De Leonist Society of Canada, reply to Richard Long


De Leonist Society of Canada
reply to letter by Richard Lloyd
Reprinted from the Discussion Bulletin
Mar-Apr 2000 #100, pages 21-23

Dear DB:

Taking up cudgels on behalf of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, Richard Lloyd responds to our reply to C. May and Charraian Skelton (DB98) by asserting that "The disagreement between the Socialist Party of Great Britain and the De Leonists over the political means to pursue a Socialist objective has been going on inter-mittingly [intermittently] for nearly a century." The assertion is defective, failing as it does to observe that the disagreement has not merely been over political means but also over economic means. This composite disagreement continues to show itself in a great number of ways, not least by the SPGB's rejection 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."

The economic organization rejected by the SPGB is of course the class-conscious, integrally-organized Socialist Industrial Onion advocated by De Leonists-a nationwide, self-organized union of the workers prepared upon a socialist political victory to take, hold, and administer industry and the services in the social interest- prepared, in short, to accomplish an immediate transition to socialist production and distribution and thus win the day for Socialism against an expected recalcitrant capitalist class. Accordingly, having constantly stressed the need for working-class preparation for contingencies that may arise during a revolutionary crisis-as for example a capitalist class attempt to annul a socialist political victory by promoting industrial chaos-we are all the more puzzled by Lloyd's cavalier dismissal of the matter, thus: "The Socialist Industrial Union idea of a capitalist class disrupting production is pure romanticism for the past."

But now a seeming contradiction looms up to further boggle the mind! Having dismissed Socialist Industrial Unionism as "romanticism," must Lloyd not also dismiss as "romanticism" the trade unionism which he introduces into the socialist revolutionary orbit as follows?

"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." (Our emphasis.)

Was Lloyd's intimation of possible revolutionary economic organization just a slip of the tongue? In any case it cannot sit well with the position of the SPGB as stated in that party's publication, Trade Unions. For example:

"Some of the early unions had the declared aim of abolishing capitalism but this was short-lived, and after the middle of the nineteenth century they settled down to wage-bargaining....They had accepted that it was their function to work within capitalism, not to try to overthrow

it. If some unions still have 'socialism' as their object, it is only nationalisation (State capitalism) that they have in mind." (P. 16)

"Unlike the industrial struggle of the unions, the task of creating Socialism is a political struggle, for it involves the conquest of political power by the working class." (P.34)

"The role of The Socialist Party of Great Britain, and our Companion Parties in other countries, is to spread the idea of Socialism....When socialists are in a majority, the Socialist Parties will be used as the instrument for democratic change." (P. 34)

Nor, it should be added, does the SPGB's Declaration of Principles itself contemplate socialist industrial organization, saying merely that "the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government...."

When therefore the dust raised by the aforesaid contradiction has settled to the ground, there remains no doubt whatever that the SPGB and Companion Parties restrict their program of working-class revolutionary organization to the political field! We think this is most regrettable. Regrettable because the socialist cause is therebv deprived of a potential economic power (a socialist industrial union) capable of enforcing the fiat of the political ballot. Regrettable because Socialism is thereby deprived of the one logical instrument (a nationally integrated industrial instrument) for administering the industrial policies set by Parliament. Regrettable because, deprived of an industrial arm it would seem that a socialist political government could become no more than an inept industrial administrator vulnerable to capitalist reaction.

Incidentally, it would seem germane to the issue to comment on Lloyd's observation: "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 is not strictly true because evidence has it that great numbers of miniscule entrepreneurs continue to dot the landscape. Nevertheless the most important question here is the question of control. Lloyd and the SPGB propose that a socialist political party, unaided by a socialist economic organization, could alone replace capitalist control of production with socialist control. They still appear to miss the crucial point that under Capitalism the chain of command is not the Government over the capitalist class but the capitalist class over the Government!


Lloyd's response to ours of DB98 reflects a belief that in a revolutionary situation, events will unfold in an ideal fashion. We think he should try to return to the real world! For example:

* The "Socialist majority" who are to capture political power may on the crucial day be no more than a very slim majority, even a mere plurality!

* The "Socialist maioritv" who will be called upon to administer industrial production will be faced with a task of such infinite complexity that even a wholly united and coordinated Socialist Industrial Union would surely hesitate to promise a "smooth transformation from production for profit to production for social use"!

* While in a revolutionary crisis it would be hoped that none "Socialist majority" would waver in their commitment to Socialism, it is nevertheless not improbable that substantial numbers of non-Socialists would continue to "listen to the employers" -- especially the top managers and chief executive officers among them, accustomed as they would have been to huge salaries!

De Leonists try to face the issue squarely, warning workers there is no Royal Road to Socialism, warning that half the struggle for the goal must be ADVANCE PREPARATION to overcome the formidable difficulties that can be expected to beset them, warning that an ill-conceived attempt to dethrone the Capitalist must surely summon the "furies" of private interest to retaliate!