“Expect nothing but from your own actions!” – Ernest Jones, Chartist
The attitude of the Socialist Party toward leaders and the following of leaders seems to confuse and confound some of our fellow-workers. We say the success of the socialist revolution depends on the class-consciousness (or knowledge of their class interests) of the working class. All their strength must be of themselves and in them themselves. Therefore, the need for leaders does not exist. Only those who do not know the way require to be led, and this very fact makes it inevitable that those who are led will be entirely in the hands of those who lead.
The world is obsessed by leaders and leadership. It is often said that the leaders are in advance of the led, but in the broader sense, this is not true. Leading, after all, must be by consent. So it happens that the "leader" can only lead where he is likely to be followed. The leader, far from being in advance of his followers, is only the reflection of it.
Part of the work of a socialist is to point out the divergence between the interests of the workers and those who aspire to lead them and to seize upon every instance and opportunity of illustrating and proving the contention that leaders are, and necessarily, misleaders. A socialist does not place his or her trust in leaders. Our only hope lies in the intelligence and courage and energy of our fellow-workers as a class, and all our hope rests in the working class. Humanity needs to step aside from the deception of leaders. The leaders we are asked to support, and sometimes choose between, are a myth, created and maintained by--leaders. They are poor examples of honesty, integrity, even of humanity. They are not interested in truth, justice, or any of the grand notions they spout about. They exist, have always existed, will always exist, for one purpose only: to line their own pockets and empty yours. They are parasites on the social body, unwanted, unnecessary and destructive. To follow leaders is to hand over your heart on a platter, with knife and fork attached. It is an admission of defeat, acceptance that you are inadequate, in and of yourself. It is an act of submission and indeed an act of cowardice unworthy of the human animal.
The Socialist Party is a structured political organisation. A socialist political party should be organised on the basis that the power to make policy should lie with the membership through delegate conferences and referendums; there should be no party leadership, only an executive or administrative committee charged with arranging for the policies decided by the membership to be implemented. The concept of leadership is foreign to the Socialist Party since all members have a common purpose. The existence of leaders and the led means that only the former have the power to make decisions. When you know what you want to do collectively, you may appoint or elect organisers, but you don't need somebody else to lead you to do it. The Socialist Party has no leaders in fact or theory. Socialism wouldn't operate that way and neither do we. All decisions are made by common vote, all administration is above-board and open to inspection, and all work is voluntary. None of us is perfect, and that's why democracy works better than leadership. Mistakes by one person are not disasters for the many. Private interests don't count. Power doesn't exist. Socialists are their own leaders, and they follow nobody but themselves.
The Greek phrase "an-archon" or "no leader" gave us the word "anarchy". Yet "anarchy" to most people is another name for chaos or disorder. The assumption is that without leaders, there can be no civilisation. Our contention is the opposite. Leaders, and the followers who create them are holding us back from any real global civilisation.
The concept of leadership has emerged with class society and will end when we abolish class society when we abolish the profit system and all that goes with it. The master class has been allowed to lead because of their control over the means of living and by virtue of their control of the education system and their monopoly of the media and other information processes. It won’t be this way. The greatest weapons we possess are our intelligence and our ability to question the status quo. Leaders perceive all of this to be a threat and so will do anything to keep us in a state of oblivion, dejection, and dependency. Our apathy is the victory they celebrate each day. Our unwillingness to unite as a globally exploited class and to confront them on the battlefield of ideas is the subject of their champagne toasts.
Each of us can be our own leader. The greatest command is that over oneself. Our capitalist world, controlled by a few rich people and their minions, has done its level best to school out of us the very things which make us such a great species in the first place--initiative, experimentation, imagination, diversity. To refuse to follow leaders is a liberating step, one which the working class has yet to take. When we realise that the post-scarcity world can be run very efficiently and healthily by democratic co-operation, that our own lives would be vastly better without states, governments, police, and all the trappings of leadership, we will collectively be in a position to make that step. And then we will see a revolution unprecedented in history. Socialism--common ownership in a leaderless global democracy--could not work with people unwilling or unable to think for themselves, to take responsibility, or to co-operate, but fortunately, it doesn't have to. Human beings are better than that. We can think, and we can co-operate. There is nothing in the human brain that inclines it to subservience.
WE ARE ALL LEADERS
The Socialist Party has no leaders and argues that the only possible basis for a truly democratic society in which things are produced for need rather than profit, is the voluntary cooperation of free and independent individuals. The Socialist Party has no unaccountable central committees. We have no secret meetings. No Socialist Party meetings are ever closed to non-members and the fullest possible democracy replaces the diktat of a leadership. A socialist party need keep no secrets from its members or from the workers in general.
Although the idea of the benign dictator has always intrigued political writers, the concept of an altruistic leader is clearly contradictory. Power, authority, and privilege - the spoils of leadership - inevitably embrace corruption and it may reasonably be assumed that anyone possessing the integrity to make an honest leader would never seek to become one. At the very least it implies a sense of superiority. As the American writer, H.L. Mencken explained:
"I am strongly in favour of common sense, common honesty and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office."
So pervasive is the myth of the indispensability of leaders that the usual response to never-ending disclosures of duplicity is one of resigned acceptance rather than outrage - it is simply fulfilling expectations. On leadership, the Marquis de Sade had this to say:
“You can only govern men by deceiving them; one must be hypocritical to deceive them; the enlightened man will never let himself be led, therefore it is necessary to deprive him of enlightenment to lead him as we want ...”
An essential of the leadership theory is the political ignorance of the unlucky people who are to be led. Leadership, in fact, could not exist without blind and ignorant followers. The followers, reason the leaders, cannot be trusted. The working class do not need any more leaders to decide what ideas they may and may not come into contact with. Capitalism is full of leaders, pulling this way and that and all achieving nothing towards the solution of our problems. It is high time for the working class to wake up from their slumbers. It is high time for them to get some knowledge of capitalism. They need to know how capitalism works. Why it can never solve its own problems. Why its leaders are powerless to staunch its course.
The Socialist Party say that workers can come to want and understand socialism (after all, we have and there's nothing special about us) and that socialists should therefore, concentrate on explaining capitalism and socialism (how capitalism can never be made to work in their interests and why common ownership and democratic control of the means of production is the only framework within which the problems workers face can be solved) rather than offering reforms of capitalism. Let us end the rule of leaders and create a society of equals. The task of socialists is to get people to think for themselves, without the need for leaders. Because the Socialist Party has no leaders that does not mean that we are unorganized. Rather, we are organised along democratic lines. Workers can only join the SPGB if they understand what it stands for. Once in their party, their say is as important as the next comrade's view Our Executive Committee is only empowered to carry out the wishes of the membership. The Socialist Party does not just talk about democracy, we practice it.
The activity of the party is carried out by its members, and they are accountable through a whole range of structures.
1) Informal discussion
2) Resolution of a branch
3) resolution to the EC
4) Resolution of the EC
5) Branch poll
6) Floor resolution at ADM
7) Floor resolution at conference
8) Instructed resolution to conference
9) Party poll
No Governments, No Leaders, No Led