1980s >> 1981 >> no-927-november-1981
Editorial: Breaking the mould
Much has been heard, from the Liberals and the Social Democrats in recent months, about the need to destroy the “old mould” in British political affairs. Implicit in this is the argument that for too long we have been governed successively by parties representing policies which have repeatedly failed; we must move on now to a new style of politics. Oswald Mosley used to say much the same thing and although it would be wrong to align the Liberals and the SDP with him, Mosley did play on that same despair and disillusionment which afflicts voters when they face the repeated failures of “conventional” parties to tame the crises of capitalism.
The SDP was born on a wave of such despair and its alliance with the Liberals promises to make “new mould” politics one of its main appeals for support. This could be an important issue for some time. So how valid are the claims of the SDP/Liberal Alliance to stand for something new?
One thing, at any rate, which has not changed is the open contempt which capitalist politicians show for the working class. It is impertinent that the likes of Jenkins, Williams and Owen should represent themselves as “new style” leaders. All of them played their full part in the disastrous Labour governments of the 60s and 70s, which relentlessly attacked the working class and which always did as British capitalism demanded. As personalities the Gang of Four are outworn and discredited; neither is there anything new in the squalid battle they are at present engaged in over the leadership of the SDP.
But personalities are of small significance; the working class must be concerned with policies and in this field the SDP/Liberals make no better showing. Their policies are concerned with British capitalism staying in the EEC, having its own nuclear arsenal (although on this there is already much confusion), making British industry more competitive and more profitable — which means more exploitative of its workers. What this amounts to is that the SDP/Liberals, like the Labour and Conservative parties, have a policy for running British capitalism. If they get into power (and how traditionally excited the Liberals were, at their recent conference, when their leader Steel assured them that power is at last in their grasp!) the social system we live under, which represses and degrades us, will remain untouched.
This social system is chaotic and inefficient; it cannot answer to the needs of its people. It condemns tens of millions of human beings every year to a distressing, agonising death through starvation—while tens of millions of productive workers are unemployed and while food is destroyed. It inexorably produces war, and increasingly fearsome weapons, while almost everyone wants peace and disarmament. It deprives the vast majority of people of the results of their labour. As one government after another fails to have any effect on these problems, disillusionment with established political parties grows. The demand for “new mould” politics is, then, understandable—perhaps healthy and progressive.
Radical social change is needed. But this does not mean reshuffling the existing pack of policies and leaders. It means a challenge to the basis of society, instructed by an awareness of the need to get at the root of our problems. It means thinking in terms of fundamental change—of revolution. For the problems of capitalism cannot be separated from their origin—the private property basis of society. They cannot be solved — in fact typically they cannot even be alleviated without reference to that basis.
The conclusion we come to, then, is that the only worthwhile — the only radical — social change is the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by a social system based on common ownership of the means of production and distribution. That society is known as socialism. It will bring a world free of inequality, of poverty, war, hunger, exploitation. It will liberate people to co-operate in the work of society and to take from the common pool of wealth as they need.
Socialism will be set up when the majority of the working class, world wide, have the knowledge which will enable them to make the conscious decision to opt for the new society. With that knowledge they will have no use for leaders; the movement for socialism is one of democracy, of conscious and informed participation.
These are truly the politics of a new mould. Not new in the sense of being young; the ideas of socialism have existed a lot longer than most of the parties of capitalism. They are new in the sense that they are unique, radical — but untried. And how long they remain like that is a matter for the working class, who have no need to endure for a day longer the preposterous deceits of capitalism. The workers must choose; they have nothing to lose but their slavery and a world to win.