Sunday, July 12, 2020

No Leaders, No Followers

It is often claimed by opponents of socialism that the workers have not that superior mental ability necessary to control society which, it is alleged, is possessed by members of the capitalist class and their professional hirelings. Even workers themselves engaged in highly skilled occupations take up the same cry that some workers are unfit mentally to run society. They have imbibed these things from early youth, and never seem to question the veracity of such obviously foolish assertions.

Wherever you look, you  see who it is that to-day does all the necessary and essential work of society—run the railways and crew the ships, building them also; obtain the coal from the bowels of the earth ; in short, do all the needed work in producing food and shelter, and then ask yourself whether it is the over-fed capitalist, with his wonderful "directive ability," or his wage-slaves, the working class, who perform all the useful services in society. Evidence abounds on every hand to show the bungling and incompetence of the ruling class to-day. Could, then, the workers, with their inexperience in controlling society, and their lower standard of education, do worse? Emphatically, no ! If, then, the working class do all these things to-day, surely when they see the need for another system of society and unite to bring it about, they will have also the intelligence to control the society which they seek to establish.

The workers to-day have sufficient intelligence to produce a superabundance of wealth which they hand over to an idle, parasitic class. When they equip themselves politically they have at hand the necessary weapons to secure their emancipation and institute a system where social production will be accompanied by social ownership; in a word, socialism. Join up and work for it.

 The Socialist Party points out that every capitalist country can, or is rapidly reaching the point where it can, produce more wealth than it consumes, and is, therefore, compelled to join in the struggle for markets. The keener and more intense the struggle, the worse does the condition of the workers become. The success of one nation over others does not improve conditions for the workers of that nation, because the lack of employment in the beaten nations drives the workers into the countries where they are in demand (to mention one obvious reason). Thus capitalism makes the working class an international slave class—the very condition that, once given recognition by the workers, must form the basis of a genuine socialist International. As this international slave class is everywhere compelled to organise and oppose the greed of the capitalist class, which becomes more insatiable with growing competition for markets, the antagonism of the labour market over the buying and selling of labour-power, is transformed, by the spread of socialist knowledge, into class antagonism. The working class then takes up its historic mission—the abolition of classes through the establishment of socialism. Socialism is opposed to capitalism in all its forms and manifestations. Those leaders of working-class thought, therefore, who support war, in every country, and yet called themselves socialists, accomplished a double treachery against the working-class.

The Socialist Party has always argued that socialism can be established only when there is a majority of conscious socialists — people who understand socialism and want it. In line with this principle, we must obviously ensure, as far as we can, that our members all understand the case for socialism. In that sense we do ‘vet’ applicants for membership, which does not mean that joining our party is like being interrogated by the thought-police. The branch which deals with the application simply tries to find out the applicant’s political ideas. If he or she disagrees with socialism, then clearly they cannot become members; if they agree they are welcomed into our ranks.

We sympathise with the frustrations of workers who find political propaganda for socialism difficult because they live in a more remote part of the country. But it is only by putting the ideas of socialism across, all the time, that they will take root and flourish.

Membership does not entail any formal obligation to work for the party, but there is plenty of activity going and members are enthusiastic. For our size, we do a tremendous amount of propaganda.

Where there is no socialist candidate, socialists write ‘socialism’ across their ballot papers. We refuse to make the spurious choice between the parties of capitalism, which is like offering a condemned man a menu for his last breakfast. Writing ‘socialism’ on the ballot paper is not wasting a vote; it is a declaration that the other parties are not worth voting for and a manifestation of support for socialism.

Socialists are in favour of workers grabbing whatever crumbs may fall from their masters’ tables; so we recognise that some reforms can be said to have benefited the working class. This does not prevent us still struggling for socialism, which is the whole loaf rather than a few crumbs. It is not true that the Labour Party is the only party of reform; the Tories are also in the same business — a fact which amply illustrates the futility of reformism. The experience of Labour governments is that they always attack working class living standards — and, worse, they do this in the name of socialism.

Thus the Labour Party, far from bringing about a climate of opinion favourable to socialism, has confused the issue and has made our work that much harder. There is no place in it for anyone who is looking for a fundamentally different party, one which stands for a new society of freedom and common ownership.

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