Tuesday, December 22, 2015

All in order (1987)

From the August 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

His nonchalance unruffled by Prime Ministerial problems - the dollar crisis, the winter of 1946/7, the Cold War. the Korean war. the Bevanite rebels - the late Clement Attlee could be enraged if he saw the after-dinner port being passed around the table in the wrong direction. Attlee was converted to membership of the Labour Party by his observations of the poverty in the East End and he later became Labour mayor of Hackney, where the matter of circulating port bottles is of minor concern. His defection from his class origins - for so it was seen - was obviously limited, as he clung to some of the mustier and more risible rituals of the moneyed people in society.

He was not. of course, the first Labour premier to have such preoccupations. The Ramsay MacDonald government of 1923/4 was rocked at its start, not by any determination to bring down the capitalist system but by anxiety about the occasions on which its ministers might correctly wear court dress. True, there had been some hesitation in the drawing rooms of Mayfair and Belgravia when that government had come to power and there were fearful mutterings about the imposition of free love along with nationalisation. These were immediately put to rest when MacDonald first appeared in all his finery; apart from the implications this gesture had for the security of class society there was also the fact that he looked so much more fetching than the Conservative leader Stanley Baldwin.

That government was supported in the Commons by MPs who included a fair sprinkling of men who had come up the hard way - men who had learned their politics sweating at the coal face or in the docks or shipyards. If the Labour Party was to live up to its new eminence, if it was to show that capitalism and all its flummery was safe in their hands, something clearly had to be done to forestall the threat of these Members disgracing the Party at some soiree or garden party. They might, forgetting where they were, belch or scratch themselves or drink their tea out of the saucer. The matter was taken in hand by the formation of the Half Circle Club, an organisation with the object of teaching Labour MPs how to behave themselves when in the presence of their social betters. It also taught them to be at ease with the aristocracy and in that sacred cause some of its members were said to be more difficult and arrogant than the aristocrats they were seeking to ingratiate themselves with.

They soon learned - as must anyone elected to Parliament - that the place is a turmoil of ritual. There is all the bowing and nodding without which, apparently, the business of the House would simply collapse. There is the solemn ceremony which has Black Rod knocking three times on the door and the procession from the Commons to the Lords, instead of the other way round, to support the fiction that the power in British capitalism does not lie with the Commons. There is the Queens speech, which is not hers at all but written for her by the government. And of the highest importance is the matter of how the Members address each other. Whatever feelings they may have about another Member, they must describe them as Honourable, even though they know them as the biggest rogues alive. Of course if the rogue happens to be a Privy Councillor then the address must be Right Honourable and if at some time they have been in the forces they must be the Honourable and Gallant Member. At no time must anyone say what they actually think about anyone else, except in what is called Parliamentary language - which excludes terms like thief or liar or murderer. Nobody must tell lies to the House - or rather nobody must tell lies which are going to be exposed - because otherwise the entire process of parliamentary debate and its rituals would collapse as the Honourable, Right Honourable and Honourable and Gallant Members are suddenly seen for the shallow, impotent frauds that they are.

Outside Parliament, capitalism is a mass of ritual and observances. People who are given medals for killing other people they have never met and don't know, or for being a loyal and eminent representative of the values of this profit-based society, must always be sure that their baubles are worn in the correct order. It would be in the worst possible taste to appear at some function with your Order of the Garter wrongly placed in relation to your Order of the Thistle. Similarly with the titles which the ruling class dish out to each other in congratulation at being members of that class. Dukes. Earls. Baronets and the rest have an order of precedence and it is a grave breach of all the decencies of life to ignore it. Their place in some procession, or where they sit at some banquet where the speakers tell the working class all about the need to work harder and be satisfied with their lot, must rigidly stick to their place in the order. If it were otherwise - if a mere baronet could elbow a duke out of the way in order to get a better view of what was going on - the whole point of giving people titles to prove their superiority would lose its point.

One effect of all this is to absorb a lot of energy from people who have vague notions about a more equal society or who are impatient with what they see as ceremonial obstacles to a more efficient, thrusting, go-getting capitalism. These arguments can be supported with some impressive evidence about the cost of keeping the royal family in the style to which they are accustomed and about how ridiculous ageing people look in knee-breeches and wigs. This might be more acceptable if capitalism in places such as America and Russia, where they do not rely on so many ceremonial trappings, worked any differently to the system in Britain. In all cases the ruling class came to power, with some minor historical differences, through acts of theft. Sometimes they murdered their opponents (the British ruling class has a particularly nasty history in this), sometimes they only ran them out. As far as the working class are concerned, how it happened makes little difference. All ruling classes are united on one thing - the need to repress the workers and keep them in their place as the producing, designing, exploited, non-owning, impoverished class. They can do this assisted by a titled, bemedalled tradition of funny robes and hats and outdated rituals. Or they can do it through a simpler, more direct deceit in, for example, the plain uniforms of Mao Tse-Tung's China.

Although it is difficult to imagine capitalism without its rituals, the fact is that it does not need them. The power of the capitalist class does not rest in ceremonial but in their monopoly of the means of life. They assert that fact through a repressive state machine and the fact that at times the assertion is blanketed under the robes, wigs, ceremonies and verbiage does not alter the fact that it is there and is all-powerful. Ritual is not, then, a defence mechanism; the capitalist class need no defences against a working class which not only accepts the ritual but happily lines the streets in order to catch a glimpse of it in operation. If ritual has a function it is to re-assert the reality that this is a class system, that the ruling class have held their power for a long time and intend to hold it for a very long time to come.

If the working class are impressed with this it is because they have given over their political power to keep capitalism going. This in itself is at times ritualistic: people vote Labour because their parents do, or Tory because they have taken out a mortgage on the home which they used to rent from the local council. These attitudes are rooted in tradition, without reason and they plaster over the reality that workers who think and act in those ways are helping to maintain the social system which is directly responsible for an untold, unassessable, human suffering.

And none of this is necessary. The millions of people who die in wars, or through accidents or diseases which are caused by the drive to make profit, do not need to die. The millions more who do not actually die but suffer pressures which are all but intolerable do not need to suffer. The world is waiting. fully able to support and nourish such a society, for its people to start up a new, humane way of running it. The rituals of capitalism are not amusing for they hide a deadly reality; our class must look through them to see the facts of life for what they really are.

