Showing posts with label general election. Show all posts
Showing posts with label general election. Show all posts

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Don't Believe The Deceit

In all countries, the fight for the social revolution has yet to take place. Elections are such depressing things. Once again the power to register a desire to change society in a fundamental way was open to the workers (in the shape of their vote) and once again it will be squandered on pro-capitalist parties. Despite their shortcomings, elections to a parliament based on universal suffrage are still the best method available for workers to express a majority desire for socialism. It is a basic tenet of the Socialist Party that the establishment of socialism involves the capture of political power via the ballot-box.

For this to happen presupposes the existence of a "bourgeois democracy". But while such an arrangement is undeniably preferable to political dictatorship we don't entertain any illusions about the nature of this "bourgeois democracy". It is a very limited kind of democracy indeed. Under this kind of democracy, the population is permitted to choose between representatives of different political parties to supposedly "represent" them in parliament; thereafter control is surrendered to the politicians. But the politicians themselves are constrained to operate within parameters set by the economic system for which they stand. Based upon minority ownership of the means of living, capitalism can only ever operate in the interests of the capitalist minority, not the electorate as a whole.

Every few years groups of professional politicians compete for your vote to win themselves a comfortable position. All of the other parties and candidates offer only minor changes to the present system. That is why whichever candidate or party wins there is no significant change to the way things are. Promises are made and broken, targets are set and not reached, statistics are selected and spun. All politicians assume that capitalism is the only game in town, although they may criticise features of its unacceptable face, such as greedy bankers, or the worst of its excesses. They defend a society in which we, the majority of the population, must sell our capacity to work to the tiny handful who own most of the wealth. They defend a society in which jobs are offered only if there is a profit to be made. Socialists have little concern for the apparent moral consistency (or otherwise) of individuals, be they MPs or not. It’s the system we live under that we are interested in. As defenders of capitalism the right honourable gentlemen and ladies at Westminster have rarely been "right", and are certainly unlikely "honourable" role models. As exemplars of capitalism's principles, however they would appear to embody all the necessary tight-fisted, money-grabbing, elements. Workers' confidence in the money system has clearly taken a significant bashing as pensions evaporate, redundancies are announced and house repossessions increase. The legitimacy of our leaders – whether business or political – is under increasing attack. Bankers have been an easy scapegoat for the fundamental failings of the economic system, capitalism. It is likely that some of that anger focused on bankers has been generalised against those in power in the form of the political class represented at Westminster. And seldom before can the political choice provided for us have seemed so narrow. Threatened by ridicule from the public, the main political parties – between queuing up to show their contrition and denouncing their own excesses in terms reminiscent of some Maoist show trial – have spoken with one voice, the pro-capitalist voice. For brevity and clarity we can call them the Capitalist Party, the real political opponent of the Socialist Party.

The Socialist Party urges a truly democratic society in which people take all the decisions that affect them. This means a society without rich and poor, without owners and workers, without governments and governed, a society without leaders and led. In such a society people would cooperate to use all the world’s natural and industrial resources in their own interests. They would free production from the artificial restraint of profit and establish a system of society in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation. Socialist society would consequently mean the end of buying, selling and exchange, an end to borders and frontiers, an end to organised violence and coercion, waste, want and war.

So in May’s General Election you can vote for candidates who will work within the capitalist system and help keep it going. Or you can use your vote to show you want to overturn it and end the problems it causes once and for all. When enough of us join together, determined to end inequality and deprivation, we can transform elections into a means of doing away with a society of minority rule in favour of a society of real democracy and social equality. You might think, with this economic depression, that capitalism does nothing but make a slave out of you, and that it’s only the rich that benefit. It’s always workers suffering. It’s all about the money. While money and capitalism exist, it always will be. If your local candidates are not saying this, why bother voting for them? Well, why not make a statement rather than stay silent. All you have to do is write something across your ballot paper ‘World Socialism’ A vote’s always worth using, even when there’s nobody worth voting for.

A Socialist Candidate on Video

More of the same or socialism?

In this general election we're putting up a limited number of candidates, but are you one of those very many people who doesn't see the point in voting, and can't be bothered with politicians? Fewer and fewer people are bothering to vote in elections correctly realising that it will have little effect on their everyday lives. You may have noticed that whoever gets elected, nothing really changes. This is because politicians normally have no intention of changing anything. They're really doing very nicely out of the system as it is, thank you, slump or no slump. While they enjoy their executive lunches, cars and kickbacks, the rest of us miserable suckers are supposed to toe the line, "yes" the bosses, and work ourselves into early graves to earn wages that wouldn't buy one of their bottles of claret. We're not politicians, and don't let our party name, and the fact that we are standing for election, fool you into thinking we are. We represent an idea dismissed by politicians, and avoided by anyone who prefers the status quo. This idea is revolution.

Revolution is a scary word, but it doesn't have to be scary. If you prefer, think of it as a kind of social "upgrade", like building a better and faster computer. We don't advocate violence, although we can't know of course that the rich will quietly abdicate when they see that the game is up. But there is a personal revolution to face, as well, because a free society requires responsible members, not children who just play "follow-the-leader" and do as they are told. It's true that we get the society we deserve. Revolution consists in learning to deserve better.

Technology is producing abundance so fast that prices keep falling. It means that there is a higher level of civilisation, of science, or arts, of culture, of personal fulfilment, waiting to arrive. We are standing on the very threshold of that post-scarcity world. All we have to do, as individuals, is take one step. In our strange politics there is no mention of the EU. No mention whatsoever of local issues. No promises of "I'll do this and I'll do that", no flattery, no sweet talk. If you vote for us you won't get a wage rise or a tax cut. Those other candidates are happy to continue with the private property society. They are selling you out, and selling your kids out, and their kids after them. They are politicians. We are private citizens democratically organised as a party to advertise revolution but not lead it, to abolish political power not keep it for ourselves, to promote a free society without rulers, and to disband when we have served our purpose. So if you vote for us now, it's not because we've conned you into it with charming lies. It's because you've just taken that all-important small step, the step that begins the journey.

Is the revolution we are talking about at all likely? The odds seem to be stacked against it. Indeed, when we put forward the idea, most people can scarcely believe we are serious. "It's a nice idea but it will never happen" is the usual response. The assumption is that socialism will rely upon everybody being altruistic, sacrificing their own interests for those of others. But socialism would actually involve people recognising their common interests.

There was a time when the idea of a capitalist society would have been dismissed as a hopeless utopian dream. To a peasant living in feudal society, the idea of radical change would appear as hopeless as it may appear to you now. To them, feudalism would have appeared as eternal and unchanging and unchangeable as the present system appears to us now. So we're not too surprised that people find it difficult to take our ideas on board.

