Saturday, July 09, 2022

Why socialism must prevail

 Since capitalism came into existence, it has had its many evils. Moreover, these evils have weighed heavily upon the mass of the people, upon those who do the work, the working-class. Hurriedly constructed hovels, unemployment for some and excessive toil for others, malnutrition—these are just a few of the evils that capitalism generates and which must be borne by the working-class only. Not for the rich employing class are these evils, for they all spring from the poverty which afflicts those who must work.

Now for many years, in fact since the early days of capitalism, efforts have been made to make the lot of the worker more bearable, to ease the chafing of his chains. The reformists who busy themselves with this task start with the assumption that capitalism will remain. Any changes they advocate are to be brought about within the framework of capitalism. This is the essence of reformism. Capital and wage-labour, the two bases of capitalism, they leave fundamentally untouched. They do not seek to eradicate these roots of capitalism. They merely try to lessen the pains inflicted on society by the capitalism system.

Herein lies the weakness of reformism.

Capitalism cannot be so modified by reform measures that it becomes “the best of possible worlds” for the working-class. All reformist efforts to solve the fundamental problems of the workers are bound to fail. An analysis of capitalism will show why this is so.

Capitalism, it must be understood, is a system of a society organised so as to provide profit to the owners of industry, the capitalist class. To do this, the wage-worker is set to work, and what he produces belongs to the employers, the capitalists. The wage-worker is given back, in the form of wages, only a portion of what he produces; the rest, the surplus, the capitalist owner retains. Thus is the worker exploited and kept on the poverty line, for the portion he receives as wages is just about sufficient to keep him fit enough to perform his particular job and reproduce his kind—future wage-slaves for the service of the capitalist class. Hence the worker is born poor, he lives his life in poverty and dies still poor.

Frequently, to increase his profit (part of the surplus we spoke of), or to compete more successfully in the markets of the world, the capitalist cuts down his production costs. Then he seeks to enforce wage reductions, or he may replace workmen by labour-saving machinery or by adopting a new technique. Moreover, the growth of the unemployment problem has been particularly favourable to the capitalist class in its attack upon the workers’ standard of living, for as soon as there is a reserve army of unemployed workers, the keeping down of wages becomes a more simple matter for the owners of industry, since the workers compete with each other for jobs.

The motive power of capitalism being the lust for profit, any wage increases won by the workers are, if possible, offset by the employing class, for wage increases mean an attack on profits. Hence wage increases are usually the signal for the introduction of more labour saving devices, of more machinery. Thus, very frequently, more production is squeezed out of fewer workers. The exploitation of the worker becomes more intense.

From the foregoing brief examination of capitalism we can see why reformists must fail to solve the workers’ problems. Whatever reforms are introduced, so long as the present system remains, the following evils will persist: —

1. The bulk of what the workers produce will be taken from them.

2. They will be kept on or near the poverty line, and will be thus forced to continue in a slave position, dependent on the capitalist class for a living. They will still stand in need of doles, old age pensions and all the other accessories of poverty.

Just one other point about the weakness of reformism. It is an important point. Often reforms carried to improve the lot of the worker prove but of short duration. Should they be of inconvenience to the capitalist class in whose interests present-day society operates, they are, as soon as a favourable opportunity arises, either abandoned altogether or modified to the disadvantage of the workers. All that is necessary is for an industrial crisis or a war to arise—and both these come crashing in on us with regularity—and years of effort for reform measures are as nothing. Then we must say good-bye to the reforms “for the time being,” or at least the reforms are drastically altered. It will suffice if we remind the reader of the crisis of 1929-31 with all its cuts. The impermanence of reforms, therefore, is a fundamental weakness of the reformist position.

The lesson the Socialist Party has learnt from all this is that the ills afflicting the working-class are due to capitalism, with its profit-making motive. We have just shown why the Socialist Party is opposed to reformism. But we have heard it uttered that the Labour Party ought not to be so opposed because really it isn’t anti-working class.


The Socialist Party, on the other hand, must point out on all occasions that if the present system is maintained with its problems of wages, profits, prices, currency, etc., poverty will always be the workers’ reward.

Because no salvation is possible for the worker under capitalism, we are out to abolish it and to replace it by socialism. We aim at nothing less because we know nothing less will satisfy the needs of the class to which we belong. It is also for this reason that we are opposed to all other parties, all of which, at the most, aim merely at modifications of present-day society.

The workers should study socialism. That is the first step towards their salvation. We are confident that a little study will convince them that only by going to the root of their problems can their position be permanently improved. They will realise the need for abandoning reform movements. They will realise the need for revolutionary action, for replacing capitalism by socialism, that is by a society wherein there will be no private property, no profit making and no wages. Socialism is, in fact, a social system wherein the means of life belong to all society and wherein, consequently, production is carried on to satisfy the needs of society. Socialism, having no “ulterior motive,” will make unnecessary the present-day strivings for “a living wage” (which still leaves the workers robbed of the bulk of what they produce). Let the worker, then, change his motto. With Marx, we say, “Instead of the Conservative motto, ‘A fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work !’ they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword, ‘Abolition of the wages system !’ ”

The Socialist Party stands for the revolutionary transformation of society. Because of this and because history has proved that a party for revolution cannot be built up on reform programmes, the S.P.G.B. does not seek to win support by advocating reforms.

We do not expect, therefore, to gain the support of people still unconvinced of the need for socialism—nor do we desire to be supported by non-socialists. Until the majority desire and are prepared to organise for the specific job of establishing socialism, the achievement of the new society is an impossibility. Our task now then is, to propagate socialist principles, to make socialists. Non-socialists, people interested in the reform of capitalism, would hamper us in that job.

Then, again, as  Karl Liebknecht showed long ago in his “No Compromise,” once a revolutionary party begins to compromise with capitalism and is willing to help in its administration and reform, such a party is doomed as a weapon for socialism. It ceases to be revolutionary.

The reason for this is plain to see. Once a party adopts reform programmes, it appeals to many kinds of people who are anything but socialist. The result is that the socialists are swamped, and socialism is pushed further and further into the background on the party programme; socialism ceases to be the object of the party.

Workers desiring socialism should, therefore, remember these things and study the case of the S.P.G.B.. They should refuse to give their support to any party which, while claiming to be socialist, fights elections on a reformist programme. Such parties could not introduce socialism even if they won power. Their mandate would be for the reform of capitalism, not for socialism.

It should be obvious that such left-wing parties which use plenty of revolutionary jargon but which have suitable reform programmes ready for time and place cannot bring to an end the workers’ wage-slavery. Socialism alone will do that, and such parties are merely reformists.

Let the workers, then, reject reformism, and embrace revolution. Let them cease to spend their forces on reformist futilities. Let them concentrate their strength in the S.P.G.B.—the weapon for socialism that will not falter.


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