The Socialist Platform has been established to promote socialist ideas within Left Unity and to argue that the party set up at the November founding conference should be explicitly socialist, with clear and unambiguous socialist aims and principles.
The Socialist Platform’s ‘Statement of Aims and Principles for the [Left Unity] Party’ is presented for consideration and debate. It sets out briefly what we mean by socialism and some principles to guide the new party in its activities. The Statement is presented in a spirit of enthusiasm for a new party that will represent the interests of the working-class and fight for a new form of society in which the needs of all are met.
A sick society
Capitalism means exploitation, poverty, a widening gap between rich and poor within countries and between them. It can never satisfy the needs of the majority. It destroys lives and wrecks communities. Inter-state rivalry drives the threat of war. Capitalism degrades human relationships; it preaches self-interest rather than solidarity as the human goal. It wounds the planet, perhaps fatally, unless we act.
If a society should be judged on the way it treats the old, the infirm, the sick, the disabled, the young, then this society stands condemned. If a society can be judged on how it protects and nurtures each individual, this one stands condemned. This society is sick, rotten to the core. Capitalism infects everything it touches.
We believe there is an alternative: a society without classes, without exploitation, without rich and poor, without want, without war; a society in which science and technology are used to increase our leisure time and in which humanity lives in harmony with the natural world, not at odds with it; a society with no oppression and discrimination, in which every individual is cherished and able to develop to their full potential. That society is one in which private ownership of the means of production has been replaced by democratic common ownership, where everyone participates in the planning of production in the interests of society as a whole. We believe that these ideas can inspire. We should boldly proclaim them and argue for them.
Those who have signed the platform statement are socialists from different traditions and have different experiences and methods of working. We recognise that there will always be differences in any party, even between those who share a common aim. But we believe that reasonable, comradely debate about our goals and how we can achieve them can only assist in clarifying our ideas and guiding our practical work.
Austerity stamps its imprint
We are facing an avalanche of attacks. The welfare state is being smashed to pieces. Everything that used to be taken for granted is being taken away – free health care, free education, affordable housing and much, much more. Young people face a life in debt, with little prospect of getting a decent place to live or bringing up a family in any sort of comfort. The chances of a meaningful, rewarding job are pretty much non-existent. Those out of work, retired, disabled, sick and living on benefits face a miserable life in poverty. Austerity is stamping its imprint on every aspect of our daily life. Anxiety, depression and even suicide result.
Left Unity has to be a party that is involved in the resistance to austerity. We have to fight as hard as we can to save our hospitals, to defeat the bedroom tax and to stop attacks on our pensions. But so long as we have capitalism, we will have to fight. These attacks will not cease, even if we win victories.
Left Unity will be built by being active in the communities, workplaces, colleges, in every working-class struggle – strikes, occupations, pickets, direct action, and acts of civil disobedience. Consistent work in an area, patiently arguing our case and actively participating in these struggles will win support for our party.
But as well as being against the attacks we face now, we must offer a positive alternative. We don’t think that the alternative is a ‘better’ or ‘fairer’ capitalism. It must mean getting rid of capitalism altogether.
We can offer resistance today while also arguing for a new society in which things are organised differently. These things are not opposed but complementary. That is why we argue for the new party to be both a party that supports all campaigns and struggles to defend and extend our living standards and democratic rights and a party that fights to get rid of capitalism completely and create a new society.
Without a care
Society is divided primarily into two classes. One class – the capitalist class – is numerically small but owns the largest part of the wealth in society and the means of production – the factories, technology, transportation, the land and its natural resources. The other class – the working class – is enormous and comprises the majority in most countries in the world. It is that class of people who own no capital and survive only by selling their ability to work in return for wages.
Whilst capitalism has developed the productive forces out of all recognition over the last 200 years, integrating the whole of the world, it has done so without regard for the misery created for billions of the world’s inhabitants and the destruction of the natural world around us. Capitalism exists simply to expand, to reproduce itself – to make more profit. It pays no heed to human needs unless a profit can be made. It is profit that drives investment, not need. People die for lack of water, food and basic medicines in a world that could easily provide them. Capitalism cares little about the pollution of the air we breathe or the water we drink, rising temperatures or the rising sea levels that ensue. Environmental disasters such as Bhopal or the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are the consequence of profit at any cost.
