Socialism on Trial?

This is the text of a leaflet published in 1987
by the De Leonist Society of Canada

"SOCIALISM ON TRIAL" (?)

(Reprinted from The De Leonist Society Bulletin)

"At the same time, and quite apart from the general servitude involved in the wages system, the working class ought not to exaggerate to themselves the ultimate working of these everyday struggles. They ought not to forget that they are fighting with the effects, but not with the causes of those effects; that they are retarding the downward movement, but not changing its direction; that they are applying palliatives, not curing the malady."

-- Karl Marx

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The instant a socialist political party or propaganda organization advocates working class unification for the purpose of winning "improvements" within moribund Capitalism it thereby puts the socialist goal on hold, helps the goal remain "ultimate," and so doing ceases to be a revolutionary organization. Henceforth tho the transgressor proclaim its "Socialism" to heaven and earth it can not escape from the slough of contradiction and inconsistency into which its defection has cast it. Just look at the spectacle the post-Petersen Socialist Labor Party continues to make of itself!

The address, "Socialism on Trial" (serialized in the December 20, 1986 and January 3, 1987 issues of the SLP's organ, The People) is built upon the premise that the party's sweeping policy changes subsequent to the Peter-sen era did not compromise its former revolutionary stance, did not transform the party into a revisionist, reform organization. The premise is false. Whereas the revolutionary SLP gave priority to the socialist goal, the revisionists shoved the goal to the back of the stage and pulled "something now" to the front. Whereas the bona fide SLP eschewed reform as "too little, too late," its counterfeit chose to collaborate and otherwise identify with reform organizations thereby not merely gave credence to reform but willy-nilly added reform to its platform.

Brash is "Socialism on Trial" to claim: "The Socialist Labor Party [of today] is unique....Every other party, group or movement - regardless of what they may profess their 'ultimate aim' to be -- are fighting the effects of the capitalist system....and all too often they are doing it in the name of socialism or Marxism." Brash is it to thus challenge the party's revisionist position reaffirmed in The People's August 16, 1986 article, "Socialist Industrial Unionism," to wit: "...a new kind of union is needed - a socialist industrial union. ... the immediate concern of such a union movement would be to organize the strongest possible resistance to the capitalists' assault on workers' wages and conditions..."

And reckless is "Socialism on Trial" to observe: "There are many reform groups and organizations in the field today....But reform-minded 'socialist1 parties and groups pose a special problem for the revolutionary movement.... they do not address the issue of the class struggle in a direct and unequivocal manner. As a result, they foster confusion and contribute to the demoralization of the working class." Reckless of it to thus don the mantle of revolution ("the SLP against the field") and thereby attack the principle of revisionism (the SLP in league with the field) that is the avowed trademark of its sponsor manifest in the latter's guidelines for "participation and/or intervention" by the membership and sections "in the activities of the various working class [?] organizations that are issue oriented" -- in "the wide spectrum of activities ranging from actually!!] joining in parades, demonstrations and picket lines to leafleting or rendering financial assistance"; as well as for "participation in the planning and the execution of plans for activities by these organizations, joining their ranks and helping in whatever way we can in their activities."

Utterly incautious, moreover, is "Socialism on Trial" to make the point that "reform-minded 'socialist1 parties and groups....have given up on the working class. They have no confidence in the working class's intelligence and its capacity for self-emancipation." No stratagem, least of all the stratagem of whitewash, can ever rid the revisionist party of the horrid spectre of its own "giving up," of its own lack of confidence in its class; the thing shows up everywhere today just as it did in the following bizarre extract from a convention banquet address published in the Weekly People of June 25, 1977:

"The SLP has one enormous strength in the political field and that lies squarely on the fact that we have a program for the revolutionary change mandated by the flow of history - socialist industrial unionism. And from this strength comes one immediate advantage - especially at a time in our history when workers seem to be questioning the premises underlying the labor movement. That is that the structural plan of the socialist industrial union-even if taken strictly from the point of view of the immediate day-to-day struggles of the workers with the capitalist class - is so far superior to the present-day craft union organization that it is the one idea I believe we can quickly get across to the worker who takes a good look at his or her situation. .. .The difficulty comes when the logical and revolutionary conclusion of an SIU movement is drawn. What the SLP advocates as the new form of industrial government is so different from anything that the average worker has ever heard of that we are bound to experience great difficulty in getting this most important part of our program across to our class...."

Here then is the "socialist," the "Marxist," the "De Leonist"-the fraudulent SLP. Purporting to be the one political voice not "fighting the effects of the capitalist system," it nevertheless calls upon workers to "organize the strongest possible resistance to the capitalists' assault on workers' wages and working conditions." Censuring "reform-minded 'socialist' parties and groups" for their failure to address the class struggle issue "in a direct and unequivocal manner," it exhibits its own directness and forthrightness by "actually joining" issue oriented organizations and by actually (l) "helping in whatever way we can in their activities" -- in short, by actually(I) merging its own identity in the confusing and demoralizing sea of reform. Finally: Pointing the finger at "reform-minded "socialists'" for their lack of confidence "in the working class's intelligence," it reveals its own opinion of that intelligence when it presumes workers are "bound" to have "great difficulty" absorbing the concept of socialist industrial government; and when, taking the reformers to task for their lack of confidence "in the working class's capacity for self-emancipation," it exudes its own confidence in this latent revolutionary capacity by touting classwide organization for palliation of wage servitude.

It is not Socialism that is on trial!

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"Give up a single principle or a single particle of a principle, whether for votes or for ease, and you are gone, irretrievably gone."

