Editorial from the March 1983 issue of the Socialist Standard
If Marx were alive today, what would he think of the "Marxists"? How would he assess the gathering each year on the podium in Red Square, saluting the long parade of tanks, missiles, nuclear warheads? Would he feel a common cause with the new risen leaders who, having fought to expel some foreign colonial power, themselves impose on the newly "free” country a savage repression? Would he greet as comrades in the struggle for socialism the guerrilla fighters who say they set their people free by shooting them and blowing them to pieces?
There is little doubt that he would condemn these as impostors and deny that their theories had any affinity with his. Of course, he may also have rejected the Socialist Party of Great Britain as a Marxist organisation, if he were rigid enough to insist that the term could be applied only to those who give a complete and uncritical acceptance to everything he wrote. Socialists have no use for dogma, from whatever pen it comes. We are aware that, probably because of the undeveloped time he lived and worked in. Marx held many ideas which now show up as wrong. His qualified support for one side in a capitalist war is one example: another is the misconception of the role of the state in the socialist revolution, as set out in the Communist Manifesto.
Nevertheless the SPGB asserts that we, with our companion parties abroad, are a Marxist party — the only organisations worth the description. We make this claim because we alone both agree with and consistently apply the basis of the Marxian analysis of society. We examine history as a response to material conditions, a succession of class struggles sprung from a clash between the prevailing social relationships and the pressure of a developing mode of wealth production. We alone see the mechanics of capitalism — the workings of its class structure, the accumulation of capital, the exploitation of the working majority through their employment — as essentially characteristic and not as accidental. avoidable ephemera. Only socialists assert the need for a revolutionary conclusion to the class struggle, to dispossess the capitalist class and to transform the means of life into the property of the community.
These are the strengths of Marx’s work; its weaknesses are seized on, and expanded. by our opponents in their ever more desperate attempts to justify their discredited theories and policies. Socialists are not political trendies; our ideas have never been fashioned as micro-wave responses to passing appetites. At our formation we laid down our Object and Declaration of Principles which, as a statement of basic Marxism, has endured since 1904 simply because it continues to explain, to analyse, to answer the necessary questions and to point the way forward for the revolutionary socialist.
This has provided the SPGB with a continuity in theory and action which has kept us in existence, and in strength, when other parties have been wrecked or reduced to theoretical feebleness. The present slump, for example, is typical in that it has reaped a harvest of the ignorant and left the air thick with the chaff of false theories about the origins, and the cure, of the recession. Marxists know that capitalism is an anarchy of boom and slump and that workers suffer impoverishment when they are in employment as well as when they are on the dole. We know too that the system will not fall into rubble under the pressure of some great final crisis — the dream of many a hopefully waiting elitist of the left.
No other organisation has consistently expounded the class struggle in capitalist society. Apart from the SPGB, every one has at some time asserted that there is an essential unity between capitalist and worker. In wartime, for example, we have seen what the professed internationalism of the self-proclaimed Marxists has been worth, as they have supported one or other of the world's ruling classes. Socialists have stood alone in an unbending opposition to capitalism's wars, on the grounds that no working class interests are involved and that workers all over the world should unite for socialism.
But socialists offer more than criticism. With our analysis of capitalism and the mental destruction of the anti-Marxists we have a complementary policy for action. Marxists aim at nothing less than the immediate overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a social order based on the social ownership of society's means of wealth production and distribution. The material conditions for that revolution exist now; the productive forces are capable of sustaining a society of abundance and, in the classic Marxist interpretation, they are in conflict with the restraints imposed on them by the existing social relationships. This can be resolved only by a revolution, to bring the social relationships into harmony with the productive forces. And for that revolution all that is needed is positive action by a politically conscious world working class.
In line with that need, the membership of a Marxist party must consist exclusively of workers who have the knowledge essential for the overthrow of capitalism, workers who will not compromise or settle for piecemeal reforms under the delusion that these will somehow chip away at capitalism until it has ceased to exist. Socialists are not to be found among the trendy demonstrators, catching the headlines with CND marches. Right to Work campaigns and peace camps, agonising over this week's crisis before next week’s dominates the news. Conscious socialists have no use for leaders, to interpret events for them, to lay down policy and to display their extra-special intellects before the TV cameras at the demonstrations.
Capitalism is rampant, its dominant class holding a monopoly over the means of life throughout the world. But Marxism, the intellectual energy which will end capitalism, lives in spite of all the efforts by its avowed enemies as well as by its professed friends to kill it off. It lives simply because it meets with reality. Its analysis of capitalism fits the facts; its policy for future action appeals because it follows in logic, a proper remedy from a sound diagnosis.
Marxism lives in the Socialist Party of Great Britain and our companion parties of socialism.