformity, mediocrity, and regimentation, but it is what is called psychological projection denying unpleasant home-truths and attributing them to others.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Break-up of Scotland?

Lerwick, the capital of Shetland is 18 hours by road and boat from Edinburgh – more than double the journey time from the Scottish capital to Westminster. Now Shetland, Orkney and the Outer Hebrides demand independence referendums of their own if Scotland votes 'Yes'.

 A petition currently before the Scottish Parliament is seeking referendums to be held on all three islands exactly a week after the rest of the nation votes on the future of the union with Westminster. In the event it should get the go-ahead, the 70,000 inhabitants will be given the choice of either staying in Scotland or seeking independence of their own. A third question following a successful yes vote will offer the possibility of staying within the UK while seceding from control of Holyrood.

It is estimated that up to 67 per cent of Scotland’s oil and gas reserves lie within the waters off Shetland and Orkney. All the islands have lucrative off shore renewable energy potential.

Steve Heddle, Convenor of the Orkney Islands Council, and part of the non-partisan umbrella group "Our Islands, Our Future" said there was an urgent case for the communities to be given greater control over their destinies.

Shetland’s Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott said demands for referendums within the islands were “entirely understandable”.

“The SNP is holding a gun to the islanders’ heads and saying 'I will not do anything for you unless you vote yes'. It is like the proverbial English colonial governor telling the natives what to do. People in the islands are very independent minded and they do not like being treated like this,” he said.

Socialist Courier has, of course, previously drawn attention to this possibility of regions within an independent Scotland seeking their own independence  a number of occasions.

Another Working Class Tragedy

The way a woman was assessed for benefits led to her suicide less than a month later, according to a mental health watchdog. The woman had a history of depression and was on significant medication, but scored zero points in a Work Capability Assessment (WCA), carried out by Atos. 'A Mental Welfare Commission report said it could see no other factor "in her decision to end her life". The Department for Work and Pensions said correct procedures were followed.The woman, who is identified only as Miss DE, was in her early 50s and had been out of work for just under two years due to stress-related depression when she was assessed for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).' (BBC News, 26 March) When a welfare rights officer informed Miss DE that this would mean her £94.25 per week incapacity benefit would be reduced to a Jobseekers Allowance of £67.50 per week she became very upset and said she did not know how she was going to pay her mortgage. She took an overdose on New Year's Eve. A life lost for £26.75 and the Department for Work and Pensions reassures her family that "correct procedures were followed". What a hellish society. RD

Kilmarnock Discussion Group

Thursday, 27 March 2014

7:00pm - 9:00pm
The Wheatsheaf Pub,
70 Portland Street,
(About three minutes walk from the rail station and five minutes from the bus station)

For more information contact: 
Paul Edwards.
Tel: 01563 541138

Upper Class Arrogance

In an effort to show that it is trendy and up-to-date the Times recently produced a property supplement entitled "30 most glamorous places to live". 'There are "bargain" one-bed flats for £1 million, up to luxury living at One Hyde Park, where a penthouse sold for £140 million. Knight Frank is selling a four-bed flat in Eaton Square for £24.5 million.' (Times, 24 March) It is yet another example of the arrogance of the owning class that such conspicuous consumption can be boasted about in a country where millions struggle to meet rent and mortgage payments and indeed many are homeless and strive to exist in pathetic bed and breakfast accommodation.

The Socialist Party for Revolution


The capitalist system has lowered enormously the standard and quality of living of the world’s population. Nevertheless, the working class of the entire world remain content to better its condition, if it possibly can, within the capitalist system. This unbearable situation for the exploited classes can only be altered by the destruction of the capitalist system and the establishment of a socialist system of production and distribution.

The Socialist Party stands alone in this country as the standard-bearer of socialism. Other parties professing to be genuine workers’ parties make opportunistic vote-catching the key to their programme and platform, relegating socialism out of sight and out of mind. They have sacrificed   purpose, method and aim to secure the spoils of office or gain that ever elusive popularity. Whilst policies of social reform were once a necessity in past times to raise the condition of the working class, as a preparation for undertaking the final struggle for political and economic power, to-day reformist tactics are proved to be wholly illusory. To pursue them further will cause ever-increasing misery to the people.

We are frequently ridiculed for the few votes we receive whenever we stand for election from those who when they put their case to the test of the ballot perform little better. Too many look upon a socialist party as the ultimate end we are striving for and not the means to that end. The question of the number of votes or membership numbers are not the criteria to measure our party. Besides numbers, indeed, more important than numbers, is the purpose for which the Socialist Party exists. Our Party exists to express the interests of the working class and lay the foundation of the new society of socialism. These fundamental principles govern our actions even if the majority of the workers are thinking differently at the time but we’d be guilty of the grossest betrayal of our fellow workers if we acted otherwise. To-day, we are swimming against the stream, but to-morrow will be a new day.

