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What We Are Not

 

You would probably think twice about trusting your health to a "doctor" whose sole credential was his or her convictions about practicing medicine. (This is not altogether so rare.) You should not trust your life to an airline pilot whose resume is merely a declaration of good character. But people ordinarily do put much more than their health and their lives on the line trusting political organizations and politicians to (a) know what they are talking about and (b) demonstrate integrity in delivering it. Lying to voters and constituents is in many cases considered par for the course.


Members of the World Socialist movement (WSM) are not too interested in the political misrepresentations of those who make no secret of their support for the capitalist system or even pay it the loud compliment of assuring everyone there is no point in trying to replace it. We do think it crucial for the working class to know the truth about the Left, particularly that portion of it claiming to have revolutionary aspirations. We oppose the entire Left, which confuses actions or reforms compatible with capitalism (as ultimately all reforms are) with what is needed to replace it immediately by eliminating capital and wages NOW. Replacement is only possible if the majority of working people understand the abolitionist nature of socialism, show their desire to establish it by electing enough delegates to their Congress or Parliament to make wage- and salary-earning history, and finalize the takeover and reorganization of enterprises by the members of communities -- together with abolition of the a priori requirement to pay for goods and services.

The following list of groups and organizations claiming to be socialist is only intended to put some real names onto abstract labels. It doesn't pretend to be exhaustive. Of the four categories, the DeLeonists alone merit the distinction that they are not really part of the Left; our critique of them (as of the "libertarian socialist" or "libertarian communist" strains of anarchism) stems rather from assumptions about ends and means, differences which are in some cases fundamental. Most groups listed consider themselves Marxist or more ambiguously, "workerist."

Following the listings are some general points of comparison between these organizations and the WSM.

 

Leninist organizations:

Trotskyist "Fourth International" organizations:


These comments apply to both the Leninists and the Trotskyists.

FREE ACCESS. No. Support a market economy.
LEADERSHIP. Noted for their vanguardist approach (the idea that a small group of leaders - the vanguard - will lead the working class to socialism).
Lenin said that if workers were not led by a vanguard, it would take them 500 years to understand and establish socialism. This apparently justified the brutal subjugation of the Russian people (and later all of eastern Europe), because they had to be led to socialism against their will.
REFORMISM. Campaign explicitly for reforms.
ONE-COUNTRY SOCIALISM. Claim that socialism was established in Russia in 1917, even though Lenin correctly noted in 1920 that state capitalism would be a step forward for Russia.
DEMOCRATIC CONTROL. When the Bolsheviks lost the first election in Russia after their 1917 revolution, they dissolved the new constituent assembly as soon as it met, in January 1918. By the middle of 1918 the Bolshevik government had arrested leaders who opposed the Bolsheviks, expelled their delegates from the Soviets, and driven the parties underground, making the Communist Party the only legal party in Russia.


Socialist International and other "labor parties":


DeLeonists:

World Socialism:

None of the above!

The World Socialist Movement believes socialism will be a wageless, moneyless, free-access society. None of the foregoing groups agree with this. Most support a modified, "responsible" market system. Some suggest that a non-capitalist market is possible, which only betrays a lack of understanding of market economics. While such systems have existed, they are impractical in a modern world. If a "non-capitalist" market system were established globally, it would disappoint everyone by having to develop into a capitalist market system all over again, as suggested by numerous attempts to set up anti-capitalist cooperatives. Labor vouchers, precisely because they eliminate exchange, would be an anachronistic holdover from a system driven by the creation of artificial scarcities.
Leaders are inherently undemocratic, and socialists oppose leadership

All (except for some of the DeLeonist groups) support minority leadership in the sense of a privileged elite corps separate from and guiding the working class; a minority organization that represents the working class cannot itself be the working class and must therefore claim to do the latter's thinking for it. Self-appointed proxies cannot emancipate the working class from capital: only the working class, acting directly through its own delegates, can do this.

Socialists don't work to reform capitalism: only a movement directly for socialism can establish a system of society whose basis eliminates production for profit.

Those who work for reforms hold either that reforms of capitalism will eventually result in a socialist economy, or that supporting reforms is an appropriate way to convince workers to support a policy of socialism. Some of the parties above (notably SPUSA), after putting forward a reasonable analysis of capitalism, then work to give capitalism a "human face." Some (like the DSA) claim they want to end capitalism; their bottom line, however, is just capitalism with reforms. Socialism will be a cooperative worldwide system, and it has clearly not yet been established

Most, though not all, of the above parties endorse nationalism in some form, which at the very least hinders working-class solidarity worldwide. Nationalism is good only for dividing people against each other and by its very nature inhibits the world's working class from carrying out its historic mission, which is to restore the human community on a global scale to its central place in human society.
Scientific approach and understanding by the working class are necessary to establish socialism

The majority of the above groups support emotionalistic campaigns, in which logic and rational analysis are downplayed or ignored. What needs to be understood, if someone else is privileged to do all the thinking? Any group that wants people to follow its lead is unlikely to promote real understanding and is very likely to promote a replacement form of hierarchy.

Democratically capturing the State through parliamentary elections is the safest, surest method for the working class to establish socialism definitively. Most of the parties mentioned seem to support the parliamentary approach at some level, but some of them advocate both parliamentarism and anti-parliamentarism at the same time, which the Trotskyists in Britain are notorious for.

World Socialist Party • Box 440247 • Boston, MA 02144