George Walford: The (Anarcho-) Socialist Party (44)

PRO OR ANTI?
This party claims to be propagating socialism but spends nearly all., its time and energy attacking capitalism. The eight Principles, for example, do not mention socialism except, indirectly, in No. 8. It is a tendency which began to appear at an earlier stage of ideological development; Karl Marx’s principal work was not Communism, but Capital.

ARE THEY NOT ANARCHISTS?
Consider these propositions:

The social revolution must not lead to the dictatorship of the proletariat but to the abolition of classes.

All institutions and parties based on the idea of regulating social change by governmental action are counter-revolutionary.

Reformism (that is, the idea that society can be changed by piecemeal measures), has to be attacked.

There can be no transitional period between existing society and the society aimed at. No, they do not come from the (A-) SPGB but from the Prologue to George Woodcock’s Anarchism. He says, further: “the strong point in anarchist writings has always been their incisive criticism of [existing] institutions; in comparison their plans of reconstruction have been oversimplified and unconvincing”; the┬áParty’s attacks on capitalism are smashing and thoroughly documented, their accounts of a “socialist” society limited to ways it “could” be organised.

Woodcock also lists, among the features of anarchism, practices the Party rejects, such as violence, the formation of communes within existing society, and asceticism. This difference is fully consistent with the analysis put forward by IC. The (non-SPGB) anarchists have not yet succumbed to (or attained, if you prefer that) the purism distinguishing the Party; they still have, in common with all the movements preceding them in the ideological range, a willingness to work for improvements in the human condition that do not constitute world-wide social revolution. Devoted to theory, study and argument to an extent not found in any of these other movements, they yet retain a foothold in social practice. Only with the transition to the position of the (A-) SPGB does the need to win the argument come to prohibit responsible engagement in social and political life.

CORRESPONDENCE:
The Socialist Standard Production Committee have replied (22 Jan 90) that they have nothing to add to their letter printed in IC43

from Ideological Commentary 44, March 1990.