June 20, 2011 at 2:42 pm #80856
I find the SPGB’s views on ‘leadership’ quite niave, utopian and contradictory.
‘We don’t need leaders’ you say but I think you are being deliberately confusing on the subject so you can claim to be ‘revolutionary.’ But to most people leadership simply refers to their representatives who are elected on a mandate. You sneer at unions and other socialist groups for having leaders and condem ‘us’ for being led. I helped elect my union General Secretary because of his track record and actions in defending members. I expect him to act in the interests of the membership, as a representative. I expect him to lead a fightback on issues that arise and are not in my interests. But you condem this relationship as bad, as I’m merely ‘following’ a leader. But doesn’t the SPGB have an elected executive committee? Are these not the same as my previous example?
The SPGB has and still has ‘leading’ members i.e. those who have in depth understanding and good communication skills. For example, Adam Buick, Stephen Coleman, Baldwin, Baltrop, Harry Young etc etc. These people have/had a far greater influence in the SPGB than other members, quite simply because they showed leadership qualities: insight, historical understanding, force of personality, commitment, communication skills etc etc. To say you are something different in this respect is mendacious and quibbling over semantics to try and differentiate. Over to you.June 21, 2011 at 4:25 pm #86262DJPParticipant
Thanks for the comments.For a start policy decisions are made by conference and not the executive committee. The EC is a mere dogsbody outfit which has to put into action the decisions of conference.I think a crucial difference is between that of electing delegates and representatives.Delegates only have as much power as is mandated to them and can be recalled.Representatives have power abdicated to them wholesale.The claim to be revolutionary comes from the fact that we advocate a complete transformation in society and nothing else.Hopefully someone can add more to this?June 22, 2011 at 9:16 am #86261
Dear HcH,As you’ve noticed, we are against leadership, and yet we elect an executive committee, stand candidates in elections, and have ‘leading’ members, ie, some individuals who have more influence, though not more power, than others. This means that either we are completely contradictory nutjobs, or, just maybe, you have misunderstood what we are talking about. Which do you think?Over to you.StuartJune 22, 2011 at 4:08 pm #86260
Why do you assume that SP members don’t vote or stand in union elections? I’ve done both but that doesn’t make me either a follower or a leader, just somebody participating in a democratic process.June 23, 2011 at 5:14 am #86259
hch, i think you misunderstand our position.Writers or speakers are NOT leaders. Their function is to spread knowledge and understanding, as teachers. Quite different from that we must have leaders (great men) to direct their followers (blind supporters) into a socialist society. Socialism is not the result of blind faith, followers, or, by the same token, vanguard parties. Despite some very charismatic writers and speakers in the past, no personality has held undue influence over the SPGB. Simply check the two published histories of the Party to see on just how many occasions and on how many issues those so-called leaders have not gained a majority at conferences or in referendums. We actually have a test for membership. This does not mean that the SPGB has set itself up as an intellectual elite into which only those well versed in Marxist scholarship may enter. One purpose of it is to place all members on an even basis. The SPGB’s reason is to ensure that only conscious socialists enter its ranks, for, once admitted, all members are equal and it would clearly not be in the interest of the Party to offer equality of power to those who are not able to demonstrate equality of basic socialist understanding. Once a member, s/he have the same rights as the oldest member to sit on any committee, vote, speak, and have access to all information. Thanks to this test all members are conscious socialists and there is genuine internal democracy, and of that we are fiercely proud. Consider what happens when people join other groups which don’t have this test.The new applicant has to be approved as being “all right”. The individual is therefore judged by the group according to a range of what might be called “credential indicators”. Hard work (often, paper selling) and obedience by new members is the main criterion of trustworthiness in the organisation. In these hierarchical, “top-down” groups the leaders strive at all costs to remain as the leadership , and reward only those with proven commitment to the “party line” with preferential treatment, more responsibility and more say. New members who present the wrong indicators remain peripheral to the party structure, and finding themselves unable to influence decision-making at any level, eventually give up and leave, often embittered by the hard work they put in and the hollowness of the party’s claims of equality and democracy.The SPGB is a leader-less political party where its executive committee is solely for housekeeping admin duties and cannot determine policy. An EC that is not even permitted to submit resolutions to conference. All conference decisions have to be ratified by a referendum of the whole membership. The General Secretary has no position of power or authority over any other member being simply a dogsbody. Mandating delegates, voting on resolutions and membership referendums are democratic practices for ensuring that the members of an organisation control that organisation – and as such key procedures in any organisation genuinely seeking socialism. Socialism can only be a fully democratic society in which everybody will have an equal say in the ways things are run. This means that it can only come about democratically, both in the sense of being the expressed will of the working class and in the sense of the working class being organised democratically – without leaders, but with mandated delegates – to achieve it. In