Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Socialism and Socialists
Why the Socialist Party of Great Britain is opposed to all other Political Parties
Many political organisations professed to exist only for the purpose of assisting the working class. They have drawn up hosts of programmes of social reforms which they guarantee would, if the workers would only trust them and vote for them; solve all the ills which afflict the working class. The Socialist Party of Great Britain had no wish list of reforms and is opposed to all parties who ask the workers to support a reformist policy. Reform of Capitalism would still leave workers in their slave position. The ever-changing lists of reforms should be an example to the workers of the futility of wasting valuable time and energy attempting to reform a system which can not be reformed in the interests of the working class. Social reform being no solution to the ills suffered by the workers the Socialist Party pointed out that all the evils could be traced to the one cause and to this one cause only – private property. Look around and see the notices such as “This is Private Property” and “Trespassers will be Prosecuted”. To the socialist these were advertisements of the cause of poverty, slums, disease, crime, prostitution, war and all the other curses of the human race. Having found the one cause for all our troubles we find the remedy almost automatically - Socialism. Abolish private property with production for profit and establish a new system of society based on common ownership with production for use. This is what socialism means. Socialism is the only hope of the working class. The Socialist Party had been advocating nothing else since 1904 and since socialism is our object, all our activities are directed towards getting it established as soon as possible. Therefore, we are opposed to all other political parties.
Are socialists supposed to unite with those who want to reform and administer capitalism? Do we unite with those who claim socialism can be established by a well-meaning leadership without a class-conscious working class? Do we unite with those who see socialism as a system based on state control and state ownership of industry: and lastly, do we unite with those who refuse to recognise the possibility of a peaceful parliamentary road to socialism? Revolutionaries must reject this appeal if they are to remain revolutionaries. If there is no common ground upon which agreement can be reached then there can be no unity. Our analysis of the Left 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. The Left is 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. “Unity" has no meaning unless based on the common realisation that its sole object is to introduce socialism. A socialist organisation will get nowhere without a firm grasp of democracy, a disdain to conceal its socialist objective, and a membership in full possession of the facts about current society and the revolutionary alternative. Unlike the Left we openly advocate common ownership and democratic control. It is not the wish of the Socialist Party to be separate for the sake of being so. It is ridiculous to think of a rivalry between socialist parties competing to emancipate the workers. If another socialist organisation appeared on the scene, then the only possible action that we could take would be to make immediate overtures for a merger. We would offer them the open arms of comradely greetings and unity. But 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. We do oppose all the so-called working-class parties which compromise with capitalism and do not uphold the socialist case. 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.
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. We have witnessed a system which 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. How different it could have been if all that work which has gone into trying to reform capitalism had gone into struggling to abolish it ? Historically, reform activities have dissipated the earnest energies of so-called socialists from doing any socialist work, whatsoever. The need for reforms is an all-time job. The Socialist Party is not going to do anything for the working class except to arouse their fervor, determination and enthusiasm for socialist objectives. Working-class understanding is at a very low ebb, therefore the membership in the Socialist Party's strength in numbers is puny. Apart from the feeble voices of the Socialist Party, the great mass of the workers are not exposed to socialist fundamentals. Nevertheless, the greatest teacher of all is experience. Eventually, all the groping and mistaken diversions into futile efforts of reforming and administering capitalism will run their course. People learn from their mistakes. Necessity is the latent strength of socialism. Truth and science are on the side of socialism. Socialism is no fanciful utopia, but the crying need of the times; and that we, as socialists, are catalytic agents, acting on our fellow workers and all others to do something about it as speedily as possible, the triggering agent that transforms majority ideas from bourgeois into revolutionary ones. The seeming failures, the disappointments and discouragements, the slow growth, only indicate that socialist work is not an easy task. What makes socialist work stirring and inspiring is not that there are short cuts , but that there is nothing else worth a tinker’s damn.
Some members of other organisations have the best of intentions, but good intentions do not change the nature of those organisations. Those “socialist" activists have claimed impressive “successes” and “victories” in every field except one. History have proven beyond any shadow of doubt that they have not remotely convinced the workers of the need for socialism. From their activities carried on in the name of socialism, the one thing conspicuous by its absence has been any mention of the socialist case. The efforts of these “socialist" activists has been geared to an attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable contradictions of capitalism.
There are two kinds of reformism. One has no intention of bringing about revolutionary change. That indeed reforms are the antidote to revolution. The welfare state - most particularly its health service component - originally represented an advance for many workers, though it was certainly not introduced with benevolence in mind. We have never said that all reforms are doomed to failure and do not really make a difference to workers' lives? There are many examples of 'successful' reforms in such fields as education, housing, child employment, conditions of work and social security. The Socialist Party does not oppose all reforms as such, only the futile and dangerous attempt to seek power to administer capitalism on the basis of a reform programme - reformism. The other being the one cherishes the mistaken belief that successful reforms will somehow prepare the ground for revolution are to be seen as necessary first steps on the long road to eventual revolution. That socialist consciousness will develop out of the struggle for reforms within capitalism: when workers realise that they can’t get the reforms they have been campaigning for they will turn to the "cadres" of the Fourth International for leadership. Quite apart from the fact that this has never happened, this argument is more of a rationalisation by shamefaced reformists who imagine that they are revolutionaries. “The movement is everything, the goal nothing” sums it up. The 'Left' may claim that it enjoys the best of both worlds by both supporting reforms and advocating revolution. But in fact its revolutionary posturing. Left reformists always claim how much better everything would be if only they were in power. Everything would be better: the NHS, the environment, the economy, education. And how is all this to be achieved? By two old Leftist illusions; taxing the rich and nationalisation disguised as public or social ownership. The aim of the Left has always been to establish state capitalism, the profit system planned centrally by a miracle-performing state. Yet the source of the wealth would still be the surplus value wrung from the working class. Lacking an honest revolutionary stance for a new society, the Left becomes caught in a pointless circular battle with an economic system that is based on exploitation. As long as the accumulation of capital takes precedence, either in the hands of the individual capitalist or state institutions, the primary concern of exploitation of labour and making profit will take precedence over the concerns of human need. The Left downplays the idea of directly challenging the system and organising an alternative political economy and is working instead on the terrain of capitalism.
As revolutionaries, we do not advocate reforms, that is, changes in the way capitalism runs, such as alterations to immigration policy or the health service or the tax system. Reforms, no matte how "radical", can never make capitalism run in the interests of the workers. Nor should supporting reforms be some kind of tactic pursued by socialists to gain support from workers, for workers who joined a Socialist Party because they admired its reformist tactics would turn it into a reformist organisation pure and simple. To attract support on the basis of reformist policies but really aim at revolution would be quite dishonest to get workers’ support on the basis of saying one thing while really wanting something quite different.
History showed us the fate of the social democratic parties , which despite a formal commitment to socialism as an "ultimate goal", admitted the non-socialist to their ranks and sought non-socialist support for a reform programme of capitalism rather than a socialist programme. In order to maintain their non-socialist support , they were themselves forced to drop all talk of socialism and become even more openly reformist. Today the social democratic parties are firmly committed to capitalism in theory and in practice. We say that this was the inevitable result of the admission of non-socialists and advocating reforms of capitalism. That is why we have always advocated socialism and never called for the reform of capitalism. We are not saying that all reforms are anti - working class, but as a socialist party advocating reforms , it would be its first step towards its transformation into a reformist party. Regardless of why or how the reforms are advocated, the result is the same: confusion in the minds of the working class instead of growth of socialist consciousness.
The institution of government does not feel threatened by appeals to it to act on single issues - even if those appeals take the form of mass public protests. On the contrary, government only feels a sense of power and security in the knowledge that the protesters recognise it as the supreme authority to which all appeals must be made. As long as people are only protesting over single issues they are remaining committed to supporting the system as a whole. But government will take quite a different view when large numbers of people confront it not to plead from a position of weakness for this or that change or addition to the statute book, but to challenge the whole basis of the way we live - in other words to question the inevitability of buying and selling and production for profit, and to actively work from a position of political strength for its replacement by the socialist alternative. In such circumstances, the governments aim will be to buy off the growing socialist consciousness of workers. In other words, reforms will be much more readily granted to a large and growing socialist movement than to reformers campaigning over individual issues within the present system. Not of course that the growing movement will be content with the reforms the old system hands out.
