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Seeking Democracy

The Socialist Party holds to the doctrine of the class struggle and the idea that the workers must accomplish their own emancipation through their own organised power. We campaign for the overthrow of capitalism by workers’ revolution, preferably through the ballot, and refuse to settle for anything less. We are determined to stick to the main issue and stay on the main track, no matter how alluring some of the by-ways may appear. The Socialist Party denounces capitalism and we bring a message of hope of the good times that could come if we wished it so.  The strength of capitalism is not in itself and its own institutions; it survives only because it has bases of support in the organisations of the workers. This is the primary purpose of our party – to disillusion our fellow workers from their blind faith in the capacity of capitalism to serve their interests if only it was reformed into an ‘improved’ version. Socialism signifies and requires the revolutionary transformation of society; anything less than that are mere palliatives. A socialist party deserves the name only to the extent that it acts as the conscious agency in preparing the workers for the necessary social revolution. An organisation such as the Labour Party that includes openly pro-capitalist reformists with genuine advocates of the working class in one political organisation simply introduces a form of the class struggle into its own ranks.

Marx explained that capitalism not only greatly advances the forces of production but, in developing the forces of production and proletarianising the great mass of the population, capitalist society prepares its own gravediggers in the person of the working class. Yet for the socialist transformation of society we all have to recognize there exists one of most conservative political climates and a weak labour movement, lacking radicalism and socialist consciousness.

 Despite all the experiences of the working people which should have come to our aid and eventually inevitably will—despite all the favourable developments for socialism on a world scale, the situation of socialist radicalism today, from the point of view of consciousness, organisation and even morale is worse than it ever was.  For sure, there are objective causes for this. They are well known, the unprecedented post-war boom. This ‘prosperity’ was interpreted by all kinds of learned people as the final solution of the contradictions of capitalism. Marx was out of date. His theory of the cycle of boom-and-bust had been overcome by the genius of Keynsian capitalism. We were going to have ever-rising standards of living from now on. We believed that all future generations would be better off. A great many workers believed that and radicalism lost its previous attraction. These days with a recession that has cost us to lose faith and trust in governments and to doubt that our children would be living better lives than ourselves we wonder why there has not been a corresponding intensification of class struggle much less an increase in general socialist consciousness. We all expect new epoch of independent class political action. But it isn’t happening. The discontent has not turned into an aggressive labour movement. In a time of social crisis, when the workers of many kinds see no prospect in capitalism, they want to hear the word of a radical social transformation and a new beginning. Yet all there is are the same old failed flawed ‘solutions’. From all quarters come the refrain “Socialism is not the issue!”  Instead it is ‘democracy’, the environment, minority rights. The Left campaigns in elections on the slogan of the lesser evil. “Beat **** at all costs!” which means, of course, “Elect #### at all costs!” That’s what such a slogan always means in reverse. But those who started out that way, thinking to outwit the class enemy by supporting him or her, eventually became victims of their own deception. They begin to play the capitalist party game in earnest. They believe in it. The mask has become the face. The dupers become the duped. Rather than capture the Labour Party (or Democratic), class collaborationist politics led to the capture the labour movement and the leftists, who go to work, running errands and ringing doorbells in order to beat some capitalist political faker at all costs in order to elect some other capitalist political shyster at all costs. They have continued to support the Labour Party long after Labour had no further need of them and gave them the boot. That’s the basic cause of the defeat, demoralisation of labour militancy. From independent class politics, to class collaboration, to support of capitalist politicians.

If we’re going to make a new start and prepare for the next wave of radicalism, there’s only one way to begin. We have to return to fundamentals. Outside the Socialist Party are those who remain faithful to the fundamental ideas of socialism even though it is a confused attachment to a vague ideal. They’re numerous and we see and hear these people more frequently, who have fallen out of the Labour Party and its left-wing camp-followers by the tens of thousands, who still want to consider themselves in their own way as socialists. They seek to have a discussion—providing you don’t bring up any fundamental questions. They can’t remember where they came from but have a nostalgia for mass action, but they’ve forgotten that that mass movement was produced by policies of the class struggle. The unions as organizations have survived. We see them in action every once in a while. And they remain a great potential power. Every now and then there is a sort of political uprising, a portent of things to come, that upset all the calculations of the capitalist politicians. What we are hearing from workers that if you speak the true and honest word of class struggle against class collaboration there is a resonance and a receptive understanding. There’s an immense reservoir for genuine militancy, especially within the trade unions. But without the ideas you can’t hope to build a consistent revolutionary movement. Class conscious workers will release a great power. That is the touchstone. That is ground for confidence. The living movement always appeals to the activists, and the mark of a living movement is its ability to attract fresh militants.

The working class cannot be written off until it has been definitively defeated on a worldwide scale. That hasn’t happened yet. It is impossible to stumble into socialism. It will have to be organised and directed by people and a party that have at their command all the theory, knowledge, resources, and lessons accumulated by the world working class. Its know-how and organisation in politics and action must match and surpass that of its enemies. The very physical existence of our species depends upon the realisation of our socialist goal.

The authors of the Communist Manifesto linked socialism and democracy together as end and means. The “self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority” cannot be anything else but democratic, if we understand by “democracy” the rule of the people, the majority. “The first step”, said the Manifesto, “in the revolution by the working class, is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy.” It is reiterated by statement of Marx and Engels that “the emancipation of the working class is the task of the workers themselves”. That is the language of Marx and Engels—“the task of the workers themselves”. That was just another way of saying—as they said explicitly many times—that the socialist reorganisation of society requires a workers’ revolution. Such a revolution is unthinkable without the active participation of the majority of the working class, which is itself the big majority of the population. Nothing could be more democratic than that. They never taught that the simple nationalisation of the forces of production signified the establishment of socialism. That’s not stated by Marx and Engels anywhere. Still less could they have sanctioned, even if they had been able to imagine, the monstrous idea that socialism could be realised without freedom and without equality; that state-owned command economy, controlled by a ruthless police dictatorship, complete with prisons, torture chambers and forced-labour camps, could be designated as a “socialist” society. Marxists defined socialism as a classless society—with abundance, freedom and equality for all; a society in which there would be no state, not even a democratic workers’ state, to say nothing of a state in the monstrous form of a bureaucratic dictatorship of a privileged minority. We will not put the socialist movement on the right track and restore its rightful appeal to the best sentiments of the working class and above all to the young, until we begin to call socialism by its right name as the great teachers did and restate the thoughts and formulations of those authentic Marxist teachers. Capitalism, under any kind of government is a system of minority rule, and the principal beneficiaries of capitalist democracy are the small minority of exploiting capitalists; scarcely less so than the slave-owners of ancient times were the actual rulers and the real beneficiaries of Greek democracy.


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