De Leonist Society of Canada reply to the Socialist Party of Great Britain


De Leonist Socety of Canada
Letter dated Oct. 13, 1999
in reply to several members of the
Socialist Party of Great Britain
Reprinted from the Discussion Bulletin
Nov-Dec 1999 #98, pages 16-17

Dear DB:

Oct. 13, 1999

Upon perusing DB97 it became obvious to us that neither C. May nor Charmian Skelton of the Socialist Party of Great Britain understood our criticism that "The SP of GB doesn't go far enough!" We were of course illustrating, or attempting to illustrate, the De Leonist argument that political power per se (i.e. political power without economic power to ENFORCE THE FIAT OF A SOCIALIST POLITICAL VICTORY) could not be expected to win the day for Socialism! Our point vis-a-vis the SPGB should now be clear. Whereas De Leonismadvocates both political AND industrial working-class unification, the SPGB appears to limit its concern to the political field, thus in our opinion "doesn't go far enough!'"

There are at the same time two closely related points that have cropped up along the way -- points that apparently also call for clarification. Both involve the use of figurative language. Thus when we spoke of "the weight of public opinion" in the context of a socialist political victory, we had assumed the reader would broadly construe the context to include a parliament of elected political representatives. And when in his 1905 address De Leon used the 1896 U.S. presidential election campaign to illustrate "the futility of the ballot alone," we assumed that he did not envisage a scenario wherein Capitalists en masse could personally deactivate the machinery and processes of production and distribution, but rather that he pointed to the very real capability of the said capitalist class, if still In control of industry, to abort a socialist revolution by ordering a shutdown of some sectors of production and distribution that are vital to the life of the nation.

May quotes Clause 7 of the SPGB's Declaration of Principles as follows:

"That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic."

Asserting that "Within the political programme pf the SPGB's Object and Declaration of Principles there is all a working class needs to establish Socialism," he asks: "So where, then, is the problem?" Where indeed? Analysis of its principles and program reveals that the SPGB has overlooked hard evidence that the prerequisite to control of political power is control of economic power!

As we see it, the key question here for Socialists is how control of industry can be taken away from the capitalist class. Regrettably, the SPGB appears to date to discount what De Leonists hold indispensable for socialist victory -- an integrally-organized Socialist Industrial Onion of workers prepared upon a socialist political mandate to immediately TAKE, HOLD, and OPERATE the nation's industrial complex for society-as-a-whole!


It seems to be a truism that we are creatures of habit. Certainly in our own case, old habits of thought had to be laid to rest perceived necessity to update De Leonism by providing for political as well as industrial democracy. By the same token, could we not hope that the Socialist Party of Great Britain might before long update socialist program by affirming that the working class must not merely unite "consciously and politically" but also consciously and ? -- the latter to form the "organized forces" which Marx foresaw would serve the working class as an economic "lever" by which they could emancipate themselves from the wages system. We need scarcely add that our own call upon workers to unite on the industrial well as on the political field stems from our conviction in the truth of De Leon's dictum: "Without political organization, the labor movement cannot triumph; without economic organization, the day of its political triumph would be the day of its defeat."