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Movement or Monument?

In 1975 Robert Barltrop wrote a book about the Socialist Party called The Monument. It was a highly entertaining read but heavily anecdotal (sometimes rather dubiously so). While it was primarily a positive account, the sneer that the Party is “a monument” is one that has often been repeated by our political opponents before and since. It fails to take into account the distinctive contributions the Socialist Party has made to revolutionary theory and practice since our foundation. For the record, we list some of the most significant here:

  o· That the socialist revolution has to be majoritarian and must involve removing the capitalist class’s
stranglehold on the machinery of government, thus denying them control over the state’s coercive apparatus and removing their claims to democratic legitimacy.

 Islington election 1987
Islington election meeting 1987

 
o· That the socialist revolution (and subsequent operation of socialist society)requires the conscious political understanding and democratic action of the majority of the working class rather than organisation by a political leadership with a set of passive followers.

o· That the socialist movement itself must be fully democratic, with all members having equal opportunity
to participate in the Party’s affairs; by the same token, political secrecy is unnecessary and potentially
dangerous – instead, all Party meetings should be open to members of the public.

 o· That the advocacy of reforms to gain support (reformism) is a pointless and potentially dangerous
approach as reforms cannot succeed in making capitalism run in the interest of the working class and
will only attract people to the socialist movement who are primarily interested in reforms rather than
socialism.

o· That the socialist political party must be fiercely independent from – and hostile to – all the parties of
capitalism, with socialists refusing to take the platform of opposing parties except to state their case in
opposition.
 
o· That the socialist revolution can only be international, creating a world-wide society where production is carried out solely to meet the needs and desires of its inhabitants.

o·  That there can be nothing progressive about wars in the modern world; socialists oppose all wars as their ultimate cause is the competitive struggle between sections of the owning class over resources, trade routes, markets and the strategic positions necessary to protect them.·

o·  That nationalisation of the economy (even under so called workers’ control, as was claimed in Soviet Russia) is state-run capitalism, leaving intact capital accumulation from the surplus value extracted from the workers, class division, production for markets, etc.

o·  That taxation is ultimately a burden on the owning class rather than the working class and that therefore political disputes about taxation are a matter of interest for the capitalist class and their political representatives but are an unnecessary diversion for the class of wage and salary earners.

o·That economic crises and slumps are inevitable under capitalism but that no crisis can of itself be fatal for the system without the conscious political action of the working class.

o·That the attempt through Keynesian economic theories to prevent economic crises by, among other
strategies, a relaxed monetary policy led to a persistent (and ongoing) inflation of the currency across much of the world; this being caused by an excess issue of inconvertible paper currency far in excess of that required by the levels of production and trade in the economy.

o·That the creation of the so-called ‘welfare state’ would not solve the problems of the working class but
was the product of a series of measures designed to stave off discontent by removing some of the worst
excesses of capitalism while, at the same time, creating a more efficient and productive workforce.

o·That socialism can be an ecologically sustainable society that is decentralised and responsive to people’s needs and desires, in distinction to visions of the new system of society being organised on the basis of a vast and inflexible ‘central plan’ of production.