Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Rab - Part 2

Another article adapted from the writings of the American socialist Isaac Rab

If you want a movement - take a laxative 

The socialist movement is not only the heart, but is a combination of heart and head.

It is almost a truism to say that when the workers, as a class, couple their latent revolutionary fervor with socialist understanding, they become an indomitable force sweeping everything before it. “Nothing is more powerful than an idea come of age, it is more powerful than the strongest armies.” As to any fears that there is no room for differences of opinion in a socialist party, this simply isn’t so. Socialists have varying opinions on matters of a speculative nature, on interpretations of current events, on attitudes on music, painting and other cultural matters, specific aspects of science, even on projections of the actual workings of a socialist society. We emphasise that the ballot is the lever of emancipation. We do this just because the conscious, socialist majority takes political action in order to be in a position to transfer the means of living from the hands of the parasites into the hands of society, as a whole. The ballot symbolizes the nature of the socialist revolution. We advocate the ballot because we cannot visualize the need for a socialist majority to use violence. Violence does not symbolize the socialist revolution. However, we can get all tangled up in speculations of projecting possible contingencies that may exist in a future event. History may make liars out of us in predicting the workings of social forces based on scientific analyses. When we say that socialism is inevitable it always implies: barring unforeseen catastrophes such as asteroid collisions wiping out of the human race. However, given capitalism and its laws of motion, the next stage in social evolution is socialism.

For many years we have witnessed the “success” of a procession of practical efforts to rally workers to socialism by clever policies. We have seen the transformation of these advocates of socialist goals into supporters of the status quo — rebels who have been converted into adjusters of the system. Their trademark has become reforming, improving and administering capitalism. Where are the convinced socialists they were going to make? In the name of building up a socialist movement among the masses, they have emasculated and compromised socialist principles. When elected, they have actually administered capitalism in the only way it can be administered, in the interest of the capitalist class, even to the extent of supporting capitalist wars and crushing workers on strike. They have complained that capitalist parties have stolen their planks (as though any capitalist party could steal a socialist program). Look at the net result. Where are the socialist masses? As far as numbers are concerned the Social-Democrats are not much better off than the World Socialist Movement. Their practical, realistic policies have proven worse than illusory. They have failed to make socialists! Yet they continue to heap scorn and sneer at the WSM for our small numbers. With smug omniscience, they dismiss the WSM as “ivory tower utopians,” “dogmatic sectarians,” “impossiblists,” etc. The real question is: — Who have ignored the lessons of experience? The WSM have been confronted with sneers and scorn by those who fight for something “in the meantime” and who are busily actively participating in the “workers’ struggles.” The lure and fascinations of protest demonstrations and making demands at every opportunity is very attractive. (In a sense, it does indicate how deeply-rooted discontent with capitalism really is, and it demonstrates the latent strength of socialism once the masses wake up to the need for changing the system instead of adjusting to it.) But — and this is the vital point — these activities are not in harmony with the immediate needs of our time: the making of socialists. The lack of socialists is all that stands in the way of socialism, now. You can put these guys on the spot by asking: Where are the socialists you have obtained by your efforts? Their vaunted “fresh approaches” prove to be very stale indeed. For years their antecedents — the Labour Party socialists with their gradualism, the Bolsheviks with their “revolutionary” programs — actually gained victories on such policies and programs. Yet on their hands is the recruiting of workers for capitalist wars and the crushing of workers on strike. If there is one generalization that could be applied to the Bolsheviks, Social Democrats, those Anarchists who supported World War I, or on the issue of Fascism vs. Democracy, and those “Socialists” who supported both World Wars, it is that they stood for their pet “burning issue”’ and socialism. Recall the phrases: “Immediate Demands” and “Ultimate Demands.” We used to be told and are still being told, that “in the meantime” we must fight for some “priority” issue and you revolutionary socialists should join our ranks to recruit for socialist objectives. Observe the net result: Capitalism is being administered by “socialists” and, in many cases, in the name of “socialism.” There it is, in all its stark nakedness. Had all that wasted energy (devoted, sincere, sacrificial as it may have been) been harnessed for socialism, what a movement — or society — we would now have! It is easy to forget that human beings are also part of the material conditions and that they play the active role in social change. All those “socialist governments” merely wound up administering capitalism for the capitalist class. And that is all that Labour radicals and the Trotskyist Left will be able to do if they gain their objectives.

