Correspondence: Next one please
The S.LP. of A., in dealing with the criticism of A. E. J. in the “Weekly People” dated the 6th of March. They say: Pure and simple politics fail and always will fail the workers because they fail to attend to the one Source of Power which the workers possess, the economic power, that is, that power which the workers daily have in their hands when they are in the workshops—the power over industry.
A. E. J., in the “S.S.,” April issue, in the course of his remarks on the above criticism says: The idea that the workers have power over industry is exquisite foolery. What conceivable force gives them any such power, etc. In your July issue you tell the workers to use its supreme economic power for the liberation of human kind from wage slavery. Is that not a contradiction of A. E. J.’s remarks which you have endorsed by the fact that you gave publication to. What is economic power ?
T. W. Creswick, Kennington, S.E.
If Mr. Creswick had given the matter a moment’s thought he would have saved himself the labour of writing. The contradiction only exists in his own mind.
We may take the definition given in his own letter. That definition is narrow, but it will suffice. Economic power is power over industry. It is, as stated by A. E. J., exquisite foolery to say that the workers have this power in their hands when they are in the workshops. It is as absurd as it would be to say that the slave who lugged laboriously at an oar in a Roman galley under the lash of the slave driver had economic power in his hands. The differences between the chattel-slave and the wage-slave in this respect are due to the political rights of the latter, which are in turn the outcome of economic necessity.
In the leading article of the July “S.S.” the statement occurs, referred to by our correspondent, of the need for the working class to “become masters of the State, and use the supreme economic power for the liberation of human kind from wage-slavery.” This, of course, is the very reason we are a political party. It is because the State has supreme “power over industry.” The article in question showed how the State was rapidly becoming more and more the direct exploiter of industrial undertakings. The political State, with its armed forces and machinery of government, is ever more obviously the supreme “power over industry” that must be captured by the working class. Until the workers control it, they are themselves controlled by it both economically and politically, that is to say, both by government and by private capitalists.
The essential difference, therefore, between economic power and political power, in this connection, is that the political power is the supreme economic power. Individual capitalists only wield economic power by virtue of their political control of the State, which guarantees, enforces, limits or extends their economic power.
This simple fact, that the political State is the supreme economic power, is always overlooked by Syndicalists. It enforces the need for political action above all, as the coordinate and culmination of the organised wages struggle ; and it shows how entirely correct was A. E. J. in his stricture upon the S.L.P. of A.