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Society in Crisis -- A DeLeonist Appraisal
This is an OCR scan of the text of a leaflet
that was distributed by the Industrial Union Party
in the 1980s
The IUP was an antecedent of today's organization
People for a New Society, PeopleForANewSociety.org
Society in Crisis
A DeLeonist Appraisal
NO ONE seems to be immune to the effects of the accumulating crises of our time. It is probably no exaggeration to state that a deep current of anxiety has cut through every layer of the population, from the very young to the very old; from the very poor to the very rich.
THE CONCERN of the rich, who are the ruling class of this country, is focused mainly on the problem of staving off whatever may threaten their ownership of the means of production and distribution and the privileges of wealth that go with that ownership. The concern of the overwhelming majority is the chronic insecurity which haunts our daily lives and the prospect of annihilation as naiton-states jockey for advantage in the nucler chess game.
ALTHOUGH, at this writing, nearly one out of every ten members of the working class is unemployed, there is more in store for us. In an article significantly headed "How Industry Leaders View the Critical Issues," the New York Times of October 11, 1981, quotes E. Bradley Jones, the president of Republic Steel, as saying, "Automation experts believe that robots could displace as much as 65 to 75 percent of today's factory work force." The "critical issue" for Jones and most of the other capitalists quoted in the article, is not the thousands of human beings slated for the scrap heap but the competitive position of American captitalism in the economic free-for-all of the world's markets.
NO MATTER what breathing spell an ailing system may come up with, it becomes increasingly evident that no matter which politicians rule the roost, capitalism cannot be stabilized. Even the possible destruction of whatever civil liberties we still enjoy by the forceful or subtle imposition of authoritarian controls will not bring the stability our rulers long for. This would simply prolong the evils which oppress us, accelerate the drift toward global war, and seriously reduce the possibility of bringing in a new social order in a peaceful and orderly manner.
Economic Competition and War
RELENTLESS competition is one of the facts of economic life. It rages between individual business men and even more among corporate giants. It rages among capitalist nations and between them and the totalitarian bureaucracies. This competition feeds the drive toward automation. In spite of temporary improvements in the employment situation (for some) as a result of military and space-race expenditures, the threat of displacement by improved tools will become increasingly severe.
THE PRESENT system operates in a vicious circle. The very increase in productivity brought on by the endless competitive battle, stirs capitalists and nations into ever more frantic pursuit of shrinking markets, source of raw material, exclusive spheres for capital investment, and areas of strategic military importance. The international conflicts which begin commercially and industrially have usually ended up with the antagonists shooting it out.
AS A UNITED STATES NAVY document put it bluntly: "Realistically, all wars have been fought for economic reasons. To make them politically and socially palatable, ideological issues have always been invoked." * Although in recent years these outbreaks have been confined to the "sidelines" -- such as Vietnam, the Near East and Africa -- who can doubt that international violence, nuclear powered, is not in the cards for all of us?
* See Congressional Record, April 5, 1947, p. 3496
IN ADDITION to the purely economic factors, the military industrial complex, through its control of the entire miseducational process, conditions us from birth into the acceptance of an uncritical nationalism. This irrational fever, carefully cultivated in its people by the rulers of each nation, effectively serves to conceal their own crude financial drives. It serves them well when willing sacrifices are needed for the altar of war.
Which Way to Freedom?
IN SPITE of general agreement among radicals that capitalism bears the ultimate responsibility for the increasing threat to life, liberty and security, there are fundamental differences of opinion as to which course of action is most likely to produce another, and better social order. In addition, there is a growing mass of uncommitted people who become increasingly cynical over the present system's widening credibility gap.
MOST OF THESE people seem to be torn between two worlds -- one dying, the other (they believe) powerless to be born. If they hate capitalism and its unfulfilled pretensions, they are equally fearful of the repressive totalitarian controls associated with those countries where capitalism has been done away with. Is it any wonder that many hesitate at the prospect of jumping from the frying pan into the fire?
THE INDUSTRIAL UNION PARTY does not claim to have all the answers. But we believe that we do have a clear view of the basic problem and that we have a workable plan which would provide mankind a solid base from which to move forward into a better society.