For all its expansion of the productive forces, capitalism is incapable of meeting the needs of the vast majority of the world’s population. Private ownership of the means of production – factories, technology, transport, the land and its mineral resources – and competition prevent the rational, democratic planning of production. Capitalism claims to be the most efficient system ever – that the market is the best manager of resources – yet even in the advanced capitalist world millions are deprived of the means of existence.
Unemployment in the European Union is now 26.5 million. More than one in five young people in the EU are without a job. In Spain and Greece it is more than half. Yet with the advances in science and technology there could be fulfilling, socially useful work for all with a much reduced working week yet still providing a guaranteed income for all the necessities of life in the modern world. Capitalism prevents this. Socialism could begin to address it.
Capitalism develops through periodic crises, throwing the world into turmoil. Humanity is in thrall to the whim of the undemocratic market. These crises are an inextricable and inevitable consequence of the private ownership of the means of production. The latest crisis has given fresh impetus to the attacks on all the reforms made since the Second World War with the argument that there is no alternative.
There is an alternative
It is this argument that has to be addressed. Those born now and future generations will have few of the benefits of the ‘welfare state’, which is being smashed up in front of us, unless we do something about it. These gains were only a temporary makeover of the ugly reality of capitalism that existed for most of its history. Their system is in crisis and the owners of capital intend to resolve the crisis in the way they always do – by making the working class pay.
Nor should we forget that even under the ‘welfare state’, millions still lived in poverty, without access to fulfilling work and a secure life. Elsewhere, unremitting misery prevailed and still continues for the two-thirds on the planet who exist in abject poverty.
The destruction of the things we cherish is not accidental, nor driven simply by ideology. It is driven by the dynamics of the profit system and by the need of the owners of capital to protect that system. If the system exists to make a profit, then everything that stands in the way must be bulldozed. If the capitalists can’t make the profit they want, they won’t invest. So, business taxes must be reduced, regulation must be minimised, wages must be lowered, workers must work faster and longer, services provided by the state must be privatised. To make all this more easily achieved, trade union and workers’ rights must be restricted and civil liberties denied. If investments turn bad, we must bail them out.
Any government that aims to manage capitalism, rather than dismantling it and restructuring society with production for need not profit, will inevitably be forced by the logic of the market and the workings of the system to act in the interests of the capitalist class. If a government wants capitalism to work better, it will be forced by the economic basis of the system to do whatever is necessary to make it work better. That means implementing policies that promote investment and maximising profits, in other words, low taxes, minimum regulation, low wages, privatisation and so on. This is the reason that the social democratic parties across the world, like the Labour Party, PASOK in Greece or PSOE in Spain, support austerity policies. Because they cannot contemplate a break with capitalism they are compelled to act in its interests.
Capitalism cannot be made to work in the interests of the majority. That is not how it functions. Big business will always find ways to flout or ignore regulation. Even if regulation succeeds, which it never can fully, the basic exploitative relationship between capital and labour remains – the capitalist makes his/her profit out of the unpaid labour of the workers s/he employs.
The new party must stand against oppression and discrimination. Everyone who has signed up to the Left Unity project will be committed to the emancipation of women, LGBT liberation and an ending of racism and all other forms of discrimination. The fuller party programme will have to elaborate in more detail the steps we fight for now and in the future.
We have to combat discrimination and oppression now and always, but without the eradication of class society we believe that there is no chance of ridding society of the oppression of women and all other forms of oppression and discrimination. We are convinced that the ending of capitalism is a necessary step towards ending oppression and discrimination in all its forms. It is a process that we can begin but which others may have to complete. This means that we will be engaged in all campaigns that take up the fight against oppression now, consistently working to strengthen them.
We recognise that young people face an uncertain future and within their communities they are often the target of police harassment, bullying, unemployment on top of the widespread deprivation. Our new party must be at the forefront of opposing racist state methods against the youth, by reaching out to them, standing with them when they confront the state and winning them to a vision of different society. Against oppression our watchword is solidarity.
The environmental catastrophe being prepared by the profit system’s pell-mell rush to make a profit, without a thought of the consequences, is one of the most glaring examples of the inability of capitalism to protect humanity from disaster. No amount of regulation could tackle greenhouse gas emissions or prevent another Bhopal, so long as private interest dictates production. This can only fully be addressed when decisions about production are no longer taken by a few self-interested private owners but by society as a whole.