Some people, a very few, live by owning the factories and mines and machinery, and other men and women, the majority, have to go to work on these machines which they don’t own. The employer tries to squeeze as much profit out of the worker as he can. The worker tries to extract as close to a living wage out of the employer as he or she can.  If workers stopped struggling, they’d just be exploited even more. That’s why there’s a class struggle. Workers want to end the class struggle yet we can only do it by getting rid of the profit system, and that exists only because there is a class of exploiters and a class of the exploited. So socialists are also out to abolish classes. By revolution, we mean the demolition of the existing society and the construction of a new one. The revolution simultaneously comprises both aspects. Either change or “All other life is living death; a land where none but phantoms dwell” as the saying goes.

The road to socialism program is the road of class war. This is the only road that can win better conditions of life, genuine democracy, peace and equality for all. This is the only road out of the recurring crises of capitalism, the only road out of exploitation and oppression, the only road that can prevent war. On with the class war.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Polluted Society

In its relentless pursuit of profit capitalism not only exploits the working class it befouls the very air we breathe. 'According to new estimates from the World Health Organisation, seven million people around the world died in 2012 as a result of air pollution. "The evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we breathe, Maria Neira, of the WHO, said.' (Times, 25 March) Ms Neira is misguided in imagining that some sort of "concerted action" to deal with pollution is possible within capitalism.

Poverty Video on Scotland

Monday, March 24, 2014

Our War Is The Class War

We know our enemies – it’s those who are exploiting us. The Labour party has been a great disappointment for many of us and such a complete failure that its consequence has thrown discredit upon all political action.  This is very regrettable as it has destroyed the confidence of the workers in their ability to build a really independent working-class party as a force against the vast economic and political power ranged against them. The Socialist Party have told the working class, year in, year out, that, even if all the palliatives which they themselves hope to achieve, were put into effect, no permanent good could result to the workers as a whole until the power of one class to employ and pay wages to another class should be finally put an end to. Surely now, having exhausted all the other possibilities they must be now coming to the conclusion that we may be right, and the course of events is helping to move forward the realisation of socialism.

Working men and women see an increasingly desperate situation growing even worse. Cities are crumbling. Day after day, the capitalist corporations are squeezing us harder and harder to get their record profits. Wage-cuts Speed-ups. Lay-offs. More and more injuries and deaths and occupational illnesses on the job. Union-busting. At the same time, sparks of resistance flare up. The Socialist Party call on all workers to build a real fighting union movement. The unity we construct will put a powerful weapon in our hands to stop the capitalist attacks, end the system of wage slavery, and win better lives for ourselves and our children.

There is a war raging and it basically comes down to the capitalist class and the working class. The capitalist class is easy to identify -  the handful of millionaires who own or control  the factories, mines and fields. They are the class that owns and sells all the things that we make. We sell our ability to work to this class for a supposed living wage. The government protects the managements’ right to dictate the terms of employment to us. The war between the capitalist class and the working class is due to the system of wage slavery. For the young workers looking for their first job, the middle-aged workers with families fend for, and the older workers who are just hanging on until the penury of retirement, the capitalists have what we can’t live without. Jobs. We have to eat. To eat we have to work. To work we have to work for the capitalists. To work for the capitalist we have to accept his terms. We are slaves of the wage system.

The capitalist onslaught comes on many fronts, and so it must be fought on all fronts. The way to beat the capitalists’ divide-and-conquer strategy is to build unity between unions, between the organised and unorganised and between the employed and unemployed. We’ve seen the lack of democracy in our unions and we’ve seen a union hierarchy protecting its own privileges and because of this, many workers have declined to get involved with their unions. Democratic election and decision-making, with the right to recall union officials are fundamental principles and perhaps if practiced more, workers will rally to a real workers’ organisation that fights for their needs.

To fight the class war to end the wage system, this is our future. The phrase class-consciousness sounds very philosophic and mysterious, and the word class-war conjures up something brutal and reprehensible. Both appear as theoretical abstractions of a text-book. But the fact is, the two phrases are simply expressing the reality of every-day life. Take class consciousness, it merely describes the common feeling for the need of solidarity and the understanding that an injury to one is an injury to all. Class-consciousness,  gives rise to the class war where we confront our collective foe - the emplyers. Socialists are accused of trying to create ill feeling that sets class against class.  The truth is we only point out that this social conflict already exists.  Society today is a struggle between two classes, the capitalist who owns and the propertyless class with nothing. While the worker is not class-conscious – that is, knowing and understanding his or her class subjection and its cause -  he or she possesses only a dim perception of the fact from the daily experience of the struggle for life. We meet this class war everywhere, but do not always recognise it. It is a task of the socialists to label its every manifestation, in order that everybody may perceive it.

