1930s >> 1937 >> no-390-february-1937

Letter: Is Socialism Possible?

The following letter was received before the abdication of Edward VIII but has been held up owing to pressure on space.


November 8th, 1936.


To the Chairman and Members of the Editorial Committee, The Socialist Standard,


42, Great Dover Street, S.E.l.


In your current (November) issue you quote from an article in The Daily Telegraph, of October, 19th, that a snatched victory at the polls would be utterly useless for the purpose of achieving Socialism, because the whole of the forces of capitalism, including the Crown, would successfully repel any such bluff.


With that statement of position you express your agreement, but, unless I am mistaken, within your expression of agreement lies the implication that if a victory at the polls were not a snatched victory, such victory would be quite good enough for the effectuation of Socialism


But is there one solitary Englishman who believes that to be the case ?


Real Socialism never can or will be achieved in this country for the very simple reason that Article 6 of the S.P.G.B.’s Principles of Socialism is no more a practical possibility in this country than it has proved to be in Spain. In fact, the position in this country is worse than it has proved to be in Spain, for to this country’s armed forces can be added the police forces, the aristocracisation of which (commenced under Trenchard) can quite certainly be taken as a deliberate policy of leaving any Socialist government nothing to fight with but words.


Any attempt at implementing the S.P.G.B.’s Principles of Socialism in this country would mean civil war. And can there be any questioning who would win it?


Yours fraternally,
P. P. M.




In the November issue we expressed our agreement with a statement made in the Daily Telegraph that the ruling class would be well able to prevent the overthrow of capitalism if it were to be attempted by a group coming into office through a snatched victory at the polls. This has always been the view of the S.P.G.B., and the various Labour and Popular Front Governments, led by men who professed to desire Socialism, have proved our view to be correct. The idea that a Labour Government, elected on a programme of pettifogging reforms and vague promises to introduce the millennium, could seriously menace capitalism is a matter for laughter. Most people recognise this to be true now that they have seen Labour Governments at work. The S.P.G.B. did not have to wait for practical examples to discover this for it arises out of the facts of the situation. In the last resort capitalism continues because capitalist parties (including some which masquerade as anti-capitalist) can go on getting the consent of the electorate for the maintenance of capitalism. That condition will continue until a majority understand Socialism, are agreed on fundamental Socialist principles, and are politically organised in the Socialist Party. Then, and only then, will the cunning appeals for the retention of capitalism fall on deaf ears.


We say that a snatched victory at the polls will be useless for Socialism and that much more is required, viz., a politically-organised Socialist majority. Having come into possession of the machinery of government that organised Socialist majority will be able to use the machinery of government, including the armed forces, for the overthrow of capitalism and establishment of Socialism.


To this our correspondent, “P.P.M.,” says no! But he evidently has not stopped to consider what it is the S.P.G.B. advocates, for he proceeds to refer to Spain as if there were some parallel between Spain as it is and England and other countries as they will be before a Socialist electoral victory becomes a possibility. For 34 years the S.P.G.B. has insisted on the need for a Socialist majority united in the Socialist Party. Did this exist in Spain ? So far as we know there was no party in Spain, among a very large number of parties, which advocated Socialism at all. The Spanish population were (and still are) divided into all kinds of antagonistic organisations: Conservative, Fascist, Monarchist, Catholic, Capitalist-Republican, Basque and Catalonian Home Rulers, Syndicalists, Anarchists, Communists, Trotskyists, Labourites, etc.


At the last election these numerous warring sections grouped themselves into three, one of which was the “Popular Front,” which got a majority of seats but received rather less than half the total of votes. The “Popular Front” was composed of at least half-a-dozen separate organisations normally at bitter enmity with each other and none of them Socialist. Did they fight the election asking for a mandate for Socialism? Of course they did not. Their leader, Azana, expressly and repeatedly affirmed his opposition to Socialism. They fought the election on a string of reforms and demands such as the release of political prisoners.


In other words, not one of the conditions which Socialists say are essential before capitalism can be overthrown was in existence in Spain. Yet in face of this our correspondent, “P.P.M.,” says that Spain proves us wrong. What it does is prove that “P.P.M.” has not yet grasped what it is Socialists have been telling the working class all these years.


Let us approach the matter from another angle. “P.P.M.” believes that the small British ruling class will be able to get the armed forces to resist the organised, united demand of a majority of the population after the latter have constitutionally obtained possession of the machinery of government. He assumes, in other words, that the workers in the army, navy, police, etc., although coming in the majority of cases from families of Socialists, will back an unconstitutional movement of armed rebellion. This is so extraordinary an assumption, so contrary to experience and reason, that we must ask for the grounds on which “P.P.M.” reaches his conclusion.


Now that Spain has been disposed of we would also ask ”P.P.M.” to give us a single example of a ruling class in an advanced industrialised country being able successfully to resist the unanimous, united demand of a majority of the population.


There is one other aspect of the matter which needs mention. While it is the job of the worker in each country to organise to obtain control of the machinery of government there, the idea of Socialism in Britain alone in the midst of a capitalist world is illusory. Socialists, therefore, accept the necessity for concerted international action.


In conclusion, we would draw attention to the position occupied by “P.P.M.” of believing that Socialism is impossible, whatever the method used. He writes: ” Real Socialism never can or will be achieved in this country.”


As no sane person can do other than oppose efforts to achieve the impossible, “P.P.M.” writes himself down as an opponent of Socialism.


Editorial Committee