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Socialist Party of Great Britain Polemic - Socialism & The State-Why Buick is Wrong

The following reply to the Clapham based Socialist Party regarding Socialism and the State was circulated in October 1991.

Buick claims that the circular from the expelled members "distort the views of the Party and of Marx and Engels".

1). He asserts that the 1984 Conference Resolution- "that Socialism will entail the immediate abolition and not the gradual decline of the State" - was intended "to re-assert the traditional Party view".

Wrong - the Party view was clearly stated in the statement adopted at the 1978 Conference. Dealing with the "predictable conditions…after the process of establishing Socialism has been completed…the State machinery, including the armed forces, will have passed out of control of the capitalists and come under social control. Socialists will constitute the majority in all occupations in which the working class predominate - in production, transport, communications, police and armed forces".

Referring to Clause 6 of the Principles, it argued: "Implicit in this conception has always been recognition that, in the period of changeover, control of the armed forces would be continued for as long as necessary in the light of conditions then existing. It has never been the Party's case that simultaneously with gaining control the armed forces would at once be wholly dismantled. In Engels' words: "The state is not abolished. It dies out". (SOCIALISM: UTOPIAN AND SCIENTIFIC).

That was the Socialist Party of Great Britain position. The 1984 resolution on "the immediate abolition…of the State" changed it.

2). Buick claims that the expelled members are wrong to state that "the "abolition of the State" is an Anarchist theory" since, he says, this is "an integral part of Socialist theory".

To argue this is to ignore the history of the debate between Bakunin and Marx. Bakunin argued that the abolition of the State was a pre-condition of Socialism, while Marx and Engels held that socialism would result in the state "dissolving" or "withering away" as a consequence of the social revolution.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain developed its position in the D. of P. in 1904, and in the 1978 statement, on the basis of Marx's position. But the 1984 resolution -especially with Buick's gloss that it dealt with "the conditions that would have to be met before it could be said that socialism has been established" - goes back to Bakunin. It asserts that abolition of the state is a pre-condition for Socialism.

How can that be consistent with Clause 6 of the 1904 Declaration of Principles? If the S.P. takes the view that "the immediate abolition of the State" is a pre-condition for Socialism, how can it also argue that the working class must use "the machinery of government" as "the agent of emancipation"?

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