Violence and the state (1978)

From the September 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

The French social democratic writer of the turn of the century, Gabriel Deville, defined the State as “the public power of coercion”. Lenin wrote of it as consisting of “special bodies of armed men which have prisons, etc., at their command”. Others have called it “institutionalised violence”. All these definitions are more or less adequate as they bring out the fact that the State is a social institution whose basic function is coercive: to force members of society to behave in ways they might not otherwise want to, if necessary by the actual exercise of physical force.

Normally it is not the leaders of the “special bodies of armed men” themselves who decide what patterns of behaviour are to be enforced (though in a number of backward capitalist countries military dictatorships are fairly common, exposing the State for what it is). This is decided by others, by the government.

In countries like Russia the government is made up of the leading members of the single political parties that exist in them. Such countries are political dictatorships. In other countries the government is made up either of the leading members of the party, or parties, which have the support of a majority of the members of an assembly elected by universal suffrage (as in Britain) or of men and women appointed, with the approval of an elected assembly, by a President who has himself been elected by universal suffrage (as in America) or by combinations of these two systems (as in France). The important point in all these cases is that those who form the government and thus control the State are elected, either directly or indirectly, by popular vote. In this sense such States can be described as "democratic” (but not in the sense of acting in the interest of a majority of people) or as being political democracies.

There is one feature which all modern States have in common, irrespective of how their governments are chosen: they are instruments of class rule. For society is today divided into two main classes, into those who own and control the means of production (the capitalist class) and those who, excluded from such ownership and control, have to sell their mental and physical energies for a wage or salary in order to live (the working class). The basic function of the State is to maintain this situation of ownership and control of the means of production by a minority class. This is true even of States which, because of the way their governments are chosen, can be called democratic. Such States too are instruments of capitalist class rule and domination, reflecting the fact that the vast majority of the working class accept and support capitalism.

The vast majority of the working class in political dictatorships too accept and support capitalism and in fact in order to survive and function properly States depend on a certain degree of public consent, on people accepting the legitimacy of their coercive role. No government can survive for long in the absence of a minimum degree of such public consent. States, however, have at their disposal powerful means of ensuring acceptance of their legitimacy: the education system and the means of mass communication. Right from the moment a child enters school (quite apart from what he might have learned beforehand from his parents who will have been similarly conditioned) he is taught to be loyal to the State in which he lives. When he grows up and buys newspapers, even those not controlled by the government (as generally they are not in democratic countries), he will read articles — on the sports pages also — which assupie that all citizens of the State form a national community with a common interest. Similarly with the radio and television. Democratic States have an even stronger argument: they can claim that the exercise of State power represents the will of the majority — as in a sense it does, even if it is not exercised in the majority’s interest.

Fortunately such conditioning can never be perfect. For the material conditions of the working class, such as having to work for a wage or salary, having to struggle to defend their standard of living, perpetually having to face problems in the fields of housing, health, education, and so on continually generate discontent and questioning. It was in this way that the idea of an alternative, socialist society arose and how, with the educational and agitational activity of those workers who have already become socialists, it will spread.

Where the State is democratic (in the limited sense we have described) this propagation of Socialist ideas is tolerated and can proceed without too much difficulty. And, when, as a result of their experiences of capitalism combined with having heard the Socialist case, a majority of wage and salary earners have come to want and understand Socialism, then they can use the institutions of the democratic State to win control of political power with a view to abolishing capitalism. In other words, they can win control of the State peacefully without having to have recourse to violence.

That the socialist revolution can be accomplished peacefully is a position the Socialist Party of Great Britain has held since its foundation in 1904. It was a possibility admitted by Marx, though he was not as optimistic as we are about the chances of the peaceful winning of political power not being followed by a “slaveholders’ revolt” on the part of the capitalist class. But then he was writing in the 19th century when political democracy was neither so widespread nor so stable as it has since become in the leading industrial countries of the world. The 1848 Communist Manifesto ended with a declaration that the socialist revolution would be violent. But later, as he had already noted in relation to the Chartists’ demand for universal suffrage, Marx came to realise that political democracy could allow the working class to come to power peacefully and publicly said so in a speech on 8 September 1872 in Amsterdam after the Congress of the First International: "We do not deny that there exist countries like America, England, and if I knew your institutions better I would add Holland, where the workers can achieve their aims by peaceful means” translated from Pages de Karl Marx pour une ethique socialiste, Vol. 2, edited by Maximilien Rubel, p.87).

Marx’s general position has been well summed up as using "the force of the law or the law of force, according to circumstances” to abolish capitalism (Rubel, vol. 2, p.11). Our view is that in modern political conditions (political democracy, the increased proportion of wage-workers in the electorate, the more powerful means of coercion at the disposal of the State) using “the force of the law” is the only practical way. It should be understood that although Socialism can be established without having recourse to violence, “force” will still be used to get the capitalist class to give up its privileges, but it will be the force of the “public power of coercion” democratically exercised by the socialist majority rather than the violence of a popular insurrection.

The idea that violence will have to be used to end capitalism is widely held amongst those who consider themselves “revolutionary socialists”. In their ignorance these people frequently imagine that Marx completely ruled out the peaceful establishment of Socialism and that the distinction between reform and revolution is between those who think capitalism can be abolished peacefully and those who say it must be overthrown by violence. In fact this goes back to Lenin not Marx.

In his State and Revolution written just before the Bolshevik coup d’Etat in 1917, Lenin countered Marx’s argument about the possibility of establishing Socialism peacefully by saying that this may have been so in the liberal era in 1870 but that since that time all States, even Britain, America and Holland, had become militarist and “imperialist”; which according to Lenin meant that the working class could come to control them only by violence.

This argument is not valid. As we have indicated the political changes since 1870 have been in the opposite direction: in favour of using “the force of the law” rather than the “law of force” but this has not stopped many people discontented with aspects of capitalism from imbibing Lenin’s views as “Marxism”.

Most of those who argue from their armchairs in favour of the violent overthrow of capitalism wouldn’t know one end of a rifle from the other let alone how to make a bomb or drive a tank, but what their arguments do is to create an intellectual climate in which the use of violence against the capitalist class and the State is seen as legitimate. So it is not surprising that from time to time a tiny handful of people from Leninist and anarchist circles actually try to use violence against individual capitalists and statesmen. Examples are the Angry Brigade in Britain a few years ago and today the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany and the Red Brigades in Italy.

