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Socialist Standard - Party Centenary Issue

Socialist Standard - Party Centenary Issue

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Published by pfbcarlisle
monthly magazine celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Socialist Party of Great Britain
monthly magazine celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Socialist Party of Great Britain

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Published by: pfbcarlisle on Jan 22, 2008
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Socialist Standard 
June 20043
Editorial50 years agoInaugural meetingThe university of theworking class”Introductory course insocialist theoryMastering Marxian economicsOn the stumpA brush with the fascistsFree thinking logicNorthern Ireland: our firstelection campaignSmash cashSocialism on one planetLong live the (electronic)revolution!As others have seen usMovement or monument?Getting splintersSome internal debatesAs soon as this pub closes46922304271124323837261219162846London, Saturday 12 June andSunday 13 JuneSaturday 12 June
Regents College, Regents Park, NW1(nearest tube: Baker St)
Speakers: Richard Donnelly and BillMartinChair: Pat Deutz
7.30 - 12pm Social Evening,Buffet, Music
Details and Tickets from: CentenaryCommittee, 52 Clapham High St,SW4 7UN
Sunday 13 June
11pm Guided walking tour (2 hours)of Clerkenwell and Holborn area ofplaces associated with the SocialistParty and the working classmovement in general. Meet atFarringdon station (rail and tube).Guide: Keith Scholey.3pm (till dark) Socialist Party rally atSpeakers Corner, Hyde Park (tube:Marble Arch).
Centenary Event
Socialist Standard 
June 20044
A century for socialism
elcome to this special edition of the
Socialist Standard,
a commemorative issue marking onehundred years in the political life of theSocialist Party of Great Britain. When our Party wasformed on 12th June 1904, in a hall in a little alley offFetter Lane, Fleet Street, London, the founder memberswould rightly have viewed the possibility of our existencea century later in something of a negative light. The aim ofthe Socialist Party has always been ‘socialism and nothingbut’ and the founder members conceived the Party as amechanism through which socialist ideas could be rapidlyspread and, potentially, through which the working class ofwage and salary earners could come to political power.The subsequent creation of socialism would render theneed for a socialist party redundant and so, one hundredyears on, the very continued existence of the SocialistParty of Great Britain is indicative of the fact that thesystem of society the founder members were dedicated tooverthrowing – capitalism – is still with us.To this effect, today, ownership of the means of living(the factories, farms, offices, communication systems andso on) is still in the hands of a minority social class thatcan live a luxurious existence without having to work.Virtually all the useful work in society is being done by themajority, a class of people forced by economic compulsionto sell their working energies for a wage or a salary thatis less in value than what they produce. It is a societycharacterised by extremes of wealth and poverty, by warsand chaos and by a meanness of spirit that underminesmuch that is decent about human beings.For the last hundred years the Socialist Party has beenwaging a war of our own – against capitalism and forsocialism. We have waged a war too against all the politicalparties who have supported capitalism, including thosethat have done so while paying lip-service to socialism. Theachievement of socialism has been our sole objective,because our understanding of capitalist society and itsworking has told us that it is a system capable of changeover time but not change that can abolish its fundamentaldefects. Capitalism
altered over the last century, butnot fundamentally so and all the problems associated withit in 1904 are still present today, with some new andunforeseen ones too.
Technological powers
In one sense, capitalism is the most successful socialsystem that has ever existed in that the working class,through its collective efforts, has been able to develop thepowers of production to previously undreamed-of heights,from putting a man on the moon to mapping the humangenome. But these powers of production are wasted anddistorted by a system that puts profit before needs as amatter of course and where collective effort isdestabilised by competition and division. A society that cannow send spaceships to Mars but which cannot adequatelyfeed, clothe and house the world’s population despite themassive technological resources at its disposal is a societythat is seriously and fundamentally flawed.One hundred years ago the men and women whofounded the Socialist Party came to a significant politicalconclusion, which is just as important now as it was then.This was that capitalism, through creating an inter-connected world-wide division of labour and unparalleledleaps in productivity (whereby ten years in its lifespan isequal to one hundred years and more of previous systemslike feudalism), has created the conditions of potentialabundance necessary for its own replacement and also asocial class of wage and salary earners with the incentiveto organise for this. What pioneers of the socialistmovement like Marx, Engels and Morris envisaged associalism or communism, had become a practicalpossibility and tinkering with an inherently defectivesystem like capitalism a waste of time and energy in thelight of it.The founders of the Socialist Party recognised that thetime was ripe for the working class to organise itselfconsciously and politically to democratically take controlof the state machine in countries across the world,dispossessing the owning class of capitalists and socialisingproduction on an international basis. In doing so theworking class would consciously create a system wherehuman activity would be carried out solely and directly tomeet the needs and desires of the population, and whereall the defining categories of capitalism had been abolished:production for profit, money, national frontiers, the classsystem and – as a result – the enforcer of class societyitself, the state.
At the time of our Party’s foundation other politicalactivists agreed that this type of society was possible anddesirable, but disagreed about how it could be created.Due to what they took to be the backward intellectualdevelopment of the working class, they thought thatcapitalism would need to be gradually transformed intosocialism by a series of reform measures. They labelled thefounder members of the Socialist Party and others whothought on similar lines ‘impossibilists’, people who weredemanding the impossible when piecemeal and gradualreform was all that was realistic. This was the substance ofour break in 1904 with our parent body, the SocialDemocratic Federation, and the basis for our criticism ofother organisations of the time like the IndependentLabour Party and the Fabian Society.Organisations like the SDF that had a papercommitment to socialism were in practice swamped bypeople who were attracted by their reform programmesrather than their supposed commitment to abolishingcapitalism. In these circumstances, those who viewedreforms as a stepping-stone to socialism were themselvesswamped by people for whom reforms were simply anend in themselves, palliating the worst excesses of thesystem. The history of the Labour Party – formed out ofthe Labour Representation Committee in 1906 – is a casein point. More than any other organisation in Britain, theLabour Party developed as a body hoping to reform
