Socialist Labor Party Centennial

The following are two articles that were originally published
by the De Leonist Society of Canada in separate issues of the
periodical The De Leonist Society Bulletin, and subsequently
reprinted separately in the form of leaflets.

SOCIALIST LABOR PARTY "CENTENNIAL" (I)

(Reprinted from The De Leonist Society Bulletin)

-- November 1990 --

"'Immediate demands,' tacked in America to a revolutionary program, deliver the movement tied, hands and feet, into the power of the ruling class....'Immediate demands' are in the nature of traitors who inform the enemy by what passes they can flank, fall upon and rout their otherwise well entrenched adversary. 'Immediate demands' are sops. A ruling class is proof against such spitballs. For every sop fired at it, it can answer with a thousand.

"Every movement in the land that has ever aimed at the overthrow of existing conditions, and that made the blunder of seeking to ingratiate itself by means of the 'molasses' and the 'thin edge of the wedge' of 'immediate demands,' has by so much weakened the intellectual fiber of its followers, and thereby ripened recruits for corruption by the bourgeois masters."

-- Daniel De Leon

*****

A special edition of The People (September 22, 1990) marks the 100th anniversary of the Socialist Labor Party with glowing tribute to the party's steadfastness over the years in "striving to educate ever more workers in preparation for the time when capitalism itself will create a revolutionary social climate." The tribute will not wash; the SLP remained steadfast for some 90 years (90 remarkable years!), not 100. The People further claims: "Our best history is yet before us." This, too, cannot stand. The two erroneous claims are interlocked; the SLP's "best history" is not before but behind it-forever behind because it failed to remain steadfast.

The history of the bona fide SLP, a true Marxist-De Leonist organization, is worthy of the highest admiration of all working men and women. We De Leonists are a grateful product of that once revolutionary organization. But the history of the extant SLP is and must continue to be totally unworthy of working class respect. Having *"* some ten or more years ago "slid off the revolutionary plane," it can never again climb back upon it.

What destroyed the revolutionary organization was a final, successful assault upon it by revisionists, the pretext or mindless justification for their revisionism being the fact of a steadily shrinking membership. Now socialist revisionism, according to Webster, is "a movement in revolutionary Marxian socialism favoring an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary spirit." That is precisely what at last overcame the bona fide SLP! The revisionists took the easy way, the path of least resistance; they put the socialist goal on hold in favor of amelioration of capitalist conditions. Rather than help consolidate the revolutionary gains of the past for a renewed forward march to the goal, they in effect threw those gains to the winds by adopting a policy of intervention in the day-to-day struggles of workers in order to "entice" them into the fold. Thus --

* Intervening in the struggle for "a fair day's wage," the revisionists turned back the clock of time and experience by once again lending support to this non-revolutionary, conservative activity.

* As regards protest demonstrations, rather than merely leaflet these with a revolutionary message the revisionist SLP threw caution overboard and joined the demonstrations, thus willy-nilly identified itself with them and their reformist goals.

* As to the hundred-and-one issue-oriented organizations that spend their time hacking at the evil branches of Capitalism instead of striking at the root! -- here, too, the revisionist outfit unblushingly urged its members to actually join these reformist groups with a view to co-opting revolutionary(!) recruits; and with this directive jettisoned its revolutionary credibility by tarring itself with the brush of reform.

*****

The end result of this intervention (more accurately, of this ingratiation) was a foregone conclusion. The goal of Socialism was pushed back over the horizon. Is this not the case? At a time when as never before, degeneration of the capitalist economic system threatens imminent social disaster, do not the revisionists both deny the urgency of the goal and abet working class conservatism by lending support to "immediate demands" -- that will-o-the-wisp "something now" syndrome that today stands as a roadblock between the working class and Socialism?

The People's centennial issue -- not least its article captioned "SLP Is Right: Unions Must Be Revolutionary Or They Will Be Nothing" -- we11 affords proof of the contradictory, untenable nature of the revisionist "position." The proof surfaces in such passages as the following:

"Accordingly, the [revisionist] SLP holds that the mission of unionism must be to organize all workers, as a class, along industrial lines, to not only defend workers' immediate interest in protecting wage levels and working conditions (our emphasis), but, when sufficiently organized, to assume control of the means of production..."

There it is! The revisionists have backtracked a mere eighty two years! What better evidence than their own, above, to expose these "educators" as dreamers in a never-never land! Can workers be expected to organize unions that are at one and the same time both conservative and revolutionary in purpose? Can workers be expected to simultaneously harbor conservative and revolutionary mindsets? Experience denies it. It is a case of EITHER ONE OR THE OTHER! -- either accept Capitalism therefore organize for "immediate demands," or repudiate Capitalism therefore organize for Socialism. Long did the bona fide SLP (long did bona fide De Leonism) warn a-gainst the folly of attempting to blend the two different aims into one. This because it had learned from bitter experience, notably from the I.W.W. fiasco. But the revisionists covered their ears.