rejecting these procedures what is being declared is that the working class should not organise itself democratically.Indeed we are critical of trade unions but we are also supportive of them. The SPGB has always insisted that the structures and tactics of organisations that the working class create to combat the class war will be there own decision and will necessarily be dependent on particular situations. Again a read of our actual history would reveal that unlike other organisations such as the SLP or Comunist Party we have never promoted the idea of forming separate trade unions. The SPGB avoided the mistake of the SLP – and of the CPGB during the “Third Period” after 1929 – of “dual unionism”, i.e. of trying to form “revolutionary” unions to rival the existing “reformist” unions (though some SPGBers have been involved, as individuals, in breakaway unions. The working class get the unions, and the leadership, it deserves. Just as a king is only a king because he is obeyed, so too are union leaders only union leaders because they are followed. To imagine they lead is to imbue them with mystical powers within themselves, and set up a phantasm of leadership that exactly mirror images the same phantasm as our masters believe. So long as the workers themselves are content to deal with such a union system, and its leaders, then such a union system and its leaders will remain, and will have to react to the expectations of the members. The way to industrial unions, or socialist unions, or whatever, is not through the leadership of the unions. The unions will always reflect the nature of their memberships, and until their membership change, they will not change. Unions are neither inherently reactionary, nor inherently revolutionary. The only way to change unions is not through seizing or pressurising the leadership, but through making sure that they have a committed membership, a socialist membership. We countered the syndicalist case “The Mines to the Miners!” or “The Railways to the Railwaymen!” by pointing out the socialists want to abolish the sectional ownership of the means of life, no matter who compose the sections , and not reinforce it.To repeat, The Socialist Party is not antagonistic to the trade unions under present conditions, even though they have not a revolutionary basis but we are most hostile to the misleading by the trade union leaders and against the ignorance of the rank and file which make such misleading possible. Workers must come to see through the illusion that all that is needed in the class war are good generals. Sloganising leaders making militant noises are powerless in the face of a system which still has majority support – or at least the acquiescence – of the working class. It would be wrong to write off the unions as anti-working-class organisations. The union has indeed tended to become an institution apart from its members; but the policy of a union is still influenced by the views of its members. It may be a truism but a union is only as strong as its members. Most unions have formal democratic constitutions which provide for a wide degree of membership participation and democratic control. In practice however, these provisions are sometimes ineffective and actual control of many unions is in the hands of a well-entrenched full-time leadership. It is these leaders who frequently collaborate with the State and employers in the administration of capitalism; who get involved in supporting political parties and governments which act against the interest of the working class.Socialists take part in every struggle in the economic field to improve conditions. We are as militant as anybody else. The socialist is involved in the economic struggle by the fact that we are members of the working class which naturally resists capital. But this is not the same thing as stating that the socialist party engages in activity for higher wages and better conditions. This is not the function of the socialist party. We recognise the necessity of workers’ solidarity in the class struggle against the capitalist class, and rejoice in every victory for the workers to assert their economic power. But to struggle for higher wages and better conditions is not revolutionary in any true sense of the word; and the essential weapons in this struggle are not inherently revolutionary either. It demands the revolutionising of the workers themselves. If there were more revolutionary workers in the unions—and in society generally—then the unions and the host of other community organisations would have a more revolutionary outlook. This does not mean that we say workers should sit back and do nothing, the struggle over wages and conditions must go on. But it becomes clear that this is a secondary, defensive activity. Participation in the class struggle does not automatically make workers class conscious. Militancy on the industrial field is just that and does not necessarily lead to political militancy, but ebbs and flows as labour market conditions change. The real struggle is to take the means of wealth production and distribution into the common ownership.June 23, 2011 at 6:37 pm #86257
SPGBers will dirty their hands in the economic struggle to defend workers, such as participating in trade unions to defend and improve wages but refuse to do the same when it comes to workers trying to defend their social wage e.g. benefits, NHS, schools etc. You and I know that such struggles can be directly linked to the failure of capitalism with socialism as the only answer. But you choose to turn your backs on both the labour and socialist movements and not participate. Where was the SPGB on the recent TUC march which showed how strong the workibg class is? Why doesn’t the SPGB participate in TUSC (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition) which stood hundreds of candidates in the recent local elections? (If you are unaware, TUSC is a democratic federalist coalition where socialist groups keep their identity and propaganda but agree on anti-cuts agenda, when fighting elections). You wouldn’t touch either with a barge pole through fear of being contanimated with that most terrible disease: Reformism.
This leads me back to your position on leadership, which is bogus. We all know democracy when we see it but you try to create this myth that the SPGB is the only democratic socialist group and workers are stupid blind followers of leaders. Now this either demonstrates a subconcious low opinion of the class you hope to see liberated or a propanda tactic. I think you are playing at the latter. Unfortunately it means you will not participate in the struggle to defend workers gains and therefore the true solution of socialis m is ignored. .June 23, 2011 at 7:29 pm #86258
Why don’t we support TUSC, ie the Trotskyists United Supporters Club? You’ve got it right in one. It’s because they are reformists. Either genuinely because they mistakenly believe that the minimum wage can be tripled, pensions doubled and a massive public works programme for paid from increased taxes on profits implemented under capitalism. Or because they are practising the machiavellian trotskyist tactic of “transitional demands”, of trying to lead workers in reformist struggles which they (but not the workers) know are unachievable in the hope that when these reforms are not achieved the workers will turn to them who as a vanguard will lead them in an assault on the state, overthrow it and set up … state capitalism. No thanks.We tell the workers the truth: that capitalism can never be made to work in their interest and that the only way out is the establishment of socialism as a system of society based on the common ownership and democratic control of productive resources, production solely and directly for use and distribution on the principle of “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs”.June 24, 2011 at 4:04 am #86256
HCH , you now shift your position from criticising the SPGB claim to be leader-less and lack of support for the class struggle, deciding not to challenge or refute our defence, to an attack on our position on reformism. Once again, members of the SPGB engage in the struggle to stop cuts to their jobs , to their kids schools closing , to their university courses fees rising, to their hospitals shutting , as individuals and as local community members but we don’t parachute in as an organisation to create and control such resistance – we do not offer ourselves up as the leaders of it. We do not seek to lead such struggles but limit ourselves to urging workers to organise any particular struggle in a democratic way under the control of those directly involved. (members,btw, were on the march leafletting and selling our magazine and we are fully aware of the existance of the TUSC and the constant in-fighting within it for party partisan dominance). There are two kinds of reformism. One has no intention of bringing about revolutionary change. The other being the one you appear to favour, HCH, that cherishes the mistaken belief that successful reforms will somehow prepare the ground for revolution are to be seen as necessary first steps on the long road to eventual revolution. That socialist consciousness will develop out of the struggle for reforms within capitalism: when workers realise that they can’t get the reforms they have been campaigning for they will turn to the “cadres” of the Fourth International for leadership. Quite apart from the fact that this has never happened, this argument is more of a rationalisation by shamefaced reformists who imagine that they are revolutionaries. “The movement is everything, the goal nothing” sums up it. The ‘Left’ may claim that it enjoys the best of both worlds by both supporting reforms and advocating revolution. But in fact its revolutionary posturing. Left reformists always claim how much better everything would be if only they were in power. Everything would be better: the NHS, the environment, the economy, education. And how is all this to be achieved? By two old Leftist illusions; taxing the rich and nationalisation disguised as public or social ownership. The aim of the Left has always been to establish state capitalism, the profit system planned centrally by a miracle-performing state. Yet the source of the wealth would still be the surplus value wrung from the working class. Lacking an honest revolutionary stance for a new society, the Left becomes caught in a pointless circular battle with an economic system that is based on exploitation. As long as the accumulation of capital takes precedence, either in the hands of the individual capitalist or state institutions, the primary concern of exploitation of labour and making profit will take precedence over the concerns of human need. The Left downplays the idea of directly challenging the system and organising an alternative political economy and is working instead on the terrain of capitalism.“Socialist activists” have claimed impressive “successes” and “victories” in every field except one. History have proven beyond any shadow of doubt that they have not remotely convinced the workers of the need for socialism. From the activities carried on in the name of socialism, the one thing conspicuous by its absence has been any mention of the socialist case. The efforts of “socialist activists” has been geared to an attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable contradictions of capitalism.The Left-winger behaves as if he was Moses, laying down the commandments in stone for ignorant followers to obey. Left -wing propaganda offering leadership presents the worker as an inferior incapable of thinking, organising and acting and imbues further the master-and-servant mentality of the worker. Left organisations start from the premise that workers are too stupid to understand or want socialism by their own volition. Therefore, revolutionary ideas have to be introduced from outside the working class by all-knowing “professional revolutionaries” who will lead workers to the promised land. The Socialist Party is not on “The Left”. There is no such manipulation or dishonesty. We have always been opponents of nationalisation. We do not advocate that the working class should experience the disillusionment of yet another Labour government to realise that it would be once again anti-working class. As an aside, it is interesting how small the memberships of the other so-called revolutionary parties are. It makes a shambles of the misconception that the SPGB is small because of our procedures or lack of participation in “the struggle”, or our “unsound” or that favourite criticism for being “dogmatic and sectarian” that we lost members and influence. This is a historic and social phenomenon. The myriad parties of the Left all have serious declines in membership. It can be ascribed to a public’s apathy that arises when high hopes raised by social reform programs only lead to disillusionment.HCH, you admonish us for not being part of the TUSC. Are socialists supposed to unite with those who want to reform and administer capitalism? Or do we unite with those who claim socialism can be established by a well meaning leadership without a class-conscious working class? Do we unite with those who see socialism as a system based on state control and state ownership of industry: and lastly, do we unite with those who refuse to recognise the parliamentary road to socialism? Revolutionaries must reject this appeal if they are to remain revolutionaries. If there is no common ground upon which agreement can be reached then there can be no unity. Our analysis of the Left is not based upon some narrow sectarianism—it’s based upon principle. We do not, nor have we ever, supported capitalist parties, especially those that dress up in revolutionary garb in order to hoodwink the workers. The Left is an expression of all the political mistakes made by the working class last century—from the Labour Party to the Soviet Union. We do not doubt that well-meaning individuals get caught up in such chicanery for no other reason than a desire to see a better world. However, sentiment can never be a substitute. “Unity” has no meaning unless based on the common realisation that its sole object is to introduce socialism. A socialist organisation will get nowhere without a firm grasp of democracy, sound Marxist principle, a disdain to conceal its socialist objective, and a membership in full possession of the facts about current society and the revolutionary alternative. Unlike the Left we openly advocate common ownership and democratic control. It is not the wish of the Socialist Party to be separate for the sake of being so. It is ridiculous to think of a rivalry between socialist parties competing to emancipate the workers. If another socialist organisation appeared on the scene, then the only possible action that we could take would be to make immediate overtures for a merger. We would offer them the open arms of comradely greetings and unity. But the position is that we cannot be a popular reform party attempting to mop up immediate problems, and revolutionary at the same time. We cannot have a half-way house; nor can we accommodate the more timid members of our class who abhor what they describe as “impractical” or “impossible” policies, and spend their time looking for compromises. We do oppose all the so-called working-class parties which compromise with capitalism and do not uphold the socialist case. The socialist case is so fundamentally different, involving as it does the literal transformation of society, that we must expect mental resistance before socialist ideas have finally become consolidated in the mind.We have seen a century of cruelly extinguished hopes of those who heaped praise upon the state-capitalist hell-holes which posed as “socialist states” which pseudo-socialists promoted. We have witnessed a system which has persistently spat the hope of humane capitalism back in the face of its advocates. The progressive enthusiasm of millions has been stamped out in this way. How different it could have been if all that work which has gone into trying to reform capitalism had gone into struggling to abolish it ? Historically, reform activities have dissipated the earnest energies of so-called socialists from doing any socialist work, whatsoever. The need for reforms is an all-time job. The SPGB is not going to do anything for the working class except to arouse their fervor, determination and enthusiasm for socialist objectives. Working-class understanding is at a very low ebb, therefore the membership in the SPGB is puny. Apart from the feeble voices of the Socialist Party, the great mass of the workers are not exposed to socialist fundamentals. Nevertheless, the greatest teacher of all is experience. Eventually, all the groping and mistaken diversions into futile efforts of reforming and administering capitalism will run their course. People learn from their mistakes. Necessity is the latent strength of socialism. Truth and science are on the side of socialism. Socialism is no fanciful utopia, but the crying need of the times; and that we, as socialists, are catalytic agents, acting on our fellow workers and all others to do something about it as speedily as possible, the triggering agent that transforms majority ideas from bourgeois into revolutionary ones. The seeming failures, the disappointments and discouragements, the slow growth, only indicate that socialist work is not an easy task. What makes socialist work stirring and inspiring is not that there are short cuts , but that there is nothing else worth a tinker’s damn.June 24, 2011 at 5:01 am #86247
