The “Weekly People” Fights. Industrial Unionists on their Defence.
The official organ of the Socialist Labor Party of America, the “Weekly People,” continues to defend the S.L.P. of A. against the attack of the SOCIALIST STANDARD. In their issue of August 7 the “Weekly People” people state, in reference to our challenge to them to prove that we had misquoted, misinterpreted and misrepresented, the S.L.P.’s Address to the European movement:
“I. Misquotation. As to this we see we were in error in making it. We were clearly in the wrong there, and see no other way of correcting it than by a straightforward confession that we were at fault. We are sorry for the injustice that we did the Socialist Standard there, and we offer this avowal of our fault as an expression of regret.”
The only comment we wish to pass upon this is that it is very handsomely done and reflects credit upon our opponent.
Our contemporary then proceeds to give an instance of our “misrepresentation,” first quoting from our March issue as follows :
“The GENERAL PURPOSE of the letter [Address] we are criticising is to seize the opportunity provided by the wide-spread discredit thrown upon Socialism by the pseudo-Socialists of Europe for the purpose of attaching the confused and bewildered workers to the pseudo-Socialism of America. In other words, IT IS A DELIBERATE ATTEMPT TO PREVENT THE WORKERS FROM SEEING AND UNDERSTANDING THE REAL CAUSE OF THE FAILURE OF WORKING-CLASS POLITICAL ORGANISATION IN THE PRESENT CRISIS, and the breakdown of the International, in order that the workers shall turn their wearied eyes, not to class-conscious political action, but to that snare and delusion, Industrial Unionism, with its kibosh of ‘taking and holding’ and ‘locking out the masters.'”
“That statement,” says the “Weekly People,” “was a misrepresentation of the general purpose of the S.L.P.’s Address.”
Was it, indeed ? The Address opens thus :
“Greetings :—In this hour of supreme grief the Socialist Labor Party of America feels it its duty to communicate with the brother-parties of the various countries for the purpose of aiding in the clarification of the situation such as it presents itself to-day, and to endeavour to arrive at a solution of the problems confronting us.”
The purpose of the Address is plainly stated to be to aid in the clarification of the situation and to endeavour to find a solution. But the only contribution which the Address brings to the “clarification” of the situation is the argument that the International broke down because it was a “pure and simple political party of Socialism” (“The events in Europe are likewise a demonstration of the principle that a pure and simple political party of Socialism . . cannot be of real service to the proletariat.”—The Address). We maintain that that is a deliberate attempt to prevent the workers seeing that the real cause of the failure of working-class political organisation in the present crisis was that it was not Socialist organisation. There is no misrepresentation about this. The S.L.P.’s Address implies that it was Socialist organisation—otherwise how could its breakdown (chief of the “events in Europe”) DEMONSTRATE that “a pure and simple political party of Socialism . . cannot be of real service to the proletariat” ? We, on the other hand, claim that the International or “European movement” was non-Socialist. By a strange freak of fortune we are upheld in this judgment by no less an authority than the S.L.P. Address, when it puts itself to the expense of an absurd contradiction of its above-quoted statement in order to tell us that the “European comrades”
“have become so enmeshed in bourgeois politics that they have apparently lost sight, for the moment at least, of the ultimate goal of the Socialist movement.”
Socialists enmeshed in bourgeois politics ! Socialists who have lost sight of the goal, of the Socialist Movement ! ! What is the goal of the Socialist Movement ? Socialism, surely. Fiat lux—Socialists who have lost sight of Socialism ! ! !
And as if this were not enough, the “Weekly People,” in dragging this into its August 7th columns by the scruff of the neck, as though it were a profundity too rare to be lost under the dust of ages, says :
“It calls attention to the estimate the S.L.P. Address placed upon European Socialist POLITICAL ACTION, and it shows that the Address recognised the fact that that action was not revolutionary Socialist political action.”
Socialist POLITICAL action which is not revolutionary ! In other words the political action of “Socialists” who have lost sight of Socialism and become enmeshed in bourgeois politics !
Well, we call such “Socialists” pseudo-Socialists. And those who, themselves claiming to be Socialists, recognise any Socialist element in such political action (as do the S.L.P. of A., on the showing of the “Weekly People,”) we also call pseudo-Socialists.
Our contemporary, in endeavouring to support the charge of misrepresentation against us, says :
“There was NO attempt to keep the workers from turning their eyes to class conscious political action.”
A single quotation from the S.L.P. Address will utterly dispose of this claim. The Address said :
“Besides, we believe that after the war is over the political conditions will be so adjusted as to compel the European comrades to give their UNDIVIDED attention to the question of industrial unionism.”
Finally the “Weekly People” claims that the S.L.P. of A. insists upon the necessity of class-conscious industrial action. This, as we have before, is false, for that child of the American S.L.P.—the I.W.W.—is not an organisation of class-conscious workers, nor has its political parent ever endeavoured to make it such.
On the subject of misinterpretation our opponent says :
“2. As to misinterpretation. The Socialist Standard in its March issue stated :
We are told that : ‘The events in Europe are likewise a demonstration of the principle that a pure and simple political party of Socialism, however revolutionary it may be in its utterances, cannot be of real service to the proletariat, let alone accomplishing [sic] its emancipation.’ In a mass of vague statements and ambiguities this assertion and its implications are made clear. If it means anything at all it means that a SOCIALIST political party has been called upon to stand the test of the present crisis and has failed.”
