Reply to letter from John Emanuel

From The De Leonist Review, July-August 1995
The De Leonist Society of Canada
Reply to Letter from John Emanuel

Dear Comrade Emanuel:

Replying to the arguments you raised in objection to our thesis, Democracy -- Political and Industrial: In paragraph 2:

(a) You state: "In the 20th century American political democracy became the...political hull within which to work out 'the economic emancipation of labor."* In our conception it still is, the difference being that we no longer advocate the "casting off" of this "political hull" but, rather, its retention (reformed as required) to enable society-as-a-whole to determine social policy.

(b) You state: "This class union [SIU] will include the employed and unemployed, skilled and unskilled and the retirees." But as we pointed out in our reply to Comrade Braunstein under this head: "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." What is more, where in De Leonist literature is it proposed that the SIU will include retirees in its councils? We are not aware that this was intended. Nor do we believe it to be logical, as we explain in our reply to Comrade Braunstein (page 4, question 8).

In paragraph 3:

(a) You state: "With the victory at the ballot box, the working class not the 'work force alone1, will take physical possession of the land and all other means of Social Production, through their Socialist Industrial Union." But in fact, it IS "the work force alone" that takes "physical possession of the land and...means of social production," albeit in the name of the working class or of society. For what does the SIU consist of but "the work force?" For example, quoting from "SOCIALISM: Questions most frequently asked and their Answers," No. 29:

"How can the Socialist Industrial Union "lock out* the capitalist class?...

"The Socialist Industrial Union, in backing up the Socialist ballot, will 'take possession' by locking out the capitalist class and their reactionary agents...By the act of taking possession and locking out the capitalist class, the workers would assert their complete control over the means of life-and, in an orderly, civilized manner, institute the Industrial Republic of Labor."

Also, from the Declaration of Fundamental Principles, Socialist Labor Party of America:

"We further call upon the wage workers of America to organize into integral Socialist Industrial Unions to enforce the fiat of their ballot, and to fulfill the needs and purposes of the Socialist Industrial Union Government."

Also, from the leaflet Socialist Labor Party: Position & Program:

"2. Industrial Action -- We workers must be ready to back up the Socialist ballot with an irresistible, non-violent force. The place to muster this force is in the industries. The way to muster it is by organizing revolutionary industrial unions. It is through our Socialist Industrial Unions that we will take hold of the economy and oust the outvoted capitalist class. It is with their united economic power that we will quell any antidemocratic violence. And it is these same unions that will be the framework of our Socialist Industrial Government."

(b) You state: "At that point the working class sheds its class character and it becomes the working people. The people then elect their industrial government to plan production and distribution for the benefit of all the people." We would agree that with the elimination of class distinction "the working class sheds its class character and it [along with the dispossessed capitalist class and its hangers on] becomes the working people." We also agree that "with labor emancipated" (your par. 4) all capable adult members of society would become useful producers. However, they will not all be in industry at the same time, nor will they all be involved in social production. Consequently, neither will they all be in the SIU. Elsewhere we have identified two large segments of society which, in our view, fall into this category, viz., retirees and housewives. And as we noted in our thesis: "The distinction between the people actively engaged in production at any given time, and the people as a whole, will not go away; on the contrary, as time goes by, advancing technology appears to be widening the gap." (Incidentally, in advocating that "the working class not the 'work force alone1" take "physical possession," you seem to have overlooked the matter of industrial floor space. On our part, by no stretch of the imagination can we stretch the nation's aggregate workplaces far and wide enough to contain the whole working class at any one time!)

Thus, as our program is presently constituted, "the people" will not "elect their industrial government to plan production and distribution for the benefit of all the people." Rather, as we have documented, it is the active work force that will elect the industrial government for the purpose of settling both industrial and social questions. A very large and apparently growing portion of the adult population is thereby disfranchised.

In paragraph 4:

(a) You state: "Any statements made in the past in attempts to add to this framework of Socialist society were at best purely speculative. The [read Any] addition will be made by emancipated labor."

