What would the S.P.G.B. Do If …?
A reader sends us the following question: —
In the event of a sudden acceleration of the revolutionary spirit among the masses leading to a strengthening of the Communist Party of Great Britain at a period of capitalist disunion, and the subsequent outbreak of armed revolt, where exactly would the counsels of the S.P.G.B. lead its adherents—to the barricades, in support of the workers’ struggle for emancipation; to the “orange box,” to prove from dialectical Marxism that it can’t be done that way; or to the arm-chairs of the debating room, there to study and collate “contemporary history”?
Our correspondent has got himself beautifully tangled up through not making clear to himself what he means by the terms he uses. What, for example, is the meaning we are expected to give to the term “revolutionary spirit”? If it means a sound understanding of the social problem plus a determination to achieve a social revolution by the only possible means, the capture of political power, then an acceleration of the revolutionary spirit, sudden or otherwise, will not lead to a strengthening of the Communist Party, but to a strengthening of the S.P.G.B. As, however, that will not be followed by idiotic attempts at armed revolt the rest of the hypothesis does not arise and need not be answered.
If by “revolutionary spirit” our correspondent means (as no doubt he does) an outburst of “violent reformism,” then it may lead to a strengthening of the Communist Party, or the I.L.P., or the Fascist organisations or any number of other reformist organisations prepared to play the silly game of “direct action,” “ armed revolt,” and so on.
If such a reformist body were able (like Hitler) to rally sufficient reformists to its support, then the administration of capitalism would pass from one set of capitalist politicians to another —and capitalism would be in for another lease of relatively stable life.
If the violent reformists were a minority and attempted armed revolt against those who control the political machinery and the armed forces, then they would get what such people always get —sharp, brutal and bloody suppression.
As such an attempt would be foredoomed to failure and in any event would not be a “struggle for emancipation,” but a struggle for reforms, the S.P.G.B. would oppose it in its entirety. The S.P.G.B. has no leaders and no followers, and would not therefore be offering to lead anyone anywhere. Its members being Socialists and knowing that “it can’t be done that way,” would naturally go on saying so. We can conceive of no better service to the workers than to tell them in and out of season to beware of the silly sentimentalist or dangerous lunatic who advocates armed revolt and urges the workers to pit their unarmed defencelessness against the armed might of the capitalist State.
(Socialist Standard, May 1933)