Monday, July 31, 2017

The new ideal

The viability of our planet support humanity is now being questioned.

The Socialist Party claims that the majority of the working class are capable of understanding socialism. This being so we are often asked the question, why then, are there not many more socialists? At present, the vast majority of workers mistakenly can only see the solution to their problems in reforming capitalism in one way or another. Capitalism itself is not questioned, it is only the patching up of its effects that is attempted. What is seen and heard in the mass media is the misuse of the word Socialism and distortions of Marx’s ideas. This means that we are called upon to waste a lot of time in explaining what socialism is not, that socialism does not yet exist anywhere. What is important about the mass media is not so much that they create attitudes and values but that they continue to reinforce existing ones. Socialist ideas are not propagated in a vacuum but within capitalist society, meeting all the obstacles and prejudice of capitalist ideology. A great deal of expense and time is spent perpetuating attitudes which maintain the capitalist system. Marx wrote, and it still applies today, that “The prevailing ideas in society are the ideas of the ruling class.”

It is also a fact that capitalism will not let workers rest content, it is forever throwing problems in their way. Old problems such as poverty and relatively new ones such as pollution, drug addiction, increasing mental illness and many others. All the time capitalism with some fresh horror demands that we sit up and take notice. The problems, tragedies, and frustrations of capitalism are not easily escaped. To those who say “Yes, socialism is a good idea, but you will never get the majority of people to understand it,” we ask: If you can understand Socialism, why not then the majority of people? For those who think us idealists and say “Yes it sounds like a very fine ideal.” We reply that socialism is not an ideal. It is based on the sound facts of the way human society evolves, and the way capitalism works. We are not asking for a change of heart — we are asking for the conversion of the means of production from private or state ownership to common ownership. The material conditions for socialism have long been in existence. All that is needed is for the majority of the working class to realise their common interest in abolishing capitalism. That mighty force would then have arisen, the class-conscious working class with one objective — the establishment of socialism. With this end in view, and armed with socialist knowledge, the working class will fulfill their role. This great and final act as members of the working class will free them from the chains of the wage-labour and capital relationship which now holds them in its grip. Then they will emerge as men and women in a classless society, securely resting on the sound basis of the common ownership of the means of production. The wars, the rat-race, the poverty and all the other evils which arise from property society would then have gone from the scene of a truly human society. Men, women, and children would then be free to develop their potential and their relations with each other as human beings. This is not an ideal but a practical and material demand that is in line with the interests of workers throughout the world. 

Marx’s participation in the FirstInternationall was a resumption of the same strategy derived, through Engels, from the Chartist experience of the early 1840s which had motivated his earlier collaboration with Ernest Jones. Because he believed that out of the economic organisations of the working class would eventually evolve a conscious political movement for socialism, he was not too concerned about the political ideas of the trade union leaders he had agreed to work with. The development of the working class movement itself would, Marx believed somewhat over-optimistically, sooner or later put this right. The important thing at this stage for Marx was to set this movement in motion, to encourage independent working class trade union and political activity. Marx’s participation in the British trade union movement was not confined to theorising. The First International was concerned with trade union matters and has been accurately described as being during this period “an international trade union liaison committee". When a strike occurred in Britain and the employer imported blackleg labour from the Continent, the IWMA intervened, often successfully, with leaflets and speakers in the appropriate language, to persuade the continental workers not to break the strike. Similarly, when a strike occurred in Britain or on the Continent, the IWMA publicised it and raised funds from workers and trade unions in other countries to help the strikers and their families. Marx, as a member of the General Council, played his part in such activities, drafting for instance a leaflet addressed to German tailors concerning a strike.

The Socialist Party has no time for compromise; we stand entirely and singly for the establishment of a new social order. This order can be brought into being only through a social revolution which must be the outcome of a democratic act by the world working class. And the essential of that act is that it will he the work of politically aware socialists — of people throughout the world who understand that capitalism cannot operate in their interests and who have therefore resolved to sweep it away and replace it with socialism. But conscious political action cannot result from confusion and deceit. A party which aims, as the SPGB aims, at the development and expansion of political awareness cannot achieve its object by spreading confusion and by wavering in its principles. Such a party must be based on its object of socialism; nothing else will do and nothing else will therefore be considered. From this basis the events of capitalism, and the actions of the parties which support capitalism, can be analysed and exposed. Socialism will be a society based on the communal ownership.  It will be a democratically controlled society. Its wealth will be turned out to meet human needs and will therefore be freely available to everyone. It will be a system without classes and therefore without class conflict. Socialism's harmony of interests will remove war and poverty from human experience. That will be a very different social order from that which dominates us today.

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