The highest aspiration of the Socialist Party is for the triumph of its cause. Our members' hopes are bright with the possibilities of the future commonwealth. Their ambitions are no longer individual, nor are their joys and sorrows. They are glad and downcast with the flow and ebb of the movement. We view events in their relation to the revolution; we ask of institutions whether they can assist or only obstruct it. The revolution is no one’s business but the workers'.
In the perennial class struggle around conditions of livelihood, workers suffer defeat on defeat; worse, we combat one another. We allow ourselves to be divided on all manner of pretexts. We have not learned to unite even in defence of the meagre things we have. As to completely re-organising social life, we should end our masters' packing to produce and distribute by democratic arrangement—but it is never done. Claim and receive what we need from the common store lies outside our fellow-workers imagination. Such is the present state of mind of the working class whose mission it is to overthrow capitalism.
The Socialist Party may do one of two things: lead the workers or teach them.
A political party by zeal and devotion may aim at acquiring a strong influence over the working class, so that when decisions are to be taken their advice will be asked and followed, relying for support on people who better understand socialism. In other words, activists may either act for their fellow-workers, making all efforts meanwhile to bring them into the party line. This method of leadership recommends itself to some because it appears at first sight to be the quicker.
On the other hand, the socialists may devote all their energies to education, assisting no reformist activity, but rather making clear the worthlessness of such endeavours, and the true remedy for the distress which gave rise to them. In this case, the minimum prerequisite for a seizure of political power would be a majority of socialists. That is not to say that the majority need be profound Marxian scholars, but they must:
(1) understand well the basic principles of capitalist and socialist society respectively;
(2) have freely decided to destroy the one and set up the other, and consequently be able
(3) intelligently to exercise the right of recall, if any of those whom they depute to give effect to their will shall seek to play them false; or
(4) to appoint suitable successors if chance should remove some of their delegates so that the direction of the revolution is in no wise accidental.
(5) Socialists concentrate on making working people capable of acting for themselves.
To count on the support of people who do not understand your purpose is to build on foundations of sand. At most, they may desert you. If they can be influenced by you, they can also be swayed by your enemies too; and, become in the hardships and uncertainties of the transition period, the seeds of counter-revolution? Moreover, if accustomed to leaders, how shall they show the qualities necessary for democratic control—independence, and the responsibility to run a socialist society? Not understanding how the system should develop, where is the safeguard against their wrecking it by unsound decisions? And to prevent that you must govern over your fellow-workers after all. Not a co-operative commonwealth, but a bureaucratic state —a sorry achievement of leadership, which leaves the task of education still before you.
No genuine and enduring transformation of society is possible until the majority of the workers have embraced socialist principles, the Socialist Party directs all its actions towards organising an ever-growing body of socialist conviction. It takes no part in reformist agitation but calls on the workers to come together for the one action that can help them. We avoid confusing our message by advocating socialist principles with our slogans and supporting reformist programmes through our actions. We seek to ensure that new comrades join us with their eyes wide open— knowing the road without the need for a leader. Say in a time of revolution a leader is entrusted with a great task. He or she fails or dies; it is but to supply a replacement with another. The revolution will not fail or die with one person. All are not equally gifted, but the field of selection is as wide as the party, not limited to a small elite vanguard. Leaders, regardless of how strong and courageous, cannot guarantee victory, and a defeated insurrection would sow despair and defer what it sought to hasten. But a resolute majority, equipped with knowledge, is invincible.
“Intelligence enough to conceive, courage enough to will, power enough to compel. If our ideas of a new society are anything more than a dream, these three qualities must animate the due effective majority of the working people: and then I say the thing will be done.” William Morris