Are we militant?
The SPGB is not and never has been “left-wing”, nor is it “right-wing”; it is revolutionary, and that is something quite different. Its position is unique, being totally opposed to capitalism and all its political adherents including the “left-wing” parties. It is also unique in being the only Party to consistently advocate and work for the establishment of Socialism to the exclusion of everything else. It would be naive to deny that other parties talk about “socialism”, but when you analyse the realities behind their words it is clear that they are no more interested in Socialism in the SPGB’s sense than is the Conservative Party. In fact the most reactionary conservative and the “far left” have more ideologically in common with each other than they have with the revolutionary Socialist. The left acts as a kind of guilty conscience for capitalism, and provides a meeting point for those morally indignant about the effects of capitalism. A kind of safety-valve which always has plenty of steam and hot air to let off.
One of the commonly held ideas of the “left” is the notion that increasing militancy among the workers will lead to a growth in socialist activity, with the eventual overthrow of the capitalists. This is fine as long as the workers are militant about understanding and wanting Socialism. However, the kind of militancy the left has in mind is the kind that does not require Socialist understanding. That is smashing other organizations’ meetings, marching for “the Right to Work”, telling the government what reform legislation it should bring in, latching on to every trade-union dispute whether asked to or not, supporting squatters, student sit-ins and many other activities.
The left can never show how this activity leads to Socialist ideas, but more important, the reality of capitalism shows that after many years of militancy Socialist ideas have not automatically resulted. The point is that so long as workers are only encouraged to think in terms of an immediate problem or demand then they will look no further than that particular problem. And there are always plenty of these immediate problems about, things for which instant answers must be found, the result being that Socialism is forever pushed into the background as an “ultimate objective” whilst “more pressing” things come first. Militancy in itself is no guarantee of growing acceptance of Socialist ideas. Certainly when Socialist ideas spread the workers will be militant, but their militancy will be directed towards the establishment of a new society and not the futile blind alleys of the left.