Workers who organize to "protect wage levels and working conditions" do not organize to abolish the wage slave system. This is the experience! As to the above caption, "SLP Is Right: Unions Must Be Revolutionary Or They Will Be Nothing"-HERE is a twist! nevertheless a twist that is untwisted with the following question: WHICH SLP is right? -- the bona fide SLP that directed the revolutionary spirit straight to the goal, or its reformist/revisionist namesake that "educates" for Socialism by diverting the revolutionary spirit into the quagmire of "immediate demands"?

Having misled workers by its attempt to reconcile organization for "immediate demands" with organization for Socialism; having denied the goal's urgency by its intervention in wageism, etc.; having propagandized the fatal delusion that revolutionary union organization entails stopovers to bargain with the capitalist class; in short, having betrayed its trust by effacing the revolutionary spirit - such as that which pervades De Leon's dictum: "The program of revolution is revolution" -- from its program, the extant SLP's celebration of an SLP "centennial" can only ring hollow. With an eye on the revisionists' wretched performance and paraphrasing The People's above caption: A "Socialist" Party With Immediate Demands In Its Program Is Irretrievably Lost.

Otherwise with The De Leonist Society. Emulating their bona fide De Leonist predecessors by stoutly defending the fort of principle against compromise, and strong in the belief that the working class will one day at last rise to the challenge of the bold and uncorrupt-ed De Leonist emancipatory program, today's De Leonists have every reason to commemorate 100 years of De Leonism as no mean achievement!

De Leonist Society of Canada

De Leonist Society of U.S.A.

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SOCIALIST LABOR PARTY "CENTENNIAL" (II)

(Reprinted from the De Leonist Society Bulletin)

-- January 1991 --

Not least among the bulwarks that have been raised against Socialism are the monstrous distortions and misrepresentations of De Leonism that "socialist" revisionism has indulged in. In our November issue, with specific reference to the centennial edition of The People, we once again pointed up the revisionist SLP's "immediate demands" compromise of the revolutionary goal -- a compromise which shut the door against the revolutionary spirit in favor of ingratiation, and a compromise which spelled the demise of the bona fide SLP. But now, resurfacing in the November 3 People (an edition largely devoted to the afterglow of the SLP "centennial" celebrations), is a revisionist product that is even more damning than the foregoing to possible socialist victory. It appears in The People's Question Period column, concerns the question of Transition to Socialism, is a prime example of anti-De Leonist idiocy, and is an invitation to disaster that demands exposure as such. Let us therefore close in on it.

A questioner asks The People:

"What is the difference between socialist industrial unionism and the term 'dictatorship of the proletariat'?"

The question is not new. Moreover it was answered extensively on a number of occasions by the bona fide (i.e., the De Leonist) SLP. The kernel of the De Leonist explanation was and is that whereas due to limited 19th century industrial development and consequent vagueness as to the form that a socialist society would take, Marx and Engels thought the road to Socialism would require a political State dictatorship of the proletariat that would "wrest, by degrees [our emphasis], all capital from the bourgeoisie" -- whereas that was the 19th century projection, 20th century industrialization plus De Leon's breakthrough in socialist thought (the industrial form of a socialist society) rendered unthinkable a transitional period or stage of development between Capitalism & Socialism -- unthinkable not only because now unnecessary, but also unthinkable because fraught with danger of defeat (vide the aborted 1917 Russian proletarian revolution) !

That was the position of the once bona fide SLP and that is the position of the De Leonist Society.

Apropos, and by way of further introduction to this vital matter, involving as it does the question of form and the question of tactics, we would urge our readers to reread the comprehensive and well-documented treatise published in our November issue under the head DANIEL DE LEON-SOCIAL ARCHITECT. Here, among the many relevant passages quoted by the writer to give authority to his statements, none is more relevant to the question we are presently pursuing than the following quote from De Leon:

"The political movement of labor, that, in the event of triumph, would prolong its existence a second after triumph, would be a usurpation. It would be a usurpation or the signal for a social catastrophe. It would be the signal for a social catastrophe if the political triumph did not find the working class of the land industrially organized, that is, in full possession of the plants of production and distribution, capable, accordingly, of assuming the integral conduct of the productive powers of the land. The catastrophe would be instantaneous. The plants of production and distribution having remained in capitalist hands, production would be instantly blocked. On the other hand, if the political triumph does find the working class industrially organized, then for the political movement to prolong its existence would be to attempt to usurp the powers which its very triumph announces have devolved upon the central administration of the industrial organization."

But how does The People answer the questioner?

"Socialist industrial unionism describes an entire concept of how workers can organize, on both the political and economic fields, to overthrow capitalist rule and establish a socialist society.

