A Comparison of the Results of Socialist Party-Organizing versus Anarchist Street-Struggles
Info: TheCitizen.org.uk Page
You have an interesting idea: "We are committed to a non sectarian, pluralist agenda of Socialist renewal within the Party, and wish to take this opportunity to invite you to join our numbers." Labour politics has been inseparable from a certain degree of Socialist thinking within British history. The difficulty, naturally, is that the Labour Party itself has repeatedly shown itself to be nothing but a certain degree away from Capitalist exploiters. To quote George Orwell...
This wasn't just a brief period of cooperation between the "labour party" and the literal slavers of foreign nations. It is a ingrained part of the entire history of the British Labour Party, from the beginning to end. Even today, the benefits you pay to the workers are taken out of the sweat, blood, and toil of oppressed children working in mines. Even in your own country, there are forced labor factories where workers are sweated up to 12 hours a day, as the BCC revealed in Manchester, England, less than two years ago. [*1] This slavery is taxed and that money goes to support the British parliament, to pay the wages of Labour Party ministers, and to provide them with the food that they eat. But, I'm sure you don't even notice the taste anymore.
Take the bottom-up, German Socialist movement that developed side-by-side with the British Socialist movement of the same era, roughly tracing from 1880 to 1930. Karl Kautsky, Rosa Luxemburg, and Anton Pannekoek are among the thinkers who have heavily criticized British "labour policy" during this period. What was the primary difficulty between German and British Socialists in that time period? Namely, that British Socialists cooperatively completely in suppressing the colonies, in crushing strikes in nearby countries, and in lying to the workers. This doesn't completely vindicate the German Socialists from all mistakes, but they were absolutely right in their criticism of a labour policy based on race domination. The extensive number of cases of racial discrimination occurring in traditional-conservative unions amply demonstrates my point.
The problem with a Socialist Party trying to seize state power, whether it is named "Labour" or "Marxist," is that it makes peace with the established order. Since the government is now reflective of the Socialists, and since wage slavery is already in place, there's no need to go any further, and abolish it. What has a group of politicians to benefit from actually fulfilling a promise that disempowers themselves and empowers the common people? Absolutely nothing. As long as the Socialist Party moves slightly toward progress, in such small steps that decades can pass without meaningful change, then the Socialist-minded voters will be content with it.
Besides, how are you going to promise high wages except by exploitation of underdeveloped nations, or by giving management of the factories to the workers? If you let the workers manage the economy for themselves, outside the clutches of some magistrate, they'd produce more than enough to satisfy every human being's needs. But, that would abolish the need, the use, and altogether the purpose of the Socialist Party -- which means, of course, your leaders and masters, "MPs" and "statesmen," are out of the job. Looks like it's the Socialist Party with forced labor camps in foreign lands, or Socialism without government, but not quite both.
The politics of parliamentarian Socialism are a failure. You have gotten the majority of workers to go to the polls and throw in a ballot that says "Labour" and "Socialism." More than one half of Britain's voting population has generally already voted into government a political party heavily tinged by Socialist ideals. They have been convinced, by their situation and the philosophy of labor, to express their dissatisfaction with Capitalism when it came to choosing who shall organize society's functioning. And almost nothing fruitful or meaningful has come from it.
Why not convince the working people to express their dissatisfaction in the towns where they live, in the factories where they work, or in the schools where they learn? Labour Party activists have convinced the masses in the necessity of a state that will defend the interests of the working people. But why have them speak out against Capitalism one day every few years, and only in matters that seem to produce no effect? It would seem an infinite amount more productive to convince them to revolt against Capitalist not for a minute in the ballot booth, or an hour at the party meeting -- but everyday and everywhere, at their place of work and life, through every thread that makes up society's fabric.
Thank you for reading this far. Hopefully, I've given you some new ideas on how Socialism can be achieved -- or, at least, to point out the ways that it can't be achieved. I patiently await a response. Thank you...
*1. "Primark linked to UK sweatshops," by Navdip Dhariwal, BBC News, Monday, 12 January 2009, News.BBC.co.uk.
(Forwarded to ten or so other CfS members.)
Thanks for your correspondence, which if you are agreeable I shall pass on to the CFS Executive, in the spirit of transparency and openness that I am sure it is delivered in.
With respect Andy, I am not sure if what you offer here represents anything fresh. Socialists within the Labour party have always had to wrestle with the limitations of both the Party in power and in Opposition. The Left in general has always had to exercise some pretty difficult decisions, in circumstances not of our making, often with a very limited palette of options open to us. However as long as the Party remains institutionally wedded to the trade union movement, I suspect that the serious non sectarian Left will remain in the actually existing movement. The history of those who have left the Party is not a successful one, as the lurid trials of Mr Sheridan rather spectacularly confirm. We need to engage with people where their consciousness is, and not where we would fondly imagine it to be, and Socialists within the Party are well placed to meet those expectations and raise them where we can. Those sectarians who find comfort in sloganeering may well experience a 'purer' political inner life, but what have they achieved that can match the welfare state, the minimum wage etc? Limited though they are - and inevitably as with any concession they may undermine rather than whet the appetite for more radical demands - the ultra left has never achieved anything remotely approaching these reforms.
I thank you for your thoughts. Please be assured that the CFS, and the LRC down South struggle with these dilemmas on a regular basis. But with initiatives such as the People's Charter, the Citizen periodical and our support for recent student and trade union campaigning, we strongly believe that we are in the right place, organisationally. As we all have to accept, our 'choices' are limited, and we are obliged to calmly define where best we can intervene in very difficult circumstances.
(Forwarded to the same ten or so other CfS members.)
The difficulty with the Socialist movement, as it stands today, is that it is Parliamentarian in character. That is, it plays the Capitalist game and expects to get a Socialist outcome. It is rather curious that you point out the minimum wage and the "welfare state" as remarkable achievements of the conservative labour movement. But, they're not.
The first minimum wage law enacted for all workers was in Catalonia, 1919. How was that brought about? By a strike of a union intermixed with middle-class and working-class laborers in Barcelona, led by the city's dissident Anarchists, Libertarian Communists, and Revolutionary Socialists. Contrast this to the yellow unionism of conservative, craft unions throughout Britain. When did Britain gets its minimum wage? 1999. [*1] How was that brought about? By allowing yourselves to be deceived by your politicians.
Spain, after it had lost its empire, in a nation that was still largely agricultural, exactly when a recession hit its industries since it was no longer an arms supplier like in World War 1 -- here, the first minimum wage was made law. They did not have the empire that the British government had, or currently has. They did not have puppet governments in Chile, Iran, Indonesia, and South America, like both the American and UK governments do. They didn't have any of the industrial capacity that is legendary in Britain. And still, eighty years before you, they were able to create the minimum wage. They didn't dare insult the worker by saying they could be freed by voting -- they clearly pointed the only way toward revolution, which is living it.
Conservative trade unions blossomed throughout the 30's in the UK, but it didn't stop them from making arms and sending them to Fascists to kill those who created the first minimum wage law. Hopefully, by now, you can see the futility of the Parliamentarian struggle: it took you eighty years to achieve a minimum wage law, by votes, when it was achieved in a month of struggle by convincing the workers to withdraw their labor. With all your industrial productivity and advancement, the distribution of wealth in your economy is worse than that in a near-feudal, peasant economy. There is no Socialism with Socialist Parties. You're only to get it by fighting for it in the streets and not in congress.
Thank you for your correspondence,
*1. "On This Day - April 1st, 1999: Britain Gets First Minimum Wage," News.BBC.co.uk .