The Russian Revolution did stir and inspire large segments of workers, that fact we freely acknowledge and we suffered the sneers and scorn heaped on us by those who should have known better because we “did not recognize a socialist revolution when it took place”. Yet in light of developments, the socialist movement would be a far greater force and factor today had it not been for the wasted energies and illusions of the Bolshevik counterfeits as far as a genuine socialist revolutionary movement is concerned. These Bolshevik groupings, including the Communist Parties over the world, the Trotskyists, and all their various splinter groups, usually revolve around personalities and “leaders.” They are dominated by the concept of a vanguard of “professional revolutionists.” It is the responsibility of the vanguard to guide and lead their followers. They have the appeal of being conspiratorial in nature. They stir the emotions with their “grass roots” activities of organizing demonstrations and protests on any and all questions, ranging from cheaper milk, lower taxes, etc., to riots, etc., that will serve the interests of China or Russia. Their concepts of the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” and the “Transitional Period” are reflected in what they call “Democratic Centralism.” The control of the organization is from the top, who inform the membership of “the party line.”

What is the task of those dedicated to arousing their fellow workers to become socialists? It is first of all to help uproot superstitions and to spread knowledge and understanding. Only the workers can emancipate themselves. The only factor in all the material conditions of today that I can see standing in the way of socialism is the political ignorance of the workers. Our opposition to reforms and reformism are just because their objectives are palliative in nature and are fought for in order to make the system function more smoothly. Though we do not advocate reforms nor fight for reforms, that does not mean that we refuse to accept reforms, as though we could if we wanted to. Historically, reform activities have dissipated the earnest energies of socalled socialists from doing any socialist work, whatsoever. The need for reforms is an all-time job.

Conditions are now ripe for socialism, i.e. production for use and where all mankind cooperate in the common social interests. In a sane world fit for human beings the social forces breeding wars disappear. It is time for a breakthrough to a society in harmony with the tremendous technological developments of the last 100 years. 

The WSM is not going to do anything for the working class except to arouse their fervor, determination and enthusiasm for socialist objectives. The aroused class-conscious workers will use their party as the lever of emancipation. To summarize: All such activities still leave the job left to be done, the only job worthwhile and meaningful: making socialists! The acid test of socialism is found in the workings of the real world. The bond that makes us as one and inspires us is the recognition that capitalism can no longer be reformed or administered in the interest of the working class or of society, and the understanding that conditions are now ripe for socialism, which is the solution for society’s problems. All that is lacking is a socialist majority. This says it all! This is the essence of our principles.

Let's define a socialist. It is not how scholarly he may be in Marxism and the sciences. He may never have read a word of Marx or socialist literature. He simply needs to realise that:
1.Capitalism can no longer be administered or reformed in the interest of the working class or of society.
2. Capitalism is incapable of eliminating poverty, wars, crises, etc.
3. Socialism can solve the social problems confronting society today, since the material conditions are ripe for socialism, save the lack of a socialist majority.

All members would agree: The conscious, majority, political nature of the socialist revolution; Conception of History; the Law of Value; the Class Struggle; attitudes on leadership, reformism, and religion; the general nature of socialism as a system of society.

However a socialist does not necessarily require an academic's grasp of Marxian economics such as perhaps the distinction between “labour” and “labour power.” Understanding this distinction is not an acid test of whether a person is a socialist or not! (However, it is true that there is a distinction between these two terms when it comes to describe the nature of capitalist exploitation.) The acid test of socialist convictions hinges on such factors as: Capitalism cannot be reformed or administered in the interest of the working class or of society; Capitalism, as a social system, is in the interest of the ruling class (albeit that capitalism, historically, is an essential stage of social evolution); Socialism is the solution to the social problems and irreconcilable contradictions of capitalism; Socialism cannot be rammed down the workers’ throats against their wishes; The socialist victory is dependent upon the fervor and enthusiasm of the determined, conscious socialist majority. These are the characteristics of a socialist; a coupling of the head and the heart, theory coupled with action. A socialist is one who recognizes and realizes that capitalism can no longer be reformed or administered in the interest of society or of the working class; that capitalism is incapable of eliminating poverty, war, crises, etc.; and that the times call for arousing the majority to become socialists to inaugurate socialism, now possible and necessary.”