We have the ability to change things if we act together. The power to transform society lies in the hands of those who create everything—the working class. This is the source of our power, should we eventually use it. The power not to make a few reforms, but to change the whole system, to make a social revolution.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

A Write-In Vote for World Socialism

Karl Marx did argue that under certain conditions a socialist-minded working class would be able to gain control of political power peaceably via elections. Having said this, our position does not rest on what Marx said, as we don't slavishly accept him as an infallible authority, but on our own analysis of the facts which in our view confirm Marx's point of view. Many on the Left reached differing conclusion and declare there is no parliamentary road to socialism, describing it as a blind alley. The standard argument against the revolutionary movement contesting elections is that this inevitably leads to it becoming reformist; revolutionary MPs whatever may have been their original intention, end up merely administering capitalism. This, they claim, can be seen from the history of, first, the European Social Democratic parties which once claimed to be Marxist and, more recently, of Green parties which said, as in Germany, that they were only going into parliament to use it as a tribune from which to proclaim the need for an ecological society. When, however, it comes to explaining why this happens they fall back on the lame explanation of “power corrupts”.

We can agree that this is what happened to these parties but offer an alternative explanation: that such parties went off the rails because they advocated reforms of capitalism and not just its abolition. The originally Marxist Social Democratic parties had in addition to the “maximum” programme of socialism what they called a “minimum programme” of immediate reforms to capitalism. What happened, we contend, is that they attracted votes on the basis of their miniumum, not their maximum, programme, i.e. reformist votes, and so became the prisoners of these voters. In parliament, and later in office, they found themselves with no freedom of action other than to compromise with capitalism. Had they been the mandated delegates of those who voted for them (rather than leaders) this could be expressed by saying that they had no mandate for socialism, only to try to reform capitalism. It was not a case of being corrupted by the mere fact of going into national parliaments but was due to the basis on which they went there and how this restricted what they could do. In short, it is not power as such that corrupts. It is power obtained on the basis of followers voting for leaders to implement reforms that, if you want to put it that way, “corrupts”.

The Socialist Party advocates only socialism and nothing but socialism (the so-called “maximum programme”, if you like.) The correct formula is contesting elections only on the basis of delegates being given an imperative mandate for the sole purpose of carrying through the formalities involved in winding up capitalism.

The politicians, the media and the rest of what are called ‘opinion formers’ insist that we have democracy, that we have free elections which allow us to choose whatever form of government we wish, unlike countries where a dictatorship exists. Such dictatorships usually allow elections where the people may approve or disapprove of given candidates within the dictatorship but have not the freedom to vote for any other parties or for independent candidates. In other words the people have imposed on them by force, corruption or the control of information a specific political regime and have not got the necessary democratic machinery to challenge that regime. In fact in most of the so-called democratic countries it could be said that the astronomical costs of challenging for political power have been deliberately manipulated in order to ensure that those who cannot attract rich backers will be denied meaningful access to the democratic process. Effectively this means that in the same way as people in dictatorships are denied the right to make real political changes, in Britain and other allegedly democratic societies prohibitive financial restrictions are placed in the way of the working class organising politically to effect real economic change.

This does not mean that socialists equate dictatorship and bourgeois democracy. Within the latter we are free to organise politically and to develop our support to the extent where we can eventually overcome the embargoes and impediments that capitalism’s restricted democratic forms impose on us, whereas in the former any Socialist work is necessarily clandestine and can invoke severe penalties. What we can equate is the hypocrisy of bourgeois politicians, who rightly condemn those capitalist dictatorships where political freedom is denied and yet are willing participants and vociferous defenders of a form of capitalism wherein financial impediments exist that make a mockery of real democracy.

Real power today does not lie in elected bodies but in the hands of those who own the world’s wealth. Labour, Tories, Nationalist and the others in this election are just arguing over how to use the scraps thrown from the billionaire’s table. A system based on private property has to be run in the interests of its owners. Their profits have to come first. So long as inequality of wealth and power exist elections such as these are just about who is to run this system. The only rational choice is to reject the compromisers and reformists and use every resource available to end it. You don’t need to vote for any particular party to get rubbish collected, schools built or amenities provided. Communities don’t need leaders to get those things for themselves. You know what you need better than any careerist politician ever could and, if there was real democracy, could easily arrange this. Under the present system, though, you only get them, so long as those who own the world make the resources available. But they always give priority to making more profits, so these things are always under-resourced and never done properly.

In the general elections on 7th May, as in all elections, you have a choice. You can vote for candidates who would work within this system and help keep it going. Or you can use your vote to overturn it and end the blights once and for all. You can send a clear signal to other people like yourselves upon whose hard work this system is built that you want to put an end to it, by refusing to vote for any of the capitalist parties and instead writing “World Socialism” across the ballot paper.

At this stage contesting elections can essentially only be an exercise in political education, of getting ideas across. It is why we contest elections today knowing perfectly well that we have no chance of getting elected. When enough of us join together determined to end inequality and deprivation we can transform elections into a means of doing away with a society of minority rule in favour of real democracy and equality. Our common efforts could feed, clothe and house every man woman and child on Earth without exception but we are held back because the owners of the world demand their cut before they’ll let us use the world’s resources. The iron laws of No Profit, No Production and No Profit, No Employment are a cage for us.

If you agree with the idea of a society of common and democratic ownership where no-one is left behind and where things are produced because they are needed, and not to make profits for some capitalist corporation or to enrich some bloated millionaire, and are prepared to join with us to achieve this, then vote for World Socialism.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Voting Revolution

Socialism can only be established by the majority political action of a working class that wants and understands it. To establish socialism, the working class must first win control of political power and to do this they must organise as a political party. In modern political conditions — the overwhelming numerical superiority of the working class, universal suffrage, political democracy, an army and civil service recruited from the workers — the working class can, and should, use elections and parliament as the way to winning power for socialism. A socialist party should contest elections whenever it can, but only on a socialist programme. Where there are no socialist candidates, the party should advocate the casting of blank or spoiled voting papers and never engage in anarchist-type anti-election propaganda. The anarcho-syndicalist idea of a general strike of industrial unions as a means of overthrowing capitalist rule is obviously impractical since it leaves the means to crush any such strike, the state machine, in the hands of the capitalists. Much the same can be said of the use of soviets or workers' councils as an alternative to parliament. 
The Trotskyist Vanguard

Despite their shortcomings, elections to a parliament based on universal suffrage are still the best method available for workers to express a majority desire for socialism. Furthermore, although parliament run by Labour or Tory politicians is incapable of controlling the economic system in a rational and humane way, it is the centre of political control in the advanced industrial countries. The minority of people who now monopolise the ownership of wealth do so through their control of parliament by capitalist parties elected by workers. Control of parliament by representatives of a conscious revolutionary movement will enable the bureaucratic-military apparatus to be dismantled and the oppressive forces of the state to be neutralised, so that Socialism may be introduced with the least possible violence and disruption. Parliament and local councils, to the extent that their functions are administrative and not governmental, can also be used to co-ordinate the emergency measures when socialism is established.

We are not saying that workers councils are therefore quite useless. On the contrary; like trade unions they can often play a useful role under capitalism in the struggle of workers to maintain or improve working conditions and wages, and to resist capitalist authority at work. Factory or workplace committees, or something similar, would also play an important part in the democratic management of production inside Socialism.

Representatives elected by workers to parliament have continually compromised to the needs of capitalism, but then so have representatives on the industrial field. The institution is not here at fault; it is just that people's ideas have not yet developed beyond belief in leaders and dependence on a political elite.

