Our opposition to reforms and reformism are just because their objectives are palliative in nature and are fought for in order to make the system function more smoothly. Though we do not advocate reforms nor fight for reforms, that does not mean that we refuse to accept reforms, as though we could if we wanted to. Historically, reform activities have dissipated the earnest energies of socalled socialists from doing any socialist work, whatsoever. The need for reforms is an all-time job.
Let us define what we mean by reforms. They are efforts to introduce measures into the legal machinery of the state for smoothing out the operation of capitalism. The difficulties that arise from the irreconcilable contradictions of the system require “remedial” measures. Thus the advocacy and fight for reforms, such as nationalisation, social welfare, tax relief, and the host of proposals as can be found in the programs of all the “socialist” and “communist” parties that are geared to the amelioration of the conditions of life with a view to a better administration of capitalism.
Activities such as resistance to the encroachments of capital and the fight for civil liberties are equated with reforms, as though they were synonymous terms. Just two illustrations will suffice:-
1. Workers going out on strike over wages, hours, work-shop conditions, Their objective is to resist increased exploitation. This is not a reform activity. The economic phase of the class struggle, unionism, is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a reform. It is undeniable that many unions do engage in reform activities. But unions and unionism are not synonymous terms. Workers are compelled to organize into unions by the very conditions of capitalism, i.e., the division of the new value produced by the workers into its two component parts: variable capital (the workers’ share) and surplus value (the capitalists’ share). Through the mechanism of unionism, the workers, over the long run, sell their commodity, labor power, at its value. Value, Price and Profit is invaluable on this question. One quote will suffice:
“They [the workers] ought not to forget that they are fighting with effects and not with the causes of those effects; that they are retarding the downward movement but not changing its direction…”
2. Socialists fighting for civil liberties, the right to free speech , to publish and distribute literature, access time to TV, etc. Such measures as free speech, removing restrictions from the franchise and similar activities strengthen the workers movement to get rid of capitalism — and have nothing to do with reforming the damn system. The strength of the socialist movement is that it is the task of the vast majority. Democratic procedures are the essential conditions for the social change we are working for; they themselves are the special products of the material conditions of the 20th century. Civil liberties are revolutionary weapons in the hands of socialists and the socialist majority. This is not a reform activity. The fight by workers for their economic interests within the framework of capitalism is the economic phase of the class struggle. The fight for civil liberties within the framework of capitalism is a manifestation of the highest expression of the class struggle, its political phase.
The acid test: neither of these two illustrations have as their objective legislative enactments to administer capitalism. Reforms have no significant meaning in any other context. There are too many ways of classifying human beings to list them. But, when it comes to separating people into classes, the only reference that makes sense is to social-economic classes. “Class” in this sense is determined by how individual human beings stand in relation to the produced wealth of the world. Social-economic classes are not separated by color, sex, religion, etc. All propertied societies, from the warrior chiefdoms of the early nomadic tribes to chattel slavery, right down to modern times, have consisted of various social-economic classes.
Today, in modern capitalism, there are but two classes remaining: the working class and the capitalist class. The working class, regardless of colour, sex, religion, etc., do not have access to the wealth produced by society as a whole. They are property-less, in the real sense of the word. They obtain their main source of income from selling their labor power (muscles and brains) for wages. They are the vast bulk of humanity, even in the now-emerging new African and Asian countries. On the other hand, the capitalist class derive their income by virtue of their ownership of the means of producing and distributing wealth. They, therefore, are the ruling class. I’m not speaking here as a “radical” or as an “intellectual.” Both appear to me to be bankrupt of understanding today’s world. I’m speaking as a revolutionary socialist who recognises the class nature of capitalist society; its dog-eat-dog jungle with its vicious conflicts that permeate its every fibre. It keeps workers divided into warring camps with “patriotism” and “national loyalties.”
