Jim D'Arcy

Socialism, Utopian and Philosophical: Reply to A. A. N.


Source: Forum Journal, February 1954.
Transcription: Socialist Party of Great Britain.
HTML Markup: D. Whitehead
Copyleft: Creative Commons (Attribute & No Derivatives) 2007 conference "Be it resolved that all material created and published by the Party shall be licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs copyright licence".


The art of erecting straw houses and knocking them over has not been ignored by A.A.N., in his contribution to the current confusion entitled ' Class struggle and the S.P.G.B.' (Dec. 1953). In general the article is riddled with ambiguity, misstatements, and complete lack of definition of all the expressions used. Also the vague and unsatisfactory way and phraseology in which the arguments are presented, make criticism extremely difficult. That is, unsatisfactory from the point of rendering and inviting criticism, which must be assumed is the object of the writer.

The most glaring example of this is the use of the words ' class struggle ', the first casualty in this philosophical morass. No definition is attempted and the reader is left with the mistaken impression that the class struggle is merely a Trade Union issue. A.A.N. should have spared us this speculation and stated clearly what he meant.

Before dealing with the principal criticisms it is advisable to point out that A.A.N. has not put the Party case but has in fact put something entirely different. A criticism of the Party case, or any aspect of it, must have its basis in the Party's existing propaganda, written and spoken, and which is accepted by the Party as a whole, not certain individuals. It is not good enough to use vague and abstract phrases about the Party being opposed to the capitalist class, or even in favour of the working class, nor is it good enough to make the sweeping claim that more often than not people are confused when they hear our propaganda. The Party's case is concrete enough, and criticisms of it should be clear, and not buried in a jungle of philosophical jargon or verbal cliches, all negative in character.

The opening lines of the article begin with the statement " this article is an attempt to show that the S.P.G.B. as a Party of propagandists, who are trying to enlist the aid of the whole of mankind to change the basis of present society, should in its propaganda not participate in the class struggle!

The S.P.G.B., are not, nor ever have been, trying to enlist the aid of the whole of mankind. The Party's case is that the working class in a majority must agree to the proposals submitted by us for the abolition of Capitalism. This is an entirely different proposition. If we take A.A.N's statement at its face value, it would mean that unless we were successful in enlisting the aid of the whole of mankind. Socialism could not be established. Alternatively, so long as a minority of capitalists, or workers, do not want Socialism, we cannot have it. This would also apply to those portions of the world population who are not members of the working class—Tibetian Llamas, primitive tribes in Central Africa, Aborigines, Hottentots, and the like. This does not detract from the basic Party position that all people, given similar economic circumstances, can understand Socialism; the point is, do they all have to as A.A.N. claims?

The latter part of the sentence about the Party and its propaganda not participating in the class struggle, betrays A.A.N.'s ignorance of what the class struggle really is. Marx made the famous statement that "All history was the history of class struggles'. Is is A.A.N.'s position that he is opposed to history and to historical process? That is, of course, if he agrees with Marx's statement.

The issue in the class struggle is one of property, either in degree (Trade Unions) or as a whole (common ownership).

The position could be summarised as private property versus common property, with Socialists advocating the latter. Participation in the class struggle is indispensable to the Socialist idea. When we analyse the Capitalist nature of society, and present that analysis in the form of propaganda, we are participating in the class struggle, as we are actively seeking to dispossess the present owners. We are the only Party who do this, Labour, Communist, I.L.P., Trot-skyists, etc., have not analysed Capitalism accurately or adequately—that is our criticism of them. A.A.N.'s references to the Party being opposed to the Capitalist class is a dangerous half-truth, and leaves the impression that we are opposed to individuals. Surely little clarity is needed when we state the interest of the capitalist and working class are diametrically opposed over the product of labour (properly).

The same common factor operates in the international disputes between Governments—that factor being the monopoly of the wealth produced by that working class and its realisation in Rent, Interest and Profit. The Socialist combines all the parts, and plans his activities accordingly. When you have added up the parts we are left with a world divided into two main social groups— Owners and Non-Owners; buyers of labour power and sellers of labour power.