We have no objection to workers and socialists gettting involved in fights for partial demands but don't believe the PARTY should do that. We regard the strategy of transitional demands as elitist and manipulative, as well as just downright silly. The party's task is NOT to "lead the workers in struggle" or even to instruct its members on what to do in trade unions, tenants' associations or whatever, because we believe that socialists and class-conscious workers are quite capable of making decisions for themselves.
To those who still say that, while they ultimately want socialism, it is a long way off and we must have reforms in the meantime, we would reply that socialism need not be a long way off and there need not be a meantime. If all the immense dedication and energy that have been channelled into reform activity over the past 200 years had been directed towards achieving socialism, then socialism would have been established long ago and the problems the reformists are still grappling with (income inequality, unemployment, health, housing, education, war. etc.) would all be history. It is only when people leave reformism behind altogether that socialism will begin to appear to them not as a vague distant prospect, something for others to achieve, but as a clear, immediate alternative which they themselves can - and must - help to bring about.
The Left-winger behaves as if he was Moses, laying down the commandments in stone for ignorant followers to obey. Left -wing propaganda offering leadership portrays the worker as an inferior incapable of thinking, organising and acting and imbues further the master-and-servant mentality of the worker. Left organisations start from the premise that workers are too stupid to understand or want socialism by their own volition. Therefore, revolutionary ideas have to be introduced from outside the working class by all-knowing "professional revolutionaries" who will lead workers to the promised land. The Socialist Party is not on "The Left". There is no such manipulation or dishonesty. We have always been opponents of nationalisation. We do not advocate that the working class should experience the disillusionment of yet another Labour government to realise that it would be once again anti-working class. As an aside, it is interesting how small the memberships of the other so-called revolutionary parties are. It makes a shambles of the misconception that the Socialist Party is small because of our procedures or lack of participation in "the struggle", or our "unsound" or that favourite criticism for being “dogmatic and sectarian” that we lost members and influence. This is a historic and social phenomenon. The myriad parties of the Left all have serious declines in membership. It can be ascribed to a public's apathy that arises when high hopes raised by social reform programs only lead to disillusionment. Many of the Left persist in claiming that the masses require "revolutionary" leadership , yet we can see from the present spontaneous struggles of the Arab Spring , The Occupy Movement and the Spanish indignados that protest and resistance does not require political party leadership. In fact, in most revolutions - 1905, February 1917, the fall of the Soviet bloc, political parties were never initially in the forefront.
Most on the Left believes class struggle militancy can be used as a lever to push the workers along a political road, towards their "emancipation." How is this possible if the workers do not understand the political road, and are only engaging in economic struggles? The answer is the Leninist "leaders in-the-know" who will direct the workers. But these leaders lead the workers in the wrong direction, toward the wrong goals (nationalisation and state capitalism), as the workers find out to their sorrow.
Instead of standing clearly for socialism, the Left have aped official Labourism, seeking to influence non-socialist workers through tactical manipulation rather than convince them to change their minds. They argue that the ‘united front’, provides an opportunity for ‘revolutionaries’ to discuss and convert reformists and that the immediate aim of the ‘unity’ is to provide the most effective fighting organisation for both reformists and revolutionaries. Vanguardists accept the notion that the workers are incapable of developing socialist consciousness, and so the "revolutionaries" have to work with reformists in order to influence them and draw off the most active workers into their own ranks. That there is an "uneven consciousness" among workers that necessitates the need for leaders and for an organisation that can bring it together with non-socialist workers in the name of immediate given ends, be those organisations trade unions or anti-cuts alliances. The reality is that any sort of success involves hiding the disagreements between their constituent organisations, specifically about means and motives. They succeed by making demands that are supported by significant numbers of workers, meaning that any ‘revolutionary’ content will be buried into the need for immediate victory. As such, it is small ‘c’ conservative, taking political consciousness as it is found and seeking to manipulate rather than change it. Such a tactic affords the ‘Left’ an opportunity to extend their influence. As a tiny minority, they get to work with organisations which can more easily attract members and can thus be part of campaigns and struggles that reach out well beyond the tiny numbers of political activists in any given situation. But the relevant fact remains that, despite providing all this assistance, the "revolutionaries" are incapable of taking these campaigns further than the bulk of the members are willing to accept.
