The S.L.P. of America again
In the previous issue, the article under the above caption closed with the promise of more to come. Here, then, is delivery of the goods.
It may be remembered that we have through this controversy, challenged the Socialist Labor Party of America’s claim that it stands for class-conscious organisation on the industrial field. We have done this on more than one occasion, and now the official organ of the S.L.P., the “Weekly People,” to wit, asks for something more than the assertion. Well, the present ink-slinger can a tale unfold, and here goes “for to do it.”
The scribe who ornaments the pages of our contemporary stuck a pin in a passage in our September contribution to this exchange of courtesies. Here follows the passage, as put in order for us by the “Weekly People” :
“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 [shown ?] 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.
It is satisfactory to find when, after the lapse of time, one’s words are thrown slap into one’s face, that they were so well and fairly written that one can still understand them, notwithstanding that our opponent refers to them as “transports of sweet sound” which are “gently wafted up into the cloudy realms” and which could “never keep their standing on earth.”
Our opponents continue :
“If the editorial musicians of the Socialist Standard, however, want to play a tune that shall be harkened to by men of sense, and feeling, and reason, they will have to deliver something that carries conviction, and not a mere wordy, wordy ‘it is not so.’ “
We do want to play a tune that shall be harkened to by men of sense (though we are a little bit afraid of the second term, and of the third also, if it is not included in the first) so we will give a selection from that notable work we quoted from last month—”The Proceedings of the First Annual Conference of the Industrial Workers of the World.”
On page 270 of this report we find the following item :
“Delegate Spears : I want to add an amendment to that, that we bar out any person who takes a nomination for office from a capitalist political party. (Amendment seconded.)”
This amendment did not go far enough for one, at least, of the other delegates, hence we find, a little lower down the page, the following :
“Del. Saunders : I would like to suggest to the party that made the last amendment to the amendment, to insert one or two words in here ; that is, that those who accept not only the nomination but endorsement of any capitalist political party or organisation shall be barred. I will state my reasons –
Del. Spears : I accept the suggestion.”
Faultily as this was worded, its aim was clearly in consonance with the class-conscious principle. It was one of those safeguards which were necessary to place the organisation on a class-conscious basis. It was a provision logically demanded by De Leon’s earlier pronouncement, quoted in last issue :
“If anything is clear in the American situation it is this : That if any individual is elected to office upon a revolutionary ballot, that individual is a suspicious character. (Applause.) Whoever is returned elected on a program of labour emancipation ; whoever is allowed to be filtered through by the political inspectors of the capitalist class ;—that man is a carefully selected tool, a traitor to the working people, selected by the capitalist class. (Applause.)”
If, then, any individual who is elected upon a revolutionary ballot is a suspicious character, and anyone returned upon a program of labour emancipation, or allowed to be filtered through by the political inspectors of the capitalist class, is a traitor to the working people selected by the capitalist class, there can be precious little doubt as to the status of those nominated and endorsed by capitalist parties and organisations. But was the amendment, aiming at the exclusion of these suspicious characters, these tools of the capitallst class and traitors of the working people, met with approval ? No. reported as follows :
“Del. Klemensic : Mr. Chairman and Brother Delegates, right on this point, when we are interfering with this political amendment, we will be up against it in the Western Federation of Miners. Now, in the Western Federation of Miners we have one of the strongest unions ; it is the Butte miners’ union. Their position is a very peculiar one at the present time in the struggle between capital and labor. There is a number of men, maybe about half a dozen members of the Western Federation of Miners, that are practically in control of the Republican party there, and that the struggle did not start yet in Montana is due to the intelligent position of this Western Federation of Miners. Those men are the ones that have thus far kept the struggle away between capital and labor in that state. What we know is that the struggle will commence there some time, and when it does the interests of capital will be identical, and they will no doubt join hands and make a hard fight against the organised working-men. But as it stands now, there are workingmen that are practically in control of the Republican party, and if we accept this amendment we brand these men as traitors to organised labor…..
There is one thing to state here, that the Butte miners’ union of Montana is one of the strongest unions, and they will come up with the goods when it comes to the final struggle, and they will come with the money. They are one of the strongest unions in men and money, and we have to take this fact into consideration.”
This delegate, who had so soon forgotten the second clause of the Preamble, which declared that “Between these two classes a struggle must go on until all the toilers come together on the
political as well as on the economic field ——,” which had been adopted by the Convention, and concerning which the delegate himself had said (see p. 233 of the Report) : “I am heartily in favour of the clause as it stands,”—this delegate could declare that the struggle had not commenced in Montana and be applauded. This delegate, addressing a meeting the ostensible purpose of which was to organise the workers for the struggle indicated in the second clause, could refer to the “intelligent position” of the organisation that had (according to him) kept the struggle away from Montana, and yet find, his words applauded by the delegates assembled.
What was the fate of this amendment which aimed at barring out the political nominees of the master class ? Delegate Twining suggested that it was antagonistic to the Preamble to pass a resolution that would “interfere with the political aspirations or actions of our members,” and the chair, being of the same opinion, ruled the amendment out of order. This decision was challenged, and was upheld by the Convention.
So this industrial organisation, which is the realisation of the S.L.P.’s principle of “class-conscious organisation on the industrial field,” has a constitution which will not permit of any interference “with the political aspirations or actions of our members.” It has a constitution that cannot bar out those who “practically control” the capitalist political parties. It has a constitution that will not let it close its portals even to the direct political nominees and protégés of the capitalist class. And that, the S..L.P. of A. claims, in a class-conscious industrial organisation !