Of course, if you persist in claiming that the masses require “revolutionary” leadership , we can see from the present spontaneous struggle of the “arab spring” and the Spanish indignados that protest and resistance does not require political party leadership. In fact, in most revolutions 1905, February 1917, the fall of the Soviet bloc, political parties were never initially in the forefront. You say “..such struggles can be directly linked to the failure of capitalism with socialism as the only answer…” That claim is actually very wrong. There is no reason in our interactions with capitalism that dictates that we must necessarily become revolutionary socialists. Experience could just as easily turn us to the BNP/ENL, or in America, to the Tea Party. Our interaction with the world around us is mediated by ideas. How are we supposed to become a “revolutionary” without engaging – and eventually agreeing – at some point with the IDEA of socialism? Most on the Left believes class struggle militancy can be used as a lever to push the workers along a political road, towards their “emancipation.” How is this possible if the workers do not understand the political road, and are only engaging in economic struggles? The answer is the Leninist “leaders in-the-know” who will direct the workers. But these leaders lead the workers in the wrong direction, toward the wrong goals (nationalisation and state capitalism), as the workers find out to their sorrow. Instead of standing clearly for socialism, the Left have aped official Labourism, seeking to influence non-socialist workers through tactical manipulation rather than convince them to change their minds. They argue that the ‘united front’ of the TUSC, for instance, provides an opportunity for ‘revolutionaries’ to discuss and convert reformists and that the immediate aim of the ‘unity’ is to provide the most effective fighting organisation for both reformists and revolutionaries. Vanguardists accept the notion that the workers are incapable of developing socialist consciousness, and so the ‘revolutionaries’ have to work with reformists in order to influence them and draw off the most active workers into their own ranks. That there is an ‘uneven consciousness’ among workers that necessitates the need for leaders and for an organisation that can bring it together with non-socialist workers in the name of immediate given ends, be those organisations trade unions or anti-cuts alliances. The reality is that any sort of success involves hiding the disagreements between their constituent organisations, specifically about means and motives. They succeed by making demands that are supported by significant numbers of workers, meaning that any ‘revolutionary’ content will be buried into the need for immediate victory. As such, it is small ‘c’ conservative, taking political consciousness as it is found and seeking to manipulate rather than change it. Such a tactic affords the ‘Left’ an opportunity to extend their influence. As a tiny minority, they get to work with organisations which can more easily attract members and can thus be part of campaigns and struggles that reach out well beyond the tiny numbers of political activists in any given situation. But the relevant fact remains that, despite providing all this assistance, the ‘revolutionaries’ are incapable of taking these campaigns further than the bulk of the members are willing to accept. The SPGB, however, argue that minorities cannot simply take control of movements and mould and wield them to their own ends. Without agreement about what it is and where it is going, leaders and led will invariably split off in different directions. We say that since we are capable, as workers, of understanding and wanting socialism, we cannot see any reason why our fellow workers cannot do likewise. The job of socialists in the here and now is to openly and honestly state the case rather than trying to wheedle and manoeuvre to win a supposed ‘influence’ that is more illusory than real.The Left’s formula can be summed up in the following:1 ) The working class has a reformist consciousness.2 ) It is the duty of the “Revolutionary Party” to be where the masses are.3 ) Therefore, to be with the mass of the working class, we must advocate reforms.Further:4 ) The working class is only reformist minded.5 ) Winning reformist battles will give the working class confidence.6 ) So that, therefore, they will go on to have a socialist revolution.Thus:7 ) The working class will learn from its struggles, and will eventually come to realise that assuming power is the only way to meet its ends.8 ) That the working class will realise, through the failure of reforms to meet its needs, the futility of reformism and capitalism, and will overthrow it.9 ) That the working class will come to trust the Party that leads them to victory, and come a social crisis they will follow it to revolution.No other possibilities for worker to take as a perceived solution such as fascism, or nationalism or religion? The SPGB i think would argue that it is about engaging people