Thursday, May 12, 2011

socialist thoughts

There are many organisations claiming to fulfil the requirements of a workers’ party. 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 are not shared by ourselves. By fostering wrong ideas about what socialism is and how it can be achieved these organisations are delaying the socialist revolution. Their basic position is that ordinary people are not capable of understanding socialism, that only a minority of people can understand socialism and are organised as a “vanguard party” with its own hierarchically-structured leadership to lead the workers and hand down “the party line” to the rank-and-file. Contempt for the intellectual abilities of the working class led to the claim that the vanguard party should rule on their behalf, even against their will. Having satisfied themselves that the task is impossible, they then proceed to matters of the moment, reaching an accommodation with capitalism and endeavouring to reform it. Vanguardists may protest at this summary, they may insist that they are very much concerned with working class consciousness, and do not assert that workers cannot understand socialist politics. However, an examination of their propaganda reveals that ‘consciousness’ means merely following the right leaders. Their basic idea that most people are not able to understand socialism is just plain wrong. Becoming a socialist is to recognise that present-day society, capitalism, because it is a class-divided and profit-motivated society, can never be made to work in the interest of everyone. These are conclusions which people can easily come to on the basis of their own experience and reflection and in the light of hearing the case for socialism argued. Not only can people understand socialism, they must understand it if socialism is to be established. What has been lacking is the understanding and will among those men and women who would most benefit from it. This view held by the Socialist Party, that socialism can only be established when a large majority of the working class understand it, is constantly being attacked. If left-wing parties refuse to take up the revolutionary position which aims at the abolition of the wages system and the conversion of state and private property into common property, then they remain parties of capitalism regardless that they claim to oppose it. Socialism depends on working-class understanding in the same way as capitalism depends on working-class acquiescence and support. The socialist transformation of society is different from all previous ones. It must be the work of the majority acting for themselves by themselves

Since our inception in 1904, our objective, has remained the same - "The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of society as a whole."
From this statement, it follows that a socialist society must be one without social classes, the abolition of nation states and governments, the end of money and prices and wage-labour. We socialists speak of a community based upon co-operation, free labour, of free access to all goods and services produced by society for all, based on their own self-determined needs, of democratic administration but the absence of government; a society where the fundamental needs of every human being could be met. Democratic control is not an optional extra of socialism. It is its very essence. Socialism is a society based on the common ownership of the means of life but, since something cannot be said to be commonly owned if some have a privileged or exclusive say in how it is used, common ownership means that every member of society has to have an equal say. If there wasn’t such democratic control there wouldn’t be common ownership, so there wouldn’t be socialism. This being so, socialism cannot be imposed against the will or without the consent and participation of the vast majority. It simply cannot be established for the majority by some vanguard or enlightened minority. That is our case. The socialist revolution can only be democratic, in the sense of both being what the majority of people want and of being carried out by democratic methods of organisation and action. No minority revolution can lead to socialism. Hence our conclusion that the movement to establish socialism, and the methods it employs, must “prefigure” the democratic nature of socialism. The very nature of socialism as a society of voluntary cooperation and democratic participation rules out its being established by some minority that happens to have got control of political power, whether through elections or through an armed insurrection. 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. Socialists place participatory democracy at the very core of our social model.

The word democracy comes from the Greek: "demos" and "kratia". It essentially means "people power" or "rule by the people", i.e. it is about the majority being able to make decisions and put them into effect. Socialism and democracy are complementary; more than complementary – indivisible since the only possible basis for creating an enduring, truly democratic, community is through the conscious choice of strong, independent, politically aware individuals. Capitalism is the antithesis of democracy. Mainstream political theory and practice tries to separate politics from economics. "Political democracy" is allowed in an approved form, but economic democracy is impossible because of economic inequality; the majority are deprived of ownership and control of the means of life. Only when people have real, democratic control over their own lives will they have the freedom that is socialism. Socialism will do away with the inequality of capitalism. With free access to what has been produced, everybody (that's absolutely everybody) will be able to decide on their own consumption and living conditions. Poverty will no longer limit people's lives and experiences. There will be no employment, no employers and no capitalist class. Nobody will therefore be able to make decisions about the livelihoods and, indeed, the very lives, of others. Nobody will have privileged access to the media and means of communication and so be in a special position to influence the views of other people.The uncontrollability of the capitalist economy will be a thing of the past. Production will be for use, not for profit. A free environment of free people will have no private property, consequently no exchange of property, therefore no need for a medium of exchange. With all the paraphernalia of money, prices, accounting, interest rates, there will be no obstacles to people producing what is wanted.

Socialism will involve people making decisions about their own lives and those of families, friends and neighbours - decisions unencumbered by so many of the factors that have to be taken into account under capitalism. The means of production (land, factories, offices) will be owned in common, and everybody will help to determine how they will be used. This need not mean endless meetings, nor can we now give a blueprint of how democratic decision-making in socialism will work. Quite likely there will be administrative structures at different levels, local, regional and so on. This will not just be the trappings of democracy but the real thing - people deciding about and running their own lives, within a system of equality and fellowship. The essence of democracy is popular participation not competing parties. In socialism elections will not be about deciding which particular party is to come to "power" and form the government. Politics in socialism will not be about coercive power and its exercise and so won't really be politics at all in its present-day sense of the "art and practice of government" or "the conduct of state affairs". Being a classless society of free and equal men and women, socialism will not have a coercive state machine nor a government to control it. The conduct of public affairs in socialism will be about people participating in the running of their lives in a non-antagonistic context of co-operation to further the common good. Socialist democracy will be a participatory democracy. The socialism, as envisioned by the Socialist Party, in the words of Marx, will be "a society in which the full and free development of every individual forms the ruling principle", a society "in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all." Voluntary solidarity, not compulsion. The greatest degree of individuality is found where there is the highest social organisation and co-operation. This will apply to human beings in socialism. Individual self-expression, self-interest and social responsibility are the natural incentives for human activity, and will prevail in a sane socialist society. In socialism we wouldn’t be free to do whatever we wished. A socialist society will have to operate according to rules. But the constraints on our personal freedom would be self-determined by local communities agreeing as equals and not imposed on us by the state.

