Rather a Socialist than not one at all
To be a socialist in a world drenched in nationalism, political ignorance and deference is not easy. Discussing socialist politics and socialist ideas with anyone is hard particularly as many people have a misconception of what a socialist stands for and what they want from being a socialist. Socialists are often erroneously linked with the Labour Party and social and economic reformism, or the Left wing of capitalist politics with their penchant for violence, anger and demonstrations or even the state capitalism that used to exist in Soviet Union until 1991.
What is a socialist you may ask? A socialist is foremost someone who recognises their class position within a social system where the means of production and distribution are owned by a minority capitalist class for the purpose of making a profit to the exclusion of everyone else. A socialist is someone who recognises that social reforms and those who enact them, cannot resolve the social and economic problems facing the working class. And a socialist is someone who not only rejects the capitalist concept of political leadership but understands that to establish socialism where production and distribution take place purely, directly, and solely to meet human need, first requires a formation of a socialist majority in society. In short, a socialist is someone who wants to see a point in social development where a socialist majority exists and democratically sends socialist delegates to parliament to replace the profit system with the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society.
This takes about a minute to say. If a socialist is allowed to speak for a minute, then what is taken as socialism is often written off as ‘utopian’, ‘pie in the sky’ or against ‘human nature’. Cynicism prevails.
What is socialism?” We’ve now come to the second part which is wholly negative but equally important. Socialism is not nationalisation, socialism is not government ownership, socialism is not what existed in Russia or Cuba, China, Venezuela and Vietnam and socialism is not the Labour government.
In fact, socialists have a particular contempt for the Labour Party who erroneously believe you can run capitalism in the interest of all society. You can’t. Capitalism runs Labour governments in the only way possible; support for the interests of the capitalist class and the profit motive. The Labour Party is not a socialist party, has never been a socialist party, and will never be a socialist party. We urge workers not to vote for the Labour Party. The problem workers face is not the Conservative Party but the profit system and the private ownership of the means of production and distribution.
There appears to be a current streak of servility in the working-class mind-set. Rather than have the confidence to take matters in their own hand, workers defer to political leaders to do the thinking and acting for them. Workers, in the main, are held in suspended animation from one election to the next, only to be bought out to vote for this or that capitalist political party. However, politicians only act in the interest of the capitalist class and can only defend capitalism. All capitalist political parties disappoint. When in government, they always end in failure. Their responsibility to the capitalist class and its interests always goes against those of the working class.
Real dissent is to reject political leadership as a purely capitalist concept. Leadership has nothing to do with being a socialist or with socialism. Workers can stand on their own two feet They can think and act for themselves.
We are often told that capitalism is the only game in town. If it is, then the severe economic and social problems facing the working class will remain. The reformers have been in the political driving seat for over two hundred years. Housing reform, for example, fills a library with legislation, but the housing crisis continues. Workers do not get the housing they need and if they do, is often mean and substandard.
Marx’s socialist colleague, Frederick Engels was writing about the housing crisis in the late 19th century. After the First World War it was “homes fit for heroes”, then after the second World War it was the utopian vision of high-rise flats while “ParkerMorris standards” were going to solve housing need. Housing provision after 1918 came to a standstill due to economic crises. High rise flats just added to the housing problem, and many have been demolished while Parker Morris standards could not be afforded and so were dropped in the early 1980s. The Grenfell fire is a tragic example of working-class housing when it goes horribly wrong. The working class only gets second best or nothing at all.
There is no alternative to the market and the profit system we are told. It is dogmatic to say otherwise. However, we do not need to live in a profit-driven system in which the majority are exploited producing more in social wealth than what they receive in wages and salaries. There is an alternative. There is production just to solely and directly to meet human need.
The skill and creativity of the working class exists, and the materials, land, factories, transport and communication systems exist. What is lacking is the imagination by the working class, those who live off salaries and wages, to change society in a revolutionary way. Unlike socialists most workers temporarily cannot imagine the end of capitalism. They cannot think outside the capitalist box.
Yet workers have more political power than that they imagine. Workers have the vote. They can organise and they can organise politically in their own interest. They can take conscious political and democratic action with socialist parties and abolish capitalism and replace the profit system with socialism.
Object and Declaration of Principles
The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.
Declaration of Principles
THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN HOLDS:
1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (ie land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.
2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.
3.That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.
4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.
5. That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.
6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.
7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.
8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.