From the April 1974 issue of the Socialist Standard
“The crisis which we have been predicting for the last 20 years is now upon us . . . Every single area of the organisation needs to be strengthened if we are to reply to Heath, Wilson and the union leaders with real Socialist answers” (Socialist Worker 5 January 1974).
Not at all a bad idea! If by “real” Socialist answers is meant sound, correct Socialist answers.
Unfortunately the International Socialists are not giving “real” Socialist answers; but very unreal mistaken ones.
Socialist Worker for 12 January includes a whole page of “replies to readers’ queries”, headlined by the statement that "the only answer” is not “Socialism” but “Workers' Control”.
Now the first point about so-called “Workers’ Control” is that there ain’t (and can’t be) any such animal. Workers’ control is a simple contradiction in terms. Those “in control” can never be the workers. Control of society comes from ownership backed by a Parliamentary majority. Even Chris Harman is forced to admit this. Lower down answering somebody else he writes: “What is needed is a mass movement of workers prepared to fight for control of every pit, dock, factory and office, replacing the present system by one run democratically by elected workers’ delegates.” But he adds (ruefully) “such a really massive movement does not yet exist. Most workers continue to take the existing system for granted and only want small gradual changes in it.” (Socialist Worker 12 January 1974).
Too true — only too true, Chris. But even supposing that friend Harman’s idea actually worked and a "massive movement” of workers fought for control of every factory — AND WON IT — WHAT THEN? Would it be Socialism? NO! On the same page we are told that the "problem of shortages” would be transformed by "dividing up the immense wealth in very few hands; enough to give the six million lower paid workers an extra ten pounds a week.”
Is this Socialism? NO! It’s the same old wages system. All it could do would be to perpetuate the same old class struggle. Even if every worker got ten pounds extra next Friday, nothing would be fundamentally changed. Capitalism would go its own sweet way and whittle away the "increases” by inflation, speed-up and all its other devices. As Tony Cliff rightly says (misquoting Lenin) "Capitalism always has a way out of the crisis if the workers are ready to pay the price” (Socialist Worker 5 January 1974).
The Socialist Worker actually writes that this "dividing up” would "pay the miners a decent wage so that they saw no reason to strike”. (What is a "decent” wage?)
This is definitely comical, seeing that the International Socialists spend most of their time fomenting strikes for political ends. Of course we are not quite so naive as not to know that the object of all the International Socialists’ hysteria about the present crisis is simply "the mixture as before”. It is a reprint of the old outmoded and discredited Communist Party tactics — calls for a Labour Government, new versions of the election of Soviets by the Trades Councils and establishment of "dual power” on the Petrograd model.
Its support of any and every strike, or potential riot, its absurd idea that any crowd breaking a few windows is preparation for the "revolutionary situation” and slavish idolatory of the Leninist “tactics” is the real reason for the formation of Rank and File (T.U.) movements, organization of fractions in the Trade Unions and factory branches. It’s all been tried before, ending with the virtual non-existence of the CPGB.
Behind the organization of strikes to overthrow Governments is the idea of seizure of power by “Workers’ Committees” backed by mutiny in favour of the workers by the armed forces! What a hope!
By their rejection of Parliamentary methods International Socialists show that they are confused on the method of establishing Socialism because they do not understand Socialism itself. Socialism is NOT control by the workers. Socialist society concerns every citizen in his capacity as a human being, not as a miner, bank clerk or whatever.
Cannot International Socialists see that if the massive movement they envisage was Socialist it would inevitably express itself politically at elections, capturing political power in the only way possible (which is not street fights or riots) by a majority vote?
By their hysterical and unthinking fomenting of disorder they discredit and besmirch Socialism, reducing it to the level of hooliganism and street brawling.
Will they never learn? It’s all been tried before and is foredoomed to disaster.