Friday, September 25, 2015

The Socialist Party Choice

The Socialist Party is the party of the workers organised to express in political terms their determination to break their fetters. Socialists are no better, cleverer or sharper than anyone else but when we act together we have far more influence than we would have as isolated individuals. Socialists come together in an organisation committed to campaign against capitalist society in whatever guise it appears. Socialists seek a cooperative society where we pool our abilities and resources to create more for everyone, and to share it out fairly. The rich and powerful for their part combine with their own class consciousness to confound our aspirations. There is a crying need is for socialist organisation, in which socialists unite to produce their own media and organise solidarity for those who have taken the bosses on. There will be the people who have no truck with the bosses’ attacks upon workers’ living standards; no truck with wage cuts; no truck with cuts in welfare benefits or cuts in the public services. They will be the people who know that every sacrifice demanded from workers is just another way of protecting the wealth and power of the minority who control the wealth. In other words, there will be class struggle. Nevertheless workers’ struggles for wage increases or better conditions, even when successful, do not result in the anticipated rise in living standards, because in time gains are always  canceled out.

The living conditions of workers can only be improved when production is administered by the working class instead of the employers. An essential condition of victory in this struggle is that workers must break with not only the outright lackeys of capital but also with the reformers who compromise with our avowed enemy – the ruling class. A struggle which limits itself to merely obtaining a new re-distribution of our poverty is not yet a political struggle because it is not directed against the social structure of the production relations. Marx argued that the prevailing ideas will always be those of the ruling class. Socialists have to challenge these ideas and success is far more likely when its socialists are strong, confident, acting together, than weak, uncertain, fragmented and left to think things out on their own, at the mercy of these prevailing ideas.

The most important political work Socialist Party members do is among their own family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues. The democratic nature of a socialist revolution depends on its enjoying the support of the majority of the people. The winning of a majority is considered essential not only on grounds of expediency, but also because of the democratic nature of the socialist project. From the outset Marx rejected the elitist approach which proclaimed, ‘Here is the truth, kneel down before it!’ As against that, he wrote in 1843: ‘We develop new principles for the world out of the world’s own principles. We do not say to the world: Cease your struggles, they are foolish; we will give you the true slogan of struggle. We merely show the world what it is really fighting for, and consciousness is something that it has to acquire, even if it does not want to.’ Moreover the prospect of the withering away of the state was based, as Engels made clear, on ‘a free and equal association of producers’ to the effective development of which minority rule would constitute an insurmountable obstacle. Marx and Engels were convinced ‘that in no social order will personal freedom be so assured as in a society based upon communal ownership’.

The Socialist Party has made some original and creative advances in Marxist theory, it is for us to now communicate these political ideas imaginatively and organise effectively to make political change. The Socialist Party party is not the future ruling class of a state, or a directing dictatorial body, but that section of the working class which is most politically and class conscious and which seeks to argue, agitate, and mobilise for mass working class struggle and self-activity. Pannekoek and Gorter agreed at key moments on the need for exactly such a party. Pannekoek noted, ‘The function of a revolutionary party lies in propagating clear understanding in advance, so that throughout the masses there will be elements who know what must be done and who are capable of judging the situation for themselves’, while Gorter argued for the need ‘to unite the section of the proletariat that has a large and profound understanding within one organisation ... to overcome or relieve all the weaknesses ... to which the factory organisation is subject’.

The task of building a mass socialist party today is vital. We should seize the day in a non-sectarian spirit, using measured language, which takes into account the existing and long-term needs of the labour movement. In these conditions we should generalise our agitation on a broad range of questions, eschewing like the plague left-talk sloganising. The first and most obvious lesson is the importance of socialist organization is we keep our socialist commitment not just in the flow of the tide – which is easy – but in its ebb as well. When the workers’ confidence turns down, when employers rule the day, the only way to keep high the aspirations for a new social order is through association with other socialists, learning from and teaching one another, extending our understanding of how the revolutionary tide has ebbed and flowed in the past. No matter how great the victory of the ruling class, it can never escape the continuing class struggle. Since the society it governs is founded on exploitation, there will always be people resisting it, sometimes aggressively, confidently and successfully; more often defensively, and unsuccessfully. This resistance is the only real hope for lasting change. Association with it by organised socialists is the best guarantee that the socialist ideas which inspire us can be kept alive and relevant in the bad times as easily as they can in the good. In this way we never lose contact with socialist aspirations or the living battles of real people on which they depend.

Our most dangerous enemies are our so-called ‘friends.’ The Socialist Party shall continue to oppose the Left because we are working and fighting for socialism. We want cures instead of palliatives. The more misery increases, the more working people sink into despair and become the hopeless prey of all the most reactionary influences and movements. By far the great majority of workers will stay ‘reformist’ because either they do not see an alternative or because they fear the alternative. Our task in the Socialist Party is to offer the socialist choice as the only feasible practical option. 

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