1930s >> 1931 >> no-317-january-1931

Industrial Unionism

In a recent issue we reviewed briefly an American pamphlet by a Mr. Clausen on “American Socialism—or Labour Unions versus Company Unions.”

The author was formerly a member of the S.L.P. and held that De Leon’s position had been dropped by the present S.L.P. We invited Mr. Clausen, as we have invited the S.L.P., to explain how an economic organisation can take and hold the means of production. Mr. Clausen sends us a letter of 19 foolscap pages, but he omits to deal with the question at issue. The god he worships—De Leon—could not show the power of the industrial union to take and hold, and so our pamphleteer avoids the main point. We have specifically challenged all supporters of direct action who claim to accept Marx to show where Marx supports their theory. Marx insisted that the workers must win political power and capture the State machine to obtain supremacy. Until Daniel De Leon flirted with industrial unionism he held that “none but the political weapon can dislodge the usurpers and enthrone the working class ” (Two pages from Roman History, page 46).

Our critic tells us that the great combines of U.S.A. “dominate the political government by reason of commanding the economic conditions of the country.” This is the very opposite of the facts. The property-owning class can only “command” the economic conditions by being in political control.

Their economic interests unite the capitalists into political parties to control the governing machine so that their economic interests can be defended. Hence the fierce struggle in the U.S.A. to win a majority of the working-class voters to maintain capitalist control. Even the political corruption proves to what lengths they will go to win control of the all-dominating political machine.

Mr. Clausen admits this when he says that “they [the capitalists] are combined through the political government in order to hold the proletariat in subjection.”

In spite of this Mr. Clausen repeats as his argument De Leon’s anarchistic utterance that the emancipation of the workers must be achieved by the workers “through an economic organisation of the working class without affiliation with any political party.”

That is “direct action.” And, like all anarchist policies, it ignores the enormous power of the State machine to suppress revolts. It ignores, too, the lack of resources of the workers when on strike, “locked out,” or “locked in.”

Industrial Unionism cannot establish Socialism, for it organises the workers by industry and divides the workers up into industrial sections, each concerned with its own industry. De Leon’s claim that only a worker in an industry can represent the workers in that industry is a rejection of the class struggle and the common interests of the working class. The Socialist Party hold that the workers must first of all realise their common interests and unite into a class organisation as Socialists struggling for political supremacy. The forms of the workers’ economic organisation under capitalism will reflect the growing class understanding and Socialist ideas of the workers. The notion that only a plumber can represent a plumber may be Syndicalism, but it has nothing in common with Socialism.

Mr. Clausen’s lengthy attack on the S.L.P. for its recent gymnastics is composed almost entirely of material of very little interest to most readers of this journal.