The world is never out of crises. It is fairly well agreed, I think, that no generation has faced such a dangerous situation as ours. Responsible scientists warn insistently that there will be lasting environmental damage to the human race which can mean the extinction of all the higher forms of life. No generation has ever been given an opportunity as fraught with responsibility as ours.
The answer is a social revolution. The theory and practice of reformists is to modify capitalism, of a gradual “growing into” Socialism by means of legislative palliatives and ameliorations. Capitalism cannot reform itself; it cannot be reformed. Humanity can be saved from its excesses only by a socialist revolution. Socialists insist that the parliamentary capitalist state can never be the basis for the introduction of socialism.
The term “socialism” embraces a multitude of evils in the eyes of the proponents of the capitalist system. The first argument against socialism was the assumption that capitalism had always existed and would naturally always continue to exist because it corresponded with “human nature.” Hard facts upset this naive assumption. Capitalism was shown to be but a newcomer among economic systems; it is less than five hundred years old. Moreover, the decline of other systems after their rise indicated a similar fate for capitalism. Associated with that standard argument was socialism represented a beautiful ideal but lacked a basis in reality; socialists were, therefore, nothing but Utopians. The working class, created by capitalism itself, was shown to have a decisive economic interest in the development of socialism, and since socialism signifies a higher level of economy and culture, leading to a classless society, the working-class movement in this direction represents the interests of society as a whole. In addition, the worldwide industrial system established by capitalism provides a sufficient base for the enormous increase in productivity required to realize socialism. The growth of socialist sentiment is inevitable, for the development of capitalism itself impels it. The technological expansion of industry on the scale now required and now possible is qualitatively beyond the capacity of capitalist property relations. Popular consciousness, no matter how resistant, cannot fail to catch up with this fact. The constant renewal of the class struggle on a worldwide scale is the single most encouraging sign of the readiness of people to struggle for socialism. As Marx long ago pointed out, the classless society of the future will be the inevitable outcome of the class struggle, intensified and carried to its logical conclusion. No piecemeal reforms or partial solutions can bring an end to this state of things. We must resist the efforts of the apologists of the capitalists to sow illusions about “reforming” capitalism, and, instead, build our movement with the perspective of overthrowing it.
Marx’s “association of free and equal producers,” determines its own production and distribution, is thinkable only as a system of self-determination at the point of production, and the absence of any other authority than the collective will of the producers themselves. It means the end of the State or any state-based system of exploitation. It must be a planned production, without the intervention of exchange relations and the vicissitudes of the market system. History has shown that real change in the interests of the majority can only be achieved by challenging the very core of capitalist exploitation – in the workplace. Parliament is an institution of capitalism. It makes the laws which ensure the exploitation of the majority by the rich minority. Decisive at times, it is wrong to be mesmerised by parliament or parliamentary parties. It can be used in that as a component of a bigger, broader peoples’ action. Our vision is far beyond simply elections and far beyond putting political leaders into office. Instead of exposing the bosses, politicians have put the blame for the crisis on foreign-born workers, women, and minorities—anything that serves to divide the people and hide the real nature of the problem.
It is a sign of the times that more and more people are talking about socialism yet it is surprising how little discussion there is today among socialists about socialism. Many describe themselves “socialist” but more often than not the label is meaningless. Many who claim to adhere to socialist ideas believe we ought to concern ourselves exclusively with the ‘practical’, ‘day-to-day issues’ of the class struggle, leaving a future revolution to take care of itself. So if we are socialists, what are we actually striving for?
It should be clear that a socialist campaign means a campaign with the fundamental purpose to teach the necessity of the destruction of the capitalist system and the substitution by a socialist society. To try to get people to vote for our candidates merely because we promise them some immediate reforms is to enter into competition with all the other political parties on their own ground and there is no earthly reason why the workers should prefer whatever our brand of reforms would be to those of the others. Within the limits of what is possible under capitalist conditions we can offer no more and no better reforms than can any other party and the workers would be entirely correct if, on the basis of an appeal for reforms, they would turn their backs to us and vote for the more “practical” parties with a higher chance of achieving them. To distinguish ourselves fundamentally from all reformist groups by carrying on a campaign for socialism and only socialism is not only theoretically correct also common sense. We acknowledge that when we do conduct a campaign on socialist lines our vote will not be a huge one but also it has to be recognised that if we don’t conduct such a campaign there is no use having one at all. Why advocate a platform of immediate demands and at the same time stress the necessity for socialism unless it is only a bait for getting votes.