Socialism can only be established when a great majority of workers understand and want it. It would be absurd for a minority of conscious socialists to try to take over power and impose the new system on an unwilling majority. Such a strategy would certainly fail. The idea is heroic fantasy at best and would lead to a bloody tragedy at worst.
The revolutionary task of the movement for world socialism is therefore twofold: it is firstly to persuade our fellow members of the working class to reject capitalism and to aim for nothing less than socialism; and secondly to engage in political action for the purpose of measuring the growth of the socialist movement and, when the majority join us, of achieving our objective of bringing into being a new, exciting stage of human existence. The Socialist Party was founded for socialism and nothing but, by men and women who were hostile to reforms and leadership, and who held to the concept of no compromise. The achievement of that goal depends in no small way on you as workers to recognise your interests — and to work for them. Our task is not just to understand the world, but to change it. For as long as the world is divided into two classes and production geared to profit rather than human needs, then our task will always remain that of the achievement of socialism.
Applicants to join the party are only admitted if they have understood the socialist case. In no sense do we operate as a sect, but at the same time the test of admission to the Socialist Party must ensure that our members are socialists. To include other workers would prove fatal to our prospects of surviving as a party solely for socialism.
Often we are met with the counter-argument that yes, socialism is a great idea, but sorry I can’t join you because the problems we face today are just too serious, too urgent to be ignored. Let’s tackle these first. Then we can get round to establishing socialism. If we don’t, if we allow them to overwhelm us, this could rule out your socialist alternative altogether. How for instance could socialism take root in the barren landscape of a world ravaged by the effects of global warming? It is understandable since which of us doubt the gravity of the problems around us? Yet, most importantly, to postpone socialism because certain problems present themselves as a priority which we should immediately try to solve makes the vital task of socialist propaganda very much more difficult. It implies that such problems can be actually solved within capitalism, and that they do not derive from the capitalist basis of society.
Carbon emissions, for instance, are the direct outcome of the competitive pressures capitalism exerts on both politician and manufacturer alike, constraining them to act in the way they do or removing them if they don’t. To propose action “in the meantime” to remedy such problems as climate change is to invite us to believe the impossible and the incredible. It is precisely because such problems have survived all manner of attempted remedies throughout capitalism’s history, that the futility of reformism is evident. And it is precisely because of this that the need for socialism is specially urgent, in this age of potential plenty, in which the technology and productive powers at our disposal have long outgrown the social relationships that have brought them to this point and now work to straitjacket them. Socialism then must entail an unequivocal rejection of reformism despite all its will-o’-the-wisp attractions. It must entail an awareness that the divergent aims of reform and revolution cannot be harmonised, that one cannot at the same time help patch up and perpetuate the very system one intends to overthrow.
This is where our critics get it wrong. They do not grasp that to see socialism as an ultimate and long term aim pending the solution of existing social problems is in effect to forsake it altogether: capitalism will never present the opportunity to convert that ultimate aim into something immediate. Still less doe they appreciate that propaganda for socialism can extract from capitalism, within the limits possible, more than any amount of reformist agitation. There is a saying in socialist circles which sums this up: if you want more crumbs from the capitalist table then organise to take over the bakery. As socialism draws nearer the pressure on capitalist parties to contain by bribery the growth of socialist consciousness will correspondingly increase.
The ability of working people to improve their lot depends on the respective strengths of the combatants in the class struggle. To the extent that more people become socialist their collective strength will grow, through greater class unity and a knowledge of capitalism.