Friday, March 27, 2020

Who we are and what we do

The Socialist Party provides us with both an understanding of how capitalism operates and an exciting, revolutionary alternative which can work in everyone’s interests. The party works to build a movement for real change. The party has a democratic, leader-free structure. The Socialist Party’s goal is to build a movement to democratically replace capitalism with socialism. In the meantime, our role is not just to spread socialist ideas, but also to put some of these into practice, as far as we can. The party is organised according to principles which we would like to see expanded upon and developed in a socialist society: principles such as equal, democratic and leaderless decision-making, cooperation, voluntary work, and avoiding prejudice and discrimination. How these principles translate into the party’s structure is described in the rule book ( spgb/party-rules) and Standing Orders, which have been democratically agreed on and amended by members over the years. Our principles of equality, democracy and co-operation are central to how the Socialist Party operates. They should also guide how we relate to each other. Working well together is crucial to how the party runs. We’re all working for the same aims, and each of us has different skills and ideas we can use together to help grow the socialist movement. All party members have equal opportunities to contribute and have their say, which makes a refreshing change from the hierarchies and limitations we have to put up with elsewhere in our lives. The party has always welcomed open, honest discussion, and members are encouraged to question and discuss the party’s views, organisation and procedures. That way, our position can remain relevant and important in wider society, and the party can remain democratic and transparent.

As all party work is voluntary, it is carried out in whatever spare time members have. It’s recognised that we each have lives outside the party, and other commitments which impact on our time available for party activity. In our working lives, there is no conflict between being a party member and joining a trade union or similar organisation. However, many unions fund the Labour Party, and members can opt out of paying this as part of their union subscription. Unions aim to improve workers’ conditions within capitalism, but are not political organisations. Nor are tenants’ associations, parents’ associations and the like. Being involved with some other organisations, though, is not compatible with being a member of the SPGB. Party members cannot belong to any other political party, nor assist them by voting for them or writing or speaking for them (except when challenging their views in a shared debate, for example).  
The Socialist Party is like no other political party in Britain. It is made up of people who have joined together because we want to get rid of the capitalist system and establish a worldwide socialist society. Our only aim is to build a movement of socialists for socialism, and we don’t accept that reforms can lead towards socialism or substantially improve capitalism. We aim to encourage others to share our views and act for themselves, organising democratically and co-operatively, to bring about the kind of society that we advocate. Unlike other political organisations, the party doesn’t have a leadership, and so our policies and culture are shaped by the membership as a whole. The framework we have is really there to support our main work, which is to promote socialism.

We publish literature, we hold meetings and debates throughout the country, and we state our case wherever possible in the media. We organise weekend conferences, we contest elections, and we discuss our ideas with people wherever we can. Our views on how capitalism operates have been proved right time after time, and we offer a revolutionary alternative which can be run in the interests of everyone. The party also contests elections: local, regional, national, and previously to the European Parliament. The main aim of this is as a platform for publicity, while also utilising what democratic practices exist in capitalism. The party’s views on using parliament are discussed in more detail in the pamphlet What’s Wrong With Using Parliament? ( pamphlet/whats-wrong-with-using-parliament) 
Getting involved in party activity not only helps build the socialist movement, it can also be interesting and rewarding for ourselves. As well as meeting others and sharing our ideas and views, it’s a good opportunity to develop skills and knowledge we might not be able to make use of elsewhere in our lives. Many of us feel dis-empowered or alienated in our jobs, and contributing to the party can be a more fulfilling antidote. Because the Socialist Party is based on cooperation, everyone has an equal say and equal opportunities to participate, which can be a refreshing change from being in organisations with hierarchies.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain was founded in 1904, following a split from the Social Democratic Federation, Britain’s earliest political party in the socialist tradition. The SPGB’s founder members were disillusioned with the SDF’s reformist stance and authoritarian leadership, and this commitment to revolution without leaders has remained ever since. The SPGB comes from the ‘Impossibilist’ strand of Marxism, which stresses the limited value of political, economic and social reforms in capitalism. Impossibilism holds that reforms are irrelevant or counter-productive to the goal of achieving real emancipation through establishing a socialist society.

Over the decades, the Socialist Party has provided a clear, thorough analysis of world events, based on an understanding of society’s economic and class basis. We have consistently opposed every war, highlighted how the systems in the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea and elsewhere have just been variants of capitalism, and called for equality between the sexes and between people of all ethnicities.

While the party’s principles have stayed unchanged, we have shaped our methods and perspective over the years, with all important decisions made by majority votes from the whole membership. We have always aimed to be as democratic and open as possible, believing that everyone should have an equal say and equal opportunities to participate.

And we believe that by working together, society can be transformed to benefit everyone. We are aiming for a democratic revolution to establish a classless, stateless society based on directly satisfying people’s self-determined needs and wants. Services, industries and agriculture would be owned and managed in common, with free access to what they produce and provide being available to anyone. And since capitalism is a global system of society, it must be replaced globally, and by the vast majority of people.

The Socialist Party has a long history, but our views and aims are more important now than ever. Our stance gives both an explanation of and a solution to today’s problems, such as threats to the environment, poverty and divisions between people. The more we can spread our ideas, the more we build the socialist movement. 

Branches are the main way that the party is organised, and are important for socialists to keep in contact with each other. The more members who contribute to their branch, the more views and experiences can be drawn on to further the party’s work. All members are on an equal footing, reflected in the democratic way that branches and their meetings are run.  If a member doesn’t live near a branch, they will be in Central branch, which also includes members living overseas, particularly in countries without a companion party. Branches have a Secretary (to organise meetings, including the agenda and minutes) and a Treasurer (to maintain the branch bank account), and may also appoint other roles such as a Literature or Campaigns Secretary.

Branches run business meetings which discuss activity, nominate members for election or appointment to party posts and committees, and discuss and propose items for the two party-wide meetings held each year, Conference and the Autumn Delegate Meeting. So, branches are of vital importance in how the party runs. Without decisions made by branches, members can’t get nominated for particular roles and changes to rules or procedures can’t be proposed. Branches also organise activities, which can include talks, reading groups or debates with other political organisations. Street stalls, leaflet drops and attending events run by other group can also be effective ways to engage with people. Branches are also encouraged to arrange social events or walks, art workshops, practical projects or visits to places of interest. The Socialist Party has a vital role in building a movement towards a new society based on equality and freedom. And we all have a vital part to play in this campaign. Along the way, we can meet new people, learn more and develop our skills.

Adapted and abridged from our members handbook

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