Reply to letter from Ann Braunstein


De Leonist Society of Canada
Reply to the April 23, 1994 letter by Ann Braunstein
May-June 1995

Dear Comrade Braunstein:

Replying now to the arguments you raised in opposition to our thesis, Democracy -- Political and Industrial.

First it should be noted for the record that in objecting to our proposed blend of political and industrial democracy (i.e., that socialist democracy should henceforth be based not only on industrial but also on geographic constituencies),neither you nor Comrade Banks nor Comrade Emanuel nor Comrade Teichert chose to confront the central contradiction which we drew to your attention in the opening page of our thesis, to wit:

"Does the difficulty not now become apparent? 'The people' will enjoy free speech under Socialism; 'the people1 will have 'a democratic mastery of their lives'; 'the people' will enjoy unfettered freedom 'to question, to criticize and to suggest' -- in short, while 'the people' will have all this, will they also have a vote? No, not according to the above delineation! While 'the people' will at last have 'a democratic mastery of their lives,' the said mastery does not accord them the right to vote! Not the people as a whole but only that segment of them actively engaged in production will have both voice and vote!"

In short, it seems evident to us that rather than deal with that difficulty you and the other responders have sought to rationalize the problem out of existence by the novel expedient of attempting to squeeze the entire adult population into the confines of the industrial constituencies!

However, upon due reflection it should become obvious to you (and to the other comrades) that even apart from its forbidding physical aspect, such exercise must needs be incurably flawed from the start. Merely consider your second and third paragraphs as they relate to one another:

"You state that the Socialist Industrial Union Congress would be qualified to deal only with matters related to manufacture and distribution of products and not qualified to deal with social issues. I disagree.

"The SIU Congress would have representatives from every segment of society: every branch of manufacture, education, medicine, the many sciences, the environment, natural resources, recreation, the different arts, etc., etc. Is there any one of these 'industries' that does not involve 'social issues'?"

First as regards your question, "Is there any one of these'industries' that does not involve 'social issues'?" If you will re-read our thesis you will see that we had already covered that point. Quoting from its page '2, as follows:

"Today, however, the 'legislative work' that would confront a Socialist Industrial Union Congress is 'easy' and 'simple1 no longer; on the contrary, it has become infinitely complex!.... now as we near the end of the century it is obvious that Socialism must inherit a host of grave social problems generated and/ or exacerbated by moribund Capitalism; now a Socialist Administration would have to deal not only with questions directly related to production but also with questions indirectly related to it, many of which require value judgements not anent production per se." (And here we suggested 8 examples of such!)

But now as to what we see as an "incurable flaw" in your position. Disagreeing with us that the SIU Congress would not be qualified to deal with social issues, you claim the Congress would be so qualified because it "would have representatives from every segment of society: every branch of manufacture, education, medicine, the many sciences, the environment, natural resources, recreation, the different arts, etc., etc." But we can think of two very important and very large "segments of society" that do NOT fit into the industrial union framework, segments that appear to defy efforts to so fit them - segments of society that are therefore disfranchised! We refer to retirees for one, housewives for another, and will take up this matter in some detail before closing.

Proceeding now to deal with the remainder of your points seriatim:

(1) Question: "And it is definitely not 'elitist' to believe that those who specialize in a particular 'industry,'...would indeed be qualified to address and advise.the [SIU] Congress on matters that involve their 'industry.'

Comment: At no time did we say it was! In fact we are quite certain that representatives of 'particular industries' will constantly be called on to 'address and advise' both the SIU Congress (on matters related to their industries) as well as the proposed political legislative assembly (on matters of social policy). What we took exception to was what we regard as the Weekly People's unfortunate assertion that teachers could "address and advise" on social policy generally "with far more understanding and intelligence than a political party," (Our emphasis.) Taking "political party" (or political representatives) to mean input from society-at-large, we think that while society should listen to teachers (or any other segment of workers) it is crucial to democracy that society should have the last word on social policy which, in the case of the "education industry," means what is to be taught! And while we would not argue that society in general could be expected to be as well versed in specific subjects as are the teachers of those subjects, we nevertheless believe that society has the "understanding and intelligence," as well as the duty, to itself determine broad educational curricula under which it might wish its offspring to be nurtured. What we visualize here are two branches of government workins together, the oolitical determining social policy and the industrial (SIU) executing that policy. We might add here that, far from being deprived of democracy, active workers would be doubly blessed in that they would have their voice and vote on the industrial field (on matters directly related to their industries), also on the political field (on questions of social policy).

Finally under this head, by way of clinching our point, we would again quote the passage from Thomas Jefferson that appeared in the May-June, "94 issue of the De Leonist Society Bulletin.

"I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves, and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise that control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion."

(2) Question: " argue that we must have a separate political organization once again[sic!] based on geographic constituencies..." (Our emphasis.)

Comment: We do not argue for a re-institution of geographic constituencies but for their retention!

(3) Question: "That [i.e., geographic constituencies] to me, is the very antithesis of the integrated Republic of Labor."

Comment: We are puzzled why you project the geographic and industrial constituencies as being in opposition to one another. We see each form performing a necessary function in socialist democracy -- the one industrial, the other political -- two branches of government working in close and harmonious relation.

(4) Question: "You do not tell us why the workers must carry on their discussion and evaluations while 'on the job...1 (i.e., while in the workplace.)

Comment: But of course it is not WE but THE SLP PROGRAM that did the telling! For instance:

* See again our analysis of the Weekly People's October 26, 1963 Question Period column (page 4 of our thesis). Quoting as follows:

"A Socialist Industrial Union government ... opens all the avenues of information and creates meaningful forums for the discussion of social as well as economic problems.' (Our emphasis.)

"Comment: Where are the forums on social problems to be opened up? and Who will be involved in their discussion? Answer -- In every school, factory, mine, ship, distribution facility, etc., questions of public interest...may be discussed by the rank and file in shop councils....'

* Quotingrfrom the leaflet, SOCIALISM THE WORLD OF TOMORROW:

"Possessed of a voice and vote where they work [leaflet's emphasis], all who perform socially useful tasks will democratically elect from their ranks the representatives who are to administer the economy on all levels from the local to the national ... .Moreover , in their various economic units (shops, schools, hospitals, etc.) they will regularly and frequently discuss the problems of their respective industries as well as those of society in general, and thereby help to formulate the nation's programs."

* Quoting from the chart depicting Socialist Industrial Union Representation: "YOU CAST YOUR BALLOT IN YOUR SHOP FOR ... PLANT COUNCIL" etc.

But what of social issues? Since neither the chart nor SLP literature makes other provision, the shop is presumably the place where the rank and file workers would not only "discuss and evaluate" social issues but the place where they would also "cast their ballots" for resolution of these issues!

(5) Question: "You do not tell us...why these very same workers would 'have the time and be in the necessary relaxed frame of mind to do justice to the aforementioned social questions' in a political geographic setting, but not in their industrial unions which would be in place from tne start. (And, incidentally, many of the matters you list as 'issues,' are issues in our present class-divided society, and would not be issues at all in a sane Socialist society.)"

Comment: We did attempt to tell you! Quoting from page 4 of our Position Paper:

"The SIU's job will be to conduct production to the end that an abundance is produced with a minimum of labor - to not only ascertain, in De Leon's words, 'the wealth needed, the wealth producible and the work required,' but also to perform that work. How can workers reasonably be expected to do this while simultaneously spending the great amount of time that will be required to review, discuss, debate, formulate and implement solutions for the many social problems not directly related to production? Just ask yourselves if, when at work, you have, or would have had, the time or even the inclination to attempt this manifold task. No comrades, it is in their leisure hours, after workers have performed their industrial chores, that they will have the time and be in the necessary relaxed frame of mind to do justice to the aforementioned social questions."

