12
Nov
12

Paul Murphy outlines the SP’s reformist road to socialism

At a recent SP public meeting MEP Paul Murphy outlined the SP’s vision of the socialist alternative to capitalism and their programmatic framework for how to get there. His presentation has just been made available on youtube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHcg2x1jDkE

While his presentation contains some elements of a programme based on the method of the Transitional Program it fails to address the central question of the state and working class power.

Instead we have a vision of a “workers government” that comes to power through winning an election to the capitalist parliament and then passes laws aimed at reforming capitalism out of existence.

The response of the capitalists to this radical reformist socialism is posed by Paul merely in terms of economic sanctions as if this would be the extent of the capitalists resistance

Of course this may be because the SP’s programme for dealing with the capitalist state repressive apparatus is to reform it through the fantasy of “community control”.

The SP vision of socialism has no conception of the centrality of creating alternative organs of working class power. Authentic revolutionary socialists understand the importance of creating workers council forms of proletarian democracy in opposition to the parliamentary fraud of bourgeois democracy. Just as we recognise the need to build of our own proto-state bodies of armed force that can defend against repression from the capitalist state and also pose the possibility of overthrowing the whole rotten system.

Without this the SP’s fine words about democratic control of the economy by working people remain so much hot air and in reality just point working class militancy back into the safety valve of the pseudo-democratic parliamentary system.

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10 Responses to “Paul Murphy outlines the SP’s reformist road to socialism”


  1. 1 pat
    November 13, 2012 at 21:57

    You say: “The SP vision of socialism has no conception of the centrality of creating alternative organs of working class power. Authentic revolutionary socialists understand the importance of creating workers council forms of proletarian democracy in opposition to the parliamentary fraud of bourgeois democracy.”

    I’ll now quote from the video of Paul to show you why I think you’re wrong about that. He says:

    “I’m going to put forward a number of propositions to what a socialist government could do in Ireland. It is important to note that this isn’t going to happen in a peaceful fashion, not in the sense of necessarily violence, but in the sense of; without a massive struggle.

    “It isn’t going to happen by us convincing the capitalists that there’s a more rational way of running society: ‘if you could only do this, this and this, things would be better’. Then the capitalists hand over the keys of power to the working class, you set up workers’ councils and that’s it.

    “You’re talking about a period of intense, deep, capitalist crisis and intense, deep, massive class struggle. That’s the reality, there is a massive class war being waged all across the world.

    “… It’s in those conditions, of massive crisis, turmoil and significant class struggle – that we think will come to Ireland – that the prospect of working people coming to power, kicking out the Troika, kicking out the establishment parties, and establishing a government on a different basis. And also potentially organise on a different basis. In the sense that; through the struggles of people, establishing institutions of power that are different to the institutions of power that currently operate, like the popular assemblies that were established in Greece, that can become reestablished again. That’s the vision of how this sort of change can come about.”

    He focuses on the example of Greece to make the discussion as concrete as possible, for people who are not used to hearing such radical ideas, in the attempt to actually convince them that the struggle for socialism is a very real thing. He goes on:

    “And I think if you look at Greece, it’s the closest example, it’s the way people can see in the most realistic way how socialist change can come about. Because in Greece, I think its likely that within a year and likely within 6 months, a left government, a Syriza-led left government will be elected in Greece. I don’t know what will happen after that, I don’t know if Syriza will follow through on the expectations that people have, but that’s a real prospect that people can see. And if you imagine a similar situation happening in Ireland and then; what do you do when you come to power? When working people come to power in such a circumstance, what are the key things you need to do to point a way out of the crisis…

    He then goes on to explain the need to repudiate the debt, to expropriate the capitalists, for internationalism and for socialist planning.

    I think it’s an excellent explanation of a socialist programme, head and shoulders above anything you’ll hear from the left in Ireland or indeed internationally.

