Forum Journal 1954-26 November

No. 26 November 1954

Before I set out my criticisms of the Declaration of Principles, as requested by the resolution moved and earned at the meeting of party members held at the Holborn Hall on Sunday, September 12th. there are several things I wish to make clear.
For the benefit of those members who like myself were unable to se present at the meeting the resolution referred to was: —
26.1.1 Untrue Statements
It- would appear from this resolution that the members who voted in favour of it wanted me to place my criticisms of the Declaration of Principles in order to see whether a charge of action detrimental to the interests of the party could be preferred. To put it mildly this is a very shabby trick, some might even think that it is sharp practice. I should have thought that the only reason for requesting a member to put his views in writing would be for those views to become the grounds for discussion, to adopt those views if considered correct or to put him right if the views are considered incorrect. I can only hope that most members were unaware of this distasteful purpose of this resolution.
It has been said by a number of members that I am opposed to the party, that I am campaigning within the party in order to disrupt it and that I do not put the Socialist case when I am on the platform. May I state at once that not one of these statements is true. If the members who have made these statements really believe them to be true why have they riot used the machinery of the
party which exists in order to dea. with members who are deemed to have acted in a manner which is considered detrimental to the interests of the party? These accusations must be considered irresponsible unless the members who make them back them up in the manner laid down in the rule book. In case there are members who may be thinking " that where there is smoke there must be fire ", I must state my position. I hold that Socialism alone is the solution to the many problems that vex society today.
By Socialism I mean a universal system of society, or way of living, in which no human being, or group of people, stands in a privileged position to others. No group of people will own the means of production, nor will they own things that, will be produced. All things will be held in common and all people will have access to things according to their needs and all people will contribute to society according to their. abilities. From the standpoint of sex groupings, neither sex will stand in a privileged position to the other. Racially no groupings of people will be privileged, nor stand with power over others. In snort, equality tvill be the thread running through tvety conceivable hitman relationship.
I hold with the Socialist Party that a person is a socialist who recognises the practicability and desirability of the above objective. I also hold with the Socialist Party that no other organisation in this country has Socialism, as I have outlined it, as its sole objective and therefore membership or support of these .other organisations is incompatible with Socialism. A perscn who claims to be a socialist cannot support war under any circumstances. Nor can a socialist organisation put forward reform programmes in. order to obtain members or get support on such programmes. There are of course quite a number of other issues with which I am in agreement with the party, but I think
I have enumerated enough to eiove my fitness to retain my membership.
26.1.2 The Object
The criticisms I have of the Declaration of Principles are where, in my opinion, they depart from the objective as set aut above. To put it another way, my criticisms are not from the standpoint of an anti-socialist, nor are they criticisms of a nosi-sociahst, nor arc I' saying that the party is non-socialist, bu'. I am saying thai, in ny opinion .the Socialist Party could be more socialist in its message to people than it has been during the past fifty years. As far as this contribution of my criticisms is concerned I propose to restrict it to those clauses which deal with action. My criticisms of these, clauses spring from my conception of Socialism as staled above and which, to the best of my belief, would be agreed to by most, if not all members. 3 repeat Socialism means to me a universal system of society in which all human beings stand equally to each other, where all privilege and pow'er of people over other people no longer exists.
26.1.3 Clause Six
My major criticism of this principle is in two parts. The first deals with the words " the working class must organise " in relation to the objective. If the objective \? to establish Socialism then only socialists can organise for its establishment, whether these socialists in other fields are workers or capitalists, men or women, American, British. German, etc., black or yellow, is quite irrelevant. The test of being a socialist is solely that oi recognising the practicability and desirability of Socialism and of the desire to work for its establishment. I hold that the economic classification, worker or capitalist, plays no part in rendering the people wrho qualify under the above test fit or unfit for organising for Socialism. If, of course, we hold that only wage and salary workers stand to gain by the establishment of Socialism, then it is understandable why ihe appeal is directed to the working class. But if this is the reason why the appeal is directed exclusively to workers then we are at variance with ihe proposition that Socialism means the emancipation of ALL MANKIND.
The second part of my criticism of this principle is where it states that " conquest of powers of government national and local in order that this machinery including' 'the armed forces of the nation may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation ". All governments and their powers exist to perpetuate privilege in one form or another. All. forms of privilege carry with them the machinery io maintain the privilege and this machinery is coercive. If we mean by Socialism the emancipation of all mankind, then such an emancipation cannot be achieved by coercion. It can only be brought about iby mankind as a; whole understanding and wanting this emancipation.
