There is only one necessary characteristic of a leader and that is he must have followers. Take away the followers and he ceases to be a leader. It seems too obvious to need mentioning, but whenever a plea is raised for a new leader or whenever disgust is shown against an old one this truism appears to be forgotten.
The Socialist Party holds that the emancipation of the working class must be the task of the working class itself. There is no secret formula. The main outlines can be grasped by any reasonable person. No need for a political shepherd —only those who do not know the way need to be led. Up to the present, the mass of the workers have lacked political knowledge and have voted for people instead of principles. They have given their votes to the people who made the most alluring promises, and as time proved the hollowness of the promises, the workers turned in disgust from one group of people to another, and then back again as the memory of previous disappointments faded. This fact has led many to question the usefulness of Parliament. They have forgotten that whenever the workers have placed their trust in leaders they have almost always been let down. The workers have been as readily betrayed on the industrial field, as they have on the political field. The trouble has not been due to the field of combat. It has been due to the method adopted. When the workers cease to regard certain individuals as endowed with some special capacity of "leadership,” they will adopt the method of issuing instructions to delegates that are to be carried out regardless of the delegates' own views or wishes. The ground will then be cut from under the feet of those who prosper out of leadership, and such people will no longer have a saleable article for the capitalist in the shape of a blind following. There have not yet been a Parliamentary test of the power of delegates acting on instructions given them by a large body of workers who knew exactly what they were after and how to get it. In fact, outside the Socialist Party, the method has never been really applied. Time after time the specious words of some acknowledged leader have diverted groups of workers from their original aims, generally on the plea of “expediency." The word “expediency" has acted as a useful veil for generations to cover the compromising activities of leaders, but of late there are indications that “tactics" will replace it. The truth is that the foolish and cowardly belief in this fetish of leadership has been a considerable barrier to working class knowledge and progress. The power and wealth leaders acquire induce them to fortify their positions and insist on the necessity of leadership as a permanent institution with the development of appropriate means for wire-pulling and mutual bargaining for position. The Labour Party has given the striking proof of this in recent years.
Socialism will not be possible until the mass of the workers understand it and are prepared to vote for it. If a working class that did not understand socialism were to vote for it, the result would only be chaos, as the first attempts to put it into operation would bewilder the majority of people and leave the way open for a counter-revolution. When the workers understand Socialism they will know what to expect and what will be involved in putting it into operation, and here they will defeat the efforts of any delegates ready to sell themselves to the opposition. In such circumstances a delegate could only sell once; he would not get a second chance.
There is but ONE remedy for all the evils of working-class existence, and ONE only — it is the solution which does not pay the “leaders of labour ” to propagate. For that task, the Socialist Party has been established. We insist that these evils are all part and parcel of, and inseparable from, the present social order—capitalism—a system of society in which the means of wealth production are owned and controlled by a small section, on whom the mass of the people are dependent. These evils will persist and glow unless and until the working class, organised in the socialist parties, make an end to private ownership so that no individual will be dependent on another private individual for his material subsistence. In socialism, such absurdities as poverty in the midst of plenty, which is the outstanding feature of capitalism, will be unthinkable, because society will produce all human comforts and conveniences for USE only and not for profit. The product of men’s hands will then cease to play tricks with them, and the further improvement of machinery, which spells wreck and ruin to the workers to-day, will then only increase the real well-being of all. We insist that no proposition can be sound and worthy of working-class support that respects the present social order and does not aim at the destruction of a system that deprives millions of people of a chance of earning a living, that humiliates and degrades, and drives thousands to despair and suicide. Any proposition that does not establish equal right for all to the means of life, deserves nothing but the contempt of the workers. Workers of the world! It is high time to rid yourselves of your illusions and of your leaders! Join our organisation and so leave your mark to posterity as men and women of whom they will be able to say that you assisted in the great task of saving the planet from the fangs of the monster incubus of capital!
Let us spread the knowledge of socialism and hasten its establishment.