That Blessed Word : Unity !


A few years ago the question of Socialist unity engaged the attention of the two “Socialist” parties in this country. Votes were taken of the rank and file and large majorities voted in favour of fusion, but as the leaders did not desire fusion they did not allow it to come to pass.

Similarly the cry for “unity” has been raised in America, and again those first in raising the cry have been the smallest of the parties concerned.

As in England a knowledge of the mental make-up of the parties enabled many to see through the fake proposal, so will similar knowledge of the American “fusionists” enable us to value their “unity” cry for what it is worth.

In 1896 the Socialist Labour Party of America declared for the “new” Trade Unionism, and started the Socialist Trade and Labour Alliance, a union affiliated to the Socialist Labour Party, and out to smash the “pure and simple” trade unions. This caused a “split” in the Socialist Labour Party, a large section leaving and, with the “Social-Democracy” of Eugene V. Debs, forming the Socialist Party of America.

A fight then commenced between the two, most of the fighting being done by the Socialist Labour Party, who long and loudly denounced the prominent members of the latter party— Debs, Carey, Mother Jones, Simons, and so on—as “freaks,” “frauds,” and “fakers,” while the Party as such was in turns termed the “Multi-cocoa Party,” the “Kangaroos,” in fact, anything but a Socialist party, and no Socialist Labour Party member was allowed on their platform except in opposition.

After some nine years of this fighting, and at the same time attempting to organise the working class in the Socialist Trade and Labour Alliance, the membership was found to be declining at such a rapid pace that something had to be done.

Mr. F. Bohn, organiser, visiting Chicago, found himself among the “freaks,” “frauds,” and “fakers” that the S.LP. and the S.T. and L.A. were fighting—Mother Jones and A. M. Simons among them—and without instruction from either the S.L.P. or the S.T. and L.A. (his paymasters), he joined with them in signing a manifesto calling for a new union to be formed. In thus proclaiming the failure of his own union Bohn was supported in the Weekly People by such writers as Olive M. Johnson and Dan. De Leon. The Socialist Trade and Labour Alliance was thus crucified, betrayed by the leaders of the S.L.P. into the hands of the “freaks,” “frauds,” and “fakers,” and a new union—the Industrial Workers of the World—was formed. This new union, having for its object the organising of the workers to “take and hold” what they produce, enrolled a large membership, including men of all shades of political thought and of none. Those who had been “freaks” and “fakers” now became honest and earnest comrades on the economic field ; and to hide political differences politics were relegated to the rear, economic organisation and action being given the place of prime importance, and Mr. De Leon, editor of the American Weekly People, “discovered” that Marx had in 1869, said somewhere, sometime, to some one, that “only the economic organisation could set on foot the true political .party of Labour.”

Did Mr. De Leon know this before he helped to form the Socialist Trade and Labour Alliance, and before he joined the Socialist Labour Party, or is it now that he is wangling ? As there is no evidence that Marx ever made such a statement, I beg to answer the latter question in the affirmative.

But in case Marx is not sufficient, Engels is dragged in, and one need not be surprised if at any time we are told that Christ talked Industrial Unionism in the Sermon on the Mount, or that even if he did not, what he did say may be “adapted to American conditions.”

When, as a result of capitalist persecution, W. D. Haywood had become the momentary idol of thousands of American workmen, and, while still in prison, was nominated by the Socialist Party as candidate for Governorship, the S.L.P. found itself in a dilemma. Haywood was member and nominee of the “rotten” Socialist Party —yet he was a member of the pure I.W.W. According to the S.L.P. rules they could not support him, but could they risk opposing the popular Haywood ? Eventually the Colorado State Executive decided to call upon every member of the S.L.P. in Colorado to withdraw from the Party until after the election, so that they could vote for Haywood ! This remarkable wangle was supported by O. M. Johnson and Mr. De Leon, and we were told the S.L.P. refused to oppose Haywood politically because they were supporting his “economic side” !

On his release from prison, however, Haywood toured America for the Socialist Party. This roused the ire of the S.L.P., who then denounced him as a coward and a craven.

Meanwhile the I.W.W., which for a time had proved a happy hunting-ground for S.L.P. literature sellers, had had a serious split. Most of its original founders had left it. E. V. Debs, had joined the staff of the Appeal to Reason, an anti-I.W.W. paper, and those who were left were largely inclined towards the Socialist Party. This not suiting the “fighting” S.L.P., who, not content with fighting the “cravens” like Haywood, outside, and the “physical force-ists” like Williams, inside, wanted a new excuse for a declaration of war on the Socialist Party, up went the cry for Socialist “unity.”

The E.C. of the S.L.P. invited the Socialist Party to consider proposals with a view to fusion, knowing they would be rejected. They were rejected, and now the S.L.P. can forget the fond embraces indulged in with the “freaks,” “frauds,” and “fakers” at the funeral of the Socialist Trade and Labour Alliance, and clears the decks anew for hostilities.

Had the “unity” proposals been accepted bj the Socialist Party and a juncture fixed up, splits would, of course, immediately have followed; but the chance would have been taken. and the S.L.P. would have been scuttled and swallowed up in a new party, with the consent and approval of its friends, as was the Socialist Trade and Labour Alliance in 1905.

In either case it was a wangle on the part of the S.L.P. leaders, a case of heads I win, tails you lose, but the Socialist Party leaders declined to enter the game.

It will thus be seen that, as in Britain, so in America, the “fusion” trick is but a move in the long game practised by faction leaders at the expense of the principles they are supposed to be advocating. It is therefore, up to the rank and file, as the Americans would say, to checkmate the players, to overthrow the “leaders,” the “intellectuals,” to act on the truly Marxian dictum that “The emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself.” When they will place principles above personalities, and understand the difference between capitalist reform and social revolution, they will find there is hut one party for them. Here it is The Socialist Party of Great Britain ; in America it has yet to be born.


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