"The 'dictatorship of the proletariat' refers to a particular phase of the transition between capitalism and socialism, in which the organized working class has achieved control over all or most of the means of production and is ruling society, but must still contend with resistance from the defeated capitalist class and its allies....

"So long as such resistance exists, and the new workers' government is obliged to use some measure of force or compulsion to consolidate its rule a-gainst such resistance, the society cannot yet be properly described as 'socialist.' Until the resistance is eliminated, class relations fully dissolved, and the socialist industrial union government no longer has to act in the capacity of a "state," this transitional period of working class rule-whether it takes a day or a decade -- is the "dictatorship of the proletariat,1 as described by Marx and Engels."

Here's a pretty kettle of fish! Daniel De Leon to the contrary notwithstanding, because Marx and Engels postulated a transition period, necessitating a dictatorship of the proletariat, therefore we Marxists must needs do the same. We must simply disregard, overlook, or rid ourselves of De Leon's monumental, qualitative addition to Marxism, his master plan whereby the working class can effect an immediate transition to Socialism - a plan based on a depth and breadth of national industrialization such as could be scarcely imagined by Marx and Engels in their day, a plan for the integral industrial organization of the wage working class wherein that class is not as before a minority but now a majority (today an immense majority!) in society, a plan which at the behest of society enables the producers to simultaneously lock out the capitalist class from the industrial complex and commence production and distribution for society's well-being; in short, a plan that does not conceive the revolutionary act as a series of measures stretched over time but as an immediate, instantaneous response of a united working class majority to a mandate from society.

The People states: "One can imagine any number of scenarios for a revolutionary struggle." It failed to add that the longer the struggle the greater the number of possible scenarios for failure, including the viper scenario that in his "Socialist Reconstruction" address De Leon took pains to warn against, thus:

"Now, mind you, that might [the integrally organized Socialist Industrial Union] the labor movement needs, as much, I would almost say, against the political movements which its own breath heats into being as a-gainst the capitalist tyrant himself. It needs that might against the capitalist tyrant to put the quietus upon him; it also needs that might to prevent the evil consequences to which, in this corrupt atmosphere of bourgeois society, the political movement is inevitably exposed. The two points are vital. Much, infinitely more than appears at first sight, hangs thereby."

And here we must point out that The People's woefully loose portrayal of the role of "the revolutionary political party of labor," tied as it appears to be to "any number of scenarios," is itself cause for deep concern. Quoting in part:

"And it [the revolutionary party] would work for a peaceful transition to socialism, by winning the majority of society to that position [a position that calls for the abolition of capitalism], capturing the capitalist political state for the express purpose of dismantling it and turning social authority over to the socialist industrial unions. The socialist industrial unions would then become the new governmental organization of a socialist society." (The People's emphasis.)

Connecting the above quote with the previous quotes from The People, we come up with the following:

QUESTION: Whereas the revisionist concept of transition from Capitalism to Socialism is not as projected by De Leon a transition that is accomplished at one stroke but is a "phase" wherein "the socialist industrial union government.. .has to act in the capacity of a "state"' (i.e., wherein the economic organization, not the political, is designated by the revisionists as the "government" during the said phase), how come (according to the revisionists) a political victory for Socialism will not directly and immediately confer upon the economic organization the "social authority" to govern but will instead vest it in the political organization for an indefinite period (a "day or a decade"?) while it "dismantles" the political State?

We ask again: How come? How can a political triumph for Socialism be (l) -- a mandate to the Socialist Industrial Union to govern when it is (2) -- a mandate to "the revolutionary political party of labor" to assume the mantle of "social authority"? It is a case of now we have it, now we don't!

The revisionist "position" is not merely different from the De Leonist position, it opposes it. Whereas De Leonism heads straight for the goal, revisionism circumvents it. Does the above revisionist "scenario" square with De Leon's portrayal of the transition to Socialism ("Like the slough shed by the serpent that immediately reappears in its new skin, the political State will have been shed, and society will simultaneously appear in its new administrative garb.")? Obviously not! Does it square with De Leon's warning anent the mission of the political movement ("Its mission will have come to an end just before the consummation of that consummating act of labor's emancipation" -- !.e., the revolutionary act of the economic organization)? Obviously not! Obviously the revisionist "position" is suspect, opening as it does a switch that De Leon had taken great pains to close - a switch that, open, invites opportunism, corruption, and dictatorship OVER the proletariat!

All of which is a reminder that having captured the bona fide Socialist Labor Party a dozen or so years past and turned it into an anti-De Leonist organization, the revisionists and their dupes who gathered in September last to celebrate an alleged SLP "centennial" have neither cause to be proud of their work nor the right to parade themselves under the De Leonist flag.

Meanwhile The De Leonist Society warns that if and when workers want Socialism they will have to not only give top priority to the socialist goal but will have to knock scatterbrained revisionism out of their way!

De Leonist Society of Canada

De Leonist Society of U.S.A.