SWP Contradictions (1)
“The Labour Party is drenched in the blood of ordinary workers in the Middle East, slaughtered for imperialist rule.” SWP “Marxism ’91” Programme
The Labour Party, says the SWP, stands for capitalism; if elected it will attack the workers and serve the bosses; Kinnock and the other Labour leaders have blood on their hands for supporting the Gulf War. All very true. So we shouldn’t vote Labour? No, no, no, says the SWP, you should vote Labour—and at the next election, as in previous ones, they will produce posters calling on workers to vote for all Labour candidates, including Kinnock, Kaufman and the other war-supporters. Why?
The SWP’s facing-both-ways attitude to the Labour Party arises from their contempt for the intellectual abilities of most of the working class. As Leninists and Trotskyists, they think that only a minority can come to acquire a socialist consciousness and that it is the task of this minority to lead the rest of the workers, who are considered incapable of advancing beyond support for trade unions, reforms and reformist parties.
So the SWP is trying to do two things: build a vanguard party and acquire a following of ordinary workers. The attacks on Labour and talk of socialism are aimed at organising the minority who alone can understand these things into the disciplined party that is to play a leadership role, while appeals to “fight the bosses” and “kick out the Tories” are directed at winning followers amongst the inevitably Labour-voting ordinary workers. After all, if you believe, as the SWP does, that most workers cannot understand socialist ideas there is no point in appealing to them on this basis. Why cast pearls before swine? Just tell them that the Tories, not capitalism, are to blame for their problems and urge them to go on voting Labour.
In fact, of course, not only can a majority of workers come to understand socialism but they must if socialism is to be the outcome. Only a majority revolution can lead to socialism as a classless, democratically-run society of free and equal men and women. Minority and minority-led revolutions can only lead to the continuation of class rule in one form or another—as happened in Russia after 1917 under Lenin and Trotsky, which the SWP take as their model, where the leaders of the vanguard party installed themselves as the new bosses while the mass of the workers continued to work for wages. This was state capitalism, not socialism.
Once you recognise, as all genuine socialists must, that workers are capable of coming to want and understand socialism then the attitude to take towards the Labour Party is clear: complete opposition, as to all the other parties of capitalism. Don’t, vote Labour any more than vote Tory. Struggle for socialism.
Next month: the contradiction between saying Russia was state capitalist after 1928 but not before.