What We Are Not
- Communist Party USA (CPUSA)
- Progressive Labor Party (PLP)
Communist Party (RCP)
- Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) & Radical Women
- International Socialist Organization (ISO "Socialist Worker" Paper)
- League for the Revolutionary Party (LRP)
- The Left Party
- Socialist Action
- Socialist Alternative
- Socialist Equity Party (aka wsws.org "World Socialist Web Site")
- Socialist Workers Party (SWP "Militant")
- Spartacist League
- Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) (in U.S.)
- Labour Party (in Australia) [has formed national government]
- Labour Party (in New Zealand) [has formed national government]
- Labour Party (in U.K.) [has formed national government]
- New Democratic Party (NDP) (in Canada) [has formed provincial governments]
- Socialist Party (PS) (in France) [has formed national government]
Party (USA) (SPUSA)
FREE ACCESS. No. Support a market economy.
REFORMISM. Usually do not or cannot distinguish between reforms and socialism. Most of them explicitly consider socialism and capitalism compatible (usually by defining "socialism" so that it means capitalism).
ONE-COUNTRY SOCIALISM. Claim the existence (past or present) of socialism in at least one country. Some of these parties have, as shown, occasionally been the national governments in several countries. If they do not claim to have established socialism, after apparently being elected to do so, then they have no justifiable claim to be socialists, even using their own flawed definitions of socialism.
- New Union Party (NUP)
Labor Party (SLP)
FREE ACCESS. No. Support labour vouchers, which although not exactly the same as money, are very similar in some ways. Labour vouchers were supported by Marx to accommodate the real shortages that existed in 1875. Even if they were appropriate in 1875, and that is at least questionable, they are not now.
LEADERSHIP. Appear to recognize that only a working class that understands the problems can build the solution, but there have been occasional concerns raised by ex-SLPers and others over what has been perceived as authoritarian leadership in the SLP (the largest DeLeonist organization). In fairness, these concerns may be just disagreements blown out of proportion.
ONE-COUNTRY SOCIALISM. Vary on their position. DeLeonism is generally a U.S. phenomenon, and this may be partly responsible for the tendency, by some, to talk about establishing "socialism" in the United States. Nevertheless, this approach fosters a nationalist approach which is opposed by the WSM.
The SLP has expressed itself in language that seems to indicte it thinks socialism can be established in one country. Its journal, The People (1 May 1993), replied to an unprinted letter:
W hat would a socialist America do about the wages, or capitalist, system in the "third world"?
You are wrong when you say that socialism in America would leave Europe and Japan unaffected. Today, capital is increasingly international. What affects capitalism at its heart affects all its limbs.
PARLIAMENTARY APPROACH. Support the socialist industrial union (SIU) model, which appears at odds with their stated support for a parliamentary approach. The SIU model has some clear attractions. It is easy to explain and understand, it builds upon recognizable, existing structures, and it is worker-oriented. However, the SIU model creates or continues as many problems as it addresses.
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.
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.
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":
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