Editorial: A choice worth the name

When Callaghan eventually calls a general election the vast majority of workers will accept that, in casting their votes between the Labour, Conservative, Liberal or other parties, they are exercising a choice. They will be encouraged in this belief by the propaganda of those parties, all of which will be directed at convincing people that there are vital, fundamental differences and that the choice the voters make between them will effect a significant change in our lives.

Nobody who has lived through, say, the last fifteen years with their sensory organs operating at anywhere near efficiency, could accept such an idea. To state the facts briefly, there has not been a scrap of difference worth bothering about between working class life under Labour and working class life under the Conservatives. And there is no reason to believe that Liberal rule, if that were ever to return to this country, would be otherwise.

It is, regrettably, too often the presented images of the parties of capitalism which engage the voters rather than the reality. The Conservatives offer themselves as the party of business, who will run British capitalism like a big industrial concern. They argue the case for the profit motive and for commodity production as the sanest, most efficient method of operating society. It is not necessary to be a socialist, nor to understand the economics of capitalism, to realise from experience that commodity production results in cut-price, shoddy goods, that it restricts production, hampers human efficiency and makes for starvation in the midst of plenty. It also produces a divided world—divided into competing firms, nations, power blocs and in a wider sense, into two classes whose interests are irreconcilable. Capitalism is a dangerous world to live in, with its wars and its ever-intensifying means of destruction. The Tories stand, with no ifs or buts, for that world.

Alongside them stands the Labour Party, which has always claimed to be the party of change. After some seventy years of planning to keep capitalism basically the same — and even sometimes adding some unpleasant extras — Labour can still demonstrate its ability to deceive voters into thinking that they represent change. Again, it does not need great powers of perception to be able to reject this notion. For almost half the time since 1945 British capitalism has been under Labour government and it remains the same unmanageable, insecure, crisis-ridden, divided society that it has always been. Labour calls itself an internationalist party yet it works — like the Tories — to promote the exclusive interests of the British capitalist class; on occasions it will actually admit to being patriotic. Labour has claimed to be reformist, the problem-solvers, yet experience of their periods of rule has been one of crises, a continual pressure upon working class living standards and, in their tawdry concern to grub up as many votes as they can, of racist immigration laws. After years of Labour rule, capitalism remains.

The Liberals, too, claim to be different but in truth the only difference they have is in the fact that their remoteness from power enables them to make more extravagant promises than the rest. Since 1970 the Liberals, by their readiness to enter alliances to keep either Labour or Conservative parties in office, have shown that they have no superiors in the arts of opportunist politics. Their pact with Labour has associated them with that party’s latest failure to make capitalism run smoothly — which can do the Liberals no good when it comes to a general election.

What it amounts to is that there is no relief from capitalism — its poverty, its divisiveness, its crises — in Labour or Tory or Liberal rule. Each of these is no more than a slight variation on the same basic theme. None of them offers a genuine choice and there is no reason for workers to concern themselves with preferring one before the other.

The real alternative to capitalism is a new society — one that will be basically different because it works from common ownership of the means of production and distribution and from the production of wealth for use instead of for sale. That society is called socialism. It will be a society in which there are no divided economic interests and therefore no classes. Because wealth will be freely available in socialism there will be no exchange of it — and therefore no means of exchange such as money.

The production of use values will entail society turning out its wealth to the one, unvarying grade of the best we are capable of. Socialism will be a world without artificial, economically inspired restrictions upon production. It will be a world of abundance, an efficient society in which human beings co-operate for the common good. And all of this will mean that socialism will be a democratic society, in which the world’s people are, for the first time, free.

This is the real choice for any worker who is sickened by the sordid, hopeless world of capitalism and the cynicism of its political parties. The act of achieving Socialism must be a political one, by a conscious working class all over the world. Only a socialist party — one standing for the revolution for common ownership—can be part of the act and in this country that means only the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

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