Sunday, June 16, 2019

Our case against reformism

The Socialist Party has never said that all people are equal, in the sense of having the same abilities and the same needs. Far from it; we have always recognised that each individual human being has different abilities and needs, a point summed up in the old socialist slogan "from each according to ability, to each according to needs”. The word equal has a double meaning— the same and not inferior or superior to. Because people are different does not necessarily mean that they are inferior or superior. Yet this simple error is often made. To talk about inferior/superior is to erect some standard against which people can be judged, a standard that is man-made and outside biology and genetics. We answer that every human being, whatever his abilities, is of equal worth and should have an equal say in the running of human affairs. That is the equality socialists stand for. Even if science were to establish a correlation between intellectual ability and some physical characteristic, that would not alter the socialist case in the least. A world community, without frontiers, based on common property and production solely for use, would still be the solution to working-class problems. The case for socialism has never rested on the absurd proposition that all men are the same, physically and intellectually.

The Socialist Party is in favour of workers trying to improve their conditions under capitalism. It does not say that we support specific reform measures in the housing field. We are opposed to all reformist movements. But this does not mean that we are opposed on principle to any reform of capitalism. What we say is that a socialist party ought not to advocate reforms for fear of attracting non-socialist support, and in a bid to keep that support being dragged into compromise with capitalism. We thus campaign for Socialism alone, and not for or against specific reforms. We are indeed very happy to receive any crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table.

We have long held that socialist MPs or local councillors ought to judge on their merits any reform measures placed before them by other parties. We accept that on occasions this would mean their voting for reforms. But the socialist delegates would not themselves propose reforms. So it is not true that in such a situation the Socialist Party would be advocating reforms as well as socialism. The difference would be that then, as compared with now, the larger socialist movement would be able to have some political influence which it would obviously use to further working-class interests.

We do not advocate reforms. We do, however, judge reforms proposed by other parties on their merits. Our knowledge of how capitalism works enables us to see that most of them are pretty futile, though at times we recognise that some could be useful in a small way — and say so.

Reformism is a ceaseless following of blind alleyways in which the workers get bewildered and hopeless. Unless they understand the socialist position, they are tempted to make useless angry demonstrations and riots which can only result in loss of life or injury to our class and give the government a chance to demonstrate their power and make an example of a few of the workers. There is only one sound policy to pursue, and that is the constant preaching of socialism. When we have sufficient knowledge as a class, we can obtain political power. Remembering that the salvation of the workers must be the work of the workers, we must neither put our faith in the Lord, nor leaders, nor psychologists. Given the knowledge, the rest, by comparison, will be simplicity itself.

No comments: