Including explanations of what the Object and each Principle mean to us
This declaration is the basis of our organisation and, because it is also an important historical document dating from the formation of the party in 1904, its original language has been retained.
The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.
What is meant by “a system of society”?
The world is a “global village”. Each region may have its own particular and distinct customs, but they are part of a greater system of society that is world-wide. This system of society is capitalism and every region and nation operates within this system of society in one way or another. Socialism is not a cooperative island in the middle of capitalism, but a global system of society that will replace capitalism.
“The means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth”?
This includes the forests, mines, and oceans from which natural wealth is extracted, the factories in which this natural wealth is processed, and the distribution of that wealth via transportation networks (such as roads and truck lines) and distribution centres (such as grocery and department stores). It does not include your personal belongings such as your toothbrush or clothing, or the family heirloom.
Common ownership means that society as a whole owns the means and instruments for distributing wealth. It also implies the democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, for if everyone owns, then everyone must have equal right to control the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth.
Common ownership is not state ownership. State ownership is merely the ownership by the capitalist class as a whole, instead of by individual capitalists, and the government then runs the state enterprises to serve the capitalist class. In the self-proclaimed “communist” states the state enterprises serve those who control the party/state apparatus. The working class does not own or control. It produces for a privileged minority.
Declaration of Principles
The Socialist Party of Great Britain holds
Working class emancipation necessarily excludes the role of political leadership. The Socialist Party has an absolute need of supporters with understanding and self-reliance. Even if we could conceive of a leader-ridden working class displacing the capitalist class from power such an immature class would be helpless to undertake the responsibilities of democratic socialist society.
- That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (i.e., land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced. How are decisions about the operation of society made? What principles govern what goods will be produced in what quantity and quality, or what social programs and laws will exist? If decisions were made based upon the needs of humanity then the food that is regularly destroyed by the truckload would instead feed the starving. Decisions are made based upon the expectation of making a profit. The ecology of the world is being devastated, even though this devastation may wipe out the human race, because of profit. Poor quality goods are produced, not because people want to have junk, but because it is profitable to produce junk. The rich can get the best, the rest of us often have little choice. Anyone can think of dozens of examples of how decision making puts profit-making before the satisfaction of human needs. The owners of the production and distribution facilities are responsible to no-one but themselves. Governments pass laws that maintain profits for the owners as a group. Sometimes one owner or one sub-group of owners loses a bit, but overall, the class of owners always benefits in the long run. By focussing on the worst excesses, and legalizing the rest, their profits are protected from demands for significant changes. While many British people have generally seen the benefits of increased production in terms of material wealth, the decisions are made not to improve our lives, but to improve the lives of those who own the means of production. The gap between the very rich and the rest of us continues to grow.
- That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess. There are many different divisions in society. Divisions of hatred by sex, skin colour, national origin, religion or the amount of money that a person makes, among others. The insecurity of capitalism breeds these hatreds. We must eliminate their breeding ground, before they infect our children. Socialists see a division of society based upon the means of acquiring wealth. If you must work for a living then you are working class, if your main income is derived from the work of others then you are a capitalist. This distinction clearly exists. Even though some of us own shares, workers do not have the luxury to quit their jobs and live off investment income. When you analyze society using this class division, many problems that otherwise defy understanding have obvious solutions. Profit is derived by owning. Wages or salary are derived by labouring, by expending our physical or mental energy working for those who own the means of production and distribution. The owner of a particular factory may not even know that they own it. It may be just a part of an immense holding company that is administered by someone else. The workers in the factory, however, are directly connected to the production. It is the labour of these workers (including the plant management) that creates the profits that keep the capitalists rich. It is vital that the capitalists pay their workers less than the value that their labour produces. It is this difference between the value of what workers are paid and the value of what they produce that is the source of profit.
- That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into the common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people. As long as the ownership of the means of production and distribution rests with the minority capitalist class, this antagonism will continue to exist. The antagonism is caused by the necessarily differing interests of the classes. No matter how nice capitalists may be on a personal level, they will always have different interests than the working class. It is not a matter of good and evil or anything like that, it is inherent in any class system. Therefore the only way to eliminate the antagonism is to eliminate the class system and establish a system of common ownership where the previous antagonism has no basis.