    • November 13, 2012 at 22:10

      I guess we all hear what we want to hear but I think the bit about Greece actually completely reinforces the point I am making:

      “And I think if you look at Greece, it’s the closest example, it’s the way people can see in the most realistic way how socialist change can come about. Because in Greece, I think its likely that within a year and likely within 6 months, a left government, a Syriza-led left government will be elected in Greece.”

      So here is the “closest example” for “how socialist change can come about” – and how is that exactly? Through the election of a “left government” in the Greek parliament.

      And the only concern such a “left government” would apparently have to face is economic sanctions – with the very direct and immediate threat posed by the capitalist state repressive apparatus completely airbrushed out of the picture. But I guess that is because you not only believe socialist change will come through getting elected to the bourgeois parliament but that the capitalist state can be controlled (perhaps even reformed?) through “community control”.

      I really don’t know why you are complaining that I am somehow misrepresenting the SP’s view. Seeing the catalyst for socialist change coming through the bourgeois parliamentary process is after-all just the orthodoxy of your international organisation. See for instance what Peter Taaffe, the central leader of the CWI, argued in a 2006 interview with BBC Radio 4’s Shaun Ley:

      SL – ‘You still think the revolution will come?

      PT – ‘Well, what do you mean by revolution?

      SL – ‘The overthrow of capitalism.

      PT – ‘Well yes, a change in society, established through winning a majority in elections, backed up by a mass movement to prevent the capitalists from overthrowing a socialist government and fighting, not to take over every small shop, every betting shop or every street corner shop — in any case, they are disappearing because of the rise of the supermarkets — and so on, or every small factory, but to nationalise a handful of monopolies, transnationals now, that control 80 to 85% of the economy.’
      (The Socialist, 29 June 2006, http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/2006/446/index.html?id=militant.html)

      • 3 pat
        November 13, 2012 at 22:36

        Yes, ‘misrepresenting the SP’s view’ is exactly what you’re doing.

        The point that is being made is not that the election of a left government in Greece is an example of socialist change, but that what happens after a left government comes to power can be an important catalyst in a revolutionary struggle. And as Paul makes quite clear:

        “through the struggles of people, establishing institutions of power that are different to the institutions of power that currently operate, like the popular assemblies that were established in Greece, that can become reestablished again. That’s the vision of how this sort of [socialist] change can come about.”

        Not every revolution will happen exactly as it did in October 1917.

      • November 14, 2012 at 08:48

        So you are saying that Peter Taaffe was lying when he answered the question of how the overthrow of capitalism would come about by saying ” ‘Well yes, a change in society, established through winning a majority in elections”?

    • November 13, 2012 at 22:22

      Oh and you might be interested to compare this exposition by Paul with the programmatic framework I outlined when I launched this blog – https://revolutionaryprogramme.wordpress.com/for-a-revolutionary-socialist-programme-2/

      There is indeed a degree of overlap with some of the demands Paul makes but what makes my programmatic framework stand head and shoulders above Paul’s is that I am clear and unambiguous on the questions to do with overthrowing the capitalist state and establishing workers power, where Paul is, to say the least, very unclear.

      • 6 pat
        November 13, 2012 at 22:55

        I don’t think Paul was unclear at all. That a struggle by the working class will be needed to overthrow capitalism was stressed. I certainly don’t think it can be argued that he gave any illusions that the socialist change will be a simple case of electing a government, which is what you’re trying to say. It’s just not a valid criticism in any sense.

      • November 14, 2012 at 09:12

        My point is that the SP/CWI give an inordinate amount of weight to the bourgeois election process in terms of the overthrow of capitalism. The fact that you relate this to a background of rising class struggle and even sometimes the creation of workers council type organs does not change this basic point.

        Both Paul in this speech and Peter in the 2006 radio interview made it clear that they see the bourgeois election process as the key element in the creation of a workers government.

