1920s >> 1922 >> no-218-october-1922

A Word on Organisation.

An organ is something that works. Or­ganisation is the assembling and arranging of the parts of a compound body in a manner for use; that is to say, that each part may co-operate with the others to a given end, the whole working as one organ. A tree, with its multitude of diverse cells, is an example of exquisite organisation.

In the same way, when men and women organise themselves they are proceeding to work together, with an agreed objective. They are forming a single body, of which each individual is a part; and should any part deviate to pursue some different plan, the advance of the whole will be hindered by just so much. The body may be very small, or it may be immense; the same remains true.

When a man joins a party, therefore, he automatically proclaims himself as in agree­ment with its declared aims. No amount of disclaimer or qualification does away with this fact. The outsider assumes, and is justified in assuming, that the aims of the party represent his ideas. The members expect, and have a right to expect, that he will conform at all points to its principles. Why else is he there? If, once admitted, he proceeds to advocate principles which do not agree with those of the party, the mem­bers will only act consistently in expelling him. The inside of the party is not the place for such an advocacy, and the application for membership was a ruse : he did not join for the purpose of working with others for an agreed object. Moreover, the outsider has good reason for not attending to his message, since he proclaims one thing in his words and another by his actions. What is true of the individual in relation to parties, is true of parties in relation to federations.

The application of this? The S.P.G.B. is sometimes asked why it does not seek affilia­tion with other bodies professing themselves socialist or labour. The foregoing is one reason, and in itself would be sufficient. The programmes and actions of these various parties have been frequently examined in the pages of the Standard. None of them agree with our idea of socialist principle. There­fore affiliation, if obtained, would be unfair to their members, confusing to those out­ side.

The other reason is that the movement towards working-class emancipation would not be strengthened thereby. We want the greatest possible number of our fellow workers with us ; but purely formal organisa­tion is useless in any sphere of action. Organisation must be the expression of a real unity of purpose, whether the purpose be the felling of a tree or the building of a new society. The more momentous the work, the more important it is to remember this. In the case of the class war, formal unity is worse than useless. It is a pretence and a danger. If it were possible to form a vast and disciplined organisation of workers with their present degree of class-consciousness, it would be but a more con­venient instrument of exploitation for the master-class. In short, organisation must follow education, not precede it.

This is true alike on the industrial and political fields. In industry we workers must learn the meaning of the tasks which emerge in the daily fight over conditions of labour. That we cannot hope to placate the exploiter, nor look for impartial arbitration. That we have to expect capitalist aggression —with fleeting exceptions, progressively more vigorous every year. That we have but one weapon on this field, the strike, and even that will fail us whenever the master­ class decides to fight an issue out. That to make the best use of the strike we must have, not many unions for one industry, nor one for each industry, nor even one for each national group—but a world-wide workers’ union. And that this day to day struggle must be waged, not for us by leaders, but by us through delegates.

We shall not have advanced far on this road to industrial solidarity before we are forced to see that the utmost we can do by these means is to resist attacks on our already poor standard of living. We cannot improve our standard to any appreciable extent, much less entirely free ourselves from exploitation. To do this we must take the vast machinery of production into our own hands. And since this is an issue which our masters decidedly would fight if they could, we realise that direct action on the industrial field will no longer suffice for us. We do not intend that the capitalists shall be able to starve us by commandeering the food supply, nor slaughter us by using the army and police. While we hope that in that day our fellow-workers in the armed forces will be with us—while we are going to do our utmost to make them so—we do not mean to take risks by allowing the capitalist class to give them orders. We find that we need political power. We need an assembly of workers’ delegates, with a man­date for socialism ; and we organise in the Socialist Party with the object of getting it.

Thus our industrial and political activities must be two sides of one movement : the industrial for safeguarding conditions with­ in the capitalist system, and probably form­ing the basis for the industrial organisation of the Socialist Commonwealth ; the political for the expropriation of expropriators.

These things we have to learn, and only on the basis of this knowledge can organisa­tion proceed.

A.

(Socialist Standard, October 1922)

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