George Walford: The (Anarcho-) Socialist Party (51)

THE SOCIALIST Standard (March 1991) quotes, with approval, a “socialist” saying that the only thing lacking for the building of “socialism” is “the intellectual factor.” Claiming to be materialists, claiming the conditions of production to be the final deter­minant of social behaviour, they also say that (what they regard as) the crucial decision, the choice between capitalism and “socialism”, is governed by “the intellectual factor.”

STEVE Coleman, writing for the Party: “Our attitude is stated in our Declaration of Principles, written in 1904 and still valid today”. (Discussion Bulletin No. 45, Jan-Feb 1991) “Still valid today.” No reservations, no qualifications. So let us hear no more of the D of P being merely a historical document.

WHICH well-known thinker, accepted as a socialist by the Party, includes among “Socialist and Communist systems properly so SOCIALIST PARTY called,” those of St. Simon, Fourier and Owen? Karl Marx, under the heading Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism, in the closing pages of the Communist Manifesto. Yet the three systems named use “socialist” and “communist” in senses substantially different from that which the Party (claiming to be the only Marxist organisation) declares to be the only permissible one.

WHICH other well-known thinker, accepted as a socialist by the Party, maintained that the means of production must be owned by the nation? William Morris, in Four Letters on Socialism. [1] (The Party repudiates national ownership, recognising as socialists only those holding that it must be vested in the world community as a whole). [1] Quoted in Morris W. 1977 Selected Writings and Designs, Edited by Asa Briggs, Penguin, p.153.

PRINCIPLE No.5 declares that the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself. This being so the Party, which claims to be working for that emancipation, must consist of members of that class. But does it? Party speakers routiifely claim that it does, but how do they know? The Party itself has told us “a worker is not distinguished by the way he dresses, talks, by where he lives or the job he does, but by how he gets a living” (Questions of the Day 1969, p. 11). The test for membership does not require applicants to declare how they get their living. For all the Party knows, there may be capitalists among its members, and if there are then its own practice is contravening its Principle.

THE PARTY tells us that exploitation is an essential part of capitalism. It also holds that the working class runs capitalism “from top to bottom.” So which class does the exploiting?

Consider this statement of the “socialist” attitude towards the Labour Party:


At a private ‘end of term’ session with 150 Tory peers, Mrs. Thatcher promised she would win the next election (the lady is always so modest), and added that a fourth victory would show that ‘Britain had finished with socialism.’

If Thatcher knew what socialism was about she would have refrained from revealing what an ignorant person she really is. Who, other than a few Tory Neanderthals, ever refers to the Labour Party as… socialist? Think of the number of prominent Labour MPs and members who have ‘defected,’ ending up in the arms of the Tories and Big Business, or writing for the most reactionary organs of the millionaire press. Woodrow Wyatt (the gamblers’ Lord Wyatt) pens his poison weekly column in the News of the World and that TV interviewer-creep and Sunday Times know-all columnist has said it for us: ‘I never believed in socialism… most people in my time in the Labour Party didn’t.’

How can genuine socialists continue to give credence to this rag­bag of vote-catching politicians who, just like their Tory counterparts, only want your money and your votes?

That could come from any issue of the Socialist Standard; with fairly minor changes it does appear in many issues. But it is reprinted verbatim, including the headline, from Freedom, the anarchist fortnightly, 28 July 1990.


(Reprinted from Discussion Bulletin No. 46)

In Discussion Bulletin No. 44 Steve Coleman argues that we shall not get socialism until there is a majority (it would have to be world-wide) who accept the case of the SPGB. He makes no attempt to show that we can reasonably expect such a majority.

His party have been at work since 1904 and now have about six hundred members. When they started, the world population was about two thousand million, so they needed something over one thousand million for their majority. The population now stands at over five thousand million, so they need something over two-and-a-half. After 86 years they are over one-and-a-half thousand million farther from their majority than when they began. They have been advancing rapidly backwards.

Society keeps changing, but the SPGB give us no good reason to expect a change in their favour. Most people have not yet heard their case, but of those who have, the overwhelming majority have not accepted it. They offer no good reason for expecting the others to respond differently.

The SPGB claim to understand the capitalist system and to put forward a clear and logical case. But when we ask them what part the workers play they give contradictory answers:

1. “we, the workers, who… run the planet from top to bottom” (Socialist Standard, April 1989, p. 61).

2. “wars are not commenced or directed by the workers in uniform but by the capitalist-controlled state.” (Discussion Bulletin 44, p.26)

(Both statements made by Steve Coleman, representing his party).

If the workers neither commence nor direct the wars that take place they do not run the planet from top to bottom. Until the SPGB can get their thinking straightened out they will do well to be more modest in their claims, and less dismissive of people who disagree with them.

Yours etc.
George Walford,
Ideological Commentary.

from Ideological Commentary 51, May 1991.