Socialist Industrial Unionism: For Workers' Emancipation


Socialist Industrial Unionism: For Workers' Emancipation

from The People October 6, 1990 Page 8

Website editor's comment: In the following article, the use of the word 'wages' in the sentence 'Representatives would receive wages no greater than those of the workers they represent' is very irregular for an SLP article. -- M.L.


The severe and widespread economic I and social problems facing working people today demand a revolutionary solution. For those problems are rooted in the very nature of capitalist society and cannot be solved without uprooting capitalism. Toward that end, the Socialist Labor Party advances its program of socialist industrial unionism.

Socialist industrial unionism provides a way for workers to organize their potential power as a class so that they can replace the capitalist system with a democratic classless society, or socialism. And, once socialism is established, socialist industrial unionism can provide the basis for governing the new society and carrying on the production and distribution of goods and services in a stable and democratic manner.

The capitalist class rules and controls our society today through two vehicles: through its ownership and control of the industries and economy, and, by virtue of that economic power, through its control of the present government, or political state. Accordingly, the socialist industrial union program calls for workers to organize as a class on both the political and economic fields.

On the political field, a revolutionary party of labor is needed for the purpose of challenging, capturing and dismantling the capitalist political state. Such a party is also needed to convince the working-class majority of the need for socialism and to recruit the forces for carrying out the revolution.


Of extreme importance is the organization of the potential economic power that workers have as the sole productive class in society. Political organization alone is not sufficient for the success of the socialist revolution. For history has demonstrated that true social ownership and democratic worker control of the industries cannot be established through the political state. An entirely new form of government -- a workers' self-government -- is needed.

Moreover, a political "victory" by itself would be short-lived. It would leave untouched the real seat of capitalist power, ownership and control of industry. With the means of producing the goods and services necessary for life still in capitalist hands, the capitalist class could stop production or engage in other forms of economic warfare to bring the would-be revolution down to defeat.

Accordingly, the economic organization of labor and struggle on the industrial field are essential for the success of the working-class movement. That economic organization is the socialist industrial on movement. Its purpose is to organize workers to take, hold and operate the industries of the land under their own democratic authority, thereby removing the capitalist class from the seat of its economic power and effecting the change to socialism.

Workers already operate all those industries. Without the collective labor of the working class, no goods and services would be produced, and the economy would grind to a halt. But workers aren't organized as a class to operate the economy in their own interests. Instead, production is carried on now under the control-and for the benefit-of the capitalist class.

Socialist Industrial Unionism

Socialist industrial unions (SIUs) would provide workers with the means of organizing their potential economic power in their own behalf. The socialist industrial union movement would seek to organize all workers employed and unemployed, skilled and unskilled in all industries into an integrated network of SIUs.

In structure, the SIUs would follow the lines of industry itself. All workers in a given industry would be organized into one industrywide union. The basic subdivisions of the union would be by plant and shop or department, with such other subdivisions at local or regional levels as workers determined were needed for effective organization in their industry. Workers in each shop would elect representatives to a plant council which would be responsible for administering the affairs of the union in that plant. Workers would also elect representatives to local and national administrative councils in their industrywide union and to a national congress of socialist industrial unions that would unite all the various industrywide unions.

All representatives, at whatever level, would be directly responsible to, and under the control of, the rank and file who elected them and subject to recall whenever the majority of their constituents decided recall was necessary. Representatives would receive wages no greater than those of the workers they represent.

Combined with the classconsciousness and the socialist understanding which alone can set on foot and sustain the SIU movement, this democratic structure would serve as a safeguard against the development of a union bureaucracy with interests separate from those of the rank and file.


Socialist industrial unions would become the basis of government in a socialist society. The network of plant councils, local and national industrial councils, and the all-industry congress would enable the useful producers in a socialist society to plan, coordinate and carry on production. As rank-and-file workers and their representatives directly assumed the functions of government, economic democracy would become a reality.

Before the revolution, the SIUs would not only organize workers for that final struggle but also use the full weight of their organized economic might in the day-to-day struggles over wages and working conditions. In these struggles, the demands of any one group of workers would be backed by the strength of all.

The SIUs would thus be able to use their full strength to wrest every possible concession and win every possible victory from the capitalist owners of industry. While waging the class struggle on this day-to-day basis, the SIUs would constantly strive to organize workers on a wider and more effective basis, preparing the way for the industrially organized working class to take over the administration of society.