Saturday, August 20, 2022

The Socialist Party and Parliament


It is a tenet of our policy that parliament is the means through which the working-class will achieve socialism. The Socialist Party does not offer itself to the workers as alternative leaders, willing to replace the Labour Party and promising to conduct the working class to socialism. Socialists, like other beings, cannot escape the pressure of the forces surrounding them, and there is no reason to believe that socialists would be more trustworthy than other people, except that they at least understand the social forces and may be expected to avoid gross blunders of ignorance. If socialism depended upon finding trustworthy leaders, in or out of Parliament, then socialism would never come into being. The Socialist Party tells the working class that they alone can replace capitalism with socialism, putting their trust in no leaders at all. The only guarantee against the evil effects of betrayal by leaders is to have no leaders. The capitalist class do not buy leaders for their brains or their ability, but because they have a sheep-like following. Socialists know what they want and how to get it, and are not followers. A socialist membership will make their own policy, and M.P.s will not be able to “emasculate" that policy. The policy of the Labour Party has never been socialist because its members have never been socialist. Its past and its present policy accurately reflect the views of the majority of its members. A socialist membership would not formulate a non-socialist policy, and if an M.P. elected by socialists advocated a non-socialist policy he or she would be disavowed by his constituents. The question is not whether Socialist Party M.P.’s would be offered inducements to modify their attitude, but whether the electors would tolerate such modification. Labour electors do not want capitalism overthrown, and therefore do not object to their M.P.’s non-socialist politics and actions. Socialist electors would object and would enforce their wishes.

When the working-class have become predominantly socialist, and are organised politically and economically on class lines, they will be easily able to obstruct the normal working of capitalism. The majority of the capitalist class, faced with the alternative of yielding to the wishes of the majority of society, or of entering into a period of continued industrial and administrative chaos, will certainly choose the former.

The majority of the capitalist class are well aware of the limitations and dangers of using force openly against discontented workers. They use, and are likely to continue to use, the much more effective weapon of propaganda in the media, etc. When they use force now they can still defend themselves by the plea that they have the majority of the electors supporting them. When that plea has been undermined (i.e., when the majority of the electors are socialist) the capitalist class will have to yield or be faced with the problem of trying to administer capitalism by military force, against a hostile majority of the population. That problem is insoluble, not because of any scruples of the capitalists, but because of the nature of modern industry and trade, and the complexity of the administration of capitalism. The great majority of all workers are still ignorant of their class position, and are not socialists. As regards those members of the working-class who are military and police officers, civil servants, etc., the majority, even apart from acquiring greater knowledge of their class position, will act in accordance with their bread and butter interests, i.e., they will take orders from the authorities who control the political machinery.

The only test is to compare the practicability of one policy with that of an alternative, and weigh up the respective advantages and disadvantages. The dead and living members of the Socialist Party have thought deeply before offering the S.P.G.B. Declaration of Principles, and so far none of our critics has succeeded in discovering a practicable alternative.

The points of difference between the left and ourselves can be traced back to the use of the term “transition period.” What is the transition period? We live now in a capitalist economic system with the capitalist class in control of the political machinery and the armed forces of society. They make laws and enforce them, laws which are always framed within the limits imposed by the nature of capitalism and (so far as these limits permit) always directly in their interests as capitalists. When, and not before, the working-class, organised for Socialism, have gained control of the political machinery, the transition period will begin. The working-class cannot begin the work of abolishing the present private property basis of society until they have obtained political control from the capitalist class. 

Our explanation is plain. The SocialistParty does not deny or underestimate the difficulties of the economic transformation to socialism, but the difficulties of the period after the conquest of power have no relation to the policy of supporting capitalist reforms before the conquest of power.. We shall not leave “transitional politics” alone, but what the left-wing has in mind as “transitional politics” are merely the politics of capitalist reform. We are not in the “transition period,” the workers have not obtained political control, and the advocacy of nationalisation and other reforms is not work towards socialism or towards the capture of political control for socialism. Also the left is  based on the assumption that socialism can be established in one country alone. It certainly cannot. Socialism will be international and cannot be other than international.

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