Richard Long, reply to the De Leonist Society of Canada


Richard Lloyd
letter to the Discussion Bulletin
in criticism of the
De Leonist Society of Canada
Reprinted from the Discussion Bulletin
Mar-Apr 2000 #100, pages 19-20

Dear Discussion Bulletin,

I read with interest the De Leonist Society of Canada's reply to the General Secretary of the Socialist Party of Great Britain and to the letter from C. Skelton (Discussion Bulletin no 98),

The De Leonist Society of Canada states that the capture of political power is not sufficient for Socialism to be established. They go on to state that the difference between themselves and the SPGB is that the DLSC advocate: Both political and industrial working-class unification.

And then they criticise the SPGB for limiting its concern "to the political field".

This deserves an answer.

Let us first consider exactly what is the economic power the capitalist class enjoy. The employers monopolise the means of production and distribution and only activate production if a profit is to be made. From this position of power they are able to force workers onto the labour market to sell their labour power for either a wage or a salary. Once labour power is bought it is then exploited and the commodities produced by workers are subsequently sold on the market to realise a profit.

One important factor, which should not be left out of the equation, is that the capitalist class are no longer within the productive process any more. This factor has an important bearing on the different perspectives of capitalism by the SPGB and DCSC respectively. The working class, which includes salaried managers, now runs capitalism from top to bottom although not in their own interests.

So why does the capitalist class enjoy economic power? The answer is because the machinery of government protects their ability to own and control the means of production and direct it towards profitable activity. The machinery of government is controlled through Parliament, or its equivalent, by the ballot and at present it is a majority of non-Socialist workers who vote capitalist politicians back into power.

Political power and economic power should not be seen as simultaneous activities necessitating a dualist Socialist response. The employers' economic power is dependent upon their political power-which the working class currently legitimise at elections.

The DLSCs letter goes on to assert;

"Without political organisation, the labour movement cannot triumph; without economic organisation, the day of its political triumph would he the day ofitx defeat."

Let us unpick this assertion. It has always been the position of the SPGB that a Socialist majority would not only be organising for the conquest of political power but would also be organising and planning, in trade unions and elsewhere, for the smooth transformation from production for profit to production for social use.

The problem for the DLSC is that they cannot drop the old De Leonist dogma that having no direct role in production and having lost the battle of ideas, in the lead-up to the Socialist revolution the capitalists could "Still order the shut down of some sectary of production and distribution that are vital to the life of the nation." Production and distribution is not like this any more. The Socialist Industrial Union idea of a capitalist class disrupting production is pure romanticism for the past. The power they give employers was as inapplicable in De Leon's own day as it is in our own.

Do the DLSC seriously believe the capitalists would have the capacity and wherewithal to shut down anything? They would not know where to begin. Who would listen to the employers? Certainly not the Socialist majority, who will be present in all areas of production and distribution. How would they do it? Such political childishness beggars belief.

And why does the DLSC suppose that, in organising democratically tor a society based upon common ownership and democratic control of production and distribution by all of society, a Socialist majority would disregard forms and processes of industry necessary to meet human need? But it would be a folly to try to end the class system without taking the necessary steps to ensure that the employing class cannot use the forces of the state to defend their interests. That is why, as Marx and Engels argued, "Every class struggle is a political struggle".

The disagreement between the Socialist Party of Great Britain and the De Leomsts over the political means to pursue a Socialist objective has been going on intermittently for nearly a century. However it is not some arcane theological dispute. The SPGB wants to focus the working class's attention on where political power is situated in order to remove the economic power of the employers to exploit and pursue commodity production for profit. In this respect the De Leonists have been an impediment on workers for the clear understanding of capitalism necessary for establishing Socialism.

Yours sincerely

Richard Lloyd

32 Derwent Rd, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, England AL5 3NU