1910s >> 1918 >> no-164-april-1918

An Industrialist champion buts in

(To the Editor)
Sir,—As one who is anxious to learn and consider the best method of obtaining that which all workers should desire, namely, the overthrow of the capitalist system and the establishment of a Socialist system of society, and as one who does not care which party or organisation he belongs to so long as it is out to obtain this desirable result, I wish to take advantage of a contributor to your February issue, H. Gratton, and to ask you some questions on points which I may not understand and with which I cannot agree.

In this issue of the SOCIALIST STANDARD you had under review a book called “The State : Its Origin and Function,” by Wm. Paul. At the beginning of an attack on what he calls “the slovenliness of Mr. Paul,” your reviewer states that “Historians of the past have made many attempts to discover what may be called the driving force or dynamic factor behind the various changes that have taken place in Society,” he goes on to say that “the key to the riddle was supplied by Marx and Engels, who independently arrived at the same conclusion—that it was the economic development that found the driving force behind social development culminating in the changes in the forms of Society.”

To me it is curious that while your contributor, as endorsed by the S.P.G.B., professes to believe that it is economic development that is the driving force behind social development, you do all in your power to misrepresent Industrial Unionism, which is the inevitable outcome of economic capitalist development in industry.

Every Industrial Unionist insists first, that the workers should recognise their class position in society, secondly, that they are out to organise the workers internationally.
Now for a worker to become class-conscious is, in my opinion, for him to become a Socialist, for one cannot be without the other. Class-consciousness on the part of the workers can only develop in the workshop along the lines of Industrial Unionism, and for the S.P.G.B. to oppose this, suggests the S.P.G.B. not as a Socialist, but as an Anarchist society, relying more on individual action, through politics, than on the Socialist mass-action of the proletariat, along lines that economic development dictates, for the overthrow of the capitalist system. Even your contributor admits that some form of organisation will take place at some future period. Thus he writes, afraid that he has said too much : “Much more educational work requires to be done before such an organisation can be started.” The Industrial Unionists say that such an organisation is in existence, and it has a foundation that cannot be shaken, namely, in economic development of industry, which is the basis of all Society.

The argument of your contributor as to how an economic organisation can take hold of the means of production while the capitalist class has control of the armed forces hits both ways, for they can as easily prevent a political party obtaining control of the armed forces as an economic organisation, in fact more, for you cannot deny that an economic organisation can exercise more pressure than a political party.

The only solution of this problem that I can see is that the class-conscious workers should organise in both industrial and political organisations for the overthrow of capitalism. More and more are these forces combining, in fact, you can hardly sever one from the other, for instance, the Labour Party representing Trade Union interests.,
I consider, therefore, that we should have a Socialist party representing all class-conscious workers who are organised industrially. Surely the forces of capitalism organised against us are sufficient to warn us that we should all pull together in this matter—Yours sincerely,


As one who is anxious to learn and consider the best way of overthrowing capitalism, it is only a pity that Mr. Adler should place stumbling-blocks in his own way to that desired end. A student anxious to learn should always examine any case under examination with at least ordinary care. Had Mr. Adler done this in the case of our review, he would have found quite half of his queries already met in col. 3, p. 42 of the February issue of the SOCIALIST STANDARD, and his own conclusion also countered by the closing paragraphs of our review.

Again, it is a bad habit to repeat unthinkingly and without examination catchy phrases since they generally have no foundation in fact and are often senseless.

One instance occurs where he says : “Class-consciousness can only develop in the workshop, along the lines of Industrial Unionism.” According to this stupid statement neither Marx nor Engels could have been class-conscious, as they did not work in a workshop and never even heard of “Industrial Unionism.” The emptiness of this Industrialist tag was exposed long ago, for, as all active Socialists are aware, the majority of those who are Socialists to-day developed from the political side. But it is absurd to suppose that the development of class-consciousness can only take place in one sphere of activity. The gigantic antagonisms and failures of capitalism impress various individuals in various ways, and class-consciousness develops from all sorts of directions.

Equally absurd is the contention that class-consciousness must develop “along the lines of Industrial Unionism,” as clearly, on this theory, there could have been no Socialists before 1905—when Industrial Unionism first appeared—a contention beneath contempt.

Another instance of Mr. Adler’s readiness to use meaningless phrases is given when he says that for the S.P.G.B. to oppose Industrial Unionism (though he has not troubled to examine the grounds of our opposition) suggests that we are “an Anarchist society” relying on action “through politics.” As the merest tyro in Socialist study knows, one of the most common attributes of the Anarchists, despite the differences among themselves, is their opposition to political action.

Mr. Adler’s retort against our argument that no economic organisation can “take and hold the means of production” while the capitalists control the armed forces, that it “hits both ways,” shows that he has yet to learn how the capitalist class control Society—a remark that applies equally to most Industrialists—despite quotations given from the book reviewed and our own statements in the review.

Moreover, we most emphatically do deny that “an economic organisation can exert more pressure than a political party.” The limit of power of an economic organisation, while the masters are in possession of the political machinery, is the strike, i.e., pitting the few pence the workers may have saved against the inconvenience which their ceasing work may cause the employers. When the masters decide to fight it out the economic organisation is beaten every time.

The limit of power of the political party is the possession of the political machinery with its consequent control of the fighting forces resulting in the domination of Society. If a capitalist political party is in this position the power is used to maintain the supremacy of the masters and to continue the slavery of the workers. When a Socialist political party reaches this position the power will be used to overthrow capitalism and establish Socialism.

How the capitalist class could prevent a party in possession of political power from controlling the armed forces Mr. Adler does not attempt to show for obvious reasons.

His assertion about “the Labour Party representing Trade Union interests” shows a woeful lack of knowledge of the history of that party and its treachery to its constituent bodies. The only interests, apart from that of the masters, served by that party are those of a clique of job-hunters like Hodge, Clynes, Henderson, Thomas, Macdonald, etc.

One other bad habit of Mr. Adler’s may be pointed out. A student anxious to learn should avoid making accusations he has no evidence to support. When Mr. Adler says we do all in our power to “misrepresent Industrial Unionism,” and yet fails to produce a single tittle of evidence to support this charge, he gives the impression that he is more anxious to repeat phrases than to “learn and consider.”

Jack Fitzgerald