Saturday, June 27, 2020

Fallacies on the Left (1962)

From the June 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

Commenting on the Socialist Party contesting the recent Municipal Election in Glasgow*, the Scottish Daily Express called us “a far left group.” This is indicative of the childish view of the political scene held by the Press and by many workers.

According to this view the political parties in this country line up something like a football forward line with the Fascists at outside right, the Tories at inside right, the Liberals at centre forward, the Labour Party at inside left, and on the left wing C.N.D.’ers, Trotskyists, Communists and Uncle Tom Cobley and all.

Yet for all their differing programmes these organisations are united by their desire to operate capitalism. From the so called right wing to the out and out “left-wingers” you will find nothing about the abolition of the wages system appearing on their programmes. It is left to the Socialist Party of Great Britain to point out that only by the abolition of the wages system and the introduction of a society based on common ownership can the problems of war, unemployment, and poverty be overcome.

Since it is from this “left wing” of the Trotskyists and Labourite rebels that the claim to be Socialists is most often heard let us look at their policies and actions, bearing in mind that because a group calls itself Socialist it doesn't necessarily mean that it is. We saw a good example of this recently in the Daily Mail :

 A spokesman in Seoul for Dr. Rhee's Liberal Party (now leaderless) said to-day it planned to change it's name to the "Democratic Socialist Party’’—but it would remain Conservative.
Every time the Socialist takes the “left-wingers" to task for the anti-working class policy of the Labour Party he gets the reply, “ Ah, just wait until the next conference. The left will triumph. What the Labour Party needs is left-wing leadership." Which shows quite clearly that the left wing shares the right wing's view on leadership and that although it claims to understand politics, it thinks the working class too stupid to comprehend the complexities involved. Instead, it sees them as a troop of boy scouts who need a left-wing scoutmaster to lead them to the promised land.

Socialists, on the other hand, say that not only can the working class understand Socialism, but that only by their understanding and organising for it can Socialism be brought about. Socialism is a new social system where there will be no buying or selling, where men and women will co-operate to produce wealth to the best of their ability and take according to their needs. Without the majority understanding what Socialism is, it is an impossibility.

Their emphasis on the importance of leadership shows that the left wingers do not understand the nature of Socialist society. In a society based on co-operation rather than coercion, the majority must willingly participate. Men cannot be led into Socialism.

Another aspect of the left wing that illustrates its anti-Socialist attitude, is the prevalent idea of gradually changing Capitalism into Socialism. This “creeping Socialism" they say, is more practical than the revolutionary proposition. Now bearing in mind that Socialism will have no private property and no money, how does this “creeping Socialism” stand up to examination? How is our gradualist going to abolish money? This week do away with the penny; the next the shilling; the next the half-crown; and so on? If such is the “creeping Socialist” concept he no doubt applauded the disappearance of the farthing.

Socialism may be gradual, in that the working class will gradually adopt Socialist ideas, but we realise that once the majority understand and desire Socialism they will revolutionise society by democratically taking hold of the State machine, declaring private property illegal, and instituting the common ownership of the world by the whole of society.

A favourite argument of those "left-wingers” who say that Socialists are wasting their time by remaining outside the Labour Party, is that the Labour Party can be converted into a Socialist party by “left-wingers” boring from within. Let us have a look at this argument.

The S.P.G.B. was formed in 1904 by people who realised that only an independent Socialist party, restricted to those who understand Socialism, could be an efficient instrument of working class emancipation. Those who called the early Socialists “impossibilists" elected to bore from within the Social Democratic Federation and the Independent Labour Party. The S.D.F. is now dead and buried and the I.L.P. is to all intents and purposes dead if not yet buried.

The Labour Party has been subjected to over fifty years of boring from within,. but with what effect? Today even the vague claims of some of its early members to be Socialists appear to be dyed-in-the-wool revolutionary in comparison with the respectable, staunch support of Capitalism that the Labour Party now offers. It would be as difficult to find a Socialist in the modern Labour Party as an Anarchist in the League of Empire Loyalists.

The left wing of the Labour Party, in attempting to show they are less reactionary than their comrades playing at inside left, point out that they are in favour of more nationalisation, rent control, improved welfare facilities, and the rest. This is the same old rag bag of reforms that have been proffered by their other colleagues in the past.

The theory that nationalisation is Socialism, or a step towards Socialism, is patently absurd. Even in countries such as the United States, where no pseudo-Socialist party such as the Labour Party has been in power, Capitalism has found it necessary to have state control over some industries. If those who favour nationalisation are Socialists then such people as Churchill and Mussolini must be classed as such.

There is in reality no right-wing and left-wing in British politics. All the reformist parties, whether they be Fascist. Communist or Labour, stand for Capitalism. We have no more sympathy with the left-wing of the Labour Party than with the inside left. For the Socialist there is only one attitude towards the Labour Party, whatever position they elect to play in, unqualified opposition.


76 votes were registered. Members of the Glasgow Branch summed up as follows: “We consider this, our first effort at a Municipal Election in Glasgow, a success from two standpoints:
  1. The experience gained of organising meetings in the area, distributing Manifestos and literature, and of the legal set-up at election time.
  2. The amount of literature sold, the valuable opportunity of getting our case over to the workers, and the prestige gained for the Party in Glasgow.

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