Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Purpose of Socialist Organisation (1934)

From the June 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard

The reason for organisation is that a number of people united are better able to accomplish a given end as a rule than the same people working in an isolated fashion. In fact, some ends can only be accomplished by means of organisations, and Socialism is one of them.

Mere organisation, however, is not enough. It must be of such a nature that it will meet the need to accomplish the end as soon as possible. Moreover, it must really accomplish the end, and not some pale shadow of it.

Bad organisation will often defeat the end aimed at, weak organisation will hinder its accomplishment, and only sound organisation will adequately achieve it.

The end that is aimed at determines the nature of the organisation. Organisation for Socialism is a political movement to revolutionise present social arrangements which rest on the private ownership of the means for producing and distributing the social wealth.

As the political arrangements of the world are split into separate political units with dearly-defined national boundaries, the world organisation for Socialism must also be split up into similar national groups struggling to obtain control of the national centre of political power, but is in close touch with their counterparts in other national groups. The business of each, however, is first of all to settle accounts with their immediate political adversaries.

Political parties are those which participate in the struggle for control of the State machinery. The Socialist party is therefore a political party.

In order to achieve its aim the party organised to obtain Socialism must be clear as to its object and its policy; work in harmony with existing conditions, which set definite limits to what can be done, and draw its strength from the working class,—all who live by the sale of their energy to the employing class.

The object of the Socialist Party is set out on another page. An examination of it will show that it is a definite, practical object, and is not concerned with any abstract ideas of humanity, justice, liberty, and so forth. It implies a fundamental social revolution—a revolution in the method of ownership. It further implies that the majority of the people shall take part in the change, for it sets out that in the future system there shall be democratic control. For this to be a reality the majority of the people must understand what they are about, else there would be no control, but simply a gigantic muddle. Hence there can be no question of Socialism stealing in by the back door, as it were. It must be clearly and openly explained and examined, so that all may grasp its meaning.

Once this revolutionary nature of Socialism is thoroughly grasped, time will not be wasted devising means that at best only ease, without removing, some of the worst evils of the present system. There is one example that illustrates very well how an immense amount of energy can be spent on a reform that has no important influence on the position of the mass of the people. For generations the workers were persuaded to interest themselves in the question of Irish Home Rule, and even general elections were fought ostensibly on that question. Well, Ireland—or anyhow, the voluble part of it—now have home rule, but no one appears to have discovered any particular change in the condition of the workers inside or outside of Ireland, as a result of it. A similar thing can be said of most of the issues that come up for judgment under the heading of reforms.

The disillusion and apathy that are the offspring of disappointment when ref onus have been obtained but fail to produce any lasting remedy is another objection to reform policies. One can imagine the feelings of those who spent a lifetime working for Irish Home Rule, and now see its accomplishment. They have not even the satisfaction of having achieved the end they were after, because the actual end is something far different from what they pictured it to be.

Again, there is the enormous waste of time arguing about the values of particular reforms and the splits and enmities developed out of these discussions. This point need hardly be laboured, as most of those who are politically active are only too bitterly aware of it.

For the above reason and many more, but above all because reform can only, at best, mitigate, but cannot abolish the evils that flow from the present organisation of society, the policy of the Socialist Party is revolutionary and not reformist.

It has been mentioned that the party aiming at Socialism must work in harmony with existing conditions. It must be recognised that Socialism is a growth out of Capitalism, and not a brand new, watertight system that has been carefully thought out and can be produced like the conjurer produces a cat from an empty bag. The very idea of such a system as Socialism has only developed because of modern social trends. The organisation of industry on a large scale makes production to meet the needs of all a relatively simple matter; this production is obtained by the application of human labour to Nature-given material, and it is the workers alone who apply the labour; the wealth produced is owned by those who own the means of production but who, on the whole, take no part in production. Facts like these are bringing home to more and more workers the knowledge that by converting the means of production into the common property of all, and thus producing for the benefit of all, instead of a privileged few, it would be possible for all to live in comfort, and hence is a very desirable change.

To make this change, however, it is necessary to observe that the State power is the bulwark that supports the present system, and that there are certain prescribed methods by which control of this State power can be attained, failure to observe which only leads to disaster. Many clever and honest people who believed that the parliamentary avenue to State control could be ignored threw up all struggle in despair at the ends of their lives. Sorel, Labriola and Michel sire examples of those who held to the view that strikes and street fights were the means the workers should adopt to overthrow the present social system, but in the end they became despondent. Others, like Briand, who held similar views, ultimately went over to the side of the Capitalists.

It is from the workers that the Socialist Party draws its strength, because it is the workers whose interests demand the change. The Capitalists, as a whole, live in comfort, on account of their privileged position, consequently it would be both absurd and useless to expect them to voluntarily give up their privileges. Speaking in general, it is to the Capitalist's interest to retain the present system of exploitation, because they are the gainers from it, and it is to the interest of the workers to abolish the system, because it enslaves them and shuts them out from a life of comfort and security.

Hence the Socialist Party addresses its appeal for members to the working class, and draws its funds and its workers from members of the working class. For reasons already mentioned, it is essential that those who join the Socialist Party should clearly understand its object and policy, and hence the need for an object and set of principles making this clear, so that those who join will know exactly where they are.

There is one thing, however, which is not written in the Declaration of Principles, but is also necessary for obtaining Socialism, that is, members to do the work that is involved in organisation for such a purpose. Here we would appeal to sympathisers who agree with us but have not yet seen fit to join.

The more there are to do the various necessary jobs, the less burdensome the jobs become, and the more efficiently they can be done. We need speakers and writers to spread our message; people who can do clerical work, literature selling, and the hosts of other jobs that must be done.

Above all, those who come into the Socialist Party will have the unique advantage of helping to support the organisation for which they are working. Their remuneration will be their satisfaction as one of the instruments in the great social transformation that is coming, which will lift them out of bondage.

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