Letters: Socialists and Majority Action
All we can say now is that whatever is decided will be decided democratically, in the light of the fact that socialism cannot be established unless and until a majority want it, and in accordance with the socialist principle that under no circumstances should socialists take on any responsibility for running capitalism.The change-over to the situation you mention where a person elected for a locality would be the mandated delegate of the people of that locality won’t be able to take place until a classless society has been established. This, along with the procedures and practices it implies—report-back meetings, mandating conferences, referendums, right of recall, rotation of posts, etc— will in fact be the basis of the democratic decision-making structure of the new society.
I once considered joining the SPGB but having read your post “election” coverage I’m very glad I didn’t.
First and most obvious, about 37 percent of the possible electors in Holborn & St Pancras saw fit not to bother to vote. In fact more people didn’t vote than voted for the winner, so your 0.4 percent is reduced to 0.2 percent. Your £500 deposit plus expenses would possibly have been better spent on building “socialism” in those areas where people are so disaffected with the system that they don’t bother to vote.
Secondly, I appreciate you will rebuff my first point because you are so totally sold on a “parliamentary road” for socialism. I imagine this is because you take literally what Marx said about capitalism creating the means to its own downfall. You seem to think that parliament was made to do away with capitalism, which would be a laughable slogan if you didn’t take it so seriously. If the ruling classes thought that parliament was the means by which their wealth would be confiscated they’d abolish it. They are after all busy reducing the effectiveness of trade unions so workers can’t make “unreasonable” demands on their wealth.
Thirdly, even if it was possible to elect a majority of SPGB MPs into parliament that wouldn’t mean a majority in the country as anybody who knows anything about electoral reform will know. I also find it hard to see the socialist majority telling the MPs “this is what we want” and then the MPs passing some law telling us to do it.
Fourthly, your naivety concerning parliament. If you only got a minority of SPGB MPs I fear it would be nigh on impossible for them not to sell-out. The logic of parliament demands it. No matter how well-meaning they are, they will end up as “good parliamentarians”.
Fifthly, I was somewhat shocked by the apparent tone of your “Socialists and Parliament” letter reply when you talk of “material forces and events”. Do I take it you rub your hands with glee at the prospect of nuclear war or an ecological disaster so you can ride into Parliament on the back of the discontent? Perhaps we shouldn’t be so keen to close nuclear power stations. Imagine the benefits of one blowing up.
The Natural Law Party may appear to be the work of a “crank cult” but the organisation that backs it, the Transcendental Meditation movement, has all the makings of a mind control cult. In fact advertisements for the “teachings” of the cult are banned from many newspapers because of this, doubtless explaining their keenness to expend money on a national election/advertising campaign.
Also, if you so oppose the “nationalism” of Labour’s “the only strings attached to our politics’’ poster, why do you persist in calling yourselves the Socialist Party of Great Britain. To what do you attribute this “greatness”? Even the fascist BNP doesn’t call itself the “Nationalist Party of Great Britain”.
Lastly, in your open letter to the director general of the BBC (they don’t call themselves great either) you say “we leave it to the good sense of the workers whose ancestors fought for the vote . . . ”. Were not those workers listening to the voice of pointless reformism instead of a “socialist” message?
I didn’t join your party. I became an Anarchist.
There was no need to say you became an anarchist since only an anarchist could dismiss the Chartists’ demand for an extension of the vote to workers as a pointless reform. And hadn’t you noticed that we contested the election under the shortened version of our name? Your misconceptions about the Socialist Party riding into power, passing laws telling people what to do, etc are dealt with in our reply to the previous letter.
We don’t want power; we want the majority to take power into their own hands. This in fact is the aim of the socialist revolution: to bring the means of production under the democratic control of all the people. But if this is the case why not organise just to take over the means of production? Why bother to also organise to win control of parliament and the state? This has been the main difference between us and those anarchists (by no means a majority, by a long way) who agree that common ownership can only come about through the majority organising themselves consciously and democratically.
We favour the socialist majority taking electoral action, as well as organising at their places of work, because we see this as the best way for them to ensure that the socialist revolution proceeds as smoothly and peaceably as possible. To try to ignore the state, whose role today is to uphold and protect capitalist property rights, would be a completely irresponsible policy as this would be to increase rather than minimise the risk of violence.
Given the existence of a socialist majority, the sensible way to proceed would be to use the vote to take the control of parliament out of the hands of the supporters of capitalism, so neutralising the state while at the same time giving the socialist revolution an unchallengeable democratic legitimacy.
You say that if the socialist majority sent mandated delegates into parliament these would inevitably sell out. But why? Unless you subscribe to the so-called “iron law of oligarchy” which says that elected representatives will always sell out, you have to explain why the socialist majority would be able to control the delegates it might send to some such extra-parliamentary body as a congress of workplace committees or a conference of neighbourhood councils (or whatever else it is you see as the alternative to parliament) but not those it sent into parliament. We say that, if they can do it in the one case, they can do it in the other too.