Boring From Within

The article on Trade Unionism that appeared in the September issue of The Socialist Standard evoked considerable criticism amongst the members of the Party. The article did not quite convey the idea of the writer, having to be condensed because of the demands upon our space. The critics mainly contend that what was advocated was “boring from within,” and some condemn the article because of that. Let us look at the facts.


Most comrades understand and admit that trade organisation is essential, essential for two reasons; firstly, because of immediate help by organisation; secondly, and this is most important, because with the proper organisation of the workers on industrial lines the foundation of the industrial democracy of the Socialist Republic is laid. The unions cannot be ignored and we must have Socialist Industrial Unions. Here, then, arises the difficulty. We do not think much good can be done with the existing unions: they are too deeply in the rut of the old craft antagonisms—the splitting up of the working-class,—and their “leaders” being mainly interested in perpetuating this sectional strife because of their paid jobs, sell out the interests of the union members and keep their hold on the unions to prevent any great headway being made.


We Socialists want to see Industrial Unionism, that is, we want to see all the workers in each trade organised, and the various trades in each industry affiliated to the one union, and the various industrial divisions again affiliated, thus forming one huge, cohesive organisation of the workers. Still further, when the workers are organised in the factory, workshop, and elsewhere, for the overthrow and not the perpetuation of capitalism, then the other phase must come into play—they must endorse and support only the political party of their emancipation, that is, the Socialist Party. Without industrial organisation no political progress, without political organisation no sound economic progress. Just as the capitalist class exerts its power, both in the workshop and in the governing bodies, so must the organised workers use their power in both ways. Neither is complete in itself. The working-class organised on the political field for its emancipation must act in conjunction with its counterpart on the industrial field. None of the existing unions is organised in this way, and all the alleged progress made by Social Democrats and I.L.P’ers is proved, upon investigation, to be fictitious. The South West District L.R.C. and Trades and Labour Council is a case in point. Besides, none of the “borers from within” has condemned the present method of organisation, on the contrary, some of them have, so far as outside evidence shows, quietly acquiesced in acts of the most deliberate treachery it is possible to conceive of. In some unions it has been these Social Democrats and I.L.P’ers who have instigated the infamous business.


Undoubtedly, the members of The Socialist Party of Great Britain will have to do on the economic field what they have already done on the political field, namely, establish a sound organisation because not one exists at present. But let it be borne in mind that we are a young Party, that it will take some years to build up a revolutionary political party, and that at present we have not the numerical and financial strength to organise the Socialist Industrial Alliance. We cannot have a Party without members, therefore we have to be propagandists. We cannot have Trade Unions without wageworkers, therefore, if we would move in an intelligent manner, we must carry on an organised agitation and education within the existing unions to which our members belong, so as to form a nucleus of sound Socialists in each. They should proceed with the educational work to endeavour to capture the unions as they stand at present (a very remote possibility) and also that they can get a sufficient number of sound men within the unions so that when we are strong enough, and conditions are ripe, we can call them out to form the foundation of tho Socialist Union.


This, and this alone, is the excuse for a member’s active participation in the work inside existing unions. Better do this and build a solid foundation, by education, even as we are doing within the Party at present, than pass pious resolutions instructing the E.C. to form Socialist Unions at a time when it is a numerical and financial impossibility. Let us condemn and expose the rottenness of the existing unions and the treachery of those who boss them. Let us educate to the best of our ability and opportunity the rank and file to a proper appreciation of the situation, and we shall be doing some of the necessary pioneering for the new Socialist Industrial Union.


E. J. B. Allen