STATEMENT ON THE PARTY'S ATTITUDE TO VIOLENCE (adopted at 1978 Annual
The possible use of violence by a minority in the post-revolutionary period
is quite distinct from the issue of the overthrow of Socialist society and
restoration of capitalism.
The first of these two hypotheses can be accepted, but the second does not
follow as a matter of course. Acts of violence, sabotage or any other form
of anti-social activity will not be tolerated at any stage. Assuming that we
are mainly dealing with acts of violence during the immediate
post-revolution period, obviously force would be used if argument and reason
The second hypothesis is untenable and utopian. The barriers to the
establishment of Socialism exist in the minds of the working class, and
capitalist control of the machinery of government is a consequence. When the
working class have emancipated themselves from the ideology of a society
based on private property, their conquest of political powers and the
subsequent dispossession of the capitalist class would follow
To reverse the process the vast mass would have to be reconverted to
capitalism by means of propaganda. The capitalist class would already have
lost the battle of propaganda and would no longer control the organs of
propaganda. Their social influence will have gone, together with their
To suggest that at some point individuals will be able to appropriate
socially owned property and force members of the community to work for wages
is a complete abandonment of logical reasoning, and to argue that the same
result could be obtained by violent minority action is playing with words.
The fact that a recalcitrant violent minority could act in unawareness of
the utter futility of their action does not justify describing it as an
"attempt" to destroy Socialism and restore capitalism.
Socialism could not be forcibly overthrown, neither could it be "attempted",
any more than we would describe the action of the lunatic who jumped from
the top of St. Paul's Cathedral as an "attempt" to fly to the churchyard
below, although we had his word for it.
Conditions for the Establishment of Socialism
The Party's principle governing the establishment of Socialism has always
been, in the terms of Clause 6 of the Declaration of Principles, that the
working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of
the powers of government, national and local, in order that the machinery of
government, including the armed forces, may be converted from an instrument
of oppression into the agent of emancipation. Implicit in this conception
has always been recognition that, in the period of changeover, control of
the armed forces would be continued for as long as necessary in the light of
conditions then existing. It has never been the Party's case that
simultaneously with gaining control the armed forces would at once be wholly
dismantled. (In Engels' words: "The State is not abolished. It dies out",
Socialism, Utopian and Scientific).
This has not meant that the armed forces would have to be used. As was
pointed out in the Statement drawn up by the EC-and published in the
Socialist Standard in April 1955: "The control of the armed forces during
this period will be an effective deterrent... without these forces having
necessarily to be used".
The main determining conditions that will have been met by the time of the
establishment of Socialism are predictable. that is to say the long, arduous
process of making the socialist case known, of meeting and defeating the
capitalist case, and of winning over the mass of the workers, will have been
completed and the democratic conquest of the powers of government will have
In the words of the 1955 EC Statement: "The overwhelming mass of the people
will participate, or fall in line with, the process of reorganisation (in
other words that while the workers will participate in the movement and
probably individual capitalists, the capitalists as a whole will realise
that the game is up, as they have lost the power of effective resistance)".
It is against this background that the hypothesis of possible violent
obstruction by an undemocratic minority has to be considered.
The Question of Re-establishing Capitalism
After the process of establishing Socialism has been completed the idea that
capitalism might be re-established is remote from reality, nevertheless,
opponents of the Party ask us to consider how Socialist society would deal
with an attempt to achieve this by force.
This has to be considered against the predictable conditions existing at
that time as already described.
The state machinery, including the armed forces, will have passed out of the
control of the capitalists and come under social control; Socialists will
constitute the majority in all occupations in which the working class
predominate --in production, transport, communications, police and armed
forces. The supporters of capitalism will have been reduced to a minority
and the mass of society will be made up of people who either want or accept
the new system.
A minority who may wish to return to capitalism will be free to propagate
their views and to organise democratically to win over the majority, but
they will operate against the tremendous disadvantage that they will already
have lost "the battle of ideas". Those who take the line of propagating
capitalism's return will present no problem to Socialist society. They will
be a minority even of the minority who would have preferred capitalism,
because the bulk of the capitalists will already have been convinced that
such a movement has no future and it is inconceivable that any number of
workers will support such a movement. The worker's economic problems will
have been solved by Socialism --a return to capitalism could have nothing to
offer him. And not all of the hypothetical minority working to restore
capitalism would be prepared to take violent action for that purpose.
The Question of Sabotage and Disruption
There remains the hypothesis of a small minority who might attempt to
sabotage or disrupt social organisation and administration.
It is necessary to set this in proper perspective for what it would be, not
a threat to the existence of Socialist society though a threat to the
well-being of other people. To the extent that this violent minority had as
their purpose to force a return to capitalism, it would be necessary to
convince them that they could not succeed because of their total isolation
from society (including isolation from those opponents of Socialism who
limited their action to democratic propaganda and organisation).
If the hypothesis includes a residue of people "at war with society" who
make mindless attacks endangering the well-being and lives of other people
then the means to deal with them would exist and would be used as necessary.
Such situations already exist under capitalism, but with this difference,
that while capitalism has no solution because conditions create the problem,
for socialist society the problem --a hangover from capitalism-- would be a
passing phase of short duration.