The Socialist Party, however, argue that minorities cannot simply take control of movements and mould and wield them to their own ends. Without agreement about what it is and where it is going, leaders and led will invariably split off in different directions. We say that since we are capable, as workers, of understanding and wanting socialism, we cannot see any reason why our fellow workers cannot do likewise. The job of socialists in the here and now is to openly and honestly state the case rather than trying to wheedle and manoeuvre to win a supposed "influence" that is more illusory than real.
The Left's formula can be summed up in the following:
1) The working class has a reformist consciousness.
2) It is the duty of the "Revolutionary Party" to be where the masses are.
3) Therefore, to be with the mass of the working class, we must advocate reforms.
4) Further, the working class is only reformist minded.
5) Winning reformist battles will give the working class confidence.
6) So that, therefore, they will go on to have a socialist revolution.
7) Thus the working class will learn from its struggles, and will eventually come to realise that assuming power is the only way to meet its ends.
8) That the working class will realise, through the failure of reforms to meet its needs, the futility of reformism and capitalism, and will overthrow it.
9) That the working class will come to trust the Party that leads them to victory, and come a social crisis they will follow it to revolution.
No other possibilities for worker to take as a perceived solution such as fascism, or nationalism or religion? The Socialist Party would argue that it is about engaging people with the idea of socialism. There is nothing automatic about social change, it has to be struggled for. The Left relies upon a notion of the inherently revolutionary nature of the working class and that through the class struggle this inherently revolutionary character will show itself. Although, it hasn't.
Its also flawed because it shows no reason why, due to the failure of reform, the workers should turn to socialism. Why, since it was people calling themselves socialists who advocated that reform, don't they turn against it, or even to fascism? Under the model of revolution presented by the Trotskyists the only way the working class could come to socialist consciousness is through a revolution is made by the minority with themselves as its leaders.This, then, explains their dubious point about needing to "be" where the mass of the working class is. It is the reason why a supposedly revolutionary party should change its mind to be with the masses, rather than trying to get the masses to change their minds and be with it. They do not want workers to change their minds, merely to become followers. Their efforts are not geared towards changing minds, or raising revolutionary class consciousness.
We see little wrong with people campaigning for reforms that bring essential improvements and enhance the quality of their lives, and some reforms do indeed make a difference to the lives of millions and can be viewed as "successful". There are examples of this in such fields as education, housing, child employment, work conditions and social security. Socialists have to acknowledge that the "welfare" state, the NHS and so on, made living standards for some sections of the working class better than they had been under rampant capitalism and its early ideology of laissez faire, although these ends should never be confused with socialism.However, in this regard we also recognise that such "successes" have in reality done little more than to keep workers and their families in efficient working order and, while it has taken the edge of the problem, it has rarely managed to remove the problem completely. Socialists do not oppose reformism because it is against improvements in workers' lives lest they dampen their revolutionary ardour; nor, because it thinks that decadent capitalism simply cannot deliver on any reforms; but because our continued existence as propertyless wage slaves undermines whatever attempts we make to control and better our lives through reforms. Our objection to reformism is that by ignoring the essence of class, it throws blood, sweat and tears into battles that will be undermined by the workings of the wages system. All that effort, skill, energy, all those tools could be turned against class society, to create a society of common interest where we can make changes for our common mutual benefit. So long as class exists, any gains will be partial and fleeting, subject to the ongoing struggle. What we are opposed to is the whole culture of reformism, the idea that capitalism can be tamed and made palatable with the right reforms.
If the view remains that the struggle for reforms is worthwhile then imagine just how many palliatives and ameliorations will be offered and conceded by a besieged capitalist class in a desperate attempt to retain ownership rights if the working class were demanding the maximum socialist programme of full and complete appropriation and nothing less. Reforms now derided as utopian will become two-a-penny in an attempt to fob off the workers. Perhaps, even, capitalism will provide a batch of free services, on the understanding that this is "the beginning" of a free society, but,of course real socialists will not be taken in.
