1990s >> 1999 >> no-1133-january-1999


The Slump

Dear Editors,

Concerning “Boom goes bust in Asia” (Socialist Standard, October) Robert Bremner in New Left Review 229 points out how the unwillingness of capitalists to write off earlier investments inhibits the purging of excess capacity and overvalued capital. I too think that a 1929-type slump is required if there is to be a sustained recovery. I detect growing opposition on the Right to rescue packages, but the write-off fear factor works against this.

Re the October editorial, if I did not know you better I would be accusing you of predicting the collapse of capitalism. George Sosos’s wrong if he is going that far, although I question whether he is. Unless a 1929 repeat leads to the appropriate reaction from the working class, you can safely bet on the continuation of capitalism. Betting on what happens next in the short term is a totally different matter of course, but while many are seeking shelter, many fund managers and others are still having to make decisions which cannot be any better than actually betting on what happens next.

TED EDGE, Lytham St Annes

Reply: As you point out, of course we don’t believe that capitalism is going to collapse. As we pointed out in the pamphlet we brought out in the course of the 1930s’ slump, Why Capitalism Will Not Collapse, capitalism will stagger on from crisis to crisis until the working class organises consciously and politically to bring it to an end and replace it with socialism.

As to Soros (above), since he always talks about the “collapse” or “disintegration” of “the global capitalist system”, he probably has in mind a regression to a collection of “national capitalist systems” behind their own tariff walls and exchange controls—Editors


All together?

Dear Editors,

Having just received, and read, an information pack on the Socialist Party I am still convinced that many members of other parties share your basic aspirations. Obviously there exist differences of opinion and interpretation of Marxist philosophy, but I fail to comprehend why the apparent hostility exists towards what I would describe as other left-oriented movements.

As long as those seeking radical reform of society continue to remain divided (on party lines) there, in my opinion, will be no change in the present order. The capitalist classes are totally unscrupulous as to whom they form bonds to oppress and exploit the working class. Can’t we all unite under one banner and, if necessary, seek compromise amongst different factions who basically share one common goal?


Reply: We wouldn’t deny that members of many parties, and of none, share the “basic aspiration” of wanting a better world. Where the disagreements begin is over the features of this better world, which we say can only be achieved on the basis of the common ownership and democratic control of productive resources—our definition of the word socialism.

As you point out, there are others who say that their aim is socialism, or make reference to the works of Marx, but few of them mean by socialism what we (and Marx) do. For them “socialism” means state ownership and control, which in our view amounts only to state capitalism. So why should we—how can we—get together with people who don’t have the same aim as us?

As to the much smaller group of people out there who define socialism in the same way as us, they generally disagree with the way we advocate achieving it, i.e. the democratic political action, via the ballot box, of a majority of conscious socialists. Some of them favour violent insurrection or a general strike or a minority dictatorship as a means to get socialism. Others favour going off into the wilderness and setting up communities or advocate reforms they claim are steps on the way to socialism.

We certainly think that all those who want socialism in the sense of a society based on the common ownership and democratic control of resources should get together in a single organisation that concentrates on advocating socialism and nothing else. Our message to them is stop entertaining illusions about minority action or reforms and join us in creating a bigger socialist party—Editors


Socialist Pioneers

Dear Editors,

I would like to add a few additional comments to Colin Skelly’s interesting article, “Pioneers of Socialism” (Socialist Standard, November 1998).

William Morris joined the Democratic Federation, which became the Social Democratic Federation in 1884, in 1883. However, on 27 December 1884 Morris, together with Edward Aveling, Eleanor Marx, E. Belfort Bax and a number of other members of the SDF council, resigned and issued a statement giving their reasons, for “a body independent of the Social Democratic Federation”. They said: “We have therefore set on foot an independent organisation, the Socialist League, with no intention of acting in hostility to the Social Democratic Federation, but determined to spread the principles of Socialism.”

Unfortunately, as Colin Skelly noted, the Socialist League was taken over by a group of anarchists whose main aim was the destruction of the state rather than the establishment of socialism, which would in fact have resulted in the demise of the state anyway. (For a detailed account of the rise and fall of the Socialist League, mainly from an anarchist viewpoint, see The Slow Burning Fuse by John Quail.)

The main weakness of the Socialist League was that it “had no intention of acting in hostility” to the SDF. And after its demise, a number of its former members returned to the Federation. Even Eleanor Marx held economics classes at 337 Strand, London, the head office of the SDF, during the 1890s. Indeed, it was at the economics classes held by Eleanor Marx, in 1895 and 1896, that Jack Fitzgerald and a number of other members of the SDF learnt their Marxian economics, which ultimately led to their expulsion, or resignation, from that organisation and subsequent founding of the Socialist Party. When the Socialist Party was formed, its members made certain that their Declaration of Principles would include a hostility clause against all other parties (such as the SDF) who advocated “palliatives”, not socialism.

PETER E. NEWELL, Colchester

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