An Open Letter to Dave Douglass
I see from the News of the World for November 15th that you are the editor of the Trotskyist magazine ‘Mineworkers Internationale’, and that you have published articles addressing the miners on union policy.
You appear to have upset the editor of the News of the World, and the officials of the Communist Party, who say that you are getting the “sane militants” (the C.P.) a bad name.
You wrote (apparently) in one issue of your magazine
“The only long-term justice for the workers will be under a system which they themselves control—a Socialist system.”
“Launch the General Strike immediately and occupy the factories, docks, railways without charging, capture the supermarkets and food wholesalers and distribute the food free.”
And you claim to work for the overthrow of Capitalism.
One can sympathise with your indignation with your exploitation and the fact, as you say, “that Capitalists are making a fortune out of my sweat, discomfort and forfeiture of human dignity”. Fair enough!
But, Dave boy, indignation is not enough! In this business (the class struggle) brains are more important than heart, because our enemy, the Capitalist, is immensely powerful, and helped by a large staff of cunning labour leaders and T.U. Officials.
And I’m going to tell you straight out, that your stuff is doing more harm than good.
First “seize the pits” or “the Supermarkets”, or “the railways”, is rubbish. The workers have a difficult enough job trying seize half-a-pound of steak on a Friday night, without you try to feed them this baloney.
You must begin to learn that the control of the public apparatus of production and distribution is political, not industrial. It is maintained by the Government of the day, if necessary by armed force, although the workers don’t show much evidence of doing any “seizing”, do they? Could it be they’ve too much sense?
Neither are you doing any good trying to cod the miners into taking action for “workers’ control”. The workers will never control Capitalism. What determines class control is ownership, and that ownership is legalised and maintained through Parliament, by the Government of the day, backed by an electoral majority.
It is no business of trade unions to try to usurp the job of a political party. Control of the whole of industry is a political matter concerning the whole capitalist class. The strongest, most militant trade union in the world can do nothing about it and won’t want to, anyway, because people join unions to look after the trade interests, not class interests.
Dave, I’m sorry, but your other stuff urging the miners on strike last year to do as much damage as possible is nonsense too. This is a hang-over from early Russian days when the isolated Bolsheviks sought to create as much dissension abroad as possible, for political propaganda materials.
I now come to what, for me,is the most stupid and ridiculous nonsense of all. “Launch the General Strike and occupy the factories”. Are you really in your right mind, mate? Don’t you know that whenever the workers have occupied factories, after a few weeks with the wives bringing meals and drinks, they have unoccupied them again?
The capitalists will always beat you at this game; they own everything; they can retire to the Hilton or the country, and starve you out. In fact, the French authorities have said they approve of the strikers occupying the factory because “It keeps the place clean”.
And lastly, the General Strike! What stupid bloody rubbish. First of all, General Strikes for industrial ends are difficult enough, because workers’ action on such a scale concerns the whole capitalist class who have shown repeatedly, all over the world, that they will not hesitate if necessary, to crush strikes by armed force.
But even worse, you are urging a General Strike for “Workers’ Control”, which because you are not clear about it, you call a “Socialist system”.
A Socialist system will and must abolish classes! What are you on about? Will there be wage-workers under Trotskyist “Socialism” then ?
But, worst of all, you are trying to control trade unionists in General Strikes for political purposes — and this is disastrous.
If you claim that all the workers (or a lot of them) are militants, anxious to overthrow Capitalism, why have they got to lose their wages (and some of them, their personal freedom) in General Strikes?
If they want a General Strike why do they vote for Tory and Labour parties?
If the workers are Socialists, they have a perfectly safe and sane method of abolishing Capitalism, which also happens (as time will show) to be the only possible method — the ballot box.
It is for this reason that the Socialist Party of Great Britain will never support calls for General Strikes for political purposes. People like you, Dave, may feel very strongly, but you haven’t thought very much.
Socialists, in their capacity as trade unionists, because we are exploited like you, and have to join them, say to their fellow workers : Political action is for political parties! Trade union political independence at all costs!
Socialism will be established by a class political party, not the T.U.C., or any trade union.
Let trade unions mind their own business, the interests of their members.
Let the affairs of the union be run democratically, by the rank-and-file vote, make strikes short and sharp. Procrastination is the death of strikes.
And, lastly, some advice to you, by one who has been right through the Leninist mill himself.
Forget all your Trotskyist dreamworld; it never was right. Look where the Leninist “boring from within” the trade unions has landed the C.P. The very nominees the Communist factions have got “elected” as officials have at times been the first to kick out Communists.
Study Socialism! Get clear on the necessity of conscious political actions by the workers, organised in a political party to take political power, to abolish capitalist control; and replace it by “democratic control”.
This is the road of Success, to Victory.
What you are doing now will only spread apathy as a result of bitter disappointment.
Forget Trotsky, and remember Marx!
Yours for Socialism,
11 November 1972.