Socialism is possible, necessary and practical today the moment the great majority become conscious of their interests. The notion that the workers are dumb is plain hogwash. They are confused, especially the “friends” of socialism, speaking in the name of socialism. It still remains the case that, aside from the feeble voices of the World Socialist Movement, the great mass of the workers are not exposed to socialist fundamentals. Our task is hard enough as it is. But despite the discouragements and disappointments, it takes a heap of understanding to realize the forces working for socialism. The greatest ally we have is capitalism itself. The greatest teacher of all is experience. Eventually, all the groping and mistaken diversions into futile efforts of reforming and administering capitalism will run their course. People learn from their mistakes. Necessity is the latent strength of socialism. Truth and science are on the side of socialism. Nothing is stronger than an idea come of age. (These are not just trite clichés.) It is easy to be cynical of socialist efforts. But, with the world facing the alternative of socialism or chaos, you don’t have to be a Pollyanna to realize that we are on the eve of significant social changes. Already, you have seen indications in this direction in the thinking of people everywhere. Our task is to be a catalyst, the triggering agent that transforms majority ideas from bourgeois into revolutionary ones. What more glorious task faces people than forever putting an end to poverty and privilege. And all the time, we have a powerful ally: capitalism itself provides the lessons of experience.

The word “government” is often confused with the word “administration.” It is a very common misconception, until one realizes that “government” is but a synonym for the “state,” that is, rulers and ruled; governors and governed. (Although all governments have a secondary function of administering social affairs, it is a secondary function that is subordinate to its primary function of ruling society in the interest of the ruling class.) Where the social relationships of private property exist, there is a need for state machinery (a government) to keep the people in check and under control, as well as to protect the national ruling class interests against the rivalries of foreign “enemies.” Thus, we have had governments in chattel slave, feudal, and capitalist societies. Primitive tribal societies were typically administered communally and had no governments, as such. Socialism is a class-free society, without rulers and ruled. a genuine democracy where there exists a real community of interests between all the members of society and society as a whole. It is a social administration of affairs where everyone cooperates in the common interests according to his abilities and desires; where human beings live useful, interesting and meaningful lives. To establish socialism the workers must first gain control of the powers of government through their political organization. It is the recognition that the state is the central organ of power in the hands of the capitalist class. By gaining control of the powers of state, the socialist majority are in a position to transfer the means of living from the parasites, who own them, to society, where they belong. This is the only function or need the working class has of the state/government. As soon as the revolution has accomplished this task, the state is replaced by the socialist administration of affairs. There is no government in a socialist society.

“Must we have leaders to obtain our object?” Some answer will “Yes - to educate the workers politically and economically towards socialism” 

But teachers are not leaders any more than writers or speakers are leaders. Their function is to spread knowledge and understanding so that the workers, the conscious majority, may emancipate themselves. Quite different from that we must have leaders (great men) to direct their followers (blind supporters) into a socialist society. Socialism is not the result of blind faith, followers, or, by the same token, vanguards and leaders. Nothing is more repugnant to socialism than clever strategy and conspiratorial tactics. Socialism is not possible without socialists. What makes socialist work stirring and inspiring is not that there are short cuts , but that there is nothing else worth a tinker’s damn. The seeming failures, the disappointments and discouragements, the slow growth, only indicate that socialist work is not an easy task. Our satisfaction is that the latent strength of the movement is that it makes sense, and when the great majority wake up and socialist ideas come of age, then socialism, a world fit for human beings, becomes invincible. “socialist activists” have had impressive “successes” and “victories” in every field except one. The lessons of experience and history have proven beyond any shadow of doubt that they have not remotely convinced the workers of the need for socialism. From the activities carried on in the name of socialism, the one thing conspicuous by its absence has been any mention of the socialist case. In common, the efforts of “socialist activists” — ranging from anti-bomb demonstrators, through fighters for equal rights, to the administrators of both the social-democrat and “communist” varieties — have been geared to an attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable contradictions of capitalism. With contempt, they sneer at the dumb workers and their backwardness. Such groups have been guilty of disillusioning the workers about real socialism. The great indictment of these activists is that they divert the workers from the genuine socialist movement, and have hampered the growth of socialism by many years. Were all that tremendous energy and enthusiasm harnessed in the genuine socialist work of making socialists, how much more the movement would have been advanced!

The “practical realist” has proven to be an impractical utopian; the “activist” has proven to be the occupant of an ivory tower. The great mass of the workers never hear the socialist message. Had all the enthusiasms and energies of the past fifty years been harnessed for the spread of socialist knowledge and understanding, imagine how much more advanced the revolutionary movement would be today. The history of the “practical socialists” sneering at the “impossiblists and theoreticians” finds them landing in the camp of capitalist politicians.

There is no short-cut to socialism, short of socialist determination. Our latent strength lies in the fact that science, truth, and above all, necessity is on the side of the scientific, revolutionary socialist movement.