We stick to our position that such combination of demands upon workers' attention would prove, to put it mildly, highly impractical! If no other "setting" than the industrial constituency had been conceived for resolution of social issues, then of course that would be that. But this is not the case. The geographic constituency was conceived long, long ago, is here now, and stripped of class content appears to us the one practical answer to the problem. You have yet to tell us why it cannot serve the needs of socialist democracy. Incidentally, as to your suggestion that the SIU would not be overburdened with social issues because "many" of those extant would disappear under Socialism: while over varying periods of time many would undoubtedly do so, you appear to discount the probability that from time to time new issues would arise.

(6) Question: "It is your assumption that only those engaged in active production would have a voice and vote in the industrial unions."

Comment: Correction! This is no assumption on our part but (as detailed on page 3 of this letter) is a condition that is explicit in the SLP program!

(7) Question: "Since in all DeLeonist literature it has been stated that the employed and unemployed [your emphasis] would be integrated into the industrial unions..."

Comment: In our view the references in SLP literature to the fact that the SIU will include both the "employed and unemployed" refer to the SIU's formative period under Capitalism when all active (and potentially active) workers will be included in its ranks. In addition, where the context becomes a socialist society we have yet to discover where the literature states there will be unemployed workers to integrate.

(8) Question: " it not conceivable that every individual would remain a lifetime member of his or her union?"

Comment: Certainly it is conceivable, but to what end in the case of retirees except recognition of services rendered to society? This aspect of the matter is closely related to the question of practicality previously touched on. Consider for example:

* We believe your implication that retirees might well continue to participate in workplace forums is based upon the unwarranted assumption that retirees in general would desire to do so.

* It is also reasonable to assume that, with few exceptions, retired workers would tend to lose touch with the productive processes in their former industries and would therefore no longer qualify for voice and vote on day-to-day industrial matters.

* Retirees are on average living longer than before thus comprise a larger segment of society. Not only that, but Socialism holds the promise of early voluntary retirement thus a likelihood of a still wider gap between the work force (the active producers) and the rest of society. The logistics of seating everyone concerned (work force plus retirees) at forums within the workplace does not appear to have a practical solution.

* The proposition that retirees should participate in the forums of their former workplaces has in our opinion still another unrealistic side. It is based on the assumption that, by and large, retirees will continue to live in the same locality, or even in the same region, as before.

* In addition to retirees there is yet another large segment of adult society that stands outside social production, and this is perhaps the most important but least acknowledged of all. We speak of housewives! In what forums are they to gather to exercise voice and vote?

(9) Question: "However, it is not our place now to set down the specifics..."

Comment: We see no reason to take issue with the specifics of Socialist Industrial Union organization as detailed by De Leon in his March 23, 1910 editorial entitled Industrialism. (See pamphlet INDUSTRIAL UNIONISM-Selected Editorials.) What we take issue with is an apparently recent misconception on the part of our U.S. comrades that society-at-large can be compressed into the perimeter of the Socialist Industrial Union! For as De Leonists we hold that it is not only our "place" but our duty to question whenever we believe a question is necessary.


Let us repeat the essence of what we conveyed in our thesis, Democracy -- Political and Industrial:

With hindsight it has become obvious to us that the greatest obstacle to acceptance of political democracy (the geographic constituency) as a companion of industrial democracy (the industrial constituency) has been and is an erroneous and persistent habit of thought, namely, that class rule and political democracy are two sides of the same coin! De Leon's substitution of the industrial constituency for the geographic constituency for the dual purpose of dislodging the capitalist class and administering socialist production was unquestionably a giant step forward. However, a near century of technological change since De Leon's contribution casts severe doubts on the viability or trie "setting" for democratic forums for discussion and resolution of social issues. Accordingly, we reaffirm our broad position as expressed in the conclusion to our letter to Comrade Banks, to wit, that the socialist ballot should "make it clip and clear that what the nation would be asked to agree to would NOT! be devolution of its powers upon an industrial organization but delegation of industrial executive authority to an industrial organization responsible to the people through a political legislative assembly!"