Friday, April 23, 2010

Left Unity

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition is an umbrella organisation of left-leaning trade unionists and assorted Trotskyist groups , who have joined together to oppose public spending cuts and privatisation, and to demand the nationalisation of major companies and of the banks in a wish-list of reforms.With trade unions and left wingers talking about the re-founding of a Labour Party Mark II , the SPGB simply asks "why bother?". The history of the original Labour Party has been one long disaster for the working class and we can expect little better from any proposed new model .

Unity is only possible among those who possess common principles. A lack of unity of ideas and purpose always ends in eventual failure and defeat even for the non-socialist and non-revolutionary political parties. The job of socialists is to bring the class struggle to an end, not to try and accommodate themselves with the capitalist system. Socialism is not milk-and-sops reform, it is not a vague concern for ethics compatible with every opposition campaign or grouping within capitalist society.There is room for differences of opinion amongst socialists but these have to be subservient to the central socialist aim, to the old teaching of socialism , pure and simple. Another point is that collaboration with other groups and concessions made to accommodate such "like minded groups" may possibily increase the SPGB membership, but could very quickly bring about its demise. The open and democratic nature of the SPGB makes it vulnerable if it accepts association with groups which for religious or political outlook differences do not wish to commit to full socialism. Alliances for reasons of reforming the electoral system for instance, or supporting reformist groups, take us away from the real purpose of our existence.

Reformists often say to revolutionaries “Don't split the Left. We are all working for the same goal, so why don't you join us? We can get strength through unity.” Another line of thinking that presents itself as friendly to revolution but is really calculated to frustrate it is “the time is not yet ripe” argument . Revolutionaries must reject this appeal if they are to remain revolutionaries. Reformism is never a contribution to the achievement of socialism – it is a diversion of energies working for that goal.

Reformists who have some sympathy with the idea of socialism commonly seek to do a deal with revolutionaries. "It is important to get unity of the left. Join us today to achieve [ whatever is the flavour of the moment ] and tomorrow we'll join the revolution " . For revolutionaries the deal offered by some reformers to get unity of the Left is always a poisoned chalice. Reforms are to be pursued today, tomorrow the revolution - but tomorrow never ever comes.

"The struggle for reforms can tip over into revolution. Battles for reforms are vital preparation for social revolution" is sometimes also argued by so-called revolutionaries . But no convincing evidence is ever offered for such a position. The task of true revolutionaries is not to jump on the bandwagon of reforms but to expose their inadequacies, to show that reforms cannot solve working-class problems. Some left-wing groups who are now participating elements in TUSC deliberately and dishonestly advocate demands for short-term aims that they know cannot be met under capitalism, as a way of fuelling working-class discontent. In other words, they deliberately lie to workers as a way of getting them into their party!
We want no part of such an alliance. The Left, despite referring to themselves as “socialists” have no confidence in socialism, no confidence in the workers to win through. They tell us, your socialism will come eventually someday – presumably, when we are all dead and gone.The Left groups may as well know that we will continue to put the case for socialism, against them and the other parties which all support capitalism in one form or another, at election times whenever we can. We shan't be forming any electoral pacts with them since their objective of reforms now and state capitalism later has nothing in common with ours of a world community . Our analysis is not based upon some narrow sectarianism—it's based upon principle. We do not, nor have we ever, supported capitalist parties, especially those that dress up in revolutionary garb in order to hoodwink the workers. We do not doubt that well-meaning individuals get caught up in such chicanery for no other reason than a desire to see a better world. However, sentiment can never be a substitute for the class struggle.

There's nothing wrong with contesting elections, but if socialists are going to do this it should be done on a sound basis: getting elected on a straight socialist programme of common ownership, democratic control and production for use not profit. But what is being proposed is quite different: getting elected with non-socialist votes on a programme of attractive-sounding reforms to capitalism. It is not as if the workers' movement hasn't been here before. This was what the Labour Party in Britain set out to do. In Europe , it was the policy of parties which, on the face of it, were far more radical than Labour in that they claimed to be Marxist and based on the class struggle. In practice, however, they were just as reformist as the Labour Party, and failed just as miserably. The danger is that the same mistake is going to be made again.The failure in the course of the 20th century of every single Labour or Social Democratic government, in all of the countries of Europe, to make any progress towards socialism has demonstrated the soundness of the position taken up by the SPGB at the turn of that century: that it is impossible to reform capitalism so as to make it work in the interest of working people. And that, therefore, it is futile and time-wasting and a diversion to try.

What those who want a better society should be doing is to campaign to change people's minds.It is all very well claiming to be anti-capitalist but if this is to mean something more than merely protesting against the effects of capitalism, it has got to also mean having an idea of an alternative to capitalism. Ours is a world without frontiers in which the natural and industrial resources of the Earth become the common heritage of all humanity and are used to provide enough for everybody in an ecologically-acceptable way.It is our ideas, our practices, and our values, that makes us the Socialist Party, not simply the word "Socialist" in our party name. It wouldn't matter what we call ourselves, as our ideas grow a word would be found to express them, in their full meaning. Since we think that, historically, that word already exists, we choose to call ourselves socialists. At a later stage, when more and more people are coming to want socialism, a mass socialist movement will emerge to dwarf all the small groups and grouplets that exist today. If this situation were to arise then unity and fusion would be the order of the day. In the meantime, the best thing we in the SPGB can do , is to carry on campaigning for a world community based on the common ownership and democratic control of the Earth's natural and industrial resources in the interests of all humanity. We in the SPGB will continue to propose that this be established by democratic, majority political action .Other groups will no doubt continue to propose their own way to get there. ( In the Vauxhall constituency we have the Trotskyists of Worker Power calling for the "immediate" this and the "immediate that" and the right of the Iranian regime to develop its own nuclear weapons.) In the end , we'll see which proposal the majority working class takes up. When the socialist idea catches on we'll then have our united movement .The writer , Ken McLeod , in his book The Stone Canal, has a fictional SPGB-er answering the charge of sectarianism from a Trotskyist with the exclamation: "how can a member of a split from a split from a split from a split from a split from the Fourth International call us sectarian?" .

If you want to vote for socialism, and there is no Socialist Party candidate standing, do this by writing "WORLD SOCIALISM" across your ballot paper.

1 comment:

pete21 said...

in his book The Stone Canal, has a fictional SPGB-er answering the charge of sectarianism from a Trotskyist with the exclamation: "how can a member of a split from a split from a split from a split from a split from the Fourth International call us sectarian?" .

PMSFL! That's the funniest thing, I've read in a while.