The only important thing that is wrong about Parliament, from the Socialist Party’s point of view, is that it is controlled by the wrong people and for the wrong purpose. Its M.P.s at present have been sent there by electors who want capitalism to be retained. When a majority of the electors have become socialists they will send their delegates to Parliament with the mandate to establish socialism. In the words of our Declaration of Principles, the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, will be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation.
It must clearly be borne in mind that it is a fundamental principle of the Socialist Party that any of its members standing for election would stand solely on the demand for socialism. On no account do we solicited votes on a reform programme.
Our case is not that particular reforms are in themselves necessarily harmful or useless, but that “reformism” (the policy of seeking members and votes on a manifesto of reforms or immediate demands) is useless and harmful in the task of achieving socialism.
Particular measures (e.g., extension of the vote, introduction of a free health service and the improvement of the education system) have been decidedly useful to our fellow-workers and to the task of socialists. If we envisage a minority of M.P.s in Parliament elected simply as socialists, they would take instructions from the Party on the question of voting for a particular measure which clearly was of advantage to the workers or the socialist movement.
If the issue were a clear one of that kind, no confusion would be caused, and there would be no possibility of voters being misled into thinking that at elections socialist candidates were bidding for votes on a promise to support or initiate reforms.
At the present time there are no Socialist Party M.P.s in Parliament, and the Party has, therefore, had no occasion to consider particular questions in that connection.
The lessons learned are:
Firstly, that it is insufficient for workers to aim merely at political control, but that they must obtain political control through their own independent organisation and for socialism;
Secondly, that socialist action on the political field must be action for the abolition of capitalism, whatever the intentions of the leaders, whilst the mass of the working-class electorate are not socialists, they can only act within the bounds of capitalism. The problems they set out to solve are inherent in the capitalist system: thus at the very outset they are doomed to failure and will be discredited. Having spent their time popularising reform programmes and catching votes they have had no time or energies for spreading socialist knowledge.
The workers blame the existence of such problems as poverty, unemployment, etc., upon the men who hold the reins of government. The Socialist Party is not concerned that these political parties and their leaders should be discredited by their failure, but a serious consequence is the disillusionment and apathy that falls on millions of workers as a result.
The many problems in our present society can only be removed by the world working class establishing a social system which has for its basis the production of wealth solely for the use of all, regardless of race or sex.
This cannot be accomplished by a working class blindly following leaders who have preached to them policies of reforms, nor can violent protest be the method to make up for the unreadiness of the workers.
Only by the mental development of the working class can the suffering and misery of capitalism be replaced by socialism.
Brian Johnson will be standing for the Socialist Party at Cardiff Central. While in Folkestone & Hythe constituency, Andy Thomas will be the Socialist Party’s candidate.