The idea of fair and free elections would give the ruling class political apoplexy. Imagine a general election where socialists had a level playing field, an election that was in effect a plebiscite on the question of socialism or capitalism.  The traditional parties of capitalism would be united in telling us about the remarkable plethora of reforms they intended to introduce to ease poverty in certain areas, to reduce crime, to tackle the housing problem, help the aged, build nuclear bomb shelters, etc.

The socialists would not be offering any reforms of the old, failed system in which the vast potential of the planet is owned and controlled by a relatively small minority of people who allow the production of goods and services only when it holds the promise of profit for them. On the contrary, we would be asking for a mandate to abolish the entire concept of ownership in the means of production and distribution so that everyone could freely participate in wealth production and everyone would be free to take from the common pool of wealth thus created in accordance with their needs. Further, in the context of what we are discussing, we would be offering the establishment of an open and genuine system of participative democracy in a world where the massively destructive and ubiquitously corruptive power of money would no longer exist.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Liberate Yourself

In the Socialist Party’s Declaration of Principles we lay down the few simple essential principles we think are necessary to understand and act upon in order to achieve emancipation from wage slavery. Briefly summed up these propositions are as follows:
All social wealth is produced by the working class and owned by the master class. Between these two classes there is a class struggle which can only be abolished by the emancipation of the workers from wage-slavery; i.e., by the replacement of capitalist private ownership by social ownership. This emancipation must be the work of the working class itself, and, as the capitalist class retains its position by the control of the machinery of government, the working class must organise to capture the political machinery in order to use it as the agent of emancipation. Finally, as all political parties represent class interests, the working-class political party must be hostile to all other parties. These are the broadest principles that can be adopted by the working class to work out its emancipation. If action is taken outside these elementary principles the working class movement is plunged into a morass. The working class will not emancipate itself until it desires socialism; the working class will not desire socialism until it has gained an understanding of the necessary principles. In other words, socialism is impossible until the necessary knowledge is acquired by the workers. Therefore the work for socialists is to communicate knowledge as much as possible of their ideas.

Working for socialism is plodding, uphill work. We cannot force the pace—we must work and wait. No amount of misguided emotion can obscure the fact that workers have not yet reached the stage when they are prepared to use the weapon by which they can usher in socialism – the vote. When the workers first won the suffrage many of them voted for their bosses out of a sort of feudal loyalty, and others were cheaply woo'd with flattery and petty bribes. Only a few then saw that they had in their grasp the instrument to gain their emancipation. Then began a slow growth to political maturity. Many workers still have to learn that a government that wishes to do so can discover numerous ways of evading an election pledge without having to make the candid admission that it was given merely to catch votes; and even when pledges were honoured the results were singularly below the expectation. Becoming more wary, some electors have eventually ceased to believe in quick, easy remedies and ready promises, and came to expect from the parties long, detailed and ponderous programmes promising painful reconstruction operations extending over several years, to be followed by a very nice time for all. Capitalism, however, never does give security and prosperity to the workers and never runs smoothly. How fare the people now? Working harder, eating less, getting day by day shabbier, they face cheerless austerity with nothing more inspiring than still more plans to replace those already scrapped, more promises about the good time coming, and more nauseating sermons from our betters about thrift. There are no "better ways" of running capitalism.

Being a politician is a sort of profession, like a lawyer or a doctor. A politician’s trade is to get into parliament or the local council to run the administrative side of capitalism. To do this, they must get elected and, to get elected, they must promise to do things for people; they must find out what’s worrying people and then promise to do something about it. This is why parties don’t need principles. Or, put another way, they only need one principle (if it can be called that) and that’s “get elected”.
Politicians just promise people what they want to hear. This kind of politics is dominant today and rests on a number of assumptions and has a number of consequences. It accepts the status quo. It accepts capitalism and seeks merely to work within it. Politics becomes a question of choosing the best capitalism-management team from amongst competing groups of politicians. You vote for a politician to do something for you and you reward them for the service by voting for them. Politics becomes an activity in which only a minority - the professional politicians - participate. Most people’s only involvement in politics is, literally, once every few years when they go and put an X on a ballot paper. Then they go home and let the person elected get on with the job. Elections become more and more a sort of referendum, a plebiscite on the record of the outgoing government or council. People’s participation in politics becomes simply giving a thumbs up or a thumbs down to the outgoing administration. If they don’t mind what they’ve done, they vote them in again. If they’re not happy then they vote in some other lot. Politics becomes a spectacle in which people are just passive spectators watching the goings-on of politicians. The media - especially TV - play to this, presenting politics in between elections as a soap. But it is not even a good spectacle. It’s boring and the actors are all second and third rate. It doesn’t work either. Nothing seems to change and nothing does change. The same old problems continue, with the professional politicians only being able to tinker about and patch things up a little.

The end result is that politics in seen as completely boring and that people don’t want to know about it, except in the few weeks before a general election. People know that voting doesn’t change anything and that the only power they have is to vote the Ins Out (or In again) or vote the Outs In; to change the management team, while their day-to-day lives are unaffected and unchanged. No wonder people become apathetic, resigned and cynical.

Can things change? Yes, they could but it’s not going to be through conventional politics, only through a quite different kind of politics. A politics which rejects and aims to change the status quo. A politics which involves people participating and not leaving things up to others to do something for them. Electoral agitation supplies us with a method of unsurpassed value for getting into contact with fellow workers, and for compelling the other parties to defend themselves publicly against the attacks we deliver upon their opinions and their actions. Politics is not just about the antics of career politicians - or at least doesn't have to be.

If you want a better world, you are going to have to bring it about yourselves. That’s The Socialist Party’s basic message. It’s no good following leaders, whether professional politicians or professional revolutionaries. In fact, following anybody (not even us) won’t get you anywhere. The only way is to carry out a do-it-yourself revolution on a completely democratic basis. Democratic in the sense that that’s what the majority want. And democratic in the sense that that majority, rather than following leaders, organises itself on the basis of mandated and recallable delegates carrying out decisions reached after a full and free discussion and vote. That’s what politics can be, and should be. And has to be if things are ever to change.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

All change for no change

In the weeks of electoral excitement before polling day you will have been made to appreciate, at least a bit, that you are, for the moment, important people. Between elections you look up to politicians and big business men as important, but during elections it is they who go to endless trouble to influence you and win your support for them and their policies. It is you who can make or mar the career politician and you who can place power in the hands of a government which during its term of office can, by taxation or by subsidies, raise some industries to prosperity and bring others to their ruin. It is you who give power to governments in whose hands rest decisions about peace and war. Whichever of them, you, the workers, vote for in an election, it is a defeat for you, a betrayal of your own interests. Capitalism exists only because you, the workers, allow it to exist.

Despite being unable to find lasting solutions to workers’ problems, political parties must always try to combat voter disillusionment. Behaving like chameleons, they must search for ways to improve their image, reinvigorate old policies and give the appearance that this time things will be different, this time the electorate will be given exactly what it wants. Parties strive to  engineer their own metamorphosis, re-branding policies and redefining the agenda.

