the notion that socialism will come along, without putting anyone unduly out of joint, as simply an inevitable series of links in the evolutionary chain, is about as useful as a torn cartilage. The day of piece-meal reformism, considered as a total philosophy designed to bring about a society of equals, is over.
This is not to deny the solid contribution made in the past by those men and women who, impelled by its dynamic, dedicated to its humanistic content, were responsible for a great deal of enlightened reform. But to-day it is obvious that it is incapable of dealing capitalism a mortal blow. It is able merely to force accommodation to its demands in any given favourable period, leaving practically untouched the ancient and insupportable evils of poverty, inequality, and the flabby decadence of a corrupt society wondering desperately where its next gimmick is coming from.
Thompson focuses attention on the only question which matters in this context—“. . . how, and by what means, is a transition to socialist society to take place?” In reply he himself says four clear things: (a) a total abandonment of Fabian reformism as a means, complete in itself, capable of ushering in a socialist society; (b) the formulation of a democratic revolutionary strategy designed to draw into a common strand all forward and upward pressures; (c) the tactical implementation of such a strategy at every possible point where the conflict may be joined; and (d) that he doesn’t know, or at least isn’t too sure, how things might go on from there, but thinks a new volume might usefully be written around this area.
As far as this goes, all this is clear. But does it go far enough? Does it take us as far as we need to go? I do not think it does. It seems to me that the author, with a fine display of logic, builds up an unassailable case in favour of revolution as the only way by which socialism can be achieved, to spoil it finally by appearing unable or unwilling to look the fact of “bloody” revolution in the face. He maintains that we can have a bloodless revolution. So we can, for that is possible; but, in my view, it isn’t probable, and it is no use, as well as being quite wrong, to wax derisory about the “Statist’s” supposed attitude, for that doesn’t remove the difficulty.
The function of an analysis of the contemporary situation which has in view the creation of at least the outline of a democratic revolutionary strategy, is surely to make some provision for every forseeable contingency. Well then, what about the contingency which is the most easily forseeable, a resort to the use of force by the enemy in order to keep their “Way of Life” extant? Is there to be no provision for this?
This is something that cannot be left to chance. It has to be catered for in advance. The dictum that “ . . . one choice would disclose another” can be permissible only within the framework of the larger picture. It may well be true that “events themselves would disclose to people the possibility of the socialist alternative, and if events were seconded by the agitation and initiatives of thousands of convinced socialists in every area of life the socialist revolution would be carried through.” One certainly hopes it would, for as Thompson correctly points out, the “smashing” process is a double-edged sword. But setting in motion revolutionary processes and leaving the possibility of their successful conclusion to the
If the declared purpose is to change completely the nature of our society then there must be preparation and provision for the worst that can happen. Revolution requires careful and detailed planning. It requires resolute and effective leadership of the kind that will not baulk at “smashing” (regrettable though that would be) should it become necessary.