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Conflict and War in the Ukraine: A Socialist Response

Where Socialists Stand

The Socialist Party of Great Britain, like a voice crying in the wilderness, has always maintained that capitalism and war are inseparable. There can be no capitalism without conflicts of economic interest. From these arise the national rivalries and hatreds, the fears and armaments which may at any time provoke war on a terrifying scale "

This argument, from our 1936 pamphlet, WAR AND THE WORKING CLASS, remains a valid statement today when assessing the conflict and war in Ukraine taking place a century later in February 2022.

Many people believe wars are inevitable due to "human nature". Others tell us that a particular war is necessary and justifiable in terms of the "national interest".

The Socialist Party of Great Britain opposition to wars is on grounds of class - an old fashioned term, maybe. But it is a fact that most people live by selling their labour-power for wages or salaries.

Socialists argue that workers should not let themselves be dragged into wars caused by disputes between different sections of the capitalist class. As we stated in the 1936 pamphlet:

"There is only one safe rule for the working class to follow when urged by the capitalists to support capitalist wars. No matter what form the appeal may take, they should examine the question in the light of working class interests. Ask yourself the question: 'Have the working class of one nation any interest in slaughtering (and being slaughtered by) the workers of another?'; 'Have they any interest in supporting one national section of the capitalist world against another?"

The wages system constantly creates a surplus in the form of rent, interest and profit; it is a system of class exploitation where workers are paid less in wages and salaries than they, in fact produce. Worldwide, there is a class division and class struggle - opposing interests between employers and employed, between Labour and Capital.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain's consistent, principled and uncompromising record of opposition to wars is unique. We urge workers to join us in working to end this profit system and replace it by a new society - one based upon common ownership of the world's productive resources, where democratic co-operation will replace cut-throat economic competition, the cause of war.


Object and Declaration of Principles

The Problem

The basis of the case for The Socialist Party of Great Britain is the OBJECT AND DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES: applicants for membership are required to indicate their acceptance of them. It is more than a formal declaration and applicants must show that they understand the implications of what they sign, and must be prepared to defend them. This is to ensure that none but Socialists become members and thereby secure a well-grounded and united membership. A united membership is less prone to internal dissention, and provides the most effective organisation for Socialist propaganda.

THE OBJECT AND DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES is well within the grasp of every worker who reads it intelligently and without prejudice.

There are no short cuts to Socialism. Concentrating on the Socialist objective is a slow process but there is no other way. One thing to remember is that our DECLARATION is a brief statement of general principles, not a detailed guide to cover all eventualities. When its wording was being discussed at the establishment of The Socialist Party of Great Britain in 1904, consideration was given to the possible inclusion of additional clauses but the form finally accepted was held to be sufficient. For example, it does not include a reference to war, but under its guidance the Party had no hesitation in declaring total opposition when world war came in 1914 and again in 1939.

Object

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.

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