Being Human 3/3

“The war of each against all is not the law of nature. Mutual aid is as much a law of nature as mutual struggle” –  Kropotkin, Mutual Aid

The World Socialist Movement are for the abolition of private property and the implementation of one of the oldest customs and traditions humanity has developed for its collective survival, the principle “from each according to ability, to each according to need”, with an end of the exchange economy and the introduction of free access. This will mean the abolition of wages and money and those working in occupations related to commerce transferring to socially productive work. And the emphasis is on being socially productive and not simply shifting money around to benefit a small minority of people or speculating over the very basics of life.

Countless numbers of people follow their hobbies without payment because they enjoy them. People have their gardens and their allotments and happily tire themselves out working but place that person on a farm and demand he or she toils on the fields for a wage, denying any other way to support him or herself and their family and denying them the fruits of their drudgery by taking away the rewards to placing instead on the market to be sold and bought.

Humanity needs to be freed from the machinations and control of powerful economic and political elites (who pursue policies in their own elite interests) and create a society that produces for needs and welfare of the majority along with ensuring an ecological balance for the planet. The social revolution is a simple thing: It is the devolution of all power into the hands of the toiling class. It is bottom-up, industrial democracy, with decision-making power being exclusively the prerogative of workers in their workplaces and communities, confederated one to another in such ways as they see fit. The social revolution is the full and final emancipation of labour, all labour. Revolution, the real revolution, is affected by the workers themselves.

For this task, the workers must acquire the consciousness which can enable them to do so and such class consciousness is needed more than ever than now. To the socialist, class-consciousness is the breaking-down of all barriers to understanding. Without it, militancy means nothing. The conflict between the classes is more than a struggle for each to gain from the other. The class-conscious worker knows where s/he stands in society. Their interests are opposed at every point to those of the capitalist class. Their cause can only be the cause of revolution for the abolishing of classes. Without that understanding, militancy can mean little. Class-conscious people need no leaders. The single, simple fact which all working people have to learn is that capitalism causes capitalism’s problems so that the remedy – the only remedy – is to abolish capitalism. In that knowledge, they must take hold of the powers of government – for one purpose only: that the rule of the class by class shall end. Socialism is not benevolently-administered capitalism: it is a different social system. Reform is no answer, even though at rare times it benefits working people. The reformer has agreed that capitalism shall continue and is merely trying to alleviate its worst effects. Has poverty been abolished by the reformers? Ask the old, ask the unemployed or the homeless, or the sick. Has life been made more satisfying by the Welfare State?

The World Socialist Movement believes as the workers gained more experience of the class struggle and the workings of capitalism, it would become more consciously socialist and democratically organised by the workers themselves. The emergence of socialist understanding out of the experience of the workers could thus be said to be “spontaneous” in the sense that it would require no intervention by people outside the working class to bring it about (not that such people could not take part in this process, but their participation was not essential or crucial). Socialist propaganda and agitation would indeed be necessary but would come to be carried out by workers themselves whose socialist ideas would have been derived from an interpretation of their class experience of capitalism. The end result would be an independent movement of the socialist-minded and democratically organised working class aimed at winning control of political power in order to abolish capitalism. As Marx and Engels put it in The Communist Manifesto:-
“the proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority”.

This is our conception of the workers’ party – a mass democratic movement of the working class with a view to establishing socialism. The self-emancipation of the working class remains the agenda.

Working-class action must be revolutionary. The workers have a common cause with the workers of every other country. They are members of an international class, faced with the same problems, holding the same interests once they are conscious of them. As class consciousness grows amongst the workers in all lands, cooperative action will be planned. It will not stop at the organisation of marches and demonstrations  It will be cooperation to speed the abolition of capitalism.

The World Socialist Movement does not minimise the necessity and importance of the worker keeping up the struggle to maintain the wage scale, resisting cuts, etc. If a worker always passively accepted the demands of the exploiters without resistance we would not be worth our salt as a person, nor fit for waging the class struggle to put an end to exploitation. More and more of the workers are forced to realise that their interests are opposed to those of the owning and the ruling class, in fact, the continuation of this rule spells disaster to society generally. The class war is far from over. It can only end with the dispossession of the owning minority and the consequent disappearance of classes and class-divided society.