Socialist Standard 
June 2004
capitalism into something vaguely humane. Today, in 2004,the modern Labour Party stands as an organisation whichhas instead been turned by capitalism into somethingrather more than vaguely inhumane. From Keir Hardie andRamsay MacDonald onwards it has steadily driftedtowards where it is today – a party which has abandonedany hope of seriously changing society for the better butwhich now markets itself as the most efficient managerialteam for British Capitalism PLC instead.Over decades, millions of workers the world over haveinvested their hopes in so-called ‘practical’, ‘possibilist’organisations like the Labour Party, hoping against hopethat they would be able to neuter the market economywhen, in reality, the market economy has successfullyneutered them. As such, the damage these organisationshave done the socialist movement is colossal. That theyturned out to be the real ‘impossibilists’ – demanding anunattainable humanised capitalism – is one of the greatesttragedies of the last century, made all the greater becauseit was so utterly predictable.
Vanguard politics
Unfortunately for the socialist movement, the reformistdistraction has not been the only one, however. Anotherpolitical tendency emerged, principally out of theBolshevik seizure of power in Russia in 1917, claiming thatthey had found another route to socialism. Howeversincere some of their number may have been at the outset – and whatever their laudable success at curtailing Russia’spart in the First World War – Lenin’s Bolsheviks proved tobe a political tendency that set the clock back forsocialism at least as much as reformism did. In claimingthat socialism could be created by a political minoritywithout the will and participation of the majority of thepopulation, and through their wilful confusion of socialismwith nationalisation and state-run capitalism generally (atype of opportunism also shared – over time – by thereformists), they shamelessly distorted the socialistpolitical programme.The Socialist Party was the first organisation in Britain(and possibly the world) to foresee the disastrous statecapitalist outcome of the Bolshevik takeover but wegained no satisfaction in doing so. Even now, years after thecollapse of the Kremlin’s empire, the association ofsocialist and communist ideas with state capitalism,minority action and political dictatorship is one of thegreatest barriers to socialist understanding.Today, both reformism and Bolshevik-style vanguardismstand discredited. As ostensible attempts to createsocialism they didn’t just fail, they were positively injuriousto the one strategy that could have brought about a bettersociety during the last century. The modern far left – bycombining the two elements together in an unfortunatemix – have opted for the worst of both worlds and rightlyare politically marginalized because of it.
Looking forwards
From our standpoint in 2004, the Socialist Party of GreatBritain and our companion parties abroad in the WorldSocialist Movement regard our situation with both prideand sadness. Sadness because two political currents wewarned against most vehemently – reformism andvanguardism – succeeded in derailing the socialist projectso spectacularly, but pride because of the part we haveplayed in keeping the alternative vision alive.The political positions of the Socialist Party were nothanded down on tablets of stone in 1904. With the Objectand Declaration of Principles as our guide we havedeveloped our own analysis and political viewpoints as thelast hundred years have worn on. Occasionally we mayhave made mistakes, but we are confident that our recordover the last century stands for itself – of propagating thecase for real socialism, in exposing the promises andtrickery of the reformists and the vanguardists, inopposing the senseless butchery of the working class intwo world wars and countless others, and in presenting aclear analysis of capitalism in language readily-understandable to those whose interest lies in socialism.In the pages of this special issue you will read about theremarkable men and women who have been members ofour Party over the last hundred years and about thepolitical input they have had to make. Without doubt, theircontribution has been an immense one and we pay publictribute to them for it, but there is a lot more work still tobe done.Capitalism today stands as a social system that bearswith it little by way of a positive perspective for humanity.In the major industrial centres of the system, significantrises in productivity coupled with trade union action byworkers to win a half-decent share of the gains, have ledto rising purchasing power for many. But capitalism andinsecurity continue to go hand in hand and in the so-called‘Third World’ millions starve every year while literallybillions now live in disgusting conditions with no hope insight for them. Everywhere on the planet capitalism hasspread its malignant influence: creating a society whereeverything (and everyone) can be bought and sold, wherean ‘every man for himself’ culture leads to escalatingbrutality, crime and violence and where the social codesbuilt up during the system’s formative years have beenundermined by a rampant drive to commercialisation,fostered by a distorted and ruthless individualism. In 2004,nationalism, political gangsterism, religious fundamentalismand terrorist atrocities are the order of the day in asystem that neither knows or cares where it is heading.In the first edition of the
Socialist Standard 
we calledupon our readership to help speed the time when weshall herald in for ourselves and for our children, abrighter, a happier, and a nobler society than any the worldhas yet witnessed”. One hundred years later we are stillhere, and make the same plea, with the same force andurgency. No matter how inconvenient it may be for ourpolitical opponents, we are not going away until our job isdone.That day will come when the working class has seenthrough the lies and false promises that have proved sucha distraction this last one hundred years. And it will comewhen the supposedly incredible idea of creating a worldwithout wars and worries, money and markets is acceptedas not only necessary for the sake of humanity, butrecognised for being just as realisable as other once‘impossible’ projects are today . . . like a man on the moon,or a spaceship to Mars.

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