1960s >> 1965 >> no-728-april-1965

50 Years Ago: Industrial or Political Action

The idea that the workers have “power over industry” is exquisite foolery. What “conceivable force” gives them any such power? That is a question the Industrial Unionists cannot answer. The most they can do is to come out on strike, which, instead of controlling industry, is mere cessation of industry. Let them attempt to carry on production against the will of the owners of the means of production and they soon find the “power which the workers daily have in their hands while in the workshop” is not much of a protection against the policeman’s baton, or the soldier’s bullet.


Human physical power is resident in the bodies of mankind. For collective economic purposes it requires organising on the economic plane; for collective political purposes it must be politically organised. But for military purposes it must be organised on military lines. Now the master class have organised this “physical force’’ on all three planes—for their own ends. Their economic organisation exists only to produce their profits; their political organisation exists to maintain their position and their interests; their military organisation exists as the supreme instrument for maintaining their privileged position.


To talk about the power of the workers in the workshops. . . . loses sight of the fact that it is precisely to prevent the workers getting or exercising power in the field of industry (which they can only do by seizing the instruments of labour) that the armed forces of the nation primarily exist. It is for this reason that the workers cannot look to economic organisation to supply the “physical force to back up the ballot”. The armed forces of the State are not to be opposed but are to be controlled, through the conquest of the machinery of government, and used for the overthrow of the capitalist system.


From the Socialist Standard April 1915.