Mr Angry Goes to Town…
The opportunity arose to attend a public meeting by the Socialist Workers Party in Chelmsford. The subject of the meeting was “Who runs Britain, is it a democracy?” The speaker was Tony Cliff, a founder member of the SWP.
Tony Cliff’s talk highlighted the inequalities of the capitalist system and its inherent evils in some detail. He pointed out the anger and frustration felt by the working class and that this anger has never been so apparent for many years, most of which have been spent under the strict regime of “Tory” government and policies.
His talk then went on to explain why the SWP must always take sides in any dispute or issue. Even if two Tories were arguing a particular point they would urge members to support the most militant view. They will fight for every conceivable reform, with each victory viewed as a step nearer to socialism.
Contributions were allowed from the floor and following a few questions, comrade Mike Bathurst argued a number of points and myself one point. The points made, were basically outlining the hopelessness of chasing capitalist reforms and supporting Labour governments and the need to clearly understand what socialism actually is.
The penny had dropped . . . “Now I understand, —whenever I hear ‘the abolition of the wages system’ it can only be from members of the SPGB, an insignificant group of socialists from way back in 1904′.” From then on there was a torrent of criticism, almost abuse, aimed at the Socialist Party. A lot of support for the “essential” work carried out by the SWP, how they are always “out there” on the forefront of working class conflict “fighting for socialism and revolution”. They are always ready to support the working class in the “struggle” against the capitalists.
Us?… We are the old joke, “Armchair socialists—all talk, no do.”
With a mixture of anger and enthusiasm, Tony Cliff went on to say in his summing up:
“Where were you (The SPGB) when we were fighting the BNP? “
“When were you last on a picket line fighting hand-in-hand with the working class?”
“You are all ‘teach, teach, teach “—I want socialism here and now, not to sit talking about some delightful, society we would like to have many years in the future.”
“We tell workers to vote Labour to beat the Tories, they are our enemy. “
There were more questions and comments of the same ilk in the rest of the summing up. Unfortunately this signalled the end of the meeting and no more contributions were allowed.
For some while after, and all the next day, I was left with a feeling of frustration and disappointment. All of us in that room were all at least united in the fact that we realise that our present society does not aim to benefit our lives. But Tony Cliff can get as angry as he likes with the Socialist Party, the fact remains that the SWP position is wrong. History has proved it wrong. People cannot be led to socialism.
Without the vision of how a socialist society will rejuvenate all our lives, how do they expect to win the support of the working class. That is why we, as Tony Cliff comments, are all “teach, teach, teach”. It is exactly what we do. Education and understanding is the key.
Education, no matter how hard or impossible it may seem has a positive chance.
Force by a vanguard leadership is doomed to absolute failure.
Understanding the practicalities of an alternative society is vital. Vital that we not only realise what is wrong with capitalist society, but how it really operates and manipulates our everyday lives.
My feeling of disappointment stems from seeing the anger and passionate enthusiasm displayed by the speaker and members at this meeting. The truth is, I found this anger and passion admirable and it is exactly what we need. What disappoints me is seeing people missing the importance of a basic understanding of the essential elements of socialist society.
It can only be established by a majority of socialists throughout the world. It will be a society based on production for use and not production for profit. It must mean the abolition of money and all markets and with it all, the sickening, competitive relationships that capitalism forces us into.
Attempting to sanitise the capitalist system has never and will never work. As members of the Socialist Party we will continue to learn so that we may teach others to help build a majority of socialists fighting for the establishment of a socialist society and not help fuel the illusion that capitalism can be reformed.