The world is in desperate peril and what is needed now is not an uncritical acceptance of the qualities which capitalism needs and honours but a penetrating questioning of the social system. The sad fact is that it is the workers who suffer under capitalism, who so ardently stand up for the system. It would be pleasant to be able to wash our hands of capitalism but we cannot do this—we cannot live outside the system. The reason for this is that at present the capitalist class hold their power by the support of the workers. As this support lessens, as the socialist movement grows, the power of the capitalists diminishes. Their promises, their threats, their sops, which are so readily accepted by workers now, will lose their effect. As the number of socialists grows the class struggle will take on a different appearance. Socialist trade unionists, for example, would never fall for threats and promises from a Labour government and agree to reduce their living standards, as some unionists are doing now. And, of course, as this situation develops the ruling class would be eager to try to divert the movement with ever more generous reforms. It is true that at present few people are inclined to grasp socialist knowledge. Some of the blame for this rests on organisations like the Labour Party, which have spread confusion among the working class and have dragged the name of socialism through the mud. Perhaps our attacks on capitalism inspire Labourites and Leftists. What effect, then, do our attacks on those parties, as pro-capitalist, have on those people? We hope to make them think about society, and about what to do with the power in their hands. This is the positive side of socialist propaganda—every attack we make upon capitalism has two edges and the other is the conclusion, that socialism alone can end the problems of the modern world.
A minority of socialist MPs would certainly support genuine reforms in working class standards and conditions but they would not be allowed to make the mistake of becoming reformist — of offering reforms as a political programme and an alternative to Socialism.
The class ownership of the means of production and their use to make profits is the basis of modern, capitalist society. It means there are two opposed classes: those who own and those who because they don't own must work for those who do. Mere democratic reform that leaves untouched this class basis of society is not nearly enough. A genuine democracy in which all the people would have a free and equal say in the conduct of political, economic, and social affairs. That, more or less, is our aim too. But we say it can be achieved only on the basis of the common ownership of the means of life. For as long as the means by which society must live belong to a class there will be the exploitation, oppression, and social inequality that frustrate democratic control today.
We are not really surprised that many who want a new and better society should tend to steer clear of the word ‘socialism’. We ourselves are only too painfully aware of what it means to many people—the oppressive regime of the former Soviet Union and its satellite states, the discredited Labour parties, the swindle of nationalisation. The Socialist Party has always tried to keep alive the real meaning of socialism as a democratic world community based on the common ownership of the means of life where the one aim of production will be to satisfy human needs. With the end of class ownership everybody will be socially equal and free to take part in the running of social affairs. The oppressive government machine, which is needed only to maintain ‘law and order' in class society, will be dismantled and replaced by the democratic administration of industry. With common ownership and production for use, the barriers to abundance will have been removed so that society can rapidly go over to “from all their best, to all their need”. People will work as best they are able and then take from the common store whatever they need. This is socialism.
Because full democracy can be achieved only through socialism it is futile to separate the pursuit of the one from the pursuit of the other. To fight for democracy alone could mean the achievement of neither socialism nor democracy. Efforts should be concentrated on the struggle for socialism. It is not from contesting elections, but from advocating reforms, that the danger comes. Parliament, which makes the laws the police enforce, is a body those who want to reform capitalism, let alone replace it by socialism, must capture. A socialist majority outside parliament, using their votes to elect a socialist majority inside parliament, could use political power to institute the common ownership of the means of production. That in fact is our policy and why we have ourselves had candidates in the past. So, it’s not elections in themselves that are dangerous. Far from it. It is vitally important that those who want to change society should take part in elections. The danger comes from fighting for reforms of capitalism, outside as well as inside parliament. Socialism, as a democratic community based on the voluntary co-operation of its members, can be set up and run only by people who are fully aware of its implications. It can be set up only when a majority understand and want it. Support built up for reforms cannot be turned into support for socialism, for most of those who want the reforms will have illusions about what present-day society can offer. They will assume that all that is needed is the will to do something—end the housing scandal, stop unemployment — and that implementing this is just a simple administrative matter. Capitalism, however, is not a rationally-organised community, but a class society subject to its own economic laws. Because it is based on the profit motive and on the exclusion of the workers from ownership it cannot be made to serve human needs and can never solve the housing or health or education or employment problems of the workers. Capitalism is a class system that can work only one way: as a profit-making system in the interest of the class that lives off profits.
We are out for LIFE for the workers. The world is beautiful. Life is glorious. Even work is joy if a man may, as Morris said, “rejoice in the work of his hand.” Evolution has given us the possibility of producing by work, as distinct from toil, wealth in such abundance that the amenities of civilisation shall be the portion of all, without scrimping.