There is no copyright on the term socialist and it is used by all sorts of people in all sorts of confused ways. The differences is that we contend that socialism can only logically and scientifically mean one thing
The capitalist class is only one of the two classes of capitalist society. The other is the working class. These two classes have no interests in common so that any party which takes on the task of governing is inevitably brought into conflict with the working class. The class struggle is a social phenomenon which cannot be abolished by mere pronouncement or by signing scraps of paper. It has its roots in the structure of society. Capitalism is based on the monopoly over the means of production by a minority, the capitalist class. As a result the working class are forced to work for this class.
And there is a struggle over the division of the product of labour. The share of the capitalist (profit, rent, interest) can only be increased at the expense of the share of the worker (wages) and vice versa. But this is not just a price struggle which can be settled by bargaining; it is a class struggle which can only be finally ended by the expropriation of the capitalist class.
This struggle takes place whether it is recognised for what it is or not. The trade unions in Britain, though to a certain limited extent an expression of this struggle, have never recognised this. They have regarded the struggle between employers and workers as a mere price struggle. They have sometimes acted on the assumption that there is a community of interests between employers and workers. Now trade unions have become an accepted part of the capitalist order in Britain. As long as the membership of the trade unions are not class-conscious, it can hardly be expected that the unions themselves would act on the principle of the class struggle. Although the trade unions are not all they might be as working class organisations, this does not detract one bit from the importance of trade unionism, of working class organisation on the economic field.
Ever since socialists first appeared and made the case for abolishing capitalism, they have had to contend with opponents voicing variations on the common theme of retaining that system. All of these reformers agree with each other in rejecting the Socialist argument that we can and should have a social system which will have no place for prices, wages, profits etc. They say that the human race cannot do without these things, and in any event has no need to waste time trying to do so because there is nothing wrong with them in principle, only with the way they are used. So at each general election we start a new round of schemes supposed to rid us of worries about prices, wages, strikes, monopolies and so on. And each succeeding election finds things just the same except that the government and opposition may have changed places.
The Socialist Party contends that the only way society will be transformed is for there to be a majority of workers who understand and want socialism. These workers must take away power from the capitalist minority. Just as workers give social power to the master class through the ballot box, so the ballot box can be used to show that a majority rejects capitalism and those who seek to run it. The ballot box will only be one part of the revolutionary process, the far greater part being the development of majority class consciousness and the building of an active movement by the revolutionary class. Unless political power is taken from the minority it will be used against the majority.
Of course, the precise details of the revolutionary change will differ from country to country depending on the political conditions (where legal ballots do not exist or cannot be trusted the workers must create our own) and it will also differ in accordance with different creative ideas about what needs to be done before the establishment of socialism which will emerge as the socialist movement grows. In this sense it is quite right to say that the millions of men and women who will be the architects of the new world. will decide the exact means by which the revolution is to occur. However, the revolutionary process cannot avoid democratic political action and still produce socialism. Without democratic action there will be no democratic society: without political action the state will be used to crush a non-political "socialist" movement.
The Socialist Party cannot conceive of a way in which a socialist system of society will be established except by democratic means.