Palliatives and Politics
The existence of a professing Socialist body with a programme of fifty items of reform may well cause the uninitiated to pause and wonder as to why the Socialist should seek to “capture the political machinery.” Presumably it is to legislate and administer the fifty items of reform ; and to some members of that organisation that is most certainly the idea. In an argument with a member of the S.D.F. on the question of palliatives, I was met with the astounding statement : “If the S.P.G.B. is not in favour of palliatives there is no occasion for it to go in for political action at all.” His “Socialism” prevented him from conceiving political action except for the purpose of administering reforms. Yet the administration of any number of reforms under capitalism is not the work of the Socialist. The S.P.G.B. seeks to attain to political power with the express intention of rendering the administration of reforms and palliatives unnecessary by achieving politically the revolution that will place the means of producing wealth in the hands of the working class.
The two view-points are not only distinct — they are mutually antagonistic. The person who seeks return to political position for the purpose of administering capitalism in a way less objectionable or oppressive to the working class, stands, ipso facto, for the maintenance of capitalism. Socialist votes are not necessary to his return and are not, therefore, sought. He stands in the same category as other reformers and his advent to the local council chamber or elsewhere marks no advance in the class consciousness of his electors. But the person who stands for the abolition of capitalism and seeks return to political position for the purpose of using that position to assist in his revolutionary aim, seeks to express the determination of his working-class electors to use the political power in their hands, and stands in a different category. The votes of men not in favour of Socialism are useless to him and are not sought. His election campaign is but an incident in the work of the propaganda of the idea that social reforms are rendered unnecessary when the working class control the industrial machinery which to-day they operate, for the reason that the enjoyment of wealth would follow logically upon its production, and the contradiction of capitalism which couples poverty with industry and wealth with idleness would not be inflicted by the working class upon itself. That contradiction is at the bottom of the demand for and the need for social reform. The Socialist objective is the abolition of the economic relationship which produces it, by the capture of the political machinery and its use for the purpose of that abolition.
The political power is at present gratuitously !placed in the hands of the capitalist class, who use it for the maintenance of capitalism. It could as easily be placed by a conscious working class in the hands of its delegates for the purpose of abolishing capitalism.
And no doubt it will be when professing Socialists have themselves recognised the fact, and have ceased to lend their efforts to the capitalist class by agitating for reforms that leave the central position of capitalist domination intact, and serve but to delay the time when the working class will use its vote for the revolutionary purpose — the Socialist purpose, of ending and not mending capitalism.