Paragraph 3 is a typical example of word-spinning, and, quite frankly, A.A.N. is very confused. ' Do we not deplore the fact that class struggle is inevitable under Capitalism and desire to end it? Why then do we insist in our propaganda that we represent the true interests of the workers as a class? '

This is real Jimmy Jesus morality, which starts off in the middle. In point of fact we do not deplore anything—we actively oppose the property division in Society which is the basis of class antagonisms. We cannot oppose class antagonisms any more than we can oppose the law of Gravity or any more than Canute could keep back the waves. When we discuss the ' true interests of the Working class we mean common ownership as opposed to private ownership— could anything be clearer? Socialism means the emancipation of the Working class economically; Capitalists are already economically emancipated, therefore common ownership for them is, at best, an academic issue instead of a dire necessity. In any event, Capitalists who are in favour of Socialism automatically identify themselves with Working class interests. If there is to be any foundation in the argument, we must use the word ' interests ' economically, that is from the Party's point of view, as we areat the receiving end of A.A.N."s criticism.

In Paragraph 4 he informs us " It is patently clear that the true interests of anybody within Capitalism are to acquire property ". Perhaps A.A.N. will inform as in a later article which particular set of true interests we have to consider, those in Paragraph 3 or Paragraph 4, as it seems that we now have two versions of 'true interests'. He claims in effect that the majority of people think their problems can be solved under Capitalism. A.A.N. is probably right in thinking that people think this, but the simple position is that the majority of people, in spite of their desires to obtain pioperty under Capitalism, are propertyless and will remain so.

If workers hold the illusion that their desires can be realised under Capitalism we must dispel it, and their alleged ' true interests ' with it.

The most serious criticism contained in A.A.N.'s article is that the Party's propaganda over 50 years does not make Socialists, hence the need to alter it. Viz : " Does our propaganda at present receive this response from, people? The record of our achievement shows that it does not." Which means precisely that we are not a Socialist Party, as means and end are inseparable: wrong means wrong end. It is possible of course that A.A.N. will disagree with the logic of the position that, he has taken up, and grant us a concession or two; for example our contribution to scientific Socialism in the shape of numerous pamphlets we have published. The existence of a few thousand people, some time members of the S.P.G.B., including A.A.N., who, at any rate, call themselves Socialists.

The existing propaganda has converted a few thousand, why not a few million ? Or is it A.A.N.'s view that we in the S.P.G.B., are a special breed, or a collection of freaks? What was good enough to bring us in is apparently not good enough for people generally. It is not a question of improving that which is wrong to begin with, that is, if AA.N.'s criticism is correct. The present writer sees nothing wrong in the existing propaganda apart from its volume and ill-informed propagandists who reduce the case to a catechism instead of making it a virile and living force, scientific and emotional. To interpolate here on the question of scientific and emotional, has A.A.N. ever read Marx's description of the condition of English agricultural and factory workers in the early 19th century (Capital volume 1), the Civil War in France, Engels on the condition of the working classes in 1844? All scientific works, but not devoid of human feeling or emotion.

A.A.N. thinks he has tied us up in a verbal strait-jacket and is disgusted with our scientific approach to the real world because he claims it lacks emotion, or rather, that we are afraid of being unscientific. This is one of the reasons, he claims, that we refuse to formulate a policy on Socialism and what it will look like. The majority of members are on more than nodding terms with this phantom, and are waiting patiently for the formulators to take the initiative. The Party has never done this for the simple reason that it cannot be done, there is nothing to know.

When Socialism is established nobody will know what it will look like, neither will anyone care apart from some S.P.G.B'ers. We shall certainly have some information on production, technically; big communities, small communities; nymphs & shepherds; not to forget our old friend Sex. We could, of course, speculate and be wrong, but to gain favour with A.A.N. what would it matter as long as we were emotionally wrong

It is significant that only Socialists argue what Socialism will look like—only Socialists can. The present writer hasn't a clue, like millions of others; he will accept the insurance policies of democratic control and common ownership, which is all the Party offers,, and with these two ingredients recreate the world.

A.A.N. finally threatens us with hell-fire if we don't mend our ways and include the Capitalists, as if we could exclude the Capitalists from Socialism. They will have it whether they like it or not.

A.A.N. can't see the wood for the trees. His cardinal error is to separate Socialism and the struggle for Socialism (the class struggle). The conquest drenching we have had of words and conclusions drawn from illogical presmises is a direct result of this. It seems rather a long winded way of opposing the Party's attitude to Trade Unions and clause 6 of our Declaration of Principles.