Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Unions and Political Parties




The Socialist Party claims that the wealth of society is created by the workers. The working class alone does the world’s work, has created its wealth, constructed its mills and factories, made its roads, laid its rails, spanned the rivers with bridges and tunnelled through mountains. The workers alone by the labour of their brawn or the effort of their brains are essential to society.


The Socialist Party claims that the workers, through their work-place committees, industrial unions, and federated communes or whatever other means of decision-making and administration society chooses to use, will organise and control all the processes of wealth production. The Socialist Party carry the struggle to achieve this on the political field in order to challenge the power which the present ruling class wields through its domination of the State which it wins at the ballot box. By its victory at the ballot box, and its consequent political domination, the capitalists are able to subjugate labour. We cannot leave political control in the hands of the ruling class. We have seen what power the conquest of the State gives to the capitalist in its struggleagainst the working class. It is through its political strength that the capitalists can deprive us of civil liberties the loss of which can make the peaceful advocation for the revolution impossible. The maintenance of civil liberty is part of the political struggle. The ruling class can resort to the use of the armed forces and other violent methods of suppression. The control of these forces flow directly from the capitalist’s control of the State which it secures at the ballot box. Socialism will not come through force. Therefore, in order to achieve a peaceful revolution workers must capture the powers of the State at the ballot box and prevent the capitalist class from using the nation’s military against the emerging socialist movement.

At the ballot box the employer can only counts as one against his many workers’ votes. The capitalists are few in number, while the workers number in our millions. The electoral strength of the working class could, if properly used, ensure the triumph of labour in contrast to industrial action where the power of the boss’s bank balance against the meagre savings of his employees will nearly always prevail. The capitalists are men of financial means and resources, and can buy the best brains and command the highest order of ability the market affords. They own the factories, the mills and mines and locomotives and ships and stores and the jobs that are attached to them, and this not only gives them tremendous advantage in the struggle, but makes them for the time the absolute masters of the situation. The workers, on the other hand, are poor as a rule, and ignorant as a class, but they are in an overwhelming majority. In a word, they have the power, but are not conscious of it. This then is the supreme demand; to make them conscious of the power of their class, or class-conscious workingmen. Workers instead choose to fight the employers with strikes but at the ballot box they elect the lackeys of the capitalists to rule them and it is they who make the laws that govern and restrict the ways the workers can fight back. The courts and their legal injunctions have left workers defenceless and at the mercy of its exploiter. When will workers learn from their masters who, not content with their tremendous economic power, unceasingly strive to secure political power in order to entrench their class in its position of supremacy. Shouldn’t we be waking up to the fact that it has not been using its political arm in the struggle and that the ballot which it can wield is strong enough not only to disarm the enemy, but to drive that enemy entirely from the field of battle in the class war.

The trades-union is not and cannot become a political machine, nor can it be used for political purposes. Those such as ourselves who insist upon working class political action not only have no intention to convert the trades-union into a political party, but they would oppose any such attempt on the part of others. The trades-union is an economic organisation with distinct economic functions and as such is a part, a necessary part, but a part only of the labour movement; it has its own sphere of activity, its own programme and is its own master within its economic limitations. It is not by trying to commit socialism to trade-unionism, nor trade unionism to socialism, will the socialist end be accomplished. It is not by seeking to commit trade-union bodies to the principles of socialism. Resolution or commitments of this sort accomplish little good. Nor is it by meddling with the details or the machinery of the trade-unions. A socialist party does not interfere in the internal affairs of the trade unions, nor do socialists seek to have them become distinctively political bodies in themselves. It is best to leave the trade-unions to get on with their distinctive work, as the workers’ defence against the encroachments of capitalism and offer them unqualified support and sympathy to their struggles. It may be true that the trades-union movement has in some respects proved a disappointment, but it may not be repudiated as a failure. The trades-union movement of the present day has enemies within and without, and on all sides, some attacking it openly and others insidiously, but all bent either upon destroying it or reducing it to unresisting impotency.

The trades-union expresses the economic power but it is a socialist party that expresses the political power of the labour movement. It is vital to keep in mind the difference between the two so that neither shall hinder the other. The workers uses both economic and political power in the interest of their class in the struggle against capitalism. The difference between them is that while the trades-union is confined to the trade or occupation, a genuine socialist party embraces the entire working class, and while the union is limited to bettering conditions under the wage system, socialists are organised to conquer the political power , abolish the wage system and make the workers themselves the masters of the Earth. The unions and the socialist party should not only not be in conflict, but act in harmony in every struggle whether it be on the one field or the other, in the strike or at the ballot box. The main thing is that in every struggle the workers shall be united. A trade unionist should no more think of voting a capitalist party than they would turning the union over to the employer and have it run in the interest of management.

Until the workers become a clearly defined socialist movement, standing for and moving toward the unqualified co-operative commonwealth, while at the same time understanding and proclaiming their immediate interests, they will only play into the hands of their exploiters and be led by their betrayers. The Socialist Party takes issue with the left-wing attitude towards elections as being useless and at best unimportant weapons in the class struggle. The Socialist Party uses elections to place before the workers the demand for socialism. It takes advantage of a greater readiness to read political literature, to attend political meetings and take part in political discussions to familiarise workers with the socialist case. Election gives the Socialist Party the opportunity to reach more people when their receptiveness to political ideas are at a higher level and it serves to measure the political shifts and tendencies caused by changes on the economic and political scene.

The Socialist Party is convinced that the present political State, with most of its institutions, must be captured first to then be swepted away. The political State is not and cannot be a true democracy. The Socialist Party is not a parliamentary party. To think that Parliament can be used as the means of permanently improving the conditions of the working class by passing a series of legislative reform acts is to believe in parliamentarism. The Socialist Party believes in entering Parliament only as a means of doing away with what stands in the way of workers controlling the means of production. It urges the workers to use their ballots to capture political power—not to play at politicians and seek political office but to use the power of their votes to uproot the political State to permit the the constructive task of creating the decision making and administration processes of socialist society. Election affords the workers the opportunity to overthrow the political institutions obstructing and hindering their emancipation. The vote is a weapon to be used in the conquest of the State and it is a safer weapon than the rifle.

Parliamentary action is but a part of socialist activity. More important than success in elections is the progress of socialist consciousness in the masses, and success or failure at the polls are only of interest in so far as they permit us to judge the scale and degree of socialist consciousness. Success of a genuine socialist party on the political field and success on the economic field will be multiplied. And vice versa.

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