Today politics is about achieving political power, with the main political parties contesting to maximise their share of votes in a political market in the same way as competing corporations do. The reality of politics today is that political parties represent the corporate face of organised groups of career-orientated politicians whose cushy, well-paid jobs are dependent on selling old and failed political formulae dressed in worthless verbiage to a gullible electorate. It is not a question of honesty, sincerity or wise people elected to government may indeed be able to soften some of the nasty features that capitalism throws up, but a government endowed with wisdom could not make a system of economic anarchy and competition - a system predicated on the exploitation of the many by the few - run in the interest of the many. The socialist case is that the social and economic system that has got to be changed and not its particular political functionaries.

Voters vote governments out because they appear incompetent, incapable of finding solutions to the daily problems that confronts wage and salary earners. But government can never solve these problems because their permanent solution lies only in the abolition of capitalism and the wages system. Economic laws that politicians are powerless to change and leave little room for manoeuvre determine what politicians do and how they must react. It is not the deceitfulness of politicians that is the problem but rather the economic structure of society.
But it is not just political parties that refuse to think outside the framework of capitalism. Most people rarely question the structure of society and passively support the system that always works against them. In misguided expressions of defiance that flow from frustration and lack of understanding, voters repeatedly swap Labour governments for Conservative, or Conservative governments for Labour - as they have on seven separate occasions since the second world war – in the hope that it will somehow make a difference. They are always disappointed by the outcome. Mandating a political party to administer capitalism means that workers surrender political power to their class enemy and condone the continuation of their own exploitation, their insecurity and their poverty - a lesson that workers seem unable to grasp as the same mistake is slavishly repeated over and over again. Trading one group of careerist politicians for another can never be the answer, changing society’s economic structure is the only answer.

Yet another set of dishonest politicians will be after your vote at the general election. However, in some cases they are calling themselves 'socialist'. Our analysis of them is not based upon some narrow sectarianism—it's based upon principle. We do not, nor have we ever, supported capitalist parties, especially those that dress up in revolutionary garb in order to hoodwink the workers. Parties such as TUSC are an expression of all the political mistakes made by the working class last century—from the Labour Party to the Soviet Union. We do not doubt that well-meaning individuals get caught up in such chicanery for no other reason than a desire to see a better world. However, sentiment can never be a substitute for the class struggle.
The Green Party sees itself as the political arm of the wider environmental movement, arguing that it is not enough to be a pressure group, however militant, like Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth. Greens, it says, should organise as well to contest elections with the eventual aim of forming a Green government that could pass laws and impose taxes to protect the environment. We say that no
government can protect the environment. Governments exist to run the political side of the profit system. And the profit system can only work by giving priority to making profits over all other considerations. So to protect the environment we must end production for profit. Pollution and environmental degradation result from the inappropriate ways in which materials from nature are transformed into products for human use. But what causes inappropriate productive methods to be used? Is it ignorance or greed, as some Greens claim? No, it is the way production is organised today and the forces to which it responds. Production today is in the hands of business enterprises, all competing to sell their products at a profit. All of them—and it doesn’t matter whether they are privately owned or state-owned—aim to maximise their profits. This is an economic necessity imposed by the forces of the market. If a business does not make a profit it goes out of business. “Make a profit or die” is the jungle economics that prevails today. The Green Party is not against the market and is not against profit-making. It imagines that, by firm government action, these can be tamed and prevented from harming the environment. This is an illusion. You can’t impose other priorities on the profit system than making profits. That’s why a Green government would fail.

Capitalism is a splintered society; divided not just by sectional ownership of the means of production but by the economic rivalry of independent states striving to exercise authority over given geographical areas. Conventional political parties endorse the framework of capitalism and compete to win control over the state and to administer the economic system within its boundaries, which necessarily means perpetuating the wages system and the persistent hardship for wage and salary earners. The policies propounded by these parties are similar because they are manifestations of the same political imperative – a continuation of capitalism – and are distinguishable only to the extent that they propose different organisation methods to administer the same economic system.

UKIP can make huge gains in the elections proclaiming the merits of British sovereignty. We can only wonder at the mainstream parties fears of a surge in support for UKIP. Considering the views of the Labour and Conservative parties on asylum seekers and migrant their objections to UKIP do seem a little hypocritical. They may genuinely abhor the racists in UKIP but have been unsuccessful in confronting them where they have made political gains because to do so would mean acknowledging the shortcomings of a system which they champion and which gives rise to the politics of racism. If anything the rise of UKIP is the product of the total failure of all the reformist parties to make capitalism a fit society to live in. And this is not the fault of the mainstream parties, for they are controlled by the system and not vice versa despite their claims and promises. When capitalism fails to deliver, when despondency and shattered hopes arise from the stench of the failed promises and expectations that litter the political landscape, is it any wonder that workers fall for the scapegoating lies of nationalists and the quick fix they offer?

Governments do not have a free hand to do what is sensible or desirable. They can only act within the narrow limits imposed by the profit-driven market system whose rules are “profits first” and “you can’t buck the market”.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Doing It Our Way

People who come into contact with the Socialist Party are often surprised that the revolution we urge is one that can be brought about by parliamentary means. They are used to associating revolution with the violent overthrow of governments, not with peaceful democratic elections. Throughout the long history of the Socialist Party we have thought long and hard about the state and its repressive forces and our understanding goes something like this:…
…We want the useful majority in society to take over and run the means of production in the interest of all. However, at the moment these are in the hands of a minority of the population whose ownership and control of them is backed up-and, when necessary, enforced-by the state and its repressive forces. The state stands as an obstacle between the useful majority and the means of production because it is at present controlled by the minority owning class. They control the state, not by some conspiracy, but with the consent or acquiescence of the majority of the population, a consent which expresses itself in everyday attitudes towards rich people, leaders, nationalism, money, etc. and, at election times, in voting for parties which support class ownership. In fact it is such majority support expressed through elections that gives their control of the state legitimacy. In other words, the minority rule with the assent of the majority, which gives them political control. The first step towards taking over the means of production, therefore, must be to take over control of the state, and the easiest way to do this is via elections. But elections are merely a technique, a method. The most important precondition to taking political control out of the hands of the owning class is that the useful majority are no longer prepared to be ruled and exploited by a minority; they must withdraw their consent to capitalism and class rule-they must want and understand a socialist society of common ownership and democratic control....

Alternative ways of dislodging the owning class have been suggested, such as the head-on clashes with the forces of the state by a determined minority that you advocate. This is foolish, not to say suicidal: the state wins every time. The plain fact is that you can't "smash the state" while it still enjoys majority support-and when those who control it no longer enjoy majority support there is no need to try to "smash" it: the majority can use the power of their numbers to take control of it via the ballot box, so that it is no longer used to uphold class ownership. To do so they will need to organise politically, into a political party, a socialist party. This is what we advocate. We don't suffer from delusions of grandeur so we don't necessary claim that we are that party. What we are talking about is not a small educational and propagandist group, but a mass party that has yet to emerge. It is such a party that will take political control via the ballot box, but since it will in effect be the useful majority organised democratically and politically for socialism it is the useful majority, not the party as such as something separate from that majority, that carries out the socialist transformation of society. They neutralise the state and its repressive forces-there is no question of forming a government-and then proceed to take over the means of production for which they will also have organised themselves at their places of work. This done, the repressive state is disbanded and its remaining administrative and service features, reorganised on a democratic basis, are merged with the organisations which the useful majority will have formed to take over and run production, to form the democratic administrative structure of the stateless society of common ownership that socialism will be.

