Sunday, April 01, 2018

The Left - The Visionless Movement

The one thing that most clearly marks off the Socialist Party from the other organisations which claim an interest in socialism, is our view that the only possible basis for a socialist party is an understanding of socialist principles. It is no uncommon thing for members of the Socialist Party to be met with the charge that they are only mystics, airy philosophers destitute of any practical notions of how to carry on the society which they propose to establish. No substitute has yet been discovered for Socialist education. It is a slow job and not so exciting or remunerative as that of sweeping the un-class-conscious workers off their feet with stirring "practical” measures.

The establishment of socialism is essentially a practical proposition. It is the definite object of the Socialist Party, the goal of our activity. If the workers do not show any enthusiasm for this object that is not because it is "theoretical," but because they do not understand the need for it. They are quite prepared to accept their slave-status (are indeed unaware that they are slaves), and gladly leave planning to their leaders and masters. When they wake up to the fact that they are slaves and that a change in the basis of .society is necessary, they will also realise that in future they have got to do the planning as they march along the road to their emancipation. They will not look to leaders to plan for them. On the other hand, there is no necessity for a small minority of the working class (such as the Socialist Party is at the moment) to anticipate the decisions of the majority which it will one day become. Certainly, there is no harm in speculation, so long as it is recognised as such, and so long as the speculators do not attempt to force their speculations upon us as a necessary programme. Discuss, by all means just what is going to happen in twenty or thirty years' time; but do not forget the fate of the practical programme drawn up by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto eighty-three years ago. In twenty-five years it had, in its authors' own words, become somewhat "antiquated” owing to the rapid pace of industrial development. The pace is even more rapid to-day. That is the main reason why the Socialist Party steers clear of so-called plans and programmes. A further reason is that outsiders have a fatal knack of confusing a programme which, at its best, can only be a means to an end, with the end itself; or, to put it another way, the "programme" and not the object (i.e., socialism) occupies first place in their minds. The result can be seen in the fate of the old Social Democratic Parties in this and other countries. Numbers were attracted into these organisations by the immediate programme, the sound Socialist element was swamped, and these parties eventually degenerated into step-ladders for political job-hunters, who in turn operated as tools for the master-class. The preference of the Socialist Party for scientific principles rather than for speculative programmes is thus not a mere foible, it is based upon bitter experience.

The Socialist Party is not in any doubt as to what it has to do when it has conquered political power. Its job will be to convert the means of living into the common property of society. We believe the economy should be democratically owned and controlled in order to serve the needs of the many, not to make profits for the few. Poverty exists in all lands where the means of producing wealth exist in the greatest abundance. The very conditions of the problem provide the means for its solution. It is for the workers to discover them. The solution for such a situation cannot be found along the lines of supporting any political party which asks for power to administer capitalism, for capitalism, as a system, is responsible for the problem. In order to obtain free access to the means of living, the workers must use their political power to remove the existing legal barriers; in other words, they must abolish capitalist ownership of these means. They must make the land, factories, railways, etc., the common property of the whole people and establish democratic control over them in the interests of all.

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