On the question of a united class we hold that within trade unions for practical reasons for unions, in order to be effective, must recruit all workers in a particular industry or trade regardless of political or philosophical views. A union, regardless of type, to be effective today must depend primarily on numbers rather than understanding. We dismissed the chances of large numbers of workers, pragmatic proletarians, resigning from established unions for small radical organisations that can show no evidence of power, which is an immediate question for them. We were castigated for such a position by the so-called radicals of the syndicalist movement who liked to call us the sectarians.
As the current recession within capitalism continues, squeezing and stamping down upon the working class ever more relentlessly, alongside the growing realisation of the failure of all forms of running the system; then there is definitely a growing POTENTIAL for the escalation of struggle towards the overthrow of the system. However, how many times has the potential been there in past moments of escalated struggle and capitalist crisis only to disappear or to be channelled into reformist, pro-capitalist directions? Discontent over wages or conditions can be a catalyst for socialist understanding but so can many other things such as concern about the environment or war or the threat of war or bad housing or the just the general culture of capitalism . The Socialist Party does not minimise the necessity or importance of the workers keeping up the struggle to maintain wage-levels and resisting cuts, etc. If they always yielded to the demands of their exploiters without resistance they would not be worth their salt, nor be fit for waging the class struggle to put an end to exploitation.
Successes through such actions as striking and protests may well encourage other workers to stand up for their rights more but the reality remains that the workers' strength is determined by their position within the capitalist economy, and their victories will always be partial ones within the market system. Only by looking to the political situation, the reality of class ownership and power within capitalism, and organising to make themselves a party to the political battle in the name of common ownership for their mutual needs, will a general gain come to workers, and an end to these sectional battles. Otherwise, the ultimate result of the strikes will be the need to strike or demonstrate again in the future.The never-ending treadmill of the class struggle. Workers can never win the class struggle while it is confined simply to the level of trade union militancy. It requires to be transformed into socialist consciousness.
Indeed we are critical of trade unions but we are also supportive of them. The Socialist Party has always insisted that the structures and tactics of organisations that the working class create to combat the class war will be there own decision and will necessarily be dependent on particular situations. Again a read of our actual history would reveal that unlike other organisations such as the SLP or Comunist Party we have never promoted the idea of forming separate trade unions. The Socialist Party avoided the mistake of the SLP - and of the CPGB during the "Third Period" after 1929 - of "dual unionism", i.e. of trying to form "revolutionary" unions to rival the existing "reformist" unions (though some SPGBers have been involved, as individuals, in breakaway unions. The working class get the unions, and the leadership, it deserves. Just as a king is only a king because he is obeyed, so too are union leaders only union leaders because they are followed. To imagine they lead is to imbue them with mystical powers within themselves, and set up a phantasm of leadership that exactly mirror images the same phantasm as our masters believe. So long as the workers themselves are content to deal with such a union system, and its leaders, then such a union system and its leaders will remain, and will have to react to the expectations of the members. The way to industrial unions, or socialist unions, or whatever, is not through the leadership of the unions. The unions will always reflect the nature of their memberships, and until their membership change, they will not change. Unions are neither inherently reactionary, nor inherently revolutionary. The only way to change unions is not through seizing or pressurising the leadership, but through making sure that they have a committed membership, a socialist membership. We countered the syndicalist case “The Mines to the Miners!” or “The Railways to the Railwaymen!” by pointing out the socialists want to abolish the sectional ownership of the means of life, no matter who compose the sections , and not reinforce it.
To repeat, The Socialist Party is not antagonistic to the trade unions under present conditions, even though they have not a revolutionary basis but we are most hostile to the misleading by the trade union leaders and against the ignorance of the rank and file which make such misleading possible. Workers must come to see through the illusion that all that is needed in the class war are good generals. Sloganising leaders making militant noises are powerless in the face of a system which still has majority support – or at least the acquiescence – of the working class. It would be wrong to write off the unions as anti-working-class organisations. The union has indeed tended to become an institution apart from its members; but the policy of a union is still influenced by the views of its members. It may be a truism but a union is only as strong as its members. Most unions have formal democratic constitutions which provide for a wide degree of membership participation and democratic control. In practice however, these provisions are sometimes ineffective and actual control of many unions is in the hands of a well-entrenched full-time leadership. It is these leaders who frequently collaborate with the State and employers in the administration of capitalism; who get involved in supporting political parties and governments which act against the interest of the working class.
