George Walford: Understanding "Socialist Understanding"

One branch of the party has found IC so instructive (or perhaps so offensive, or so entertaining – they don’t say which) that they have asked for a supply, to be distributed to each member. The copies requested have been sent, and we shall be glad to supply other branches if they will say how many copies they require (though if there are many requests there will be delay before they are all filled). But a bulk supply will be sent only once to each branch; after that we will continue to send to members who write us individually asking to be put on the mailing list.

Readers may be wondering what that happened to the written debate with the “Socialist” Party which the Challenge was intended to start. The Challenge was issued in May 1984 (copies are available if any readers do not have it). On 6 October 1984 we received the party’s Reply, and about the beginning of November (can’t find a record of the date) we sent our Answer to the Reply. We now await the final statement from the party.

When sending their Reply the party did not say they accepted the conditions set out at the end of the Challenge. We wrote to the General Secretary on 18 October asking about this, and repeated the query when sending our Answer to the Reply. No response has yet been received.

The Socialist Standard for December 1984 (p. 233) pours scorn upon ideas put forward by the Communist Workers Organisation in a debate, saying:

Their second speaker; a Leninist caricature who ought to audition for “Citizen Smith,” thought that workers can’t understand socialist ideas and they won’t understand them until the socialist revolution takes place.

But if the party is right in holding that the workers who reject “socialism” do so because they are conditioned against understanding it (a letter from a member printed in IC15 spoke of “conditioned anti-socialists”) then it is correct to say they can’t understand it; their conditioning prevents them doing so.

The party has also told us that capitalism will continue until ended by the “socialist” revolution. If so then the workers won’t understand “socialism” until after the revolution – their conditioning will continue until then.

If what the “socialists” tell us is right, then the CWO speaker was right in saying the workers can’t understand “socialism” and won’t understand it until the revolution takes place. He was doing no more than putting together two statements made by the (anarcho-)socialists.

The obvious reply for the Party to make is that future development of capitalism will deprive it of its conditioning power, thus permitting the workers to understand and the revolution to occur. But they have cut themselves off from this escape route, for they hold that all the conditions for socialism, except a majority of socialists, are now present, that no further development of capitalism is necessary before the revolution can occur.

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There was one poor lion that hadn’t got a Christian.

from Ideological Commentary 16, January 1985.