1930s >> 1930 >> no-305-january-1930
The Socialist Labour Party Runs Away
In previous issues of The Socialist Standard we have challenged the Weekly People of New York to quote any reference where Marx made the statement quoted by them on Trade Unionism. Many issues of the People have appeared, but we still wait for an answer. The only attempt made by them to refer to our challenge was in the issue of August 10th, where the National Secretary, Arnold Petersen, spends a column and a quarter on abusing us, but fails to meet the challenge.
The statement which they allege Marx to have made was as follows :—
Only the Trade Union is capable of setting on foot a true political party of labor and thus raise a bulwark against the power of Capital.
For many years the S.L.P. used this “quotation” to justify their advocacy of an industrial union which could take and hold the means of production. They also used it to support their argument that only an economic organisation could “take and hold” and that a political party was doomed to defeat without an economic organisation ready to supply the “might.”
The S.L.P. say that they got the “quotation” from a magazine which is opposed to Marxism—their only “authority” is a reform journal called The New Yorker Volkzeitung, run by the German section of the social democrats of New York. This was a paper which De Leon never tired of denouncing—but in face of our challenge they fall back on that paper as their authority.
To avoid dealing with our challenge The Weekly People talk about something else.
We quoted “Value, Price & Profit,” to show that Marx had no illusions about Unions being the instrument of emancipation. When dealing there with the limitation of hours of work he said:—
As to the limitation of the working day in England, as in all other countries, it has never been settled, except by legislative interference. Without the working men’s continuous pressure from without, that interference would never have taken place. But, at all events, the result was not to be attained by private settlement between the working men and the Capitalists. This very necessity of general political action affords the proof that in its merely economic action, Capital is the stronger side.
This quotation amply shows his view of the weakness of economic action. But the S.L.P. say that it only refers to action under Capitalism. If, however, the economic action of the workers is unable to win in the smaller battles under Capitalism how much less could economic action “take and hold” the means of wealth production!
Instead of meeting this point, The Weekly People quote the last few lines of ”Value, Price & Profit,” which tell the Trade Unions that they should use their organised forces “as a lever for the final emancipation of the working class—that is to say, the ultimate abolition of the wages system.”
In their article, The People assert that Marx stated that the economic organisation was the lever of emancipation. Nowhere did Marx make such a statement. The Socialist Party does not deny that the Trade Unions can assist in the struggle, but we hold with Marx that political action is the stronger action. We hold with Marx that the FIRST step in the emancipation of the working class “is to win political power.” (See Communist Manifesto.)
The People‘s quotation from “Value, Price & Profit,” has no reference whatever to the mare’s nest discovered by the S.L.P. —that only the economic organisation can set on foot the political party of Labour.