Tuesday, August 27, 2019

We are the People

In every revolution of the past the false and cowardly plea that the people were “not yet ready” has prevailed. Some intermediate class invariably supplanted the class that was overthrown and “the people” remained at the bottom where they have been since the beginning of history. They have never been “ready” to rid themselves of their despots, robbers and parasites. All they have ever been ready for has been to exchange one brood of vampires for another to drain their veins and fatten in their misery.” - Eugene Debs

It is a commonplace that every new truth is at first ridiculed and then argued against before it is accepted by the majority of mankind. As long as people are plagued by vital needs and driven by aspirations to a better life, those hopes are doomed to remain out of reach unless they can win over the people.

The idea and demand for workers’ participation, workers’ control, self-management, direct workers’ rule, workers’ democracy are deeply rooted in one way or another, permeate the world socialist movement. While it was once felt that the working class can effect its management rights through “its” state, party or trade union, now considerable attention is being devoted to building up various alternatives of participation. Reformist parties are increasingly adopting a critical stand towards nationalisation, suggesting self-managed cooperatives as their concept of “socialism”. It was once customary for the wage-workers to be told that they must look to the government for salvation and we were assured that the hope of the workers lay in State ownership and control even though it left them at the mercy of unsympathetic and irresponsible ministers. In the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels wrote of “centralising all means of production in the hands of the state.” They never again repeated this proposal, explaining that it was obsolete. Their view of the state had changed and developed.

A trade union is to defend the day-to-day interests of the workers and to improve their conditions as much as possible before they can be in any position to make the revolution and by it change today’s wage-earners into free workers, freely associating for the benefit of all. For a trade union to serve its own ends and at the same time act as a means of education and ground for propaganda it requires to gather together all workers – or at least those workers who look to an improvement of their conditions – and to be able to put up some resistance to the bosses. Can a union possibly wait for all the workers to become socialist before inviting them to organise themselves and before recruiting them? Trade unionism is by nature reformist. Ameliorations of conditions, no matter their number, never lead to a transformation of the system. No-one has the right, for the sake of one or two palliatives to make a worker forget his or her subjugation. 

The Socialist Party seeks to deprive the capitalist class of its anti-social power. Our last word will always and everywhere be: “The emancipation of the working class!" A socialist society must be one in which there is democratic control of all institutions, which have a major effect on men's lives and where there is equal opportunity for creative non-exploitative self-development. It is now time to go beyond the welfare state. The radical reformers of yesterday, to-day sell their mercenary souls in exchange for the assurance of re-election. We oppose reformist policy on the grounds that reforms do not solve the working-class problem of poverty, even though reforms might have some immediate benefit. It is true that the workers' standard of living is itself not unalterably fixed. It is possible, in certain favourable circumstances, for the workers to win for themselves, through organised struggle, a higher standard of living. 

On the other hand it is possible for the standard to be beaten down to lower levels. It must, however, be observed that any such raising or lowering represents a certain change in the relative strengths of the capitalists and workers, and is, therefore, not to be confused with the Labour Party notion of the expenditure of Government money on social reforms, represent a corresponding gain to the workers. Unless the bargaining position of the workers has been improved for other reasons, these surface changes are followed by wage reductions which leave the workers where they were. The capitalists do not live by engaging in wealth production themselves, but by living on the backs of the wealth producers. And they do this not by dishonest merchanting and shopkeeping, but by appropriating the proceeds of the workers' labour at the point of production. It is out of the surplus extracted from workers' toil that the whole capitalist class lives—industrialists, landlords, and bankers. It is out of this that they have to provide the cost of the Government, which protects their property and their economic system. What the workers get out of capitalism— the amount and quantity of their food, clothing, accommodation, leisure, amusements, etc.—is determined not by prices or taxes but by capitalist pressure as a whole and the workers' powers of organised resistance to it. No juggling with taxes or prices or social reforms will alter the main position—that of a subject class trying to defend itself against a dominant class—or will free the workers from poverty and insecurity. Don't be misled by the movements to alter the amount or nature of taxes and Budget expenditure. The aim, or at any rate, the effect, is merely to remove a burden from one section of the capitalists and place it on another. It is a capitalist fight, so keep out. Concentrate, instead, on abolishing capitalism. The defenders of capitalism who claim that inequality has disappeared or is diminishing have not the shadow of a case.

Who are the people? The people are the working class, the lower class, the robbed, the oppressed, the impoverished, the great majority of the earth. They and those who sympathize with them are THE PEOPLE, and they who exploit the working class, and the mercenaries and menials who aid and abet the exploiters, are the enemies of the people.” - Eugene Debs

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