with the idea of socialism. There is nothing automatic about social change, it has to be struggled for. The Left relies upon a notion of the inherently revolutionary nature of the working class and that through the class struggle this inherently revolutionary character will show itself. Although, it hasn’t. Its also flawed because it shows no reason why, due to the failure of reform, the workers should turn to socialism. Why, since it was people calling themselves socialists who advocated that reform, don’t they turn against it, or even to fascism? Under the model of revolution presented by the Trotskyists the only way the working class could come to socialist consciousness is through a revolution is made by the minority with themselves as its leaders.This, then, explains their dubious point about needing to “be” where the mass of the working class is. It is the reason why a supposedly revolutionary party should change its mind to be with the masses, rather than trying to get the masses to change their minds and be with it. They do not want workers to change their minds, merely to become followers. Their efforts are not geared towards changing minds, or raising revolutionary class consciousness. To repeat my previous post , we see little wrong with people campaigning for reforms that bring essential improvements and enhance the quality of their lives, and some reforms do indeed make a difference to the lives of millions and can be viewed as “successful”. There are examples of this in such fields as education, housing, child employment, work conditions and social security. Socialists have to acknowledge that the “welfare” state, the NHS and so on, made living standards for some sections of the working class better than they had been under rampant capitalism and its early ideology of laissez faire, although these ends should never be confused with socialism.However, in this regard we also recognise that such “successes” have in reality done little more than to keep workers and their families in efficient working order and, while it has taken the edge of the problem, it has rarely managed to remove the problem completely. Socialists do not oppose reformism because it is against improvements in workers’ lives lest they dampen their revolutionary ardour; nor, because it thinks that decadent capitalism simply cannot deliver on any reforms; but because our continued existence as propertyless wage slaves undermines whatever attempts we make to control and better our lives through reforms. Our objection to reformism is that by ignoring the essence of class, it throws blood, sweat and tears into battles that will be undermined by the workings of the wages system. All that effort, skill, energy, all those tools could be turned against class society, to create a society of common interest where we can make changes for our common mutual benefit. So long as class exists, any gains will be partial and fleeting, subject to the ongoing struggle. What we are opposed to is the whole culture of reformism, the idea that capitalism can be tamed and made palatable with the right reforms.If the view remains that the struggle for reforms is worthwhile then imagine just how many palliatives and ameliorations will be offered and conceded by a besieged capitalist class in a desperate attempt to retain ownership rights if the working class were demanding the maximum socialist programme of full and complete appropriation and nothing less. Reforms now derided as utopian will become two-a-penny in an attempt to fob off the workers. Perhaps, even, capitalism will provide a batch of free services, on the understanding that this is “the beginning” of a free society, but,of course real socialists will not be taken in.June 24, 2011 at 6:18 am #86248
The first thing I must note is that you have dodged my question concerning not supporting the defence of workers’ social wage but you will engage in the struggle to defend personal wage levels. You have drawn a arbitary distingtion between the two to fit in with your simplistic view of capitalism and socialism. Please answer my point. Isn’t participating in unions to defend wages reformist, just as it is reformist to defend the NHS.
I see ALB can’t resist being sectarian and reactionary by insulting TUSC, a response that would sit comfortably in the pages of the Daily Mail or even Der Sturmer. No wonder workers and especially activists turn their backs on you if that is your approach. Hundreds of candidates stood on No Cuts platforms, linking it with the need for socialism or victories gained will be temporary. But you even dismiss their goal of socialism as some form of capitalism, be it of the state variety. For example, the Socialist Party (the old Militant, CWI) which participated in TUSC has the same goals as you: common ownership with workers democratic control, production for need, international socialism, party democracy etc etc. They condem old the bureacratic and totalitarian Soviet types regimes but you choose to ignore and instead pour out the old vitriol which gets you no-where and again is far too simplistic or wrong in many areas. Instead of trying so hard to find your differences with such organisations, you should work on finding commonalities and go from there. You have much to offer the socialist movement, especially your vision of socialism but your childish condemnation of such groups as TUSC or the Socialist Party (CWI) and ‘it’s my ideological ball, so I’m going home’ attitude is a historical and principled failure.
