From the July 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard
“Some are born to lead, others are born to be led” is a saying often used to persuade workers that they need, and should follow, leaders. Under capitalism the motto controlling workers’ actions is “Ours is not to question why; ours is but to do or die”. Socialists have contempt for such ideas. If you walk along a road and don’t know where it leads to, you get lost and that is what has happened to the working class: they have put their trust in leaders, who do not understand the system any more than their followers, and the result is that they all get nowhere fast. In fact some have ended up six feet under the ground, following the orders of their leaders on the battle field in defence of capitalist interests.
The fact that the working class feel the need for leadership is an indication of the limited social role they see for themselves. It’s easy to see how workers are attracted to leaders who offer a way out of the continuous chaos of capitalism, whether they are Left wing reformists claiming that they can run capitalism in the interest of the working class or religious leaders telling us to be “nice boys and girls” and to be content with the little we have because we’ll go to heaven when we die.
We are told by the defenders of capitalism that the ordinary person in the street would not be intelligent enough to take over the running of society from top to bottom. In fact, it is the workers who run society now — from managers to doctors to coal miners — but far from using their abilities for their own benefit, they use them for the benefit of the privileged few who own and control the means of wealth production and distribution.
It is not new leaders that are needed, but a new system which puts human needs, instead of the hunger for profit, first. It is to advocate a new system of society, not new and superior leaders, that is the work of the Socialist Party of Great Britain and our companion parties. Our alternative to capitalism is socialism, which will only be achieved when the majority of the working class understand and realise the need for it. Socialism will not be brought about by workers following some self-appointed vanguard on a mystery tour through a black tunnel—whatever it leads to at the other end, it won’t be socialism. So what is this socialist society that we in the Socialist Party urge workers to lead themselves to? It will be a society where there will be no money and free access to all the wealth produced; no buying and selling will take place because no private property will exist. Instead, the means of wealth production will be commonly owned and democratically controlled. Wars, poverty, class division and the environment from which leadership emerges will have gone forever.
The need for socialism is more urgent now than ever, as capitalism pushes towards a confrontation between the Great Powers which could in minutes wipe out much of the human race. So the choice is yours: leaders or socialism — choose wisely, for your life could depend on it.