Friday, March 23, 2012

Power and politics

The truth of the class struggle has been driven home with more than ever during the last few years since the latest recession. The glaring growing income inequality, the wide-spread job-losses , the numerous strikes, the cruelty of the state toward their rebellious slaves all over the capitalist world, has induced even capitalist authorities to “lament” the growth of class strife.

Why do you think our ruling class spends so much time and money to bring their influence to bear upon Parliament or Congress? Because that is where the decision making resides in our governmental system. It is where the capitalist class get their tax breaks, subsidies, bailouts contracts, and the loopholes in the enforcement of the laws against them. It is where the masses get nothing other than roll-backs of the previous protections of our economic well-being, our health and safety, our unions and our jobs, pay and pensions.

The capitalist class rule because they have possession of the means of life, the land and the factories. It is true as Shakespear's Shylock says: “He owns my life who owns the means whereby I live.”. But it doesn’t complete the picture. Capitalist rule would be an empty phrase without them having some power to enforce their ownership and is by it is by controlling Parliament. Those who control the forces of "law and order", the police and the courts, and who control the military forces, actually and in reality control society itself, because having those powers at their command, they can and do use them for any desired purpose. he control and manipulation of these forces are carried on by the various political officers, and it is through these departments that instructions come with regard to their direction. Parliament and Congress make laws and alter them as in their wisdom they determine; they appoint the officers controlling the executive departments and they have at their disposal the means of ensuring that these laws are carried out. Those holding this power are in possession of the means whereby they can dominate society. The control, therefore, of political power means the control of society.

But the picture is still not complete. The workers to-day possess an overwhelming majority of the votes and it is these working-class votes that return the capitalists and their representatives into control of Parliament and thereby the continuance of the capitalists' domination. To-day the working class are largely unconscious of what constitutes their own interests and so they are misled by the paid agents of the capitalist class to use the political power they possess against their real interests. The working class class have already within their reach the first step toward their emancipation when they understand how to use the vote they possess. But to use this vote effectively they must understand that, not only do they already possess political power, but that they must use this power for the purpose of getting rid of the class which dominates them. They must use their power to obtain control the political machinery, so as to enter into possession of the wealth they, and they alone create, and so rid themselves of the problems of misery, poverty, degradation, insecurity, and hopeless toil which press so heavily upon them to-day.

The anarchist teaches that the workers should avoid and oppose political action. Why should the working class support any political party at all, argue anarchists? Why should they enter into politics in any shape or form? It means, so far as they are concerned, so much time wasted. The Socialist Party, on the other hand, draws attention to past history and present circumstances to show how the ruling classes maintained their position of dominance. The salvation of the working class lies through organisation for control of the political power. It is only after and by the political expropriation of the capitalist class that its economic expropriation can be achieved. But will it be the only means? Far from excluding each other, electoral action and revolutionary action complete each other. The vote is revolutionary when it is cast by a class-conscious electorate for class-conscious candidates. Workers, once they had come to want and understand socialism will more than likely organise in workplace committees or councils; but they will at the same time be organising politically. Not doing so would invite a violent head-on clash with a state machine still controlled by the supporters of capitalism. Why take this risk when the existence of universal suffrage and albeit limited political democracy make it unnecessary? Why not organise, democratically and without leaders, with a view to using the potential weapon that is the vote to win control of the state, so neutralising it? This is the Socialist Party position - based on an analysis of today's political circumstances and not on any dogma. And once the masses get moving they are hard to stop.

Engels' Preface to the 1890 German edition of the Communist Manifesto: “For the ultimate triumph of the ideas set forth in the Manifesto Marx relied solely and exclusively on the intellectual development of the working class, as it necessarily had to ensue from united action and discussion.”
Marx held that the working class should take political action to end politics and the state and that one of the forms this could take was democratic electoral action.

Capitalism cannot be abolished by a political revolution prepared, organised and led by an elite of professional revolutionaries claiming to act and think in the name of the exploited majority. The proletariat, formed into a class and a party under the conditions of bourgeois democracy, liberates itself in the struggle to conquer this democracy; it turns universal suffrage, which had previously been "an instrument of dupery", into a means of emancipation.

We observe that the parties in the political field are as numerous as their different labels, but the essential question for us as workers is: Whose interests do they stand for? Whom do they in reality represent? They stand no matter how they may describe themselves as, for the essentials of the present system, for the maintenance and perpetuation of capitalist domination. Universal suffrage has not failed. What has failed is the reformist use of it. To reject universal suffrage because reformist electoral action has failed is to throw out the baby with the bath water. We understand criticism of political parties calling themselves "socialist" having as their aim a mixed- economy or state-capitalism and those parties have essentially only sought to exploit working class discontent with a view to coming to power and installing themselves as a new ruling class in place of the private capitalists. They have always seen the working class as having a subordinate role as followers and as passive electors. But that cannot be held against our position of working class democratic self-organisation into a political party based on socialist understanding, with a view to taking political, including electoral, action to abolish capitalism. That the earth's resources should become a common storehouse for the benefit of all must emerge as a real political demand. The idea of political action and the visionary power of utopians must be combined to powerful effect.

No comments: