Socialist Industrial Unionism - The Workers' Power


The Workers' Power
-- -
(This is the text of a leaflet distributed in 1957
by the Socialist Labor Party of America.
A future version of this file will include the
graphical illustrations that accompanied the original text.
-- M.L., web site editor)


The Workers' Power


A Socialist Industrial Union, in shop, mine, factory and on the railroads, conscious of its revolutionary mission, would constitute a power unconquerable.


In a revolutionary period in history, when mankind must choose between an outworn social order and a new order, the question HOW becomes every bit as important as the question WHAT.

The great social question of our age which demands immediate solution is: Are we going to keep the system of private ownership? Shall we attempt to preserve a social system that has proved its incapacity to solve the problem of poverty in the midst of plenty? Do you favor prolonging the life of a society in which a few own all the means of wealth-production, in which labor-saving machinery, instead of lightening labor's toil, throws workers out of their jobs onto the industrial scrapheap? Must mankind pass through still another vicious cycle of depression, crisis and war? Or shall we do the common-sense thing, make the means of production our collective property, abolish exploitation of the many by the few, and use our productive genius to create leisure and abundance for all?

If you agree with us that society must be reconstructed, then there are certain things we must understand. The first is that we can expect no help whatsoever from the beneficiaries of capitalism. Here and there a capitalist may see the handwriting on the wall and join with the workers, but as a class the capitalists, like the slave-owning and feudal classes before them, will strive to prolong their poverty-ridden, war-breeding system. The workers of hand and brain must build this new world and emancipate themselves through their own classconscious efforts.

The second thing we must understand is this: Though the workers are in the overwhelming majority, and have tremendous potential power, they can apply their collective strength to the task at hand only through organization.

How must the American workers organize to effect their emancipation?

We have a Constitution that provides for its own amendment, or, in other words that legalizes revolution. In the language of Abraham Lincoln: "The right of peaceable assembly and petition and by Article V of the Constitution-the right of amendment -- is the constitutional substitute for [armed] revolution."

This means that by organizing politically the working class places itself firmly upon the institutions of civilization, and avails itself fully of the constitutional right of political agitation and the ballot. This is the peaceful method. It permits the forces of progress to proclaim their purpose in the broad-open day, and there mobilize themselves for political victory and the conquest of the capitalist political State.

But no ruling class in history has ever willingly relinquished its power and privileges. There is nothing in the history of our own ruling class to indicate that it differs in this respect from the slave-owning and feudal classes of old. Therefore, behind the Socialist ballot the workers must organize a power capable of enforcing its mandate. Socialist Industrial Unionism is that power. Unlike AFL-CIO unionism, which boasts of being a bulwark of capitalism, Socialist Industrial Unionism declares its intention to abolish class rule.

The source of all power is economic. Armies, particularly modern armies, cannot operate unless they are constantly supplied with a multitude of items which flow uninterruptedly from industry. Although an army is a military power, it is dependent on industry, hence on the workers who operate industry.

Modern capitalist production has achieved such magnitude that it has greatly expanded the potential economic power of the workers. This is true because the workers run industry from top to bottom and are, therefore, in the best strategic position to take possession. "Take possession" is precisely what we must do in an orderly and yet resolute manner the moment the victory at the polls is proclaimed. This is not a general strike (which leaves the workers in the open terrain), but a GENERAL LOCKOUT OF THE CAPITALIST CLASS!

Finally, the Socialist Industrial Union supplies the instrument for the administration of production under the Industrial Republic of Labor. It is at once "the battering ram with which to pound down the fortress of capitalism, and the successor of the capitalist social structure itself."

All power to the Socialist industrial Union!


ABRAHAM LINCOLN SAID: "Inasmuch as most things are produced by labor, It follows that an snch tilings of right belong to those whose labor has produced them. But it has so happened, in all ages of the world, that some have labored, and others have without labor enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. This is wrong and should not continue. To secure to each laborer the whole product of his labor, or as nearly as possible, is a most worthy object of any good government." (Dec. 1, 1847.)


18th Century Line of Representation

This Form of Government Suited the Pre-lndustrial Age

A hundred and fifty years ago production was simple. Nearly all communities were more or less self-contained, i.e., they produced flour, leather, cloth, lumber, and most of the things they consumed, locally. Geographical representation -- representation from states and Congressional areas -- harmonized with the economic as well as the social needs of the people.

Gradually at first, then rapidly after the Civil War, local manufacture gave way to national manufacture and distribution via an intricate network of railways. The self-contained community disappeared. Instead, each community became dependent on all others for the goods it consumed.

Today our productive mechanism is as complex as it is vast. It cuts across all arbitrary boundary lines and can no more be controlled and directed by Congress than a locomotive can be driven with a bull whip. To direct the huge and complicated industrial machine under a collective society requires an Industrial Form of Administration.