Individual acts of violence are quite futile as far as advancing the socialist cause is concerned (even if this was the aim of those who practise it, which of course it isn’t). Such “propaganda by the deed”, as the anarchists of the turn of the century used to call it, does not make recruits for Socialism. All it does is to make life more difficult for ordinary workers. In this sense such acts are anti-working class. There are enough problems for wage and salary earners under capitalism without having to impose on them police searches and the fear of being blown up every time they take a train or go for a drink.

We are fully aware that the State is a machine for exercising violence and on a far greater scale than that of any terrorist gang. This is why, when there is a conflict between the State and some terrorist gang, we do not take the side of the State. We are opposed both to the institutionalised violence which is the State as well as to the freelance violence of terrorists. The way to abolish the State is not to take pot shots as it but to organise consciously to win control of it by using the means to hand, — the ballot box. This done, the State along with all the other institutions of class society can be abolished and violence banished for ever from social relations.
Adam Buick

Beyond anarchism (2015)

Book Review from the December 2015 issue of the Socialist Standard

'The Next Revolution', by Murray Bookchin. Verso. 2015.

Murray Bookchin was among the strongest of figures to come out of twentieth century American radicalism. As well as being known for the establishment of ‘social ecology’ (a criticism of social problems coupled with ecological concerns) he also developed a political programme known as ‘libertarian municipalism’ which he saw as a method for getting from our present society of minority control and environmental destruction to a new rational and ecological society of mass democratic control.

The basic building block of libertarian municipalism is the community or neighbourhood assembly, face to face meetings where citizens meet to discuss and vote on the issues of the day. These assemblies elect mandated and recallable delegates who then link with other assemblies forming a confederated council, a 'community of communities'. The difference between this form of delegate democracy and our current form of representative democracy is that in a representative democracy power is given wholesale to the representative who then is free to act on their own initiative; in a delegate democracy the initiative is set by the electing body and the delegate can be recalled at any time should the electing body feel that their mandate is not being met, thus power remains at the base.

Bookchin saw the setting up of such assemblies as a task that could be initiated now, even if the only functions they could have initially were moral ones. He also saw that, as a means for extending the democratic legitimacy and for the further confederalisation of these bodies, it would be necessary to elect town and city councillors sympathetic to the cause. This position eventually led to Bookchin making a break with his previously held anarchism. Bookchin criticised the anarchists for holding a false theory on the nature of power. Instead of seeking to abolish power, which Bookchin thought was impossible as it is always a feature of political and social life, the purpose of an emancipatory politics should be to ensure that power is in the hands of masses and is dispersed equally among them. Bookchin used the classic example of Barcelona in July 1936 to illustrate this point. The defeat of the military coup meant that the CNT (an anarcho-syndicalist union) and its armed militias were now the only real power in the city. Despite this, and because of their anarchist ideology, the CNT refused to enter the government and to exercise the political power that they already had, thus leaving the door open for the eventual Stalinist take over. By refusing to take power, Bookchin argues, the anarchists did not destroy power but merely transferred it into the hands of their enemies. While the CNT did hold power in the factories and workplaces a vast swathe of real governmental power, from the administration of military affairs and the overseeing of justice, was left in control of the liberals and Stalinists who would later use this power to reverse the gains of the July victory.

Through the gradual building up of the power and spread of assemblies Bookchin hoped that libertarian municipalism could lead to a situation of dual power where the authority of the assemblies would eventually challenge that of the state. This brings us to our criticisms. Bookchin held that there was a distinction between the statecraft of professional politicians as the administrators of the governmental machine and politics proper as practised by free citizens engaging in the direct democracy of their self-managed communities. Whilst this distinction may be fair to a certain extent the practical conclusions that Bookchin drew from this do not seem to be very cogent. Bookchin thought that, in order to avoid becoming agents of the state, councillors standing in favour of libertarian municipalism should only stand for posts in local elections. If the majority of the population were in favour of libertarian municipalism then they would be able to use their votes to elect delegates at all levels of the state and so realise their programme that way. Failure to exercise political power at all levels would have the result of handing power to their opponents. Despite his criticism Bookchin repeats the mistake of the Spanish anarchists.

Moreover, Bookchin thought that councillors favourable to libertarian municipalism should stand on a typical reformist programme with its 'minimal' and 'maximum' demands. We would hold that it is this, rather than the supposed principle of 'power corrupts', that led to the 'revolutionary' parties of the past degenerating into nothing more than mere administrators of the existing order. Once elected on a platform of short term reforms it is these that come to take precedence over any 'maximum' long term revolutionary goals which fade away permanently into the background. In order to stay in power the party has to appease those who voted it in on a reformist platform.

In recent years the ideas of Bookchin have found an unlikely testing ground in Rojova, a semi-autonomous Kurdish area in north eastern Syria. Abdullah Ă–calan, a former Leninist and imprisoned leader of the PKK, came across the works of Bookchin whilst in prison and saw their potential for organising the Kurds, a people without a state.

As an introduction to Bookchin's thought this book is not a bad place to start but as this is a collection of articles republished from various sources there is a certain amount of repetition of ideas and themes. Despite some significant differences there is much that the Socialist Party would agree with and find of use.

Going to the dogs (1970)

From the December 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

Belle Vue is the oldest established greyhound track in the Manchester area, and to an uncritical observer the hundreds of cars parked outside the Stadium on a Saturday evening may convey an impression of working class affluence (whatever that may be!). But many of these punters arriving at dog tracks in their own conveyances are tired, jaded market stall-holders, one-man shopkeepers, commercial travellers and such like seeking a few hours escape from the treadmill of their lives; plus the chance of an easy buck. However, thousands also arrive by Corporation Buses and some even on foot! Old Age Pensioners, men on the dole or so called “social security”, conserving their meagre cash for a bet in an effort to increase their government Poverty Line allowances, but generally managing by decreasing it, to increase their hardship instead, For it is a stupendous feat to leave the track on the winning side, despite such popular bets as . . . taking three of the six dogs and combining them in every possible combination for the Tote Forecast of First arid Second dog past the post; a total of six bets at 2s. each, which is an outlay of 12s. per race.

To the novice, this may appear to be a somewhat easy task, at first sight, of half the field running for the punter, but if the remaining three dogs are added; thirty combinations are totalled, so that the six bets made on three of the dogs, is really a four to one against hazard which is the reason they are defeated so often.

In the atmosphere of a dog track, many punters fail to realise this and curse their bad luck in obtaining the winner on many occasions with this type of bet, but not the second dog.

