Trade unions are essential for the working class and have done much to advance its cause. Without them, workers would still be subject to the every whim and fancy of the employers and their foremen. Strikes, even when small and weak, constitute breaks of the workers with capitalism. They are living refutations of the time-worn conservative trade union slogan that the interests of capital and labour are identical. They are expressions of the irreconcilable quarrel between the workers and the employers over the division of the workers’ products. They are skirmishes in the great class war, foreshadowing the final struggle which will abolish capitalism. During strikes, workers are in an especially militant and rebellious mood. They are then highly receptive of revolutionary ideas. It is then above all that they can and must be taught the full implications of their struggle. To rouse the class consciousness of the workers and to educate them to understand the class struggle and the historic mission of the working class is always a first consideration in a socialist strike strategy. The employers are more and more giving a political character to strikes, especially those in key industries and during crises by using all branches of their state power against the workers. But unions, while indispensable in the struggle of the workers against capital, have limits as well.
Capitalism has become an obsolete oppressive system that ought to be got rid of. A relatively small minority recognise this and are consciously anti-capitalist. During periods of economic crisis, the contradiction of capitalism sharpen and the possibility of actually getting rid of it arises. A substantial proportion of the population is drawn into active political struggle as they confront questions of what society is to do to get out of its impasse. There is no crisis that the ruling class could not resolve if it was allowed to, but with the masses politically active, the possibility arises of the ruling class not being allowed to, and of people taking things into their own hands. Between capitalists and workers there is no room for compromise. Reforms become impossible and even past achievements may be rolled back. “We can’t afford these luxuries any more”. Within the working class too, there is less unity as people find themselves in “hard times” where it is “everyone for themselves”. The “social fabric” unravels, consensus breaks down and capitalist society stands revealed as based on sharply antagonistic interests. The injustices of slavery and serfdom were eliminated by abolishing the social institutions of slavery and serfdom themselves, not by prohibitions against maltreatment of slaves and serfs. The injustices of wage labour will be eliminated by abolishing the social institution of wage labour itself, not by directions to employers to treat their workers better. As the Communist Manifesto argued, we should raise the “property question” to the forefront of all immediate, practical struggles. We should be quite clear that this is what we are on about.
We believe that the present system, of capitalism, is not part of an eternal “natural order” of things, not a consequence of “human nature”. It is a recent arrival in mankind’s history and its days are numbered. The problems we face – unemployment, poverty, slump, inflation, are not some “illness” of capitalism, they are an essential part of how it works. All these evils are the direct result of the private ownership of wealth, and the consequent exploitation by a few of the mass of the population, the workers who produce all wealth – and whose reward is a tiny pittance. This tiny minority of the population holds complete control of the economy and political power, and effectively controls all the machinery of the state, the armed forces, the police, judiciary and upper ranks of the civil service. The economic and political power of the capitalist class has its counterpart in the domination and control of the production of ideas, through which it maintains the repressive machinery of the state.
What do we mean by socialism? Not the phoney socialism of the Labour Party, for sure. The Labour Party has plainly shown its willingness to strengthen the corporate state. We are fighting for a working class democracy in which the producers of wealth, the working class will own the factories, the land, the hospitals, the schools, the courts etc. and will run them themselves according to the will of the majority,