Monday, February 22, 2010

Rising Up

In the bourgeois revolutionary struggles of 19thCentury , armed insurrection for the bourgeoisie and their working class allies was, in the absence of a wide suffrage, the only form of struggle available and, what is most important, the weapons and fighting methods then in use, made victory for the insurgents, under favourable conditions, possible.With the introduction of the general franchise an entirely new method of the proletarian struggle came into being .The bourgeoisie had more to feared from the legal than the illegal action of the workers' party, more to fear from the successes of the workers in elections than those of their armed rebellion.

What many can’t stand about the SPGB is that we do not advocate violence and therefore cannot offer a practical programme of activity based on it. We are thus labelled as sterile or ‘theoretical’ (this being a term of abuse, naturally). Not that the master class will hesitate at bloodshed if they deem it necessary to the maintenance of capitalist privilege. They have not hesitated to incur bloodshed and murder to maintain their full pound of flesh . But we are not Quakers, and do not rule out the need for violence under these circumstances. We simply argue that it is quite possible, and highly desirable, for a large majority to establish socialism without spilling blood. The more violence is involved, the more likely the revolution is to fail outright, or be blown sideways into a new minority dictatorship.We are not pacifists, but we always make it clear that we think that socialists should only contemplate resorting to violence reluctantly and as a last resort should an anti-socialist minority attempt to prevent by violent means the implementation of the democratically-expressed will of a majority for socialism. So you will find no glorification of violence.

The attitude of fetishism which the some anarchists and Trotskyists show towards "violence" their advocacy of street warfare against overwhelming odds, and their efforts to build up a party on mere desperation and unintelligent discontent only serves to make more difficult the Socialist education and organisation of the workers . Ill-timed revolts, the propaganda of sound-bite slogans in place of knowledge, and the strutting of impotent and empty-headed leaders . All this helps to impede the understanding of socialism and, along with disappointment at the failure of to get them anywhere, drove masses of workers to despair and to indifference to the genuine socialist message. Capitalism is the real enemy, not its managers, nor its police . If scapegoats there must be, we are all deserving. The creation of the human ‘enemy’ in revolutionary politics is the point of departure from the the Socialist Party’s case for change, and the foundation and wellspring of all appeals to violence. In short, any solution which necessitates violence against individuals is probably wrong, not because of some pacifist moral imperative, but because it doesn’t get rid of the problem.

The criterion for judging whether someone is a revolutionary or not is whether they want a rapid and decisive change in the basis of society, not the means they advocate to bring this about.Such a social revolution doesn't have to involve violence, insurrection, civil war, street battles, and executions as in the mistaken, popular conception of "revolution".

But what happens when such a small minority does succeed in winning and holding on to power? Because the "unconscious masses" don't want or understand socialism a key condition for its establishment is missing, so whatever happens socialism can't be the outcome. Not being able to establish socialism the new rulers find themselves obliged to govern what is inevitably still essentially a capitalist economy based on wage-labour, money-commodity relations and trading. The enlightened minority may try to do this more or less "benevolently" but this doesn't make much difference as what can be done, and what happens, is determined not by political will but by economic conditions. The minority may want to improve the living standards of the "unconscious masses" but are severely limited as to what they could do by world market conditions .
Our strategy is that the socialist-minded working class majority should try to bring this about with a minimum of social disruption and violence, by sending a majority of socialist delegates – socialist errand boys and girls – to parliament and take over political control, so depriving the capitalist class of the possibility of using the armed forces to protect themselves. If a minority of recalcitrant pro-capitalists were to seek to resort to violence to defy the politically-expressed will of the majority for socialism, obviously they would have to be dealt with. But, frankly, faced with a socialist majority legitimately in control of political power, even the top brass of the armed forces, let alone the rank and file (who will also be influenced by socialist ideas) would throw in their lot with a doomed hypothetical revolt by a recalcitrant pro-capitalists minority.

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