The concept that the black worker is exploited by the white worker is but another form of that nationalism that contaminates modern society. The socialist analysis should recognise and emphasise the serious limitations of racial and nationalist views, even while sympathising with black people’s reactions against second-class citizenship. The success of the demonstrations will merely find the black worker “enjoying” the privileges of his white wage-slave brother. The economic beneficiary will be the black bourgeoisie. Civil rights are important socialist tools and weapons to carry on socialist education and propaganda and for the fight for them, we will march side by side with others but never under the banner of others. We will not be identified with non-socialists. Socialists are colour blind! Our sympathies are with the exploited of all colours. The great need of our times is working-class solidarity to overthrow capitalism and establish socialism. The inspiration of the Red Flag of socialism is a symbol of the red blood that courses through the veins of all human beings. We are all members of one species, Homo sapiens.
For years we have witnessed the “success” of a procession of practical efforts to rally workers to socialism by clever policies. We have seen the transformation of these advocates of socialist goals into supporters of the status quo — rebels who have been converted into supporters of the system. Their trademark has become reforming, improving and administering capitalism. Rebels become transformed into administrators of capitalist states, recruiters for capitalist wars. From Social Democrats to Bolsheviks, from Cuba and the Bolivarian countries to the new Afro-Asian nations?
In the name of building up a socialist movement among the masses, they have emasculated and compromised socialist principles. When elected, they have actually administered capitalism in the only way it can be administered, in the interest of the capitalist class, even to the extent of supporting capitalist wars and crushing workers on strike. They have complained that capitalist parties have stolen their planks (as though any capitalist party could steal a socialist program).
Question: Where are the convinced socialists they were going to make? Where are the socialist masses? Their practical, realistic policies have proven worse than illusory. They have failed to make socialists! Yet they continue to heap scorn and sneer at the World Socialist Movement for our small numbers. With smug omniscience, they dismiss the WSM as “ivory tower utopians,” “dogmatic sectarians,” “impossiblists,” etc. The real question is: — Who have ignored the lessons of experience?
We have been confronted and challenged by those who fight for something “in the meantime” and who are actively participating in the “workers’ struggles.” The lure and fascinationsof protest demonstrations and making demands is very attractive. (In a sense, it indicates how deep-rooted discontent with capitalism really is, and it demonstrates the latent strength of socialism once the masses wake up to the need for changing the system instead of adjusting to it.) But — and this is the vital point — these activities are not in harmony with the immediate needs of our time: the making of socialists. The lack of socialists is all that stands in the way of socialism, now.
In turn, we now put these guys on the spot by asking: Where are the socialists you have obtained by your efforts? Their vaunted “fresh approaches” prove to be very stale indeed. For years their antecedents — the Fabian socialists with their gradualism, the Labour Party with their enthusiasm for policy promises, the Bolsheviks with their “revolutionary” programmes and plans — actually gained victories on such policies and programmes. But on their hands is the recruiting of workers for capitalist wars and the crushing of workers on strike. All those “socialist governments” merely wound up administering capitalism for the capitalist class. WSM say : “If it is movement you want, take a laxative!”
“Socialist Activists” have had impressive “successes” and “victories” in very field except one. The lessons of experience and history have proven beyond any shadow of doubt that they have not remotely convinced the workers of the need for socialism. From the activities carried on in the name of socialism, the one thing conspicuous by its absence has been any mention of the socialist case. In common, the efforts of “socialist activists” — ranging from the CND anti-bomb demonstrators, through fighters for equal rights, to the administrators of both the social-democrat and “communist” varieties — have been geared to an attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable contradictions of capitalism. With contempt, they sneer at the dumb workers and their backwardness. Such groups have been guilty of disillusioning the workers about real socialism. The great indictment of these activists is that they divert the workers from the genuine socialist movement, and have hampered the growth of socialism by many years. Were all that tremendous energy and enthusiasm harnessed in the genuine socialist work of making socialists, how much more the movement would have been advanced! The “practical realist” has proven to be an impractical utopian; the “activist” has proven to be the occupant of an ivory tower.
If anything has been amply demonstrated over the years, it is that “reforms” by “socialist” parties have not been able to change the real conditions of the working class. These “practical realists” with their “in-the-meantime” activities have sidetracked the movement from what is truly meaningful. All those dedicated energies have diverted overwhelming numbers of workers from genuine socialism. Had all these efforts and all that enthusiasm been devoted to socialist education, just imagine how much further advanced and inspiring the movement would be today. What is encouraging is that, in spite of them, we see some signs of the times that workers are waking up!
Once more based on the writings of Rab