One of our Facebook followers recently messaged us saying: “I don’t see the point of being in a socialist group. Isn’t it enough to just get people to turn up to strikes and protests when it matters? :-)” We answer below.
Turning up to the big things is a great start, but defeating a system like capitalism requires a higher level of organisation, and the development of politics. It would be fantastic if there was an easier way, but the need for socialist organisation flows from the very position the working class finds itself in.
The working class has the potential to change society because of its role in the production process. But even though workers make up the majority of the population, replacing capitalism with a new system based on need, rather than profits, isn’t easy.
The rich and powerful are a minority, but they have a repressive apparatus working for them in the form of the state (the police, armed forces, courts, senior bureaucrats etc). The state is highly centralised, if we want to change things, the working class is going to need a tight knit organised movement to counter it.
Under capitalism, workers are exploited, but they are also key to making the system work. While we have huge amounts of latent power, we are also divided by way of gender, race, age, religion, etc. The capitalists have become very skilled at playing on these divisions in order to maintain their rule.
A socialist organisation is designed to help overcome these divisions. We work to put forward a unifying programme that can bring together the different layers of workers, and draw different struggles together. Our aim is to help people see that the system is at the root of most of their problems and that they themselves have the power to change things.
This type of work can’t just be done in the midst of revolutionary events. It’s a living process whereby socialists need to struggle with workers, build connections and trust, and develop a program that corresponds with where people are at.
All this requires a form of ongoing organisation. Groups like Socialist Action spend time to study the ideas of scientific socialism (Marxism), to learn the lessons of history, and to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of capitalism. In many ways we act like the memory of the working class bringing the lessons of the past into current movements.
Building an organisation with these attributes makes us better equipped to struggle, and when we are able to put our ideas into action, we can help struggles to be successful. This is important for building the confidence of the working class, and helping people to direct the fight towards the system itself.
Even to win basic improvements you need the ideas and a form of organisation to put those ideas into action. To change the whole system, we will need to take that model and expand it. While we consider ourselves the embryo of a much bigger movement today, we think that problems with capitalism itself will push people closer towards socialist ideas.
That said, organising the working class takes a conscious effort. The capitalists themselves know that an organised working class poses a threat. Look at how they attack the trade unions that organise workers industrially.
Our project of organising workers politically is even more dangerous to them. They will do what they can to hinder us but we can overcome this because our fight for a new type of democratic socialist society offers people hope.
In a nutshell, we firmly believe that socialist organisation is crucial if we want to make real change. We unashamedly ask people for all the help we can get. If you can march with us on a demonstration, make a donation, come to a meeting, or buy our magazine that will contribute to the cause.
But we also appeal to people to look at the history of social movements, to really understand how capitalism works, and to work out how your efforts can be made most effective. This system is causing untold damage to both people and the environment. We have no time to lose.
Do you have a question for The Socialist? Email your question to us at HERE and we will publish our responses in future editions of this column.