Michael Kidron

The Fight for Socialism – Conclusion

(September 1958)

From Socialist Review, 8th Year No. 16, 1 September 1958, p. 5.
Transcribed by Ian Birchall, Nina Kidron & Richard Kuper.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

We have seen that capitalism means either the excruciating suffering of a slump or the threat of total annihilation. Because only a small section of the population controls production and is not answerable to the rest of the community; because this section is competing within its own ranks and with similar classes abroad. This small capitalist class can hang on to power only because they control the armed forces, the police and the means of mass “persuasion.”

The workers’ answer to this threat of total annihilation is Socialism. Workers’ control of production; abolishing competition by full nationalization at home and international co-operation between workers’ states; defence of the workers’ states against middle-class sabotage by arming the entire working class.

Only thus can the workers’ state be kept alive and Socialism attained.

How do we stand as regards the realisation of these general objectives?

At the moment the Labour Movement in Britain shows no interest in revolutionary Socialism. Despite the resurgence of industrial militancy, Socialism is generally regarded as “voting Labour.” This is only to be expected in a period of full employment, when real wages, if not rising, are at least not falling. It is true that the increase in real wages since the war has been at the expense of greater effort at work: between 1948 and 1953 real wages increased by 7 per cent and productivity by more than double – 15 per cent, and the average work week is higher than it has been for a long time: 49.3 hours in October, 1953, as compared with 47.7 in October, 1938. But this the average worker does not know. He feels, correctly, that his conditions have improved, and so, all’s right with the world. This attitude is natural, but can it last?

The capitalist world can only escape a slump by using up its surpluses in arms production. By 1949 the post-war boom was coming to an end. If the re-armament program (one feature of which was the Korean war) – not just the British one, but that of all the Powers – had not got under way, we would now be facing a large-scale slump. But large-scale production of armaments creates problems of its own. Whilst it stimulates boom or semi-boom conditions (full employment, large profits, etc.) as soon as it gets into its stride, it doesn’t permit the production of the mass of the consumer goods that would normally be produced during a boom; in fact it may considerably reduce the amounts available. This happened, for example, when the Labour Government had to impose charges on the National Health Scheme services to pay for its 1950–1 arms budget. And once under way re-armament cannot stop. Competitors in the international market follow suit and we get into the fantastic state of affairs where more and more production leads, in the end, to less and less consumer goods and a forced reduction in the standard of living of the masses.

As yet we haven’t come to that in Britain, but there is no doubt that we shall, and as soon as the arms burden begins to cut into living standards we can expect a greater degree of consciousness amongst workers. For the first time in history, world capitalism is preparing for war in conditions of full employment; for the first time war doesn’t bring with it the temporary alleviation from the nightmare of unemployment. It now means one thing only – a cut in living standards and the probability of total annihilation. If the fear of the latter won’t drive politics into people’s heads, the feel of the former will. We shall then witness a tremendous radicalization of the masses, a blind, impetuous radicalization. Our job is to prepare for it, to guide it, to prevent it ending itself in hysterical destruction.

This is no less true in other countries than in Britain. There has not been one major threat to capitalism in this country that has not had its counterpart on the Continent, whether it was the pre-1914 slump or the post-1918 one, the troubles during the great slump of the ’thirties or the tremendous attacks mounted by the working class at the end of World War II. The only difference between here and there has been one of degree – the Continental working class has always gone one step ahead of its British comrade. While we were only threatening a General Strike in May 1920, Germany was convulsed in revolution and counter-revolution; while we were peacefully installing Labour MPs in Parliament in 1946, the workers of Paris were being disarmed after patrolling the streets with guns on their shoulders. These are only two examples out of many. We needn’t be afraid that our Continental comrades will desert us. Our problems are their problems; our future theirs.

A conscious Socialist must do two things today. We must strengthen the left-wing elements wherever we are: in union branch, Labour Party ward, Co-operative Society; and weld them into a body with a united program, working to transform the Labour Movement into a truly Socialist movement. Secondly, this left-wing within the movement must spread its Socialist program – rather, its program for the transition to Socialism – as widely as possible, relating it to the questions of the day, so that as political consciousness strikes deeper roots, the program can pull as many as possible from destructive rebelliousness to constructive revolution. The program of the Socialist Review is such a one.

Last updated on 16 February 2017