Reply to 2nd letter from John Emanuel


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

Dear Comrade Emanuel:

To date, unlike the other negative replies to our thesis, yours postdated September 6 reflects an effort at research, and we commend you for it. Nevertheless you have not led us back to the old way of thinking.

As to etymology and the meaning of words: You needn't have traced the line of descent from the Greek polls to the Latin politia in your desire to illustrate a historical connection between political and State. You may recall that the connection was already granted by us in our reply to Harry Banks, wherein we quoted McNeill as follows:

"'Man is a political animal,' said Aristotle; and his definition was particularly apt for Greek antiquity, when the polis, or city-state, embraced almost all human concerns within its institutional frame."

No, what we denied was not a relation between political democracy and the State but the SLP "axiom" that the two are inseparable! For it is our view that what characterizes political institutions as State institutions is not the institutions themselves but class control of them.

Incidentally., we are puzzled by the Encyclopedia Britannica's assertion (as quoted by you) that "More than at any other time since the age of Cleisthenes, [Athens] was divided....Hereditary traditions had relaxed their hold and political principles were not yet formulated." (Our emphasis.) For according to Morgan, the final breakthrough in thought to "the second great plan of human government" was achieved not after the age of Cleisthenes" but by Cleisthenes himself.

But to come now to the crunch of the debate. In your concluding remarks you state: "However in view of the above declaration of the [Communist] Manifesto [See below. Ed.], I see the unmistakable basic features in your position paper, of a corruption of Marxist DeLeonism." Taking De Leonism as a composite of Marxism-De Leonism, the crucial issue is therefore whether De Leonism is degraded or advanced by our political amendment.

You state correctly that we envisage a political organization to administer political democracy in a Socialist Commonwealth, and that such organization "must have political power [backed up, we would add, by the economic power of the Socialist Industrial Union if or when deemed necessary] to enforce its decisions." Then you go on to state that because we project political democracy we "come in conflict with Marx and Engels who declare in the Communist Manifesto [that]

"'When in the course of development class distinctions have disappeared and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, [the S.I.U. Gov't] the public power will lose its political character. Political power properly so called, is merely the organized power of one class, for oppressing another." (Your interjection. )

We are not sure what Marx and Engels meant by "political power properly so called." However, we note a highly significant absence of the phrase political democracy in their 1848 document-a void which is hardly surprising given that absolutism rather than democratic processes still held sway on the Continent in 1848, and that the Chartist Movement in England had in that same year failed in its struggle to win universal manhood suffrage, annual elections to Parliament, etc..-! In any case we have no hesitation in admitting that our projection of socialist government is markedly different from that of Marx and Engels (or De Leon). For one thing, influenced by the eventual advent of the universal suffrage in the "western democracies," we do not see political power as "merely" a class attribute; we see it in socialist society as THE public power, the power of the whole people! For another thing (as we explained at length in our thesis and in the debates which followed) we no longer view socialist production as being "concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation" but concentrated instead in the hands of the active work force, a work force that, while still large in numbers, is today far from comprising the whole nation. Indeed, we thought we had made it pretty clear that 90 years of industrial development and changing demography since De Leon's first formulation of the Socialist Industrial Union concept had raised a serious question as to HOW, in the event of a political victory, the body politic (of which the ACTIVE work force is but a part) are to be masters of their own destiny rather than subjects of the said work force.

The thing we would like you to consider here, comrade, is the fact of CHANGE and its bearing upon De Leonism. It is now close to a century and a half since Marx and Engels authored the Communist Manifesto, and close to a century since De Leon's qualitative addition to socialist thought. During this time immensely significant political and industrial changes have taken place-changes that De Leonists are surely called upon to reckon with. On our part (as we explained in our thesis) we became increasingly troubled by what appeared to us to be a growing shortfall of democracy in the De Leonist program and the day,came when we could no longer avoid confronting the issue. What to do? It was a case of EITHER (1) Continue espousing a program that now seemed locked in the conditions of the past, OR (2) Adopt an amended program that we deemed compatible with modern conditions. We can only add that if in order to keep abreast of our times we must in some respects "come in conflict" with the great socialist trailblazers, then come in conflict we must!

For the reasons we gave in our thesis and throughout the debates, we submit that our position is an enhancement, not a corruption, of De Leonism. Unlike the Pope, however, we make no claim to infallibility! It is possible that we have erred in rounding out the De Leonist program by the addition of^ political democracy. But if that is indeed the case, we ask for PROOF!-not proof that we are thereby "in conflict" with certain Marxist or De Leonist precepts but proof that a wedding of political and industrial democracy is a snare and a delusion.

Meanwhile we remain convinced that political power, cleansed of class content and coordinated with the Socialist Industrial Union, is essential in this day and age to fully fructify the socialist dream of an egalitarian society.



October 31, 1994