It benefits the workers of the world to organise to defend and extend democratic rights; to widen the democratic space as much as possible. For democracy is the way in which we can unite to free ourselves from the insanity of the profit-system and domination by a minority ruling class. We can replace oppression with equality, waste of resources with production directly for use, and systemic competition with cooperation for the common good. We can create the world that we want, fashioned by the majority, in the interests of the majority. All past changes were due to humans acting in their interests. We have the opportunity to act in ours. Engels wrote that “when it gets to be a matter of the complete transformation of the social organisation, the masses themselves must participate, must understand what is at stake and why they are to act”.

The Socialist Party is an organisation of equals. There is no leader and there are no followers. Everybody in the Socialist Party has equal value and equal power. As previously explained many of the so-called socialist parties do not accept the statement of Marx that the emancipation of the working-class must be the work of the working-class itself, but contend that the workers must be aided and guided by the more enlightened. The Socialist Party is committed to a policy of making sure that hearing the case for socialism becomes part of the experience of as many people as possible. It is committed to treating other workers as adults who are capable of being influenced by open discussion, public debate and rational argument and will 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-union struggle or community action 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. The Socialist Party doesn't have a leader because leadership is undemocratic. If there are leaders, there must be followers: people who just do what they are told. In the Socialist Party, every individual member has an equal say, and nobody tells the rest what to do. Decisions are made democratically by the whole membership, and by representatives or delegates. If the membership doesn't like the decisions of those it elects, those administrators can be removed from office and their decisions overridden.

The more who join the Socialist Party the more we will be able to get our ideas across. And the more experiences we are able to draw on and the greater will be the new ideas for building the movement. That is where the Socialist Party can come in, through making socialists, through that and that alone—making people committed heart and soul to working class interests, democracy and the establishment of socialism. When workers have a strong emotional and practical commitment, they can make grass roots democracy work. It's up to us to encourage that commitment. Because we want socialism, we see our party’s task as to concentrate on spreading socialist ideas. The Socialist Party does not advocate reformism, i.e. a platform of reforms with the aim of gradually reforming capitalism into a system that works for all. While we are happy to see the workers’ lot improved, reforms can never lead to the establishment of socialism and tends to bleed energy, ideas, and resources from that goal. Reforms fought for can, and frequently are, taken away or watered down. Rather than attempting gradual transformation of the capitalist system, something we hold is impossible and has been proven by a century of reformist platforms of so-called workers’ parties which have led instead to the reform of such parties themselves to accept capitalism, we believe that only socialism can end forever the problems of our present society such as war, poverty, hunger, inadequate health-care and environmental degradation. Social harmony is to be sought not by a legislative reform, but by removing the causes of antagonism.

We socialists have never tried to forget the obvious fact that the working class does not yet want socialism, but we are encouraged by the knowledge that we, as members of the working class, have reacted to capitalism by opposing it. There is nothing remarkable about us as individuals, so it cannot be a hopeless task to set about changing the ideas of our fellow workers - especially as they learn from their own experience of capitalism. The self-emancipation of the working class remains on the agenda. It is not the wish of the Socialist Party to be separate for the sake of being so. The position is that we cannot be a popular reform party attempting to mop up immediate problems, and revolutionary at the same time. We cannot have a half-way house; nor can we accommodate the more timid members of our class who abhor what they describe as "impractical" or "impossible" policies, and spend their time looking for compromises. The socialist case is so fundamentally different, involving as it does the literal transformation of society, that we must expect mental resistance before socialist ideas have finally become consolidated in the mind. The master-and-servant mentality is imbued in the worker. Left -Wing propaganda offering leadership adds to the impression that he is an inferior being who is incapable of thinking, organising and acting. If workers do not accept the need to establish a revolutionary system of production based on democratic control and common ownership, there is no other way open to them to achieve their release from capitalism. It is all or nothing. There has been no shortage of diversions along the way. How much stronger would we be if our fellow workers had not experienced that bitter disillusionment of failed reformism and the indignity of abandoning principles for the sake of short-term gains? Pitiful has been the wasted energies of workers who, instead of uniting uncompromisingly for the socialist alternative, have gone for reformist or other futile options. We have seen a century of cruelly extinguished hopes of those who heaped praise upon the state-capitalist hell-holes which posed as "socialist states" which pseudo-socialists promoted. The system which puts profit before need has persistently spat the hope of humane capitalism back in the face of its advocates. The progressive enthusiasm of millions has been stamped out in this way. Dare we imagine how different it will be when all that energy which has gone into reforming capitalism goes into abolishing it? As for the claim that the capitalists might use violence to stop the establishment of socialism, well they might, but what chance would they stand against a conscious movement of well-organised workers? Would the army and police ( just wage slaves in uniform) allow themselves to be used to murder their brothers, sisters, parents and friends?

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