1930s >> 1939 >> no-421-september-1939

Letter: Is the S.P.G.B. Afraid to Criticise
Trade Unionism?

In the April issue of the Socialist Standard, under the above heading, we replied to a letter from Mr. B. Marshall, who described himself as being “on tramp.” We publish a further letter below.

“No address”.

 

Dear Sir,

 

You state in your reply that increased wages are a direct cut into profits. May be it is true, but the important point is, that a Socialist should not be concerned with winning higher wages, or even defending the present standard of living. Why not allow conditions to become worse, thereby making the workers more dissatisfied with capitalism? Trade unionism tends to divide the workers into sections; for example, some count their wages in pounds, while others count theirs in shillings. What the S.P. should, study is working-class psychology, then you will discover that the majority of workers think with their stomach rather than with their head. I maintain that constant raids on the wage packet would make the workers more receptive to Socialist propaganda.
Yours truly,

 

B. Marshall.

 

Reply.

 

If your theory were correct it would logically follow that the depressed areas would be centres of revolutionary activity, whereas the opposite is the case.

 

The lowest-paid section are generally the most reactionary: the apathy and indifference of the poverty-stricken to the facts underlying their miserable condition is one of the most appalling factors of the situation.

 

The insecurity of the worker’s employment, as a result of the means of production being owned by the capitalist class, is the secret of the latter’s power and is the source of the mental and moral degradation of the working class.

 

The wage-slave, with any manhood left in him, feels instinctively the secret power of the chains which keep him in bondage, and he tries to break or weaken them by means of union with his fellows.

 

When he forces increased wages, shorter hours, or better working conditions from his exploiters he feels he has achieved something.

 

His struggles cannot suspend the working of economic laws or prevent the downward tendency, but it can counteract the results of the economic process on the psychology of the working class.

 

In addition, the fight itself develops eventually the desire for ultimate freedom and educates the working man to an understanding of the causes and conditions of the struggle.

 

And, at the same time, the struggle must be growing more intense.

 

For the fight only affecting the results of the downward tendency, and being powerless to remove its cause, whatever gains are made cannot be kept unless the fight for them is kept up, and the fight must be intensified as the tendency increases.

 

Thus is brought about the “growing revolt” of the working class. Boudin deals with this in his “Theoretical System of Karl Marx.”

 

“At the same time,” says Boudin, “the working class is steadily advancing in economic power and independence, in the sense that it takes possession of more and more responsible positions in the economic life of the nation, diverts to itself, by means of the corporation and otherwise, all the growth of the concentration and centralisation of capital; and particularly with the development of the corporate form of economic activity, the capitalist class abdicates its functions, the proper functions of a ruling class, those of economic management, into the hands of the working class.
The working class thus not only becomes revolutionary in its ideas, desires and aspirations, but it has the organised power to carry the revolution into effect, and is fully equipped to take hold of all social and economic activities and functions after the revolution and carry them out successfully.”

 

Charles Lestor