In May 1984 there was issued A Challenge to the Socialist Party of Great Britain. (If you haven’t had a copy, let IC know). It is presented as the opening statement in a proposed written debate on the issue: WILL THE WORKING CLASS SUPPORT THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN? Copies were sent to all branches of the party, to the Socialist Standard and to Head Office; not one of them attempted to answer the charges made. In August 1984 further copies were sent with covering letters to all party branches and to a number of individual members.
The letter below from E.Hardy is the only reply so far received.. The Challenge was addressed to the Socialist Party; Mr. Hardy does not say whether he replies on behalf of the party or not.
Dear Mr. Walford,
I have received your letter of 2 September, with enclosures. Debate, if it is to be useful, has to be between stated alternatives; as a socialist I am interested in “solutions for social problems” and am willing to consider your alternative to the socialist case.
In a document The Unscientific Socialists (about 1979) which was signed by you and others, it was stated that socialism was an illusion because it is not “reasonably capable of attainment.” Will you please let me have a statement of your “solutions to social problems” so that I can consider whether it is “reasonably capable of attainment,” and whether in fact it offers solutions at all.
In the document referred to, a half-promise was made to produce your solutions. (“We shall also be able to consider what solutions for social problems may be possible taking this into account”). The “this” was the fact that a majority of the workers do not accept the socialist case.
I fail to see how your ability to put forward your solutions is prevented [correct word? doubtful legibility GW] by the fact that a majority of the workers do not accept socialist case. On the contrary, it ought to be a reason you should produce your solutions without delay.
Assuming of course that you are really interested in solving social problems.
Yours faithfully, E. Hardy
Dear Mr. Hardy,
Yes, useful debate has to be between alternatives. But this does not mean that after the opening statement has been, made one participant may dismiss original pair and substitute new ones. I have raised a question of crucial importance for the Socialist Party, stated one of the alternative answers and given my reasons for maintaining it. If you are prepared to state and maintain the other please do so, and give your reasons. (And please also, whether you speak on behalf of the Socialist Party).
At the end of the Challenge, saying I wanted to hear the Socialist Party’s answers, I added:
But I don’t expect we will hear them. If the Socialist Party are running true to form they will not seriously attempt to defend their case. Their reply, if they one, will be an attempt to distract our attention by talking about something else.
Your letter confirms this prediction. It tries to divert attention from the charges brought against the Socialist Party by talking about something else.
The Socialist Party have been publicly charged with believing themselves to be an elite, with putting forward a case that does not make sense, and with being ignorant socialism. Each of these charges has been supported with quotations from the Party’s literature, and they all provide good reason for the working class not to support that Party.
It is now for the Socialist Party to answer these charges; after they have done so, or admitted that they cannot do so, then will be the time to move on to other matters.
[See also: IC vs SP, 1986]
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One thing on which practically all thoughtful people in the West agree is the need for democracy. And although they may dispute about some of the finer points there is general agreement that the core and centre of democracy is one person, one vote. That is the way to ensure that the voice of the people is heard. There is, however, at least one other view.
Western prejudice may demand a vote for every man: Javanese prejudice demands Musjawarh and Mufakat – prolonged palaver ending in a unanimous decision when the last dissenter is too hoarse or too exhausted to argue further. — Sukarno condemned the West’s ’50 per cent plus one’ vote as ‘the tyranny of the majority,’ a deplorably unfair way of making policy which ignored the wishes of up to 49 per cent of the people. (Denis Bloodworth, An Eye for the Dragon 1974)
from Ideological Commentary 13, September 1984.