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Power to the People

Under capitalism, a class divided society resting upon the exploitation of wage-labour, social justice is a contradiction in terms, a vague platitude, a mere piece of political phrase-mongering. So-called justice and injustice co-exist within the framework of the private-property relationship of capitalism and are conditioned by the class interest of the people involved. Justice from the standpoint of the capitalist class must equate to the legal recognition and enforcement of their minority monopoly of the means of production. Since this leaves the working dais without means of production, a socially inferior class compelled to sell their physical and mental energies in order to live, the whole edifice of capitalism rests upon built-in privilege and inequality. The Socialist Party has always maintained that even if all the promises and reform proposals of the reformist parties were carried out, the poverty and insecurity of workers would remain. In fact it is the continuing poverty and insecurity of the working class despite all past reforms and legislation that repeatedly prompts further reform demands to try to keep the worst excesses of the situation under control. The working class still have to sell their physical and mental energies to the capitalist class in order to live, and profit remains the motive force behind production. The only meaningful use of the term ‘social revolution’ is in the context of abolishing this set-up. It is vital, in order to learn the futility of reformism. Reforms beget reforms. All this tinkering with effects leads nowhere.

Socialism can be practiced only when a majority of the world’s population want it and are determined to make it work; in other words, when they are prepared to take equal shares of the responsibilities involved in running it. And working-class responsibility is something the capitalist class, consciously or not, does its very best to discourage. One form of discouragement is the myth of the 'politician'—a specialist in rhetoric, wit, parliamentary procedure, and vote-catching, who is obliged to play ‘a dirty game’, who has no choice but to sacrifice his principles now and then to his party’s interests or to pragmatism, and whose ‘political career' is capable of being ‘ruined’ when his Cabinet colleagues or an ungrateful electorate stab him in the back. “I leave that to the politicians’ is a common phrase. No, in running society each one of us has an equal liability. It is a pity that the political disillusionment so often talked about at present is in most cases an excuse for cynical inaction or incoherent protest rather than a spur to seeking a lasting cure.

Another way of ensuring that the working class lacks responsibility is to deny it opportunities for participation in controlling the means of living. Of course, ‘participation’ is another of those well-worn words but it consists merely of offering suggestions, giving specialist advice, lobbying on behalf of particular groups, or voting for one of a few alternatives — those alternatives which conflict with ruling-class interests having been carefully sifted out beforehand. True participation means being given all the facts to consider taking into account proportionately the interests of all the people who will be affected by the decision, and helping to work out and vote on all the alternatives. When people are denied these opportunities it isn’t surprising that they become apathetic, irresponsible, and selfish and that there is political disillusion.

Responsibility is inseparable from control, and control is in turn inseparable from ownership.


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