 Class struggle without any clear understanding of where you are going is simply committing oneself to a never-ending treadmill. This is where the Leninist parties go wrong. They think mechanistically that a sense of revolutionary direction emerges spontaneously out of “the struggle” thus circumventing the realm of ideology – the need to educate. It doesn’t. The workers can never win the class struggle while it is confined simply to the level of trade union militancy; it has to be transformed into a socialist consciousness. Conversely, socialist consciousness cannot simply rely on its own increase in ideological persuasion. It has to link up with the practical struggle. The success of the socialist revolution will depend on the growth of socialist consciousness on a mass scale and that these changed ideas can only develop through a practical movement.

Our interest lies in pursuing the class struggle and forging our own class agenda – world socialism. Only by recognising the struggle between capital and labour, and acting to bring about the victory of labour, of the working class, can classes once and for all be abolished, common ownership is established, and real human interests and relationships begin.

To bring about socialist consciousness involves understanding socialism which means talking about it, sharing ideas about it – in short educating ourselves and our fellow workers about it. Socialist consciousness comes from life experience, but that being said, why are not more people achieving this consciousness? Everything from education, accepted customs, the prevailing capitalist ideology and cultural hegemony. We can say that socialist consciousness comes from life experience, but then that automatically implies that every worker should achieve it, it should have happened. And I see this as a problem. It leads to the mistaken belief of the old “historical inevitability” of socialism, that inevitably people will come around to becoming socialists. That would indeed leave no role for a socialist party. We can join a party and then watch it all unfold before our eyes.

However many have not accepted this inevitability and wonder what exactly is our role? Where do we “intervene” to raise consciousness and how do we intervene? What practical measures can we take as a party?

Workers don’t just wake up one morning and think to themselves – “Ah that’s it! Socialism is the answer!” This is the mechanistic theory that socialist consciousness can somehow materialise by circumventing the realm of ideology. We come to a socialist view of the world by interacting directly or indirectly with others, exchanging ideas with them. And that is perhaps the role of the revolutionary group as being – as a catalyst in the process of changing consciousness.

Socialist consciousness on a wide scale is not going to emerge from mere abstract propagandising or proselytising. All we are doing in the WSM, essentially, is trying to help the emergence of majority socialist consciousness, but even if the sort of activities we engage in can’t be the main thing that will bring this consciousness about, it is still nevertheless essential. People can, and do, come to socialist conclusions without us, but they can come to this more quickly if they hear it from an organised group dedicated exclusively to putting over the case for socialism. We can’t force or brainwash people into wanting to be free, they can only learn this from their own experience. We see majority socialist consciousness emerging from people’s experiences of capitalism coupled with them hearing the case for socialism. Not necessarily from us, though it would seem that we are the only group that takes doing this seriously. Socialist consciousness emerges through discussion and analysis. Our main task is to find better ways of expressing our message to as many workers as possible, to evolve a strategy so that we use our resources to the most effective.

There are clear limits to what militancy can achieve on its own and most workers know this full well. The working class is simply the working class, a bundle of contradictions and yet a very real thing. It is both the most conservative class because they have the most to lose AND, at the same time, the most revolutionary because they have the most to gain. Marx put it as it is a class “in itself” and not yet a class “for itself“.

We don’t have to lead, intervene, or integrate into it. What we have to be is the movement (as Marx said in “The Communist Manifesto”) that group that points out the way, which “pushes forward”. The question comes to making socialism an “immediacy” for the working class, something of importance and value to people’s lives now, rather than a singular “end”. Socialists are not superior to society members. Nevertheless, we do understand how the class society basically works. That is the difference to the majority of the working class, which do not understand and therefore do not see the need to abolish capitalism.

The World Socialist Movement is yet to hear a convincing argument about how it is supposed to become a “revolutionary” without engaging – and eventually agreeing – at some point with the IDEA of what such a revolution would entail. There is no logical imperative embedded in the material circumstances of capitalism that dictates that we must necessarily become revolutionary socialists. Our experience of these circumstances could just as easily turn us into fascists or nationalists. In other words, our engagement with the world around us is always mediated by the ideas we hold in our heads; we cannot apprehend this world except through these ideas.