Capitalism has become an obsolete oppressive system that ought to be got rid off but the old social order won’t simply disappear of its own accord. Its removal is dependent upon its replacement by socialism. Capitalism itself created the possibility and the necessity of socialism as well as creating the class capable of introducing socialism, the working class. There was no doubt in the minds of pioneers of socialism as to the future. They recognised the slave condition of the workers in capitalism and had faith in the worker’s power and capacity to abolish the slavery and build a new society of free people in a classless society. A relatively small minority recognise this as most people continued trying to satisfy their needs within the system rather than by overthrowing it.
"The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority," Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto.
"Self-conscious" implies that the class itself must understand the full significance of its actions and “independent” implies that the class itself must decide the objectives and methods of its struggle.The working class cannot entrust this task to anyone else. No "saviours from on high" will free it, as our workers’ anthem, The International, proclaims. The class will never achieve its power if it relegates the revolutionary struggle to others or substitutes the party for our class. Mass socialist consciousness and mass participation are essential. Socialism, unlike all previous forms of social organisation, requires the constant, conscious and permanent participation of the great majority.
The Socialist Party is frequently reminded of the decline of socialist ideas which presumably means that at some particular point of time in the past, socialist prospects were better because there were then more socialists about, or, if there were not more of them, then they were of a higher calibre and more committed. This view of the past is taken for granted so we would therefore expect the evidence for it. But ample evidence points the other way. The bulk of the working classes gave more or less active support to a variety of resolutely anti-socialist parties and causes. Divisions on ethnic and religious grounds existed. Jingoism and nationalist politics prevailed. Labour leaders had acquired a large stake in moderate reform within capitalism and possessed a deep fear of militancy. The General Strike of 1926 was a remarkable event but it was unplanned and unwanted by the leaders of the TUC which led to their unconditional surrender and although there was much bitterness among the rank and file, there was no grass-roots rebellion. The concept of “workers’ control” receded and class collaboration took its place.
A worker who knows that capitalism is the true enemy, yet cannot find time for the struggle to replace it because he or she is “too busy” in the trade union movement or with involvement in campaigns for reforms has not yet grasped the fundamentals. Socialism is not about the relief of poverty by social reform or a belief in nationalisation and co-ops to improve administrative efficiency, all of which have been proved possible within a capitalist framework, but about the abolition of capitalism as an economic and social system. It is not about the improvement in the condition of the working class, but about the abolition of that class. It is not about the creation of a “people’s capitalism”.
Nor is there the slightest relation between Marx’s vision of the future socialist society and the system that once reigned in the old Soviet Union. For all its cosmetic veneer of Marxist terminology, Soviet reality was everything both Marx and Engels abhorred and criticised all their lives. And it is indeed difficult to believe they would not have fought against it if they had been alive. We can debate the intricacies of whether Russia was state-capitalist or simply just a slave-state but there is no question of it being a workers’s state or a step closer towards socialism. Surely, there isn’t anybody who would contend that the workers had any power in the so-called Soviet Union. In Russia the state owns the means of production, but who owns the state? Certainly not the workers!There was no “dictatorship of the proletariat”, rather there was the dictatorship of the Party. The “union” of “soviets” was a fiction within days and months of the Bolshevik October Revolution. It is a fraud to assert that there was a qualitative difference in the Russia of Lenin and that of Stalin. The Leninist “insurrectionary” road to socialism demands centralised decision making and communication, which is not a favourable environment for the growth of democracy. The revolution as we saw was strangled and developed into a dictatorship.