“Lady Luck”, however is simply a mystical term from the dim and distant superstitious past and, leaving aside the odd case of fixing a race, it is figures and odds of probabilities and possibilities linked with form, going, and fitness which defeats those hopeful punters.

So far in the history of greyhound racing at Belle Vue sixdogs have been the maximum number employed, but plans are in hand to accommodate eight dog races at some future date which will boost the falling tote dividends recently, but not the chances of the punters. For if they persist in taking half the field of eight, they will find that the odds against this type of bet have risen to Nine to Two against them.

Anyone interested in human behaviour has only to visit a dog track to note a change in the behaviour of many punters after a few races have gone by; for, with only a certain number of races left to get out of trouble with their dwindling cash, this leaves scant respect for the etiquette of drawing room manners, as they push and shove into Tote queues, making desperate last minute decisions. And, fearful they may not reach the tote windows before the off, many a female operative at the tote machines gets a volley of curses, (in many cases completely unjustified) for failing to punch yet one more ticket. Generally a physical impossibility because the electrically operated machines are cut off just before the traps open to let, (ironically enough) “Man’s Best Friend” fly around a 500 yard track to relieve him of his hard earned cash. However, as recently the glass fronted enclosures and upholstered seating capacity has been enlarged, some punters caustically refer to this as “the painless extraction method”.

After the last race, suddenly all the hubbub ceases; the bookies shouting the odds, glasses clinking at the bars, loudspeakers blaring forth, music while you lose and the constant, punch, punch of the tote ticket machines. Silently the crowd filters through the gates, and now the sound of footsteps are plainly audible. Out again into the mundane world, the world they have never left! The money jungle of capitalism.
G. R. Russell

*At the opening meeting at Belle Vue in 1926 seven dogs were in fact used, but this was a long time ago and ever since the war at any rate, no more than six have been used.

The Labour Party is not, and has never been, a Socialist Party (1977)

From the June 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard

The recent furore in the press and within the Labour Party itself over whether the Party will admit to its ranks “Marxists” has been the cause of much debate concerning the origins of Labourism. Tony Benn, a member of the Government, defended the notion that Marxism has had a strong influence in developing the Labour Party. Benn’s claim is spurious and unfounded: the rejection of Marxism, and hence revolution, fated Labour to follow a reformist path leading to the inevitable disillusionment of its members.

Most of Labour’s early leaders if asked what books were seminal in shaping their views of society would probably mention John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Henry George’s Progress and Poverty, the Bible. If Capital was mentioned at all it would come a long way down the list. In fact, it has been claimed that the Labour Party owes more to the writings of the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, than to the founder of scientific Socialism, Karl Marx. Keir Hardie, founder of the Independent Labour Party, said: “I claim for Socialism that it is the embodiment of Christianity in our industrial system,” It was said of Hardie’s meetings that they often began with a hymn, followed by a lesson, and concluded with a prayer.

The Labour Party’s view of society at its foundation was not an economic analysis of capitalism. The capitalist system was bad because it was run by hard-faced politicians who were indifferent to social evils, and not because of its economic laws which placed the pursuit of profit above all else. Therefore, the solution to the problems of society lay in removing these men from; office and replacing them with a more decent set who would, by reforms, abolish the poor, feed the hungry, etc.

This was a denial of reality. No party, however well-intentioned, could hope to spirit away the essential basis of capitalism, whilst at the same time acting as custodian of that very system. The only option was to change society in a revolutionary way and this was rejected out of hand by the Labourites. Thus, having no Marxist outlook, it was understandable that Labour leaders would find working with the avowedly capitalist Liberals no hardship (it still is the case). Ramsay MacDonald, the first Labour Prime Minister, said he could see “no profound” gulf between Liberalism and Socialism. He argued that socialism was to be furthered by the close collaboration of men of goodwill from all [sic] classes on the basis of “conceptions of right and wrong” common to all. Keir Hardie’s hatred of class strife was a direct result of his Christian beliefs and Liberal upbringing.

The Labourites from the beginning shied away from the fact that the working class’s interests were diametrically opposed to those of the capitalists. In fact they held firmly to the principles of free-trade Liberalism. Keir Hardie himself left the Liberal Party not because he found the policies of Gladstone distasteful, but as a result of the way the local party branch chose its parliamentary candidates; a method which excluded working men. Hardie affirmed his still-felt affinity for Liberalism when he stood for election as an independent labour candidate in 1892. His election manifesto stated: “Generally I am in agreement with the present programme of the Liberal Party.” So much was Liberalism the cornerstone of much of the early ILP ideology that the Manchester Guardian could say, in 1901, of its annual conference: “what must strike a liberal . . . is, one would say, how much of the proceedings are devoted to the advocacy of traditional Liberal principles.”

When it came to deciding what Hardie’s party was to be called, the 1893 Conference rejected the idea of naming the new party the Socialist Labour Party, for in the words of Katherine Conway: “The new party has to appeal to an electorate, which has as yet no full understanding of Socialism.” This opportunistic approach to the working-class electorate has characterized the Labourites from the earliest times. Its refusal to commit itself to definite principles was the nearest it ever got to having principles, Henry Pelling, the historian, has argued in his book The Origins of the Labour Party that by adopting the broad, indefinite title of the ILP, the party was only reflecting the fact that most of its support lay in local parties and union branches which were not committed to socialism. The object of these bodies was to build a parliamentary party on the basis of social reform, not social revolution. The eight-hour day, abolition of overtime, old-age pensions, and so on, were prominent amongst the ILP’s early demands. Their allies in this were to be trade unions.

This appeal to trade unions proved ultimately successful. It was union support which saved the infant Labour party. For in the general election of the late 1890’s all the Labour candidates had been defeated, polling 44,000 votes in all, and the ILP was on the verge of bankruptcy.

But the unions were not attracted by overthrowing capitalism and replacing it with Socialism. What interested them most was the creation of a political party which would safeguard their immediate existence by using parliament to pass favourable legislation. This would have been entrusted to the Liberals, as traditionally had been the case. However, they had allowed the employers to organize strike-breaking organizations, especially in the docks, they had voted against the eighth-hour day demand, they had watched without a murmur the Taff Vale case of 1900. It was disillusionment with Liberalism and not capitalism which forced the unions to throw in their lot with Labour.

During the period between 1906 and 1914, the Labour mps merely acted as a pressure group, prepared to barter their vote for small, piecemeal legislative measures advancing the cause of trade unionism, and in this they were reasonably successful. For example, they secured the repeal of the Taff Vale judgement in the Trades Disputes Act of 1906. However, Labour was normally content to follow the Liberal lead at this time, which led it to be described as the “handmaiden of liberalism.”