Left Party Platform
The Left Party Platform has presented a Statement for adoption by the new party and an accompanying article “Towards a new left party”. There is much in both the statement and the article that we agree with and we welcome some improvements in formulations in comparison with the document presented to the national Left Unity meeting on 11 May.
Both documents are primarily a description of the dismantling of the welfare state, the rightward shift of the Labour Party and the need to fight austerity. These general issues have led each one of us to respond positively to Ken Loach’s appeal for a discussion and debate about the need for a new party. We are all interested in creating and building a new party to represent the interests of those whom the Labour Party has abandoned. Working-class people have no useful representation by any political party.
However, both of the LPP documents fail to state clearly what is the cause of the problems they describe or the solutions to them. The documents contain generalisations and vague, inadequate formulations, with no clear aims or principles set out. It is not enough to be against austerity and neo-liberalism, without also explaining that the crisis is rooted in capitalism and that the answer lies only in getting rid of it.
No return to 1945
We are all against austerity. We have to organise the maximum resistance to it. But resistance is not enough. Creating a new party is not enough. What type of party? A new party must have a political programme to chart a way to an alternative to austerity. That alternative is not a return to the welfare state of the 1945 Labour government but an advance to a completely new form of society. The political and economic circumstances that led to the creation of the welfare state under capitalism no longer exist. That is why the attacks on it are taking place.
Neither of the LPP documents gives any clear indication of what sort of party the LPP wants to set up. Will it be a party that tries to manage capitalism? Or will it be a party that breaks with capitalism? At different places the documents seem to point in different directions. Whilst there are references to socialism in the documents, it is unclear from the context what exactly is meant by the use of the word. It is this lack of clarity that detracts from both documents.
There are references to renationalisation of the privatised industries but no mention of the abolition of private ownership of the means of production more generally. The only conclusion one can draw is that the documents are calling for a ‘mixed economy’, an economy in which industry remains primarily in private hands with some in state hands. This remains capitalism. The profit system will remain, the nationalised industries will service big business. Overall, the impression is conveyed that the LPP aims at a return to some sort of social-democratic golden age, when the Labour Party was more left-wing. In so far as any clear aim can be discerned it aims at managing capitalism, not getting rid of it.
This impression is reinforced by the references to new left-wing parties in Europe. Again, the documents are vague. For example, the LPP Statement refers to Greece, France, Germany and elsewhere, where “new political parties have developed, drawing together a range of left forces, posing political, social and economic alternatives. They are anti-capitalist parties that stand against neo-liberalism and the destruction of the welfare states – whether at the hands of the right or of social democracy – and fight for alternative social, economic and political policies.”
It would have been far clearer if the ‘alternatives’ being posed by these parties had been spelled out. Are they alternatives that allow capitalism to continue, in which case those alternatives are doomed to failure? Or are they alternatives that posit a breach with capitalism, in which case they should be supported?
Anyone who follows European politics will know that there is an array of political voices inside these parties, some socialist, some social-democratic, some Stalinist, some liberal. Which voice in these parties is the LPP asking us to emulate? Is it the wing of Die Linke, which implemented cuts in coalition with the social democratic SPD in Berlin leading to its rejection by the voters in 2011? Notwithstanding the rapid rise in popularity of Syriza, is it not clear that its leader Alexis Tsipras is presenting a more emollient face and retreating from any idea of fundamental change?
It is not enough just to be a ‘left-wing’ party. The UK Green Party could justifiably claim to be a ‘left-wing’ party but its council in Brighton has implemented cuts. A lack of clarity about the aims and principles of our new party at its inception runs the risk of allowing the examples of Berlin and Brighton to be repeated.
That is why we believe that it is important to set out the aims and principles in the way we have.
Arguments against a socialist party
Various arguments have been raised against having such an explicit commitment to socialism.
The strangest objection comes from some socialists who argue that we should not be so explicit because we will ‘frighten people off’ or we will ‘wreck the left unity project’. “It will never get off the ground if you argue for socialism too soon”, they say. “It’s a broad party we’re building. You can’t impose socialism on it, otherwise it won’t be inclusive.”
We do not believe that those who want to fight against austerity will be put off from joining a socialist party that openly and patiently argues its case. Who are the people who it is feared will walk away? Those who we campaign alongside in the anti-cuts campaigns, the anti-bedroom tax protests, opposition to imperialist wars and against racism are unlikely to be repelled by our arguments. We will say, “We want to fight here and now to [stop the privatisation of the NHS] [oppose the bedroom tax][oppose police brutality] but we also want to fight for a society in which we no longer have to get up each morning to fight these fights. We want a society in which hospitals don’t get closed and in which there is no police racism. It’s called socialism. But to get it we have to build a party that will campaign for it. You should join it.” How will this put people off?
