Aphorisms of Socialism VII



As all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.

The political machine, as we have endeavoured to show, is essentially an instrument of class government. It does not anywhere come into existence until society has assumed a class form – until there has developed within society a class who govern and a class who are governed.

The political machine exists to preserve order in society according to the existing basis of that society; but just as there can exist sections with opposing sectional interests within the ruling class of a given society, so that political machinery can be wielded in different directions to further the several interests of those warring sections of the ruling class – and that without in any way threatening the social base.

Political parties consist of those who organise to gain control of or at least to exert their influence upon, the political machine, in order to advance their interests as they understand them.

But if it appears from this that capitalist political parties rather indicate sectional than class interests, it must not be forgotten that this is merely because these parties, comprising sections of the ruling class, are at one with the basis upon which their position as a ruling class is founded.

Though it is true that each of these sections will use the political machinery in a slightly different way, this difference can only apply to matters of superficial detail. In anything deeper than this every political party among the ruling class stands for the interest of that ruling class.

This is inevitable. Before these sections can exist as such those comprised in them must be a ruling class. Before the landed interest can clash with the manufacturing interest both the landowner and the factory-owner must be established in privilegen on a private property basis. Before Tariff Reform or Protection can become burning questions of the day, those whose sectional interest is wrapped up in either detail of capitalism must first have their deeper interests identified with one and founded upon the capitalist system.

The class interest, therefore, is paramount; in the last resort it overshadows all sectional interests. Indeed, the fact that sectional interests loom so large in capitalist party politics at the present day is no proof of the importance of those interests but is evidence only of the weakness of the pressure exerted politically by the opposing class.

The truth of this is seen in the tendency of capitalists to “close the ranks” against any political party which, in fact or in their idea, threatens their class interest, and the increasing pressure of the organised political party of the workers is destined to reveal with the utmost clearness the fact that capitalist parties stand primarily for capitalism and for the capitalist class – is destined to reveal it by exhibiting them a united party at bay with revolution.

There are certain so-called political parties such as the I.L.P., the B.S.P., and Labour Party, and in Scotland, the S.L.P. who, it might be argued, are not covered by the above remarks, but in reality these have no separate political existence. Two of them are nothing but appendages of the Liberal Party, one is trying which wing of the capitalist bird of prey it can find most comfort (if any) under. As for the remaining group, they have postponed political action until it will not be required – until the workers have gained in the teeth of the political machine all that they could gain with it. They have cut their political throats with the anarchist razor, and by this contribution to anarchy, to say nothing of other matters, have added their service to the preservation of capitalism.

As a matter of fact all political parties must express the interest of one or other of the only two classes in society. In this connection, Frederic Engels finely says (“Origin of the Family,” Kerr & Co. p. 211): “For as long as the oppressed class, in this case the proletariat, is not ripe for its economic emancipation, just so long will its majority regard the existing order of society as the only one possible, and form the tail, the extreme left wing, of the capitalist class.”

This is strictly true, and therefore, not only was it inevitable that these pseudo-Socialist and Labour parties, composed as they are, of a working class element which is “not ripe for its economic emancipation,” should express capitalist interests, but it was inevitable that they should express the sectional brand of capitalist class interest appertaining to the particular phase of capitalism by which they are immediately environed – namely, the manufacturing interest, as expressed in the Liberal Party.

Hence, despite their pretended hostility at the moment, the eventual destiny of the B.S.P. is the Liberal fold – just as soon as its leaders can get their price.

The political activities of all who are not ripe for their economic emancipation must necessarily express capitalist interest, for the simple reason that they are helping to maintain the existing order of society. This is so even if they managed to gain admission to a sound, revolutionary organisation. There they work out the ruling-class interest by weakening the revolutionary attack – probably the worst form opposition to working-class emancipation can take.

The interests expressed or reflected, and striven for, by political parties, therefore, fall into two main groups – capitalist and working-class. These are diametrically opposed, since they involve wage-slavery on the one hand and emancipation on the other. The position of the party seeking working-class emancipation, then, must clearly be one of uncompromising hostility to all other political parties. It does not materially matter whether these parties are organisations of working men with capitalist ideas or avowedly capitalist organisations with a working-class tail.

The object of the last is to secure working-class votes, because, as Engels puts it: “The possessing class rules directly through universal suffrage” – and the vast bulk of that suffrage is working-class. In this object they find, increasingly as the workers get a dim idea that their masters’ politics are not their own, great assistance in the pseudo-Socialist parties. These parties, led by men on the look-out for billets and personal aggrandisement, spread confusion by teaching the workers that the difference between themselves and the capitalists is merely one of personality, and not of class, principle and system; that the difference between their interests and their masters’ is so slight that for the “immediate end” of getting a Labour leader into Parliament, that difference can be composed, the battle stopped, and the two rival classes work together politically.

This is, where it is conscious, the worst form of treachery, in as much as it prevents the working class realising the fundamental antagonism of interests between themselves and their exploiters. It prevents them, therefore, becoming “ripe for their economic emancipation,” and from organising politically as a class, apart from and hostile to those who hold them in bondage, ever seeking, working, fighting for deliverance from their chains.

Again, as Engels says: “Universal suffrage is the gauge of the maturity of the working class.” The ballot is indeed the means of gauging the working-class strength and maturity, and for that reason it must be kept free from compromise and the entanglement of alliances. It must stand as the clear index of the progress made by working class consciousness, the clock ticking off the last moments of our long slavery. To this purpose it is scared. If, however, it is to have any significance of this character, it must indicate a working-class mind free from the obsession of capitalist illusions. This is a final reason why the party seeking working-class emancipation must be hostile to every other political party.

The political struggle of the workers must of necessity be waged along class lines, for it is one form of the highest phase of the class struggle. It is on the political field that the sternest battle of all is to be fought. That fight is not for mere votes as such, but for the enthroning of the REVOLUTIONARY IDEA in the seat of power. The enemy, then, is no less the political ignorance of our own class than the educated master class, therefore we must attack that ignorance, even when it is organised in so-called working class political parties, just as relentlessly as we attack the orthodox parties of our masters.


Leave a Reply