A lone fiddler needs no leader, but an orchestra does. The orchestra leader is not there to bully anyone or rule anyone. His baton is not an insignia of tyranny. He is a necessary and important part of the orchestra itself.

Our industrial system of production is in the nature of an orchestra. If it is to function smoothly in the interests of all fhe people it must have directing authority. Socialist Industrial Union councils will provide this directing authority through democratic processes that will reserve all power to the great rank and file of the workers.


The workers who run the industries today, under capitalism, will run them tomorrow, under Socialism. The difference will be (1) that tomorrow, under Socialism, production will be carried on to satisfy human needs-instead of for sale and profit-and (2) the despotic management of capitalism will be replaced by the workers' own democratically elected and democratically controlled industrial administrators and representatives.

The workers will vote in their industry, elect their foremen, administrative committees and representatives to local, departmental and national industrial union councils, and finally to the All-Industrial Union Congress which takes the place of the outmoded and corrupt political Congress of class rule. Thus, the workers themselves, organized in the factories, mills, mines and stores, and on the farms, ships and railroads, will constitute the basis of a Workers' Democracy -- the most complete democracy ever achieved since the breakdown of the tribal councils of primitive man.

It is important to note that Socialist Industrial Union Administration constitutes an entirely new concept of government. It replaces political, or geographic, constituencies with industrial ones. Thin, instead of tending representatives to Congress from states and congressional areas, we will send them from the various industries of the land.

Instead of the complicated tasks arising from conditions of class rule, the duties of the Socialist Industrial Union Congress will be the relatively simple ones of deciding how much is producible and how much is needed. How many tons of bituminous coal are needed? That information goes to the Mine Workers' Industrial Union. How many pain of shoes? That goes to the Leather Workers' Union. And so forth and so oa up and down the line.


"Form follows function" expresses the philosophy of a school of industrial design. It is a brilliant generalization, and it expresses perfectly the logic of Socialist government based on industry.

The function of government under Socialism is that of administering social production for the benefit of all.

But to administer social production requires, first of all, that government be based on the industries. Its form must be industrial. It must conform to the structure of the industrial apparatus that has developed under capitalism.

(Note: The term "industries" here includes education, public health, recreation, etc. Each of these would be administered by its own Socialist Industrial Union organization, and each would have a status comparable to the auto, steel and other industrial production industries.)

The chart above is not a blueprint. It depicts the principle of Socialist Industrial Union organization, using the Automobile Workers' Industrial Union as an example. It shows how the workers in the various shop units are organized within a single plant union, as, for example, the Ford plant at River Rouge. Then it shows how the workers in the various plants turning out the same product are organized into a Local Industrial Union of the Automobile Industry.

All the Local Industrial Unions of the industry (from Los Angeles, Detroit, Flint, Milwaukee, etc.) are integrated in a National Industrial Union that will assemble all pertinent facts and information, and direct and coordinate over-all production in the auto industry.

Finally, the workers in the automobile industry, together with all the workers in the other industries, are represented in the Socialist Industrial Union Congress-which takes the place of our present outmoded political Congress. Its duties will be the simple ones of directing and coordinating our productive mechanism so that an abundance for all is produced with a minimum of human effort.

In the Socialist Industrial Republic all final authority will be vested, not in leaders, but in the rank and file of workers. The rank and file will elect administrators and representatives on all levels, and these will have the privilege to serve, but never the power to rule.

By "all levels" we mean the administrative posts in the shop, the plant, the local and national industrial union councils, and the Socialist Industrial Union Congress.

Moreover, the rank and file will have the power to recall and remove any representative who, in their judgment, fails to measure up to what is expected of him. Reflect on this! Theoretically, we may have the right to recall our political representative today, under capitalism. Actually, this "right" is meaningless so far as the workers are concerned. Workers have neither facilities nor organization through which to exercise their "right." But under Socialism, when representatives are elected from industries owned, and managed and controlled by the workers, they can be recalled as easily as they were elected to office.

There can be no bureaucrats in the Socialist Industrial Union Government. This will be a living, vibrant democracy in which all power is in the only safe, place for power to be-with the workers integrally organized in every industry in the land.


Production and Administration by Industrial Union Government

"Where the General Executive Board of the Socialist Industrial Union win sit, there win be the nation's capital." -- DANIEL DE LEON


Fellow Worker: Do YOU want to learn more about Socialist Industrial Unionism? Industrial Union Administration? The Socialist Labor Party program for a Socialist Reconstruction of society? Will you take an active role in the revolutionary drama that is already unfolding? Will you expend the effort NOW to enable you to do so? Then fill in and mail to us the coupon at the bottom of this page. DO IT TODAY!


The Socialist Labor Party, founded in 1890, advocates an industrial representative government based on social ownership of industry and production for use. It has no connection whatsoever with other parties or groups calling themselves Socialist or Communist.