Wouldn't the ruling class retaliate?

Copied from THE PEOPLE
November 30, 1991
Page 7

QUESTION PERIOD

Suppose that large segments of the working class become attracted to the SLP program, cast their votes for socialism at the ballot box and begin organizing socialist industrial unions. Wouldn't the ruling class retaliate by having the political state imprison all members of the SLP?

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It is highly probable that, at some point in the building of a socialist industrial union movement and mass political party s of socialism, the capitalist political state would indeed attempt to suppress these organizations. This might well include an attempt to imprison socialists en masse.

The outcome of that attempt at suppression would then depend on the degree of political and economic organization that the socialist movement had managed to build up to that point, and on how the uncommitted segments of the working class responded to what would clearly be an unconstitutional assault by the political state. It might also depend, in part, on how members of the armed forces, whose ranks are drawn from the working class, responded to such an assault on their own brothers and sisters.

As Daniel De Leon put it in As To Politics, if the workers "should find themselves in so weak a degree of integrally industrial organization as they now are in, or...[otherwise] not possessed of the minimum of strength needed for resistance, cohesion and attraction, then the armed force of the capitalist class will mop the earth with them."

But if the workers "should, at such a time, find themselves organized to such a degree of integral industrialism ... that sufficient resistance could be offered to the capitalist, and sufficient attraction could be exercised upon the rest and not yet organized workers -- then the proletariat would mop the earth with the capitalist class. It would be able to do so because its industrial form of organization would not only furnish it the required physical force, but would also enable it forthwith to conduct production."

Given the low degree of classcon-sciousness and almost nonexistent level of organization among the U.S. working class today, one might conclude that it would be a simple matter for the ruling class to crush the socialist movement, and that there is no hope for socialism.

Democratic Facade

However, as the preface to the question implies, the ruling class is unlikely to resort to brute repression of socialists until such time as the socialist movement begins to pose a substantial threat to its rule. In the absence of such a threat, the ruling class would generally prefer to at least maintain the forms of political democracy; moreover, to resort to such repressive acts prematurely risks provoking the very revolutionary spirit among workers that the capitalist class hopes to avoid.

In this regard, the SLP has in its favor the fact that it has always been forthright and aboveboard in advocating a revolutionary change to socialism -- a change that it prefers to accomplish peacefully through the existing democratic process. And that change could come about peacefully and legally if the ruling class honors its own Constitution -- Article V of which (the amendment clause) provides, in effect, for peaceful revolution.

We recognize, of course, that it is highly unlikely that the capitalist class would permit itself to be simply voted out of power -- and that is why the SLP program calls on workers to organize their might, through the socialist industrial unions, to back up the revolutionary right of the people to change the social system. If the ruling class destroys the civilized method of peaceful social change through the ballot, and uses force against the socialist movement, then the socialist movement would have every right and every reason to respond in kind, utilizing its economic might as the sole productive class in society.

But the ruling class cannot suppress the bona fide movement for socialism without repudiating its own Constitution and revolutionary heritage. It cannot do so without violating the inalienable right of the people, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, "to alter or to abolish" any social order that becomes destructive of their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And in going to such lengths to suppress the socialist movement, it risks destroying the legitimacy of its system in the eyes of uncommitted workers, driving more of them into the revolutionary camp.

Furthermore, the strength of the SLP program does not depend solely on the membership of the SLP. Its strength lies primarily in the fact that it is the logical resolution of the class struggle. Its goal, strategy and tactics are intended for the working class as a whole, not for a revolutionary party alone. Neither the program nor the larger movement could be snuffed out by merely imprisoning party members.

By the time that significant segments of the working class had begun organizing socialist industrial unions, considerable educational work among the working class as a whole would have already been accomplished. Party members could be imprisoned -- but the logic of the program could not be, and new workers would continue to be attracted to it.

Success Isn't Guaranteed

Still, as De Leon described, there remains a real danger that the ruling class could move to crush the socialist movement before it had spread its organization and influence sufficiently to survive or rally uncommitted workers to its defense. The imposition of the police state necessary to accomplish this would constitute a severe setback to the hopes for socialism, which would then presumably have to be pursued through the much more arduous course of underground organization and the like.

However, one does not become a socialist because socialism comes with an iron-clad guarantee of success. One becomes a socialist because socialism is necessary to attain freedom, security and well-being for our class; it is necessary if society is to progress rather than revert to barbarism; and, for many members of our class, if not for all humanity, it is necessary for survival.

Accordingly, the important thing to do today is not to speculate about what might happen if the ruling class takes the disastrous step of crushing our democratic rights and liberties altogether. The important thing now is to take full advantage of those rights and liberties while we still have them, to educate as many workers as possible on the SLP program -- to improve the chances of averting disaster.