The Western Socialist
Vol. 27 - No. 216
No. 5, 1960
ITS INTERIM MANIFESTO
Not since some thoughtless individual threw some overalls into Mrs. Murphy's chowder has such a conglomeration of flotsam and jetsam, tidbits, rats and snails and puppy dogs' tails been thrown into a pot and served up as serious food for thought. This witches' brew goes under the name of an "Interim Manifesto of a Socialist Committee for the Organization of a Labour Party." These are the "Commandments" of a new Canadian Labour Party organized in the best Moses' tradition to lead the chosen into the promised land of Socialism — eventually. It is not considered protocol to use strong language in any criticism of a newly born political party even if it is congenitally idiotic. However, when these pseudo-Socialist parties parade forth with their slogans and panaceas they do so by paying lip-service to Socialist phrases and theory and therefore invite the barbed retort.
Let us snuggle a little more closely to our subject and see what "sweet nothings" this new Labour Party has to offer. If you will bear in mind the axiom of the sage who said : "He who expecteth little will not be disappointed," it will help allay your expectations. In the first place the platform of this party offers nothing new in the way of promises, catch words, buttons and bows. It is the vague, pertinent, yet shapeless manner of presentation that makes the "Manifesto" an interesting study. Its context consists of thoughts and ideas ripped out of context from Marxian texts, garnished with some expedient half-truths from the Fabians and Social Democrats, peppered with Trotskyist overtones, influenced by S.L.P. industrial unionism and foisting these upon a not-too-well-informed public as a vehicle on which they can ride as passengers to the "Co-operative Commonwealth." It couches its ideas in provocative terms that appeal to the entire gamut of "dissidents": humanists, pacifists, evangelists, intellectuals, opportunists, reformers and radicals. It has a special gravitational appeal to those people whose egoes demand that they be classed as the intellectual elite of any movement. In other words, it appeals to anybody with an axe to grind, a bellyache or an interest in a political career. All its well-meaning palaver can be compressed into relatively few words that add up to one intent, one aim, whether conscious or unconscious : Catch Votes! Catch Votes! — the shibboleth of all reform parties. The "Manifesto" projects no interest to Socialists and is alien to Socialist objectives. In spite of its claim to put Socialism in the forefront, all it really wants to do is to patch up Capitalism for the thousand and one people who they hope will vote for them, for the thousand and one reasons they had for voting. These so-called socialist reform parties along with the Communist Party are actually gross political charlatans who have done more harm to the Socialist movement than all the avowedly capitalist parties put together. At least in voting for an outright capitalist party one is under no illusion as to what he is supporting. But the pseudo-socialist parties and their leaders, those "intellectual maitre d'hotes," with their emotional and confused socialist prattling lead their incipient class-conscious supporters down the garden path with the inevitable aftermath of disappointment and despair to the detriment of the whole socialist movement.
Can it be otherwise with the Labour Party when they make the claim that they "have no quarrel with profit" and in their infinite wisdom imply they can direct and manipulate all the unpleasant capitalist relationships for the benefit of human needs? They readily admit that the profit system is in direct contradiction to the needs of mankind and leads to imperialism, colonialism, modern war and periodical depression, but this notwithstanding, will support all movements and struggles of anyone with a bellyache and are quite willing by vigorous thought and action to patch up and perpetuate the capitalist system in spite of its admittedly hair-trigger potentialities. Moreover, they are eager to support the "producers" on all occasions in their struggles for better conditions and will use the lessons of these conflicts to convince the majority of the need to abolish capitalism. Indeed ! Has not the history of Reformism since the time of Marx and Engels impressed upon these people that capitalism cannot be reformed for the benefit and needs of the people of the world? Has it not proven the futility of trying to breathe new life into this once-vigorous system which for the overwhelming majority has outlived its usefulness?
The basic contradictions and dehumanizing relationships, which can assure for most individuals exploitation, poverty, unemployment and insecurity, are inherent in the capitalist system and these cannot be eradicated by any ouija-board practices of reform parties. There is only one way to achieve Socialism and that is for each individual to truly desire it and work for it. When the majority of people stop thinking of Socialism in terms of a Utopia, as an ideal, and think of it as an achievable reality they will become a conscious majority —and a conscious majority needs no roadmap to know that social ownership and democratic control of the means of wealth production is the road to their destiny. It is the task of Socialists to ignite this spark of class-consciousness within the individual.
It would be well if those who really desire Socialism within these reform parties and who call themselves Socialists, would give a little less lip-service to the cause of Socialism and make a little more effort in making Socialists, including themselves, with the desire for Socialism NOW. Socialism NOW has more chance for success than the "Immediate Program" of the Labour Party. These "Immediate Propositions" as laid down have been the eager demands of Labour and alleged socialist parties for decades and are no closer to fulfillment than they ever were. So where are the advantages in this program of "stopping to pluck daisies on the way to Socialism ?" It seems a very high price to pay in time and effort for what amounts to a "boutonniere."
We would suggest to those members of the Labour Party who have dedicated themselves to the cause of Socialism with such a fervour that they pledge, "never to rest content until we have eradicated capitalism from the earth," that they prove their sincerity by joining the Companion Parties for Socialism, whose sole and only "immediate demand" is the establishment of Socialism. In this way they will free themselves from their present state of theoretical ambivalence, as evidenced by their struggle in trying to straddle the two horses, Reformism and Socialism, at the same time. They will also, by devoting their intellect and energies to the cause of Socialism NOW, put meaning, life and vitality into their otherwise empty and meaningless "pledge."
There is no hard way nor easy way to Socialism — only an obvious way; and this way can be made easier by a sound Socialist understanding which will fortify the embryo Socialist against the "siren songs" of Reformism and enable him to join in, with a clear head, the task of abolishing Capitalism—NOW.
R. E. WATKINS,