Editorial from the September 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard
In the wake of the vote to leave the European Union, many Labour MPs, fearing for their jobs if an early general election was called, set about to depose their leader, Jeremy Corbyn. After a vote of no confidence in him, Angela Eagle and then Owen Smith challenged Corbyn for the Labour leadership. Eagle dropped out leaving Smith as the sole challenger. Corbyn claims that he is building a grass roots movement to challenge the Tory government, whereas Smith maintains that the Labour Party needs a viable candidate to win the next general election.
In addition, the Brexit vote brought about a change in the leadership of the Conservative Party. After the resignation of David Cameron, Theresa May took over not only as the Conservative Leader, but also as the UK’s new Prime Minister.
Not only do most political organisations have leaders but that they strive to provide leadership, either for the day to day running of society or, as the Leninist parties, such as the SWP, insist, for the working class to advance towards ‘socialism’. Even the Green Party, which for many years claimed to be a leaderless organisation, has acquired a leader.
People can be forgiven for thinking that political leadership is an integral part of political life and no society can function without it. This is certainly the case under capitalism, where the minority capitalist class owns the means of wealth production to the exclusion of the majority working class. Here political parties vie to become the government of the day and rule over the workers to ensure that they are producing profits for the capitalist class and that the capitalists have the necessary access to the global markets and sources of raw materials. To these ends, they will need to run the state machine with its police and armed forces. This is as just as true in a so-called ‘socialist state’, where the means of production are in the hands of the state, as it is in an openly free market capitalist state.
In socialism, minority class ownership will be abolished and everyone will have free access to what society produces. There will be no need for a means of exchange, hence no monetary system and nation states will come to an end. Everyone will have the opportunity to participate in the decision making of society. The administration of things will replace the government over people. Therefore, a socialist revolution will require the active participation of a majority of class conscious workers who understand the need to replace capitalism with socialism. Workers cannot be led into socialism, however ‘revolutionary’ the leadership is. This is why the Socialist Party is organised without leaders. Decision-making is controlled by the membership via our annual conferences and our Party Officers and Executive Committee are elected annually and are answerable to the membership.
Whoever is announced as the winner of the Labour leadership contest on 24 September, it will be business as usual, as the Labour Party will continue to be a capitalist party, and the next Labour Prime Minister will have to run capitalism, in ways that are not radically different from the Tories.