Thursday, March 4, 2021

Letter: Strategy (1967)

Letter to the Editors from the March 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sir: In a letter to the Socialist Standard, published in December 1966, I called for an open-minded discussion of socialist aims and strategies, and also put forward a few suggestions concerning a clear-cut parliamentary strategy. In its reply the Editorial Committee denies that there is any common ground for discussion between the SPGB and other political organisations. These are all supporters of capitalism!

In my opinion this is a deplorable sectarian attitude. Instead of trying to monopolize socialism for itself the SPGB should recognize genuine socialist aims in the programmes of other organizations as well, even if they make use of different formulations. Suppose that Labour left wingers, communists, and anarchists all agree with SPGB-socialists that capitalist privileges should be abolished, and that some form of collective ownership and control of large companies and mass media must be established! Would not that provide a common ground for discussion of strategies, a discussion which might result in political cooperation, perhaps even in a political synthesis?

As to my suggestions for a socialist strategy they certainly cannot be dismissed as “trifling reforms of capitalism”. Confiscation of large fortunes, transfer of economic power to the employees, and abolition of large or unearned incomes would mean nothing less than a social revolution, an overthrow of the entire capitalist system as far as it is based on privileges,' exploitation, and authoritarianism. The utopian dream of abolishing money and production for the market, on the other hand, seems to be too extravagant to provide a realistic political platform for our generation. It has never been proved anyway that such a drastic step is a necessary condition for the attainment of social justice, freedom of opinion, cultural progress, and other humanistic values.

In view of the present world crisis cooperation between the forces of the Left is a necessity. Perhaps this co-operation must also be extended so as to include objectives less than socialism, e.g. reduction of military expenditure and withdrawal of support for the US aggression in Vietnam. 
Sune Hjorth, 
Sundovall, Sweden

Let us get one thing clear straightaway. We stand for a system of society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interests of the whole community. Mr. Hjorth now tells us that this is a “Utopian dream” and “too extravagant” and a “drastic step”. By what right, then, does he presume that we can discuss “strategies” with him for an aim he doesn’t share? We can discuss his ideas, certainly, but there is no ground for discussing how to achieve a common aim since there is none.

Mr. Hjorth is taken in by words. True, Labour “leftwingers”, communists and anarchists all claim to stand for Socialism and all talk about common ownership and democratic control. He thinks that this is enough evidence for concluding that they and we have the same aim and that, therefore, whether there will be money or market-production in a socialist society is just a matter of opinion.

He could not be more confused. Money is not just a thing, not just a convenient means for circulating wealth. It disguises a relation between people; in fact, that between independent property owners. Its existence, therefore, implies that of property society too. When relations between people and there are no longer property exchanging wealth, but a classless community producing for use, then money and all the rest of the paraphernalia of buying and selling will become redundant. It won’t be “abolished”. It will disappear, along with wages, taxes, capital assets and investment as a necessary consequence of the assumption by society of the ownership and control of the means of living.

Mr. Hjorth still cherishes his list of reform measures. Some are trifling. Others would demand so high a degree of understanding and determination on the part of the working class that it would almost amount to socialist understanding. Which would make his reforms pointless as people would be demanding Socialism.
Editorial Committee

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