This is the way we think it will happen. When the time comes the socialist majority will use the ballot box since it will be the obvious thing to do, and nobody will be able to prevent them to persuade them not to. At that time it will be anti-electoralists who will be irrelevant.

At the moment it is the peaceful activity of undermining people's support for capitalist ideas that is the most revolutionary and subversive activity that opponents of capitalism can engage in because it is precisely people's pro-capitalist ideas, not the repressive forces of the state, that maintain capitalism in being. Yet you consistently dismiss such revolutionary activity as mere propagandising. The socialist position on the use of parliament is summed up by the following: Once there is an organised, determined majority, the success of the socialist revolution is assured, one way or the other. It is then a question of the best tactic to pursue to try to ensure that this takes place as rapidly and as smoothly as possible. In our view, the best way to proceed is to start by obtaining a democratic mandate via the ballot box for the changeover to socialism. The tactical advantage is that, when obtained, it deprives the supporters of capitalism of any legitimacy for the continuation of their rule. Another related point to make is that the organisation of the socialist majority that develops within capitalist society will have to reflect  the essentially democratic nature of the future society it will establish. It will in fact have to prefigure that society and so be entirely democratic, and without a leadership which can impose decisions on the rest. All important decisions, in fact, will come from the majority via referendums or meetings of mandated, wholly accountable and recallable delegates.

We favour majority democratic action on the grounds that the establishment of a society based on voluntary co-operation and popular participation has to involve such co-operation and participation (i.e. democratic methods) and say that when such a majority comes into being it can use existing political institutions (the ballot box and parliament) to establish a socialist society. Many anti-parliamentarians are opposed to this, but are not able to offer a viable alternative (the anarcho-communists pose a spontaneous mass popular upsurge, the anarcho-syndicalists a general strike and mass factory occupations—both of which ignore the state and the need to at least neutralise it before trying to change society from capitalism). If they can abandon their prejudice against democratic political action via elections, we invite them to join us in campaigning for a classless, stateless, moneyless society.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Liberate the Election

The Socialist Party has always emphasised the importance and need for political democracy to secure the transition to socialism, the importance of a representative institution to demonstrate a majority for socialism and to ensure the abolition of capitalism is done in as peaceable and co-ordinated manner as possible. Once a mass socialist movement has come into existence capitalism's days are numbered and there is nothing supporters of capitalism can then do to stop socialism coming. Even if they were to try armed resistance they would lose and, after a period of chaos and bloodshed, socialism would still end up being established. If this mass socialist movement so chose, it could simply go ahead and seize power. This, too, however, would result in a period of chaos and perhaps bloodshed and it would give the opponents of socialism a perfect excuse to resist but the end result would still be the establishment of socialism. We concede that this is theoretically possible but we do not advocate such tactics should be tried. Using existing representative and elective institutions would be the best way to proceed. We do not see how it makes sense for the socialist movement to duplicate existing representative and elective structures. Obviously, the socialist movement will have to have its own democratic structures, but what would be the point of drawing up registers of electors, rules for nominating candidates, counting procedures, when these already exist for political elections? Why not use those that exist? Admittedly, new democratic structures will have to be developed at the workplace, where none exist at present, and we have always envisaged this happening through workers' unions of one sort or another, but this does not have to be done as far as geographically-based local and national elections are concerned. So, all in all, using existing institutions is the best option which is why we have always advocated it.

We are always being told that we live in a free society, but do we? As a politician you have to win a degree of popular support for the policies capitalism obliges you to pursue. It’s not enough to be truthful and say “I’m just reacting to whatever problems the uncontrollable workings of capitalism place on my agenda”. You have to give the impression that you are working towards a better life for everyone. Hence the need felt by politicians to do what George Bush called “the Vision Thing”. You must give the impression that you are engaged in doing something more than the mere routine management of capitalism.

We know that socialism includes democracy, and can only come when a majority of the working class voice their will and desire in favour of it. To us in the Socialist Party the vote itself is not the thing. Millions have had the vote for years, but lacking knowledge of how to use it in their own interest, they have steadily voted their masters into power; voted the continuance of the system that keeps them poor. We know that there are enough working-class voters to-day to defeat the capitalist class – but it wants intelligence behind the vote. Our work, therefore, is to convert the workers from supporters of capitalism into fighters for socialism. We want to enlist a membership for socialism, to build up a party of men and women who understand socialism to be their only hope. When a revolutionary class is strong enough to elect one of themselves to Parliament, then he or she will have behind a solid body of men and women who mean revolution. A Socialist Party MP will voice their interests, expose the bunkum bills of the workers’ enemies, and drive home the socialist position upon every question that arises. A socialist MP will occupy the parliamentary seat wholly as a fighter for socialism, and will regard all activity from the standpoint of their helpfulness to the speeding of socialism. We are necessarily and without any qualification democrats. Our electoralism is,(if only to minimise the risk of violence), to organise also to win a majority in parliament too, not to form a government of course but to end capitalism and dismantle the state.

The capitalist system may have nominally democratic institutions, but it relies upon working class compliance, passivity and lack of involvement in the process to carry out its worst and most illiberal functionings. Real democracy can only be achieved on the basis of the common ownership of society's means of living. The most damaging thing to the cause of true democracy is the repeated assurances that what we have nowadays is democracy, and so all the sleaze, all the dumbing down, all the secret negotiations and dirty deals get lumped together to suggest in people's minds that democracy is not all that great. Anyone who has engaged in politics must eventually come across such statements as "democracy is inefficient"; "the best form of government is a benevolent dictatorship"; or "the country should be run by experts, well trained managers, not just any Tom Dick or Harry". Such comments (which are surprisingly common) reflect a general lack of democratic culture among the working class. These points are easily countered: democracy is only inefficient if your only criterion is speed, but if you include wide consultation and a plurality of opinions and ideas within the decision-making process, then democracy is actually far more efficient in the long run. The benevolent dictator idea neglects the fact that dictators must have a class to back them up so as to ensure the primary aim of all dictators—of staying in power. Likewise, with the group of managers, the question becomes, how do we select such managers? And how are they supposed to manage the country? In whose interest?

These attitudes reveal, however, not that the working class is not interested in how the world is run, but that they have a strong desire for it to be done better. The whole ideology behind a benevolent dictator (the sort of ideology that led to the worship of Lenin, and then Hitler and Mussolini in the thirties) is that they have the power to do what is right, without being constrained by laws or petty interests. The dictator becomes the symbol of the law, all-capable, all-powerful, ready to manage affairs in a rational manner, not in the manner dictated by bourgeois law or by propertied interests. That's the idea at least. The dictator or the managers become a symbol for orderliness and rationality in an insane and disorganised world. They represent stability.

The problem is that most folk do not look to democracy to bring about this stability. The bourgeois propagandists have done their work, and have effectively destroyed any belief in democracy as the idea that folks can run their own lives and own communities. Years of battering and enforced passivity has come to mean that for most of the working class the idea of them being in charge of affairs is inconceivable.