- That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind, without distinction of race or sex. The hate and distrust that exists in society today is a direct result of the nature of societies past and present. A society in which we must compete to survive, in which our jobs are threatened by other workers, in which we do not feel secure, is fertile breeding ground for racism, sexism, nationalism and all the other hatreds that abound. Even today, while this hatred is sometimes used to pit one worker against another, it appears that overall, these hatreds are being rooted out and made socially unacceptable. This is particularly noticeable in countries like South Africa where there is a shortage of white workers, and black workers must be brought into previously “white” workplaces without the major disruption that is caused by overt racism. No society can meet our human needs as long as there are different classes of people. Every person has abilities that differentiate them from others, but we are all equal in our humanity. We all have strengths and weaknesses. What we need is a society that allows us to use our strengths, and that accepts and accommodates our weaknesses. Socialism will be a society geared to meeting human needs, and the need to be accepted for what we are is probably the most basic of human needs. When the breeding ground for these hatreds has disappeared, people will naturally be able to eradicate them with all the other negative leftovers of capitalism.
- That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.
- That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organize consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic. It would be foolish to expect the capitalist class to voluntarily give up its privileged position in society. Governments exist solely to administer the society as it exists, in the interests of the ruling (capitalist) class, so governments will not end the privilege. Capitalism will continue as long as the working class accepts it. The working class will have to force the capitalist class to give up its position of privilege. Socialism will be the result of workers democratically choosing a new, classless society based upon the satisfaction of human needs. And since capitalism is a global system of society, it must be replaced globally. It is dangerous and futile to follow those who support violence by workers against the armed force of the state. Violent revolution has sometimes meant different faces in the capitalist class, always meant dead workers, and never meant the liberation of the working class. Unless workers organize consciously and politically and take control over the state machinery, including its armed forces, the state will be ensured a bloody victory. Political democracy is the greatest tool (next to its labour-power) that the working class has at its disposal. When the majority of workers support socialism, so-called “revolutionary” war will not be required. The real revolution is for workers to stop following leaders, to start understanding why society functions as it does and to start thinking for themselves.
- That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party. Political parties of the left, right and centre, claim to be working for the betterment of society. Because society functions in the interests of the capitalist class, it is clear that these parties are then supporting the interests of the capitalist class. History shows us that no matter what these parties say, when elected they administer capitalism in the only way it can be administered – in the interests of the capitalist class. Each of them has their own idea of how to run capitalism, often stealing the ideas of their supposed political opposites. The reforms that they implement must reflect economic reality. If they do not, they will not get re-elected – until the next party fails to reflect that reality. There is no way that capitalism can meet the needs of the majority, but all of these parties pretend it can if only they find the right plan. None of them have any really new ideas, only rehashed reforms that have failed in the past. Voting for any of these parties is voting for capitalism, forever. Socialists are therefore hostile, not in the sense of committing violent acts against other parties or their members, but to the ideas of those parties which support capitalism.
- The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom. The Socialist Party is part of a global socialist movement that believes capitalism cannot meet the needs of the majority of the people in the world. It does not today, and it never can. In order to meet these needs capitalism must be replaced by socialism. The only way to achieve socialism is for the working class to recognize this and consciously and politically work to replace capitalism with socialism. The Socialist Party of Great Britain does not support the idea of reforming capitalism and therefore does not work for reforms. There are plenty of other organizations that do and yet the problems remain. By relegating socialism to the future, it is relegated to never. Only a party dedicated only to socialism can promote socialism in any real, honest manner. Among all the political parties in Great Britain, only the Socialist Party is dedicated to socialism as an immediate goal. It is this objective that makes the Socialist Party revolutionary – our dedication to peaceful, democratic and immediate change. The Socialist Party is, therefore, engaged in a war of ideas against all other parties. Those other parties, no matter what they claim, are supporting the capitalist system and opposing the immediate establishment of socialism. Only the conscious support of the working class will create socialism, and to this end the Socialist Party seeks to increase understanding of, and mobilize support for, socialism. The Socialist Party calls upon every worker to support these efforts in any way that they can.