Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Everything is Possible

The Socialist Party does not believe "that socialism can only come about via parliament", as explained quite clearly in its pamphlet, “What’s Wrong with using Parliament?” Rather, it believes that socialism can only come about as the conscious decision of a majority of the working class. And, given that, elections are one way, and, given present conditions, the safest and most sensible way, of propagandising for socialism (in the short term) and demonstrating majority support (in the long term). If conditions change, then the pamphlet mentions other ways of demonstrating majority support – demonstrations and strikes, for example.

We say in the pamphlet: "...the majority's organisation for socialism will not just be political and economic, but will also embrace schools and universities, television, film-making, plays and the like as well as interpersonal relationships. We're talking about a radical social revolution involving all aspects of life."
 And what do we use as historical examples to back up our view of majority support leading to relatively peaceful change? Things like the collapse of the state capitalist dictatorships in Eastern Europe in 1989-90. If what you are saying is correct, we would surely have dismissed such things as irrelevant to "the real business" of winning power through the ballot box. The plain fact is that both Marx and Engels, towards the ends of their lives, approved of the idea that the working class should use the ballot box to come to power. It's a simple and plain fact. You don't have to agree with Marx and Engels, of course, but you can't change the facts.
We are accustomed to hearing that the Socialist Party believes that socialism can only come through parliament, that any activity outside of parliamentary activity is a waste of time, that socialism can only come when the workers have been educated into the right ideas by the SPGB, that for us class struggle is an irrelevance compared with propagandising for socialism, and so on. All very amusing, but all absolute nonsense. We believe that socialism can only come about through the activity of the working class itself; that any activity outside of parliamentary activity is to be welcomed, if it is on sound, class lines, but that the Socialist Party as a party should not try to dominate or interfere except as individuals in solidarity with the rest of the membership; that education is a vital aspect of the struggle, to which we hope to make our own unique if small contribution; but that this propaganda work, however important, pales in comparison to the development of the class struggle, including the intellectual development of workers through their own self-education; that to establish socialism the working class must take political power, and that the most obvious and sensible way for them to do this, in democracies, is to use the vote (a view that can't be all that silly given that Marx and Engels agreed with it).
The Socialist Party position is that, once this consent to capitalist rule has been withdrawn, the question arises of what is the best way to end capitalism with a minimum of bloodshed and of disruption to production and social life?
 The Socialist Party answers: in those countries where stable, elective political institutions exist, by organising to take them over (as well as to take over and run production). Other ways are conceivable: ignoring the state, a general strike, civil disobedience, armed insurrection (as have all been proposed by anarchists in particular). The Socialist Party rejects these on the grounds of the risk of them leading to the "bloody civil war" that your correspondent seems to relish. The Socialist Party’s position is that, in the developed capitalist countries, using elective political institutions is the best (if not the only conceivable) way and that, in the event (and where, as in some less developed capitalist countries) of this not being possible, some other method would have to be used. As anyone who had been in the Socialist Party would know, it has always endorsed the old Chartist slogan of "peaceably if we may, forcibly if we must". The Socialist Party says that socialist agitation and education is essential to the emergence of a mass socialist consciousness, that it says that this is not the only factor involved. Socialist consciousness emerges out of the interaction of the working class discontent and struggle that is built-in to capitalism and the propagation of socialist ideas by that section of the working class which has, as a result of the same discontent and struggle, come to see things more clearly. Nobody claiming some affiliation with the ideas of Marx could claim otherwise. And the Socialist Party doesn't. But talking of Marx, while in the 1840's when he (mistakenly, as he and Engels later admitted) thought that the bourgeois revolution in countries like Germany would be rapidly followed by a proletarian one he did think in terms of socialism emerging out of a civil war... later he did argue that workers could and should use the vote and parliament. Anti-parliamentarianism is an anarchist not a Marxist position.
Our principles are very clear, we do not want to prolong the wage slavery, and we do not promote a better pay, which is only a capitalist reform, we want the total elimination of the wage system, because our immediate and future program is socialism, but we support any gain that might temporally benefit the working class. The Socialist Party is supportive of workers taking action to defend or extend their interests (pay and conditions), but as a Party does not take part in organising such actions. It may well be that individual members, as trade unionists, are involved in these actions, and there are examples of that in the Party's history and that of its companion parties. The Socialist Party’s role is chiefly one of education/propaganda, with some electoral activity as well – all of which is part and parcel of the class struggle. It recognises that it's inevitable that workers should resort to strikes etc. in order to protect ourselves from capitalism's assaults, but that these actions by themselves are not going to put an end to the wages system.
Many workers think the police and the state are a neutral force. The Socialist Party says they are not, but disregard the statement, and remains not convinced, until a strike or a protest and the police begins exercising brutality. Now, workers change their mind about the police and starts questioning the state and what exists and generally starts to 'think' about some things.' It's the experience of capitalism that makes workers question capitalism and in that confrontation alternative ideas develop of how to organise society on a different basis, the Socialist Party argues that we must be in the fray expounding socialist ideas, but not only that: how these ideas can be practically implemented by the working class; democratically; without leaders; the means of production will be own the community - the world community- and produced for needs of that community. The Socialist Party maintain a unique position amongst self-described Marxist groups; in contrast with myriad Stalinist, Maoist, and Trotskyist tendencies, they display a clear understanding of socialism as the disappearance of class society, abolition of wage labour, and production on the basis of need, and do not peddle state-capitalist illusions or the empty promises of nationalisation under capitalism. The Socialist Party has made a number of contributions to Marxist theory one of which is recognition of leadership as a capitalist political principle, a feature of the revolutions that brought them to power, and utterly alien to the socialist revolution. The socialist revolution necessarily involves the active and conscious participation of the great majority of workers, thus excluding the role of leadership.

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