“socialism in one country”

April 2024 Forums General discussion “socialism in one country”

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    SocialistPunk wrote:
    Ed wrote:
    What we need is a sort of proletarian enlightenment, a sort of paradigm shift.

    I thought that was the historical self appointed role of the SPGB and companion parties? To educate, and in a sense be the agents (not leaders) of change, because it wouldn't materialize out of thin air?Was I wrongly informed all those years ago, or has there been a change in the way the movement views its role?

    Class consciousness is not spontaneous, it does require a certain amount of education as the correct answers are not always apparent. However, revolutions are not made by people, they are made by economic conditions. Meaning that you can talk until you're blue in the face (or should that be red) but until people are compelled to look for change they are not going to listen. You can't teach people who don't want to learn.


    Like so many strands on socialist discussion lists it often comes down to this issue of consciousness and the role of socialists.We agree the majority will not understand socialism from the campaigning and educational effort of the SPGB, but from the potential effect of the social practice particularly of the class struggle.“A period of revolution begins not because life has become physically impossible but because growing numbers of workers have their eyes suddenly opened to the fact that problems hitherto accepted as part of man’s unavoidable heritage has become capable of solution…No crisis of capitalism , however desperate it may be, can ever by itself give us socialism ” – Will Capitalism Collapse?And here we also stated :-“If we hoped to achieve Socialism ONLY by our propaganda, the outlook would indeed be bad. But it is Capitalism itself unable to solve crises, unemployment, and poverty, engaging in horrifying wars, which is digging its own grave. Workers are learning by bitter experience and bloody sacrifice for interests not their own. They are learning slowly. Our job is to shorten the time, to speed up the process” – Socialism or Chaos (Socialist Party of Australia pamphlet)The search for why socialist consciousness arises is The Holy Grail of every sincere socialist and no one has the answer as yet. We hold only generalisations – and possess a political approach that when exercised will not be counter-productive or have a negative effect. One of the great principles of the SPGB is our opposition to leadership, so whatever weaknesses or mistaken views we hold or that it is accused of, they cannot be imposed upon others with possible worse consequences.As Marx explains it:“Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness , and for the success of the cause itself , the alteration of man on a mass scale is necessary , an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement , a revolution. The revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way , but also because the class overthrowing itcan only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew” –  Feurbach and Materialist Outlook Marx expected the working class to develop from a mere economic category (a "class in itself" ) into a revolutionary political actor ("class for itself")—but at least the process started even if it did get stuck on route as it were. A "class consciousness" did develop among particular sections of the working class but this did not develop into a revolutionary socialist consciousness. It stopped at trade-unionism and Labourism, the idea and practice of the working class as a class within capitalism but which wanted a better deal within this system, not to replace it with a classless and exploitation-free society. So, even if a working class "for itself" has never developed, a class consciousness of a lesser sort did. The emergence of socialist understanding out of the experience of the workers can be said to be “spontaneous” in the sense that it would require no intervention by people outside the working class to bring it about (not that such people could not take part in this process, but their participation was not essential or crucial). Socialist propaganda and agitation would indeed be necessary but would come to be carried out by workers themselves whose socialist ideas would have been derived from an interpretation of their class experience of capitalism. The end result would be an independent movement of the socialist-minded and democratically organised working class aimed at winning control of political power in order to abolish capitalism. As Marx and Engels put it in The Communist Manifesto:-“the proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority”.Socialist consciousness on a wide scale is not going to emerge from mere abstract propagandizing or proselytizing, “[class consciousness ] is not learned from books or through courses on theory and political formation, but through real life practice of the class struggle”- Anton Pannekoek, The Workers Council All we are doing in the SPGB is trying to help the emergence of majority socialist consciousness, but even if the sort of activities we engage in can't be the main thing that will bring this consciousness about, it is still nevertheless essential. People can, and do, come to socialist conclusions without us, but they hopefully can come to this more quickly if they hear it from an organised group dedicated exclusively to putting over the case for socialism. We can't force or brainwash people into wanting to be free, they can only learn this from their own experience. We see majority socialist consciousness emerging from people's experiences of capitalism coupled with them hearing the case for socialism (not necessarily from us, although it would seem that we are the only group that takes doing this seriously). The SPGB will not be the sole agent of the socialist transformation. Socialist consciousness can emerge through discussion and analyses. We come to a socialist view of the world by interacting directly or indirectly with others, exchanging ideas with them. Our main task is to find better ways of expressing our message to as many workers as possible, to evolve a strategy so that we use our resources to most effect. To bring about socialist consciousness involves understanding socialism which means talking about it, sharing ideas about it – in short educating ourselves and our fellow workers about it. Socialism will be established by the working class and that its establishment will result from an intensification and escalation of the class struggle. That follows almost by definition–obviously, if the working class are going to overthrow capitalism and capitalist class rule the class struggle is going to be stepped up. That's not the interesting question. The real question is what is it that is going to provoke the working class into intensifying/escalating the class struggle and/or acquiring socialist consciousness. Socialist consciousness comes from life experience, but that being said, why are not more people achieving this consciousness? Everything from education, accepted customs, the prevailing capitalist ideology and cultural hegemony. We can say that socialist consciousness comes from life experience, but then that automatically implies that every worker should achieve it, it should have happened. And I see this as a problem. It leads to a belief of the old "historical inevitability" of socialism, that inevitably people will come around to becoming socialists. That would indeed leave no role for a Socialist Party. We can watch it all unfold before our eyes from our cumfy chairs. However many members have not accepted this inevitability and wonder what exactly is our role? Where do we "intervene" to raise consciousness and how do we intervene? What practical measures can we take as a Party? The SPGB case is that understanding is a necessary condition for socialism, not desperation and despair and we see the SPGB's job as to shorten the time, to speed up the process – to act as a catalyst.Our Parliament pamphlet puts it:-"The socialist political party (of which we are just a potential embryo) will not be something separate from the socialist majority. It will be the socialist majority self-organised politically, an instrument they have formed to use to achieve a socialist society…With the spread of socialist ideas all organisations will change and take on a participatory democratic and socialist character.." 

