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How Others See Us

11 May 2012

Our critics on the Left Wing often make comments like, 'You SPC people are correct in your analysis. You show clearly that the problems facing humanity can only be solved by the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by a society based on common ownership and democratic control. However, you show that you do not know how to achieve that goal. When you advocate electing a majority of socialist deputies to parliament with a mandate to strip the capitalist class of its property ownership, you are out in left field (no pun intended). There is no way the capitalist class is going to sit back and do nothing while you vote them out of existence.

We ask our critics how they envisage establishing a socialist society and we receive a variety of answers, which can be lumped under four general headings. One is, to quote a phrase, 'To the barricades!' In other words, a violent uprising. This mainly comes from the so-called communist parties and Trotskyites who look on parliament, to quote Trotsky, "…not a neutral sack which you can fill with whatever class content you want." As long as parties committed to the running of capitalism control parliament, then they also control the armed forces who will crush any street violence and/or demonstrations legally. Such behaviour mostly appeals to young people filled with the ardour of youthful rebellion but can only lead to disaster.

A second idea is the general strike. By this they generally mean a strike of workers in manufacturing. However, today this only comprises a small percentage of the work force. The employers could lock them out, let them starve, or ask the government to order them back to work and send troops to enforce the order. In France in1968, many manufacturing plants were taken over by the workers. De Gaulle, who had fled to an army base, (his troops staying loyal to him) promised a general election if they returned to work. De Gaulle's party was returned to power with an even bigger majority in the ensuing ballot. Another suggested tactic is that espoused by the Socialist Labour Party and the I.W.W. (Industrial Workers of the World, or Wobblies) and similar organizations, which is that of industrial unionism. The SLP, in particular, argue that you can indeed capture power through industrial action though they do advocate capturing economic power, too.

They are all oblivious to the fact that the capitalists, through control of the parliament, can use the armed forces to disperse workers who are not on strike and working as easily as they can strikers. The odd instances where workers have been allowed to occupy factories and maintain production, e.g. Argentina, Clydeside, it was still production for profit because you cannot have islands of socialism in an ocean of capitalism if profits, wages, buying and selling still exist. It meant that instead of a capitalist cracking the whip, the workers were doing it to themselves.

When one views the history of the Labour Movement in the US from 1890 - 1920, when industrial unionism was at its height, one can clearly see it failed because the capitalist class, through its control of political power, had the upper hand. When the majority in a factory was IWW members, they functioned the same as pro-capitalist unions, asking for higher wages and shorter working hours. After the US entered WWI, many wobblies were murdered by the government for their anti-war stance, and foreign-born workers were among the many leftists deported in the early 1920s. For further information you are advised to read the definitive work on industrial unionism, The Wobblies by Patrick Renshaw.

It takes no great feat of analysis to realize that for a union to be effective, it must embrace within its membership workers from every possible school of thought and is therefore ineffective as a revolutionary agent to establish socialism.

The fourth argument is that raised by the anarchists, if indeed it is one. They are eloquent when it comes to criticizing our tactics, but when asked about their tactics, they just look at us blankly. By saying nothing they are saying a lot, they have no strategy at all. Another common thread links all these critics, that of attempting to deal with the effects of capitalism whether it be advocating a reform or protesting a government decision. We, in the SPC alone, have never done that. We stand firmly for the abolition of the cause of those effects, capitalism.

Socialism will not come until the majority understands what socialism is and organize politically and consciously for its establishment. Once a socialist-minded majority has captured political power, it then controls the army, navy, air force, police, etc. That means first that the troops will not be used against the workers, and second, that they will be used against a minority that attempts to overthrow the will of the majority, as unlikely as that may be.

Our critics say that if a socialist victory in an election looks likely, the capitalists will suspend the ballot or introduce a law to abolish it. Though this could happen, the working class could very easily set up their own ballot and present it as a fait accompli. The problem all our critics suffer from is they think in terms of minority action. This is the result of believing that the majority of the working class will never become socialists, which we dispute. We have seen many minority actions crushed or wither away ineffectually. What we haven't seen is our critics change their tactical vision or lack thereof.

What should be obvious to them but isn't, is that when the vast majority says, 'let's have done with capitalism' and translate it into action by voting a majority of socialist deputies to parliament, there will be nothing the capitalist class can do about it. The powers of coercion will have been taken from them. So 'let's have done' with arguments about tactics and 'have done' with capitalism altogether.

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