Battle of Ideas 2/3

We in the World Socialist Movement have often disparaged those who call for some form of minority revolution and have  dismissed any nationalist solutions to the workers problems. Our view on the armed forces and police is basically that they are workers in uniform, as receptive to revolutionary ideas as civilians are.

The World Socialist Movement engages in the parliamentary process not to take and hold political office to form a government but for the purpose of seizing control of the State for its abolishment. Others may question the validity of such an approach, and doubt the possibility of success, but it makes us a lot more than the average run-of-the-mill parliamentarian political party, elected to administer capitalism or offer palliatives.

The issuing of orders, the appointment and control of officials, and everything else connected with the operation of the State, is in the hands of the majority group in Parliament who go on to constitute the Government. Underlying the counter-argument is the idea that there is somehow a power behind or beyond elected governments that in reality controls them (some kind of shadowy group that is really in control) and that, therefore, if its position is seriously threatened it has the means at its disposal to clamp down on those threatening it and will not hesitate to use violence to do so, perhaps in the form of a coup or a military takeover. It is a conspiracy theory of the Deep State.

We don’t think faced with a massive majority vote for socialism, and a working class outside parliament organised to back it up, the ruling class would put their life and liberty on the line by resorting to violence to try to resist the inevitable. One of the American barons, Jay Gould, once said he could easily hire one half of the working class to kill the other half. We doubt it. Maybe there will be isolated acts of violence by fool-hardy individuals, but these could easily be contained and the socialist revolution should be able to pass off essentially peacefully. The hypothetical scenario of the military and police being turned loose upon the workers does not take into account that they too would be influenced by socialist ideas, as would be civil servants, administrators and many others who work within the state-machine. A recalcitrant minority or as Marx and Engels described them “pro-slavery rebels” will not hold back socialism because there’d be strikes there’d be mass civil disobedience, refusal to obey the rebels’ edicts, street demonstrations and there would be military mutinies.Our goal of taking political control of the State is not in isolation with events outside parliament. Socialist ideas will overspill into the military. Is a soldier is something less than other workers? Is the mentality of a worker in uniform fundamentally and qualitatively different for a whole host of other occupations.

The World Socialist Movement has long history in exposing the oxymoron of the “workers state” and attacking the concepts of Leninism (and its offspring Stalinism,Trotskyism and Maoism).

The WSM has never been in the business of winning popularity contests and jumping on any band-wagon for the sake of recruitment and many of the political organisations that did so have disappeared, having had no lasting impact.

 Events have only confirmed our case that understanding is a necessary condition for socialism, not desperation and despair. There is no easier road to socialism than the education of the workers in socialism and their organisation to establish it by democratic methods. Short-cuts have proved to be cul-de-sacs. Has history actually proved this position wrong? Until the knowledge and experience of the working class are equal to the task of revolution there can be no emancipation.

The fact of the longevity of the parties  constituting the World Socialist Movement as political organisations based on agreed goals, methods and organisational principles seems to suggest that it indeed represent some strand of socialist thought that some people are drawn towards.

The State does indeed represent the ruling dominant class, it’s why workers strive for its control and why a revolution that is out to abolish classes also means the end of the State. If who controls parliament is empty rhetoric, then the ruling class spend a great amount of effort vying with other sections of the ruling class for control of it and making sure workers endorse them with their vote.

We are told that revolution is a process culminating in socialist consciousness. Some of us in the WSM accept analogy of the rolling snowball that things will grow bigger and go faster until a critical mass is reached and to use another metaphor an avalanche of change happens.

The World Socialist Movement does not minimise the necessity and importance of workers keeping up the struggle over wages or to resisting cuts in employment conditions. There are some signs that union combativeness is once more rising and it is vital if our class is to develop some of the solidarity and self-confidence essential for the final abolition of wage slavery. We recognise the necessity of workers’ solidarity in the class struggle against the capitalist class, and rejoice in every victory for the workers to assert their economic power. But to struggle for higher wages and better conditions is not revolutionary in any true sense of the word; and the essential weapons in this struggle are not inherently revolutionary either. It demands the revolutionising of the workers themselves. If there were more revolutionary workers in the unions—and in society generally—then the unions and the host of other community organisations would have a more revolutionary outlook,

This does not mean that we say workers should sit back and do nothing, the struggle over wages and conditions must go on. But it becomes clear that this is a secondary, defensive activity. The real struggle is to take the means of wealth production and distribution into the common ownership. Only by conscious and democratic action will such a socialist system of society be established. This means urging workers to want something more than what they once thought was “enough”. The WSM is  accused of wanting “too much” because our aim is free access and common ownership. The task of the World Socialist Movement is to show workers that in fact it is a practical proposition. To transform this desire into an immediacy for the working class.

