June 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard
Socialists in Parliament
In March 1986 issue of Socialist Standard you answer a reader's question by stating that the SPGB seeks to have candidates contesting every election both national and local. This puzzles me somewhat, because I can't see what such a candidate will do, once elected, as they would then have been placed in the position of either having to refuse to assist in administering capitalism (if a majority in the Commons had not been achieved) which would seem futile to me. Or they would be obliged to become reformist in their co operation with the elected capitalists, which doesn't fit in with the SPGB line on reformism, which I wholeheartedly support. After all, if it is not possible for one country to be socialist then it must be even more impossible for part of a government. local or national, to be socialist.
G. W. Dixon
Socialism is by definition democratic and the means to achieve it must be democratic. It requires the conscious political organisation of the vast majority of the working class. We contest elections in order for the socialist majority to democratically, through parliament, gain control of the machinery of government.
Elections can also measure the strength of the socialist movement. So far we have only been able to contest one or two seats in any general election, and a handful of seats in local elections. As the movement grows the number of candidates will increase until we are able to contest elections with the full number of candidates; by which time the socialist victory will not be far away.
When socialist delegates are winning seats in elections (both here and in other countries) it will indicate growing support for socialism, and governments will have to take this into account. It will not be a question of co-operating with the administration of capitalism our delegates will have no mandate for this. It is most unlikely that support for socialism will reach maturity in only a couple of constituencies. However if a few delegates are elected a little in advance of gaining the necessary majority in other areas (the hypothetical case of one delegate has been put to us) they would look at any measure in consultation with the Socialist Party. Before instructing the delegates how to vote the Socialist Party would have to take all of the circumstances into account, and assess the likely advantage to the working class and the socialist movement. The decision would be made on the basis of the complete measure and not on the basis of the general aims of the advocates of some reform.
Our candidates stand on a socialist platform — the common ownership and democratic control of the means for production by the whole people — and only seek support for that object. Voters looking for reformist promises have plenty of other parties to choose from. Remember also that those who vote for socialist delegates are not passive electors expecting some government to solve problems for them, are not simply seeking a change of leaders or a different way of running capitalism. They are class-conscious workers who have concluded that only the abolition of capitalism will do and are indicating their readiness to co-operate in the establishment and running of socialism.
Unfair to anarchists?
I recently attended a public meeting run by the Dundee Group of the SPGB. Leaving the hall after wards 1 was given a recent back copy of the Socialist Standard (March 1986).
I would like to complain very strongly about your misuse of the word Anarchy (page 3. col. 1):
It (capitalism) must continue as a system of anarchy. poverty, disease and war.
Surely the phrase "system of anarchy" is a contradiction in terms. Also the use of the word anarchy to denote chaos, social breakdown, loss of the usual amenities of life etc., would not be out of place in a Sun editorial.
Anarchist ideas are peaceful and constructive. If the SPGB expects its ideas to be seriously treated, it should not dismiss other political philosophies in such an unthinking manner.
Anarchy, peace and freedom.
Karryn J. Karryn
Socialists do not — cannot afford to — dismiss any political philosophies, since they are the obstacles to the achievement of the society of common ownership and democratic control of the world s means of life. Much of our work is devoted to analysing our opponents' ideas and wherever possible, to debating them in public.
The phrase which our correspondent complains of means that capitalism is a social system which cannot be consistent and orderly, in the interests of the majority. We describe capitalism's economy as anarchic because the commodity nature of its wealth makes it dependent on the market, which is neither predictable nor controllable. The dislocation between production and sale is the cause of capitalism's cycle of boom and slump. The other characteristics — poverty, disease, war — are additional, connected, symptoms of the system's basic malaise. The phrase as a whole does not have any bearing on the theories of anarchism.
While it is true that some people who describe themselves as anarchists hold ideas which are peaceful and constructive (some very close to those of socialism) there are others who, for example, advocate the violent disruption of capitalism, apparently under the impression that this is the way to bring about the system's abolition. Socialists deny this; capitalism can be ended only through the democratic decision of a majority of conscious socialists. It is not possible to establish socialism through each person acting according to their own individual concepts. Socialism will be a social system and will come about through an organised, systematic struggle — an approach which has fundamental differences from anarchism.