As De Leonists we are of course chiefly concerned with working class emancipation rather than with subsequent reforms that socialist society will undoubtedly undertake. At the same time we are appalled by the attitude that these sentences reflect. It is the same attitude we find in the other replies to our thesis, namely: "Stop dreaming!"; in other words don't question! But that is not our attitude! We say that if Marx, Engels and De Leon had not questioned, there would be no credible program for working-class emancipation, and we say further that without ongoing questioning by De Leonists such program eventually becomes mere dogma, a static delineation repeated by rote, incapable of adjustment to changes in material conditions. Apropos, did the circumstance of the collapse of the bona fide Socialist Labor Party deliver no lesson for De Leonists? Quoting from our March 15, 1994 letter to the members of The De Leonist Society of U.S.A.:

"Still fresh in our memory, as it must be in yours, was an earlier 'unthinkable' happening -- the derailment of both the U.S. and Canadian bona fide SLP organizations by the virus of revisionism. Our De Leonist Societies were founded by those few of us who successfully resisted the poison, yet as the years pass one thing becomes ever more clear-the revisionist (reformist) spirit that succeeded in capturing the bona fide SLPs would not have been able to invade these bodies and do its nefarious work had the membership (ourselves included) not drifted into a habit of entertaining De Leonism as unassailable dogma. There is now no doubt in our minds that this was indeed the case; moreover, awakened by the above experience, we became for the first time fully conscious that while De Leonism is founded upon a number of inviolate principles it nevertheless has been and must needs continue to be an EVOLVING! body of knowledge and perception."

(b) You state: "With the victory at the polls, the Socialist Industrial Union will not be made up of the 'dumb driven herd' that exists under Capitalist Unions. It will be made up of well informed class-conscious people [read made up of a well informed class-conscious work force]. Men and women who will know what must be done..." That, certainly, is our earnest hope! But how are these workers to become well informed and class-conscious if not through the efforts of De Leonists? And how will workers "know what must be done" unless they are agreed on a program beforehand? Accordingly, what program should De Leonists put before the Wooers for their consideration? There appear to be 3 options:

1. The long-accepted Socialist Industrial Union program wherein none but "the working people" (the work force) have both voice and vote (in which case, as we pointed out in our thesis, all but the work force are disfranchised!).

2. Your version wherein "All the people" will have industrial voice and vote (in which case you have merely to explain how the entire adult population is to be packed into the industrial establishments!).

3. In the search for socialist democracy there is of course a third option -- the option that you (as well as Comrades Banks, Braunstein and Teichert) dismissed out of hand, the option that we are adopting and the option that we hope you and other De Leonists will sooner or later put your minds to. That option is employment of the industrial constituency for socialist industrial democracy and a revolutionized and reformed geographic constituency for socialist political democracy.

To now deal with your comments anent the word political:

Take for example your effort to prove that political society came into the world branded with the stigma of economic class rule. Your "proof" is your assertion that "there is another Greek word which is 'politia1 and it means 'state1. It is from the word 'politia' that the word political is born, not 'polis'."

According to Webster's, politia is not Greek but Late Latin. The Greek is politeia. But more importantly, polis is not to be dismissed simply because we suggested that the earliest pronunciation of political may well have been polisteal! The word polis persists in any case as the root from which both politeia and politia (as well as political and many other wor4,s) are derived. The word police in Webster s New Collegiate Dictionary affords a revealing rendering of the genealogy of polis as: "police...[MF, government, fr. LL politia, fr. Gk politeia, fr. politeuin to be a citizen, engage in political activity, fr. polites citizen, fr. polis city, state...]"

A number of things should now become clear:

(1) In your desire to impugn political you apparently had no thought for its common usage, for its broad meaning as conveyed by Web-ster s, thus: "political...la: of or relating to government, a govern-ment, or the conduct of government." What is wrong with this definition in the phrase socialist political democracy? By what word-play or logic can political here be made to denote a society burdened by class rule?

(2) In welding political to the (class-ruled) state you drew the unwarranted conclusion that one cannot exist without the other.

(3) Noting the common expression political State, you apparently jumped to the conclusion that the connection between the two words is enough to discredit the use of political in socialist vocabulary. But here again you have ignored the existence of what would appear to be legitimate exceptions to the Marxist definition of the State as an instrument of class rule. Did you not read the passages from Morgan which we quoted in our above-mentioned reply to Comrade Banks? Morgan, highly respected by both Marx and Engels, held that "The Athenians commenced with a democratic organization at the point where every people must commence who desire to create a free state [sic!], and place the control of the government in the hands of its citizens." Free state? Apparently Morgan was here using state as in Webster's under 5a: "a politically organized body of people usu. occupying a definite territory; esp: one that is sovereign. ' (Here, too, the ancestry of a word is illuminating! "state...n,...[ME stat, fr. OF & L; OF estat, fr. L status, fr. status, pp. of stare to stand -- more at STAND]" -- that is, State is a body of people that is stationary, standing or settled in one place, as opposed to one that is roving or migrating.)

