Letter: Socialists and Reforms
A correspondent (L. Watson) writes asking whether an S.P.G.B. minority of M.P.s in Parliament “would vote for reformist measures giving the working class greater security and better conditions, even though temporary, within capitalism.” He instances the Beveridge Report or a measure to increase old-age pensions.
In order to understand the position of the S.P.G.B. on this question, it must clearly be borne in mind that it is a fundamental principle of the Party that any of its members standing for election would stand solely on the demand for Socialism. Not on any account would votes be solicited on a reform programme.
Our case is not that particular measures are in themselves necessarily harmful or useless, but that “reformism” (the policy of seeking members and votes on a programme of reforms or immediate demands) is useless and harmful in the task of achieving Socialism.
Particular measures (e.g., extension of the franchise, introduction or improvement of the education system) have been decidedly useful to the Socialist task. If we envisage a minority of M.P.s in Parliament elected simply as Socialists, they would take instructions from the Party on the question of voting for a particular measure which clearly was of advantage to the workers or the Socialist movement.
If the issue were a clear one of that kind, no confusion would be caused, and there would be no possibility of voters being misled into thinking that at elections Socialist candidates were soliciting votes on a promise to support or initiate reforms.
At the present time there are no Socialist Party M.P.s in Parliament, and the Party has, therefore, had no occasion to consider particular questions in that connection.
It will be seen, too, that the Beveridge Report, even as it stands, is not a straightforward and simple measure clearly of advantage to the working class (what form any legislative measure may take is also not yet known).
It is very largely concerned with simplifying the administration of insurance from the point of view of the capitalist taxpayer and the capitalist administrative machine.
It is further largely concerned with redistributing the wages of the workers among the workers, and its ultimate effects are, to say the least of it, highly problematical.