Reply to letter from Ernest L. Teichert


From The De Leonist Review, September-October 1995
The De Leonist Society of Canada
Reply to the Letter from Ernest L. Teichert

Dear Comrade Teichert:

Concluding your May 5 reply to our thesis, Democracy-Political and Industrial, you state: "You [We] have presented no valid reason for a political arm in a future Socialist Industrial Union Government." Quite so, because our purpose was far otherwise! Our thesis provided for a political arm of government that would not even attempt to merge into the Socialist Industrial Union but would instead function outside it -- a political arm of government that would be directly responsible to the body politic through representation from geographic constituencies. In our concept (as explained and/or implied in our thesis, as well as in our January 29 reply to Comrade Banks) the Socialist Industrial Union Congress is no longer THE government, as in "Socialist Industrial Union Government," but merely part of government -- an industrial executive responsible to the people through political legislative assembly.

Commenting now upon other views you expressed:

In paragraph 2:

(a) You state that "...all source of wealth emanates from the various indus*tr*es..." But this is not strictly correct. As Marx pointed out in The Gotha Program: "Labor ['the various industries'] is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use-values (and these, certainly, form the material elements of wealth) as labor..."

(b) Reducing the paragraph to its "lowest common denominatorj" your obvious meaning is that whereas all social problems or issues stem from economic (or industrial) causes, it follows that all should be resolved by the Socialist Industrial Union Congress. But all social issues do not necessarily have economic (or industrial) roots; some are otherwise engendered as for example certain crimes of passion or the ongoing debate, Freedom of Choice vs. The Right to Life. In short, you appear to have ignored the crucial point we made in our thesis, to wit: " ["near the end of the century"] 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 listed 8 such.)

In paragraph 3:

(a) Re "artificial geographic lines of demarcation": Our concept of Socialist Democracy embraces both an industrial arm (organized upon artificial industrial lines of demarcation) and a political arm (organized upon artificial geographic lines of demarcation). We do not advocate elimination of the latter!

(b) You state: "Political answers rendered from geographical representatives could have no more rational [rationale?] under Socialism than it has [than they have?] under Capitalism." We disagree. Under Capitalism, public opinion rendered through geographic constituencies could be very meaningful indeed; it could signify a socialist political victory! Under Socialism, as we see it, geographic constituencies would remain THE form enabling the populace to both discuss and decide social policy!

(c) You state: "The necessary expertise is within an industrial complex not a geographical one." Here is a loose statement that goes a-begging for qualification! Naturally we do not argue that the geographic constituency reflects the necessary expertise to manufacture space stations, but by what rationale do you imply that such expertise ranks above public opinion in the determination of manufacturing priorities?

In paragraph 4:

(a) You state: "The selection of a Socialist Industrial Union Congress, as is stated by De Leon, will be elected by the people..." Where does De Leon state this?

(b) You state: "In his [De Leon's] definition [of Socialism] there is not the slightest inference that this [electoral] process will be determined by segmented constituents." Exactly, and there is the difficulty. As presented in SLP literature, the Socialist Industrial Union program does NOT extend the right of choosing the SIU Congress (etc.) to the people-as-a-whole, not only to that segment of them comprising the work force -- i.e., only to the actively employed rank and file workers.

(c) You state: "If the people have a 'democratic mastery of their lives', this mastery implies the right to vote by all. There can be no division in this right. But here again is the point we tried to hammer home in our thesis-the fact that the SLP projection of Socialist Industrial Unionism did and does divide this right by disfranchising all but the work force! THIS IS THE PROBLEM! (See page 1 of our thesis, page 3 of our reply to Comrade Braunstein, also page 2, par. 2 of our reply to Comrade Emanuel.) What is more, the longer the SIU program remains as is, the more exclusive will the right to vote likely become. For in striking contrast to the opening years of this century, today, near its close, there is a significant and apparently widening gap between the work force and the rest of the population that none can deny.