Are the “men of sense, feeling, and reason” still listening to the “transports of sweet sound” that can “never keep their place on earth” ? If so the matter might be left here, and they could hardly fail to draw conviction from the evidence we have presented. But at this festive season of the year copy is hard to get hold of, for which reason we shall find it expedient to pursue the matter yet a little further, even if it savours of flogging a dead horse.
Now why did the Convention refuse to pass a resolution barring out the political proteges of the master class ? Delegate Klemensic’s reasons, as already quoted, give a fair indication of that, but other delegates also supplied us with evidence on this point. Delegate Murtaugh, for instance, speaking in favour of the clause barring affiliation with any political party, said (vide p. 228 of the Report) :
“In looking over the past and considering the great number of men, the men of many ideas, politically and otherwise, that have contemplated coming into this organisation, I think that this clause is just exactly the thing, and it is born of exactly the same need that the old time trade unions mean when they sayn”no politics in the union.” It is born exactly of that same need. It is useless for us here to attempt to disguise the fact that we have every shade of political opinion. . . Now, if we are going to be lines expressed in that section of the Preamble, because only along such lines is it possible to amalgamate the forces that we wish to amalgamate. (Applause.)”
(Note that this statement was applauded.)
Delegate Simons said (see p. 280) :
“I also believe that this should be broad enough . . . to admit the Anarchist and the Socialist and the men who do not believe in political action at all anyway . . .”
Similar ideas were expressed by other delegates, and found like approval. From what has been produced it is quite plain that this meeting was composed of politically antagonistic units, who conld not possibly hang together in the face of any proposal to lay down a political policy. We are pointing this out to forestall the quibble that the economic organisation has nothing to do with politics. These political enemies could get as far as declaring that the workers must come together on the political field. That merely committed them to politics in another place. It left the door open for politicians of every shade—even those who “practically controlled” capitalist political parties—even those nominated and endorsed by capitalist political organisations—even the ‘”suspicious characters,” “the carefully selected tools of the capitalist class,” the “traitors to the working people.” Shade of De Leon ! yes, it left the door open for all these to come in and undermine and betray, for they could bring in “numbers and money.”
Now then, our opponents have jibed us with having our own conception of class-consciousness. Well, what is the meaning of the term ? The least that it means is a consciousness of the class position in society. A consciousness of this position, in regard, of course, to the working class, implies a knowledge that the workers can only be emancipated by the abolition of the private ownership of property. Does the Republican party in Montana stand for the abolition of private property ? Of course not. Do the nominees and protégés of capitalist parties and organisations stand for the abolition of private property? Not likely ! Can such men, then, be class-conscious proletarians ? Not without being traitors to the working class. Their wrong politics arise either from lack of knowledge, in which case they cannot be class-conscious, or from lack of principle, in which case they are traitors. In either case the economic organisation that knowingly permits them to shelter under its wing is unsound. Faced with the pronouncement that the amendment to bar capitalists’ nominees and endorsees would keep out capitalist politicians who could bring in numbers and money, the Convention deliberately left the way open to these men.
Consider the position. If the economic organisation could “not interfere with the political aspirations or actions of our members” (Delegate Twining), then, logically, the political organisation cannot interfere with the economic aspirations and actions of its members. So the Gompers and the Haywoods—the sworn foes of the economic arena—if they profess alike politically, can stand staunchly shoulder to shoulder in the same political organisation, and valiantly shed their blood together in the political arena for the economic aspirations for which they would rend one another limb from limb in the economic field.
And now we come to a point that, in view of the fact that this discussion arouse out of the wild claim. of the S.L.P. that had the European movement organised the workers on the pattern of the I.W.W. the war might have been prevented, is peculiarly apposite. On p. 266 of the Report we read that, the following resolution was presented :
“Whereas, 1. Owing to the fact that the legislature of certain States have passed bills making it a misdemeanor for workingmen to persuade or attempt to persuade other workingmen from joining Military Organisations ; and
Whereas, 2, We, as united workers, recognise that Patriotism is one of the cardinal virtues, and should be inculcated into the minds of all those having their country’s interests at heart ; and
Whereas, 3. It is a well-known fact that a well trained Regiment is superior to ten thousand not so trained, and military training would be absolutely indispensable to the property interests of the country in the face of a foreign invasion : and
Whereas. 4. By emulating the example of our beloved President it is possible for any among us to attain the same exalted position ; and
Whereas 5. A contingency might even arise in which such training, and membership in such an organisation might be of value to the workingman, as a workingman ; therefore, be it
Resolved, That it is the sense of this organisation that its members affiliate at once with the different State Military Bodies, and that they also show their loyalty to the present government by persuading all brother members to do likewise.”
The resolution was not passed, but that is not the point. The points are (there are more than one of them) (1) that it was presented by—two guesses ; an ordinary “pure and simple craft union” ?—wrong, it was presented by the Industrial Workers’ Club of Chicago, (2) those who could send in such a resolution were not flung out—the constitution of the I.W.W. was broad enough to take them all in, with their worship of their masters’ country, their love of their masters’ President, their concern for their masters’ property, their loyalty to their masters’ government, and their determination to defend all these with their blood—just like the “European comrades” who had become “so enmeshed in bourgeois politics that they had lost sight of the ultimate goal of Socialism.” What a victory for the S.L.P. of A.’s Industrial Unionism propaganda.
We repeat that that economic child of the S.L.P., the I.W.W., to wit, is not a class-conscious organisation. It is as rotten as the craft unions they try to supplant—and they need but a similar test to have their members butchering their fellow-workers in the name of that “cardinal virtue,” patriotism, just as their politically ignorant brethren in Europe are doing to-day.
A. E. J.