The Forum: Industrialitis


Mr. Sutherland says

(1) “That political action as defined by Marx does not necessarily include Parliamentary action.”

There is no ground whatever for this assertion. Political action is nowhere so “defined by Marx.” On the contrary, his works bristle with references which indicate the opposite. Note particularly the chapters on the Factory Acts in “Capital,” and the methods and measures indicated in the “Communist Manifesto.” That Marx regarded the Parliamentary franchise as the very basis of working-class political action is shown by his organisation of an agitation for the suffrage where this essential for political action had not yet been obtained by the workers. Nothing can be more definite on this point than Marx’s own statement in the following letters in the possession of the Editor of the “Neue Zeit.” (English translation published in the “Social Democrat,” May, 1902.)

K. Marx to Dr. Kugelmann. Jan. 15, 1866.
“We have been very busy organising a large meeting in favour of universal suffrage and at this meeting |only working men spoke. The effect was very great and “The Times” in 2 consecutive numbers discussed the question in a leader.”

(“Social Democrat” Aug. 1902.)
Karl Marx to Kugelmann. Oct. 9, 1866.
“The agitation for universal suffrage here, in which I have had a large share, is growing more and more.”

(2) “That as Parliamentary action is useless unless backed by industrial organisations (capitalism only yielding to force), therefore such organisations can secure from Parliament all that is required, without being represented in the house of legislation, by strikes and direct action.”

Muddled expression is the reflex of muddled thought. The force, without the backing of which Parliamentary action is useless, is not industrial organisations, but the armed force of the State. Since the armed force is controlled by Parliament, it is necessary, above all, to capture Parliament. Industrial organisations are powerless to secure anything from the State that the capitalist in control do not want to give, and it is ridiculous to assert that industrial organisations can, by strikes (i.e., self starvation) and by direct action (i.e., throwing stones at the police), overcome the armed force that is controlled by Parliament and obtain “all that is required.” Every so called concession that the workers have obtained in that way from the State has turned out to be either a fresh shackle or else Dead Sea fruit. No substitution of words or begging the question can hide the fact that to control society it is first necessary to capture its executive and administrative powers.

(3) “That as a man is influenced by his environment it almost always happens that working men elected to Parliament soon betray their class. The I.W.W. believe officials should only get the same wages as when at work at their trades, with, of course, expenses.”

The environment of a representative of the workers is very similar in both cases. Betrayal of the workers has hitherto been even more common, and just as pernicious, in industrial as in political circles. The cause is the same in both cases—ignorance among the rank and file of the toilers of Socialist principles. Knowledge means power, and with the removal of the ignorance that permits them to be led, the workers will effectively control their representatives, who will then cease to be leaders and become useful servants.

The lowness of salary proposed is simply a disgusting imitation of capitalist exploitation. So far is it from being any guarantee against treachery that it is a direct and powerful temptation to it.

(4) “A Socialist organisation admitting anyone except a wage earner cannot be a class-conscious organisation.”

This is no valid objection as it stands, since in a Socialist organisation the number of non-wage-earners would be so infinitesimal that they would have to be sought with a microscope.

The all-sufficing basis of admission is the written acceptance of the principles of Socialism (which include the class struggle) and conduct consistent with the acceptance of that position. Such an organisation obviously cannot be other than class-conscious. On the other hand, since by no means every wage-earner is class-conscious, any organisation such as the I.W.W., which admits any wage-earner, Socialist or otherwise, cannot itself be class-conscious.

(5) “That as members of Parliament have to take an oath of allegiance, and that as Socialists do not believe in God, King or Country, they cannot take the oath ; therefore Parliamentary representation is not possible, if Socialists are consistent, under present conditions.”

A pledge exacted by force is worthless. The highest capitalist authorities are unanimous as to the historical and actual worthlessness of allegiance. No one except word-struck I.W.W.ites attaches any importance to the oath that is administered to members of the House of Commons. The oath is simply a capitalist defence, adding nothing to their power, and effective only against fools who attach any sentimental value to it. It would be an amusing solution of the social problem (for the capitalists) if all they had to do to prevent the workers capturing political power was to stretch a sheet of parchment over the door of the House of Commons. If an oath were of any use they would make us all swallow one on leaving school, and where would the weak-kneed I.W.W.ites be then, poor things?


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