Certainly, the class war is war. The war to end wage-slavery, to end capitalism with its evils of misery and degradation, deprivation and hunger . It is also the war to end all wars. And until that class war is won we do not want peace—because such peace will be the peace of the beggar and the slave.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Nationalists - No Grouse with Capitalism

The independence debate is a dispute between sections of the capitalist class over what constitutional arrangement produces the better commercial benefits. Deluded left nationalists hang on to the shirt-tails of Alex Salmond, as desperately as the witch in Tam O’ Shanter clutches to the tail of the horse, in a belief that somehow the arrival of ‘socialism’ is brought closer by a sovereign parliament being installed in Edinburgh. However the reality is as we have always said - Scottish independence is of no concern to the working class, for an independent Scotland would continue to represent the interests of the corporations and employers.

This is confirmed when Blackrock, the world's biggest investment fund manager, said that fears an independent Scotland would become a "bastion of anti-business sentiment are unfounded, in our view".

It said: "The Scottish government would likely go out of its way to accommodate the oil industry in particular. Why risk killing the Scottish grouse that lays the golden egg?”

The Unhealthy Society

GP services are under "severe threat of extinction" because of a "toxic mix" of increasing workloads and smaller budgets, family doctors have warned. 'The Royal College of General Practitioners (RGCP) said the critical state of general practice is already affecting patient care Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP, urged the Government to set aside more funding and that without it there would be a severe knock-on effect on the rest of the NHS. "General practice as we know it is now under severe threat of extinction," she said.' (Independent, 23 March) When capitalism experiences its inevitable downturns it is always the working class that suffer from the resultant welfare cuts. RD

The Workers Struggle

All over the world the working class, defined as those who sell their own labour power to the owners of capital, is growing in size and gaining in economic, social, and political importance. At the same time many members of the working class are backward in political and social outlook, and unaware of their class identity, holding racist-minded conservative views.  Many of today’s radicals emphasise the undeniable shortcomings of the labour movement rather than its positive accomplishments. Sometimes they appear to deny it any progressive features. They neglect the working conditions before unionisation, the fourteen- to sixteen-hour day, the exploitation of child labour, the early mortality rate for all workers; and they neglect to study what happens when unions are weak and fragmented or subordinated to totalitarian states. Thus according to some of these radical ideologues, workers will never become a force ready, willing, and able to transform society. They view the present characteristics, attitudes, and relations of workers are essentially unalterable by any foreseeable change in circumstances.

Along with the capitalist rulers today there is an arrogant faith in the longevity of the system, that firmly believes that the empire of the almighty dollar is assured of perpetual dominion at home and abroad. The capitalist class have succeeded in concentrating economic, political, military, and cultural power in their hands. They have grown stronger and richer than ever before. They hold the commanding heights over of the globe. This unequal and oppressive relationship has its consequences.

There are wage-workers who are up in arms against intolerable conditions of life and labour but substituting for this rebellious mass is a political saviour-force. Intellectuals, academics and party leaders self-selected to lead the way to the abolition of capitalism. At best they are paternalisti, a benevolent elite, but at worse,  a malevolent bureaucracy. How are they, or anyone else, going to promote a revolution along democratic lines without the conscious consent and active participation of the majority? And what happens if that majority remains apathetic and resistant to the ongoing revolution – as they should, according to certain preconceptions? If the workers cannot be revolutionised under any conceivable circumstances, then the prospects for expanding democracy are not optimistic,  much less the task of achieving socialism. The self-reliance of the workers is so weakened that they do not realise they can escape capitalist domination of the status quo.

It is ironical that certain radicals who reject Big Business replicate its low opinion of the working class potential for self-activity. They visualise workers as contented sheep who cannot look beyond their bellies, who cannot be inspired to struggle for broad social causes and political aims. The reactions of the workers are primarily and ultimately determined by what happens to them in the labour market and at the point of production. That is where they encounter speed-ups, lay-offs, discrimination, insecurity, wage reductions, and all the other evils of exploitation. That is why any drastic fluctuation in their economic welfare can quickly alter their tolerance of the existing state of affairs. Growing numbers of in the "white-collar", professional, and technical occupations are becoming more subjected to capitalist exploitation and alienation, more and more proletarianised, more responsive to unionisation and its methods of action, more and more detached from loyalty to their corporate employers. These trends can flare into massive anti-capitalist movements. Under capitalism, automation and new technology threaten the jobs of skilled and unskilled alike, in one industry after another. The dislocations and job instability caused by these processes have to be guarded against by both the economic action and political organisation of the working class.

The capitalist regime is well aware of the latent power of the strike weapon wielded by workers and constantly seeks to hamper its use. In practice, the rulers have little doubt about its revolutionary potential. Capitalist production cannot do without an ample laboring force, no matter how many are unemployed, because profit-making and the accumulation of capital depend upon the consumption of large quantities of labour power which creates value in the form of commodities. Although this or that segment or individual may be squeezed out of jobs temporarily or permanently, the industrial work force as such is not expendable, no matter how fast or how far automation proceeds under capitalist auspices. Workers are far from obsolescent. Indeed, the inherent limitations upon its introduction and extension under capitalism, the inability of the profit-seekers to fully  utilize the immense potential of the new science and technology for reducing the working day and rationalising production provide further reasons for socialism.

