Correspondence. Why political organisation?
Dear Editor,—I have read with interest the questions put forward re Comrade Littler and the answers thereto, that have appeared through the medium of the Standard.
To me those answers require further elucidation, as for instance, your answer to the second question, which states, “The workers’ organisation must be upon the basis of their class.” Do you infer by the above statement that one organisation only is requisite, and it must include a political and economic organisation?
I take it one organisation on the industrial field is “on the basis of its class.”
Again, one reads in answer to the same question, “As we have pointed out on various occasions, economic development has travelled beyond the limits of ‘Industry ‘ in numerous directions, and therefore, the workers’ organisations must cover a wider area than the ‘Industry’ even to keep pace.”
What directions has economic development taken beyond the limits of “Industry,” and what have the workers’ organisation to keep pace with apart from “Industry” ? In answer to the first question we find the following:—
“Conceivably Socialism could be established by the political party alone.” To me, conceivably is a relative concept, and the limit within which a concept is valid varies concomitantly with variations in the phases of social evolution. All Socialists agree that the coming social revolution will do away with the State, and all political institutions, which means all political institutions will lose their political character and become simple administrative institutions for the needs of society.
To bring the above social conditions into existence implies the removal of the existing social conditions which demands the existence of the political structure.
All political parties who are attempting to capture the powers of the State, for the purpose of converting those so-called means of oppression into agents of emancipation, fail to understand that the material conditions are responsible for the existence of all political institutions, and so long as political parties persist in grappling only with the effects of those material conditions, then so long will those effects remain in existence.
As we have social production, i.e., associated labour (under capitalism) that very fact implies organisation right where production takes place, namely, in the workshop, for the specific purpose of taking the economic power out of the hands of the master class and to wield that power for themselves, the working class.
At that very moment the political structure will fall to the ground—the mills, mines, factories, etc., are only waiting seizure at the hands of an organised proletariat.
Do you claim the political power of the capitalist class, or lack of class consciousness of the workers prevents that new social order, namely, Socialism, from making its birth.
Yours for Socialism,
We do not pretend to prophesy as to the details of the future working class organisations, but reasoning from past and present experience, it would seem that the greatest efficiency would be attained by forming one organisation for political work and another for economic work. These two organisations would be affiliated under some form, and where necessary would work together, until Socialism was established.
One organisation on the industrial field would not be on the basis of its class, unless the members understood their slave position and were deliberately working for their own emancipation, by organising for control of political power, in addition to being organised on the economic field for immediate purposes.
An “Industry” is that portion of the means of production, devised to produce a particular unit of wealth, or the carrying on of a unit of social service. Thus there is a “Coal Industry,” a “Rubber Industry,” etc., on one side, and a “Railway Industry,” etc., on the other.
Modern capitalist control has spread far beyond these “Industrial” limits in many cases, and huge combines often control numerous “Industries.” Lever Brothers, Burmantofts, and Vickers, Ltd., are notorious examples of this development. A more subtle form of control is that carried through on the financial side. Multimillionaires often hold controlling blocks of shares in numerous industries, and direct the activities of these industries on a policy determined by their interests as a whole.
To give one illustration. The American Meat Trust not only own ranches and packing factories, but control dairies and farms, producing milk, eggs, cheese, butter, and various provisions. They also own a fleet of ships. In the event of a dispute with their seamen the Meat Trust could smash a strike by the simple expedient of ordering the shopkeepers to refuse to serve the strikers with either meat, bread or other provisions. Against such an attack the Seamen’s Industrial Union would be utterly helpless. Hence, as the capitalist development has extended far beyond the “Industrial” basis, the workers’ organisation must follow suit.
Mr. Deakin’s statement that “All Socialists agree that the coming social revolution will do away with the State and all political institutions” is based upon the anarchist fallacy that the “State and all political institutions” are merely capitalist devices to enslave the workers. As every student of history knows, when a society becomes established, and particularly when it is settled in a particular territory, it is necessary to frame rules for the organisation and management of the general affairs of society. These methods of general management form the political machinery of any society, and however the forms may change, it is obvious that they will be necessary as long as society exists. When the political organisation is furnished with force for the purpose of compelling obedience to the rules of society, it becomes a “State.”
Socialism will be established when a majority of the working class use the franchise to wrest political power out of the hands of the capitalist class for that object. This will leave a minority either neutral or actively opposing the new order. Clearly, for a time at any rate, society will have to be prepared to use force, if necessary, to maintain the new system. As soon as the minority accept the system and work in co-operation with the majority, the need for any special force will have disappeared, and such force would be disbanded. Thus the “State” will “die out,” but political organisation—as shown above—will be necessary and will therefore remain.
Mr. Deakin has failed to grasp the essential fact that the material conditions “responsible for the existence of all political institutions” is the necessity of organisation for a society to exist at all.
Our correspondent is also in error when he defines social production as “associated Labour.” Production can only be termed social when the arrangements of society are formed for the purpose of assisting and carrying to a successful conclusion the interdependent and associated labour of masses of workers. It is interesting to note that while Mr. Deakin denies that the political powers can be used as “agents of emancipation,” he claims that the “economic power” of the masters could be wrested from them and used by the workers. Here he contradicts himself. What he imagines to be the “economic power” is just as much the result of “material conditions” as the political institutions, and if the latter cannot be converted to the workers’ use, neither, obviously, can the former.
But, as pointed out in various numbers of the Socialist Standard, this so-called “economic power” is another anarchist fallacy.
Without the backing of the political power, with its armed forces, the master class are bereft of any “power”—economic or other. To retain possession of the means of life, they are completely dependant upon the control of political power, which is placed in their hands by the working class who are ignorant of their own interests.
No organisation in the workshop can take possession of the means of production while the master class control political power and the armed forces. Any such attempt at control by the workers could be met, and completely crushed, by the machine gun, the explosive shell, and the aerial bomb. The mills, mines, factories, etc., can only be seized after the workers have gained political power with its control of the armed forces. Any other method merely leads the working class to the shambles.
Mr. Deakin’s last question is on the lines of the old arithmetical “puzzle,” i.e., if 3×2 equals 6, which is the more necessary, the 3 or the 2, to produce the result of 6 ? The common sense answer, of course, is that both are equally necessary.
And similarly with Mr. Deakin’s question. As the possession of political power by the master class is a result of the lack of class consciousness of the workers, it is clear that only with the growth of class consciousness—knowledge of their class position—will the political power be wrested from the hands of the masters.
(SOCIALIST STANDARD, JUNE 1923)