Letters to the Editors from the December 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard
I have read a few of your Socialist Standards in the library and I must say I am impressed with the truth of what you say. I am almost totally in agreement with all you say. But one of the main things that is troubling me is when you say that socialism can only come about when the majority of the people understand and want it. 1 can see that. But what I can’t grasp is how people in say Russia, where there is no democracy as such, can ever get to hear about socialism let alone vote for it democratically. Another thing troubling me is your stance against all other parties on the grounds that they aren't socialists. I can see that too. But supposing there was a chance that a limited democracy (as we have in our country) could be brought about in Russia, through pressures from other non-socialist groups—whether they be humanist, civil rights, left wing, religious or whatever—what would be your position? Support or not. If so, how far would you be willing to go to achieve it. I’d be very pleased if you could print a reply in your paper because I’m sure they’re giving a lot of people trouble like me.
You rightly say that socialism can only be brought about by a majority of workers understanding and wanting it. Socialists, therefore, must work solely for the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of a society where the means of wealth production and distribution are commonly owned and democratically controlled by all the people—a socialist society.
Non-socialist parties, pressure groups and reformist movements, however sincere and well-meaning they may appear to be, direct people away from the job of establishing socialism. They aim for reforms within the capitalist system and do nothing to remove the causes of the problems they hope to solve. CND is a good example — its re-emergence merely demonstrates its total failure in the 1960s to abolish or even to simply slow down the spread of nuclear weapons.
However, the CNDers and other reformists, and the SPGB too, do have the opportunity in Britain to make their views known. In many parts of the world repressive regimes make sure that workers do not enjoy even the most limited democratic rights. But no totalitarian regime can permanently suppress working class consciousness — the class struggle causes people to look at the issues raised by capitalism and will eventually lead to their wanting nothing less than its replacement by the classless society. What is happening in Poland, for example, will happen sooner or later in other state capitalist countries. We must support such efforts by workers because they are a first step towards securing democratic rights. However, the socialist also realises the limitations of these efforts and must continually point to the necessity of working for the abolition of capitalism.
The job of the Socialist Party is clear—to put the case for socialism, to encourage workers to reject capitalism and start organising for the conquest of political power. Workers, such as those in Poland, Russia and other totalitarian countries, must start to think in terms of joining with their fellow workers everywhere to fight for a world-wide socialist society.