Letter to the Editors from the July 1973 issue of the Socialist Standard
I have read the Socialist Standard for some two years now, and have been impressed with its general economic analysis of world events, attributing the evils of society to capitalism, etc.
I have not been so impressed, however, with the rank condemnation by the Socialist Party of all other ‘left wing' organisations and institutions. Chile, Russia and China have been continually maligned. But even if the leaders of these countries were selfless personages and there was full worker control, the system, by definition, would still be state capitalism because the rest of the world remains capitalist. So what could the workers in those countries do to escape your wrath?
What would be your policy, Mr. Editor, if democratically elected to power in this or any country? To be consistent you would have to resign on the spot (in fact you should never have campaigned for election in the first place), stating that world socialism is the only answer and you should retire to await the day when the whole world realises this fact — simultaneously — it must be simultaneously.
Can it be that the Socialist Standard has spent 60-70 years engaged in this type of academic analysis? If so, this analysis is no use whatsoever to the oppressed man in the street. Even if he realises that world socialism is the only answer, he is not prepared to wait for the preposterously hypothetical day when all the world’s workers come to realise this fact.
Next months’ issue of the Socialist Standard will predictably expose the evils of capitalism and dismiss other ‘socialist’ parties as being a nonsense, full stop. To your suffering readership this must now be old hat. I suggest that future issues of the Socialist Standard deal not only with the above two basic lines of attack, but also constructively outline to the British worker precisely what is, in practical terms, the political activity he should be indulging in. Also indicate how soon his labours might be expected to bear fruit in the shape of world socialism.
—D. J. Thornton, Aberystwyth.
Unfortunately Mr. Thornton has not understood our conception of the role of a Socialist party. He assumes that a Socialist party is like other parties, except that what it is offering to do for people is to introduce Socialism for them. Hence his reference to a Socialist party being “elected to power” and his criticism of us for not being “practical”.
In our view a Socialist party is an instrument which the working class can — and should — use to establish Socialism when a majority of them have become convinced Socialists. It is a matter of the working class themselves forming their own party to further their interests, not of a group of Socialists seeking working-class votes to do something for them. Hence we don’t think in terms of “winning elections”, “coming to power”, “forming a government”, etc. The working class Socialist party will of course contest elections and ultimately gain control over the machinery of government, but only for the one revolutionary purpose of establishing Socialism by their own democratic political action based on Socialist understanding.
When the working class becomes Socialist there is no reason to assume that this will be confined to those in one country. Quite the contrary. First, because the conditions and problems which face wage and salary earners everywhere are essentially the same. And so of course is the solution. Second, because Socialism is the concept of a world society so that, even if it did happen that the Socialist movement grew more quickly in one country than in all others, then the Socialists in that country would take action to correct this imbalance by helping the movement in other countries. So it is Mr. Thornton’s situation that is preposterously hypothetical.
But in a sense he is right. If a group of genuine Socialists (which of course the governments of Chile, Russia and China are not: they always stood for state capitalism) were, by some freak circumstances, to come to control the government somewhere, then it is true they would have no alternative but to administer capitalism.
What should workers do till there is a Socialist majority in the industrialized parts of the world? It is not a question of what they should do (they should of course immediately establish Socialism) but of what they will do. No doubt they will continue struggling to get what they can out of capitalism until, helped by the activities of the as-yet-only-small Socialist parties in the various parts of the world, they realise the need to establish Socialism if their problems are to be solved.
World socialism is, quite literally, as far away — or as near as the working class choose to make. Unfortunately, it’s up to them, not us. All we can do is to urge them to make the right choice quickly.