George Walford: The (Anarcho-)Socialist Party of Great Briton (25)

IC holds out a continuing invitation: We undertake to print any statement of up to 1,000 words carrying the approval of this party or one of its branches. Letters from individual members or supporters will be printed if they are cogent, interesting and concise, and if space permits. If you want your letter to appear unedited or not at all, please say so.

THE PARTY tells us, endlessly, that under capitalism production is for profit. If so, it cannot be argued that because the capitalist productive system (motivated, the Party says, by profit) is capable of producing enough for everybody therefore a “socialist” productive system (not using profit) would be able to do this.

To maintain that it would is like holding that because one type of motorcar (when supplied with petrol) will run, another type (although without petrol) will also run.

The Party asks its hearers to give serious consideration to what it says, and we have been doing just that. The amount of space devoted to it in IC has provoked readers into objecting. Firmly attached to the Party for nearly fifty years – longer than nearly all of its members – we have a good claim to recognition as the Loyal Opposition. Under both Tory and Labour governments the leader of the Opposition receives a substantial salary. It is an example of democracy in action we should like to see the (A-)SPGB emulating.

At an Open Forum held in November 1986 a Party speaker and an Anarchist both gave examples of the way other parties contradict themselves; they agreed that this was both significant and a Bad Thing. In discussion after the talks we showed that the (A-)SPGB also does this. It declares its intention to change existence by means of ideas while saying ideas are fundamentally determined by existence. (For other examples, see IC versus SP).

We said the same thing about the Party as the Party speaker had said about other parties, and gave similar support for our statements. But while his statements were held to be significant, ours were condemned as as trivial. The speaker pleaded, with throbbing sincerity: “If socialism is wrong, for God’s sake tell us!” and since we were there to do just that we expected a welcome, but it was not forthcoming. In replying to us the Party speaker asserted that contradictions are unavoidable; he did not explain why, if this excuses the Party, it does not also excuse the other parties whose contradictions he had been busily quoting. We had no opportunity to comment on this at the meeting, but what the speaker said was true. People exploring difficult issues can hardly avoid sometimes falling into self-contradictions. These can doubtless be found in our own efforts. (No, we won’t; find them for yourself). But having fallen into them one is not obliged to stay there.

One way of dealing with contradictions is to use dialectic. Another is to press the enquiry further, when it sometimes turns out that the apparent contradiction is not real. Failing all else, escape can be achieved by abandoning one of the poles. The Party does none of these things. It has repudiated dialectic, it entered politics claiming to be already in possession of the solution for social problems and has not changed its analysis since, and on all the contradictions we have pointed out it continues to maintain both poles.

This is one of the reasons it remains so tiny and ineffective. People generally are not interested in dialectic, or self-contradictions and their poles, they do not work out in detail what is wrong with what the Party says. But they are sane and sensible, they recognise muddle when they hear it and they will have nothing to do with it. That is one reason why the overwhelming majority of those who have heard the Party “case,” even of those who have heard it repeatedly, have consistently rejected it and continue to do so.

At the same meeting there was a Party poster on one pillar. It included this, in bold print:

The class that has the means of material production at its disposal has control at the same time over the means of mental production.

There can be no doubt which class that refers to. According to the Party it is the working class that produces all material goods and does practically all the work of controlling the activities of society today; the working class runs society from top to bottom. It is the working class, therefore, which has the means of material production at its disposal. And, the Party tells us, it is the working class which produces the books, newspapers, films, textbooks, videos and television programmes This class also has control over the means of mental production. Clearly the class spoken of on the poster is the working class.

But we expect to find the Party claiming it is the capitalist class.

Would any member of the Party care to comment?

The Party holds that Christianity is irrational, based upon the class interests of the capitalists, not upon evidence. But Christians do at least claim to know of one man who died, was resurrected and went to heaven to live in blessedness for ever after. The Party do not claim to know of even one person who has lived in a socialist society. The support for the Christian claim is not strong, but merely by claiming to have evidence, even if the claim be completely false, the Christians show themselves aware of the rational demand for evidence. The Party do not show this awareness. They can see nothing wrong in a complete absence of direct evidence.

They expect us to rely on the reasoning of the Party “case” – a construction which would leave a Surrealist breathless.

Camden and North West Lodon Branches have issued a leaflet saying their series of lectures “could be entitled… ‘This is our Record,’ or ‘Who proved to be correct?'” They do not claim to have improved the human condition, and certainly not to have established “socialism”; only to have been correct. Is IC not justified in saying the Party’s concern is to win the argument?

from Ideological Commentary 25, January 1987.