Socialists take part in every struggle in the economic field to improve conditions. We are as militant as anybody else. The socialist is involved in the economic struggle by the fact that we are members of the working class which naturally resists capital. But this is not the same thing as stating that the socialist party engages in activity for higher wages and better conditions. This is not the function of the socialist party. We recognise the necessity of workers' solidarity in the class struggle against the capitalist class, and rejoice in every victory for the workers to assert their economic power. But to struggle for higher wages and better conditions is not revolutionary in any true sense of the word; and the essential weapons in this struggle are not inherently revolutionary either. It demands the revolutionising of the workers themselves. If there were more revolutionary workers in the unions—and in society generally—then the unions and the host of other community organisations would have a more revolutionary outlook. This does not mean that we say workers should sit back and do nothing, the struggle over wages and conditions must go on. But it becomes clear that this is a secondary, defensive activity. Participation in the class struggle does not automatically make workers class conscious. Militancy on the industrial field is just that and does not necessarily lead to political militancy, but ebbs and flows as labour market conditions change. The real struggle is to take the means of wealth production and distribution into the common ownership.
Marx believed that, as the workers gained more experience of the class struggle and the workings of capitalism, it would become more consciously socialist and democratically organised by the workers themselves. The emergence of socialist understanding out of the experience of the workers could thus be said to be ‘spontaneous’ in the sense that it would require no intervention by people outside the working class to bring it about. Socialist propaganda and agitation would indeed be necessary, but would come to be carried out by workers themselves, whose socialist ideas would have been derived from an interpretation of their class experience of capitalism. The end result would be an independent movement of the socialist-minded and democratically organised working class aimed at winning control of political power in order to abolish capitalism. As Marx and Engels put it in the Communist manifesto, “The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.” Like it or not, this is not the same analysis made by Lenin or Trotsky.
The Left put forward a whole raft of reformist demands that on paper might seem to be appealing. The only problem is that there is no plan to actually achieve these demands - they are "pretend" demands. Trotsky himself called these kind of demands "transitional demands" - the idea being to look at everybody else's demands and make bigger demands so they sound great. Occasionally they might achieve a demand which will make them seem sincere, however the idea isn't to achieve these demands - it is to not achieve them! This is the Troskyists' grand master plan to make workers dissatisfied, so the latter will become revolutionary and flock behind their political leadership. In other words the workers are to be the infantry led by the Trotskyist generals. The Left have real aims quite different to the reform programme they peddle. In this, they are being as dishonest as any other politician, from the left or right. The ultimate result of this is disillusionment with the possibility of radical change. Genuine socialists get tarred with the same brush.
When someone comes across the Socialist Party for the first time, a common reaction is to consider us as just another left-wing political organisation. The Left use similar terminology to us, talking of socialism, class struggle, exploitation, etc, and invoking Karl Marx. But digging a little deeper will show that our political position is very different from that of the Left. The Socialist Party is not on The Left. There is so much manipulation, dishonesty, and downright erroneous thinking connected with the Left that we would not wish to be associated with them in any way.
One of the great strengths of the Socialist Party is our opposition to leadership and our commitment to democratic practices, so, whatever weaknesses or mistaken views we hold or get accused of , they cannot be imposed upon others with possible worse consequences. The history of Leninism/Trotskyism blames all on the lack of leadership or the wrong leadership or a traitorous leadership. The Socialist Party are not going to take the workers to where they neither know where they are going, nor, most likely, want to go. This contrasts with those who seek to substitute the party for the class or who see the party as a vanguard which must undertake alone the task of leading the masses forward. The crucial part of the Socialist Party case is that understanding is a necessary condition for socialism.