Socialism cannot be rammed down the throats of the majority against their wishes. We have the glorious task of arousing our fellow workers to speedily introduce socialism. The alternative facing us is: socialism or chaos. Our task is primarily that of arousing socialist consciousness, on the basis of evidence and unfolding events, that capitalism has outlived its historic usefulness and is now ripe for burial; that socialism is no fanciful utopia, but the crying need of the times; and that we, as socialists, are catalytic agents, acting on our fellow workers and all others to do something about it as speedily as possible.

If another socialist organization appeared on the scene, then the only possible action that we could take would be to make immediate overtures for a merger. We would offer them the open arms of comradely greetings and unity. The WSM are not organized to do something for the working class. In fact, we are not organized in the interest of and on behalf of the working class. Sounds strange, does it? This is just the foundation of our position — The working class must organize, consciously and politically. Nobody can do anything for them but themselves. The working class, as socialists, must organize into a socialist party. The WSM is the party of class-conscious socialists; it is the party of the class. Its small membership merely reflects the small number of class-conscious socialists. The real test of whether the WSM is the party of the working class is to be found in examining the position of the WSM to discover whether it is the sound, scientific analysis of the laws of motion of capitalism and the correct statement of the workers’ needs. So, again, it boils down to the question of its understanding. “Unity for socialism” has no meaning unless based on the common realisation that its sole object is to introduce socialism.

Socialists welcome critical and searching questions. Thinking is not and never has been a violation of socialist discipline. Socialists are not dogmatic sectarians who are blindly and religiously faithful to socialist conclusions despite the lessons of unfolding experience. Should an examination of the real world prove the case for socialism to be invalid, it would be a serious reflection on those who continued to be socialists. That is why socialists are open-minded, in contrast to being broadminded. They do not tolerate exploded myths and superstitions. Yet they should be patient with individuals groping to find out what the score is. Especially is this true in a day and age when the material conditions of existence are ripe for socialism with the sole exception of maturity of social and political thinking. The only thing standing in the way of socialism today is the lack of socialists. The problem today is that of socialist education. Socialism cannot be rammed down the throats of the workers against their wishes. By its very nature, socialism is inherently democratic, i.e., it requires a conscious socialist majority.

This cannot be overemphasized for it is the clue to socialist tactics and programs on the basis of historic necessity. Socialists are leery of the word, “radical.” Actually, socialists are not radicals in the common usage of the word. We are, rather, revolutionary. Under the heading of “radical” must be included a hodge-podge of confusions worse confounded with the added burden of being just nebulous, vaporous discontent based on blind misconceptions. What a company is included in the term “radical”! Of course, there is no question whatever that there is a need for “some sort of unity of understanding,” as you put it; but that is the function of a socialist organization, i.e., a socialist party. The nature — the very heart and core — of a socialist party is that it is not for the workers. The party is not going to emancipate the workers or do anything for them. There is no dichotomy or separation of the workers and the party. 

Abraham Lincoln was on flimsy ground when he spoke of “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” because all governments are rooted in antagonisms of interests, it would be quite valid to say that the socialist party is the party of the workers, by the workers, and for the workers. The real socialist party cannot be apart and distinct from the working class; it has to be comprised of the whole human community. That is the general nature of any socialist party.

Without in any sense implying that quoting The Communist Manifesto is, of itself, proof of anything, nevertheless, the Manifesto phrases this matter very well: Section II starts off that (the party) “always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole” and ends with “the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy.” 

In other words, the work of emancipation, the transformation of capitalism into a socialist society, the transfer of the means of living from the hands of the parasites into the hands of society as a whole, is the conscious, majority, and political action of the working class — the socialist party. The state does exist; it is the central organ of power. Title and deed to its ownership rests in the political control by the ruling class. The state is the instrumentality of class control. When the workers finally wake up, they will use their party to change the “civitas” of propertied society into the “societas” of communal society.