Another argument is that the supporters of this platform want a ‘narrow’ party, whereas they want a ‘broad’ party. We want a mass working-class party, which will include all who want to support the party’s aims. There is nothing to be gained from being in a narrow or small party. We set our sights on transforming society. We believe that can only be achieved by the majority of the working class acting in their own interests to get rid of capitalism and begin afresh. To reach that stage will require a mass party of millions of activist persuaders, millions of people who will argue for socialism.
We are a long way from that at the moment. It will take time, hard work and patience. It cannot be achieved overnight. Those who believe that fudging the aims and principles of the party is a quicker way to achieve support will find very quickly that it is not. It will lead to confusion, opportunism and disappointment. Far better to try to get things correct at the beginning, even if it means taking things more slowly. To make the party successful will require a long period of work in working-class communities, earning respect for its hard work and principled positions.
Other complaints will be about the language used. There is a very real concern here. We agree that we must try to present socialist ideas in an accessible way so that those who are unfamiliar with them can more easily understand them. If people think our statement could be better written, we welcome suggestions to improve it.
But, more often than not, this objection is nothing to do with language. It is an argument that hides the real objection, which is to the ideas of socialism themselves, not the way they are presented. Let’s be clear. Socialist ideas have become less popular and less common in society over the last thirty years. Many are unfamiliar with them. Our task is to make socialism popular, not to try to become popular by hiding it. But the only way that we can do this is by arguing for them. We will never make them popular if we don’t go out confidently and boldly to make our case.
Behind this argument about language is another concern. Some people may be worried that if we are too stridently socialist, because the ideas are not a mass force in society now, we will not obtain good votes when we stand in elections. But we cannot hide what we stand for. We must be different. We must determine our policies on the basis of our aims and principles, and campaign to win support for them. To do anything else will lead us in the footsteps of the Labour Party, which continues marching to the right on the issue of immigration because it believes that is the way to get more votes.
If we want to be seen as truly incorruptible and different from other parties, we must be seen as the people who say what they think. We would rather say what we think and not get elected, than water down our policies to win votes. Of course, we want to win seats so that we have an even greater presence in society and a stronger base from which to argue our case. But any seat won by hiding what we think will not be worth having.
Say what you think
We believe that it is important to debate these issues openly, seriously and in a reasonable tone. This places an obligation on all to present their arguments for consideration, criticism, refinement, rejection or agreement.
Every member of Left Unity should argue for what they believe. There should be a thorough debate in the branches and a vote should be taken at conference. Through a comradely debate our ideas will become clearer. Those who lose will then have to campaign to win a majority next time and those who win must prove in practice that their approach works. There is nothing unusual about this.
The Statement is a starting point. It is not a party programme or a policy statement. It is intended only to lay solid socialist foundations for the new party. It makes clear that socialism has to be international and democratic. We welcome criticism, suggestions for improvement, additions. No doubt there will be plenty of debate about programme, tactics, methods of work, terminology and other aspects of party work. But if we get the principles and aims of the party unambiguously established from the beginning, those debates will be framed by a clear idea of where we want to end up, making it much easier to measure our work and achievements against our overall objective. If we get things right at the beginning, we have a much better chance or building something significant, that will play a central role in changing history.
We present the Statement for your support. Please sign it if you agree with it.
Mark Boothroyd, Tim Lessells, Soraya Lawrence, Will McMahon, Cat Rylance, Chris Strafford, Nick Wrack
If you want to join the Socialist Platform or find out more about it contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Just Stop Oil – Slow Marches
Slow marches are still legal (so LOW RISK of arrest), and are extremely effective. The plan is to keep up the pressure on this ecocidal government to stop all new fossil fuel licences.
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The fact that we have the two approaches to debate is very positive and already distinguishes LU as a different type of party. I agree with everything in the LPP statement but the unambiguous aim of a socialist society and rupture with capitalism is what made me sign the Socialist Statement.
