Originally published May 6, 2008
From the SPGB’s 1998 pamphlet, From Capitalism To Socialism… how we live and how we could live (pdf)
Socialism can only be established when a great majority of workers understand and want it. It would be absurd for a minority of conscious socialists to try to take over power and impose the new system on an unwilling majority. Such a strategy would certainly fail, with the armed forces, controlled by the majority-backed government, being used to defeat the rebels. The idea is heroic fantasy at best and would lead to a bloody tragedy at worst. And even if such a method of ‘revolution’ were successful-if a determined minority should seize political power in an attempt to introduce socialism on behalf of the working class-there would be no prospect of it resulting in a socialist society. It would not be possible to run a society in which everybody contributed co-operatively according their abilities and took freely according to their needs unless the great majority of people understood the arrangement and wanted it. It would not be possible to establish and maintain a society based upon conscious democratic control unless the great majority were prepared to exert that democratic control. If the population did not want to participate in social decision-making and were prepared to leave it to a particular minority, that minority would be forced to become the exclusive decision makers themselves and would eventually become a new ruling class. But in the final analysis, the very fact that a minority wanted it would show that they did not understand the full implications of socialism themselves, and so were not really socialists.
A look at the various theories of minority, or minority-led, action to establish ‘socialism’ essentially Lenin’s Bolshevism and its various offshoots, Stalinism, Trotskyism, Maoism, Castroism, etc confirms that in practice these are the ideologies of would-be national ruling classes aiming to industrialise economically backward parts of the ‘world-‘through a policy of state capitalism misleadingly called ‘socialism’. Their tactics-vanguard party, violent insurrection, ruthless measures against the old rulers and all opponents-are thus quite irrelevant for a genuine socialist movement, though superficially attractive to those who want radical social change, yet despair of ever winning over a currently indifferent or conservative-minded working class. In the unlikely event of them being successful in some highly industrialised country the outcome would be some form of state capitalism, certainly not socialism.
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