1960s >> 1963 >> no-706-june-1963

Letter: CND and SPGB

Letter to the Editors

You claim in your April issue that CND’s main fault lies in the fact that its members “are concerned with removing evils in isolation”. I am pleased to tell you that the rank and file of the Campaign, unlike the “respectable” CND bureaucracy, seems to be in the process of realising more and more that nuclear weapons cannot be separated from politics and the fight for socialism. The folly of viewing the H-bomb as an isolated issue will, I am sure, be demonstrated finally in the overwhelming defeat of INDEC’s candidate at Twickenham. The identity of war with capitalism has long been clear to those who are both CND supporters and members of the Socialist wing of the Labour Party. I know that the SPGB has little time for the Labour Party, and I imagine that you will consider it against your interests to publish a letter from somebody who favours membership of that organisation, but the fact remains that there are socialists in the Labour Party whose ideals are precisely the same as your own. Personally I think that this country will become socialist by the Labour Party becoming socialist, which seems far more likely than the SPGB forming the Government.

Although the reforms of a Labour Government will not, of course, bring socialism, nor will grinding the workers down, or starving them, one can fight for alleviation of the most immediate and harmful social problems, such as unemployment or the threat of nuclear war, yet still have socialism as one’s long term goal. I hope you will not deny that the working class will be better off under a Labour Government even though capitalist society remains, and in the particular fight against nuclear weapons, which are the greatest danger to the human race, socialists in the Labour Party are able to enlist the help of many left-reformists, I fear that if we must wait for the SPGB to come to power and for Britain to become socialist before we can disarm, then there is every likelihood of our destruction. If you print this letter I shall be interested to read your answer.

Richard D. Condon

ExeterCollege, Oxford.



This is not the first – nor will it be the last – time we have heard the complaint that an organisation’s rank and file are sincere, convinced socialists who are being frustrated by reactionary, “respectable” leaders (although it is interesting to hear this from a member of CND, which was once supposed to the non-respectable organisation!) But if there are so many socialists in CND, why are their convictions never reflected by their leadership? Why, indeed, do they have leaders at all? It is one of the hallmarks of a socialist that he rejects leadership.

Mr. Condon can make what he likes of the big defeat which seems to be the prospect of the INDEC candidate at Twickenham. In fact any such candidate will fail simply because the working class continue to oppose the policies of CND; they still want British capitalism to have the most powerful armaments it can get. CND’s lack of electoral appeal is most clearly acknowledged by the many Labour MPs who, although they support the Campaign, do not risk losing their seats by standing as pure unilateralist candidates.

If there are members of the Labour Party whose “ideals are precisely the same” as ours, why are they not members of the SPGB? Why do they remain in a party which is committed to running British capitalism? Mr. Condon does not think that the Labour Party will get socialism by reforms; but they have nothing else to offer apart from reforms, all of which leave capitalism intact and viable.

It is true that starving people are no more likely to be interested in Socialism than are the well fed. Mr. Condon uses this as a justification for a policy of reforms. Yet the facts say that reforms do nothing to alleviate the problems of capitalism. Despite all the reformers’ efforts, problems like poverty, unemployment and war are still clouds over our lives. World Refugee Year, for example, was an attempt to reform the refugee problem. But at the end of that year there were more refugees in the world than there had been at the beginning. It will be interesting to see what effect the current Freedom from Hunger Campaign has on the level of malnutrition and starvation in the world.

In fact, the only effective reform would be to abolish capitalism altogether. To compromise on this – to support reforms while professing Socialism as a “long term goal” – is to support capitalism and therefore to cease to be a Socialist.

Will the working class be better off under a Labour Government? The last Labour administration persistently fought the working class on the issue of wages and did their best to hold wages down. They ruthlessly crushed strikes. They unhesitatingly went into the Korean War. They started making the nuclear armaments which Mr. Condon now wants to ban.

Perhaps Socialism is a long way off. What is certain is they it will not be helped by people like Mr. Condon, who support capitalist organisations like CND and the Labour Party. These organisations have spread an enormous load of confusion about Socialism among the working class. Mr. Condon is himself confused; he talks about “the SPGB forming the government” and about waiting for “the SPGB to come to power” and “for Britain to become Socialist”. Socialism will not happen just in Britain or any other one part of the world; it will be an international social system. And it will not have governments and state machines and all the other coercive organs of capitalism. Thus the SPGB will never come to power, never form a government. When Socialism is established we shall cease to exist as a political party.

One final point. We are pleased to receive, and to publish, Mr. Condon’s letter. We welcome criticism and discussion of the case of Socialism from all our opponents. We hope that many more of them will write to us.


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