In my view it is not enough to fight austerity and wars in general. Capitalism is in such disarray that some ‘more intelligent’ and ‘far-sighted’ capitalist ‘factions’ realise that in a world of mass poverty and global warfare they themselves can not survive. These factions, who refuse to self-destruct, are calling for similar and even more radical propositions than those of the LPP statement! Consider the following:
We know that the IMF is belatedly panicking and saying that UK, Greece and others are too much focused on austerity and not enough on growth. But taking this further,Ambrose Evans-Pritchard ( as his name might make you suspect)is a pillar of the City of London. Yet the economic situation in Europe is so out-of control- that he is calling for EU countries to form a debtors cartel! The last time this idea was touted was the Ibero American countries in the 70’s, against the IMF. I quote him below:
‘The peoples of southern Europe could at any time choose to form their own debtors’ cartel and turn the tables.
They could confront the creditors with a stern ultimatum. Either you change the entire structure of EMU crisis policy, agree to a reflation strategy and accept your share of the clean-up costs for this collective disaster or we repudiate out debts.
Either you meet us half way or we take long-overdue steps to protect our societies against mass unemployment and to protect our industrial base.’
When we have the City and Bank of England Heavies calling for a debtors Cartel and for the breaking up of the banks (walled separation of investment from retail banking sectors, or a Glass-Steagall approach) then we know any reformist social democratic appeals of our own , promoting these same measures and feeble taxes on speculation etc will only be helping this moribund capitalist system to continue gasping for breath… at the peoples’ expense. That, therefore, our approach must be more radical and, like these more foresighted capitalists, have the foresight to plan the survival, and the flourishing of our own class; the working class across the world.
Whether or not L/U is explicitly socialist, its revealing that even though the party is not yet formed, the old school socialists’ have organised themselves into a ‘platform’ and are attempting to win people over to ‘their ideas’. Nothing intrinsically wrong with arguing for ideas, etd, but many putative members will note how quickly they became organised and ready for the ‘fight’. Imo, this will always be an issue as less committed/new to left politics either just go with the flow or are just beginning to learn the ropes, its not a equal playing field.
Reading this statement, you should be called the Planned Economy platform. You advocate a totalitarian accumulation of power in the state. This is no antidote to the current accumulation of power in the financial institutions.
If you want a planned economy you’d best have an explanation in terms of a mechanism through which it is democratised. Otherwise this is not common ownership at all.
yes this article does advocate a planned economy, but a democratically planned one. the exact mechanisms of democratic control for each industry, each sector of the economy, and the overall plan, is not expanded on. there is no blue print for how socialism would work in this level of detail but it would be a good discussion and debate to have.
The Socialist Platform is the way to go.
It is imperative to avoid going down the path of the so-called “left-wing” parties in Europe (e.g. Syriza in Greece – aka New PASOK or New PASOK Lite), which are effectively neutralising any real attack on capitalism or hope for radical change. They have become popular because they promise easy solutions to people who are desperate to be told things can get better. They are false promises and platitudes. The status quo will prevail.
True socialism is the only solution. It isn’t going to be easy, but collaborating with or trying to appease capitalists is defeating the object entirely. Left Unity must differentiate itself and fully embrace the socialist cause – and be proud of it.
The message needs to be articulated well. Do not dilute it. Support will follow.
Kasimir Malevich would spin in his grave being associated with such boring crap.
I am a signatory to the Socialist Platform statement and so obviously support it – but it is a work in progress. I do think that the line in Aim 3 about economic democracy: “It means a society in which the wealth and the means of production are no longer in private hands but are owned in common” is open to being interpreted as advocating total state control. It would be better I think to advocate that “diverse forms of common ownership, co-operative models and public sector provision would become dominant” – this may be more of a transitional demand but it also sounds less abstract. I think to argue at this stage for the complete abolition of private property is to foreclose on the question of markets. Markets have existed prior to capitalism and it may be that they could, at least for a long period of transition and maybe more, exist after capitalism. What differentiates capitalism from pre-capitalist social orders is not markets per se but the market in labour power. I think that socialism should aim at dismantling this institution – but that would not necessarily mean abolishing the ability to work for your self or small businesses – their ability to be exploitative would be curtailed by the expansion of options for labour power in the growing common ownership sectors and by regulation. Strategically, such an approach would help split small businesses off from big capital. My main concern however is that we need to think much more seriously about what the diverse forms of common ownership would look like, how they would work at local levels, etc.
How many platforms are there in LU, and where is the Social Democractic one?