The reader is invited to note the terms of the statement from which we drew the inference. The events in Europe were a DEMONSTATION of something concerning a PURE AND SIMPLE POLITICAL PARTY OF SOCIALISM. Now it is quite clear that the only way in which any fact concerning a pure and simple political party of Socialism can be demonstrated is through the example of a “pure and simple political party of Socialism,” i.e., a Socialist political party. No juggling with any other sort of political party can demonstrate anything concerning a Socialist political party. Our interpretation of the statement, therefore, is the only possible correct one. That the Address says in another place :
“the European comrades . . . have become so enmeshed in bourgeois politics that they have apparently lost sight of … the ultimate goal of the Socialist movement.”
does not help our opponents at all. It does not justify the sense of their claim that “it shows that the Address recognised the fact that that action [“European Socialist political action”] was not revolutionary Socialist political action.” It does not merely show that that action was not revolutionary Socialism. We challenge the “Weekly People” to state that the action of those who “have become so enmeshed in bourgeois politics that they have lost sight of the ultimate goal of the Socialist Movement” can be Socialist action. Of course it cannot do so. So true is this that our opponent was constrained to declare in its issue of June 5th.: “The Socialist Movement is nothing if it is not a revolutionary movement.” Hence the “estimate which the S.L.P. Address placed upon European Socialist Political action” does not qualify the statement we are accused of misinterpreting—it contradicts it. The statement of the Address that events in Europe had DEMONSTRATED that a pure and simple Socialist political party cannot be of real service to the proletariat stands untouched, as implying that such a party has been tried and has failed, because in no other way could the result be demonstrated. How profound (the “Weekly People” is fond of applying this term to us) would the S.L.P. Address have appeared had it said :
“The Socialist Movement is nothing if it is not a revolutionary movement” [“Weekly People,” June 5]. “The European Socialist political action was not revolutionary Socialist political action” [same paper, August 7]. “Therefore the political action which was not revolutionary Socialist political action, of the European Socialist movement which not a revolu¬tionary movement (because it was so enmeshed in bourgeois politics that it had lost sight of Socialism and its actions had become non-revolutionary) demonstrates that a political party which is altogether different in every respect, a party which is a revolu¬tionary political party of Socialism, can be of no real service to the proletariat.”
Yet that is all that our contemporary’s “substantiation” of their charge that we have misinterpreted the S.L.P. Address amounts to.
Before closing on this phase of the discussion we wish to point, out how shallow our opponent’s argument really is. They say :
“True, the S.L.P. Address did imply that a purely Socialist political movement would meet with the same fate that the European movement met with. . . . The Address did NOT say that the European Movement was an up-to-date handle Socialist political movement.”
So they confess that they take the failure of a movement that is not a “purely Socialist political movement” and use it to demonstrate would be the fate of a movement that was a purely Socialist political movement.
Our contemporary gives several other instances of our alleged misrepresentation and misinterpretation, but as it does not argue them, and as we can only reply monthly to what the “Weekly People” can say weekly, we let them stand.
We now take up the article in the “Weekly People” of August 14. It is mainly concerned with an attempt to repudiate our charge that that journal misrepresented us. We complained about the persistent attempt to create the impression that the S.P.G.B. does not advocate the economic organisation of the working class as a necessary part of the struggle for working-class emancipation. If our opponents had been satisfied to place their kind of economic organisation against ours that would have been doing the square thing, but when, in a discussion with us, they, entirely ignoring our claim that the working class must be organised on the economic plane as well as on the political, say that they
“hold that, no matter how class-conscious, POLITICALLY, a movement may be, it is, if organised politically only, in no position to put through the demands of Socialism . . .”
that, whether it is calculated to do so or not, is extremely likely to create an impression that we stand for political organisation alone. Therefore it is misrepresentation. As for our “conception of the function of such economic organization,” that has nothing to do with the point, and it is a clumsy wheeze to try to escape by such a backstair method.
Our contemporary (Aug. 14), quoting us as saying that
“Economic organisation of the working class . . . is necessary for the maintenance of industrial order in the new-born Socialist Commonwealth.”
“that statement is not so profound that it shows the vital functions of revolutionary industrial organisation : the functions, namely, of furnishing the physical force wherewith to hack up the fiat of the ballot, political action, and of organising the working class to assume control of production under Socialism.”
But if the “maintenance of industrial order in the new-born Socialist Commonwealth” is not the same thing as to “assume control of production under Socialism” what is the difference ?
The S.L.P. organ claims to have “come to grips,” but where has it done so. The bald reiteration of the disputed points of its position is not coming to grips. The “Weekly People” has studiously left our arguments alone, under the plea that to demolish our main point is to demolish our minor points. Thus we attacked and showed the absurdity of the assertion in the Address that industrial unionism is the embryo of future society. In view of the fact that this same Address states:
“We hold with Marx that capitalist society must have reached a certain point in evolution before Socialism is possible. But we also hold, and in keeping with the true essence of Marxism, that this evolution does not stop at the means of production, etc., but that it continues with equal force on the labour unions ; that these must take such shape that they will form the structure of future society.”
it is seen that this theory is the very keystone of the Industrial Unionist position. Yet our opponents prefer to regard it as a “minor point” rather than undertake the hopeless task of defending it. Similarly with the claim that the economic organisation is “the only conceivable force with which to back up the ballot.” We have taken up that point, but the only result is that the organ of the S.L.P. reiterates the fallacy as though it was a truth too obvious for discussion. Our S.L.P. antagonists must not think that they can always burke discussion, however. Sooner or later they have got to face the music—they can harden themselves to that reflection.