Saturday, August 19, 2017

For a world of mutual aid and free association

The World Socialist Movement is the product of international co-operation between socialist organisations and individuals who agree with the Declarations of Principles. It is our intention is to build this movement into an organisation that is truly global. Capitalism today, more than ever, is organised as a global system. Socialism too needs to be world wide. Our task is winning people to socialist ideas, and convincing people who desire social change that the sort of approach outlined in our Declaration of Principles is the appropriate strategy to adopt. We endeavour to promote awareness that social revolution is possible and necessary. Socialism will be built through the class struggle between the vast majority of society (the working class) and the tiny minority 9the capitalists) that currently rule. A successful revolution will require that socialist ideas become the prevailing thought within the working class. This will not happen spontaneously. Our role is to communicate an understanding of socialism in a battle of ideas against the pro-capitalist apologists.

Capitalism is the social system under which we live and is primarily an economic system of competitive capital accumulation out of the surplus value produced by wage labour. As a system, it must continually accumulate or go into crisis. Consequently, human needs and the needs of our natural environment take second place to this imperative. Capitalism is an ever-expanding economy of capital accumulation. In other words, most of the profits are capitalised, i.e. reinvested in production, so that production, the stock of means of production, and the amount of capital, all tend to increase over time ( in fits and starts). The economic circuit is thus money - commodities - more money - more commodities, even more, money. This is not the conscious choice of the owners of the means of production. It is something that is imposed on them as a condition for not losing their original investment. Competition with other capitalists forces them to re-invest as much of their profits as they can afford to in keeping their means and methods of production up to date. As a resul, there is continuous technological innovation. Defenders of capitalism see this as one of its merits and in the past it was insofar as this has led to the creation of the basis for a non-capitalist society in which the technologically-developed means of production can be now—and could have been any time in the last 100 years—consciously used to satisfy people’s wants and needs. Under capitalism this whole process of capital accumulation and technical innovation is a disorganised, impersonal process which causes all sorts of problems—particularly on a world-scale where it is leading to the destruction of the environment. The result is waste, pollution, environmental degradation and unmet needs on a global scale. If society is to be able to organise its production in an acceptable way, then it must abolish the capitalist economic mechanism of capital accumulation and gear production instead to the direct satisfaction of people's needs.

In socialist society, productive activity would take the form of freely chosen activity undertaken by human beings with a view to producing the things they needed to live and enjoy life. The necessary productive work of society would not be done by a class of hired wage workers but by all members of society, each according to their particular skills and abilities, cooperating to produce the things required to satisfy their needs both as individuals and as communities. All wealth would be produced on a strictly voluntary basis. Work in socialist society could only be voluntary since there would be no group or organ in a position to force people to work against their will. Socialism does not require us all to become altruists, putting the interests of others above our own. In fact socialism doesn't require people to be any more altruistic than they are today. We will still be concerned primarily with ourselves, with satisfying our needs, our need to be well considered by others as well as our material and sexual needs. No doubt too, we will want to “possess” personal belongings , and to feel secure in our physical occupation of the house we live in, but this will be just that – our home and not a financial asset. Such “selfish” behaviour will still exist in socialism but the acquisitiveness encouraged by capitalism will no longer exist. The coming of socialism will not require great changes in the way we behave, essentially only the accentuation of some of the behaviours which people exhibit today (friendliness, helpfulness, co-operation) at the expense of other more negative ones which capitalism encourages.

Goods and services would be provided directly for self determined needs and not for sale ; they would be made freely available for individuals to take without requiring these individuals to offer something in direct exchange. The sense of mutual obligations and the realisation of universal interdependency arising from this would profoundly colour people’s perceptions and influence their behaviour in such a society. We may thus characterise such a society as being built around a system of generalised reciprocity. 

 The Socialist Party case in elections is that we don't want your vote IF you think socialism means nationalisation, higher taxation, welfare state, national liberation, legalising marijuana or whatever. In short, we don't want your vote if you think we need to keep and act within existing capitalism. The Socialist Party explains that we can't do anything for you. We don't promise you anything. We say that if you want socialism you've got to act for yourselves. We can't establish it for you.  We're not making any promises, if you vote for us, you're the one making the promise to work towards abolishing capitalism and the wages system.

The Socialist Party stands in elections to enable any and all who would join the struggle to abolish capitalism to be able to signal to their fellow-workers that that is what they want to do. We stand for the sole purpose of emancipating the working class, not soft-padding the shackles of capital with satin. We only want the votes of those who understand what socialism is, and actually want it and are prepared to do something about it. We're not leaders, we're not looking for followers, we're only standard bearers, so to speak. 

Democracy under capitalism is reduced to people voting for competing groups of professional politicians, to giving the thumbs-up or the thumbs-down to the governing or opposition party. Political analysts call this the “elite theory of democracy” because all that the people get to choose is which elite should exercise government power. This contrasts with the original theory of democracy, which envisages popular participation in the running of affairs and which political analysts call “participatory democracy”.

The most we will get under capitalism is the right to vote, under more or less fair conditions, for who shall control political power - a minimalist form of democracy, but one not to be so easily dismissed, since at least it provides a mechanism whereby a socialist majority could vote in socialist delegates instead of capitalist politicians.

Bourgeois democracy is the best we can hope for under capitalism, but it is not the ideal model possible for the revolutionary. Capitalist democracy is not a participatory democracy, which a genuine democracy has to be. In practice, the people generally elect professional politicians, who they merely vote for, and then let them get on with the job.

In other words, the electors abdicate their responsibility to keep an eye on their representatives, giving them a free hand to do what the operation of capitalism demands. But that’s as much the fault of the electors as their representatives - or rather it is a reflection of their low level of democratic consciousness. It cannot be blamed on the principle of representation as such. 

There is no reason in principle why, with a heightened democratic consciousness (such as would accompany the spread of socialist ideas), even representatives sent to state bodies could not be subject, while the state lasts, to democratic control by those who sent them there.

The Socialist Party has never held that a merely formal majority at the polls will give the workers power to achieve socialism. We have always emphasised that such a majority must be educated in the essentials of socialist principles. It is the quality of the voters behind the vote that, in the revolutionary struggle, will be decisive. The institution of parliament is not at fault. It is just that people’s ideas have not yet developed beyond belief in leaders and dependence on a political elite.

What we in the SPGB propose, is that people should use the vote in the course of the social revolution from capitalism to socialism and vote capitalism out of office. To do this they will need to stand mandated delegates at elections, but these will just be ‘messenger boys and girls’, sent to formally take over and dismantle “the State”, not leaders or government minister wannabes.

The vote is merely the legitimate stamp that will allow for the dismantling of the repressive apparatus of the state and the end of bourgeois democracy and the establishment of real democracy. This should not be understood as simply putting an X on a ballot paper and letting the Socialist Party and its MPs establish socialism for workers. There must also be that “conscious” and active socialist majority outside parliament, democratically organised both in a mass socialist political party and at work in various forms of ex-trade union type organisations ready to keep production going during and immediately after the winning of political control.

We are a political party that has a membership who doesn’t require a leadership to make its decisions, that has an executive council which doesn’t determine policies, that has a general secretary whose role is to administer and not to control. As a matter of political principle, our party holds no secret meetings, with all its meetings, including those of its executive committee, being open to the public. Thus reflecting the society it seeks to establish.

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