Participation in the class struggle does not automatically make workers class conscious. Militancy on the industrial field is just that and does not necessarily lead to political militancy, but ebbs and flows as labour market conditions change – and militants in the work-places can in no way count on their supporters on the political field. Yet one school of thought in the working class political movement sees strikes, particularly the unofficial wildcat kind, as bona fide rebellions, not only against the labour leaders, but against the capitalist system itself. This school views it as the beginnings of a real rank and file movement which will eventually result in the workers throwing out the union bureaucrats, taking over the factories, establishing workers’ councils and ultimately a “workers society” based on these councils. We beg to differ.

Another school of thought (mostly within Trotskyism) believes industrial militancy can be used as a lever to push the workers along a political road, towards their “emancipation.”

How is this possible if the workers do not understand the political road, and are only engaging in economic struggles? Their answer is the Leninist “leaders in-the-know” will direct the workers. But these leaders lead the workers in the wrong direction, toward the wrong goals (nationalisation and state-capitalism), as the workers find out to their sorrow.

The World Socialist Movement approach of education can point out to the workers that strikes arise out of the nature of capitalism, but that they are not the answer to the workers’ problems. These economic struggles settle nothing decisively because in the end the workers remain wage slaves. It is the political act of the entire working class to eliminate the exploitative relations between workers and capitalists which can furnish a final solution and remove the chains. It’s not the same as Leninist leadership, to point these things out, as someone seemed to believe earlier on this thread. It is educating workers to understand the nature of both capitalism and socialism, so that, with this understanding, the workers themselves can carry out the political act of their own emancipation. These struggles can be used as a means of educating workers to the real political struggle – socialism.

Show us a better way.

How the struggle acquires this political expression of clear opposition to the capitalist state? How does it arise? Is it suggested that there is a degree of automaticity in the process? The no other possibilities for worker to follow as a perceived solution such as fascism, or nationalism or religion?

The WSM would argue that it is about engaging people with the idea of socialism, to talk about a revolution in social relations, and  if workers are already involved in actual struggle they would be more receptive to the idea more effective it would become. But not inevitable. There is nothing automatic about social change, it has to be struggled for.

I think we can quote Marx from the Manifesto in regard minorities and majorities. “The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.”

“Pushes forward” is the key phrase…Marx didn’t say lead forward.

For many the World Socialist Movement’s conception of revolution lacks credibility and they claim, unlike the WSM,  to possess a theory of revolution that does not expect people to wait for the overwhelming majority necessary to “enact” socialism before doing something about their immediate problems.

The WSM position is honest in that we don’t know what the characteristics of revolution will look like in detail but we do think we know what it will not look like. Some expect WSM members behave like soothsayers. The problem is that it is rather foolish for us today to declare what tomorrow exactly is going to happen when socialism in imminent.

Will the working class (even a socialist one that is highly politically educated) wait for the declaration of its elected representatives or delegates in Parliament and legislatures?

What happens when say 35 per cent of the working class says “Let’s do it now!”

 What happens if the majority of workers in the UK and Europe start to elect Socialist majorities, but not in the U.S., Japan, etc.?

And what if the State begin to exert their powers to stifle the movement (as they will)? Do we  sit back idly and wait again for our chance?

What constitutes a working class majority wanting Socialism? Is it 51 per cent? 60 %? 70%?  

We simply cannot foresee the events that take place even when say 30% of the working class becomes socialist.

Furthermore, socialism and its construction will not simply be a legal enactment.

Say, for example, that we reached the stage where 25% of the adult working population was indeed socialist. That would be an incredible achievement and there would be a sudden rise in working class militancy in immediate issues, there would be a new “socialist culture” being built, changes within the entire labour movement, in daily life and how people thought politically. At 40% we would still not be the “overwhelming majority” but this would be such a sizeable significant and politically powerful base. And here quantitative changes would mean qualitative changes. The “movement” we have now would not be the same movement under those circumstances. It might move in directions we have never even considered. And it has profound implications. It is too difficult for us to simply say that when the overwhelming majority of people around the world want socialism they will create it because there will indeed rise these very revolutionary situations or critical revolutionary crisis or juncture that have not followed the formal logic of the propositions we put forward. The “movement” will take on a life of its own.