Some questions on Socialist policy
A correspondent (F. L. Remington, of Leicester) in sending us his views on current politics, asks some questions relative to Socialist policy. These matters have been dealt with in the Socialist Standard before, but as they may be of interest at the present time we are replying to the ques¬tions here.
(1) DOES THE S.P.G.B. TAKE PART IN MUNICIPAL POLITICS?
The answer to this question is contained in our Declaration of Principles, which declares for the conquest of the powers of government, local and national.
The master class spend huge sums to control local bodies, as these are a sub-division of the government of capitalism. It is important for the masters to control these councils, etc., and therefore it is equally important to dislodge the capitalists from power wherever they control.
The waging of the class struggle involves the conquest by the workers of the institutions of control, and hence Socialists must fight for conquest of local and national machinery of government. We do not take part in municipal elections to administer capitalism, but to advance the, interests of Socialism. The Socialist Party municipal election address tells the workers how little could be gained in improvements while capitalism lasts, and therefore in local as well as national elections we ask for votes from those alone who realise that the abolition of the present system and replacement by Socialism is the only hope of the working class. Socialists if elected to municipal bodies would use them as vantage points in the class struggle and to sound the message of Socialism to the unconverted workers.
(2) WHAT IS OUR OPPOSITION TO THE S.L.P.?
The answer is contained in our Party Manifesto, and in many articles in the Socialist Standard during the years when the S.L.P. was an active body. Our opposition to the S.L.P. may be summarised thus : (1) Their lack of understanding of the class struggle shown by their reliance on industrial action as the workers’ remedy. (2) Their muddle-headed and continually changing views on fundamental points of policy, such as war, soviets, unity stunts, etc. (3) Lacking sound views on Socialist policy, they have simply followed the ups and downs of the American S.L.P., and are not evidently able to take up a consistent and firmly grounded Socialist position.
(3) WHAT ABOUT TAKING THE OATH OF ALLEGIANCE IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS?
The answer to that question is implied in the Socialist need for getting political control. If we are to refuse to take oaths, then there is no chance for controlling parliament. The questioner does not fully realise the implications of the class struggle. Socialists are not simply waging war against detail grievances in the system. They are fighting against the system as a whole. As political action is necessary to workers’ triumph, Socialists cannot stop at taking: oaths imposed upon them by the ruling class. There is nothing revolutionary in fighting against oaths, and by concentrating the electorates’ attention on the oath, Socialism is left aside as the issue. Republicans and Atheists like Bradlaugh can refuse to take oaths, although they are bitter anti-Socialists.
The taking of oaths imposed by ruling classes has never prevented them being ignored when interest dictated it. The English Revolution of the 17th century was carried through in Parliament by men who took oaths to Kings they beheaded or drove from the throne.
Constitutionalists in Russia took oaths to the Czar and his Government in several Dumas, but that did not prevent them from breaking their oaths when opportunity presented itself, and so abolishing the Czar’s rule. In times of revolution in every country oaths have been broken by those who have been compelled to swear allegiance to the ruling power of the time. If Socialists are to keep out of Parliament because of formal matters of procedure, then the ruling class can keep on imposing conditions which they think you will refuse.
Our correspondent’s idea is that the propaganda value of refusing to take the Oath would be great. Possibly he is correct in this. But it would not be propaganda for Socialism or for the working class. It would be propaganda against the oath, and would not rouse or involve a class issue.
It would appeal to reformers, anti-monarchists, anarchists, and atheists, etc., people generally who are busy fighting effects or dealing with one aspect of capitalism.
THE EDITORIAL COMMITTEE
(Socialist Standard, October 1924)