Let us turn to another group concerned in the formation of the Labour Party, the Fabians. They were a group of well-to-do intellectuals, George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Sidney and Beatrice Webb amongst them. It was the Fabians who, in Britain, made socialism synonymous with the state. They made the remarkable discovery that in the wasteland of capitalism there were patches of socialism in the form of public baths, parks, playfields, cemeteries, washhouses and public conveniences. Even the War Office and Scotland Yard had for them the character of socialist institutions. Another of their brilliant contributions was the theory of gradualism: the official socialism of the Labour Party. Finding words like “revolution” alien to their vocabulary, the Fabians argued that socialism was to evolve almost imperceptibly over many years, until one night everyone would go to bed (except those on nightshift) and in the morning they would wake up inside socialism. To quote Keir Hardie, Socialism would come “like a thief in the night”. The main agent for this unconscious change in society—no one was to be aware it was occurring, except the Fabians — was to be the state. Attempts at putting this theory into practice via nationalization have not brought Socialism one inch nearer, neither have they reduced class conflict—witness the recent bitter battles with the miners.

The emphasis it placed upon working within the capitalist system, meant that the Labour Party was open to all sorts of social reformers and cranks. Trade unionists, dissatisfied Liberals, well-to-do philanthropists, and out-and-out careerists saw in the Labour Party a meal-ticket. A direct result of the influx of the intellectuals and managerial types was the ousting of working people from the representative positions in the party. By 1945, Arthur Greenwood, Labour’s Lord Privy Seal, could say approvingly: “I look around my colleagues and I see landlords, capitalists and lawyers. We are a cross section of the national life, and this is something that has never happened before.” (Hansard, 17th August 1945)

Thus in the origins of the Labour Party we can see the seeds of future failures. The Labour Party has not brought Socialism about because from the outset it never was a Socialist party. It sought to win votes on the basis of social reform and not social revolution. Any socialists who might have existed in the Labour ranks at that time were swamped by non-socialists, who dictated the party’s course along essentially reformist and capitalist lines. Any notion that once into office the Labourites could take the capitalist dog for a walk has been subsequently shown to be false. The dog has taken them for a long walk down the road of power politics and social evils. Support of two world wars, presiding over massive unemployment, etc., has been the sorry outcome for a party, which failed to realize that capitalism can only be run in the interests of the capitalist class. It was not a question of good men with Christian principles, but of socialist economics.
Bill Knox

Caught In The Act: In The Raw (1991)

The Caught In The Act column from the December 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the raw.

Our readers will be relieved to learn that the Socialist Standard will not be contributing to the praise, criticism and analysis of the life, times and death of Robert Maxwell - at least not in the style to which we have, over the past few weeks, become accustomed.

Maxwell was - how many times have we read this? - larger than life, which in his ease means that he routinely behaved in an excessively outrageous way. That was the soil in which so many stories about him flourished - like the time when he abruptly sacked a man for smoking outside his office, paying him off at once in cash from his own pocket which both surprised and delighted the man because he wasn't employed by Maxwell anyway. Sacking people was one of Maxwell's things - according to SOGAT secretary Brenda Dean he fired some of that union’s members six times, usually round Xmas to emphasise the point.

He could behave in this way - and then be remembered as a lovable eccentric for it - because he was rich. Most people don't - and can't behave like that because they’re poor. Maxwell was capitalism in the raw, in the sense that he worked on the simple and unavoidable principle that under this social system to have money means to have power.

This raises an interesting question. Why was he a member of the Labour Party, which professes to stand, if not for socialism, at least for capitalism without its rougher edges? The only possible answer is that Maxwell thought the Labour style of running British capitalism was best for his profits; he would certainly not have joined them if he had thought Labour policies were harmful. And why did the Labour Party accept him? Clearly that had a lot to do with his control of a large media empire, particularly the Mirror Group Newspapers and all that implied. What are a few professed political principles worth, compared to support from the Daily Mirror?

Perhaps Maxwell was not so much cynical as crazy. But, confronted with this gross personification of a ruthless, oppressive, murderous social system, how do we assess the response to him? The responses of the media, of the sycophants who feared above all being fired by him, of the Labour leadership who grovelled in the hope of attracting some grubby votes? These too are examples of capitalism in the raw. It is not a pretty sight.


We all know who Neil Kinnock dislikes - Militant, those who remind him of his past as a left-winger and anyone who challenges his fragile hold on the job of leader of the Labour Party. But who does he admire? In a recent issue of The Director he unveiled his choice.

Inevitably, he admires Ancurin Bevan who, apart from being Welsh, turned his back on much of what he had called his principles because he thought that would help him become Foreign Secretary. Kinnock has been doing the same thing ever since he became party leader - except that he has his sights on Number Ten. His next heroes were Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King whose popular reputation as men of unrelenting principles does not mix with Kinnock's, who has abandoned almost everything his erstwhile admirers once thought he stood for in his greed for power.

But Kinnock's headline-snatching choice was a heroine - Annie Besant, who led the famous match girls' strike in 1888. The passage of time has given that strike and Annie Besant a romantic niche in history But if Kinnock were Prime Minister, what would a Labour government think of a similar strike nowadays? Their record in power does not encourage us to believe that they would have been at all sympathetic to the strikers, no matter how appealing their ease.

Kinnock made his choices because, he said, they were united in a fundamental commitment to individual freedom. This is a little rich, coming from the leader of a party whose commitment to individual freedom was less than wholehearted when they were in power. In fact, the interview did little more than confirm his reputation as an unoriginal, shallow and inept contributor to political thought. It reinforced the impression that there is no reason to take anything he says seriously.

Crime and Punishment.

Kenneth Baker, genial bungling Home Secretary, is not famous for being uniquely successful in his political career but he has learned the technique of the pre-emptive strike, which he used to deflect the annual bout of Home Secretary-bashing at this year's Tory Party conference on the issue of the so-called joy-riders. Baker did this by declaring that he was about to introduce harsher penalties for those who are caught committing this offence and, to make it more likely that they are caught, by creating a new offence.

Approval for this extended beyond the conference hall; those who wait for the media to warn them that the country is being overwhelmed by a surge of anti-social behaviour are usually in favour of responding with suffer sentences for it. This vengefulness helps to obscure the fact that when politicals are confronted with a problem of any kind they have to appear to be in control and capable of doing something about it. Reality is rather different.

