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Racism. The beliefs that people of one ‘race’ are superior to another. It often results in hostility towards the race thought of as inferior and in the practice of discrimination, persecution, and, in some cases mass murder. According to the United Nations conventions, there is no distinction between the term ‘racial discrimination’ and ‘ethnic discrimination’.

There is no scientific foundation for racism, which is a prejudice diverting the working class from the real cause of modern society’s problems. There is only one biological race of people on this planet: the human race (Homo sapiens). Moreover, we are all Africans: modern humans have evolved out of migrant Africans over many thousands of years. Historically, the doctrines of anti-Semitism and white supremacy originated as weapons to defend pre-capitalist systems of exploitation. On occasions the modern state has sponsored racism, but it is a double-edged sword and potentially disruptive to the economy (as in apartheid South Africa, for example). The market is colour blind, and employers usually want to recruit from the largest possible pool of labour power. But working class existence is always insecure, especially in times of slump, and those workers who migrated in boom times (as, for instance, workers from the Indian sub-continent and the West Indies, induced by the Minister of Health in the 1950s, Enoch Powell) became the scapegoats.

To the extent that socialist ideas permeate the minds of the working class wherever they may be; to the extent that workers realise that their interests are in common irrespective of ‘race’, and opposed to the interests of the capitalist class irrespective of their ‘race’, to that extent they will reject racism and work for the emancipation of all people. (See also FASCISM; CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS.)

Reading

Race, Racism and the Law: http://academic.udayton.edu/race/

Ali Rattansi, Racism: A Very Short Introduction, 2007

 

Reformism. Reforms are legislative and other enactments deemed necessary for governments in running the various forms of capitalism. The Socialist Party is opposed to reformism – the policy of advocating reforms, either as a way of 'improving' capitalism or as a means to socialism – but we are not necessarily opposed to individual reforms which may be of benefit to the working class. However we do not advocate any reform, because we hold that to do so would lead to a socialist party changing into a reformist party, attracting the support of non-socialists.

Parliament can be used by a socialist-minded working class, not for reforms or reformism, but for the revolutionary act of dispossessing the capitalist class by establishing common ownership of the means of production.

(See also PARLIAMENT; REVOLUTION; SOCIALIST PARTY.)

 

Relations of production. Classes in society are determined by the possession or non-possession of a means of production. In capitalist society it is the relations of production which constitute the capitalist class and the working class. (See also CLASSES; FORCES OF PRODUCTION.)

 

Religion. This is how Marx described religion:

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed, the feeling of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless circumstances. It is the opium of the people… The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusions about their condition is a demand to give up a condition that requires illusion. The criticism of religion is therefore the germ of the criticism of the valley of tears whose halo is religion’ (Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, 1844).

It is to be noted however that this psychological critique of the social function of religion could have been put forward by an Enlightenment philosopher of the eighteenth century, and many modern anti-socialist atheists could concur. Marx never developed a specifically socialist (or indeed ‘Marxist’) analysis of religion.

Socialists share in the Enlightenment inheritance of respect for reason and evidence against its traditional foe, religion. But at the same time we recognise that the main source of irrationality and exploitation in the modern world is to be found in the capitalist system of society. For socialists, therefore, the struggle against religion cannot be separated from the struggle for socialism. We fight religious superstition wherever it is an obstacle to socialism, but we are opposed to religion only insofar as it is an obstacle to socialism.

Reading

AC Grayling, Against All Gods, 2007

Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great, 2007

 

Rent. Ground rent is a portion of surplus value paid to the owner of land for its use by a capitalist enterprise. House rent is a price for hiring accommodation; it is not a portion of surplus value. (See also SURPLUS VALUE.)

 

Revisionism. A term coined by the opponents of Eduard Bernstein in the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries to describe his reformism.

Bernstein, a close friend of Engels, spent many years in exile in London and it has been suggested that he was influenced by Fabian gradualism. He attacked the main principles of Marxism and called upon the SPD to recognise that they were in reality only a reform party. He suggested that they be honest with themselves and drop their ultimate commitment to the capture of political power for socialism and instead concentrate on getting reforms within capitalism by working through parliament. The SPD turned down Bernstein’s suggestions but the decision meant nothing as far as the party’s practical policy was concerned. They retained their paper commitment to the socialist revolution (formally abandoned in 1959) but continued their day-to-day reformist practices. (See also FABIANS; GRADUALISM; INTERNATIONALS; REFORMISM.)

Reading

Bernstein online: www.marxists.org/reference/archive/bernstein/index.htm

George Lichtheim, A Short History of Socialism, 1983

 

Revolution. To many, the word ‘revolution’ conjures up images of violent insurrection. All it means is a complete change, without any implication as to how that change is to come about. The Socialist Party stands for a revolution in the basis of society, a complete change from class to common ownership of the means of production: this social revolution to be carried out democratically by the use of political power. It is possible for a majority of socialist workers to win power through democratic institutions, by the use of the ballot and parliament, for the purpose of carrying out the socialist revolution. Therefore we stand for democratic revolutionary political action. (See also DEMOCRACY; PARLIAMENT; REFORMISM.)

 

Russia. Socialism has never existed in Russia or anywhere else. The Bolshevik left, however, maintain that the revolution of November 1917 was socialist. But, as the Socialist Standard at the time and subsequent years show, this position is untenable:

Is this huge mass of people, numbering about 160,000,000 and spread over eight and a half millions of square miles, ready for socialism? Are the hunters of the north, the struggling peasant proprietors of the south, the agricultural wage slaves of the Central Provinces, and the industrial wage slaves of the towns convinced of the necessity and equipped with the knowledge required, for the establishment of the social ownership of the means of life? Unless a mental revolution such as the world has never seen before has taken place, or an economic change has occurred immensely more rapidly than history has ever recorded, the answer is “No!” ’ (Socialist Standard, August 1918.)

We have often stated that because of a large anti-socialist peasantry and vast untrained population, Russia was a long way from socialism. Lenin has now to admit this by saying: “Reality says that State capitalism would be a step forward for us; if we were able to bring about State capitalism in a short time it would be a victory for us” (The Chief Task of Our Times)… If we are to copy Bolshevik policy in other countries we should have to demand State capitalism, which is not a step to socialism’ (Socialist Standard, July 1920).

Both Trotsky and Stalin draw up their programmes within the framework of state and private capitalism which prevails in Russia’ (Socialist Standard, December 1928).

[all the Bolsheviks] have been able to do is to foster the growth of State capitalism and limit the growth of private capitalism’ (Socialist Standard, July 1929.)

Since the collapse of the Russian Empire after 1989, state capitalist monopoly has given way to a Western-style ‘mixed economy’, with many of the former Party bosses as bosses of the new privatised businesses. Now that the sham of Russian ‘socialism’ has passed into history, workers in Russia can join in the struggle for the real thing. (See also BOLSHEVISM; COMMUNIST PARTY; LENINISM; SOCIALISM; STATE CAPITALISM; TRANSITIONAL SOCIETY.)

Reading

A. Buick & J. Crump, State Capitalism, 1986