The working class is not an extinct volcano but its explosive energies simmer in its depths, in the bowels of the Earth. During inactivity, people come to believe that capitalism will never generate insurrectionary moods and movements in their time - until the eruption of intense class struggles. Time and again funeral liturgies have been conducted for this or that section of the working class, or the class in general, but they have turned out to be premature. An overestimation of the “reasonableness” of capitalism on the one hand and an underestimation of the latent capacities of workers on the other creates the shock-waves of the rebelliousness as the oppressed burst to life. What prevents them from organizing a mass political party of their own, being won over to socialist ideas?  Why can’t worker make history and remake society and, in the process, remake themselves?  If they wage and win wars for the ruling why can’t they conduct the class war in defence of their own interests.  When they again rise up workers will have to seek the road of independent political action to promote their objectives, as workers have always done.

The working class has colossal tasks ahead of it. It confronts the most formidable and ferocious of adversaries in the capitalists. The working class will be roused from its slumber by events beyond anyone’s control. The Socialist Party does not believe that the masses can be summoned into battle on anyone’s command. The class struggle unfolds with a rhythm of its own, according to internal laws determined by historical conditions. We recognise that the working class can launch mighty offensives on their own initiative once capitalism goads them into action. Yet we also acknowledge that  the most powerful spontaneous upsurge can fall short of its mark, drain away, and be suppressed. This misfortune has befallen the workers’ movement many times in the past.

The will to win is an indispensable factor in the way to win. The working class can go forward only as they become convinced that the bosses are not born to rule, that they are not omnipotent and unbeatable, that their system of exploitation is not everlasting but has to go and can be abolished. Workers are realising that the 1% are leading  the world to catastrophe. This is the essential message of Marx who taught that the workers are qualified and mandated by historical progress to supplant the plutocrats as the directors and organisers of economic and political life and become the pioneers of the first truly human society. The course and outcome of the struggle for socialism, if not the very survival of society, depend upon whether workers themselves have the confidence to take up the baton. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Make Socialism a Mass Movement

Tory and Labour rule the same
The only difference is in the name

The current recession has depression have been teaching the  people of the world that something is basically wrong with  the present system, driving home the utter  senselessness of unemployment, hunger, and misery existing side by side with the most marvelous industrial and agricultural productive plant yet built by man, fully able to fulfill  every normal need of everybody in the world.  Every day is  demonstrating more clearly the inability of our politicians,business leaders and their economic advisers to solve our problems. Many are beginning to understand realize that this incompetence is not due merely to the stupidity or corruption of individual leaders of industry and the government, but that the system itself cannot work properly any longer, whoever is in charge. These persons are beginning to realize that the present system of society must itself be done away with and a new system substituted - that it is not merely a matter of honest men advocating reforms  but a revolutionary change in the whole structure of society.

In any class society one class rules, exploits, and oppresses the other class. The capitalist class is doing that now with the working class. The state is its instrument of rule and suppression. The capitalist state is a disguised dictatorship of the capitalist class. Through the powers of the state the capitalist class perpetuates its rule.This power is exercised in many ways. The controlling minority makes the decisions on  the possibilities of work and the conditions of work; the homes in which we live and the terms under which we live in them; the factories that will be built and the quantity of goods they will tum out; the wars to be fought. Even down to what most people wear, eat, actually what they think. The power to invest capital in industry or withdraw it, to buy, sell and mortgage land, to destroy natural resources, to run themedia, schools, and even the churches--this power is not merely economic, but political, social and cultural as well. Capitalist society, in which a small minority owns and controls the means of production, means and must mean capitalist dictatorship. Our apparent political freedom, then, our freedom to vote for "the candidate of our choice," affects in no important way the question of who actually controls society and the state. The technique for maintaining this peoples’ consent and confidence is so complex and extends into every social detail that it cannot be adequate summarized. Certainly one of its chief supports is the belief that the government is the representative of the whole of society, independent of any class or group conflicts and therefore able to be fair and impartia1 to carry out "the will of the people." This belief is instilled into every citizen from earliest years. It is the theme of classrooms, of public orators and media spokes-persons, of political campaign speeches. It reaches it culmination whenever there is a war we are called to sacrifice ourselves  for "our" country.

The working class must wrest that instrument of a capitalist dictatorship, the state, from the hands of the capitalists, must destroy its machinery of capitalist rule, and must establish in its place a proletarian dictatorship for the suppression of the capitalist class. This ‘dictatorship’ will not be a permanent one. It aims at the abolition of classes and consequently at the abolition of class rule and the state. This is the aim of socialists.

We are socialists out of conviction, because we see capitalism as harmful to the vast majority of our own and the world’s people. This system we live under, by its very nature, grinds the poor and working people, sets one group against another. We see in socialism the method of achieving a more just, more cooperative and more peaceful society. Socialists can offer an alternative which can meet basic needs of people and which is based on cooperation. Socialism offers a future free from the fears of poverty, sexism, racism, dog-eat-dog competition, joblessness, and the loneliness of old age. As our movement grows, we will be nearer to creating a society that allows each person to create and produce according to her or his ability and to obtain what she or he needs.

