1970s >> 1977 >> no-873-may-1977

How we shall get Socialism

Mr. Speaker! Do you seriously believe that your little party, just a few hundred, talking to this crowd in Hyde Park every Sunday, can bring about Socialism? And if it could, do you really imagine that the capitalists with the army, police etc. would allow you to do so?

 

Short answer : NO! we do not think that our small party will establish Socialism: the working class will — and YES! the capitalist class cannot prevent the working class establishing Socialism.

 

Long answer (explanation): The careful reader will observe that the question (or questions) contain a contradiction. If the small Socialist Party is the only threat to capitalism, the capitalists have nothing to worry about. But the questioner, having pre-supposed that the workers will never become Socialists, in the next breath is predicting what the capitalists will do when they have. Questioners and opponents frequently put questions in this mixed-up way.

 

Now the first question. To establish Socialism the majority of the electorate (who happen to be workers) have got to become Socialists. If they don’t, capitalism continues. If there is one lesson the last hundred years has taught it is, above all, that no “seizure of power”, “blind revolt” or General Strike can abolish capitalism.

 

The majority have got to break with social reform. This, for many workers, is quite difficult. The pioneers of Socialism, including Marx and Engels, could have had little idea of the potency of modern “social security”, which siphons off much working-class discontent and seriously retards the growth of class-consciousness. In spite of this, the fact remains that capitalism is a revolutionizing system: compelled by its very nature to organize, train and educate a revolutionary working class.

 

It is not true that rebellion only proceeds from destitution. On the contrary, Vance Packard in The Hidden Persuaders quotes a professor of sociology, Bernice Allen: “We have no proof that more material goods (cars, washing machines) has made anyone happier — in fact the evidence seems to point in the opposite direction’. In some cases, the more “prosperous” workers become, the more dissatisfied they are. In trying to buy off discontent the capitalist class is on a slippery slope with no return. In 1930 Franklin D. Roosevelt told the New York Bankers Guild: “We’ve got to give them bigger crumbs — to stop them taking over the table”.

 

How long it will take the workers in their millions to see through the reformist racket is impossible to say — except that, small though we may be, it partly depends on us. As with any idea, it has to be explained. Sheer disenchantment of itself leads nowhere but to smashing windows, rioting etc. Discontent is the rich soil of Socialist propaganda, but without the seed of Socialist theory — no new world will bloom.

 

It is the Socialist who provides the catalyst. It is the Socialist who makes precise the vision of a future society, to turn mere rebels into conscious revolutionaries. The Socialist transforms the miserable degrading requests of Claimants Unions for a few more pennies, or of trade unions for longer tea-breaks, into the dazzling vista of a new world. It is the Socialist who raises mere destruction of the old into construction of the new.

 

For the Socialist, whether many or few are immediately espousing the cause does not absolve him from the duty to put forward his proposition. The mere raising of it elevates public discussion above the saloon-bar level at which so many self-styled “experts” pitch their fallacious nostrums. “Whether we like it or not — and most of us don’t — recent events have forced us to take some interest in economics” said the Radio Times recently. Exactly! We think Socialist economics provides the answers, and to evade the responsibility of explaining it to our fellow-workers would be criminal.

 

Even so, this is no mere academic exercise but a matter of life and death — Socialist life or capitalist death. What the questioner does not grasp is the urgency of Socialism: without it, the crises and calamities of capitalism will continue inexorably.

 

As for the second part of the question: the colossal preponderance of the working class numerically today — its immense technical knowhow — and the operation of sophisticated modern productive processes — make the idea of attempts by rebellious capitalists ludicrous. What about the armed forces? They are 90 per cent. working class.

 

Next question!

 

Horatio.