- by Eileen Whitehead
- The Guardian
- Issue #1949
The present lack of mass support for a genuinely working-class party in countries such as Australia, the UK, and the US, is a void that ensures that the mainstream space of political discourse is unanimous in its backing for ruling-class interests, against those of the working people. Working-class and socialist principles are under constant attack.
In their March 1850 address to the Communist League, Marx and Engels stated: “Even where there is no prospect of achieving their election the workers must put up their own candidates to preserve their independence, to gauge their own strength and to bring their revolutionary position and party standpoint to public attention. They must not be led astray by the empty phrases of the democrats, who will maintain that the workers’ candidates will split the democratic party and offer the forces of reaction the chance of victory. All such talk means, in the final analysis, that the proletariat is to be swindled.” This remains as true in 2021 as it was in 1850.
Until socialism prevails and a system built for the betterment of society is established, the growing inequality and injustices we face today will continue. Socialism can only emerge when the working class unites.
George Bernard Shaw, with his customary wit, in The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism, comments on the “system” and the difficulty of a poor socialist to get a seat in the House of Commons: “Poor men spend their best years in this demoralising and expensive pursuit whilst rich and highly connected young Conservative gentlemen with purely second-hand opinions or none at all can do it in six weeks in properly selected constituencies. When the proletarian candidates at last succeed they find themselves powerless to do anything but debate.” We can certainly see this play out in today’s politics, with the likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg in Britain, both with disproportionate power compared to their wit.
In 1901, the Socialist Party of America (SPA) was well aware that bourgeois parties like the Democrats and the Republicans were enemies of the workers. They ran socialist candidates in elections against both parties, gaining six per cent of the presidential vote. They were successful in council and state governor elections and stuck to their guns, not endorsing President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, and vehemently opposing America entering WW1, with many of them ending up in jail. Eugene Debs, a popular radical figure, even obtained one million votes in the next presidential election from his prison cell!
In 1919, following the Russian Revolution, the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) was established after splitting from the SPA, but since its conception was at the mercy of government and employer repression. This steadily weakened the movement in the post-WW1 and WW2 Red Scares, with laws such as the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 criminalising certain forms of speech. Sounds like the actions of the Australian government’s Anti-Terrorism Act, 2005, ostensibly targeting any activity promoting terrorism, but which in fact has the potential to inhibit freedom of expression and free association.
Here there’s a comparison to be made between the USA and Australia, both being countries populated by immigration. In a “Red Funk” following the Russian Revolution, America had deported some 38,000 immigrants, including many radicals – a significant blow to the CPUSA. Offices were raided, newspapers seized, activists imprisoned, and thousands of union members expelled. The recent activities of the Australian Federal Police, raiding the offices and homes of journalists, trade unionists, and whistleblowers, are reminiscent of this.
Again, in the period from the late 1940s through the mid-1960s, close surveillance, a series of political trials, and numerous deportations of immigrant members hobbled the CPUSA’s efforts.
Talk of democracy and equality is cheap. The people are made to believe the state strives for this, appearing to be the cornerstone of universality and impartiality, when in fact its role as manager of capitalist class interests always comes first, which does away with any hope of democracy or equality.
How often do we hear our politicians speak of the “public good?” What does this mean? It’s simply a catchcry perpetuating inequality and an unjust society. Capitalism, under which the minority exploit the majority, encourages deference to the state with its fanciful “democracy” and “equality.” The economy – more specifically, profits for the capitalist class – is the “God” of this system that tramples and intrudes on our lives.
It’s time the people demand a change to the system. To believe Morrison’s “we’re all in this together” rhetoric is fooling ourselves. Morrison’s future will see workers squeezed to breaking point, in an ultimately futile effort to preserve the power and fortune of the capitalist ruling class. The state’s repressive powers – legislated or otherwise – that have been growing exponentially over recent years will come down on us like a ton of bricks. We won’t have a bright future by trusting this government. Workers must unite and fight, and the fight must be for socialism.