THE PROGRAM for realizing the specific socialist goal in view is basically the product of the American Marxist, Daniel DeLeon. Before offering it for consideration to the reader, it may be helpful to refer to a paper by G. William Domhoff, author of Who Rules America? Dr. Domhoff's paper is called "How to Commit Revolu-tion." For the present purpose, only three major points will be referred to. Without these, Domhoff implies, any attempt to replace corporate capitalism with a new society might well prove disastrous. He states his order of priorities as follows:
FIRST, you need a comprehensive overall analysis of the present day system.
SECOND, you need relatively detailed blueprints for a post-industrial (read post-capitalist) America ... and
FINALLY, you need a plan of attack -- a program for taking power.
THE WORDS are Domhoff's. With these three elementary injunctions, he has reminded the radical movement that it needs serious navigational principles^ if it is not to be wrecked on the reet of opportunism and reaction. The I.U.P's interpretation of the three priorities follows:
POINT ONE: "COMPREHENSIVE ANALYSIS"
THE OPENING paragraphs of this statement have already dealt briefly with some of the facts needed to understand the deadly dynamics of the present system. In the process of a continuing and comprehensive analysis, additional conclusions would emerge.
(a) A state of permanent crisis, both economic and, social, is endemic to the present system; that is, the problems exist in the very bloodstream of an obsolete social order which has bought time for itself by the dangerous expansion of credit and the even more deadly process of preparing for war, waging war, and the profitable reconstruction which follows.
(b) Further analysis would lead to the conclusion that capitalism can only prolong its existence at the expense of the people as a whole.
(c) Any reform measures which may yet be wrung from the system's defenders will be granted by them as social bribes designed mainly to "turn off" those elements of the population whose loyalties to capitalism are disintegrating.
(d) The final conviction which would be derived from the required anlaysis is the utter impossibility of securing permanent peace, security, or human dignity as long as the present system is permitted to remain.
POINT TWO: "DETAILED BLUEPRINTS"
IT IS at this point that the I.U.P. regretfully parts company with the other movements which call themselves "socialist" or "radical." Any blueprints lurking in the portfolios of the "old left" usually reflect either the bureaucracy and tyranny of "sovietism" or the fraudulent political-style "socialism" which at various times in certain European counties elected "Labor" or "Social Democratic" parties to office. The historical record proves that the role of such parties when elected is that of pulling capitalism's chestnuts out of the economic and social fires which threaten it.
IF AMERICA'S "new left" elements possess any blueprints, they are unfortunately influenced by the present regimes in Cuba or China. We believe that Maoist or Castroist programs offer no lessons (except negative ones) to the people of the United States who must effect their own revolutionary change under highly industrialized conditions. The delicately balanced system of production and distribution in our own country cannot be captured by violence. Here it is especially true that "if the hive be disturbed by rash and stupid hands, instead of honey it will yield us bees." The logical path to the new cooperative society must lie in a form or organization which springs from specific American conditions.
The DeLeonist Program
WHAT DOES the I.U.P. offer as the program? In line the requirements of the modern technological age, proposes that geographical representation be abolished and replaced with representatives elected from various economic and social units which comprise the working mechanism of an industrial society. Politicians from geographic areas are worse than useless in the matter of producing and distributing goods. A truly democratic society would vote for its own supervisors, managers and representatives to a national congress which would reflect the major "industry" units of the naiton.
WITH THE AID of the modern computer, the relatively simple duties of the national administration would be to plan the production and distribution of the goods and services essential to the full life of modern man. With the minimum of work and the maximum of leisure in which to enjoy the products of that work, socialism would leave the individual free to develop his own creative possibilities without the crippling effect of meaningless drudgery and haunting insecurity. As Engels observed many years ago. "Socialism replaces the government over men with an administration of things."
The "Money Game" vs Human Values
SOCIALISM, then, is not merely the rearrangement of the economic system as some think. It is also the natural rearrangement of human relationships. The present system of boss and worker is, in effect, a system of slavery. The vast majority of us sell ourselves, and are bought, on a labor market. Under these conditions, economic considerations must always be prior to human values and human values always in danger of the corrupting and degrading influence of the "money game."
THE REDRESS of social grievances cannot be accomplished within the present system. The establishment of a meaningful life for man as man, instead of man as an economic thing, depends on just how quickly the majority organizes to make the land and the productive tools the common property of society. The technical and human resources necessary to create an affluent society for all, not just the privileged few, are simply waiting to be claimed.
