1980s >> 1989 >> no-1013-january-1989

Fashion or principles?

The Socialist Party single-mindedly pursues the establishment of a society freed from the constraints, contradictions and degradations of the market, commodity production and the wages system. Because we are the only political party in this country advocating socialism, we reject any thought of compromise or alliance with other organisations. Neither have we time for opinion polls commissioned to ascertain the level of public support for leaders and their policies.

 

Socialists do not water down their principles in order to trawl in workers who support reform programmes or the anti-democratic doctrines of the Left. Neither do we want advertising agencies or public relations consultants telling us what ought to be in our election manifestos or Party statements. When our candidates stand at local or parliamentary elections they are not first sent to image advisers to polish their style. Instead, we insist on workers attaining class-consciousness through argument, persuasion and their own experience, to the point where they understand capitalism and the need to abolish it altogether.

 

If, as a result, we are considered unfashionable and detached from the politics of “revolution” as understood by the Left, then so be it. We stand or fall on our insistence that democratic means must be in line with democratic ends. The politics of reform and compromise have left a trail of bitter failure throughout the twentieth century, with numerous and now largely forgotten casualties buried unceremoniously along the way.

 

Democratic method and clear objective have shaped the socialist movement, singling it out from these who use the word “socialism” to wrap up their own particular anti-working class policies. In 1917 we did not abandon our adherence to democracy and parliamentary action when all around us Leninists were crying “All power to the Soviets”; and during the Second World War we viewed the conflict as one involving the sectional interests of the world capitalist class and did not fall, as other parties did, for the rhetoric of fighting for “freedom and democracy”

 

The same consistency applies today. We reject the current fashion, spearheaded by the Labour Party, of describing the working class as “working people or consumers”. as if “class” were an outdated concept with little or no bearing on the economic and political reality of contemporary capitalism. Politicians and journalists don’t like to use the word because it spoils their portrayal of Britain as a united nation in which all interests are one and the same. But to socialists, “class” accurately defines a person’s relation to the means of wealth production and distribution, bringing out the divisive nature of capitalism and the irreconcilable differences between capital and labour.

 

Class and the class struggle are not ideological constructs but concrete reality; changing words does not change society. The Labour Party needs to use the term “working people” in their desperate search for votes – but that’s their problem, not ours We only ever want votes from class conscious socialists, for the purpose of organising to capture political power and introduce socialism. This means that the question of fashion or principles is an important one, for it is ultimately about the retention of capitalism or its abolition.

 

Richard Lloyd