The Common Questions Answered series from the July 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard
Q: You in the S.P.G.B. always seem to disregard the fact that Socialism cannot possibly come for a long while yet. Surely the practical thing to do in the meantime is to try to make the present system work better?
A: If Capitalism could be made to work differently we should have seen some worthwhile results from all the efforts of those who have tried to improve it. The “meantime” you refer to must be a capitalist meantime and is no responsibility of those who seek to replace it with a better system. The establishment of Socialism depends on you, and enough others like you, withdrawing your support of Capitalism. It becomes practicable only to the extent that socialist ideas are accepted, and it will become a reality when action in line with those ideas is taken. What you call being practical amounts to trying to patch up Capitalism, the existence of which is the cause of the problems we all want to solve.
Q: Don't you think you should support the Labour Party at elections, since its policy is nearer to Socialism than that of the Conservative Party?
A: The Labour Party, in common with all other parties in this country, except the S.P.G.B., seeks support from the electorate on a programme of reforms. In spite of the “Socialist” label which others have attached to it and which its leaders have been reluctant to disown, its policy has nothing to do with Socialism. It is really absurd to believe that one party’s administration of Capitalism helps to bring us nearer to Socialism than any other’s would. If you support any of the parties that offer anything but Socialism as a practical policy you are in effect agreeing to the continuation of Capitalism. In doing so you are helping to postpone Socialism, not bring it nearer.
Q: Why do you stand aloof from the political struggle by advocating something you know is not practical politics'! Why not support the Trade Unions in the day-to-day struggle for better conditions?
A: We do not stand aloof from the political struggle. We support Trade Union activity that is genuinely in the interest of the working class. But we recognise that such action can only be defensive. It is only organisation on the political field that will enable the class system to be abolished. Capitalism defies all the efforts of reformers who seek to rid it of war, insecurity, poverty and other social ills, and these problems will remain unsolved until the property basis of society is abolished. Socialists are organised in the S.P.G.B. not to haggle with their employers over the way in which Capitalism is run but solely to replace it with Socialism.
Q: The Labour Party's policy is more for the workers than the representatives of big business in the Tory Party are. So the first thing to do is to get the Tories out, isn't it?
A: All you would do by that would be to choose the rival firm to run Capitalism. You ask us to help defeat the Tories because you think doing that will bring you a step nearer the sort of world you want. But you’ll find, as six years of Labour Government should have shown you, that it won’t. When you understand that the enemy to be overcome is the present system of society itself then you aim directly at establishing Socialism. The growth of socialist understanding will succeed more than anything else in making all its opponents sink their minor differences and in forcing them to make concessions in a vain attempt to divert people from taking action to end Capitalism.
Q. Surely a strong socialist movement is much more likely to grow under a Labour Government than under a Tory one? Isn't it better to have a party in power which has been built up by working-class support rather than one which represents their traditional enemies?
A: Your arguments are based on the assumption that the Labour administration of Capitalism is preferable to the Tory one. But if most people had found this so then the present Government would never have been chosen to replace the allegedly better Labour one. In other words, what was imagined to be the lesser evil had in the eyes of the electors become the greater. The truth is that Capitalism can be run in only one way—in the interest of the capitalist class against that of the working class. It doesn’t matter whether members of the Government are “ of the people,” so-called middle class or millionaires; they compete at elections with others offering to do the same job. If you don’t want Socialism you choose one set of them. When disappointed you may change your registration, but you still get the same meagre rations because you’ve done nothing to end the system that rations you.
Q: We must do something positive now about the problems that face us. Why wait for a majority of people to understand all about Socialism before taking some constructive action?
A: Behind your question is the false belief that you stand to lose by not choosing what is often claimed to be the lesser of two evils. When you understand Socialism the question of waiting for others doesn’t arise—your “action” is to make them socialists also. Just look at the position you are in. You want to enjoy better conditions of living and a world without war. You realise the Tory Party can do nothing to bring these things, yet you still cling to the hope that the Labour Party can do a little better. You should stop trying to take a short cut that isn’t there—you’re wasting your time when you could be making solid progress towards your goal. Don’t be sidetracked by the specious plea that you have to choose between two evils when you can reject both by choosing Socialism.