Asked & Answered: Economic organisation


[To the editor.]

Sir,— Having read carefully the article entitled “The Socialist and Trade Unionism,” also your Manifesto, I fail to elicit what position your Party takes up on economic organisation. In the Manifesto it says the workers must organise upon a class basis politically and industrially, the latter to be Socialist and all-embracing. In the article referred to above it says :

“All fit material, revolutionary or non-revolutionary, for the struggle on the economic field—the resistance to capitalist encroachment —can and must prosecute the fight together.”

Do I take it, then, that this Socialist economic organisation which your Party says is necessary must be without affiliation to any political party ? If so, why rave about the Industrial Unionists belying the revolutionary foundation of their organisation? Where do they state that they are going to take and hold the impli-ments of wealth production in defiance of the armed forces ? What other means have the S.P.G.B. (save through Parliament by means of the ballot box) of seizing political power ?
L. Shearstone.


The symptons point to acute indigestion. We are, afraid, Mr. Shearstone, you are in the habit of bolting your political fare without due mastication. The remedy is to chew the cud with rumination.

To take the morsel you have bitten cut of the article “The Socialist and Trade Unionism,” for instance. If you had chewed the phrase “the resistance to capitalist encroachment” it would not have lain so heavy on your chest. For ” esistance to capitalist encroachment” is not revolutionary. That is mere defence, while revolutionary action is essentially aggressive—it must attack.

The very words quoted, then, plainly show that the writer of the article was not referring to a future economic organisation having a revolutionary object, but to present-day economic organisation, for the purpose of prosecuting the present-day struggle with present day un-class-conscious material. And the context of the quotation makes this plain.

This, of course, simplifies the matter. The question now is what is the meaning of the very explicit sentence quoted from our Manifesto.

When we say, speaking of the future economic organisation of the working class, that it must be Socialist and all embracing, we justify our criticism of all existing economic organisations—of the Industrial Unions because they are not Socialist, and of the Trade Unions because they are non-Socialist, and because they have no room for the man who is unable to pay his dues. Of course, to point out these things is to “rave.”

The actual words are: “The worker’s organisation, political and economic, must be upon the basis of their class. . . . The workers’ organisation must be Socialist and all-embracing.” There is nothing in this that separates the economic from the political. There is no mention of two separate organisations. After all, the Socialist is class-conscious in two directions—economically and politically He knows there is work to be done both on the economic field and the political. Does be have to cut himself in halves in order to do it ? No. In each field bis guide is the same—his class interest. Being class-conscioup, understanding his class position and the line of action necessary for his emancipation, his actions on both the econcmic and the political field are in perfectly harmonious co-relation. There can be no separation of the two, no jarring, no friction, no contradiction, no-overlapping, no jealousy, no wirepulling.

The workers’ organisation is only the Socialist multiplied indefinitely. Politically it presupposes class conscious workers ; economically it presupposes class-conscious workers. And as these class conscious workers must fight on both the economic and the political field, and the organisation on its economic side and its political side must consist, in the main, of the same people, it is clear that there must be such close connection that the political and the economic are virtually one. You may call it affiliation if you like. You may speak of it as two organisations joined together, or as one organisation subdivided. We, realising that it is the organisation of one class with one object, are content to speak of it in the terms of our Manifesto, as “The workers’ organisation.”



L. Mackinnon (Manchester) writes:

“(1) On page 6 of the SPGB Manifesto it says “the workers’ organisation, political and economic, must be on the basis of their class.” I want to know what the workers’ economic organisation is.

(2) On pages 22-3 you say “Trade Unions being necessary under capitalism, any action on their part on sound lines should be heartily supported.” I should like to know what you would call sound lines.

I have numbered the above questions for convenience in answering.”


The answer to the first query is that the present economic organisations of the workers is the trade union movement. Mainly containing non-Socialists, its efforts are poor, but when the members recognise the class struggle their activities will bear greater fruit.

In answer to the second question our reader will find the sound lines indicated in the Manifesto itself. On page 7 we say “Any efforts on their part to resist the encroachment of the master class deserve our sympathy and support.” After showing the limits that resistance finds in the rapid development of machine industry, we go on to say, speaking of the economic organisation: “its tactics must be aggressive and its aim revolutionary.”

The real and important step, therefore, is to convert the members of the unions into Socialists, for until you make Socialists you cannot have Socialist unionism. They must be taught – in the words of the Manifesto itself – that the “basis of the workers’ organisation must be class solidarity and class interests.”

“Sound lines” mean that while fighting the daily battles the toilers must adopt a policy of “No Compromise”. They must have no regard for the master’s interests or property. “Conciliation” and “Arbitration” schemes and long notices must be strenuously opposed. They have got to teach their members that the interests of workers and employers are in direct opposition. Above all, the trade unions must use all their powers to increase the solidarity of the revolting working class and show the need for the toilers acting as a class. There must be no blacklegging of one section upon another, and the grievance of one part must become the interest of all. Thus only can the unions be moulded into a body capable of assisting in the revolutionary change.

A. K.

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