Thursday, July 07, 2022

Who Are Really Revolutionary?

There is a real class division and a recession brings it out more clearly than ever. There is a small minority who own substantial capital, which is applied to live off the backs of the others. The people who have got it have always got it. It is the state, with its machinery of coercion which holds the conditions condemning the workers to sell themselves piecemeal into lifelong slavery. It is the state that repels every attack upon the property rights of the master class by starving strikers or unemployed, and which, by doing so. makes the workers’ struggle a political one.

Capitalism itself develops the means whereby human society can produce the abundance of wealth which is essential for socialism but also hampers this process because its priority is profit, not human satisfaction. Humanity possesses the knowledge of how to harness natural resources so as to have produced enough to adequately feed, clothe and shelter the entire world’s population. But it doesn’t happen, of course.The aim of capitalism is not to satisfy people’s needs or raise their standard of living. The driving force of capitalism is to make a profit for those who own and control the means of living so that they can further increase their wealth by accumulating it in the form of additional capital. This does lead to an increase in productive capacity and, in some parts of the world, has led to increased living standards. But nobody can claim that capitalism has been able to produce and distribute enough so that every man, woman and child on this planet is adequately fed, clothed and sheltered. Is it not more than time that they organised to replace the chaotic, unplanned, society of capitalism with one in which rational planning, and the satisfaction of needs, social and individual, are paramount?

Reforms are justified on the grounds of expediency; they are, it is claimed, the strategy of revolution. The “revolutionary reformist” position is found generally in Trotskyist circles. Superficially the idea that workers can be led to socialism seems plausible. Why is it proposed to engage in time and energy in order to organise the majority of workers behind a reformist programme. The answer given by inference and direct statement is that a majority of the workers are incapable of reaching that socialist understanding necessary for them to organise for socialism. Certainly “revolutionary reforms” and “demands” have had a long vogue, alongside of other “revolutionary” nostrums, such as the “day-to-day struggle,” particularly since the days of the Bolshevik revolution, out of the experiences of which event directly arose much of the “revolutionary” theorising of recent years. Now this is what the position of the “revolutionary reformist” comes to. Workers who reject socialism now because they are not capable of understanding it would, at some time in the future, allow the right leaders to lead them to it. Further, the workers would allow themselves to be led to socialism after having rejected it in favour of reforms. Truly our revolutionary reformists are modern political miracle pedlars. Examine the “trade union consciousness” argument. It damns our opponent who used it; for it was used for nothing if not to show that these workers (who, be it remembered, have reached a fairly ripe stage of historical consciousness) are interested as trade unionists only in wages and conditions of work and not in socialism, and that the workers generally could not rise above this level; that workers’ minds being dominated by the petty details and haggling over the wages system, they are incapable of understanding society being organised without the wages system and all that it means. Yet our “revolutionary reformists” are going to lead workers whose lives and conceptions are bound up with the wages system to a system where there will be no wages. If it is their position that the workers could be led to something they do not understand, and therefore do not want, without resistance, they have to explain why it is that workers (with a “trade union consciousness”) tenaciously hang on to the wages system now and reject that to which at some time in the remote future they will, showing less than sheep-like qualities, allow themselves to be led. To be logical, the saviours who are going to lead unwilling workers to socialism should hide the promise from them—or surely the fascinating little game would be spoiled.

The only way for humanity is to step aside from the vicious deception of leaders and their telling us what we need. For that to happen the majority need to become conscious of their real interests. A socialist revolution, a democratic revolution without leaders, is an urgent necessity—before leaders lead us nowhere, or worse.

The phrase, revolutionary socialism, to use a bookish term, is, strictly speaking, tautological, justification for its use occasionally is the necessity to distinguish between what we stand for and the mixture of reformist proposals which are labelled socialism. The day will come when the term socialism will be understood to involve revolution: it will not then be necessary to emphasise the fact that socialism is revolutionary by using a term which places the emphasis on revolution : and what we now allow to be implied when we use the term socialism will be understood and taken for granted. Until that happy state of things is here much of the time of the Socialist Party must be taken up in exposing the false ideas and unsoundness in the policies of those organisations which speak in the name of socialism. 

We are revolutionaries because we are socialists. We can only sustain our claim to either or both whilst we reject uncompromisingly all reformism of whatever variety. There is only one solution for working class problems, and that is in organising for socialism alone. Any deviation from that fundamental aspect of our policy in favour of reformism would rob the Socialist Party of its socialist and revolutionary character and bring it support from people not interested in socialism but in reforms as an end in themselves. We leave it to others to join the scrap heap of well-meaning reformists which working class history has produced by such folly. Not for us the immediate demands of the day to day struggle as a basis for policy. Our policy always is socialism now. Not for us the policy of ”self-determination for the colonial peoples,” blah, blah and blah; but a socialist working class as the first and essential step for getting all social problems in their right perspective. “Self-determination” for the colonial peoples means the right of the colonial capitalists to exploit their workers freely and without the interference of the Imperialist overlords. Our message to the workers everywhere is—away with all exploitation. Socialism is the only hope for the workers. A change of masters offers no escape from their problems. 

We are socialists and revolutionaries. Unlike the reformist left-wing we do not present the inane spectacle of blazing headlines for socialism Now in our journal whilst at the same time asserting in debate that the workers can never rise to an understanding of what is involved, now or at any time. Nor do we aim to lead the workers. We leave that to those self-appointed leaders in the working class movement in the confidence that whilst the workers as a class retain a modest intelligence the sheep and donkeys who would follow such leaders would be few in number.

For ourselves, as workers, revolutionaries, and socialists, we never lose confidence that the idea of socialism which is taking shape in the working class mind will reach the point of understanding which will prove the workers capable of the self-conscious, organised and intelligent act of establishing socialism.

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