The 'Socialist International’, which likes to trace back its roots to the body which was formed with the backing of Frederick Engels in 1889, is holding its three-yearly congress at Eastbourne this month. Over 50 parties are represented, from mass organisations like the British Labour party and the Scandinavian social democratic parties to tiny groups of exiles from Eastern Europe — all that remains of once powerful movements.
What is it that causes these widely different parties still to pay lip service to a shadowy ‘International’, which has no real existence outside its periodic congresses? The answer they would give is that they are all 'democratic socialist' parties, as opposed to the ‘communist' parties. To which we could add that there are other features which they all display — a commitment to capitalism and a contempt for political theory.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain has something to say to the delegates to the congress — because we are part of an international organisation which is working to establish world socialism. But first let us make it clear whom we are addressing. Men like Harold Wilson and other leading members of the anti-working-class Labour government (and of other anti-working-class governments) will be in Eastbourne for part of the time. Naturally we are not wasting our breath on these characters. But we do think that among the delegations there will be some men with a sincere wish to go forward to a better world. It is to these we are talking.
We share your concern for democracy. We think that democracy is of vital importance to the working class and that only a democratic organisation can be used to establish Socialism. That is why our party is organised without leaders or hierarchy. But we also say that political democracy as it exists in Britain and elsewhere is not enough, since it is constantly threatened by the encroachments of the capitalist state and is maintained only by working class pressure. We want to see a social democracy—and this will be achieved only when society owns the means of production and operates them democratically. In other words, only Socialism can be a thoroughly democratic society.
The countries of Eastern Europe are dictatorships—not because of the ideologies of their ruling parties but because they are state capitalist and because the workers in this area (especially in Russia) have not yet strengthened themselves sufficiently to gain the democratic concessions which workers in the West have secured.
Since we are working for world Socialism we do not have a reform programme, unlike your parties. This is not because we are opposed to all reforms but because we say that the job of a socialist party is to get rid of capitalism and that it can do this only by recruiting members and seeking support for a socialist programme. This means that we advance slogans such as 'Abolition of the Wages System’ as our immediate demands.
We also think that Socialism must be world wide and that it can be set up only when a majority of working men and women (at least in the advanced industrial parts of the world) understand what is entailed, and are prepared to take conscious action, first to establish it and then to run it from top to bottom.
If you agree with these ideas we want to hear from you — so that we can help each other to strengthen the world movement for Socialism. But if you are a careerist or if you believe that capitalism can be made to work in the interests of the working class then perhaps you would be better off sticking with Harold Wilson.