Regarding Electoral Politics


The People
February 6, 1993
page 2
Letters to the People

Regarding Electoral Politics

Your Oct. 31 front-page editorial made me frown right at the beginning when it implied that, if it could, the Socialist Labor Party would run candidates for political office.

I would like to see it become Socialist Labor Party policy that members cannot run for public office.

The terrible history of so-called socialist and communist parties in foreign countries taking over a capitalist government or implementing a dictatorship "of the proletariat makes present-day Socialist Labor Party policy too risky. Take a look at the Question Period column in the same Oct. 31 issue, where it says that the just-elected Socialist Labor Party candidates would dismantle the government and that the socialist industrial union administration would begin. That is easy uo say. But isn't it more likely that Socialist Labor Party candidates would be elected a long time before the socialist industrial union is ready? Then what? Are those SLP candidates going to say, "Well the working class isn't ready for us yet. Here capitalist, take your government back"? No, I don't think so. What those Socialist Labor Party candidates will do is point to the lesson of the Paris Commune by Karl Marx and later carried out by V.I. Lenin. And before you know it, a Socialist Labor Party government would be oppressing American workers in the name of socialism.

I don't want that to happen. That's why the Socialist Labor Party should forbid its members to run as candidates.

Thomas G. Alpine

Grand Rapids, Mich.


Editor's Reply: There are fundamental differences between the programs of the "so-called socialist and communist parties" that have controlled the states of various countries, and the program of the Socialist Labor Party. The SLP upholds the Marxist conception of socialism, of a classless society based on "associations of free and equal producers." And it upholds Daniel De Leon's refinement of that concept, the socialist industrial union program, maintaining that revolutionary unions must play the central role in both the overthrow of capitalism and in supplanting the capitalist social structure itself.

In contrast, the Leninist and Social-Democratic parties, rightly characterized by our reader as "so-called socialist" outfits, have advocated false conceptions of "socialism" that preserve class rule. Corrupted by backward material conditions wholly unripe for socialism, the Bolshevik Party and its kin upheld a conception of "socialism" centered around the political rule of an elite, "vanguard" party-which paved the way for bureaucratic state class rule. Corrupted by the capitalist class, the Social-Democratic parties rejected Marxism in favor of reformism -leaving the capitalist class firmly in control of the means of production.

Both conceptions of "socialism" place central emphasis on the role of the party and are predicated on maintaining the state; they reject the essence of socialism -- i.e., establishing social ownership, and collective, democratic workers' control, of the means of production and distribution. But the SLP's SIU program aims squarely at that goal and rightly places emphasis on the economic organization of labor, with the political party playing an important secondary role. Accordingly, the failings of the Leninists and Social-Democrats do not in the least demonstrate that it would be "risky" for genuine Socialists to run for office on the basis of the SIU program.

It is possible that individual Socialists may be elected to office before the SIUs were ready to fulfill their revolutionary mission. But it is not "likely" that Socialists, campaigning for the SIU program explicitly, could win the majority of seats in Congress without a majority of the working class being organized into SIUs and ready to back up the socialist ballot. If that somehow did occur, Socialists in office would use all the resources at their disposal to raise classconsciousness and speed the organization of SIUs.

As noted in the Question Period column, these Socialists probably would not belong to the SLP, but to a successor party formed by the SIUs, a party accountable to that economic organization. The SIUs would "compel" Socialist officeholders "to walk straight" (see De Leon editorial, this issue), providing the best insurance against any attempts to usurp power.

In any event, the capitalist political state must be dismantled somehow. In keeping with socialism's civilized principles, the SLP proposes that workers attempt to do so peacefully, using the existing democratic process, and to use force only if that effort is met with force. Our reader does not present any alternative method for accomplishing the task.

Finally, we do not know which "lesson of the Paris Commune" our reader is referring to, but chief among those lessons are the need "to abolish all the old machinery of oppression" and the principle that the representatives in a workers' government are the "responsible and at all times revocable agents" of those who elected them. We are aware of no "lesson" that could justify the oppression of workers.