(d) You state: "The management of industrial, economic and social circumstances must be ultimately governed by a coalesced voting citizenship based on industrial constituencies." If so, you have merely to explain how such citizenship (i.e., the total adult population) is at one and the same time to be squeezed into the industrial constituencies, there to debate and vote! If so, moreover, we think you would have to agree that such effort would mark a major departure from the existing SIU program that*,limits the right to vote to the active producers! (See documentation of this on page 1 of our thesis, on page 3 of our reply to Comrade Braunstein, also on page 2 of our reply to Comrade Emanuel.)

In paragraph 5:

You state: "Once the profit motive hindrances have been eliminated, modern communication capabilities; radio, t.v., newspapers etc. would make knowledgeable selections and decisions easily attainable by the entire working class." With the amendment that in a classless society such selections and decisions would be "easily attainable" by society (not by "the entire working class"), this is also our thought on the matter. However, do you not thereby concede that these same "modern communication capabilities" extend the desirable purview of the decision-making process beyond the limits imposed on it by industrial constituencies? Do you not thereby contradict your own position, as stated in your paragraph 2, that "...the logical corrections of social difficulties would be best resolved within the Socialist Industrial Union Congress"?

In paragraph 6:

(a) You state: "At present we can only speculate how the S.I.U. Congress will divide itself into workable units for the most efficient and intelligent implementation of administrative matters." (Our emphasis.)

Administration of WHAT? Here is the problem! As conveyed in SLP literature by word and by graphic representation, the STRUCTURE of socialist government does not lend itself to efficient and intelligent administration of social issues! Thus:

* The very name, Socialist Industrial Union Congress, implies a Congress whose purview is purely industrial administration.

* De Leon's pioneering statement that the legislative work "of representatives of trades throughout the land...can be summed up in the statistics of the wealth needed, the wealth producible, and the work required." (Our emphasis.)

* "We do not presume to make a rigid blueprint of the Industrial Union Administration or lay down arbitrary lines of demarcation. But the general outline is clearly -defined in the mode of production itself. All industries will be represented on the All-Industrial Union Congress which replaces the political Congress....National Industrial Union Councils will direct and supervise production within each industry on a national scale, while*thV Industrial Union Congress will coordinate production and distribution in all lines." (Eric Hass, Socialist Industrial Unionism- The Workers' Power.)

* The problems of the National Industrial Unions "are purely production problems." (Ibid.)

* "The qualifications of those who will serve in the Socialist Industrial Union Congress., .[also, presumably, of those who will serve in the National Industrial Union Councils] will be (aside from a devotion to duty) a knowledge and understanding of the processes of production and distribution and an ability to coordinate and direct these processes." (Ibid.)

In a word, there seems little doubt that the Socialist Industrial Union framework was designed for one purpose and one purpose only, that purpose being provision of an efficient and democratic industrial administration; moreover that at the time of its conception the industrial form seemed adequate to meet the needs of that day. And that is apparently how matters stood until far-reaching material changes, and with them a host of grave social problems, generated speculation as to how the industrial form might also be used for administration of social issues. The SLP evidently pondered the problem but as now becomes obvious came up with no credible solution, its only "solution" appearing in references such as:

* "Moreover, in their various economic units (shops, schools, hospitals, etc.) they [the workers] 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." (From the leaflet SOCIALISM THE WORLD OF TOMORROW.)

* A Socialist Industrial Union government "opens all the avenues of information and creates meaningful forums for the discussion of social as well as acogpmic problems. Thus in every school, factory, mine, ship, distribution facility, etc., questions of public interest, particularly questions relating to the specific industry or service, may be discussed by the rank and file in shop councils -- and advice communicated to the various industrial union administrative councils, or even to the All-Industrial Union Congress." (Weekly People QUESTION PERIOD -- -See page 3 of our thesis. See also postscript to this letter.)

We have, then, the following situations which we on our part now find totally unacceptable:

* A ridiculous mismatch wherein those elected to the Socialist Industrial Union Congress and National Industrial Union Councils because of their industrial qualifications, are called upon to render decisions not only in the field where they are qualified but also in a field where they are presumably no better qualified than the workers who elected them!

* The inescapable and challenging fact that a program that would transfer the administration of social issues from the political domain to the industrial domain would thereby at one stroke deprive all but the work force of the power of self-government!