Democracy is not a set of rules or a parliament; it is a process, a process that must be fought for. The struggle for democracy is the struggle for socialism. It is not a struggle for reforms, for this or that political system, for this or that leader, for some rule change or other—it is the struggle for an idea, for a belief, a belief that we can run our own lives, that we have a right to a say in how society is run, for a belief that the responsibility for democracy lies not upon the politicians or their bureaucrats, but upon ourselves.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Shouldn't elections be about real choice

By now some of you will have grown weary of listening to the mainstream candidates in this General Election. They have waffled on and on about public spending, public services, jobs, crime, and how things will get better, if only we put them into power. They all talk about money – spend more, spend less, tax it, borrow it, lend it, find it - but they never talk about where it comes from. They never talk about the basic rules by which it is used. They just assume that money is being made, and that they can adapt their policies to the rules of the money-making game. That is, they assume capitalism. They defend a society in which the majority of the population must sell their capacity to work to the tiny handful who own most of the wealth. They defend a society in which things can only happen if there is a profit to be made. In short, they subscribe to the law of no profit, no production. The Socialist Party is the only party whose sole object is the replacement of the present social, economic and political system (capitalism) with a fundamentally different system (socialism). Politics today involves the mass of the electorate choosing at periodic intervals professional politicians as representatives who will govern them for the next few years. At election times it often suits politicians to make sympathetic noises about issues, but after the elections are over the same politicians can usually find "practical considerations" that make them have "re-appraisals" of previous "policy statements". This cynical manipulation is rife throughout the capitalist world.

Elections are ultimately about which class is to control political power. Capitalist political control is essential to the continuation of capitalism as, while this does not give them control over how the capitalist economy works, it does give them control over what laws are made and over the deployment of the armed forces. As long as society is divided into owners and non-owners of the means of producing life, different sectors of the capitalist class will support different types of governments, including right-wing ones, left-wing ones, centrist ones, or whatever, depending upon their needs for more or less governmental intervention. Corruption among sections of their class, wishful thinking that a stronger state may guide the economy out of serious recession, friendlier taxation policies, or the needs for improved state subsidies, are just a few of many variables influencing the owning class to at times support leftwing brands of government. The capitalist class are not able to sustain any form of government to operate their plundering ventures in the money trick that gives some those rations called wages and others those riches called profits, not even dictatorships, without the support of the wealth-producing working class. Besides producing socially necessary wealth, the working class operates the administration of the state, carries its guns, and provides at times its direct support in the form of votes in open elections. Workers therefore need to be hoodwinked.

While there are historical reasons for the existence of the separate parties into which these career politicians are organised, the differences between them are superficial and often sham. All of them stand for capitalism, its wages system and its production for profit. The capitalist class are not particularly concerned over which of them wins as long as one of them does (even if they don’t like one party to stay in power too long in case the politicians involved overdo the cronyism and the corruption). It doesn’t matter to workers either, even if many are tempted to choose the “lesser evil” – Tweedledum in preference to Tweedledumber – generally perceived by critics of capitalism to be the Labour Party despite its dancing to the tune of capitalism every time it has been in office.

One thing is certain, whichever candidate or party wins will bring about no significant changes to the way things are. And in between elections we will have little or no say in the important decisions, the 'real issues' that concern us. Because of the way things are organised at present, none of us are allowed to take part in the really important decisions that affect us – the ones about our schools, about health and housing, peace and pollution, and the distribution of wealth.

The Socialist Party seeks an alternative to this insane set-up and calls for a truly democratic society in which people take all of the decisions that affect them. This means a society without rich and poor, without owners and workers, without governments and governed, a society without leaders or the led. Socialist society would consequently mean the ending of buying, selling and exchange, an end to borders and frontiers, an end to force and coercion, waste and want and war. Today we have the technology, the resources and the know-how to satisfy everyone's needs. That fact is well established. Fellow workers, replace the lies of the politicians with the trust in your own power. Unite with the workers of all lands to take over the planet for all. Is it not high time that we took back control of our destiny from the profit-mongers and the masters of war?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

We are not alone, or are we?

We are not the only group calling ourselves socialist. Anyone seeking to understand what is wrong with present-day society will come across others, all having some such word in their names as “socialist”, “workers”, “revolutionary” or “communist”. Most of these will be of Leninist or Trotskyist origin and have aims, theories and methods which have nothing in common with ours. People cannot be led into socialism or coerced into it. They cannot be forced into cooperating and participating; this is something they must want to do for themselves and which they must decide to do of their own accord. Socialist society can function on no other basis. This is the basic principle that underlines the whole political activity of the Socialist Party. It commits us to a policy of making sure that hearing the case for socialism becomes part of the experience of as many people as possible. It commits us to treating other workers as adults who are capable of being influenced by open public debate and argument and not to try to hoodwink or manipulate them. It commits us to opposing the whole concept of leadership, not just to get socialism but also for the everyday trade-unionist struggle to survive under capitalism. We do not seek to lead such struggles but limit ourselves to urging workers to organise any particular struggle in a democratic way under the control of those directly involved. Our own party is organised on this basis and we envisage the mass movement for socialism, when it gets off the ground, being organised too on a fully democratic basis without leaders.

We have been forewarned. It is going to get worse; worse than it was – and for most it was never good; worse than it is now. A deep unease haunts the land; a sense of foreboding as politicians, the media and the man next door talk of The Cuts and the impending cuts. Something is drastically wrong. Tens of thousands of people who thought they had secure employment have been made redundant and more going every day. The houses that people have on hire-purchase from building societies are in many cases worth less than what is owed on them. The state ‘benefits’ that guaranteed a mean living are being eroded, and the authoritative voices solemnly proclaim that it is going to get progressively worse. For the working class that means that generally we will be expected to do without more than we were doing without previously; a more restricted standard of living, a financially crippled health service and the ending of access to second-rate education. Whereas, in the past, politics was about politicians and their parties telling us how they were going to improve our living standards, today politics is about the pace and duration of the cuts that are going to bite into our lives in the future: the political Right, abetted by the craven Centre, thinks the pain of economic retrenchment should be fully applied now; the Left argues that less pain over an extended period is preferable. But the common watchword is that it is going to be painful! The cuts are not the result of any change in our potential to produce wealth and there is plainly urgent human need for vibrant wealth production. That such wealth production in any form of society is the result of human mental and physical labour power being applied to nature-given resources is clearly obvious and both these factors remain as they were before the advent of the present crisis. Unfortunately capitalism adds another predominating factor into the simple wealth-producing equation: capital investment on the promise of profit.

We have to recognise that it is the working class that politically endorses capitalism in elections and it is only the working class that can abolish that system in conditions that will allow for the establishment of socialism. That statement requires recognition of the limitations of bourgeois democracy but such limitations do not alter the fact that without the conscious democratic consent of the working class real social democracy is out of the question. The workers, the producers of wealth, are poor because they are robbed; they are robbed because they may not use the machinery of wealth production except on terms dictated by the owners, the propertied class. The remedy for working class poverty and other social ills is the transfer of ownership of these means of production from the capitalist class to society. That, in a few words, is the case for socialism. The work of rebuilding society on this new basis cannot be started until power is in the hands of a socialist working class, and that cannot be until many millions have been convinced of the need for change and are broadly agreed on the way to set to work to bring it about. It is just here that the Socialist Party meets with an objection which is in appearance reasonable enough. Many who would accept the foregoing remarks can go with us no further.

