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Socialism from below

There is a saying “the perfect is the enemy of the good” and members of the Socialist Party are often accused of this because we strive solely for the establishment of socialism and nothing less. We have on innumerable occasions refuted such allegations in the sense that we have never opposed workers seeking amelioration of their conditions within capitalism but we have argued that it is not the task of a socialist party to seek reforms of the system it endeavours to overthrow. Our case is based upon another well-knowing adage - “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”. Throughout history we have witnessed workers organisations advocate reforms and palliatives and they have advanced not one step towards socialism but have changed into supporters of the status quo.

If a person is suffering from a fatal disease and the only chance of survival is an operation, is he or she being a martyr if the person submits to this operation? Most will say, no. He or she is acting intelligently. Therefore, if society is suffering from the cancer of capitalism that all the best treatments offered are merely palliatives which aren’t going to cure, what choice has the intelligent worker? One can either resign oneself to the progressively worsening of the capitalist system - more wars; increasing poverty and mounting environmental damage. Or he or she can submit to the operation known as social revolution!

Workers have been working harder and more productively but aren’t seeing any change in how much they take home at the end of the week. A study from America by the Economic Policy Institute found that many parents’ paychecks aren’t enough to cover their family’s most basic needs, and that working full-time at the federal minimum wage isn’t enough for a parent with one child to get by anywhere in the US. Even though the recession has passed most Americans have failed to see improvements in their pay, according to a recent study by the National Employment Law Project. This is especially true for those who work in the retail, food service, and home-care industries, which already are among the lowest paying sectors and have seen the greatest declines in take-home pay. All the while, more and more corporations are leaving the people who cook our food and stock our shelves without the right to stand together to demand better wages and working conditions. And, profitable corporations like McDonald’s and Walmart are keeping their employees from working enough hours to pay the bills and making their lives impossible to plan.

The forces that keep working people living on the brink are beginning to fall apart, and it’s not a mystery as to why: People have been beginning to stand together and press for change. Still, there is so much work that remains.

Some ‘socialists’ say the way to change things is to rely on enlightened leaders to do it for you. These ‘great’ people will shape the world for us, for our own good. The most we can do is admire and trust the wise in their work.  ‘Socialism’ from above is elitist and bureaucratic. It leaves the exploited majority in the same position as before. It is the Fabianism and reformism of the Labour Party intellectuals.

Socialism from below is entirely different. Its rallying cry is the first sentence of the Rules of the First Workers’ International: ‘The emancipation of the working class must be conquered by the workers themselves.’ Socialism can only be achieved if working people themselves inspire it, create, develop and strengthen it. Their own consciousness and self-organisation is the only possible basis for socialism. Such a socialism must be, in its essence, democratic, involving the mass of workers in taking over and running society in their own interests, under their own control. Socialists endeavour to chart a new world free of the State and freed from nationalism.


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