Thursday, March 8, 2018

Objection Overruled (1951)

From the August 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

This article is primarily addressed to those who more or less regularly listen to our speakers and read our literature, but who are not sufficiently in agreement with us to desire membership of the party. You probably regard yourselves as being sympathetic to Socialism, because you agree with most of what we say about society at present. You may also feel rather hurt sometimes when we appear to make no distinction between you and those who consciously oppose Socialism, and who are determined to discredit every idea that even savours of it However, we have reasons for not compromising our ideas with those which we are told are close to ours, reasons which are strictly in accord with the nature of our single object of Socialism.

It is our contention that every sane person in this world is capable of understanding the case for Socialism. When we explain it to those who have previously confused it with attempts to reform the present system without changing its basis, it is extremely rare to meet any personal objection to living in a socialist society. The objections that are made are usually on behalf of other people, who are supposed to be unwilling to exchange the certainty of their shabby existence under Capitalism for “something which has never been tried before.”

We must point out that those who wait for others to express a determination to work for Socialism before seriously considering their own attitude towards it are in a contradictory position. They are like the gloomy folk who, when asked about the reason for their gloom, complain that nobody ever smiles at them. That is why we ask all those who agree that Socialism would be the basis for a fuller life than Capitalism allows, to withdraw their passive support for the latter and to join us to establish it. It cannot be too strongly emphasized that merely to assent that “of course it’s a good idea but it’ll never work ” is as obstructive to its realisation as to oppose it tooth and nail.

It is significant that most of the opposition we get at our meetings comes from members of the working class. It is seldom left to individual capitalists to defend the capitalist system. On the rare occasions that they do they invariably voice the same objections to Socialism as workers do. This is because the wage-working class and the wage-paying (capitalist) class both believe that Capitalism is a necessary system; the latter is a small minority and must exist by tacit consent of the majority of the working class.

We are often told by those who express some sympathy with Socialism itself, but think they know more “practical” ways of bringing it about, that we should join forces with o‘her parties in order to take steps towards it by implementing certain reforms. Implicit in this suggestion is the idea that socialists should attempt to gain control of the powers of government in order more effectively to propagate socialist ideas.

This theory overlooks the fact that all parties who form governments have to push their avowed long-term aims (if any) into the background, and concentrate on the day-to-day business of running the capitalist system If, like the Labour parties in Australia and New Zealand, they are defeated at the polls after a long innings, then it is falsely heralded as the failure of Socialism, to which they paid lip service.

Experience shows that there is no marked difference between Capitalism run by those who say it is desirable and by those who claim they are reforming it into something else. The lesson to be learned from this is that if Capitalism is objectionable to you, your only concern should be its replacement with a better system.

Sometimes our opponents claim that the reason socialists are at present few in number is that most people have little time to study politics. The answer to this is that all the time and effort workers waste on arguing which party should run the system of wage-slavery, should be spent in studying how to get rid of it.

There is no task more important to those who have reached an understanding of Socialism than to help bring it nearer by getting others to accept the ideas necessary to establish it. It is not “reaching for the moon” to ask that it be considered as the only practical solution to the social problems which Capitalism has failed to solve. This objection is based upon the fatalist view that all man’s development has been a process independent of his will, and that all his attempts to improve conditions have been and will be a waste of time.

On the contrary, the whole history of man shows his interaction with his environment as the source of all social change. In joining with others to change the economic basis of society the individual is helping to determine his future environment. To the socialist it is not a question of what “they will do and how it will affect him, but of what he, in conjunction with others, will do and how it will affect the whole of society.

In opposing Capitalism we oppose the ideas (and in many cases the lack of ideas) of all who acquiesce in its continuation. If we are rather severe in our attitude towards those who profess partial agreement with us, then in fairness we do not brand as “impossibles” those who most bitterly oppose our ideas, from whatever motive. The objections we may overrule, but the objectors themselves will always be looked upon as potential socialists.
Stan Parker

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