The Left might protest that immediate organising for socialism does nothing to alleviate the current problems of capitalism. Is it not better, they say, in view of the certainty that socialism cannot be introduced at once, to devote much, if not all, our energy to making the best of capitalism, and getting "something now"? By "something now" they mean a minimum wage, increased State protection against destitution through illness or unemployment, and other like proposals. But if they accept that these problems are an effect of capitalism they must surely accept that the logical way to remove an effect is to remove its cause. It may then come as a surprise to them that we also believe in getting something now. We differ in that we are not willing to subordinate socialist principles to the demand for reforms of capitalism, and in that we strongly hold that the best way to get these things is by the revolutionary activity of an organisation of revolutionaries. In other words, the quickest and easiest method of getting reforms from the ruling class is to let them see that it will endanger their position to refuse.

While we recognise that socialism is the only permanent solution, we are not among those who consider that the capitalists are simply unable to afford better conditions for the workers. If workers ceased to struggle they would soon find a worsening of their conditions but on the other hand were they free from the mental blindness which prevents them from striking a blow when and where it would be most damaging, they might, even within capitalism, raise their standard of living and diminish their insecurity. Unfortunately they do not yet see the facts of the class struggle, and too often allow themselves to be paralysed in inaction. Employers will not give up any part of what they hold except under pressure one kind of pressure is fear; the fear that refusal to spend part of their ill-gotten gains on reforms will encourage revolutionary agitation for the seizure of the whole kaboodle.

There's nothing wrong with contesting elections, but it should be done on a sound basis: getting elected on a straight socialist programme of common ownership, democratic control and production for use not profit, with a view to using parliament or the council chamber as a platform from which to spread socialist ideas (while still a minority) and to usher in socialism (when a majority, acting on instructions from a mass democratically-organised and socialist-minded movement outside). This is quite different from trying to get elected by non-socialist votes on a programme of attractive-sounding reforms to capitalism. It's a bad tactic that can only encourage illusions about what can be achieved under capitalism. It glosses over the fact that capitalism is not a system that can be humanised or reformed or transformed into something better. It is a profit system subject to economic laws which can only work in one way: as a system of profit-making and accumulation of capital in the interest of a tiny minority of profit-takers. What those who want a better society should be doing is to campaign to change people's minds, to get them to realise that they are living in an exploitative, class-divided society and that the only way out is to end capitalism and replace it by a new and different system based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production, with production to satisfy people's needs, and distribution on the basis of “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs”. Once a majority have come to this realisation, they will know what to do: organise themselves into a socialist party to democratically win political control and use it to bring about a socialist society.

That's what socialist politics should be about.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The SPGB on the BBC

No to ReformISM

Reformers want to use the electoral process as a means of gathering as many votes as possible. Reform manifestos display the small changes advocated as attractively as possible, with little concern for educating the voters. Priority is given to winning elections and electing leaders. Reforms are to be pursued today, tomorrow the revolution - and tomorrow never comes. The Socialist Party is also prepared to use the electoral process, but with a view to challenging capitalist control of political power. The first task is to educate people and make socialists. The success of socialist candidates will measure the extent to which this activity achieves its aim. The Socialist Party no stake in how capitalism is run. Socialists are opposed to capitalism however it is organised. We do not enter into the debate about whether free market capitalism is better or worse than nationalisation. We oppose the profit system in all its forms and work only for its replacement by socialism.

The nature and meaning of democracy in society has become a topic of major interest in the media. People are repeatedly reminded that the ‘war on terror’ is being waged to defend ‘our’ democratic rights and freedoms. Although parliamentary government still operates to protect property, the concessions that have been won in capitalist democracy are important and of value to working people. Rights to organise politically, express dissension and combine in trade unions, for example, are valuable not only as a defence against capitalism, but from a socialist viewpoint are a platform from which socialist understanding can spread, while the right to vote the means by which socialism will be achieved. At the same time we must recognise that genuine democracy is more than these freedoms and the right to vote. Whilst ‘one person one vote’ is an essential ingredient of democratic society, democracy implies much more than the simple right to choose between representative of political parties every five years. Today exercising our democratic right to vote for a conventional political party does not effect change. It amounts to little more than making a selection between rival representatives of power and class interest whose overarching function is to protect private property and make profits flow. It is representative government where all the representatives support obedience to the capitalist system.

Clearly, ‘democracy’ under capitalism is different from the generally accepted meaning of the word as a situation where ordinary people make the decisions that shape their lives, frequently summarised as being the ‘rule of the people.’ But democracy is not simply about ‘who’ makes decisions or ‘how’ the decisions are to be made. It is an expression of the social relations in society. If democracy means that all have equal opportunity to be heard, then this not only implies political equality but also economic equality. It further presupposes that people have individual freedom. A genuine democracy is therefore one where people are free and equal, actively participating, without leaders, in co-operative discussion to reach common agreement on all matters relating to their collective as well as individual requirements. A genuine democracy complements equality and freedom and is therefore incompatible with capitalism. In capitalist democracy freedom has become a commodity strictly limited to the amount that can be purchased by a given wage or salary. In the workplace our ‘work’ organised under a strict division of labour is often tedious and repetitive; we have become an appendage to a machine or computer in industry organised on a strictly ‘top-down’ chain of authority – more fitting to a tyranny. This is what freedom means under capitalism.

The realisation that genuine democracy cannot exist in capitalist society does not alter the fact that the elbow room already secured by struggle can be turned against our masters. The right to vote, for instance, can become a powerful instrument to end our servitude and to achieve genuine democracy and freedom. Working people with an understanding of socialism can utilise their vote to signify that the overwhelming majority demand change and to bring about social revolution. For while democracy cannot exist outside of socialism, socialism cannot be achieved without the overwhelming majority of working people demanding it. Today, we must view with suspicion attempts to further restrict or limit our legal rights by carefully considering the motives that lie behind such moves. For we need to use these rights to organise and spread socialist understanding so a socialist majority can capture political power, end capitalism and establish socialism. Only then will we have genuine freedom and a genuine democracy.

Talk of a "complete change" in the basis of society is what is rejected by campaigning activists. This wasn't always the case. In the not-so-distant past both the Labour Party (and then the Green Party) did talk in terms of changing society True, this was only as a long-term prospect, but the idea of an alternative society was there. Now this has gone and those of us who are left proposing this are denounced as "unrealistic" for continuing to advocate a "big solution" when supposedly there is none. Let's suppose for a moment that there isn't. What would that mean? It would mean that we'd have to continue with what we've got—capitalism and try to make the best of it, as individuals and as sectional interests. Political parties have already become rival groups of professional politicians with virtually identical policies and certainly identical practices, offering themselves as the best managers of the system. So it would mean that politics would be reduced to pressure group politics as different sections of the population tried to persuade governments—whichever the party in power—to make changes in their particular sectional interest or, in the case of campaigning charities, of the disadvantaged group they have chosen to champion. Political action would consist of lobbying, backed up from time to time by direct action, for reforms in the sectional interest of some group.