>From: "John Bissett" <johnbissett@...>
>Subject: Re: [spopen] Re: re mayday anarchism and nationalism
>Date: Tue, 23 May 2006 13:02:49 +0100
>Can someone please tell me how to actually open the file section Adam
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Adam Buick" <alb342@...>
>Sent: Tuesday, May 23, 2006 6:33 AM
>Subject: [spopen] Re: re mayday anarchism and nationalism
> > The 1978 Statement on Violence can be found in the Files section of
> > Spintcom
> > under Standing Orders Ctte as Annex C in Resolutions + Annex 59-72.doc
> > Meanwhile here's some extracts of the Conference discussions that
> > it.
> > Adam
> > Violence (1964)
> > Resolution: "That this Conference affirms that the very nature of
> > Socialism
> > precludes the use of violence and that violence, as distinct from
> > absolutely
> > necessary restraints, will not and cannot play any part in the
> > establishing
> > of Socialism" (Paddington Branch).
> > Amendment: "That the Executive Committee be asked to prepare a reasoned
> > statement on the subject 'Socialism and Violence' for consideration by
> > 1965 Conference" (Bloomsbury).
> > Amendment: "That this Conference re-affirms that, if necessary when
> > Socialism is established, violence may have to be used to suppress an
> > undemocratic minority seeking to return to Capitalism" (Glasgow).
> > Amendment: "In line 1, delete 'affirms' and insert 'is of the opinion'"
> > (Islington).
> > Amendment: "In line 1, delete all after Conference and insert
> > the Party's attitude to violence, viz. that only a democratically
> > socialist majority can introduce Socialism and after the capture of the
> > machinery of Government violence will only be used if a situation arises
> > to
> > make it necessary'" (Camberwell).
> > The protracted discussion ranged over the Resolution and all Amendments.
> > Those in favour of the Paddington Branch Resolution or an approximation
> > it argued that, by the time Socialism would have been established,
> > would have undergone such changes that there would neither be the need
> > the means to use violent force. At all events, any possible opposition
> > the establishment of socialism, when the time was ripe could only come
> > from
> > a small misguided minority which could, if necessary, be restrained by
> > other
> > means. The implications of a socialist society presupposed a total
> > of oppressive forces.
> > Those in favour of the Glasgow or Camberwell Branches' Amendments argued
> > that the Party's position was "peaceably if we can, forcibly if we
> > They envisaged the possibility of a recalcitrant minority with access to
> > means of destruction which it would be prepared to use in order to
> > a
> > return to Capitalism. If any section of society were prepared to fight
> > out we should be prepared to fight back. We were not pacifists and we
> > should
> > be prepared to protect the revolution by force if necessary.
> > Bloomsbury Branch felt that the discussion had clearly shown that there
> > was
> > a divergence of opinion. What was needed was a clear and exhaustive
> > statement by the EC for consideration at the next Conference.
> > The Bloomsbury Branch Amendment was put to the vote and carried 18-14.
> > (1976)
> > Resolution: "That this Conference re-affirms the statement on violence
> > approved by the 1965 Annual Conference, viz.: ' . . . That only a
> > democratically elected Socialist majority can introduce Socialism after
> > the
> > capture of the machinery of Government; violence will only be used in
> > event of a recalcitrant minority attempting to forcibly overthrow
> > Socialism'" (Glasgow).
> > Amendment: "Delete all after the word 'Conference' on line 1 and replace
> > with the words ' . . . affirms that only a democratically elected
> > Socialist
> > majority can introduce Socialism after the capture of the machinery of
> > government. Should an anti-Socialist undemocratic minority attempt to
> > sabotage or disrupt social organisation and administration, a Socialist
> > society would necessarily take such action as was requisite to ensure
> > social
> > harmony'" (Lewisham).
> > It was agreed to combine with Item for Discussion: "This Conference
> > stresses
> > that all violence is repugnant to Socialists and recognises the purely
> > hypothetical nature of the proposition embodied in the Glasgow Branch
> > resolution; and that the establishment of Socialism will be achieved
> > through
> > the democratic process of voting, backed by majority understanding on a
> > world scale. The idea that it could be forcibly overthrown is therefore
> > something of a fantasy" (South West London).
> > Many points were made in the course of a lengthy debate.
> > There was discussion of the origin of the item and its connexion with
> > EC's criticism of the French pamphlet on the Declaration of Principles.
> > Some
> > delegates took the view that the pamphlet merely reiterated the 1965
> > Conference Resolution and that the EC should not try to change Party
> > policy.
> > The first point was challenged by an EC member, what had been objected
> > was talk in the pamphlet of armies re-organised on a democratic basis,
> > which
> > was meaningless and a gift to our opponents. Other EC members felt that
> > this
> > was not the original ground of the EC's objection, and some delegates
> > thought the phrase in question could be explained by reference to the
> > sixth
> > Principle.
> > Against the Resolution it was argued that no clear idea had been
> > of how a minority could threaten to overthrow Socialism. It was replied
> > that
> > even if overthrow was impossible, a minority could cause disruption and
> > would have to be dealt with. In support of the addendum various
> > were made of the 1965 statement, e. g. that it wrongly equates forcible
> > restraint with violence.
> > Some delegates thought the issue required more than a Conference
> > Resolution;
> > some objected to the vagueness of the Amendment, but others thought it
> > welcome for its lack of specificity. It stuck to the known facts, and it
> > was
> > not our job to decide such issues on behalf of a future Socialist
> > The Lewisham Amendment was carried 27-17 and the Substantive Resolution
> > then
> > carried 27-17.
> > _________________________________________________________________
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