Letter: Socialist Industrial Unionism

Letter to the Editors from the December 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard


To the Editors,


Your principles declare that government, etc. . . . may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation.


Marx said that the State is the executive committee of the governing class. The Socialist Labour Party wants to abolish the State as such, and without being completely vague about what Socialism is. it has a concrete programme of Socialist Industrial Unionism which it can expound better than I—which is a blueprint for a Socialist Society.


The S.L.P. goes a stage further than S.P.G.B. in clarifying their position—so it strikes me.


On page 87 of the June Socialist Standard you criticise Lenin and Stalin as they were worlds apart from Marx and Engels on the role and function of the working class.


However, Lenin’s statement that “If we wait for the people to understand Socialism we shall wait a thousand years.” He was an optimist. Socialism—bogus or real—doesn’t appeal to “never-had-it-so-gooders.” “big heads” self-satisfied “middle-class” workers, ostentatious car-owners, TV addicts, etc.


Yours truly,


J. L. D.


Dunstable, Beds.




Our correspondent implies that the Socialist Party of Great Britain has only a vague conception of Socialism. In fact, our object—a social system based upon the common ownership of the means of wealth production and distribution— is a concise definition of Socialism, and one which has stood for the 55 years of our existence. The establishment of Socialism is prevented because the majority of the world’s population do not want it: at every election they vote overwhelmingly to continue running society in the interests of the capitalist class. This is done through the State machine—the armed and police forces, judiciary system and so on. which are all controlled by Parliament. Any attempt to bypass this Slate machine is doomed to failure: that is why “. . . a programme of Socialist Industrial Unionism . . .” is futile. Socialism can only be brought into being when the working class understand it and want it and express themselves by sending their delegates to the seats of control over the State machine to carry through the formal process of liquidating capitalism. This will not involve the use of soldiers and policemen to impose Socialism upon an unwilling population—indeed, when Socialism is established, the State and all its oppressive instruments will cease to exist. This is the meaning of the phrase “. . . converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation . . .” in Clause 6 of our Declaration of Principles.


It is true that most workers are satisfied with their lot under capitalism. But they were satisfied before they owned a lot of cars and television sets. The 1914-18 war and the depressions which followed did nothing to shake their support of capitalism. The second world war only made them experiment with the Labour Party version of capitalism before swinging back to the Tories. Working class confusion about Socialism has been deepened by the organisations which think, with Lenin, that “ If we wait for the people to understand Socialism we shall wait a thousand years” and have, therefore, asked for support for a programme of capitalist reform which they have called Socialism.


There is no alternative to waiting for the people to understand but the day of enlightenment can be brought nearer if organisations like the Socialist Labour Party stop spreading confusion.


Editorial Committee