1920s >> 1920 >> no-196-december-1920

Correspondence

To the Editors.

Dear Sirs,

In reading your paper for the last few months one is struck with the insistence that characterises the finishing up of most of the articles, that is the capture of the political machinery by the workers, thereby obtaining control over the armed forces.

One realises that the workers’ revolution will not be successful unless by the aid of the Army, Navy, and Police Force, they have stripped every vestige of power from the ruling class, thereby transforming from a functionless class to productive units of the Communist republic.

But by the mere fact of the workers getting a majority in the House of Commons and in the local council chambers will that prove all-sufficing ? Because one must bear in mind that right from your infantry officer to the more high administrative posts, are recruited from the ruling class.

Consequently, is it not more than likely that by the return to the governing bodies of a majority of revolutionaries, the “property-owning class,” seeing their interest menaced, would immediately utilise the forces of the Crown to crush the workers? Undoubtedly there will be a portion of the armed forces whose sympathies will [not] be with the workers. Are they not already organising for the day ? Boy Scouts, Special Police Force, comprising of the shop-keeping element, men with a little stake in the present order.

Because the political machinery is more advanced in this country than Russia or Italy, does that imply that the transformation will be more peaceful? Circumstances seem to point to the fact that the machinery to hand will be used more efficiently by the master class here, owing to their vaster political experience.

Circumstances seem to point to the necessity of the workers themselves being armed in order to crush the armed forces of the Crown before they can be supreme.

By these few remarks I do not mean to infer that parliamentary action is useless, because in any highly organised society administrative work is necessary, for the control and direction of industry, and when such is under the control of the worker, obviously some form of parliamentary procedure is required.

But what I do imply is that the workers must be organised, primarily in the workshop, for a clear class purpose—first the suppression of the armed forces of the Crown (this necessitating, of course, an armed struggle) secondly the seizure of the land, factories, etc., by the workers and the democratic control thereof. This only shows that Parliament will only control the armed forces when the counter-revolutionary forces have been defeated.

It means that we must prepare ourselves for a hard struggle, and that at the first onset the master class will do all in their power to annul any revolutionary measures adopted by a revolutionary Parliament through the Civil Service and the officers of the Army and Navy, whose sentiments are with the powers that now be.

J. W.

Our Reply To Above.

Our correspondent’s first error is in supposing that the officers of the armed forces and officials in administrative posts are all recruited from the ruling class. It is true that a few members of that class and some of their poorer relatives are employed in such positions, but the vast majority of both officers and civil servants are merely the professional sections of the slave class in society who depend upon the sale of their services for an existence, and are without any property worth mentioning. As this section extends its knowledge and understanding of social organisation they will steadily gravitate towards Socialism. By the time a majority of the working class are convinced of the need for Socialism, the number of the professional section who will have reached the same conviction will be sufficient to render these officials a doubtful factor for the master class to rely upon. Even the case of Russia, where conditions were much more unfavourable, gives us an example of this. Though large numbers of the old officials were anti-Bolshevik, they soon realised that they could not live without a purchaser for their services and they found that it was just as easy—in some cases, such as teaching, easier—to work under the new employers than it had been to work under the old ones.

Certainly the master class will endeavour to use all the organisations they can influence to oppose the revolution ; but, useful as the Boy Scouts and Special Police may be, it must be remembered that these are unarmed bodies, and even if they were armed, as the “Black and Tans” are in Ireland, they would still be far inferior to the trained forces.

Above all, however, as our correspondent admits to some degree, there is the great factor that, when the majority of the working class are ready for Socialism, the resulting impression upon the rest of society will be so strong that few outside the wealthy capitalists and such hair-brained adventurers as they may subsidise, will be found ready to offer resistance to the revolution.

Again with reference to the trained forces — these only move according to instructions from Departments of the Government, as the War Office, Admiralty, etc., and those who are in a majority in Parliament control these Departments. Hence the absolute necessity for political action on the part of the working class.

The statement of our correspondent that “circumstances appear to point to the necessity of the workers themselves being armed in order to crush the armed forces of the Crown” is a dangerous fallacy.

Where are the workers to obtain arms? And where ammunition? How and where can they train, or how be trained, in the use of arms? The days of street barricades have gone by. The high explosive shell and the aeroplane have rendered such a method ridiculous. Also the attempt to gather arms and ammunition would be illegal, and long before it would be able to reach dimensions that mattered the authorities could handle and crush the attempt by ordinary legal means.

Only by constitutional methods can the working class obtain control of the armed forces and use them to consolidate their emancipation. No workshop organisation can effect this, and useful as such organisation may be to operate the means of production during the revolution, it can only do so under the protection afforded by Parliament.

Editorial Committee