Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Where we stand (1980)

Editorial from the February 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party of Great Britain stands solely for socialism—a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community. The object and declaration of principles of the Socialist Party were laid down in 1904 when a group of revolutionary socialists broke away from the Social Democratic Federation, a party which paid lip service to the idea of socialism, but saw fit to campaign for a programme of reforms of capitalism ‘in the meantime’. From the start the SPGB recognised the fundamental distinction between reformism and revolution: the former professes to eradicate specific symptoms of capitalism; the latter aims to wipe out the disease. The SPGB has never gone to the working class with a programme of reforms. Our message has always been clear: the capitalist system will never run in the interest of the working class; only socialism can solve the problems of capitalism. The seventy-five years, in which the SPGB has constantly stated this theme, are themselves testimony to the futility of trying to reform the present system. After three quarters of a century of welfare reforms workers still have to go out and sell themselves on the labour market for a wage or salary in order to live.

All this time after those few men and women left the reformist road and established a socialist party, capitalism still commands the support of the mass of the working class. Millions have died for want of food, millions have been slaughtered in wars, millions have suffered in Nazi concentration camps and Stalinist purges, Tory, Liberal, Labour, Social-Democrat, Christian-Dcmocrat, Communist and Fascist governments have been elected by workers to preside over this inhumane mess. None has made any fundamental difference. Dictatorship or political democracy, rich nation or poor nation, Christian or Moslem country, the vast majority of workers have willingly given the capitalist class the go-ahead. The SPGB has stood alone in condemning capitalism and proposing a workable political alternative.

In 1917 the myth was created of a working class revolution for socialism in a land where the working class was only a small minority of the overwhelmingly peasant population, where capitalism was still emerging and where socialist ideas hardly existed. The Leninism of the Russian Revolution and subsequent revolutions of its kind has done much to distort the workers’ ideas of socialism. It still remains, that socialism is an impossibility unless the majority of the working class is socialist. It is the SPGB which has correctly analysed the state capitalist regimes which pose as socialism.

The organs of capitalist propaganda, from the churches to the schools to the mass media, have told workers that they are naturally lazy, selfish, aggressive and unco-operative. Workers are told that owing to this natural inability they must accept political leadership by men of wealth and wisdom. Despite the collective intelligence of the church, the aristocracy and the politicians society is still in a hopeless mess. Could it be that, unlike sheep, human beings need critical thought and not leadership in order to make the world a fit place to live in? The SPGB has consistently argued that the working class is quite capable of understanding socialist ideas without leaders and of organising a co-operative society-without government.

Capitalism has set worker against worker. In time of war it whips up wild nationalist sentiments, deceptively trying to associate the interest of property less workers with that of the owning minority. When capitalism goes through its periodic crises scapegoat minority groups are singled out to be blamed for the problems. Capitalism breeds racial hatred. Through the institution of its family, the present system creates social differentiation between male and female workers. All of these things—nationalism, racism and sexism make the task of socialist unity much harder. The SPGB is unique in insisting upon the unity of interest existing between workers of all countries, colours, ages and sexes.

In every area of political debate the Socialist Party of Great Britain takes a principled position in favour of the interest of the working class. For three quarters of a century our principles have been maintained without compromise. What has happened during that time has not led us to believe that we are wrong. But correctness is not enough. Socialist ideas can only be put in force when the majority of workers understand and want socialism, not just at election time, but all the time.

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