26.1.4 Agent of Emancipation
We cannot convert instruments of oppression into agents of emancipation. The on-y agent of emancipation of which I am aware is men and women armed with knowledge and desire of Socialism, not soldiers, airmen and policemen armed with bombs, guns and truncheons, nor statesmen armed with. lies. We could, however, capture control of the machinery of government including the armed forces and shift oppression from one set of people to another, but if this is not what we want then why retain a clause which makes it appear that we do. Socialists rely upon the socialist understanding of. people everywhere in order to make social equality a living reality. Coercion is the doctrine of those who despair of others ever undemanding. We cannot rely upon both understanding and coercion.
The whole of the Declaration of Principles leads up to the objective contained in Clause 6, namely that the working class must consciously capture control of the machinery of government. I want to draw your attention to what this phrase is actually postulating; it must mean that the governmental machinery including the armed forces is a constant institution and yet the ideas of the overwhelming majority of people will have so changed that they no longer want nations, classes, nor antagonisms.
26.1.5 Fundamentals of Capitalism
Are we to understand that the fundamentals of capitalism,- including the state machinery, will remain the same as in 1904 and yet changes will take place in people's ideas so revolutionary in character as to want a system of society for which there is no -historical precedent? How will these ideas be changed? This question cannot be answered on the postulates of Clause 6. The governmental machinery is a fundamental of privileged society. In the language of the Declaration of' Principles, it enables the capitalists to conserve the monopoly of the v~.'ea!th taken from-the workers. But so are the ideas of people fundamental to society, that is why we state that the majority of people must hold ideas of Socialism in order to establish it.
It would appear from the Declaration of Principles generally and Clause 6 in particular that there is no connection between ideas of people and the other factors of capitalism, bearing in mind that the other factors remain . fundamentally unchanged but the ideas pf people will, change revoluticnarily. This contradiction shows itself in our statements jn the Socialist Standard and on the platform on the subject of Clause 6.
A very small number of propagandists argue we would use the state machine against capitalists and their supporters. A larger number argue that we would use the state machine to pass the first and last law " the abolition of private property ". A few argue that we will capture the state in order to abolish it. . Every members of the party has at some time or. another heard these views expressed from the platform. One thing stands, out clearly from all these pronouncements that is that they do not take into account the dynamic character of ?cc know what the world is, to answer how it is. And were you tc tell the questioner the truth about such things he might possibly hang you or cut your throat.
The third question is no doubt answered fully from the first and second, the proof being that modern civilisation, bad as it is an a great many ways, is yet a long way from the jungle.
How then does all this concern Socialism and the establishment of a class-less society? I answer, it concerns Socialism very much indeed, for without "' renunciation ", in some form or other, Socialism can only remain a myth. For if our present confusion must be turned into future order we must not be so foolish to expect such order to come down from the high heavens, nor just from the change in production and distribution. They no doubt will be the conditions for such order in a class-less society, but certainly not the cause. For there can be no doubt about it, " action and renunciation " will be the prime movers in bringing such a society into existence.
There has been a great deal of rubbish and nonsense printed by so-called socialists in the past, as well as in- the present, on how Socialism will come about. A great deal of it came from dreamers, hysterical materialists, and also from some scientific materialists, who were running about with a key that was getting rather rusty as time went by. We have men in the party just now who would like very much to tell us all pretty stories en how beautiful and wonderful Socialism will be, but find themselves in a similar position to Dante when he was looking for material for his heaven: his hell was perfect, for his material was scattered all about him. It is not a wise policy tc be over-optimistic in our writings about social evils and how they will be abolished, as if they could be all solved just like an arithmetical problem by adding or subtracting. This is the reasoning of a child, not a grown man. And the quicker we grow.up and realize this, the better.
Just at present there is an Indian ascetic named Vsroba Bhare, a prominent figure in •that country just now, who says his aim is to transform the money-based socio-economic structure into a non-possessing and exploitation-free society. To hear of such views coming from that land of " renunciation " should tend to make even the most dumb diink twice before they start criticising all
ascetics' as fools and madmen. For in India the religious life has always been regarded as a journey and search for truth. Even the most orthodox and priestly programme admits this. And why should We be so foolish to criticize such devout religious life, especially when it is in line with scientific thought, and also the means of attaining Socialism — that is, by action and renunciation.
R. SMITH (Dundee)
(A Dialogue by " Optimus ")
(Part Two of S.R.P.'s series)
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