The case for a Minimalist and Maximum Movement

September 2021 Forums World Socialist Movement The case for a Minimalist and Maximum Movement

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    EM, unlike Imposs, I think what you say will be of interest to all visitors to this forum and would be food for thought and bring about, as Robbo said, a much needed debate on the topic.

    But I agree (even though I am guilty of it) that long replies are difficult to properly digest and absorb.

    Can I suggest you break your reply into sections and post them separately. We can reference the message number of the points we wish to address in our own responses.


    I would be critical of a member active in the anti-abortion movement

    Alan ,yes so would I but my criticism of it would not be on grounds of  reformism because the Anti abortion movement does not conform to the definition of reformism I suggested above .   This is why we need to apply an approach that separates the wheat from the chaff, so to speak

    To be called reformist its field of activity has to be political i.e. centred on the state and its focus of activity has to be the economic realm since capitalism itself is a fundamentally economic construction

    The anti abortion movement may fall under the former but clearly does not fall under the latter…






    I can see how trying to differentiate various reform groups is a difficult one, Robbo.

    Civil and human right issues would be centred on State legislation and may well have little to do with the economic realm.

    Immigration legal status overlaps both as seen in the debate over illegals in America.

    We have a role in the conscious raising by supporting the anti-racist reform groups with our analysis explaining the cause and result of racist anti-immigrant prejudice, but the reformers also have an independent role themselves in demanding changes to the law and I think I already suggested that they are better suited to do so rather than we as a political party including such a demand in a minimum programme.

    But because they seek to amend (not mend and definitely not to end) capitalism, it doesn’t mean we withdraw our sympathy from those groups. Nor does it mean we should not be critical, either. As I said to Vince, we invariably qualify our comments on reforms.

    I picked anti-abortion as an example because of the emotional element. I could imagine a member condemning the apparent ease in some countries to abortion where it is possibly viewed as merely another form of late contraception and family planning and disregard it as an issue of woman’s well-being and health.



    My apologies to both Wez and to the OP EM for mistaking Wez as another person.

    Wez is indeed a member of the SPGB and not the ex-member who became an anarchist. I got confused with their respective forum pseudonyms .

    Once again, my humble and genuine regrets at my error.


    Dear fellow red ants in the infinite Universe, The SPGB’s position on voting on reforms that would be beneficial to advancing the cause of a non-market world society is absurd. The SPGB maintains that we must not support certain reforms when a minority of MPs(delegates) would be elected to any assembly or parliament. What else would you do? Sit on your arse and wait for an impossible “Big Bang” when suddenly we all become revolutionary socialists and we suddenly rid ourselves of our narcissism and uncooperative mindsets? it is nonsense and you know it. No socialist delegate to a parliament is going to waste opportunities to educate and reform the education system. It is only through changing the education system and the media that we have the slightest chance of bringing about socialism before the climate or Trump destroys us all. Wake up!!!




    Hi ErichMorris


    That is not quite the position of the SPGB that you have outlined.   The position of the SPGB is that it solicits support only on the basis of maximum revolutionary programme and does not proactively advance a platform of reforms to attract such support – what is called reformism.  The historical evidence is overwhelming that once you start doing the latter you can be absolutely certain that the revolutionary goal of socialism will be side-lined and eventually forgotten about


    However it is also the position of the SPGB that once the socialist movement is strong enough and socialist delegates start being elected to parliament, that these delegates (or rather the Socialist Party as a whole) will consider reforms  advanced by the various capitalist parties (but never by the Socialist Party itself) on their merits and to the extent that these benefit the working class.


    We do not take the dogmatic and absurd view that no reforms can ever be of benefit to workers; it just that we do not propose such reforms ourselves for the reason given.  Insofar as particular reforms are judged to be of benefit to workers, socialist delegates in parliament will be instructed by the Party organisation to vote in favour of them.  In other words, our relationship to reforms will be reactive rather than proactive


    I think this is a sensible pragmatic position to take which preserves intact the revolutionary credentials of the Socialist Party.  I honestly cannot see any other alternative from a socialist point of view…




    Robbo’s #187584 is very clearly stated.


    If it is not in too bad taste to ask, can someone tell me whether the the position of the ‘Socialist Studies’ splittists differ from what he has said, and if so, how?


    “If it is not in too bad taste to ask, can someone tell me whether the the position of the ‘Socialist Studies’ splittists differ from what he has said, and if so, how?”

    Who knows, or cares?  There are literally less than handful of them left.  And for the gazillionth time, they were not “splittists”; they were booted out of this party for persistent undemocratic behaviour.


    They would have inherited the same position even if some of them would have been embarrassed by it. At the time this policy was adopted in 1911 it did cause some members opposed to a minority of Socialist MPs voting for reforms to leave. More on this in this from the June 2004 Socialist Standard:

    In February 1910 a letter from “W.B. (Upton Park)” was sent to the Socialist Standard asking “What would be the attitude of a member of the SPGB if elected to Parliament, and how would he maintain the principle of ‘No Compromise’?” The perspective of this small group of members was that no reform of capitalism could ever be supported by the party claiming to represent working class interests as it was not the job of socialists to take part in the running of capitalism. Any attempt to do so would run counter to the famous ‘hostility clause’ of the Declaration of Principles.

    The Standard ’s reply on the matter,backed by the Party’s Executive Committee, stated that each issue would have to be looked at on its merits and the course to be pursued decided democratically. This did not satisfy the members who had raised the question, who formed a ‘Provisional Committee’ aimed at overturning the position espoused in the Standard’s reply and who set their case out in an ‘Open Letter’ to Party members, arguing that socialists were required to oppose measures introduced by capitalist parties on each and every occasion. This was again rebutted firmly by the EC who contended that it would be ridiculous for socialists, by way of example, to oppose a measure designed to stop a war in which the working class was being butchered.

    Believing this approach to be a violation of the principle of ‘no compromise’ several members resigned over this issue during 1911, a small number going on to found the Socialist Propaganda League. The SPL’s principal speaker and writer was Harry Martin, Snellgrove having been one of those from the Provisional Committee later to rejoin. Though Martin was sympathetic to the Party in all other respects, he continued to denounce the SPGB’s willingness to engage in ‘political trading’ in pamphlets and on the outdoor platform until his death in 1951. One of the SPL’s pamphlets, From Slavery To Freedom, was critically reviewed in the Socialist Standard in November 1932.

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