Saturday, November 09, 2019

For nothing less than socialism

Usually there are three arguments put to the Socialist Party by its critics and they are (1) the desire for left unity, (2) the value of reforms and (3) the Labour Party can be the means of achieving socialism.

The desire for unity is one which arises naturally among workers who have begun to appreciate that the working class have interests in common. But vague conceptions of the identity of interests of the workers is not a sufficient basis for unity. Organisations with, broadly, the same aim of improving the conditions of the workers may be, and often are, seriously divided about objects and methods. In these circumstances real unity is impossible, and where two such organisations amalgamate or associate the friction is only transferred from the outside to the inside, without any advantage to the workers. 

The Socialist Party. holds that democratic methods are the only methods by which socialism can be achieved. How could we suspend our condemnation of organisations which advocate other methods which we know will cause nothing but loss and suffering to the workers? How can we refrain from denouncing them? The fact that some organisations have working class members and claim to be aiming at improving the condition of the workers does not rule out the possibility that their programmes may be useless, their methods dangerous and their activities harmful to the workers.

The idea that the workers’ existing standard of living can be built up, so that the workers will get better and better off, and be freed from one after another of the evils resulting from capitalism is a mistaken one. This conception is wholly wrong. There is, under capitalism, no basis on which to build, and there is no means by which the workers under capitalism can be saved from the evils of capitalism. The workers cannot be protected from unemployment, or from the catastrophic effects of capitalist crises, except by abolishing capitalism. Since the Labour Party began its work, there is not one major problem solved or on the way to solution. The workers are still poor and miserably housed, while the number unemployed or directly threatened with unemployment is larger than ever. Neither the housing crisis nor the “low-wage” problem has been solved. The danger of war has not been removed or lessened. Where, then, are the achievements? No such choice exists. For the workers now, as in 1900, the only chance is between the capitalism that is and the socialism that might be.
We do not condemn palliatives because they retard progress towards a socialist society but because the arguments put forward in support of them retard that progress. There is the further point that most “palliatives” do not ameliorate conditions and the consequent disappointment of the workers makes for apathy and thus further retards socialism.

We always support the efforts of the workers to resist the encroachments of the employers and to improve their conditions under capitalism to the limited extent possible. What we add is that no efforts on the industrial field can ever go beyond the narrow limits set by capitalism. To go beyond that and achieve socialism there must be an organised socialist majority in control of the machinery of the State.

We reject the sectional demands of workers control  because we are socialists, not syndicalists. We work for ownership and control by the whole community. Nor are we insurrectionists. No uprising by a minority against the stupendous forces of the State could in any circumstances achieve socialism. It could only serve to set back still further the progress to Socialism.

The question at issue between the Socialist Party and the Labour Party is not whether socialism can come in one lump or piecemeal, but whether the Labour Party seeks socialism at all.

Socialism means a system of society based on common ownership of the means of production and distribution, and involves the complete abolition of buying and selling, rent, interest and profit, and the rest of the monetary institutions of capitalism. That is the only solution to the problem before us and it is a solution which most Labour Party supporters have not considered and which the rest reject. The aim of the Labour Party is a State-controlled capitalism retaining all of the things which Socialism will abolish, except that the direct control of capitalist companies would, under Labour rule, be replaced by so-called public utility corporations. Socialists are absolutely opposed to the establishment of this slightly modified form of capitalism. This disposes of our correspondent's argument that there are only “little differences" between the Socialist Party and the Labour Party. The difference is as wide and deep as that between capitalism and socialism.

The likelihood of socialism being advanced by a Labour Government is so remote, it verges on fantasy. There is not and cannot be such a thing as a Labour Government pledged to revolutionary socialism. The whole essence of Labourism is that it works not for socialism but by seeking social reforms. Before it will be possible to have the political machinery controlled by an organised majority pledged to revolutionary socialism, the theoretical propaganda which many on the left-wing rejects will have had to be carried to the mass of the workers. How else can they come to understand and want socialism? The Labour Party argues that the workers' conditions can be gradually improved and improved until, imperceptibly, we shall be living under socialism. If that were true there would be no need for the Socialist Party. As it is wholly untrue the Labour Party, by propagating that view, hinders our propaganda, which is of a fundamentally different kind. We say that the destruction of the basis of capitalism—the private ownership and control of the means of production and distribution—has not begun and cannot begin until after an organised socialist majority has gained control of the political machinery.

The Socialist Party holds that there is only one problem and only one solution. The means of production and distribution must be made the common property of society. Articles must be produced simply for use, freely, by the members of society. The Labour Party does not seek this solution. On the contrary, in theory as well as in practice, it rejects it. The Labour Party does not contemplate even the possibility of the destruction of the whole mechanism of buying and selling, of profit making, of incomes from property. While the Socialist Party works only for a social system in which the necessities of life will be provided freely for all and the work of production will be organised on a co-operative basis without employers and employed, the Labour Party dismisses all that as visionary and Utopian, and builds its schemes on the continuance of the wages system, buying and selling, banking and credit operations, etc. 

The Socialist Party says that there is no solution except common ownership, with all its implications mentioned above. All the rest are indeed out of step with us. Our correspondent wants unity, but wants it by bringing us into step with the Labour Parties. The only unity worth having is unity for socialism. It can only come about when the workers who now march with the Labour Party break with them and fall into line with us.

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