Utopia is imagined as a vision of a very distant future or as a dream which transcends reality. Utopia is a subject of the imagination and speculation without any connection with reality or even without any possibility of being involved in reality. As soon as a creative act is involved and the revolutionary action is involved utopia begins to merge with reality. Things which previously seemed unachievable becomes a possibility. What was impossible now becomes possible. The "I" begins to merge with "We," and personal desires with collective strivings. Socialism is now put within everyone's reach by the means of a mass movement.

We see capitalism today as a destructive system that hurts, divides and exploits the vast majority of our people for the sake of profits and power for the few. We advocate and work for socialism–that is, common ownership and collective control of the means of production (factories, fields, transport, etc.) and government. We want a system based on cooperation, where the people build together for the common good. The aim of the Socialist Party is to join with the revolutionary workers of all other countries in building world-socialism. Only a socialist society can utilize rationally the natural resources and productive machinery of the Earth in the interests of the peoples of the Earth. Only world-socialism will remove the causes of wars that under capitalism now seriously threaten to send mankind into barbarism or complete destruction. Only a  federation of socialist communities can alone solve the conflict between the efficient development of productive forces and the restrictions of artificial national boundaries.

Today, the questions of the meaning of life and mankind's goal in living have emerged again as questions of primary importance. Today, advanced industrial society is creating free time.

We have  moved rapidly toward a fully industrialized, automated world in which the ten or twenty hour working week will be standard, and where the many material satisfactions provided for everyone will be taken for granted. capitalism has prepared the industrial machinery and technology  We have no need any longer to trouble ourselves about that part of it. Our part is to get control of the political power in order to achieve socialism peacefully and systematically. In whatever way socialism comes, we must have a majority of the people in favor of it. The class-struggle and the logic of events is making socialists faster than any other kind of propaganda can, but that does not relieve us from doing our share. It is our work to clarify and educate the vast amount of vague, undeveloped socialist sentiment existing today, and crystallize and organize it into something palpable and definite. We must remember that socialism is not inevitable unless we do our part, and that promptly and wisely.

The election of a socialist to office here and there is not so important as some are apt to imagine, except for its educational effect. What kind of a benefit has socialism received from having a socialist may here and there or a socialist representative or two in the state house? Principally the publicity it gives the movement and the strength and courage imparted to us by success. These elected socialists are not able to take any practical steps in constructive socialism. What is the vital component of socialism is working class knowledge and the ensuing working class activity outside parliaments to make socialism a practical proposition.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Explaining the OBU

Jack Houston was in the Socialist Party of Canada and was editor of the editor of the OBU Bulletin. The following are adaptations of his editorials from 1919 to 1921. He was S.P. of C. Candidate in the Dominion election of 1908The S.P. of C. placed him in the field as a general organizer in 1909 In 1914, Comrade Houston, still carrying on organization work for the S.P. of C., transferred his activities to eastern Canada. He spent considerable time lecturing in Toronto, afterwards taking up his residence in Montreal. Born at Lanark, Ontario, he came to Winnipeg in 1905. During the First World War, he made munitions at Montreal. In August 1919, he was the founding editor of the OBU Bulletin (One Big Union Bulletin), which he remained until forced to step down in poor health prior to his death at St. Boniface on 11 March 1921. He was buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

The following is based on his editorials found here. 

The O.B.U. was not created  out of pure thought, but from the objective industrial situation. Craft unions have grown obsolete and this asserted not by spite but as a statement of fact. Craft unionism is obsolete because the conditions which gave it birth and demanded its growth have been supplanted by the onward development of industry itself and its ever changing methods of industrial organisation. The O.B.U exists not only because some labour leaders determined to bring it to birth, but because the workers would not remain in the old-style unions. This is a fact and not a theory. The welfare of our capitalist class depends upon private property. They rule because they own and they own because they rule.  Any challenge to their control is a challenge to their ownership, and nobody understands this better than the capitalists themselves. Therefore they wish to see the leaders of any movement in which labour acts as a class, discredited and punished, and they will use any and all means to see this accomplished.

 In Canada and the United States, the heads of the labour movement initiated the closest cooperation with the governments, that is, with the bosses. To the extent that this cooperation prevailed, labour was betrayed and to the same extent the leaders of labour proved themselves to be crooks. The history of the workers’ movement is a record of labour officials who have time after time sold out body and soul, to the corrupting influences of capitalism for either hard cash or position. Labour, today has to fight to capture every inch of ground from the hostility of the of big business and their toadies in the media, the courts and legislature, and in the universities.

Every revolution has character all its own, yet every revolution has points in common with all the rest. We are now taking about political revolutions. There are revolutions other than political revolutions. There are physical revolutions of matter about a centre; there are revolutions in dress, in fashions, in habits, in manners and customs; there are revolutions in science, in religion and philosophy. The world is not static but dynamic, therefore, all experience is of a revolutionary nature.

 Most people are frightened at the mention of a political revolution. Yet there is no need for worry. Contrary to general ideas, revolutions are not made, they just grow and the growth of a revolution is often not visible, or perceptible. The person who thinks he is producing a revolution is a fool; is like the fly on the wheel that imagines that it is turning the wheel, because it does not understand the mechanical powers.

The student of the social sciences knows, in a general way, the mechanics of revolution, but also knows also that the social forces are so complex that no student is able to measure the rate or intensity of the social processes. The supposed experts are as usually as much surprised as any person  when the social convulsion erupts, and is equally utterly unable to predict the direction or the extent of the movement.

The  industrial revolution caused by more efficient system of production and  an improvement of technology,through the discovery of new tools, processes or machines, thus making human creativity more efficient and more productive.  This produced changes  in human relations by the new system of production. Slowly and gradually men come to apprehend the lack of social control built up and suited to a previous system of production and long looked upon as just and right, authentic and authoritative. These institutions are now perceived to be fetters of production.

Principles are merely habits of thought. Each method of production developed its typical principles or methods of viewing or apprehending phenomenon . The feudal system of production with the lord ever in evidence, regarded society as authoritative and its scaffolding of status as the will of God. Under the handicraft system of production, it was necessary that one should do as he liked with his own, so that production and the commerce that grew with handicraft production developed new principles, and with Pym, Hampden and Cromwell in the limelight, asserted the right to manage their own business by depriving Charles I of his head. For a long time after machine production had replaced handicraft production the principle (habits of thought) of handicraft production has prevailed but today in ever greater and greater numbers men with new principles are challenging those of the handicraft line. It is a clash of principles. As soon as these new principles become pervasive to such an extent that a large majority of people possess the machine culture, the revolution will take place. How and when no man knows.

The students of social science find only two alternatives. Such a people will perish through strife and struggle or will, through revolution, not necessarily through violence, alter their institutions to harmonize with the new culture, or principles or habits of thought. The men who stand in the way of revolution are always a menace to peace and order, and the onward progress of the human race.

 Let it be clearly perceived that understanding must precede action if the action is to be intelligent. Therefore, the socialist stresses education that there may be understanding.  Who is going to undertake this task? Not the arm-chair philosopher who is never was anything but a critic. It must be done by the workers themselves and to do the work well they must bring the work of organizing an enthusiasm and resolve determination that will overcome all obstacles. Every worker must educate himself or herself.

Working-Class Tactics

The tactics of the workers are and will be dictated by the ends which are the ideals sought. The means by which these ends are to be attained are governed by more than one determining factor. The workers are the foundation on which our civilisation is built. That civilisation which satisfies its wants through an economic system which is based on the exploitation of labour by the owners of capital, an economic system which is, at the same time, the pecuniary system, the competitive system and the price system and which measures success or failure in terms of money, necessarily dictates the objects of working class activity. Plainly stated the workers want to be on an equality with all others in society, which means that all must do their bit, all must share and share alike in duties, responsibilities, and in the actual work of production. This aim is democracy, a word which has an odious smell these latter days, because of the hypocritical drivel of our present rulers. .

 The ways and means by which the working class is to free itself from domination and exploitation cannot be foretold. There are too many factors in the calculation to predict results; and there are the unknown changes which are constantly coming into the problem and affecting the relations of men, which make the role of the prophet mere foolishness. But some of these factors can be taken to be, for all practical purposes, unchanging. One of these is human behaviour, another is the end aimed at, a third is that the workers must emancipate themselves. With these three factors fixed we can say a few words on tactics.

Briefly, then, any tactics are good tactics which give to the workers superior weapons, or advantages of position, a better understanding of their relative positions with that of the enemy, the exploiters of labour.

First, understanding must precede action. Therefore, a sound knowledge of economics and of culture, is desired. Economics is well enough understood by those who take the pains to make use of the means at hand. Culture is not so well understood. To understand culture is to know why one group of people hold one set of beliefs while another group hold entirely different ones, sometimes diametrically opposed to those of the first group or to those of all other groups.

Possessed of this knowledge and knowing the direction and extent of the malevolence of its class  enemies, the tactics of workers consist at the present time, largely, in building up its organisations. The immediate aim of this system of tactics is to fit the workers to take charge of industry. They must, therefore, consolidate their position by getting into their union organisations every one who is essential to the management and planning of affairs. All the engineers technicians and scientists are necessary and must be brought into the fold.

To gain experience the masses must be brought again and again into the fight with the enemy.
Today the fight may be in an election while tomorrow it could be a test of the industrial strength for better conditions or higher wages. Always it is to be remembered that the people better responds to mass action only when idealism takes the form of emotion and passionate struggle. The tactics of the present has for its object, teaching the workers to organise so as to win victories. Any field, political, economic, or industrial, is good so long as the required object is held.

