From the July 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard
What is the Socialist Party?
An independent political party which stands opposed to all others in this country, including the Labour and Communist Parties. Our only links are with similar socialist parties in some other parts of the world.
What is your aim?
The replacement of the existing capitalist system of society by a new and different system we call socialism.
What is capitalism?
A system based on the ownership of the means of producing and distributing wealth (land, industry, railways, offices and the like) by a section only of society who thus form a privileged class. The others, who in return for a wage or salary produce wealth for sale with a view to profit, make up the producing or working class. In Britain less than five per cent of the population belong to the owning or capitalist class. Most people — those who work in offices as well as those who work in the factories — are in the working class.
What is socialism?
A democratic world community without frontiers based on the ownership of the means of producing and distributing wealth by society as a whole. Socialism will abolish classes and free all humanity from exploitation and oppression. The basis of socialism is this ownership of all the means of production by the whole community; control over their use will rest in the hands of the community through democratic institutions. Wealth will be produced not for sale or profit, but solely to satisfy human needs. This means the end of buying and selling and all the other financial and commercial institutions like money, prices, wages and banks. People will cooperate to produce an abundance of wealth from which they can take freely according to their needs.
Will everything belong to the State?
No. The State does not represent the whole community; it serves the interests only of those who own the means of production. State ownership or nationalisation is one of the ways in which this class controls industry. When the State takes over industries (like the railways and coalmines in Britain) it does so in their interests. State ownership leaves unchanged the class basis of society, the profit motive and the wages system, all of which socialism will abolish. Nationalisation is just State capitalism.
What system existed in the former Soviet Union?
Russian society is part of world capitalist society. It shows all the essential features of capitalism: a class who control the means of production through their control of political power: another class forced to work for wages: production of goods for sale with a view to profit and the accumulation of capital out of profits. The same goes for countries like China, Cuba and Yugoslavia. They like Russia have State capitalism.
Do you want something like the kibbutzim in Israel?
Socialism can only be a world community without frontiers. It cannot be established in one country let alone on one farm. The kibbutzim do show that human beings can live without money and can work without wages, but their small scale means that what they can offer is very restricted so that young people are tending to leave them. In practice they have paved the way for the development of capitalism in Israel and some have themselves become capitalist institutions employing outside wage labour and producing for the market with a view to profit.
How do you advocate socialism should be established?
By the class of wage and salary earners, once a majority of them want and understand socialism, taking democratic political action to change the basis of society from the class to the common ownership of the means of production and distribution.
Why must there be a majority in favour of the change to socialism before it can be made?
Socialism, by its nature as a system involving voluntary co-operation, could only be kept going by those who really wanted it and knew what it involved. Any attempt to establish socialism without a majority first being in favour is bound to fail.
Do you repudiate undemocratic minority action to achieve socialism?
Most definitely. No leaders, however sincere or able, can lead a non-socialist working class to socialism. Leaders who take power while a majority do not understand socialism have no choice but to develop and administer capitalism, as has been shown in Russia and by the various labour governments in Britain. When a majority do want and understand socialism they have no need of leaders, but only to organise themselves democratically.
Why do you advocate political action to achieve socialism?
It is their control of the machinery of government that now allows the capitalist class to protect their privileged position as the owners of the means of production. In Britain it is parliament that makes the laws granting them property rights and it is the police and the Courts, and if need be the army, that enforce these laws. The socialist majority must win political power in order to remove the protection the government machine now gives to class ownership and to carry through the establishment of the common ownership of the means of production.
How do you advocate the socialist majority should win political power?
By using their votes to elect socialist delegates to Parliament and the local councils. A socialist victory in a democratically-run election would demonstrate to all that a majority were in favour of the change to socialism.
Why are you opposed to all other political parties?
All of them accept the capitalist system and believe that current social problems can be solved within its framework.
Why do you think that reforms of the capitalist system are not the solution?
These problems are caused by the class ownership of the means of production which all reforms leave unchanged. The policy of trying to deal with social problems one by one by reforms of capitalism is futile, as this is to deal with effects and not the cause. We call this policy "reformism" and are opposed to it.
But surely you are not against all reforms?
We are not opposed to reforms which may bring temporary relief to some workers, but we do not regard it as the task of a socialist party to propose reforms of capitalism. Were we to do this we could easily soon become just another reformist party. To avoid this danger we advocate socialism only.
Why have all the other parties failed?
Basically because capitalism cannot be reformed so as to work in the interests of the class of wage and salary earners. It is a class system that can only work for those who own the means of production. Any party, be it Labour or Conservative, which takes power under capitalism is forced to run that system in the only way it can be and so is inevitably brought into conflict with the mass of people who work for a wage or salary. This has been proved time and again.
So it is not because the politicians are not determined enough or are incompetent or dishonest that they fail?
No. No matter how determined or able or sincere the members of a government may be they still could not make capitalism work for the good of all. The politicians fail because they have to accept the class system which causes the problems they are always promising to solve.
If you agree with these views or have any questions, please write to us or come along to one of our meetings