POINT THREE: "THE PLAN OF ATTACK"
IF THE READER thinks that the above is a hopeless dream, then we. are surely condemned to the chamber of horrors which the present system still has in store for us. If, as stated, the material foundation for the new society is already in existence, then its long overdue birth depends upon appearance of the proper motivation. This motivation must be on a large enough scale and incorporate a "plan of attack" which cannot be 'Vetoed" by the ruling class, no matter how desperate to preserve its selfish privileges. The plan of attack is implicit in the goal -- the social and industrial administration of the future society.
THERE ARE THOSE doomsayers who believe that the workers as a whole have sold out to capitalism and to the union bureaucrats who support it. Yet it should seem evident that the achievement of socialism is an impossibility without the combined efforts of those who produce and distribute the nation's goods and services. It would be stupid to deny that most of our fellow workers are, at the moment, sticking with the corporate structure which exploits them so shamefully. It would be folly to believe that this loyalty is forever and ever.
RECENT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS have given evidence (of a sort) that millions of people did want a change. True, this is a view through the mirror with things reversed, but the elections served to demonstrate that people can be moved by social conditions which disturb them. However, no matter who is elected to the driver's seat, capitalism will continue to prove that it cannot fulfill its endless and monotonous promises of a better tomorrow. Economic and social disintegration will grind on, and with it the process of mass disillusionment. The mission of the rebel is to leave no stone unturned in the effort to direct the disenchanted toward the fulfillable promise of the socialist society.
WHO MUST be reached? -- the technicians, the engineers, scientists, teachers and student, the producers and distributors of goods, all of the blue and white collar workers who comprise the 95% who must sell their labor power to those who own the nation's resources. They must be reached effectively with the "plan of attack." This calls for the necessity of organizing what may be called Socialist Industrial Unions. This type of organization is equipped by its very structure to take over, hold, and continue to operate the means of production and distribur tion and to declare them, by political decision, to be the common properfy of all.
WITHOUT THIS ECONOMIC POWER, no peaceful revolutionary change is possible. In actual possession of the working mechanism of society, the overwhelming majority would be in the strategic position of being able to enforce the political decision rendered at the polls. The very instruments of power, the economic and social lever necessary to pry the means of life from the possessive fist of capitalism, remains as the administrative framework of the new society. Dr. Domhoff's second and third priorities turn out to be in the same instant, both the means and the goal. Class rule, symbolized by the political state, goes into history's rubbish heap along with THE SYSTEM which it was designed to protect.
AT PRESENT, the radical movement is split. Each group pursues its own goal, guided by its own vision, each reasonably certain that its way is the correct one. If there is a common denominator, it is the mutual hope for the establishment of a truly good society. Hope, of course, is not enough. Those who opt for a civilized solution will do everything in their power to bring it about by peaceful means. The resort to violence will bring in its wake the rule of the storm trooper -- American style. DeLeon once observed that "When a social revolution is pending but, for whatever reason, is not accomplished, reaction is the alternative." It is to be hoped that the statement, already so prophetic in much of the world, is not equally prophetic in our own country.
THERE ARE THOSE who think it wise to concentrate on immediate issues. Black people and other economically submerged portions of the population will certainly not be resigned to suffering while they wait for socialism. Like workers on strike, all those who are being victimized by deprivation, economic and cultural, will struggle to wring from the present every concession they can get.
THERE IS HOWEVER, the larger vision. As Domhoff states in his essay "... make no mistake about it -- before most people get involved in revolutionary activity they take a mental look way down the road. Maybe not all the way down the road, but a long way down. They want to know what they are getting into, and what the chances are, and whether there is really anything positive in sight that is worth the gamble."
DELEONISM, we believe, facilitates that "mental look way down the road." It presents a reasonably clear picture of the administrative requirements of a modern cooperative society. It offers a "plan of attack" which could bring the new social order into being in a relatively peaceful and orderly manner. If the gap between the present decaying system and the new society is to be bridged successfully, then the goal and the plan for getting there must never be lost sight of.
THE I.U.P. urges that the above statement be considered carefully. It is, of necessity, brief. We welcome the opportunity to discuss it with those who may see difficulties. Only through a serious exchange of views will it be possible to forge the degree of unity necessary to bring an infinitely better society into existence. The process is essential if the useful members of this society are to mobilize themselves into one mighty lever of human emancipation.
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