Many have sympathy with the socialist idea of a world of common ownership and free access to replace the present system of buying and selling but say that such a transformation is such a long way off that in the meantime we must still aim for improvements within the framework of the existing system. They point to the changes that have taken place in people’s lives since the nineteenth century and that children no longer run around without shoes on their feet, no-one starves, medical facilities are available to all, everybody receives an education, and many people own things previously undreamed of - a car, a house, and a host of gadgets. It is worth trying to get more of these improvements, they say, and the best way to do it is to press governments for reforms. It may also seem that public agitation for reforms does a lot to help, as when abortion and homosexuality were legalised after many years of campaigning. While at other times very large reform movements such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the massive turn-out to oppose the Iraq invasion produces no alteration in government policy at all.
What distinguishes the Socialist Party from those who also want a class-free, state-free, wage-free, money-free society of common ownership and democratic control is our view that parliament can, and should, be used in the course of establishing such a socialist society. There is a strong sense of disenchantment with the world as it is which exists through the failure of the system to solve the many social problems. But still, the mistaken idea that the nature of the present system can be changed by reformism of one kind or another, or by state control continues to prevail. Governments have been formed with the intention of changing the nature of capitalism, so as to bring about a society which could work in the interest of the whole community. Far from being able to control capitalism, all governments have found themselves dancing to the tune played by economic forces. No government has succeeded in controlling the economy or the market system for the benefit of the whole community. To those who might think that political action could be better directed at “improving” capitalism, we say that those who took the same view in years past contributed by default to the present status of society. A sane society cannot be postponed without accepting the consequences of postponement.
The necessary means of achieving socialism are determined by the nature of socialism itself. A society organised as a result of conscious democratic control can only be established by conscious democratic means. The ends and means are inseparable. The only power which can change capitalist society is the democratic power of a majority of socialists acting in world co-operation.