George Walford: Arms and the Socialist Party

The Socialist Party of Great Britain possesses an Object and Declaration of Principles, and is so proud of them, and so unreserved in its commitment to them, that it includes them in every printed item it issues. There is more in them than readily meets the eye; we have been studying them, on and off, for some forty-five years and are still discovering novelties. Clause Number Six tells us the working class must organise for the conquest of the powers of government in order that the machinery of government, including the armed forces, “may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.”

In order to overthrow capitalism they are prepared to use the powers of capitalism, including the armed forces. Taken by itself that may seem sensible enough, but when considering statements made by the Socialist Party it is always wise to ask what else they say. In the present connection the other thing they say appears on the cover of their journal, the Socialist Standard, for May 1981, and it is in the largest letters they could squeeze in: AGAINST ALL WAR.

So how are they going to use those armed forces? For handing out leaflets on the points of their bayonets? Firing their cannon to draw attention to socialist meetings? Setting off their nuclear bombs to provide illumination?

from Ideological Commentary 13, September 1984.