Sunday, 22 April 2007

Socialist Party: bridge to revolution

Any claims the Socialist Party may once have had to the high-holy grounds of ortho-trotskyism, on the basis of an enduring critique of state-capitalism, seem to be fading fast. Though this ground has been conceded by the membership for some time now.

In discussions with members of any party, tendency or organisation i'm always careful to try and approach the topics members will expect to be raised creatively - such topics tend to be treated fairly dismissively, if just through repetition.

The topic I raise now is an example of one of those.

Criticism of the the programme upon which the Socialist Party party stand during election periods - and that most commonly expressed in material - fails to appreciate the 'period' within which we function, and the subtle nuances of the Transitional approach applied. Indeed, such approaches misunderstand the very nature of the transitional approach. Hopefully I won't provide a caricacture of the SP's position if I suggest that this is a fairly common reply to the suggestion that the SP does not link the demands it makes to the need for wider structural change.

I will make a point here that may not be unfamiliar, though its importance isn't lessened by repetition. The failure to concretely link demands made to the need for a revolutionary overthrow of society is a criminal abduction of duty for any principled Marxist. Accusations may be made that I quibble over phrasing (I apologise for trying to pre-empt those who may respond to this) however the 'phrasing' is key.

Housey notes a common phrase utilised for 'linking' demands to a wider programme of change: 'We fight for a socialist world....democratic public ownership of the big companies that currently dominate the world'. The linking of public ownership to democracy is a novelty on the basis of the election material I've seen in the South East, but putting this aside for one moment, If we want to move beyond demands for a programme of 'socialist' nationalisation of industry and instead challenge the entire basis of capitalist rule, how might we do this? Not to be dull or worthy, let me cite the following quote;

"A society without social contradictions will naturally be a society without lies and violence. However there is no way of building a bridge to that society save my revolutionary, that is, violent means. The revolution itself is a product of class society and of necessity bears its traits"
Trotsky: Their Morals & Ours
Unless the Socialist Party comrades are aware, our society is still one of social contradiction requiring revolutionary, that is violent, overthrow. Any attempt to intuit this from much of the material I cite (and most of the leaflets distributed by the party during elections) would be hard, if not impossible [1].

We can compare this to the CNWP. What is being argued for in the CNWP is a left-reformist show that is hard to differential from the McDonnell campaign. Ironically most Socialist Party members would actually not disagree that the SP's involvement in the CNWP is an abdication of a basic transitional approach largely because the Trotskyists within this organisation are told they themselves can't link these demands to the wider need for socialism. Members have my sympathy, it's a poor diet of gruel for any principled Marxist to try and consist on.


[1] As an aside, a leading SP youth cadre made a point not too long ago on the Revolution boards [http://www.revolutiononboard.org.uk] that a revolutionary, that is violent, overthrow of capitalist society might be required for this purpose - might.

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