From the January 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard
Under the title "Missed Opportunities. Shattered Dreams”, over two days last 16/17 November, the Socialist Party held a successful weekend of lectures and discussion on the lessons of 20th century politics.
On the Saturday, Dave Perrin opened with an account of the founding of the Socialist Party in 1904, the arguments between socialism or reforms at the turn of the century, and our early prediction that the election of so-called working class governments on reform programmes could not lead to socialism or to solving working class problems.
This was followed by Adam Buick dealing with the record of Labour governments during the years between 1929 and 1979. This showed how the Labour Party, through the fatal trap of reformism. became hopelessly enmeshed in the problems of running capitalism in the only way it can be run, that is, against workers and in the interests of the capitalist class.
On Sunday, Steve Coleman dealt with the elitist nature of Leninist politics and the contempt with which the leaders of Bolshevism regarded the abilities of workers to solve their problems. The so-called workers’ revolutions in Russia and Eastern Europe had been vanguard-led coups which had only led to state capitalist tyrannies.
The final discussion took up the ways in which reformist governments have steered the 20th century through a sequence of raised hopes followed by failure and disillusion. Pieter Lawrence pointed out that in all history no other century had seen as many deaths from war, poverty and disease. These had been the disastrous consequences of continuing capitalism during years when the socialist alternative had not been taken up. Despite this, because the spread of capitalism had resulted also in the growth of a common class interest amongst workers across the world, and such developments as world-wide communications, the means of building a strong world socialist movement have never been so close to hand.
Dick Donnelly reviewed the position of socialism in the 1990s and the gains that could arise from the new situation that exists. Now that the Labour Party had abandoned any pretence to be socialist, and now that the "Left” was unable to defend the late Bolshevik tyrannies in Russia and Eastern Europe, the political ground was more open to a better understanding of the genuine socialist alternative. There are now no mass parties that could possibly excite anybody looking for a change in society and this presented the Socialist Party with great opportunities.
Another education conference—this time on Democracy—is being held at the Socialist Party's Head Office in London on Saturday 1 February. For details see the Meetings Page.