Saturday, February 21, 2015

Our Party Line

What does a socialist party do? While conditions differ from country to country, one common element is that socialists opposes the ruling class in every place and in every way possible to win the hearts and minds of the working class, and for political power. An important field of struggle in democracies is the electoral arena, and it is on this field that the Socialist Party are campaigning for the replacement of capitalism, a system based on greed and exploitation, with a humane re-ordering of social and economic activity in which human needs, respect and equality are the guiding principles. The official election campaign is a travesty of democracy. Whatever the make-up of the next government, its policy has already been determined - working people must be exploited.

Many in this election are less than enthusiastic about the contest, not seeing any difference between Labour and the Conservatives and are pessimistic of the viability of change through  voting for a third party. They are not the 'silent’ majority but a silenced majority. Silenced by the  media which is why we have to take it back.

Lying deep inside some of those on the Left is the idea that radical change will not occur via the electoral path. In their view, socialism will be ushered in via a general strike during a crisis of capitalism. The capitalist state will be smashed in one blow and a workers’ state established in its place. Some see change only through force based on their understanding of the Russian Revolution. The Socialist Party has long argued against this mischaracterisation of socialism that merely undermines mass democratic involvement. This approach will never win majority support among people. Just like the socialist society we envision as our end - peaceful and democratic - so too must be the means shape every aspect of the new society.

 Marx and Engels foresaw the possibility of peaceful transition particularly under conditions of the democratic or bourgeois republic. Marx foresaw the possibility of achieving socialism through universal suffrage. "A historical development can remain 'peaceful' " wrote Marx, "only for so long as its progress is not forcibly obstructed by those wielding social power at the time. If in England, for instance or the United States, the working class were to gain a majority in Parliament or Congress, they could, by lawful means, rid themselves of such laws and institutions as impeded their development, through they could only do so insofar as society had reached a sufficiently mature development." Engels wrote in Critique of the Erfurt Program: "One can conceive that the old society may develop peacefully into the new one in countries where representatives of the people concentrate all power in their hands, where, if one has the support of the majority of the people, one can do as one sees fit in a constitutional way; in democratic republics such as France and the USA..."

The Socialist Party champions the cause of the working class and takes the ideas of socialism—a better, more just society, the way forward for humanity—to our fellow workers. Socialists need to take the fight against the system wherever there is an opening to take up that fight. An election campaign can build the movement and mobilise the forces that have the power to change the system. It furthers the self-confidence, class-consciousness and organisation of workers. It is a move toward independent political action which represents an advance for the working class. What workers need is a clear class explanation of the dictatorship of capital and a discussion on how to build a movement to overthrow it. To advance this discussion, the Socialist Party selectively runs candidates, a component of our broader propaganda work. The ballot box gives us a choice in how we are ruled, but be fully assured, the Socialist Party will not be an electoral party whose goal is to hold posts in the capitalist government. Many people dismiss running candidates because these candidates cannot win. This is true, today. Tomorrow, they may be able to win if we lay the groundwork today. It would be difficult to campaign for election without making new contacts, new recruits and increasing the working class' understanding of political realities and socialist ideas.

The important distinction is between running and winning. Those of us in the Socialist Party are not stupid. We know we can't win. But we know that by running we gain access to the notice of many thousands. Elections are accepted as a place for political discussion. When we approach people as a candidate, we are respectfully given a hearing. Many people at this time will listen to ideas that they would otherwise normally block out. Often, we can even debate directly with the pro-capitalist candidates.