To begin with, "joy-riding" is not new. It has been happening for a long lime, with some help from the car manufacturers' reluctance to make cars more difficult to steal because of the expense involved. Then there is the fact that this government has devoted a lot of energy to Law and Order. They have given the police pay rises above the going rate in order to increase their numbers and are now aiming at recruiting another 1000. They have given the police more powers and they have introduced harder sentences for those convicted of some offences. By rights - or rather by their standards - crime should have responded to these measures by falling rapidly but, in fact, the figures for reported crime continue to climb inexorably, ever upwards.

So no joy-rider with any sense would be impressed by Baker's windy rhetoric. But they might wallow in the notoriety while they can, for while at present they are the bogey everyone loves to hate, by this time next year they may have been superceded by another one, by other demands for action and for the police and the courts to crack down. Whether there will be another Home Secretary to make the same kind of promises as Baker will depend partly on the timing of the next general election - and partly on Baker's well-known talent for survival.

The parliamentary road to socialism (1978)

From the September 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

In 1871 at a conference of the First International in London, resolution IX which had the support of Marx and Engels read: “Against the power of the propertied classes the proletariat can only act as a class by turning itself into a political party”. That is the reason for the existence of the Socialist Party of Great Britain and why we advocate the parliamentary road to socialism.

The “power of the propertied classes” exist by virtue of their control of the state machine. It is putting the cart before the horse to claim as some do that the political power of the capitalist class (and its representatives) derives from its economic ownership of the means of living. On the contrary, capitalism and the rule of the Capitalist class exist because the overwhelming majority of the population support this state of affairs.

One can see how this fallacious belief that class rule is based on economic power may lead to, or is consistent with, an idealist, as opposed to materialist, conception of history or elitist modes of action such as anarcho-syndicalism. It tends to play down or ignore the fact that the immense majority support capitalism by voting for capitalist parties, whatever the fraudulent labels these may flaunt, or by acquiescing in dictatorships. But as Herman Gersom, translator of Martov’s The State and the Socialist Revolution points out:
“Even the masterminds superintending the Fascist, Nazi and Soviet Communist political superstructures of modern capitalism realise they do not and cannot rule for any length of time against the will of the overwhelming majority of the population”
What lies behind the objection to the parliamentary road to socialism is that should the socialist movement grow to the point when the chance of its delegates forming a parliamentary majority was imminent, then the capitalists would suspend parliament and install a dictatorship. “Democracy”, rather than something which has been struggled for, can, according to this view, be switched on or off as a few leaders see fit, like some electric current. However, the growth of socialist consciousness could not occur in a vacuum and its repercussions will be far-reaching, profoundly influencing social outlook which in turn would determine the nature of existing government.

The tradition of parliamentary democracy is sustained by a general consensus of support for such a tradition which can only be strengthened to the extent that a growing socialist movement will have need of it. Moreover, just as it is impossible to isolate personnel manning the coercive agencies of “bourgeois democracies” so existing dictatorships cannot be isolated from the influence of socialist ideas. The rise of totalitarian regimes such as in Germany before the war was the result of the abysmal, though unavoidable, failure of the social democratic and reformist government of the Weimar republic to deal with the socio-economic problems capitalism presented.

So why do socialists insist on the need to capture parliament? Parliament is the seat of political power through which control of the state apparatus is exercised. Although external influences are exerted upon parliament from big business, unions’ pressure groups and the like, in order to be effective such influence has to be channelled via parliament and realised in the form of legislation.

The basic function of the state, controlled by parliament, is to protect the interests of the capitalist class. The state arose out of the early divisions of society into classes and developed with the development of class conflicts. In this way, class rule through state power originated from class ownership. But private property is a social concept or relationship, the general acceptance of which cannot be separated from the general support given to those who exercise power in the interest of the owning class. The state, through which class rule is exercised will not 'wither away’ as long as the class basis of society exists and conversely the class basis of society will not disappear as long as the state exists to prop it up.

Some would disagree with this. James Guillaume, a nineteenth-century anarchist, declared: “Instead of having recourse to the state which only possesses such strength as the workers give it, the workers will settle their business direct with the bourgeoisie, will pose their own conditions and force them to accept them.” Perhaps it had not occurred to Guillaume that one reason the bourgeoisie has the upper hand in their business with the workers is precisely because they “have recourse to the state”. Behind this recurrent anti-political sentiment is the belief that the political field is tainted with treachery. So it is — but that is the consequence of reformist, not revolutionary, political action and of placing trust in leaders. Furthermore the industrial field — the hunting ground of the militant — is no less “tainted". The same workers that elect Jones or Murray also vote for Thatcher or Callaghan.

Those who reject political action must explain how a revolutionary transformation can be brought about which would result in a classless moneyless system of free access and common ownership.

Two possible methods have been suggested: 1. The creation of a "completely self sufficient cooperative parallel society” (Peace News 16-30 Dec 1977). 2. The anarcho-syndicalist proposal adopted by the founding conference of the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905 that workers should “take and hold that which they produce by their labour through an economic organization of the working class”.

The first of these has had a long history of application: from the attempts of utopian socialists like Fourier and Robert Owen and their followers to set up utopian communities, to the hippy and rural communes of today. Besides the impracticability of droves of workers opting for the "good life” the advanced division of labour and the integrated social nature of production on a world scale has made interdependence, as opposed to self sufficiency, the hallmark of modern production. As for “workers co-operatives”, these are essentially no different from any other capitalist enterprise competing for the market and therefore subject to its laws; to compete effectively, workers in co-operatives may have to cut their own living standards or sack their fellow workers. Some large-scale co-operatives have developed out of workers’ struggles against redundancies and as such have not been very successful — a prime example being the short-lived co-op producing the Scottish Daily News — either in attracting loans to finance production or in staving off redundancies.

The second option of direct action is equally futile. To begin with the proposal that workers should “seize and hold” the factories and “lock out” the owners implies the fatuous belief that capitalists participate in production, or need to. It is the workers, including the “salaried” managers, who run the entire economy from top to bottom.

But supposing workers “successfully” took over a factory — what then? If they recommenced production, they would have to submit to the rules of the game, to seek to gain legal status to operate on a proper financial basis, to buy and sell. Workers in a match factory cannot live on a diet of matches.

