Saturday, April 25, 2020

Socialism or Capitalism (1962 Glasgow Election Address)

 From the April 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our Glasgow Branch is contesting North Kelvin in the Municipal Elections in May, and we reprint here the Election address of the Party.

To the working men and women of North Kelvin ward

Fellow Workers,

This is the first time that the Socialist Party of Great Britain has contested an election in Glasgow. We shall run in the same manner as our comrades in London. Belfast and Vancouver have done in the past. We believe it is worthwhile for all workers to consider our case very carefully. You will find it unique. The Socialist Party is fundamentally different from all other political parties.

We intend to fight this election on the same platform as we have done in the past, that is, on the straight issue of Socialism or Capitalism. During this campaign you will see no posters or leaflets urging you to vote for our candidate. We shall not indulge in ballyhoo or electioneering stunts. We appeal to your understanding and intelligence, and not to your emotions and prejudices.

Who are the Working Class?

This manifesto is addressed to members of the working class. The Socialist Party is very particular about the accurate use of such words, therefore let us define what we mean when we use this term. By a worker we mean all those men and women who because they own little but their ability to work, must sell this ability for wages or salaries. Whether you be a doctor or a docker, a university professor or a street sweeper. If you have to work in order to live, you are a member of the working class.

Who are tho Capitalist Class?

90 per cent. of Britain's wealth is owned by less than 10 per cent, of the country's population. This group owns the means of producing and distributing wealth (i.e., the factories, the workshops, transport, etc.). Because they own these things they do not have to work for wages and salaries. Their income comes from rent, interest and profit which all comes from the difference between what the working class produces and what they receive in wages and salaries. In other words, the capitalist class live on the unpaid labour of the working class.

Cause of all our problems

In this short address I intend to show the Socialist attitude to such questions as Poverty. Housing, War and Rates. To really get to know the Socialist position I strongly advise you to attend our meetings and read our literature. Basically the position is that all the social problems confronting the worker today are the product of the type of world we live in. We call this society Capitalism, i.e., a society that has a working class producing all the wealth but only receiving back a small proportion of this wealth in wages, and a capitalist class living in ease and plenty on the exploitation of the worker.

Poverty—Its Cause

At every election the reformist politicians promise to abolish the poverty of the worker, but despite these promises we are still poor. We who produce the ocean going luxury yachts, must be content with a day's outing down the Clyde. We who build the mansions and the palaces, must be content with a room and kitchen in North Kelvin. We who toil all week in the factory, office, shipyard and warehouse, must content ourselves with the cheap and the shoddy yet produce all the beautiful articles for our parasitic masters to enjoy. While we have a subject class working for wages and a ruling class living on the workers labour, there will always be poverty despite the sugar coated promises of the politicians.

Housing and you

There is no doubt that in the election addresses you receive from our opponents, you will find a part dealing with housing. Rosy promises will be offered in this matter. We ask you to consider this question a little more carefully than in the past. Observe that all our opponents speak of a housing problem. This is rubbish. There is no housing problem. Any worker can have a house tomorrow just by lifting the 'phone. Building firms advertise in every newspaper begging people to buy houses. The only thing that stops a worker from getting a house is his poverty. If you have the money you can have any house you desire. The thousands of workers clamouring for houses are not suffering from a housing problem but a poverty problem. While Capitalism lasts, the worker will always suffer poverty. Don’t be taken in by the politicians' promise of a new house. You can’t live in a promise.

War and the Worker

Inside Capitalism everything is produced for a profit. But to realise a profit, the commodity has to be sold. To sell goods abroad is essential for any Capitalist country. In attempting to beat down competition from other sellers, the various governments threaten and bluster. But when the threats fail they go to war. Wars are fought for economic reasons, for markets, for sources of raw material, for trade routes and military bases. The working class of the world own little but their ability to work. Wars are won by one Capitalist group over another. Remember our opponents supported war in the past and will do so again. Only the Socialist Party has taken the correct working class standpoint on this issue—that is, wars are fought for economic reasons and workers have nothing to gain in fighting their masters’ battles.

