Does the SLP expect to educate all of the working class?


Does the SLP expect to educate all of the working class?

From The People, December 26, 1992, page 6 QUESTION PERIOD

What the SLP expects to do is to educate a requisite minority It expects to educate socialist educators.

This does not mean that the SLP ignores or underestimates the importance of educating large masses of workers in socialist principles. On the contrary, the SLP places great emphasis on the need for most workers to become class-conscious if socialism is to be established. But experience shows that large masses of workers will become receptive to socialist education only when there is social ferment, which is to say, in a period of social or revolutionary crisis.

It is in such a crisis that workers en masse will begin to rid themselves of illusions. They will rapidly become hungry for the information they previously refused even to listen to or consider. Not only will they be more receptive; their ability to sift and evaluate ideas will ripen rapidly in the hothouse of revolutionary change. It is during such a period, to paraphrase Thomas Paine, that the work of a generation may be done in a few days or a few weeks.

But this does not mean that the educational work done by Socialists today is unimportant. Far from it! For it is during the period of a revolutionary crisis that the existence of a sufficiently large and influential minority of trained, resolute, Socialist educators will be crucial. As Daniel De Leon put it:

"We know full well the race or class that is not virile enough to strike an intelligent blow for itself is not fit for emancipation. If emancipated by others, it will need constant propping, or will collapse like a dish-clout. While that is true, this other is true also: In all revolutionary movements, as in the storming of fortresses, the thing depends upon the head of the column-upon that minority that is so intense in its convictions, so soundly based on its principles, so determined in its action, that it carries the masses with it, storms the breastworks and captures the fort. Such a head must our socialist organization be to the whole column of the American proletariat."

Former SLP national secretary Arnold Petersen once observed that the deterioration of capitalism itself carries out some of the necessary "educating":

"Education is certainly essential and absolutely necessary, but 'education' embraces more than the direct teaching of socialist principles to the individual. Since the end of World War II, the workers...have been 'educated' in a way that socialist agitation could not have accomplished in that period of time. The economic forces at work in society are bringing about conditions that impel the mass of the people to think and to realize that capitalism is bankrupt and unable to function any longer to ensure peace and to guarantee a civilized existence, not to mention survival, for humanity. And no program other than socialism as advocated by the Socialist Labor Party gives rational answers and a workable solution for the problems besetting us. This process of awakening to the facts of life is necessarily gradual, and seemingly imperceptible, but it is cumulative and eventually crystallizes to the point of impelling action.

"The Socialist Labor Party's educational activities work jointly with the economic forces at work, and the party stands as the rallying point, and as the guide, pointing the way, and supplying the program that will ensure the success of the revolution which terminates capitalism and establishes socialism. Our task, then, is to agitate unceasingly, and to educate as many intelligent workers as possible. Essential to success is the presence of at least a substantial minority that thoroughly understands what to do and how to do it."

There is one other aspect to this question. The role of the SLP, as such, will culminate in the organization of socialist industrial unions (SIUs), i.e., in the indispensable revolutionary economic organization of labor that must play the primary role in the establishment of socialism. These would, of necessity, be mass organizations, most likely encompassing a larger group of workers than would belong to the SLP itself.

While we cannot anticipate every possible scenario of how a revolutionary movement might grow and develop, it has long been the SLP's expectation that the newly formed SIUs would then set on foot a broader, mass political organization of labor, accountable to the unions, that the SLP would merge into.

This mass party of labor would continue the SLP's mission-of educating more workers, recruiting them into the SIUs, and providing guidance to the movement. It would also carry out the final political act, when the vast majority of workers are organized into SIUs and stand ready to democratically administer the economy in the social interest. Assuming that a fair electoral contest could still be conducted, it would be voted into office. The party would then take control of the present government-just long enough to shut it down, declare the means of production to be the property of society, and transfer governmental authority to the SIUs, its councils and all-industry congress, the new self-government of producers.