Today, working-class understanding is at a very low ebb, therefore the membership in the WSM is puny. It is ridiculous to think of a rivalry between socialist parties competing to emancipate the workers. Should another genuine socialist party appear on the scene, immediate steps would be taken to merge. Herein lies the emphasis on the distinction between “socialist” in quotes and socialist in its scientific, revolutionary context. In fact, the thing that distinguishes the companion parties from all other alleged “socialist” parties is that we stand alone on being organised exclusively for the abolition of capitalism by the workers. (not all socialists are members of the companion parties. There are many, many socialists who are not attached to any socialist party. But this has no bearing on the historic nature of the socialist party. There are innumerable factors to account for individual socialists not being members of a socialist organization, but to focus on this out of its context is only to confuse and confound the understanding of the nature of a socialist party.) There have been ups and downs in membership, in enthusiasm, and in organisational work. Many of these situations can be traced to personality clashes, personal problems, disappointments leading to discouragement, and the fact that we are all human beings with human failings and limitations. Possibly the biggest factor is that we are few in numbers and turn in on ourselves, instead of outwards in much-needed organizational and propaganda activity. Situations do arise because of emotional stresses and strains. Differences have assumed paramount importance. The objectives of socialism itself are reflected in the very nature of our organisational procedures, in much the same way as the other “socialist” parties’ organisational procedures reflect their concepts of leadership, dictatorship, etc. This is the salient item to bear in mind: there is a justifiable fear of emasculating scientific, socialist principles, based upon the evidences of the real world. Were the doors opened wide to mere sympathisers and well wishers, or those with non-socialist or even anti-socialist concepts, we would soon cease being a socialist party. Above all else, it is mandatory that a socialist party be made up of socialists. The criterion of what constitutes a socialist is very simple. One does not have to be a Marxian scholar to be a socialist. So much for this, for the present, at least. The interesting thing is how small the memberships of the other so-called revolutionary parties are. It makes shambles of the misconception that the WSM is small because of our procedures. It was not due to lack of activities, or intolerance of really unsound, untenable ideas, or any of the favorite criticisms of the WSM; it was not for being “dogmatic and sectarian” that we lost members and influence. This is a historic and social phenomenon. The myriad parties of the Left all have serious declines in membership. Mainly, It can be ascribe to a public apathy that arises when high hopes raised by social reform programs only lead to disillusionment. The “socialist programs” advocated by the “socialists’ of the Left were incapable of solving the problems confronting society, because they never even came to grips with the root causes of those problems. (To do so would require a real socialist analysis.) The appeal of the “socialist programs” was easily adopted by the Tories and Liberals. All the “socialist” organizations bemoaning that the capitalists were stealing their programs only accentuates disgust and apathy with politics and politicians. It has become obvious that such programs are bankrupt of any accomplishments except winning a chance to administer the status quo. On the other hand, the workers hardly ever hear the socialist case. On those rare occasions whenever they do, it often makes sense to them. A ferment is at work. What used to be nonsense is beginning to make sense. Socialist ideas are rising into view — not so much because of socialist propaganda but because of the lessons of experience. It is notorious indeed that more and more books, more and more articles.

The WSM is made up of socialists who share a unity of agreement on simple generalizations. Note that we are not engaged in a competition with other organisations in a contest to emancipate the workers, because we recognize that the workers are fully capable of emancipating themselves, once they become socialists. Just for the above reasons, it is quite unlikely that there ever would ever be two socialist parties in any one country. The WSM would have no other alternative but to merge with any other group of real socialist workers appearing on the scene organized for the same purpose as we are. On the other hand, we do oppose all the so-called working-class parties which compromise with capitalism and do not uphold the socialist case. When the workers become socialists, they will not need a vanguard party to lead them.

They will organise consciously and politically to emancipate themselves. Its bond of comradeship and unity is rooted in the barest minimum of socialist principles which may be summarized as: socialism is a product of social evolution; the socialist revolution is inherently democratic because of its nature of being conscious, majority, and political; and that socialism is based on the social relations of a community of interests between all the members of society and society as a whole. There can hardly be any compromise on these three general principles. Further, a socialist is one who recognises and realises that capitalism can no longer be reformed or administered in the interest of society or of the working class; that capitalism is incapable of eliminating poverty, war, crises, etc.; and that the times call for arousing the majority to become socialists to inaugurate socialism, now possible and necessary.

The WSM is made up of socialists who share a unity of agreement on the above simple generalisations. Note that we are not engaged in a competition with other organizations in a contest to emancipate the workers, because we recognise that the workers are fully capable of emancipating themselves, once they become socialists. Just for the above reasons, it is quite unlikely that there ever would ever be two socialist parties in any one country. The WSM would have no other alternative but to merge with any other group of real socialist workers appearing on the scene organised for the same purpose as we are. On the other hand, we do oppose all the so-called working-class parties which compromise with capitalism and do not uphold the socialist case. When the workers become socialists, they will not need a vanguard party to lead them. They will organise consciously and politically to emancipate themselves. The Companion Parties of the WSM can never grow so large that they will not be governed by the membership. They delegate administrative and procedural work to committees, but the membership, as a whole, pass on motions of conference dealing with principles and policies (not routine house-keeping matters), which are always submitted to referenda. We don’t have leaders, only spokes-persons and administrators .

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