(b) You state: "We have spent a large portion of our lives advocating implicit faith in their abilities [the abilities of the S.I.LJ. Congress] to perform for the common good." First, to our knowledge the S.I.U. program never advocated "implicit" (i.e., unquestioning or absolute) faith in the abilities (or, may we add, in the motivation) of the S.I.U. Congress to act for the common good. On the contrary, eternal vigilance would appear to be necessary. Apropos, you have only to remember that SLP literature repeatedly emphasized the program's provision for immediate recall!

Second, your statement seems indicative of an unquestioning attitude -- an attitude that we ourselves shared as members of the bona fide SLP and an attitude that left its membership either ill-prepared or totally unprepared to combat the virus of reformism/revisionism when it renewed its attack on the organization in the mid-seventies. Now, in the later years of our lives we surely must not compound our earlier failure to fortify our revolutionary stance by ignoring this troublesome question of the mechanism for democratic resolution of social issues -- i.e., by sweeping the question under the rug or simply dumping it upon the industrial organization,"''an organization that was designed to handle "purely production problems"!

(c) You state: "Once the fetters of Capitalist chicanery and deceit have been replaced by common sense, truth, and concern, mutual benefits for all can be readily attained."

Today is not De Leon's day. For one thing, industry has grown incredibly complex, thus far from being an "easy" matter to manage, the S.I.U. Congress would doubtless have its hands quite full enough with industrial management alone. For another, not all the "truth and concern" in the world will avail to permit democratic resolution of the social issues that a near-century of change has proliferated -- that is, will not avail without a "common sense" democratic form for their resolution. Once again we submit that the one "common sense" form that appears to meet this need is not industrial but political -- is constructed upon geographic, not industrial, constituencies.

If political democracy is not indeed the essential, "common sense" companion to industrial democracy, we wish to know what disqualifies it! To date we have not received a credible refutation of our position.



August 10, 1994

Postscript: We quote the following excerpts from The People's August 22, 1992 QUESTION PERIOD column:

"What role will retired senior citizens, and persons unable to work, play in the administration of socialist society? You keep referring to power in the hands of 'the worker.' Shouldn't these other members of society have some share of the power as well?"

"Since the socialist industrial unions that form the basis of socialist self-government will be working bodies organized and operating at the workplace, and since they will be primarily concerned with the administration of production and distribution, it would seem self-evident that retired workers and persons too incapacitated to work would not be directly involved in governing socialist society."

"However, it must be borne in mind that the socialist industrial union program provides a basic guide for organizing and bringing about a socialist society and a basic framework for administering it -- it is not an exact blueprint and it does not presume to determine in advance what workers will or will not decide once socialism is established. Therefore, a socialist society could set up other, auxiliary forms of representation for those not directly participating in the production or distribution of goods or services -- if it decided there was a need for such representation. It is also possible that some decisions of a general nature, affecting society as a whole, could be made by general referendum vote."

"That is necessarily speculative and it bears emphasizing that any decisions on this score can only be made by the workers facing such questions at the time, not by a socialist newspaper today attempting to project what their democratically considered decisions might be."

The questioner questions the SLP program as regards "the administration of socialist society," but although such administration must obviously involve resolution of social issues as well as industrial matters, The People gives scant consideration to the former. Here, then, is a continuing problem in socialist democracy. How are ALL (including housewives, we should add) to have both voice and vote on social questions -- !.e., on questions "of a general nature, affecting society as a whole"? How indeed?

The "basic framework" of industrial administration being resolved, we readily agrafe that many questions relating to that framework (such as possible auxiliary forms" of industrial representation for industrial administration) will be best left to the discretion of the industrial organization. However, we cannot agree that the question of resolution of social issues should be left hanging in the air awaiting decision by the projected industrial organization. We insist that it is the prerogative of society as a whole, not of the work force alone, to determine how society shall be governed. Accordingly, we reaffirm our conviction that NOW is the time to put on the thinking caps! NOW is the time to round out the socialist program by projecting a basic framework that would provide society the fullest possible measure of self-government.