The Socialist Party’s job is to make a socialist society an immediancy for the working class, not an ultimate far-off ideal. Something of importance and value to people’s lives now, rather than a singular "end"
It was Marx who said we should not write recipes for the cook-shops of the future. The issue is often discussed within our organisation. Many caution against the creation of blueprints. There is no point in drawing up in advance the sort of detailed blueprint of industrial and social organisation. For a small group of socialists , as we are now , to do so would be undemocratic. We also recognise that there may not be one single way of doing things, and precise details and ways of doing things more than likely vary from one part of the world to another, even between neighbouring communities. Nor can we determine what the conditions will be when socialism is established. As the socialist majority grows, when socialism is within the grasp of the working class, that will then be the proper time for making such important decisions. It is imprudent for today’s socialist minority to be telling people how to administer a socialist society. When a majority of people understand what socialism means, the suggestions for socialist administration will solidify into an appropriate plan. It will be based upon the conditions existing at that time, not today. At this point some will no doubt saying "cop-out" but no. We can reach some generalised conclusions based on basic premises and can outline broad principles or options that could be applied. We do not have to draw up a detailed plan for socialism, but simply and broadly demonstrate that it is possible and therefore refute the label of “utopian”. Never forget that socialist society is not starting from a blank sheet and we are inheriting an already existing production system. Workers with all their skills and experience of co-operating to run capitalism in the interests of the capitalists could begin to run society in their own interest.
Writers or speakers are NOT leaders. Their function is to spread knowledge and understanding, as teachers. Quite different from that we must have leaders (great men) to direct their followers (blind supporters) into a socialist society. Socialism is not the result of blind faith, followers, or, by the same token, vanguard parties. Despite some very charismatic writers and speakers in the past, no personality has held undue influence over the Socialist Party. Simply check the two published histories of the Party to see on just how many occasions and on how many issues those so-called leaders have not gained a majority at conferences or in referendums.
We actually have a test for membership. This does not mean that the Socialist Party has set itself up as an intellectual elite into which only those well versed in Marxist scholarship may enter. One purpose of it is to place all members on an even basis. The Socialist Party's reason is to ensure that only conscious socialists enter its ranks, for, once admitted, all members are equal and it would clearly not be in the interest of the Party to offer equality of power to those who are not able to demonstrate equality of basic socialist understanding. Once a member, s/he have the same rights as the oldest member to sit on any committee, vote, speak, and have access to all information. Thanks to this test all members are conscious socialists and there is genuine internal democracy, and of that we are fiercely proud. Consider what happens when people join other groups which don't have this test. The new applicant has to be approved as being "all right". The individual is therefore judged by the group according to a range of what might be called "credential indicators". Hard work (often, paper selling) and obedience by new members is the main criterion of trustworthiness in the organisation. In these hierarchical, "top-down" groups the leaders strive at all costs to remain as the leadership , and reward only those with proven commitment to the "party line" with preferential treatment, more responsibility and more say. New members who present the wrong indicators remain peripheral to the party structure, and finding themselves unable to influence decision-making at any level, eventually give up and leave, often embittered by the hard work they put in and the hollowness of the party's claims of equality and democracy.
The Socialist Party is a leader-less political party where its executive committee is solely for housekeeping admin duties and cannot determine policy. An EC that is not even permitted to submit resolutions to conference. All conference decisions have to be ratified by a referendum of the whole membership. The General Secretary has no position of power or authority over any other member being simply a dogsbody. Mandating delegates, voting on resolutions and membership referendums are democratic practices for ensuring that the members of an organisation control that organisation – and as such key procedures in any organisation genuinely seeking socialism. Socialism can only be a fully democratic society in which everybody will have an equal say in the ways things are run. This means that it can only come about democratically, both in the sense of being the expressed will of the working class and in the sense of the working class being organised democratically – without leaders, but with mandated delegates – to achieve it. In rejecting these procedures what is being declared is that the working class should not organise itself democratically.
Only by the propaganda of socialism will people be made capable of understanding their position as wage slaves, and the consequent necessity for the abolition of capitalism, and not of patching it up, as advocated with monotonous persistence by the generations of mis-leaders. Socialists point out to our fellow workers that they possess, as a class, all the needed energy and intelligence to erect a new social system based upon the common ownership of the means of life, in which system they will no longer need to sell themselves piecemeal as articles of merchandise. They will be free to enjoy to the full the results of their collective labour. Having arrived at this understanding, the workers will recognise that their political power must be put to an infinitely better use than that of providing fat jobs for nimble-tongued tricksters and seek the achievement of their own emancipation. The vote is not useless if backed by a class-conscious understanding.