We in the Socialist Party have often been accused by members of various Leninist parties and groups, from the defunct Communist Party to the nearly defunct Militant Tendency, of being irrelevant, and not being, like them, in the vanguard of the working class.
Certainly we are not “in the vanguard”, have no intention of being; as this could not lead to the establishment of a world socialist society. But what of the so-called vanguard of the working class here in Britain? Have they achieved more with their “transitional demands” and ever-changing reform programmes?
Prior to the last election, a ragbag of Leninist, Stalinist and Trotskyist parties and sects, dominated largely by the thoroughly undemocratic Socialist Workers Party, but also including the also completely dishonest remnants of Militant, came together to form, for electoral purposes (despite most of them claiming that socialism would not be established by democratic means) the “Socialist (sic) Alliance”.
Not surprisingly, despite their boasts and disdain for genuine socialists, they received no more, and often fewer, votes than socialists who advocated socialism and not numerous reforms and demands.
Here in Colchester, the SA fielded no candidate. But in Ipswich, a few miles to the north, they had a candidate, Peter Leech. On a turnout of 57 percent, he received 305 votes (0.78 percent). At the by-election held in Ipswich on Thursday, 22 October, on a turnout of 40.16 percent, Leech managed to come eighth out of nine candidates, with a grand total of 152 votes (0.55 percent).
So much for the vanguard of the working class!
Peter Newell, Colchester
Very little has been heard on the media to counter the general assumption that the Afghanistan war is an example of the result of an inevitable ideological/religious antagonism in capitalism between religions, languages, cultures – in this case Islam and Christianity.
In giving the lie to this theory as the cause of war in capitalism, an early Socialist Party pamphlet on war gave examples of countries or groups of the same and of different religions etc. who had fought both against and in alliance with, each other at different times. If the Socialist Standard could provide such information if could prove very useful in countering such theories at the present time.
W. Robertson, Hove, Sussex
Having read your monthly journal, it seems to me the main theme of your articles are the negative criticisms of capitalist and non-socialist processes and organisations. Your articles present themselves as the font of all socialist wisdom, and only you know the answer to the world’s problems. Were it so simple. The problem is not in the economic system, but in the minds of humanity. Those minds are based on egotism, possession, self-centredness, exclusiveness, what can I gain and accumulate, and how much will I be worth in the future, etc, etc.
For nearly a hundred years your comments about capitalism, the Labour Party and governments etc have been in the pejorative vein, and the majority of people couldn’t care less. You go on month after month in the same useless jargon thinking that one day you’re going to change the world. I’m sorry, but human beings have made a mess of their relationships with each other, and this has gone on for 10,000 years. Don’t you realise that the only thing that will change people into a better product, is when they become aware of their selfish-egotistic basis and learn to share with each other, spiritually, socially and materially. In conclusion, I can recall a number of socialists, who had businesses, employed workers and therefore exploited them, and who when they were confronted with this fact, answered that they were living under capitalism and wanted the benefits that could be got from it. How could a socialist, who abhors the capitalist system, exploit and make a profit out of the surplus value extracted from the workers. What blatant hypocrites they were. At least the capitalist does it without having to justify it. To the capitalist it’s a logical, way of life.
But when a so-called socialist does it, this is hypocrisy, par excellence.
J. GLEASON, London N4
Reply: We agree that the problem lies in the minds of humanity, more specifically the working class. They represent the majority, so they are the only ones who can bring about socialism. Socialists don’t blame the capitalist class or governments for the continuation of capitalism. The real enemy is the ideas that workers hold in their heads, although it is true that the capitalist class (and their political or governmental agents) take full advantage of the situation.
Regarding a “number of socialists” who had exploited workers. You later refer to them as “so-called socialists”. Do you mean by this that because they exploit workers they are no longer entitled to consider themselves “socialist”? Or that they weren’t genuine socialists in the first place? Anyway, our case for socialism exists regardless of the alleged behaviour of individual members of the socialist movement. In fact, it makes the case against capitalism even stronger as it highlights the corrupting influence of present-day society.
Before you can convince workers of the need for socialism it is essential to point out, not only that capitalism is not a great system to live under – they realise that, but don’t know what to do about it – but that there is another way of running human affairs. People become self-centred not because they are naturally greedy or selfish, but because they have been inculcated with the capitalist ethos of private property (of which the working class own relatively little) and the need to struggle to maintain what little they have, setting worker against worker. It just goes to show how deeply workers are imbued with capitalism’s values – they choose (albeit unwittingly) to be exploited. They vote for it at every general election.
We don’t offer ourselves as having the answers to all problems, indeed it is to the rest of the working class that we need to turn to for solutions to many questions about how socialism will be organised. If you agree with us about the establishment of socialism (and there is nothing in your letter to indicate otherwise), join us and offer your expertise in assisting us to spread our ideas in the most effective way.
Our case against capitalism is not a moral one – morals are constantly changing – but putting the socialist alternative to workers and it being up to them to do something about it.—Editors.