George Walford: Yes, We Did Mean It

The suggestion that the political movements form a series (see ‘The Political Series‘ in IC34), sometimes meets with the response: ‘Well, perhaps, but which one is right? Which one do you support?’ The reply, that one supports all of them, is unlikely to be well received, but a commitment to systematic ideology obliges us to make it.

Before going any farther, let us meet another question, one certain to be provoked by our first answer. Since we declare ourselves committed to opposing the (A-)SPGB, how can we claim to be supporting all political movements? An obvious (and unoriginal) response would be that that organisation is less a movement than a monument (though a very small one) but we can do better. The Party declares itself to enter the field of political action ‘determined to wage war against all other political parties’ (Principle No. 8); and when people announce themselves determined to fight, (and do not in fact restrict their aggression to parties), then to fight them is to support them in their determination.

Apart from that, intending critics are asked to note just what our first reply said. It did not announce support for each movement but for all of them. To the extent that any one of them asserts its own ideology to the exclusion of those of the others we do not support it; our answer does not commit us to support of nazism or stalinism, each of which set out to eliminate, within its area, political movements other than itself, or of other dictators making the same attempt. The reply is in fact a way of saying that we support each movement to the extent that it accepts the presence, and recognises the value, of the others, to the extent that it is tolerant and (in one of the many senses carried by a word we tend to avoid for that reason) democratic.

In no other way could we reconcile our personal practice with the theory of s.i. Our friends (a phrase not meant to imply that they regard us as their friend) of the (A-)SPGB are content to accept that they will not be able to reconcile their theories with their practice until ‘socialism’ has been established; until then they can do nothing but live in self-contradiction, proclaiming themselves ‘socialists’ but leading capitalist lives. Systematic ideology is more rigorous and more demanding than that. Its truth is here and now.

from Ideological Commentary 36, November 1988.