The Fraud of Rates

At every municipal election the reformers make a great fuss about rates and local government spending. We state categorically that this has nothing to do with the working class. A rise or fall in the rates would benefit certain sections of the Capitalist class and injure other sections, but basically it would not alter the position of the worker. We would still be as poor no matter the level of the rates. Don’t be taken in by the job hunting would-be-councillors. Rates have nothing to do with you.

Our Opponents

All the political parties claim to be different. The Progressives talk about a new broom sweeping clean. The Labour Party talk about their democratic Socialism, the Social Credit party about their reforms of the monetary system. The Scottish nationalists claim what is needed is home rule. The Liberal, the Communist, the I.L.P., all of them claim to have a solution to your problems. We ask you to examine all their programmes—one thing will strike you forcibly. Despite all their various claims, when you examine them, you will find they have all something in common. All of them think that Capitalism can be reformed in the workers interests. All they ask is your vote and they claim everything will be all right. None of them want to change Capitalism to Socialism. All of them support the continuance of Capitalism.

It may be objected that such parties as the Labour and Communist parties have the interests of the working class at heart. After all, they claim to be Socialist. How true is this claim? The Labour Party have been in power in Glasgow for many years. They were in power for six years since the war. Has this fundamentally altered your position as workers? The Labour Party has broken strikes, supported a wage freeze, conscription and war. Are these working class actions? They say that nationalisation is Socialism, but this is a lie. State control has been introduced and supported by the Conservatives when it suits them; and likewise by the Labour Party. It is just another form or method for running Capitalism. Whether the industry is nationalised or not, you still have workers and Capitalists; exploited and exploiter. The Communist Party's claim to be Socialist is easily refuted by a look at Russia where they form the government. There you have State Capitalism, with a working class and a privileged class. The Russian workers, like workers all over the world, are living in poverty and insecurity.

The Non-Socialist Socialists

Unlike the Labour, Progressive and other reformist organisations we make no promises. The Socialist Party of Great Britain was formed in 1904 with one object: That is, the establishment of Socialism. This can only be brought about by the majority of the working class understanding and desiring Socialism. We make no claim to be leaders, for only when the working class understand what Socialism is, will Capitalism be abolished.

What is Capitalism ?

  • A world where the workers produce all the wealth yet live in poverty and insecurity.
  • A world that burns wealth to keep up prices while a third of the world starves.
  • A world that lives in perpetual fear of war.
  • A world where a handful live in ease and affluence on the misery of the majority.
  • A world that causes worker to oppose worker in the quest of a living.
  • A world where men are dehumanised and degraded for the insatiable greed of capital.

What is Socialism ?

  • A world where the means of living will be owned in common.
  • A world where everything will be produced for use and not for profit.
  • A world where war, crime, unemployment and poverty will be impossible.
  • A world where everyone will produce according to their ability and take according to their needs.
  • Socialism is a new social system. There will be no owners or non-owners. As everything will be owned in common there will be no money, banks, stock exchanges or insurance companies. Today, perhaps as many as four-fifths are doing work that would be completely useless under Socialism (e.g., ticket collectors, members of the armed forces, bank clerks, etc.). This means they will be able to do productive work for the first time and this should greatly decrease the working day.

We make no promises

Socialism is not a dream. It is a historic development and can become a reality as soon as you, the worker, understand and desire it. The real dreamers today are those who think you can have Capitalism without wars, poverty and unemployment.

As a candidate for the Socialist Party of Great Britain, I do not beg for your vote on any reform. If, in fact, you want some reform of the present social system, then your vote is not for the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

What I stress again and again, is that in order to bring about Socialism the majority must understand it. If you understand and desire Socialism, if you are aware that Capitalism can never operate for the benefit of the working class, then you will be aware that a vote for any of our opponents is a vote for the retention of Capitalism and a vote for the Socialist Party of Great Britain candidate is a vote registering your protest against Capitalism, a vote for Socialism—the new world.


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