Must the Workers Control Parliament?
In the July issue of the Commune, Mr. Guy Aldred devotes some space to a criticism of the Socialist policy of gaining control of Parliament. He takes a number of passages from the report on the debate with Mr. Maxton (published in the June “S.S.”) and appends his comments. He quotes correctly enough the statement that the “armed forces are provided for annually by Parliament,” and then devotes a paragraph to “proving” that “Parliament does not provide the armed forces by annual voting.” By the substitution of the word “provide” in place of “provide for,” he is able to disprove something which we did not say. It is true that Parliament does not vote each year an Act to sanction the existence of an armed force. What it does have to do each year is to pass the Army (Annual) Act without which the maintenance of discipline would become impossible, and it has to vote each year the monies needed for the upkeep of those armed forces. If Parliament did not pass the Army Act and vote supplies, the armed forces would cease to exist.
He admits the correctness of the statement that “those who control Parliament control the armed forces,” but adds the comment that the Capitalists “are the controllers of Parliament because they are the owners of surplus-value.” This is simply not true. Capitalist candidates are placed in control of Parliament (as Mr. Aldred admits) by working-class votes, and the Capitalist class do not exercise, and have no means of exercising compulsion on the workers to make them vote for Capitalism. Unfortunately, the workers vote for Capitalist candidates from choice.
Mr. Aldred’s statement that “every person who is elected to Parliament and participates in its work is an agent of Capitalism” requires some explanation.
What does he mean by “participates in its work”? Socialist candidates will be elected to Parliament to use it for the purpose of instituting Socialism.
Mr. Aldred denies that it is necessary for the workers to obtain control of the political machinery in order to establish Socialism, but beyond an unsupported assertion that it is contrary to the “common sense of the working-class experience” and to the materialist conception of history, he avoids giving any reason why control of the political machinery will not serve the purpose of a Socialist Party. As the working-class have never attempted to use Parliament for the purpose of establishing Socialism, it would be interesting to know of what experience Mr. Aldred is thinking.
After roundly condemning the Socialist Party (among other things, Mr. Aldred makes the lying statement that we advocate “the Nationalisation” of the I.L.P., under which the wage-labourer remains a wage-labourer”) he goes onto offer to support our candidates at election provided they pledge themselves “to challenge the oath of allegiance.” So Mr. Aldred can swallow the “Nationalisation of the I.L.P.,” provided the pill is sugared with a meaningless pledge to challenge the oath of allegiance. Mr. Aldred’s place would appear to be in the I.L.P.