There are two. This one and the Left Platform
Isn’t it time that the ‘Aims’ part of the internal democracy and constitution commission were put out for discussion on this main blog?
The wording is much better than either of the ‘platforms’ and is a result of proper friendly discussion. It clearly outlines the future non-capitalist society that the overwhelming majority of LU supporters want, without using the revolutionary cliches that don’t actually make us sound principled or revolutionary but simply comical.
I am a supporter and hopefully one day a member of Left Unity. That is all. I do not want to join another faction and strike polarising positions. I don’t want to go to another faction meeting – my local LU group is good enough, thanks. I would resent any developments that gave more say or influence to some other member, just because they are part of some organised faction.
Do we want to draw into our party the few hundred socialists not already in an existing socialist or do we want to attract a significant layer of people being draw into struggle and campaigns. Do we want to see the coming togther of the existing thin layer of activists or do we aspire to build something bigger that can actually gain significant popular support and have a realistic prospect of getting people elected to act as tribunes and spokes people for our cause. Do we want to follow the example of TUSC and other socialist sects and get 1, 2 or at best 5% of votes in local communities or do we want to build a broad popular party with a chance of drawing into struggle and activity a significant layer of working people and gain a level of support that means our arguements have to be taken seriously and we have an outside chance of getting people elected.
We need to draw inspiration from a range of political developments in German, Greece, Portugal, France and also take a look at the development and growth of the Dutch Socialist Party. The cold reality is that the record of former communists, Moaists and Stalinists is impressive at building and sustaining emerging left parties.
In Lewisham a range of communists, socialist, trade unionists and community campaigners have come together
and formed Lewisham People Before Profit. We have been campaining for over 4 years on a progrmmme close to the goals of the Left Platform, not an openly socialist programme but anti cuts, pro council housing, anti privatisation, pro worker, pro trade unionists and anti austerity. We have opened a cafe, food bank and advice centre. We have embeded ourselves in the campaign to save our hospital. Ee have occupied council and RSL property that was going to be sold in auction and prevented the sale of thesr properies and forced the HA and Labour Party to repai them and keep them for social housing. We recently gained 23% in a local council by-election, coming second to Labour and gaining more votes than the Tories, Lib/Dems and UKIP combined. Nick Wrack’s Southwark Socialists following their socialist platform in TUSC have gained family, friends and neighbours votes of 2-3% in the by-elections they have contested.
The socialist platform will deliver a thin layer of active and committed socialists, perhaps fewer than 2,000 members. It is a platform that is no different to the already established small socialists parties. The socialist platform will simply deliver another kid on the block. Only slighly larger than the existing players but unable to grow into a mass party of many thousands. If we adopted the socialist platform we would become the focus of activity for the existing Leninist sects who would join on mass with a few to seeking to take control or carry out a raiding party. If we follow Nick Wrack our project will be wrecked.
Lewisham People Before Profit
Yes – absolutely – and well done, although a full national party does need to have some clearer statement of its aims for the kind of society it wants to create. The constitution commission has done soem good work on that.
I went on the PBP site to get more details about the café, foodbank and advice centre but could not find anything.
My google search immediately found something a bit worrying from other activists in the area that gives a very different view than yours:
On the contrary, the reason why TUSC etc have no dynamism and no attractive power or elan is because they are solidly reformist, old Labour campaigns that simply seek to rebuild something that is politically dead – left reformism.
The Socialist Platform, which I support as a basis of the beginning of the discussion that we need, is the first time I know of that a serious attempt has been made from within this ongoing left re-composition project, to challenge the notion that any attempt to build a party to fill the vacuum to the left of neo-liberal social democracy, has to be left-reformist.
Labour did not abandon social reform because of some mere change in ideas in the abstract. It did so because its entire strategy is built on the belief that capitalism, not the working class through its labour, is the goose that lays the golden egg, and that therefore any project of social reform must seek to preserve capitalism at all costs.
As long as capitalism, in the advanced countries, had some reserves that could be drawn upon for the purposes of social reform, that had some temporary purchase. But over decades, the rate of profit on capital has been in an accelerating decline, and the only way that the reformists know to preserve the system itself, which for them remember is the source of wealth, is to attack their own base in order to preserve the system, in accord with the wishes and interests of the ruling class itself. They usually try to hide this in some ways with a veneer of ‘progressive’ rhetoric, but that means nothing. That is the reality of reformism today – ‘Reformism without reforms’.
