Political and Industrial Organization -- Both Are Necessary


Political and Industrial Organization -- Both Are Necessary
reprinted from
The De Leonist Socety Bulletin
published by the De Leonist Society of Canada
July-August 1994


The following is the text letter to a recent inquirer, been slightly edited.

You begin your letter by stating: "...so long as the De Leonist Society and the SLP take on the capitalist system politically they are sure losers. So long as there is no revolutionary crisis caused by among other things runaway inflation, the ruling class will continue in power under capitalism or capitalism with a degree of industrial feudalism. It has been written by Marx as well as by De Leon that a revolutionary party must arise in response to a large labor movement engaged in class struggles with the ruling class."

If, by your first sentence, you mean that, if the De Leonist Society were to urge the working class to attempt to overthrow Capitalism through a mere political victory at the ballot box, we/they would be "sure losers," we agree. And it is for this very reason that we propose to the working class a dual program of political and industrial organization. Political organization, in the words of De Leon:

"affords the labor movement the opportunity to ventilate its purposes, its aspirations and its methods, free, over and above board, in the noonday light of the sun, whereas otherwise, its agitation would be consigned to the circumscribed sphere of the rat-hole. The political movement renders the masses accessible to the propaganda of labor; it raises the labor movement above the category of a 'conspiracy': it places the movement in line with the spirit of the age, which, on the one hand, denies the power of 'conspiracy' in matters that not only affect the masses, but in which the masses must themselves be intelligent actors, and, on the other hand, demands the freest of utterance. In short and in fine, the political movement bows to the methods of civilized discussion: it gives a chance to the peaceful solution of the great question at issue."

In sum, political organization and action enables us to educate workers about Socialism and our program for attaining it. Political organization also enables the working class to deliver a peaceful ballot mandate for Socialism. However, with De Leon, we have no illusions about the ability of a ballot victory alone to establish Socialism. As he put it:

"[Without] the might of the industrial organization, in full possession of the industrial establishments of the land, organized integrally, and, consequently, capable of assuming the conduct of the nation's production.... the day of [the workers'] political triumph would be the day of [their] defeat."

As Socialism means social ownership and control of the means of production, distribution and services and the application of these in society's interest, machinery must be organized, before the political victory, to enable the workers to take, hold and operate these industrial means of life once the political mandate is delivered. In our view, this machinery can only be the integral socialist industrial union of the workers in those industries. Apropos your point that "...a revolutionary party must arise in response to a large labor movement...," we believe the important thing is that without the industrial organization to back up the political, by taking, holding and operating industry, there will be no Socialism, a "revolutionary crisis" notwithstanding.

Now, while we are unable to be sure from your letter, it may be that, while agreeing with the foregoing, your point is that we should not take part in capitalist elections until we are sure of victory. Thus your statement that: "Years ago when Eric Hass ran for office [for the bona fide SLP] and was defeated it revealed that Socialism is not wanted." and, further, that "Common sense commands that we not enter a political contest with capitalist candidates till we are certain of victory."

Several comments are in order here. First, due in large measure to the conspiracy of silence against bona fide Socialism engaged in by the capitalist media, only a relatively small number of Americans were aware of the SLP campaign you refer to. Nevertheless, judging by the response received from our efforts, then and now, it is a fair assumption that Socialism was/is "not wanted" by the majority in the U.S. or Canada. However, in our view, this does not constitute a valid argument against fielding socialist candidates, where possible, -- even though we know that, at present, the prospects of victory are slim. There are at least two good reasons for fielding such candidates. First, it underscores our advocacy of a peaceful solution to the social question. Second, it provides an additional forum for the propagation of the socialist program-a forum which, despite the aforesaid conspiracy of silence, provides access to significant numbers of workers. And while granting that the mood of the mass is still conservative, it is reasonable to assume that growing numbers of workers are becoming disenchanted with their lot under Capitalism.

Having pointed out these positive aspects, we must also acknowledge the negative side of the political elections coin. Foremost here are the increasingly prohibitive requirements for fielding candidates in capitalist elections, both in Canada and the U.S. These restrictions have made it exceedingly difficult for small parties, particularly those that challenge the capitalist system, to field election candidates.

However, whole this aspect of the political field has become less accessible to us, it is important to realize that the most valuable aspect of that field-the opportunity to disseminate the socialist message - is still available to us. Accordingly, it behooves us to take full advantage of this right to spread socialist enlightenment -- enlightenment that, in the crucible of a revolutionary crisis, will galvanize the working class into action for the socialist reconstruction of society.

Sincerely yours,

George Shand

Corresponding Secretary


"The worker must one day conquer political supremacy in order to establish the new organization of labor....

"But we do not assert that the attainment of this end requires identical means.

"We know that one has to take into consideration the institutions, mores and traditions of the different countries and we do not deny that there are countries like England and America and if I am familiar with your institutions, Holland, where labor may attain its goal by peaceful means."

-- Karl Marx, September 8, 1872.