This is not an attractive prospect but it is one that is, somewhat surprisingly, championed by a number of people who are severely critical of capitalism. What they like is the idea of "direct action" as such. This, they think, is the way to get improvements; electoral action via local councils and parliament, they say, doesn't get you anywhere. But "direct action" is merely a method, a tactic, not an end in itself and can in fact be employed for different ends. In the present political context it is being advocated as a better way to get reforms than elections. May be it is, but maybe it isn't. One powerful argument as to why it might not be has just been demonstrated: those with the biggest vehicles can reclaim the streets more effectively than those without. In other words, with direct-actionist, pressure group politics, those who can exert the most pressure will tend to come off best, and it is the more powerful who can generally exert the most pressure.

Those who concentrate on trying to obtain reforms within capitalism—whether by direct action or through the electoral process—are on the wrong track. What is needed is precisely what most of them refuse—and in fact have consciously rejected doing—and that is raising the issue of an alternative society as the only framework within which the problems for which they are seeking short-term relief can be solved.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Be Reasonable – Demand the Impossible

A long time ago parties that now call themselves Labour Party or Social Democratic Party used to subscribe to different versions of what we describe as socialism but they have abandoned this over the last hundred years. They have accepted capitalism and now concern themselves with putting forward various ideas for modifying the system, to promote fairness  -  most of them completely impracticable. Ed Miliband is now on record as promising to “make capitalism work for the people”. Oh no, he won’t – because that’s not possible. Currently under capitalism although we can vote for parties in elections, huge chunks of our lives are beyond our influence. The politicians have no control over the economy and so neither have we.  We can’t decide on our standard of living or our level of prosperity.

With the electoral circus in full swing the parties have been competing with one another in a seemingly endless round of pledges, promises, scare stories and counter claims. The media openly spends more time telling us about "the election" itself - its stratagems and ruses - than about the policies on offer from any of the parties. The election campaign is carried out as if by marketing agencies selling superficially different (but nevertheless fundamentally identical) products. The tools of their trade are the typical PR techniques employed by corporate business everywhere - "spin", "positioning" in relation to key target sectors, junk mail/internet spam and cold-calling of those in a targeted market niche, all refracted through the magnifying glass of Twitter and Facebook. An advertising war and charm offensive in which we are mere collateral damage. Is it any wonder the electorate react with a cold shrug of apathy?

The Greens are not anti-capitalist. Certainly, they criticise Big Business and some of the ways the profit-driven market system works, but from the point of view of small business. For them, Big Business is Bad, Small Business is Beautiful. But a return to smaller businesses is neither desirable nor in fact possible, and it wouldn't help the environment either. And Green Party Ministers in Germany, France and Italy haven't made any difference to the way capitalism works.

As for the others on the Left putting up candidates in this election, a socialist organisation will get nowhere without a firm grasp sound Marxist principle, a disdain to conceal its socialist objective, and a membership in full possession of the facts about current society and the revolutionary alternative. None possess these organisational principles, and none are showing any clear sign of understanding or desiring to develop them.

As socialists, we wish to help change the world in a positive direction, not get our bums on the benches of the House of Commons or on the seats of chauffeur-driven ministerial cars. So in this election we call on the "silent majority", unhappy - and even disgusted - by the performance of the clowns in this political circus, to protest by spoiling their ballot papers if there is no Socialist Party candidate standing in your constituency. In so doing they will be taking part in the democratic forum yet at the same time withdrawing their consent from those who would rule over them in the name of wealth for the few and tedium for the rest of us. Where no candidate standing for the one genuine alternative to the present system - a world socialist society of free access to available wealth - is on offer in this election, socialists and those in general agreement with our cause will be writing "WORLD SOCIALISM" across our ballot papers. So our voice will be heard. We will not allow it to be stifled under a welter of mindless political psychobabble. And the more people who agree with us and do the same, the louder the voice and the more effective the protest against the whole ridiculous charade currently being played out before us in the name of our interests. We suggest a write-in vote for socialism. Our appeal to people to become socialist is not based on ethical considerations or compassionate feelings for people who are less well off than them. You should become a socialist for your own self-interest, for a better life for yourself.

General Election – Fast Forward to the Past

In many areas affecting their lives people realise that there is no real choice, only an illusion of choice, a choice between unwanted and unwelcomed options presented as the only alternatives. Throughout the ages humanity has sought and achieved advancement motivated by desire, passion and a will to produce something better, to succeed in their aspirations. Lack of meaningful choice in national elections and the realization that politicians of all persuasions are failing to represent voters has resulted in steadily declining numbers presenting themselves at polling booths. In the present electoral system not voting is both making a choice and not making a choice. It's clear that the reason voters are not turning out is because they think it's pointless. This is an inherent flaw of representative democracy: voters are infrequently called upon to cast a vote, which seems to be far removed from any action or result; there is no immediate reward for the vote. The voters thus feel, correctly, that their influence is slight. If the alternatives on offer are unacceptable then no valid choice has been offered and the process can only be perceived as a sham. Voters, non-voters and reluctant voters all require different alternatives from those on offer.

In all elections there are three options. The first one is to continue to vote for one of the numerous parties whose policies are limited by the narrow parameters of capitalism, the very system responsible for the vast majority of society’s problems. Secondly is the tactic favoured by the anarchistic and that is not to vote at all and to become politically apathetic, which contributes to the continuation of capitalism. Lastly in contrast to the above two, to support The Socialist Party which proposes the genuine, democratic sharing of resources amongst all the people, with production of goods and services for human need. In such a society, each individual would be of equal value and status, and would be able to make their own contribution, voluntarily towards producing the wealth of the new society. The people would then have free access to goods and services. In real socialism, since profit making and money will be abolished, it is all the people and the environment which will come first. The job of The Socialist Party is to bring the class struggle to an end, not to try and accommodate themselves with the system.

The Labour Party has failed, so let’s start a new one. That’s what some trade unionists and left-wingers are saying. That would be to repeat a mistake. It is not possible either to reform capitalism into socialism by means of a series of reforms enacted by parliament or to make capitalism work in the interest of the majority class. Once the political structure is unable, as now, to accommodate any semblance of reforms so as to offer aspirations, then have to resort to trying to scare the electorate into supporting them, into fooling them into voting for them. They know that to keep the system functioning, they have to persuade people to turn up, and give their support for it. That is the politicians' job; since they cannot actually make or change events, they have to work hard to pretend that they can. Their function is to win and maintain public confidence. At the end of the day they are merely actors, and our modern media-driven politics could be easily called a thespocracy, rule by actors, as we witness from the importance of television appearances and performances, strong emphasis upon presentation but woefully low on content.

Instead of the Labour Party gradually changing capitalism, the opposite happened. Capitalism gradually changed the Labour Party into an ordinary run-of-the-mill mainstream party taking its turn to manage the affairs of British capitalism. What is required is not a new Labour party but a party with socialism as its explicit aim and a policy of doing all it can to bring this into being. If the mistakes of the 20th century are not to be repeated this century the last thing that is needed today is a non-socialist, trade-union based “Labour” party. We’ve already been there, and it doesn’t work. Leftists no longer have any justification whatsoever for asking us to follow Labour and those who think themselves to be socialists have had their illusions thrown back in their faces with a rude wake-up call.