Martov remarked on ihe Proudhonists and anarchists of the 1871 Paris Commune:
They did not realise that capitalism has created for the concentration of the means of production and distribution, so huge an apparatus, that in order to lay hold of these means the working class would require effective administrative machinery extending over the entire economic domain that was previously ruled by capital. They had no idea of the immenseness and complexity of the revolution. And only because they did not understand all these things was it possible for them to think of the autonomous “commune” — itself based on “autonomous” productive units — as the lever of such a transformation. (The State and the Socialist Revolution.) 
Only by capturing the concentrated political power of the state can the necessary coordinated transformation “over the entire economic domain” take place.

As a result of increased state ownership, notably in key industries like transport and energy, the state is increasingly involved in the economy — the most that can be achieved by these means is a change of rulers. Neither can the state be overthrown by insurrection or undermined by social chaos.

There are those, impatient for change, who repudiate the need for “long and persistent work” as Engels put it, to convince workers by persuasion. Rejecting the parliamentary road on the grounds that it stifles the “self-activity” of the masses they turn to the industrial field in the hope of engineering a “social crisis” whereby the consciousness of the masses may be raised. If industrial militancy did turn workers into socialists we might expect to find these militants clamouring for socialism but this is not so. Underlying the mechanistic views of the theorists is an elitist contempt for the intellectual capacity of the working class to grasp the socialist case yet without this working- class understanding, socialism is unattainable.

The parliamentary road does not imply that people hand over their power to others every few years. Parliament is the institution to which the working class shall send their delegates with the purpose of declaring capitalism abolished and to validate this revolutionary act. There has to be some means to effect the neccessary transfer of power from the capitalist to the working class, a means which clearly and democratically indicates the will of the socialist majority. The parliamentary road is the answer. It will be within our party, not parliament that the “self-activity” and “self organisation” of the working class will be realised. The alternative to this was bluntly described by Plekhanov: "Every class struggle is a political struggle. Whosoever repudiates the political struggle, by this very act gives up all part and lot in the class struggle" (Anarchism and Socialism).
Robin Cox

They call it sport m'lud (1986)

From the September 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Most people learn to play games at school: football, cricket and rugby are usually played by boys from an early age, while girls play netball, hockey and tennis. But even before attendance at school, ball-games are played in groups by small children; sport is normally introduced in a formal setting at school with the application of rules and supervision by teachers.

For most people knowledge of, and interest in, popular sports starts at this period in their lives. But sport is invaluable to the state and to capitalism because the introduction of discipline into the daily routine of children helps to produce docile, conforming wage slaves for the future who have learned to accept rules and regulations unquestioningly.

Most team games have a captain, instilling at an early age the belief that leadership is part of the natural order, with some members of the team seen as having greater merit than others — a useful propaganda weapon for the state which helps to divide children in their most formative years. Similarly, the embodiment of authority in the form of a referee or umpire serves to impose the view that authority is natural in our lives and that people need to be policed in order to behave correctly.

Supporters of sport would argue that most popular games are harmless pastimes enabling the participants to display their skill and giving pleasure to the spectators; physical exercise, beneficial to health is enjoyed by people taking part in athletic sports, while indoor sports such as chess and draughts are seen to aid concentration and train the mind. Rivalry is encouraged in schools with the division into house teams. Children are taught a competitiveness which is useful to the state and business interests later on. On the playing field pupils are encouraged to shout and cheer for “their” team and exhibit behaviour that would not be tolerated elsewhere on school premises.

The rivalry between nations becomes xenophobic with reports by the media that it is a tragedy that "our" country lost or that it is a great day for Britain because “we” won. The quality of the game receives secondary consideration in a society which regards winning at any cost as the only legitimate goal. But at times rivalry and nationalism gets out of hand and the fighting that ensues is hypocritically condemned by the media that incited such emotions. Many sporting events are propaganda battles between rival states: the latest example being the Commonwealth games (claimed to be the friendly games) which have been boycotted by many countries because of Britain’s attitude over trade sanctions against South Africa.

There are frequent protests that politics should have no place in sport but sport has always been used as a political weapon, often by the same authorities who condemn such practices in others. Many sporting events have been quite blatantly politically motivated in the past and sporting links have been frequently severed from countries not considered politically acceptable. The 1936 Olympic games were intended to be a showpiece for the Nazi regime, an “Against Israel Olympiad” was held at Tripoli in 1976 in opposition to the official chess olympiad held at Haifa; racism was officially supported by the British Boxing Board of Control and coloured boxers were prevented from competing for British titles until the ban was lifted in 1947; Britain’s strict immigration laws were circumvented to allow Zola Budd, a young South African athlete, to obtain a British passport quickly and compete for Britain in international events.

Mass spectator sports divert the workers’ attention from the class struggle: unemployment, poverty and insecurity can be forgotten for an hour or two on the terraces or in front of the television. But the jingoistic rhetoric, reinforced by the playing of the national anthem and the racist implications of the “superiority” of British sports stars, disguises the artificiality of the so-called common interest of working class fans with capitalists. Workers have no country and are in conflict with the capitalists through being forced to sell their labour power to them. The illusion of common interest in sport can be seen in the exclusiveness of some sport clubs; polo has a distinctly upper-set image, maintained by selective entry of new members and subscription rates which are out of the reach of workers — not to mention the cost of keeping a stable of polo horses.

Professionalism, gambling and ticket receipts have made sport profitable in the past but it is the development of newspapers, books, radio, television and videos which has led to profits on a scale previously unheard of. Advertising has become a feature of all professional sporting events; hoardings are displayed everywhere; athletes carry sponsors’ names on their sports-clothes; boxers fight on canvasses bearing news of products. Sponsorship by large companies provides valuable publicity for their products under the guise of benevolently supporting sport. For tobacco manufacturers, sport sponsorship evades the restriction on advertising and enables them to promote an image of healthy activity related to their products:
In 1984 Dr Ledwith conducted a survey among 11, 13 and 15 year-olds and asked them which brands of cigarettes they associated with different sports. They all named the three brands manufactured by companies that had sponsored sports receiving extensive TV coverage.
Dr Ledwith concluded: "The evidence I collected suggests that the present ban on TV advertising is not enough. If the government is serious about protecting children from smoking, it must ban sponsorship by tobacco companies”. (Good Housekeeping, July 1985, p.96)
Even when advertising is banned it is often introduced covertly, and a few years ago the anti-smoking lobby protested that the design on tennis player Martina Navratilova’s outfit at Wimbledon was exactly the same as the logo for Kim cigarettes. Messages delivered in this way subtly reinforce more direct advertising methods and associate the image of the product with the performance and popularity of sporting celebrities.