A scientist will say no one really understands a question until the terms or language peculiar to that study has been learned , that is to say, that while one is getting the ideas he or she is also getting the terminology. There is such a thing as popularising science or presenting an easy guide to it. This process is like lowering a high voltage current to render it safe for light duty purposes. The terms surplus value, the materialistic conception of history and the class struggle in themselves, contained but small hints of the special meanings applied to them by the intellectuals of the working class movement. However, the terminology in which these principles of working class study were clothed was a stimulus to the studious, while the lazy who would have only confused any question, were repelled from any consideration of the matters at issue. The once exclusive learning of professors is now, through a thousand channels, coming to be thoroughly understood by ordinary workers.

The class struggle produces class consciousness. Loyalty is almost an  inherited instinct nature of humanity, part of the heritage of every human being. This loyalty must have some subject on which it may rest. In primitive times  it was the family; during later periods it rested on the clans then the confederation of tribes. Since the arrival of modern civilisation, the territorial division known as the state or nation has been its foundation. Nowadays, it rests on the class of workers alone, and finally when classes are abolished, the inherited loyalty will cover the whole human race. Loyalty involves its necessary component or opposite hatred or dislike of all outside its own class. At the present time, no one can be called class conscious who had any vestige of loyalty to the nation or state.

When Marx wrote on surplus value the prevailing handcraft notions of economics, made it possible that the new theory has spread so rapidly over the world and has brought the workers so sharply against its stern rule in so rude a manner that few illusions from the old handcraft culture have any chance of retaining their validity among the actual workers in the plants. The workers do the work and must be secured in their livelihood or they cannot perform their tasks. The owners take the product of labor because they are owners. The worker will be on the pay roll when the boss can make a profit but at any other time his only right is to starve to death. When he has any part of the pay left he has rights as a professor of wealth but, the moment his pay is all spent, he is a vagrant with laws made and provided for his promp exclusion. Should the workers in any particular number cease work and thus upset the social order, as is inevitable when capital (owners) is not receiving the profits that might be in sight for the time being, they must be imputed to be rebels against the social order and criminals both in fact and in law. The code as written may not so class them but the law as construed must so treat these recalcitrants. The worker who thinks that he possesses any rights, which come as a hold over from the codes of the days of the handicraft laws, is a thro-back.

The materialistic conception of history was presented to us from Marx and Engels in a somewhat imprecise form. The miracle of their presentation was, that, with the sources of information and the state of the social sciences so backward, their generalizations and their applications of the principle were so sound. Little wonder, however, that so many people found it impossible to make an interpretation of what was meant and that so much fog and confusion was the result. At first a socialist doctrine, it has come to pass that the bulk of the development along its lines has been made not by socialists, but by scientists seeking knowledge for itself. After Marx, Morgan made the first substantial contribution in his great work, Ancient Societies. Then followed a whole school of archaeologists, ethnologists, psychologists and sociologists, all of whose contributions of any value have been made in this present century.

 Academic journals, from time to time, contains the sum of the new discoveries. The proof that one understands the materialist conception of history is the  ability to make the application of the principle to the numerous changes in the social world as they occur. The purpose of the theory is to enable its students to understand human behavior insofar as it can be called conduct. The beginning of wisdom in this regard is to be able to tell what is native endowment or heredity, and what is cultural, or the use and wont, or habituation. If one has not learned to make the discrimination, he or she is a-historical.

No strike can be won. If the strikers win, it is not a strike but a revolution. It is a failure to maintain the relation of ownership to the thing owned, a negation of the rights of discretion and control over poverty. Our analysis is that the powers of the state unflinchingly applied will bring an immediate victory to the owners. But often victory is worse than defeat. The enemy retires to perfect new resources for another assault.

What is now challenges is the ethical right of owners of property to dispose of the social product of labor and the lives of men, their happiness, their joys and sorrows, their hopes and aspirations. The class struggle is on, but the end is not yet.

 The task is the task of the workers. On the results of their efforts humanity will write either success or failure. The technology of the human race requires, now, a social product. Our laws, our political institutions, our social relations are those of the days of individualism and further back those of autocracy. Both or either of these principles means failure to progress in social achievement and in well doing in the well being of the inhabitants of earth. Let the workers draw together with the common aim, in their social groups, determined that the achievements of science, the triumphs of technology, the efficiency of social-team work will be made immediately available for the common-weal, and in our own day.

First then, the workers must purge their own institutions, their unions, from all self-seeking individualism and bureaucratic autocracy. In their own unions must first be worked out that principle of full and free democracy which will make these institutions subject to the rank and file—those who do the work. Not until this is done is the ground cleared for progress of any kind or in any direction. “Workers of the world unite,” is a futile, empty slogan until this first, and perhaps the greatest of all our tasks, is accomplished.

 Many have long suspected that Marx was always  right. In fact our suspicions have been steadily growing for a number of years, and now we have an illustration that sets our wandering mind at rest and we are quite satisfied that he was right. Karl Marx made a number of definite statements backed up by unshakeable argument. One of these statements was to the effect that labor—and labor alone—produces all values.

