Information -- Key to Democracy

On Dispossessing the Capitalist Class
By Alan Sanderson
From THE DE LEONIST SOCIETY BULLETIN May-June 1993
Published by the De Leonist Society of Canada

Long on "Marxian Theories of Economic Crises," the Socialist Party of Great Britain (hereinafter referred to as the SP) is short on how society can achieve a socialist, therefore crisis-free, economy. Both the long and short of it appear in the Jan.-Feb. DISCUSSION BULLETIN.

Quoting from the conclusion of "Marxian Theories" as follows:

"As Karl Marx himself realized, the only lasting solution to crises and depressions, and for that matter the other problems that beset the capitalist system, is socialism.... We all know through experience that capitalism can't be planned and cannot endure the well-being of all members of society. Only socialism can do that by removing the capitalist ownership of the means of living [the industries and services] and by ensuring that the anarchy of production is removed by the abolition of profits and wages, prices and money...."

This is well said, identifying as it does the essential economic pillars of the wages system of exploitation of Labor, hence of capitalist survival. Moreover, advocating as it does the abolition of these essentials, the SP stands clearly opposed to the social democracy or "bourgeois socialism" charade satirized by Marx and Engels in the phrase: "The bourgeois is a bourgeois -- for the benefit of the working class."

All of which brings us face-to-face with a most vital question: How can the Socialist Reconstruction of Society be accomplished? Does the SP deserve plaudits here too? Far otherwise and to the contrary!

The SP "plan" is provided in a quote reproduced by Dave Perrin, in his letter to the editor of the DB -- which quote, according to Perrin, "sums up what is, and always has been, the SPGB position." Namely:

"It is necessary for a socialist working class to gain political control, but only for the purpose of dispossessing the capitalist class and opening the way for the community as a whole to take over the means of production and distribution, and democratically use them for the good of all. The State, with its coercive machinery will be dismantled as its function -- the custodian of private property -- will have disappeared. New social institutions of administration based on the new social conditions will be democratically formed."

Mariners piloting the protected coast waters of Washington State may yet list among their navigation aids a land fix curiously named Point-no-point. Doubtless it was a case of mistaken identity by the early navigators -- a promontory which lost its "point" as they came abeam of it. And so here; at first sight the SP might appear to have a plan, or method, for achieving the socialist goal, but upon a closer look its plan becomes planless, becomes a plan-no-plan. For instance:

(1) The SP states that a "socialist working class" must gain "political control." The statement is doubly vacuous in that it either (a) implies that a socialist victory at the polls means the gaining of socialist political control (a misconception of tragic consequence), or (b) does not imply it, in which case we are left guessing as to what steps must be taken between a socialist political vote and socialist political control.

(2) The SP has it that political control can dispossess the capitalist class but stops short of demonstrating how it can do this. Can the SP possibly believe that the capitalist class will surrender its possession of the nation's industrial means upon a mere legislative order of Parliament or Congress? De Leonists are not so naive! They understand that profit-making (the fleecing of Labor) is the be-all and end-all of the capitalist's existence as a capitalist, hence that the capitalist will stop at nothing to preserve his parasite social status. What heinous crime has the lust for profit not generated? Where the law the capitalist class has not circumvented or trampled on?

(3) In the SP scenario, the SP will gain political control "but only for the purpose of dispossessing the capitalist class and opening the way for the community as a whole to take over the means of production and distribution, and democratically use them for the good of all." Here is a general statement that begs the question! Will the SP disband when its stated purpose is achieved or will it retain control to keep the "way" open? Again, assuming that it will not be the community as a whole but the producers (the work force) acting for the community who will "take over" and "use" (i.e., presumably administer) the industrial means -- assuming this, where then are the nuts and bolts of the exercise? Where is the form of organization, local and national, that being organized can serve the socialist revolutionary purpose? One looks in vain to the SP for light on the matter.

It is here that De Leon's grand breakthrough in socialist thought comes to the rescue. Recognizing that the right of a socialist political victory would be merest moonshine without the might to enforce it, De Leon conceived the Socialist Industrial Union -- worker-organized, integrally-organized -- as THE economic instrument whereby, upon a political mandate, the working class could lock out the capitalist class from the nation's industries and services. But that is not all. Recognizing the gross ineptitude of the political organ as an industrial administrator, De Leon also conceived the integrally-organized Socialist Industrial Union as THE economic structure that could afford viable and democratic management of the nation's industries and services by the workers themselves.

It is not enough that a "socialist working class" win at the ballot box, it must also win at the workplace -- must upon a political victory immediately substitute social administration of the nation's industrial complex. Preparation for this is a task that workers should today put at the top of their agenda.