Any new left-reformist party, once it approaches the summit of power, will confront exactly the same issues. If it remains within the framework of reformism, it will capitulate and become, in essence, no different from the existing social democratic/neo-liberal parties.
This is a strategic question that cannot be ducked. If we build a new reformist party, the material reality of reformism in today’s capitalist conditions says that we will end up creating a replacement for the Labour Party that will follow a similar trajectory. No matter how much this is dressed up with left-sounding camouflage about the environment, or anti-racism, or opposition to women’s oppression, or other worthwhile things, it will not escape the remorseless political logic of this choice – which is simply that you can either preserve and try to modify capitalism, or to tear it out root and branch.
If your aim is the former, then it is in your interest to dissemble. If your aim is the latter, then in the words of the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels, it is essential that socialists (communists, to give this its right name), must “disdain to conceal their views and aims”.
If you wish to reconcile the two approaches somehow, as with the supporters of the ‘Class Struggle Platform’, you engage in a flurry of banal ‘analysis’ (telling people what they already know), while dismissing attempts to discuss these questions of principle as ‘abstractions’. This is an unprincipled attempt to avoid this discussion and its full implications and unfolding, and can only weaken the project politically.
The Socialist Platform is not a fully worked out revolutionary programme. That is a valid criticism. Hopefully further discussions will thrash these things out. A new working class, socialist/communist party needs such a programme, adapted for today’s conditions and concretely dealing with today’s capitalism. It needs to be something that starts from today’s felt needs of the working class in terms of jobs, money, and many other welfare and cultural matters, and which points to the need to overthrow capitalism itself. Explaining these ideas to a whole new generation is going to be a challenge that requires a break with the dead end methods of the opportunist and sectarian methods of the left sects that made their own dolorous contribution to demoralising many socialists and thus holding back the struggle for socialism.
Such a programme and practice is something that needs to be developed through a process of open debate and testing things out in struggle, and there will be many differences to be thrashed out, not least with some of the other more ossified left-currents such as those who have produced the Class Struggle Platform or even some within the Socialist Platform itself.
But to dissemble over the question of abolishing capitalism versus a mere revived form of reformism, is to choose reformism. Deja vu all over again will be the result. If we follow Nick Long our project will be wrecked.
I support no platform but why do you characterise the Left Party Platform as ‘left reformist’ rather than a different kind or ‘socialist’? Can you define these terms before tossing them about.
Absolutely spot-on, ‘Ian D, Southwark.’
I’d only add, in response to Nick Long, that if we limit ourselves now and adopt some mealy-mouthed broad liberal platform, we’ll be over before we start.
The argument about the existing left is a non-starter. They exist. We can’t wish them away and to compromise our stance for fear of their involvement is an act of political cowardice.
Only by adopting the most transparent and principled practices, with genuinely far-reaching and fully democratic debate, can we hope to simultaneously win over the class and also neuter any sect attempts to wreck us.
the socialist platforms statement that it does not want to form agreements with “capatalist parties” and that it does not want to manage the present system make electoral politics pretty much impossible. not to engage in electoral politics is a strategic choice but to engage in it on that basis just means your saying to voters we can acheive nothing if you elect us we are just waiting for the revolution”.v they wont vote for you with that programme. i think thats pretty pointless considering energy involved.
in summary i think is two choices, 1, dont engage in electoral politics ,2, engage in it to the limits of what you can acheive while maintaining and growing campaigns out side of electoral system a twin track strategy.
Definitely consider that which you stated. Your favourite justification seemed to be on the net the easiest thing to understand of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed at the same time as other people think about issues that they just don’t understand about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and outlined out the entire thing with no need side-effects , people could take a signal. Will probably be again to get more. Thank you|
On the CPGB site there is an interesting podcast recording of a discussion between John Bridge/Jack Conrad (CPGB) and Nick Wrack about the Socialist Platform.
A number of comments by Nick Wrack made me think the Socialist Platform misunderstand the nature of the period we are in.
Nick stated he thinks there are ‘tens of thousands’ of people today who could be recruited to a socialist party.
If this is one of the motivations behind the Socialist Platform then it is misplaced. If there was a constituency of ‘tens of thousands’ for socialist politics then one would see some evidence for this in, for example, the membership of the already existing socialist groups. None of the main socialist groups (SWP, SP) have experienced a significant increase in membership since 2008. Votes for socialist candidates in recent years have, for the most part, been appallingly low.
