Basically, there are only three ways of winning control of the State:
(a) armed insurrection
(b) more or less peaceful mass demonstrations and strikes
(c) using the electoral system
The early members of the SPGB adopted, in the light of political conditions, for (c) , but without ruling out (b) or even (a) should circumstances change (or in other parts of the world where the situations are different).But this was never understood as simply putting an "X" on a ballot paper and letting the Socialist Party and its MPs establish socialism for workers. The assumption always was that there would be an aware and active socialist majority outside Parliament, democratically organised both in a mass socialist political party and, at work, in trade union type organisations ready to keep production going during and immediately after the winning of political control.
Having adopted (c) , various other options follow. Obviously, if there's a socialist candidate ( as in the London , Vauxhall constituency ) people who want socialism are urged to vote for that candidate. But what if there's no socialist candidate? Voting for any other candidate is against the principles. So what to do? The basic choice is between abstention and spoiling the ballot paper (by writing "World Socialism" across it). The policy adopted and confirmed ever since has been the latter, a sort of write-in vote for socialism.
The first step towards taking over the means of production, therefore, must be to take over control of the state, and the easiest way to do this is via elections.
But elections are merely a technique, a method. The most important precondition to taking political control out of the hands of the owning class is that the majority are no longer prepared to be ruled and exploited by a minority; they must withdraw their consent to capitalism and class rule - they must want and understand a socialist society of common ownership and democratic control.We need to organise politically, into a political party, a socialist party. The Socialist Party doesn't have delusions of grandeur so we don't necessary suggest that we are that party. What we are talking about is not a small educational and propagandist group such as ourselves , but a mass party that has yet to emerge. It is such a party that will take political control via the ballot box, but since it will in effect be the majority organised democratically and politically for socialism it is the majority, not the party as such as something separate from that majority, that carries out the socialist transformation of society.
They will neutralise the state and its repressive forces (there is no question of forming a government ) and then proceed to take over the means of production for which they will also have organised themselves at their places of work. This done, the repressive state is disbanded and its remaining administrative and service features, re-organised on a democratic basis, are merged with the organisations which the majority will have formed to take over and run production, to form the administrative structure of the stateless society of common ownership that socialism will be.
This is perhaps a less romantic idea of the socialist revolution but a thousand times more realistic. Which is why we think this is the way it will happen. When the time comes the socialist majority will use the ballot box since it will be the obvious thing to do, and nobody will be able to prevent them or persuade them not to. At that time it will be the anti-electoralists who will be irrelevant