        As Peter makes clear you believe that just electing this workers government in the bourgeois parliament will not be enough – I apologise if I somehow gave the impression this was all you said. Your position is clearly that it will need to be “backed up by a mass movement to prevent the capitalists from overthrowing a socialist government”.

        But as Trotsky argued, in the British context:

        ‘[H]eroic promises to hurl thunderbolts of resistance if the Conservatives should “dare,” etc., are not worth a single bad penny. It is futile to lull the masses to sleep from day to day with prattling about peaceful, painless, parliamentary, democratic transitions to socialism and then, at the first serious punch delivered at one’s nose, to call upon the masses for armed resistance. This is the best method for facilitating the destruction of the proletariat by the powers of reaction. In order to be capable of offering revolutionary resistance, the masses must be prepared for such action mentally, materially and by organization. They must understand the inevitability of a more and more savage class struggle, and its transformation, at a certain stage, into civil war.’
        (Where Is Britain Going?, 1925)

        In my opinion the SP/CWI would need to have a quite different programme to satisfy Trotsky in this regard. Certainly the idea of “community control” of the capitalist repressive state apparatus would seem to be completely at odds with Trotsky’s revolutionary perspective – which you claim to stand in the tradition of.

        The reality is that the overwhleming majority of SP/CWI material on the overthrow of capitalism poses it primarily in terms of electing a majority to the bourgeois parliament as compared to the creation of an alternative power structure based on workers’ councils which would replace the bourgeois parliament as the basis for the new workers government.

      • 8 pat
        November 14, 2012 at 10:48

        I don’t see the slightest contradiction in the quote you gave from Trotsky and the programme Paul outlined in his speech above, or Peter Taaffe’s remarks, which does put forward a much more simplified position because of the nature of interviews.

        The election of a workers’ government is not the only way a movement to overthrow capitalism will develop, but it’s a likely one in my opinion. Again Greece is a concrete example of how this could happen at this point in history. That’s why we make the case for socialism in this way, because people can really get a sense of what we’re talking about, which for us is important. In Greece, our organisation is more explicit about many aspects of our programme, because the consciousness of the working class is far more developed.

        http://www.socialistparty.net/international/1075-greece-another-48-hour-general-strike-paralyses-society-

      • November 14, 2012 at 11:19

        So you do think Peter Taaffe was lying about the overthrow of capitalism being synonymous with electing a majority in the bourgeois parliament?

        And you seriously think a programme of “community control” of the capitalist repressive state apparatus is consistent with Trotsky’s revolutionary perspective?

        That article you linked to does correctly argue:

        “But elections are not the Left’s primary field of battle at this moment. What is necessary is an indefinite general strike which, of course, will raise the question of power in society – who decides, who controls and who manages the economy and society. This is the only way to go forward, to overthrow the government, and to pave the way for a government of the Left which will be based on worker’s power, through democratic rank and file committees and assemblies, in every workplace, neighborhood, university and school etc.”

        So I am left wondering why you think this same idea shouldn’t be raised in Ireland or Britain? This is after-all the whole point of the method of the Transitional Program.

  2. November 14, 2012 at 14:34

    The funny thing is that you guys really believe this stuff.

    You actually think it is consistent with the method of the TP to tell the working class in Ireland and Britain, and most other places, that, to paraphrase Peter Taaffe, the way capitalism will be overthrown is through winning a majority in elections to the bourgeois parliament.

    And that you will only tell them the truth that to overthrow capitalism actually requires “a government of the Left which will be based on worker’s power, through democratic rank and file committees and assemblies, in every workplace, neighborhood, university and school etc.” when you judge a significant enough layer have pretty much already come to that conclusion themselves – as in Greece today.

    Where exactly does that approach fit in to the following?

    “To face reality squarely; not to seek the line of least resistance; to call things by their right names; to speak the truth to the masses, no matter how bitter it may be; not to fear obstacles; to be true in little things as in big ones; to base one’s programme on the logic of the class struggle; to be bold when the hour for action arrives — these are the rules of the Fourth International.”


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