Parliament and the Constitution

“What would the SPGB do in the event of them obtaining a majority in Parliament and Parliament was suspended by Royal decree or some other such trick by the Capitalist class?”

Our correspondent asks us to deal with the hypothetical situation of a capitalist minority attempting to suspend Parliament after they had allowed an election to be held in which Socialists obtained a majority of seats. If the capitalists were so obliging as to wait until after the election before making the attempt to suspend Parliament, they would, of course, be weakening their own position and strengthening that of the Socialist majority. In our reply we have assumed the less improbable situation of the capitalist minority making their attempt without waiting for elections to take place which would demonstrate their (the capitalists’) minority position. If we assume the other hypothesis, then the position of the Socialist majority would be even stronger than we have stated it to be.

This question has often been answered in the SOCIALIST STANDARD. In essence, it boils down to this: “Can a capitalist minority which happens to have control of the machinery of Government continue indefinitely to govern and make capitalism function, in the face of the organised opposition of a majority of Socialists?” If that were possible, then, it would be a sheer waste of time to consider Socialism at all or the method of achieving it.

However, it is not possible for a minority to maintain its hold in those circumstances. Faced with the hostility of a majority of workers (including, of course, workers in the civil and armed forces, as well as workers in productive and distributive occupations), the capitalist minority would be unable, in the long run, to enforce its commands and the workers would be able to dislocate production and transport. In such circumstances the capitalists would themselves de divided. Not all of them would be disposed to provoke chaotic conditions in an heroic last-ditch struggle.

A look at the way in which governments do behave in face of a hostile majority under existing conditions will show how impossible it is for any minority to retain cohesion and to act decisively when it is conscious of being actively opposed by the majority.

A few years ago, for example, the King of Spain and his immediate supporters, in spite of having organised a so-called military dictatorship, lost their nerve and fled the country merely because some municipal elections had gone against their candidates.

In Russia, in 1917, we saw Kerensky throw in the sponge as soon as he saw the Bolsheviks voted into control of the chief Soviets.

We invite our correspondent to name a single instance of a capitalist minority managing to maintain its hold on the machinery of Government for any length of time in face of the organised and united opposition of a majority of the population. We know of no such instance.

We would then ask him to consider how much more clear and certain the outcome would be if the organised and united opposition is composed of convinced Socialists who have gained their majority in face of a long drawn-out struggle with all the defenders of capitalism. So far, of course, such a majority of Socialists has not existed at any time or in any country.

(Socialist Standard, November 1933)

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