1950s >> 1954 >> no-601-september-1954

Our Principles Stand

Just over a hundred years ago, Marx and Engels, commenting on the drastic changes brought about by the Capitalist system of production, stated in the Communist Manifesto:—

   “The bourgeoise during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceeding generations together. Subjection of nature’s forces to man. machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalization of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground—what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?”

Since then this process has been continued at an ever increasing pace, with progressive acceleration during the past fifty years which staggers the imagination.

Even faster and more complex machinery, together with changes in technique, have brought the belt system and mass production, making the day’s toil a nightmare.

Running parallel, but well to the fore, are the powers of destruction. One horror overshadows another. The high explosive and incendiary bombs of ’39 are dwarfed by the Atom bomb of’45. Terrible as was the destructive power of this weapon, it has become insignificant compared with the Hydrogen bomb, making possible mass slaughter on an unpredictable scale.

Keeping pace with these abominations of destruction, and an accessory to them, is the speed of travel. Nothing is spared in human life and wealth in the mad scramble to outpace rivals in speed, an effort directed today primarily to the purpose of slaughter.

This mad world of ever more rapid changes has had its effect, among other things on the fortunes of political parties. Many that flourished fifty or less years ago are gone and almost forgotten. Others, while retaining their original names, have completely changed their character, while a few survivors are but shadows of their former selves.

The stable character of the Socialist Party of Great Britain and its consistent adherence to the principles of Socialism, stands out as an exceptional incident in the political life of this country. This fact is a fitting tribute to the ability of that small body of working men who founded the organisation and drew up its object and declaration of principles.

The clear understanding and unity of purpose which guided their action stands out in every clause of that statement. It draws a clear line of demarcation between the Socialist Party and all other political parties. It stamps the organisation as Marxist, and gives it its scientific basis. The fact that membership of the party has been conditional upon an understanding and agreement with that declaration, explains to a extent its survival through conditions which have and destroyed so many others.

The declaration has proved invaluable as an instrument against opponents, and a sure guide in the settlement of many internal disputes. Time and time again, trained and skilled men in the art of debate have attempted, but failed, to find a weak spot or unsound idea in it. In the conduct of Party affairs it has many times come under severe scrutiny. Often have members set out to improve that declaration, but never have they been able to propose any worth while alteration.

In internal disputes, it has proved its worth. Proposals that have run counter to it have invariably been rejected by a majority of the members, and subsequent experience has always justified their action.
In spite of the many and drastic changes which have taken place during the past fifty years, our D. of P. still stands as a clear, concise and accurate summary of the case for Socialism. This stability is to be explained by a corresponding stable feature in capitalist society, a feature which is present in all capitalist countries, no matter the form of government or degree of development. The condition is the exploitation of the wealth producers under wage slavery.
While capitalism lasts, that exploitation will continue, and until it is ended the Object and Declaration of Principles of the Party, which stem from that exploitation and are directed to its abolition, will remain valid. The problem is the same today as fifty years ago, and will remain the same until Socialism is established. The struggle between the two classes is the natural consequence of that exploitation. In its early stages it takes the form of a struggle over wages and conditions, followed with the growth of understanding, by the struggle to end exploitation.
The way this can be accomplished is dictated by the conditions of Capitalist Society. The private ownership of c die means of life is the condition which enables one class to live by the exploitation of the other. The character of the means of production makes common ownership the only practical method of ending class ownership. As control is an essential part of ownership, and the only way society as a whole can control is by democratic means, we see, therefore, that the Object of the Party is dictated by the conditions of capitalism. That Object is:—

   “The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.”

That is a brief definition of Socialism. It is not a scheme or an invention, but a discovery brought to light by the work of Marx and Engels in their critical examination of capitalism.
The important part the class struggle plays in the Socialist movement is self-evident. Exploitation prompts and generates the effort to secure emancipation, and emancipation to the working class can be nothing but Socialism. Socialism is, therefore, the outcome of the class struggle.
Action in conformity with this struggle, as outlined in our declaration of principles, will bring the working class to the dawn of a new social system, the potentialities of which are unbounded. Not only will it free society from the toils of class and national conflict, but will give the human race a larger measure of choice in the conduct of social affairs than it has ever experienced before.
We must not, however, allow the wonderful prospect of a classless society to blind us to the hard realities of the struggle we must face and conquer before the promised land is ours.
Ted Lake