    SocialistPunk wrote:
    I have reservations about the idea that socialism will come about globally in equal measures. There already exists huge differences in the likes of organized socialist groups, parties etc. Why should this tendency change in the future?

    Because the various genuine socialist groups that now exist in various parts of the world are insignificant while most of the groups and parties calling themselves "socialist" are in fact nationalist to one degree or another. When genuine socialist parties of a significant size emerge they will form of a Socialist International to co-ordinate their activities on a world scale which will itself be in a position to have some influence on the spread of socialist ideas.Personally, I think the more reasonable scenario is to see a more or less simultaneous move to socialism in the more capitalistically developed parts the world, leaving only a few straggler areas to catch up. So it wouldn't be the case, as in Robbo's scenario, of an isolated socialist region surrounding by capitalist states, but the other way round. But who knows? Let's cross that bridge when, and if, we come to it.

    I thought that was the historical self appointed role of the SPGB and companion parties? To educate, and in a sense be the agents (not leaders) of change, because it wouldn't materialize out of thin air?

    I wouldn't put it so grandiosely. More modestly, we are a group of workers who have realised that socialism (common ownership and democratic control of the world's resources) is the only framework within which the problems that the wage and salary earning class now face can be solved, and who are trying to spread this understanding amongst our fellow workers.While the change will not materialise out of thin air, it will materialise out of capitalist conditions even if we (or Marx) never existed. It's a question of a two-way interaction between capitalist material conditions and hearing the socialist case (itself of course also a product of capitalist material conditions). What we are doing is joining together as a group to do this more effectively and trying to hasten the process (rather than initiate it from scratch).It's others rather than ourselves who say that we think our role is to convert the working class to socialism by our activity alone. But it's never been what we ourselves have really thought.In any event, we have always said that it is the working class that will establish socialism not us. At most we would be the instrument they could use to win political power but even this is a bit grandiose. All we can say is that the working class will have to form a mass, democratically-organised political party. We may or may not be the embryo of such a party. We might just turn out to be one of its forerunners or of its future constituent parts. Once again, who knows? But whatever, today there is a need for an organised group to advocate socialism and nothing but. That's us.


    Thanks lads, glad for the responses. I don't have much time to put my responses in now.I just want to quickly say that I am aware of the fact that most socialist groups are not genuine.But there are some interesting comments here, that I will get back to later, as well as on another thread.See ya later.

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