Direct action, however, on the part of labor, when labor is fully organized, carries with it consequences so dire and destructive that it must not be played with as children play with a toy. Direct action involves the complete stoppage, of the present economic system and as a consequence, when labor reports in direct action, labor must be so trained and disciplined through actual experience in doing things that they have the organization to carry on, all ready to hand. All the direct actionists in the world, who adjure all other tactics, could succeed in nothing except in causing confusion and failure. If they were not prepared with the substitute organization. The future of direct action will lie in the direction of a short time strike as a demonstration of solidarity and determination. Even then, the necessity must be grave which would call into being the use of such a powerful weapon. Direct action is in the nature of sabotage and the evil effects of sabotage can be fully understood when we see the results of the evil things as used day by day by the present owners of capital.

There should be no necessity for direct action on the part of labor fully organized and organized on the basis of understanding the economic system as it is. Capitalism is day by day revealing its weakness. Capital must expand or die. The limits for its expansion have been reached in many directions and soon all avenues will be clogged. Then nothing remains but self-destruction through conflict and wars. The human race will soon see the impossibility of capitalism and an economic system will be evolved where all must work so hard as to render social service, where all will be equal, where all will participate in the enjoyment of the social product because everyone will be compelled to do his bit. It is the job for labor to make the change. The change only awaits the growth of understanding that is the growth of pervasive culture. When that comes into being the final push to the house of cards may come through direct action or it may come from an insurgent militarized or it may come through parliamentary action. Any old way will be a good way.

Prof. Hoxie in what is perhaps the best history of American Trades Unionism that had been written, divides unions according to function and according to structure. Structure is important only because of its effects on structure. Adopting a simpler subdivision than the professor, a few remarks are here offered in regard to the functions of the Trades Unions.

Our division, for the time being, will be threefold, that is revolutionary, militant and reactionary Trades Unions. Revolutionary Trades Unions is [sic] out for a complete change in the economic order. Of such a nature is Guild Socialism, Communism and Syndicalism also Bolshevism. These are all out with a cut and dried structure for the economic society of the future and their plans are all laid and the blue-prints drawn for the new structure. These people are fondly accumulating material and assembling forces to be used in building, and the main work is soon to be begun or get under way.

Militant Trades Unionism centers its activities on the present. The phenomena which it studies are things as they are. To understand social phenomena the genetic methods of physical science are borrowed. The past is studied so that a proper understanding of the present may be had. The social order is regarded as dynamic and not as static; all the social order is in process of flux and change; nothing is, everything is becoming; what we see before our eyes is a continuous succession of social phenomena in more or less casual sequence; the child of today is the man of tomorrow. The future is in the field of idealism. With the millions of social factors at work any combination of which may possess a determining influence on future combinations, it is impossible to predict the processes of society even in the immediate future. One invention or discovery might and would change fundamentally the whole basis of ownership, might compel us to recast every human institution. The present is ours to do with it as we will; the future belongs to our children. Militant Trades Unionism, therefore, sets its hand in the work which presents itself to be done today.

Reactionary Trades Unionists looks upon society as static. The present order is the natural order. The system of property, of little more than one hundred years duration is nor as it was at the beginning and ever more shall be. The tendency of this old Unionism is to dwell on the past and to depend on the institutions of the past. All these people are hurt when there is any deviation from the old order, with which they are familiar. Such a people always stand in the way of progress. From the standpoint of culture, these people are only halting on the way of progress. The social forces are of such a nature that, by and by, they must come under the rod. In the meantime they ought to be indicted and to be convicted for being a common nuisance.


In Industry, in politics, in religion, even the principle of “Every man for himself” is not “well seen” today.

In place of this principle of individualism, there has come into the world another conception of life and the guiding thread that should govern social relations; this is the principle of race solidarity.

Marx said that the manner by which men made their living together determined their social, politically and intellectual life processes generally.

When the machine processes of production became the prevailing process by which men made their living together, there was bound to follow, so soon as time sufficient to make the necessary mental adjustments had been given, profound changes in man’s ways of looking at all of his social relations.

Now it is seen that all of man’s institutions should be made to conform to the new industrial methods which are forced on the world by the greater efficiency of the new and more complex systems of production brought into being by the machine.

It is the shift from the “I” method of looking at human affairs to the “we” method of observing and appreciating human relations.

The man who retains the old “I” standards is a reactionary and stands in the way of human progress until he is compelled to recognize that he is living in a changed world. What is wanted is to see that the change has come into the world and to lead to subordinate, to the required degree the selfish instincts, so that the world may go on unhampered in the direction it must follow.

In making the shift there must come in clash of cultures, wars and revolutions, the destruction of civilization and, perhaps, the death of racial types.

Man, in making the adjustments, is still at the mercy of his instincts. Institutions are not built by rationalizing. History showed more examples of peoples who have failed to survive than those who have saved themselves alive, in the making of the shift from one culture to another.