Let’s try another approach. The Socialist Party (CWI) calls for a new mass, workers party to replace Labour which is now an avowedly capitalist party and in a similar, terminal position to that of the Liberals in the late nineteenth, early twentith cenury. It calls for a new democratic, federalist party of reformists, socialists, Marxists etc to replace Labour, with the goal of socialism. A broad church of people and groups against capitalism. A comradlely party where there would be a continual debate of ideas, especially over the Reform v Revolution issue. A party of differing tendencies but a democratic one, just like the old SDF or even the old Labour Party, with the aim of socialism. Why not participate to put your ideas forward within such a federalist, democratic workers party? You could keep your own identity but be part of the socialist movement?June 24, 2011 at 10:44 am #86249
Hch doesn’t seem to understand that what is at stake here is not a question of tactics or strategy but principle.We believe, to use Lenin’s words but reverse their meaning, that workers, exclusively by their own efforts, are capable of a socialist consciousness. Workers are human beings and individuals in themselves; they are not dumb masses to be tricked, led, deceived, and lied to, for the greater good.That’s why, actually, we are not sectarian and the left are. We join workers struggles as workers. We take part in the democratic process as equals with our fellows. We do not join for purposes of our own; we have no programme of demands hidden up our sleeves to be produced at a later date, nor a one-party dictatorship to produce as a nasty surprise at an even later date.That’s why, when we join workers struggles as individuals and not as a leadership party, and reject the left, we are not being sectarian — quite the opposite. We are being principled socialists.As for the proposal to join a new SDF, what’s the point? We’d just have to leave it again, as we did the old one.StuartJune 24, 2011 at 11:12 am #86250
StuartW – I don’t know where you are coming from. Are you implying or saying that workers organising against the cuts or participating in TUSC mean we are ‘dumb massess’ and being ‘tricked’ because we’ve got up off our knees? This is a typical SPGB approach: create a picture that is false and then apply behaviours to others that are not present? It’s quite insulting and I note you fail to deal with my points. Such arrogance is displayed in the belief that the SPGB is the only democratic, socialist group/party and all others are lesser socialists.
I can only conclude that the SPGBs dismissal of the Campaign for a New Workers Party shows a lack of confidence in your own ideas.June 24, 2011 at 11:44 am #86251
Hch: What genuinely puzzles me is why the left cannot (or refuses to) understand our position. We understand yours perfectly well.Your position is that workers generally will not become socialists all by themselves, but will, at times, engage in struggle to protect their own interests. Therefore, socialists should organise into political parties that also engage in these struggles with the view of leading the workers to victory, in the first instance, and into support for the party in the second. As the party builds up such support, it will then be in a position to seize power on behalf of the working class and put in place ‘socialist’ (actually, state capitalist) measures.Now, as a broad brush and short statement, true or false?If true, why not do us the courtesy of understanding our position, even if you don’t agree with it? A similarly simple and broad brush statement of our position is this:Workers do not need any advice or leadership from socialists when it comes to struggling to defend their own interests within capitalism. They do it all by themselves all the time. However, such struggles have their limits within capitalism: they cannot go beyond the law of value, and the combined forces of the capitalists and the state can almost always defeat them if they put their mind to it. Workers who realise this tend to become socialists. As they become socialists, they see the necessity for going beyond such day to day struggles (these unavoidable and incessant guerilla battles, as Marx put it) and the need for a political party aimed solely for socialism. This political party must not advocate reforms, not because it is against reforms (how on earth could a working class party be against reforms in the working class interest?), but because it wants to build support for socialism, and not for reforms.Simples.June 24, 2011 at 12:20 pm #86252Hch wrote:I can only conclude that the SPGBs dismissal of the Campaign for a New Workers Party shows a lack of confidence in your own ideas.
What’s the point of forming a Labour Party Mark 2. It would fail just as the existing Labour Party did, and for the same reason. Seeking support on the basis of reforms to capitalism, if it gets elected it will have no mandate for socialism and so will have no alternative but to run capitalism. But capitalism can run only as a profit-making system in the interests of those who live off profits. It can never be made to work in the interest of the majority class of wage and salary workers. In the end instead of Labour-style parties changing capitalism, capitalism changes them so they eventually end as simple managers of capitalism. That’s one of the mistakes the workers movement made in the 20th century. We don’t want this to be repeated in the 21st.June 24, 2011 at 4:12 pm #86253
stuartw2112 – if you are puzzled why I query the SPGB position on say reformism, is that it has big holes in it whivh I’m trying to get an answer but have been unsuccessful so far:
You support workers defending and trying to defend their wages and conditions via unions. SPGB members do it themselves I am told above. But you oppose workers defending their social wage, such as NHS health care, benefits, education etc. You have drawn an artificial ditingtion between the two. Please advise.
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