Asked & Answered: Why Political Action is Necessary

E. J. Higgins (Philadelphia) asks the following questions:

(1) Why must you get political office to educate the workers ?
(2) If you are not reformers why don’t you preach Socialism outside of political office ? There are no workers in office.
(3) What good does the political business do the working class ?


Presumably, by “political office” political representation is meant.

Oar correspondent fails to grasp our position. We say the workers must be educated along Socialist lines if they are to capture political power. You cannot get Socialism except by working-class effort, and therefore that class must realise what Socialism is and organise to get it. Our attitude is quite opposed to the method of relying upon an “intelligent minority” dragging the majority after them. Hence in our view education is the prime need.

Side by side with the education outside, elected delegates can use the floor of the central and local governing bodies to teach the toilers the truths of Socialism, and thus increase the ranks of the organised revolutionary working class.

(2) Reformers preach reform, not Socialism, outside as well as inside Parliament. We preach Socialism outside, and when there are sufficient Socialist workers to return a Socialist, Socialism will be preached inside.

Socialists do not intend to convert those “in office,” and the fact that there are no workers there is therefore of no account.

While in a minority Socialists will use the wider platform of Parliament for the purpose of driving home to the toilers outside the truths of the class struggle, tbe bitter enmity between the master class and the workers. From the higher vantage ground of the national assembly more workers could be reached with our message than from the small limits of ordinary propaganda.

But above all the Socialist minority in Parliament would be there as the advance guard of the Socialist working class marching to the complete control of the political machinery.

(3) Political action is essential to the supremacy of the working class. The masters control working-class lives and maintain their possessions, simply because they control the armed forces. Through centuries of economic and political development the forces of the Crown have been brought under the control of the elected assembly. Parliament controls supplies, and through the officials it appoints, it controls the movements of the Army, Navy, etc.

These are the forces brought up against the toilers, and in view of the terribly effective weapons now evolved, the workers are unable to stand against them.

What is the alternative to “political action” ? Opposition to this, the only effective method, has bred the “Propaganda by Deed,” and the various forms of individual violence that give to the master class such fine opportuaities to suppress all propaganda and to butcher the working class.

Besides the impotence of “violence” along these lines by the working class, it also outrages our fellow workers and gives the masters a deal of support from the toilers themselves. The movement is driven underground, and the sinister figure of the “agent provocateur” is seen doing his foul work.

Under these conditions you cannot build up an organised working class party, as it is impossible to educate the toilers with your education diverted into secret societies. The Los Angeles event (and many others) has proved what a fine aid the individual violence craze is to our masters.

Use the political weapons at your hand, the weapons evolved by generations of social growth and social change. Parliament is the central institution of politics to-day, and hence the workers’ efforts should be directed towards capturing it. But if the employing class were foolish enough to alter the features of their political system, our tactics would be determined thereby.

However, the question always facing us would remain, viz., the control of the necessary forces to subdue the reactionary master class and their toadies. With the memories of the massacres of Coeur D’alene, Homestead, Lawrence and Colorado — to instance American atrocities — it is plainly true that the control of the armed forces is the power essential to working-class success.

A. K.

Leave a Reply