The Socialist Party strives to establish a society that places people's lives under their own control -- a non-racist, non-hierarchal, non-sexist society in which people cooperate at work, at home, and in the community. Socialism is not government ownership, a welfare state, or a repressive bureaucracy. Production in a socialist society is used for the benefit of all humanity, not for the profit of a few. Socialism produces a constantly renewed future by not plundering the resources of the earth. The capitalist system forces workers to sell their abilities and skills to elite few who own the workplaces, profit from these workers' toil, and use the government to maintain their privileged position. People across the world need to cast off the systems which oppress them, and build a new world fit for all humanity. By revolution we mean a radical and fundamental change in the structure and quality of economic, political, and personal relations. The building of socialism requires widespread understanding and participation, and will not be achieved by cadres in a vanguard working "on behalf of" the people. The working class is in a key and central position to fight back against the ruling capitalist class and its power. The working class is the major force worldwide that can lead the way to a socialist future – to a real radical democracy from below. The Socialist Party participates in the electoral process to present the socialist alternative. When we are a majority we will rapidly constitute socialism. By fielding candidates in elections at all levels of office, the Socialist Party educates the public about socialism and promote the politically independent organisation of working people in direct opposition to the capitalist parties. Our methods and means for democratic socialist change reflects our goal of a society founded on principles of egalitarian, non-exploitative and non-violent relations among all people and between all peoples.

In the words of Karl Marx:
"...Even where there is no prospect of achieving their election the workers must put up their own candidates to preserve their independence, to gauge their own strength and to bring their revolutionary position and party standpoint to public attention. They must not be led astray by the empty phrases of the democrats, who will maintain that the workers' candidates will split the democratic party and offer the forces of reaction the chance of victory. All such talk means, in the final analysis, that the proletariat is to be swindled. The progress which the proletarian party will make by operating independently in this way is infinitely more important than the disadvantages resulting from the presence of a few reactionaries in the representative body." - Address Of The Central Committee To The Communist League, March 1850.

The SPGB candidates are as follows:

Bill Martin - Islington North (London); Danny Lambert - Vauxhall (London); Brian Johnson - Swansea West (Wales); Steve Colborn - Easington (North East England); Kevin Parkin - Oxford East; Mike Foster - Oxford West and Abingdon; Robert Cox – Canterbury; Andy Thomas - Folkestone and Hythe (Kent); Howard Pilott - Brighton Pavilion; Jacqueline Shodeke - Brighton Kemptown


Mike Ballard said...

I'm hoping that the SPGB gets some candidates elected before they get all their candidates elected. The elephant in the room is what these candidates would do in government, if that ever eventuated. There seems to be a fear amongst SPGB members that if that were to happen, their program would be co-opted or that reforms like voting for shorter work time would lead to the pacification of class consciousness amongst workers.

ajohnstone said...

A member of our companion party the WSPUS (as well as the IWW) has studied the history of the Socialist Party of Canada a little and had this to say on a Libcom thread.

"Classically, the impossibilist tendancy that the SPGB is a isolated reminder, never viewed elected to office members as representatives but as delegates. There role is seen to block the capitalist party(ies) where possible and undercut the capitalist state legitimacy as much as possible. In the rare occasions where they were elected (the Canadian Party elected I think 8 provincial legislators over 20 years) they were pretty spot on, occasionally getting some pro-working class health and workplace safety legislation passed. This was always accompanied with provisos that the legislation would never be permanent, the capitalist class and it's parties would always work to destroy any gains made in the legislature and that class struggle and class organization was needed.

There was a tendency to emphasize solely the electoral position that arose in the SPGB, etc with the ascendancy of Stalinism and its thuggery.

But in the SPGB's defense the most famous "Australian IWW song" Bump me into parliament was actually written by Bill Casey, who was a member of the SPGB's companion party. It is an attack on labour/leninist attempts at electoral reformism. So how does it happen that these folks denounce precisely what you are accusing them of?

4) And the Socialist Party of Canada (SPC) did organize the class struggle in the form of the One Big Union. It pulled tens of thousands of workers out of the AFL in both Canada and the US. Here's some readings on libcom about the OBU.

The AFL tasked it's number 3 man and $100,000s to innocculate its membership and isolate the OBU. We can talk about this some other place.

I hope that answer some part of your query and how we will respond if some are elected and our influence grew stronger.

ajohnstone said...

A bit ambiguity..."these folk" doesn't refer to the link which is to Casey's refers to the anarchist critics on Libcom
You can read the exchanges here

Mike Ballard said...

Thanks Comrade. Makes perfect sense to me. Vote SPGB!