The intrusion of commerce in sport is probably seen at its worst in baseball where the periods of play are actually timed to fit in with television advertising, the popularity of the game in the United States ensuring a large audience for advertisers. Touts are a feature of all major sporting events, capitalising on the law of supply and demand to charge exorbitant amounts for tickets. Fans who are desperate to see their favourite teams will pay several times the face value of a ticket and even forged tickets command substantial sums. Ticket touts are frowned on by the sporting establishment, presumably because the profiteering is unofficial and on a small scale: meanwhile the traditional dish of strawberries and cream at Wimbledon commands an inflated price; the renting of marquees for business hospitality to provide tax-free inducements for prospective customers and the sale of expensive but often shoddy souvenirs are all engaged in with the encouragement of sport’s ruling bodies.

The financial interests behind sport and the elevation of athletes into celebrities, receiving enormous amounts of money and adulation, has perverted the leisure interests of sport. Far from being a healthy pursuit, professional sportspeople frequently sustain injuries as they push their bodies to higher and higher limits of endurance because of the need to set new records and provide new thrills for the paying customers. The professional foul has become an unpleasant feature of sport, because the stakes which are played for are so high.

The use of drugs as anabolic steroids to boost strength and body weight and stimulants to boost performance has led to drug-testing becoming commonplace. Athletes have been prepared to risk considerable damage to their health, such is the competitive drive under capitalism and the rewards for those who are successful at the expense of others. The pressures of competing at top-level has led other sports stars to resort to the use of dangerous drugs to cope with the intensity of life at the top. Even for amateurs the promise of big rewards for those who can proceed to professional status, the adulation reserved for those who achieve status of some kind (however banal, trivial or artificial) contributes to fouls, cheating and aggressiveness on the playing field.

Sport is enjoyed by millions of people, and such is its popularity that in spite of the profiteering, infiltration by advertising men, harshly aggressive competitiveness, cheating, gambling and drug taking it continues to give pleasure. But socialism, by removing the negative features of capitalism, would enable sport to reach its full potential: games could then be played solely for the pleasure that they give without being manipulated for profit.
Carl Pinel 

The political road to socialism (1978)

Editorial from the September 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

The next general election, like those before, will be regarded by most people as a contest between the Labour and Conservative parties, even at times as a clash between the personalities of Callaghan and Thatcher. The working class are likely to make their choice of government on that basis — which will mean that once again they will not be facing the real issues involved.

Much of the campaign will turn on the record of this Labour government, which has been running British capitalism for so long without a parliamentary majority. In what is a familiar process, the workers gradually lose confidence in a government they have elected and this one has suffered some typically severe setbacks at by-elections. Whatever those results did to the Labour Party, there was no comfort in them for socialists; the workers were voting against Labour candidates for the same basically unenlightened reasons that they originally voted for them.

Although on most occasions those voters who reject the Labour Party are content to switch their support at least for a time, to the Conservatives there is another group which, seeing the impotence of both the big capitalist parties, becomes disillusioned with politics as a whole. The reasoning behind this disillusionment is that since both Labour and Tory are useless and the other parties offer nothing fundamentally different, there is no point in working for political solutions to society’s problems.

Other aspects of this theory are — that all politicians are corrupt and self-seeking (which may or may not be true but which is beside the point) and that Parliament is powerless (which is most definitely to the point but absolutely untrue). This cynical, if understandable, abandonment of politics does not help the situation, since it is based on a misinterpretation; the failure of Labour and Tory parties, and the fact that others like the Liberals can offer no hope of doing any better, says something about them and about their policies; but it does not say anything about political action as such.

If we were consistently governed by incorruptible, vastly knowledgeable, inhumanly efficient, politicians the result would be very little, if any, different from what we know and endure today. Politicians may set out to control and modify capitalism — at election time they promise to do just that — but in the event it is capitalism which controls them and modifies their policies. This is the reason for the disreputable history of broken pledges which every party tries to live down and it is something which afflicts them all, whether their leaders they are corrupt, honest, clever or foolish.

Where does the Socialist Party of Great Britain stand on this? Do we claim to be able to do a better job than our opponents? To be more competent or more honest? We are, first of all, a political party because the road to socialism must be a political one; it must be through the winning of political power. We do not say we are more trustworthy than the others, only that we have a theory of politics which is valid because it fits in with the facts of society as we experience them. We urge workers to examine this theory and put their trust in themselves and not in leaders’ promises.

Socialists struggle for a social revolution — a majority, democratic, peaceful act by a working class who do not need leaders because they understand socialism and will consciously vote for it. Which leaves us with the question — why, when there is a majority of conscious socialists among the world working class, should they need to vote for socialist delegates to attend Parliament before the revolution can happen?

One short answer is that there is no other way. Under capitalism, Parliament — or Congress, or the Bundestag, or the Diet — is the seat of power. It is Parliament which controls, and wields, the state machine, which is used against those who seek to disrupt or to overthrow capitalism by other than parliamentary means.

For any policy to succeed, then — even a policy which aims at reforming capitalism — the first step must be to capture control of the state machine through Parliament. Socialists aim to do this not in order to push through measures of capitalist reform but to use the state machine in the revolution — in the words of our declaration of Principles as an ‘‘agent of emancipation”.

One essential for this — in fact the only essential which is now lacking — is a majority of conscious socialists. Among the tasks of the Socialist Party, then, is to propagate the ideas of socialism as widely and as deeply as possible among the working class. We must not be diverted into campaigns for anything less than socialism and we must remain exclusively a political organisation, the tool which a socialist working class will use to take the political act of the revolution to establish the new society.

For these reasons, the Socialist Party of Great Britain contests elections. It is unusual for us to put up more than one or two candidates but we do not restrict ourselves in this way through crankishness or because we regard elections as some sort of game. As present we are a tiny organisation, with resources to match our size.

The number of votes cast for socialist candidates usually reflects the level of socialist consciousness but it says nothing about the validity of our case. We shall continue to put the case for socialism before the working class and whenever and wherever we can, we shall point out the real issue at an election — capitalism or socialism — and the real alternative to the corrupt impotence of capitalism’s politics.

Each set we contest, every vote for socialism, is part of the historical process towards a new social order when human beings will stand in equality because they will possess the world in unity.