Answers to Correspondents

From the same town (Coventry), on the same date, we received two queries on similar general lines, though, perhaps, different in detail.

G.S. wishes to know if he would be consistent in joining the S.P.G.B., as he believes in Industrial Unionism. H.K. says he agrees with the principles of the S.P.G.B. and also with the principles of the I.W.G.B., (meaning. I suppose, the Industrial Workers of Great Britain), and asks, would he be logical in joining the S.P.G.B.

The similarity lies in both stating that they believe in Industrial Unionism. But whereas H.K. specifies the particular type be endorses, G.S. merely gives the general phrase.

There happens, however, to be a common ground of agreement between all sections of Industrial Unionism, namely, that the workers can take and hold the means of production through an economic organisation, and this whether they add or exclude political action as a detail of their case.

This basic factor necessarily places its supporters in opposition to the Socialists, who maintain that the capitalist class rules through its possession of political power, and that the economic supremacy of the masters – that is, their ownership of the means of production – is entirely dependent upon this political power, through which they make laws and raise and maintain the force (Army, Navy, Police, etc.) necessary to carry out those laws in their own class interest.

The above position is laid down briefly in the Declaration of Principles of the S.P.G.B. Hence acceptance of these principles must – logically and consistently – include a rejection of the nonsense that the workers can “take and hold” the means of production by an economic organisation while the master class are left in possession of the political power.

How the workers could “take and hold” while the masters had control of the fighting forces, no Industrial Unionist has ever been able to tell us, though we have had numerous debates, oral and written, with them.

G.S. and H. K., therefore, would be acting illogically and inconsistently in joining the S.P.G.B. while accepting the principles of Industrial Unionism.


(Socialist Standard, February 1914)