I agree with Howard Moss that the aim should be for articles to give the socialist perspective (Letters, November Socialist Standard). However it is not so unusual for articles to outline some aspect of history or current events and only give reference to the socialist aim in the concluding comments. As socialists we wish to be as well informed as possible. I found Susan Nathan’s book The Other Side of Israel (now available in paperback) both moving and informative.
My concern is that the article (intended as a review) may not fairly represent the book as it only refers to some aspects of its content. For example it does not mention the author’s background. Her father was born in South Africa, the son of Jewish refugees from Lithuania. She is thoroughly aware of Jewish history, including the discrimination suffered by her great-grandfather in Lithuania, and had first hand experience of apartheid in South Africa. The book does not claim that conditions in Israel are identical to those that formerly existed in South Africa – the “petty elements” are absent. As stated in the article the term ‘apartheid’ is applied in a specific sense and its use is only emotive if you do not agree that Israeli Arabs are treated as second class citizens.
I am a bona fide socialist and I will never be anything else. I am totally opposed to inequality, exploitation, oppression, poverty, hunger, war and everything associated with capitalism. However I do find fault with your outlook. I can’t see how we can challenge capitalism without being organised in a structured socialist party with an elected leadership. I believe that the leadership should have no special privileges , but to vigorously pursue party policy which would be decided at conference.
You criticise Lenin and Trotsky in your ideas, but I think the Bolsheviks’, with Lenin and Trotsky, was the most correct that the Russian revolution could have been in organising socialism in that era. So I would like you to educate me by explaining a better way of achieving socialism.
C. DOBSON, Wigan
We do stand for a “structured socialist party” but on quite different lines from Lenin and the Bolsheviks.
Starting from the view that, left to themselves, the working class can only develop a trade union consciousness, they stood for organising as a vanguard party to lead the workers. They also said that this party should be organised on a top-down basis with a “leadership” which, while perhaps formally elected, had the power to make policy and order other members what to do. Such a structure may have been necessary to overthrow Tsarism but not to establish socialism – which they didn’t anyway, only a form of state capitalism.
We say that the socialist political party should be organised on a quite different basis: the power to make policy should lie with the membership through delegate conferences and referendums; there should be no party leadership, only an executive or administrative committee charged with arranging for the policies decided by the membership to be implemented. We also say, contrary to Lenin, that workers can advance beyond trade unionism and can understand socialism. When a sufficient majority of them have, and have organised themselves democratically, ready to take over and run society, they can send mandated delegates to parliament to take control of political power and use it to end capitalism and coordinate the change-over to socialism – Editors.