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.
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.
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
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.