If the existing revolutionary socialist groups cannot grow and attract significant numbers of votes, why will a newly branded socialist group (under the guise of Left Unity) be any different?
Some supporters of the Socialist Platform appear to think that the attractions of socialism are so patently obvious that being ‘clear’ and ‘patient’ will be sufficient to rally significant support. If only that were true. It is a self-deluding myth that parts of the far left indulge in too often: that ‘below the surface’ (conveniently hidden from view and therefore immune to being disproved) there is a constituency for socialist politics that can be really tapped into – if only we are sufficiently clear about the potential wonders of socialism.
This is nonsense – and the experience of the past 5 years shows that to be the case. There have been numerous efforts to mobilise such a constituency – all have failed.
Part of the reason why socialism is such a marginal feature of politics in the UK is because it is not remotely clear how a socialist society would work. Abstract notions such as ‘workers democracy’ invite more questions than they answer.
A general call for ‘workers democracy’ would make sense in a context where there was a large and vibrant movement of workers already in the process of exerting varying degrees of control over how production was being organised.
But in the current climate, to appeal to ‘workers democracy’ to replace capitalism is absurd. It will invite ridicule and disbelief from the people who might be attracted to a new left project.
The first step is to mobilise the class – and in the process of that mobilisation the desirability and viability of socialism will become clearer as steps forward are met with obstacles than only more radical demands and forms of mobilisation can overcome.
But to start now with calls for ‘workers democracy’ (and even worse, ‘workers militias’) will simply result in another socialist sect. And we have too many of them already.
We should start with the ‘moral economy’ of the working class as it exists: what do the more progressive minded workers regard as ‘fair’ and attainable? We build on that. We mobilise. We revise what we call for as we go – seeking to build collective confidence and resources as the emerging movement takes more radical steps.
from the Socialist Party Executive Committee.
Message from the Assistant Secretary (3 September) re Left Unity:
Left Unity is a new political party. Three competing platforms have been drafted and circulated in advance of its founding conference, scheduled for 30 November 2013. Of particular interest to us is the so-called “Socialist Platform”. Participants of our Party’s web forum and spintcom have observed that this platform has many similarities to our own Object and Declaration of Principles, and there has been discussion about whether or not we should officially approach Left Unity to propose a meeting to discuss their statement and ours. Cde Buick has drafted a letter which the EC may wish to consider:
“We have read your Statement of Aims and Principles for the proposed “Left Unity Party” and have noticed many similarities with our Object and Declaration of Principles and the positions we have developed and propagated over the years. We have in mind in particular the need for a principled, explicitly socialist party that concentrates on campaigning for socialism as “capitalism does not and cannot be made to work in the interests of the majority” and which holds that “the socialist transformation of society. . . can only be accomplished by the working class itself acting democratically as the majority in society” using “both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary means”. As there can be no point in two socialist parties in one country we should like to propose a meeting to discuss the principle of a single socialist party, based on sound socialist principles, as opposed to forming yet another leftwing reformist party. It was generally agreed to send a letter to the “Socialist Platform”. Cde Cox suggested if they turn us down, we can send an open letter.
Motion 30 – Shannon and Cragg moved the Party sends a letter to Socialist Platform proposing a meeting to discuss the principle of a single socialist party. Carried (5-0-0)
Unity based on the principles of socialism and achieved, through free discussion will be the goal of the Socialist Party.We need unity but do not fear dissension. The Socialist Party does not shy away from mergers with groups where there is a common identity of interests. The aim must be to effect a genuine unification on a firm and long-lasting basis. We, for our part, believe that unity would be a good thing if it is firmly based and leads to the strengthening of the socialist movement. On the other hand, a unification followed by sharp factional fights and another split would be highly injurious to the movement. We must all ask ourselves when is it sectarianism and when is it political principle? We cannot accept the “lowest common denominator” approach. A socialist movement which places greater value on tactics of political expediency than on principle has abandoned the policy of the class struggle for one of class collaboration.
I was thinking the socialist platform might be the right way.until… I just read that the Socialist Party coudnt see much difference between them.Was the Socialist Party called Militant ,if so.Why if they want to be honest from the beginning did the stand under a Labour banner and are now standing under a T.U.S.C banner.I know it looks like i am being ultra critical,but.you have just swayed me the other way…p.s. Why is it that for all the retric i,ve heard over the last fifty years.We havn,t got a mass following