1980s >> 1982 >> no-932-april-1982

Editorial: Elections and Revolution

At local election time voters are asked to pay the price for their political gullibility. “Vote for us” cry the defenders of the profit system: “Send us to the council chamber and we will make the district a pleasant place to live in”. Most workers don’t bother to vote in local elections. Hand-outs are thrown away by the pestered electorate as casually as the promises within them will be case aside by the winning party. Workers are right to be cynical about the parties of capitalism: what have they ever done for us?

The real issue in this election, as in all others, is not which leader to choose or which policies to enact. The workings of capitalism are not susceptible to the manipulation of local government. Whoever gets in, profits still come before human needs.

The real issue is which social system we want to live under: capitalism or socialism? None of the manifestos will say anything about the system. The politicians will not make speeches saying “Vote for us so that we can run capitalism—we stand firmly for a system of class division and legalised exploitation a vote for us is a vote to continue the same old problems”. Well, they wouldn’t say that, would they? But in effect, that is precisely what they mean.

Elections are never about the real issue. Petty, reformist trivialities are presented as if they’re what it’s all about. Grown up people get excited about rates, rents and rosettes while tinny loudspeaker vans amplify rusty policies from the mouths of shady politicians. Nobody mentions The System—but that is what the whole performance is about.

When socialists arrive on the election scene and talk about the real issue—real socialists, not reformist Labourites—the defenders of capitalism become terribly embarrassed: Labourites go red in the face, Tories go blue in the face and SDPers break their moulds. But there is no escaping it—the real electoral issue is whether we are to live in a competitive, class-divided society or whether we are
commonly to own and democratically control the resources of the world. The choice is yours.

We agree: it is easier said than done. Making a social revolution takes a bit more than “breaking the mould”. How, then, are we to enact this great change? The first step is to want it. There can be no socialism unless people want it. Do you want a society where food is produced solely to be eaten, houses solely to live in, clothes solely to wear? Do you want to get rid of the buying and selling system where we can only obtain what we want if there is a profit in it for the capitalists?

The Left often argues among itself but claims a fundamentally different outlook on life and way of running society from the Right. However, if we look at the opposing teams of Left and Right in action, we find that:

  •  Labour and Conservative governments always promise sweeping improvements, but both break their promises and practise virtually identical policies leading to wage “restraint”, job insecurity, unemployment and general dissatisfaction.
  • The Communist Party, the Socialist Workers Party and the Workers Revolutionary Party are bitterly hostile to the National Front. Yet, like the extreme Right, they go in for physical violence to muzzle opponents with “unacceptable” views and often support regimes abroad which deny opponents freedom of speech. Both sides have contempt for democracy. Both sides want to set themselves up as leaders.
  • The state capitalism of Russia and China is basically the same as the private capitalism of Chile and South Africa. In all these countries political opposition is regarded as deviance and liable to punishment in prison, psychiatric hospital or concentration camp. In all of them a small elite holds power of life and death over the vast majority.

So we see that in reality the policies of Right and Left are often strikingly similar. The difference is the way these policies are dressed up.

There are quite a few people who prefer the idea of production for need to the idea of production for profit. We want socialism: but wishful thinking will not make a revolution. Capitalism survives because of mass consent. So what would happen if there was mass dissent—if a majority of the working class (which is itself a majority of humanity) withdrew its support from capitalism? The system cannot continue without our acquiescence.

Mass dissent or majority socialist consciousness—call it what you like—does not appear by magic. Most people accept the capitalist system because they are used to it. Workers believe that capitalism has always existed and always will. The job of socialists is to show that capitalism is just a temporary stage in human evolution. There is an alternative.

Once a majority understand and want socialism, what must they do? They must do the opposite of what they do to support capitalism. Instead of electing leaders to run capitalism they must elect socialist delegates who will carry out their political will. Once socialists get into the council chambers and the parliaments of the world they will have one act to perform: the expropriation of the capitalist class and the transfer of the means of wealth production and distribution to the whole community. That is the sole aim of socialists; that is the real electoral issue.

If you vote Labour, Tory, SDP, Liberal or for any of the other pro-capitalist parties in the May elections you are acting as an opponent of socialism. Any political promise or demand less than socialist revolution is worthy of the hostility of the working class. If you are a socialist, write “WORLD SOCIALISM—SPGB” on your ballot paper. At election time, this is the revolutionary socialist message