-- Daniel De Leon

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The address, "Socialism on Trial," is of course not the only revisionist Socialist Labor Party statement that flatly and unblushingly contradicts the party's post-Petersen compromise; countless other examples could be cited of the revisionists' schizoid performance. However, in contrast to the party's run-of-the-mill "ultimate" consideration of Socialism, the address waxes eloquent on the urgency of the goal and the importance of principle. As to the goal:

"What serious person today can deny that the times are ripe for a fundamental social change? Not only are our nation and the world riddled with contradictions and unmistakable signs of social decay and anarchy, in addition, we are literally hovering on the brink of destruction, on the very edge of a nuclear explosion that will put an instant end to all our hopes, to all our dreams and aspirations for peace, for security and for affluence.

"What an unspeakable tragedy it would be if we failed to grasp what is easily within our reach. But we are in a headlong race with time, and time is rapidly running out on us. What's worse, the only force in society capable of making the necessary change from capitalism to socialism lies dormant, unaware of its great historic mission, unconscious of its own power and subject to all the wiles and trickery of a ruling class that is bent on preserving its own moribund social system."

In such eloquent terms does "Socialism on Trial" .presume to speak for the compromised party! But if "the times are ripe for a fundamental social change"; if "we are literally hovering on the brink of destruction"; if the goal "is easily within our [class's] reach"; if "time is rapidly running out on us"; and "what's worse," if "the only force in society capable of making the necessary change from capitalism to socialism lies dormant, unaware of its great historic mission, unconscious of its own power"; if all this is true (and who will deny it?) then how unspeakably culpable is the SLP of revisionist persuasion to unman the call for revolution with praise and support of the workers' non-revolutionary struggles!

Here, then, is a paradox of hideous proportions; the revolutionary spirit that boldly asserts itself in the above passages is at war with the revisionist organization to which it owes organizational loyalty! But let us look farther.

As to principle: The revisionist elements that in the '70s finally wrecked the bona fide Socialist Labor parties of the U.S.A. and Canada (not to mention the SLP of Australia) could of course not have succeeded had the majority of the general membership of these organizations been firmly grounded on revolutionary principles. As it was, due to the dearth of firm grounding the most heinous tactics, dressed in multi-colored rags, were able to carry the day. Not the least of such tactics was slander of former SLP of America national secretary Arnold Petersen, following his death-the spreading of the vicious allegation that his conduct of national affairs had been vitiated by "dogmatism" and "sectarianism" -- slander of a comrade who had for more than half a century selflessly devoted his great gifts to the promotion of De Leonism! and whose alleged dogmatism and sectarianism had been indispensable in keeping the jackals of revisionism at bay!

That being the way of things, the unbelievable now occurs: the SLP publishes "Socialism on Trial" -- an address which restores Petersen to grace as a man of highest principle and, so doing, effectively nails the SLP revisionist code as the lowest! With an eye on SLP "participation and/or intervention," -- its policy guidelines for "actually joining" issue-oriented organizations and "helping in whatever way we can in their activities" -- with an eye on this mark of the fraudulent Marxist-De Leonist, consider the approval with which "Socialism on Trial" quotes Peter-sen's castigation of the breed:

"Our task, then, is to counter error wherever we find it, whether error borne of ignorance or nurtured by design. We must be particularly vigilant with regard to reform groups with socialist pretensions ....I think Arnold Petersen summed it up well when he wrote:

''Pressed hard, the fellow who pretends to be a Marxist, though he be pleading for reforms, will acknowledge that, true enough, the "immediate demands" cannot be realized under capitalism - or if they can be realized, a capitalist party can secure them, and if need be will grant them. But, says our reformer, the workers think they can be secured, and that they are worth striving for, and so we must go along with them-that is, "kid them along." The function of a revolutionary party is not to "kid along" the workers. Its function is to teach the workers, to instruct them in revolutionary principles, and in the tactics and organization needed to effect the revolution. A party which fails in these respects is simply no revolutionary party; it is a reform outfit. And its reformism is the more accentuated the louder the reformer shrieks "revolutionary" slogans and phrases.

11 To trifle with the working class, to impose upon it, to deceive it, is a crime of the first magnitude. ..."

Does not the shoe fit?

It is not Socialism that is on trial-Socialism has never been tried! Nor will it be tried unless the working class perceives that it MUST try it! -- that is, unless the workers embrace the ONE IMMEDIATE CONCERN that must override all other "immediate concerns," the ONE IMMEDIATE DEMAND that must outrank all other "immediate demands" -- a demand that brooks no bargaining or contracting with the employers of wage labor, a political and economic -7- demand that a nationwide, integrally-organized Socialist Industrial Union of the useful producers is capable of both enforcing and effecting, to wit-dethronement of economic and political class rule, institution of industrial representation and administration in a Socialist Industrial Commonwealth!

The De Leonist societies of the U.S. and Canada were founded by former members of their parent organizations, the bona fide Socialist Labor parties of the U.S. and Canada respectively - by SLP men and women who resisted the revisionist disease that renewed its attack on the party in the "70s, by De Leonists who, finding themselves at last outnumbered and outvoted by the duped and the dupers, did the honorable thing and resigned from what could henceforth be nothing but "freak-fraud" organizations. De Leonists do not ingratiate themselves with workers or "kid" them! they refuse to collaborate with reformers! they expose as pernicious pap the revisionist "principle" that organization for amelioration of conditions is compatible with organization for Socialism, insisting with De Leon that "the program of revolution is revolution"!

(De Leonist Society Bulletin, March & April, 1987)

De Leonist Society of Canada

De Leonist Society of U.S.A.