1960s >> 1969 >> no-781-september-1969

Revolution not reform

On all sides the corruption and futility of the capitalist social system is exposed. In Vietnam, Nigeria, and the Middle East there are wars which draw out in a consuming agony and defy all the efforts of politicians and diplomats to end them. On one hand we hear of wealth being destroyed because there is no immediate market for its sale, and of resources being lavished on moon flights. On the other we know that one half of the world’s people goes to bed hungry each night. Even in those countries which are under no present threat of war or starvation the people are oppressed by a constant grind of poverty; harassed by insecurity, by bad housing, by the ever-increasing pace and intensity of exploitation.

Plans and promises

In the United States, for example, which claims to be the most advanced of all capitalist states, there is desperate want and the running sores of ghetto life inevitably produce a crime rate which is mounting as fast as any rocket to the moon. In Russia, which claims to have undergone a revolution for Socialism, we know that there is a massive and oppressive police machine bolstering the position of a privileged class and a mighty military organisation which has it in its powers to wipe out much of civilised life on the earth.

Wherever we look, we see politicians of all parties struggling in the toils of their own impotence in face of the anarchy and conflicts of capitalism. When a party is out of power it produces a mass of plans and promises, all of them professing to lead to the solution of the problems of a country, if not indeed of the world. But if that same party wins power it is a different story. The plans are seen as puny flutterings against the almighty power of capitalism’s innate disorder, the promises exposed as meaningless mouthings designed to nurture ignorance and capture votes.

We have seen this happen in America, where the working class have turned, in revulsion at the enduring monuments of corruption and dispute left by the Johnson administration, to the Republicans — whose reputation for honesty and for keeping their promises is no better than that of the Democrats. We have seen it in Britain, where the latest experiment in Labour government bids fair to outdo all its predecessors for cynicism and disaster.

We are seeing this all over the world today and we have seen it many times, in many places, before. The lesson is clear. Reformism is reactionary and futile. Revolution alone provides the answer to society’s ailments. Only a revolutionary party can point the way to a freer, saner, more abundant society.

What, then, is a revolutionary to do? The first essential is that he should be aware; he must sharpen, and keep sharp, his revolutionary knowledge and conceptions of society. He must clearly understand that the problems of capitalism spring directly from the system’s basis and can be eliminated only by fundamentally changing that basis — in other words by ending capitalism and replacing it with Socialism. The revolutionary must aim, without wavering or compromise, at this fundamental social change. He must not opt for anything less than Socialism, nor accept any postponement of the revolution in favour of tinkering with capitalism now. His watchword must always be — Revolution, not reform.

Talents united

Next, the revolutionary must be organised. By himself he can do valuable work propagating the case for Socialism but in unity with other socialists his strength is disproportionately increased. his voice more powerful, the resources at his command more extensive. An organisation can hold propaganda meetings, prepare and publish literature, publicise the case for Socialism. It can unite many talents and experiences under a single banner and use them to maximum effect. It can perform the vital task of tangibly proclaim ing the existence of the revolutionary idea, the idea that there is a lasting alternative to the bestiality and degradation of capitalism.

But even more important, an organisation can aim at something beyond the scope of any individual, no matter how fervent and determined he may be. An organisation can be the political weapon which a socialist working class will wield to take power to refashion society in the interests of the entire human race.

The road to Socialism is political; if the working class aim at less than political power — if they aim at industrial takeover or armed insurrection or sabotage — then they will provoke the might of the capitalist state. That might must be controlled and this can be done only by taking away the capitalists’ political power. For this, socialists must be united in political organisation.

But of course it is not simply one nation’s state machine we must aim at. Socialism is worldwide, which means that the socialist party must be international. At present we exist in an organised fashion in Austria, America, Australasia, Great Britain and there are other groups of socialists in the West Indies, Scandinavia. and so on. We are all linked by our common political consciousness and our determination to work for the revolution. The international socialist parties can, by their exchange of ideas and experiences, continually confirm that the malaises of capitalism are international and cannot be cured in one country, or as long as the system lasts.

Workers of the world, unite! We have nothing to lose but our chains — and we have a world to win!