“There are but three ways for people to escape their wretched lot. The first is via the liquor-store, the second is the path of the temple; but the third is by way of the social revolution.” – Bakunin
In a land of 1.3 billion, an organisation of a dozen or so members which has never contested an election, based in Kolkata with most of its literature in Bengali or English but claims the grandoise title of the World Socialist Party for India, appears absurd to many political commentators. An aspiration, perhaps but not a reflection of the reality. But the dozen or so members would remind their critics of the British socialist, William Morris and his words:
“One man with an idea in his head is in danger of being considered a madman: two men with the same idea in common may be foolish, but can hardly be mad; ten men sharing an idea begin to act, a hundred draw attention as fanatics, a thousand and society begins to tremble, a hundred thousand and there is war abroad, and the cause has victories tangible and real; and why only a hundred thousand? Why not a hundred million and peace upon the earth? You and I who agree together, it is we who have to answer that question.”
The WSP (India) was established in March 1995 from activists centred upon the journal Lal Pataka (a name inspired by Die Rote Fahn, the organ of the German Internationalist group, the Spartacus League) which began in 1983 after some members had broken with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in 1982. It merged with the Marxist International Correspondence Circle which started in 1990. With its Luxemburgist influences the Party first explored relations with various groups that are part of the Left Communist tradition such as the International Communist Current but after a series of discussions with it and other groups in that milieu, they found a closer affinity with the Socialist Party of Great Britain which had its origins in the Impossiblist anti-reformism breakaway from social democracy, and having formed with its companion parties the World Socialist Movement.
The World Socialist Party (India) maintains that it is a revolutionary party, committed to class struggle as the means of achieving its ends. They do not advocate violent insurrection but view their task as to hasten the revolution by rousing class consciousness through education. They argue that the only way socialism will come about is for a majority of people, on a worldwide basis, achieving this objective through the use of elections, although they are well aware at the present time the main function is to at as a propaganda group to try to raise political awareness. The WSP(India) believe that it is possible to make the transition from capitalism to the complete abolition of the state immediately that the majority decides to do it.
Against its critics who disparage the democratic vote, the WSP(India) cite Marx:
“The character of an election does not depend on this name but on the economics foundation, the economic interrelations of the voters, and as soon as the functions have ceased to be political, (1) government functions no longer exist, (2) distribution of general functions has become a routine matter which entails no domination, (3) elections loose their present political character… with collective ownership the so-called will of the people disappears and makes way for the genuine will of the co-operatives” (Notes on Bakunin’s Statehood and Anarchy)
As founder member, Binay Sarkar, has explained:
” ‘revocably delegated socialist democracy’, I mean not just a ballot and a vote to elect, nor just a ‘right’ to recall but more, a real content: participatory and decision-making democracy.”
The WSP (India) oppose any form of “united front” viewing in particular (i) CPI, (ii) CPI (M), (iii) Socialist Unity Centre (India) of having distorted Marxism in the name of Marxism. They are seen as left-capitalist parties defending capitalism’s left-wing by using and misusing Marxian phraseology.
Corresponding with the fragmentation of the Left, there exists a divided trade union movement which has become expressions of particular political parties. There are as many unions as there are political parties with dozens trade union federations, divided along party lines. The WSP (India) has taken up a position asserting that workers are fully able, in fact, abler than the “leaders” to understand their own class-interests if they are fully informed of their circumstances from local to global. And to be informed of what is happening around, and what has happened earlier, what they require is to meet in regular general assemblies, discuss and debate all that matters keeping ears and minds open and decide to take such steps as deemed useful. In case a strike is to be declared, they would need a strike committee to be formed of recallable delegates elected and mandated in the general assembly – thus retaining the ultimate control in their own hands. Where there are many rival trade union shops in a single factory or workplace operated by many capitalist political parties, a socialist worker can neither keep on supporting the one he or she is in, nor go on seeking membership of one after another or all at the same time, nor can they start their own “socialist” trade union instead. What one can and should do as immediate perspective, is to try to form a “political group” with like-minded fellow-workers and campaign for a class-wide democratic unity. The greater political awareness of the working class towards socialism, and the greater their control over trade union activities, better might be their chances of retaining a larger proportions of the wealth (surplus product) they create. Socialist theory will then begin to be realised in socialist practice.
It is true that Marx did not draw up recipes for the cookshops of the future, but he did describe the basis of the society he thought was going to replace capitalism: “an association of free men, working with the means of production held in common” (chapter 1 of Capital); “a co-operative society based on the common ownership of the means of production” (Critique of the Gotha Programme); “abolition of private property”, “the Communistic abolition of buying and selling”, “the conversion of the functions of the State into a mere superintendence of production” (Communist Manifesto); “abolition of the wages system” (Value, Price and Profit).
In short, a class-free, state-free, moneyless, wageless prices-free society based on the common ownership of the means of production and distribution – the end of the profit-system and the exchange economy.
In Wage, Labour and Capital, Marx encapsulated the condition of existence of capitalism:
“…capital presupposes wage labour; wage labour presupposes capital. They condition the existence of each other; they reciprocally bring forth each other.”
The key point to understand is that capitalism is a system based upon the ruthless exploitation and commodification of workers and the relentless rape of our planet. Working people are conditioned and are psychologically programmed to detest that which could potentially set them free. Workers are led to believe that economic servitude and wage slavery is freedom. Millions of human beings toil in the world’s sweat-shops. It is all done for the benefit of capitalists at the expense of society.
Workers still believe in myths and fairy tales. They have misplaced hope and faith in phony leaders and bogus institutions that keep us servile and docile. Irrational faith requires nothing from us. Delusion has become the norm because too many of us are incapable of grappling with reality. We can and must do better or we are doomed.
The WSP(India) possesses no charismatic leaders and those impressed by power are rarely critical and seldom of a revolutionary character.
Rosa Luxemburg wrote:
“Historically, the errors committed by a truly revolutionary movement are infinitely more fruitful than the infallibility of the cleverest Central Committee.”
The WSP (India) does not want you to follow it because if a political party can lead you to the “promised land”, another equally could as easily lead you out again. The role of the WSP(India) is to persuade – better still – to help people persuade themselves. If workers seeks to take part in the self-emancipation of their class, the basic requirement is that they should cease allowing others to teach them and should set about teaching themselves.
The WSP(India) in its principles promote the desirability, and above all, the possibility of a fundamentally different form of society in which men and women, freed from the pressures of scarcity and from the insecurity of everyday existence under capitalism, shape their own lives, collectively deciding who, how, when, and what shall be produced.
The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. If those in charge of our society, the professional politicians, corporate bosses and media moguls can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power.
It is only when we have renounced our preoccupation with “I,” “me,” “mine,” that we can truly possess the world in which we live. It is the shift from the “I” method of looking at human affairs to the “we” method of observing and appreciating human relations. The person who retains the old “I” attitude stands in the way of human progress.
As Karl Liebknecht pointed out:
“The basic law of capitalism is you or I, not you and I.”
Provided that we regard nothing as property, not only is everything ours; it is also everybody else’s.
Alan Johnstone is member of the World Socialist Movement and contributor to the Socialist Standard.