In view of the foregoing would you still insist that "The word political is an appendage of class rule and the state, and it will die with the abolition of class-rule"? We would hope not. We would hope you would "rethink" your own position!

But perhaps the most deplorable aspect of your attack on the word political is your capricious use of the English language as in your statement: "All social issues under political society are political, and under an industrial society all social issues will be industrial issues."

Think about it! Apparently still prisoner of the error that "political" and "State" (the class-ruled State) are Siamese twins, you not merely unwittingly involve yourself in a contradiction but lay the foundation of a Tower of Babel. As to the contradiction: In your context "industrial society" obviously means socialist society, and "political society" means capitalist society. But capitalist society is not only political; it, too, is industrial. And as to your semantics: Here you override Webster's (or any other reputable dictionary of modern English)!

We are not slaves of the dictionary and proved as much in our reply to Comrade Banks, but what you have done here is equate "social" and "industrial" and have thereby completely muddied the waters. To get clear of this impossible situation you must make an effort to break with that unfortunate, erroneous habit of thought that invariably ties political to State. The form of socialist industrial production and distribution is one thing, the question of ongoing determination by society-as-a-whole of the POLICY under which the industrial complex is to be managed is a bird of a far different feather. The word policy itself (Webster's 2b: " "a high-level overall plan embracing the general goals and acceptable procedures esp. of a governmental body") also discovers that its remotest ancestor is the Greek polls. The making of social policy is a political matter!

You go on to state: "The electoral process under the industrial society will be industrial. Frederick Engels in commenting on the political character of the Paris Commune, makes the following pertinent observation. "At the very best it is an inheritance of evil...1" But our reading of the relevant passages discloses that it was not the political character of the Paris Commune, the political electoral process, or the political v*>tg^ that Engels termed "an inheritance of evil." Far otherwise! Quoting as follows (from Engels1 introduction to the German edition of Marx's The Paris Commune): "Against this transformation of the State and the State's organs from the servants of society into its rulers-a transformation which has been inevitable in all hitherto existing States -- the Commune adopted two unfailing remedies. In the first place it filled all positions of administration, justice, and instruction, through election by universal suffrage, the elected being at all times subject to recall by their constituents. And secondly, it paid for all services, high or low, only the same pay that other workers received."

What, then, was "the inheritance of evil"? Not the political character of the Commune but "the State and the State's organs" -- the fact, as stated by Engels, that "...in reality the State is nothing else than a machine for the oppression of one class by another class...' Accordingly our position is that by abolishing economic class, Socialism will thereby knock aside the barricade that class rule has erected between the people and unfettered political democracy.

You conclude by quoting Petersen (from The Freeman's Vote) to the effect that not only is the political ballot "that great instrument forged by man in his struggle for freedom" but "when the industrial ballot is in the secure possession of the citizens of the future, it will contain within it all the enduring principles of the political ballot." What are these enduring principles? Quoting from The Freeman's Vote:

"The ballot, 'the freeman's vote,' is, or should be, a sacred thing. It should not merely be placed beyond the reach of the power of any group to corrupt it and restrict it, but it should be maintained in such a state of health and responsiveness that on all grave questions affecting the true interests and welfare of the majority, it spontaneously presents itself as the arbiter, as the instrumentality naturally and instantly to be employed by the mass of the people who alone possess the right to pass upon all such questions and without whose exercise of such right democracy ceases to have any meaning at all." (Our emphasis.)

But here, once more, is the problem! If "the freeman's vote" does indeed abandon the -political vote to become only the industrial vote, how then will "the mass of the people" get inside the workplaces in order to exercise their "right to pass" upon SOCIAL QUESTIONS -- that is, upon questions not directly tied to industrial management? Your answer is still due.

Fraternally,

DE LEONIST SOCIETY OF CANADA

August 10, 1994