1970s >> 1978 >> no-886-june-1978

Editorial: Socialism YES, reformism NO

Throughout its seventy four years of life the Socialist Party of Great Britain has held unswervingly to one object — the establishment of a social system based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of producing and distributing wealth. Alone, we have stood for a social revolution to overturn capitalist society and replace it with socialism.

During this time we have often been invited to divert from our object, or to postpone its achievement in favour of doing something immediately about the problems of capitalism. For example, when there has been a slump we have been urged to forget socialism and campaign for a reduction in unemployment, or an increase in dole money, or something similar.

During the two world wars we have experienced we have been advised — if that is the correct way to describe the persecution our members endured because of their opposition to capitalism’s wars — to join the fight on our masters’ side, to become, in other words, anti-socialist, on the argument that democracy or something called the British way of life was at stake.

We have been under pressure to support Labour governments as the lesser of the Labour/Tory evil; to join marches against fascism (whatever that may mean at any particular time), to demonstrate against some laws and in favour of others. And always, we have been told, the issue was so vital that it justified our giving it priority over our declared object of socialism.

It is ironic that our refusal to take part in these activities has been abundantly justified by the fact that, after all this time, there is still an apparent demand for them; none of the problems they profess to ease has been dealt with. Each day and every day we are made aware of campaigns against some social ill of capitalism. Workers still need to fight to protect their living standards; there are still numerous movements against war, or against its more horrific weapons like the neutron bomb. And still, even after the anti-working class records of the governments of Attlee and Wilson and Callaghan, socialists are told that there is some advantage in splitting the hairs between the evils of Labour and Conservative rule over British capitalism.

No good reason has ever been advanced to support a preference for the style of poverty the working class endure under Callaghan to that they would suffer under Thatcher. And when we add that, in making such a choice the workers are throwing away the power they hold, to build a world of freedom and abundance, the argument can be seen for the madness that it is.

It is continually necessary to state our fundamentals. Socialism will end the problems which are inescapable under capitalism. Diverting our efforts from struggling for socialism does not ameliorate the problem — it ensures their continuation.

Socialism can be established only by a world wide majority of workers who consciously opt for it, in full knowledge of what it is and how it will provide a society basically different from capitalism. A socialist party, then, must work to increase working class consciousness; to advocate something other than socialism, some stop gap or diversionary idea would be to spread confusion and delay the setting up of socialism.

That is why we have always opposed the political doctrine of reformism; we have refused to campaign for anything other than socialism and all our propaganda has been directed to building up an understanding and an acceptance of the case for the new society.

Our numbers are small but that is no measure of the correctness of our case. It only proves how seductive is the appeal of the numerous campaigns of reformism. But reality is on our side; the facts support us in our insistence that the only effective campaign must be a single minded one for socialism.