The Essentials of the Political Organisation.
The political organisation of the working class, having for its object the establishment of the Socialist system by a politically educated working class, must first of all be an instrument capable of fulfilling its purpose. It must then be firmly anchored to its object so that it is impossible for it to drift. The first thing needed, therefore, is a clear statement of what the object is. It must be clear because the party seeking working-class emancipation can only gain its object through men and women who thoroughly understand what that object is. Those who hold that it is the "leader" or representative who is the source of power are of course quite logical in adopting an "object" that will appeal to the greatest numbers. In such a case all that is wanted is shoulders to climb upon. The "leaders" being the strength of the organisation, it is quite sufficient that they understand the object of the organisation — the others do not matter.
The case is very different with a democratic organisation. The first principle of such is that it is the workers as a class who must fight the battle for emancipation; it is they who must be strong, since their servants and delegates can be strong only with their strength. The logic of this is that the fitness of the organisation for its purpose depends upon the quality and strength, not of "leaders," but of the membership.
The first essential, then, of the political party of the working class is a clear and definitely stated Object. The statement of Object of the Socialist Party of Great Britain is a clear and definite statement of the Socialist object. It hides nothing, and contains the most correct and concise
definition of Socialism that has yet been formulated. It is:
The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whols community.
In this Object there is nothing but the revolutionary purpose. There are no side issues to cause dissension and to sap the working-class movement of its vitality.
The next essential is to anchor the party to that Object. For this purpose it is necessary to lay down a definite set of principles, based upon the facts of the working-class position, and indicating the path to be followed in pursuit of the party's Object, and the test for all its members' actions.
The S.P.G.B. declare in the first clause of their declaration of Principles:
That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (i.e., land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class by whose labour alone wealth is produced.
We have sufficiently proved, by what we have said in the foregoing pages, that the basis of society is the class ownership of the means of living, and that this results in the non-possessors having to sell themselves for wages to become wage-slaves — and to produce, not only the wealth they consume, but also the wealth consumed by the possessing class. The second clause is:
That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce, and those who produce but do not possess.
This is really a deduction from the first. Since society is divided into two classes, one of which is enslaved to the other, one of which exploits, robs, preys upon the other, there must necessarily be an antagonism of interests. The interest of one class is to maintain its position of dominance ; the interest of the other class is to escape from its position of servitude. Any lifting or sinking of individuals from one class to another does not affect this position. The masters can only maintain their position as a class; the workers can only achieve their emancipation as a class. Clearly. then, the interests, being class interests, must result in a class struggle — a struggle between those who possess, to maintain the private property basis of society that makes them masters of the world, and those who do not possess, to abolish the property condition that reduces them to slavery.
The third clause is as follows:
That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination ot the master class, by the conversion into the common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.
Those who want office, who are "determined to get our feet on the floor of the House of Commons and are not particular how we do it" (because that is all they want), claim that the emancipation of the working class does not need a revolution. The reason of this is easily seen. The only way in which they could get their feet on the floor ot the House of Commons to-day is by compromise with the capitalist class. In order to provide an excuse for allying themselves with the enemies of the working class they deny the need for revolution. They assert that "Socialism will come like a thief in the night" (Mr. Keir Hardie) and as the outcome of the combined efforts of the master class and the working class.
Revolution and the class struggle, of course, are necessarily connected. The " evolutionist," therefore, in order that he may get his feet on the floor of the House of Commons with the help of the capitalists, is forced to deny the revolution because that implies a class struggle, and is forced to deny the class struggle because that implies that he is a traitor in allying himself with the master class.
Those, however, who realise the facts of the political situation, know that the workers would not be driven to seek emancipation but for the class antagonism ; hence they are driven to accept the class struggle as the very basis of their action. So the seventh clause declares for war upon class lines in the following words:
That as political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working-class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.
There is the sheet anchor of the revolutionary party. It is this which, beyond all else, secures to the consciously organised working class the efficiency of their organisation for its revolutionary purpose. While adherence to this vital principle remains one of the conditions of membership of the Socialist Party, it can never become the plaything of leaders and dictators. A membership holding to that clause have a gauge wherewith to measure any man's action, and an instrument to fire him out with, if he be found wanting. The first sign of compromise, the first indication of alliance with the enemy, the first particle of evidence that a member has become the tool of any section of the master class, and he is dealt with by a membership imbued with the principle of the class struggle.
Based upon such principles as these, the political party of the working class cannot drift away from its Object, and must remain a sound organisation, an instrument capable oi achieving its purpose. Just as it can only be composed of Socialists, of men and women conscious of their class position and the remedy for it — the men and women who alone are capable of achieving the Social Revolution — so it is capable of creating such a class-conscious working class, by its clear-cut, class struggle, revolutionary policy. This policy leaves no doubt as to the enemy, it leaves no doubt as to the character of the struggle that dictates it. And, above all, it leaves no doubt as to the strength of the revolutionary movement.
For when every vote is asked for in opposition to Liberal and Tory, in opposition to I.L.P., Labour Party , aind Communist muddlers, in opposition to reformist confusion and vote-catching slogans — asked for (to use the words of the sixth clause of our Declaration of Principles) "for the conquest of the powers of government," every vote will be found a sound vote — a vote which owes the master class nothing, and from which they can take nothing away — a vote backed by the revolutionary force of the voter, and therefore a vote to strike fear into the hearts of our exploiters.
In concluding our case we desire to emphasise again the most important facts. The first is that terrible poverty exists among the workers to-day. The second is that though the command of man over nature, and the fertility of human labour, have increased enormously during the last 500 years, the bulk of the workers, especially in view of the vastly increased production of wealth, are poorer to-day than they were in the Middle Ages. The third is that this poverty is worst when the warehouses are full to bursting and the markets glutted. The fourth is that sufficient wealth is produced to-day to afford comparative comfort to every member of the community. The fifth is that every detail of the work of producing and distributing that wealth is performed by the working class. The sixth is that the work of producing and distributing that wealth is performed by men and women who together, probably, would not number more than half the male population between, the ages of 16 and 60.
Are those six statements true? If they arc, then all that is required is that working-class intelligence, courage and determination shall rise to the height of seizing " this sorry scheme of things entire," and remoulding it to the end that the general happiness and well-being shall be the sole purpose of all productive effort. If they are true they impose upon every working man and woman the serious duty of giving thought to these matters; for it is from them alone that the remedy can come. The salvation or the working class involves the overthrow of the master class, therefore it is futile to look for help from the latter.
Fellow-workers, the neglect of this duty is not without its penalty, neither is this penalty so far off but that it may fall on you. The evolutionary process which has brought the workers to slavery, has brought them now the opportunity of freedom. It has done more also. In bringing the means of living to that stage of development where they may be the instrument of the workers' emancipation, just as they were, long ages ago, the instrument of their enslavement, it has given us means of living which can only remain means of living in the hands of a free people. Unless the workers themselves assume control of them they must become means of death and destruction. Can the teeming millions of Lancashire, for instance, view with equanimity the rapid growth of the cotton industry in China, Japan, and India? The cheap labour of the entire East stands now ready for capitalist exploitation — ready to flood the world with such a deluge of oheaply produced commodities as will strangle Western production entirely. Who may say what penalty of chaos and destruction will fall upon the world, out of war or out of such an industrial crisis as these things portend, if the knowledge of the workers as a class is not sufficient to enable them to perform their historic task?