Socialist Labor Party Resolution on Strikes - 1940


Resolution on Strikes
Adopted by the National Executive Committee,
Socialist Labor Party,
May Session 1940.

1. The Socialist Labor Party declares that strikes by workers under capitalism constitute the logical and unavoidable reactions on the part of the workers to the inhuman and unbearable conditions imposed upon them by a social system (capitalism) which places the workers in the category of commodities, and which accords them as wage slaves a treatment economically not essentially different from that accorded the chattel slave or serf. Driven by the lash of hunger; subdued largely by the thought of the privations visited upon their loved ones if they refuse to submit to being exploited, but goaded finally to rebellion by the utter misery and degradation to which they and their families are eventually reduced, it is inevitable that they should strike back at their exploiters, however blindly, and however mistaken they may be in their manner of striking back.

While reserving the right to criticize the inadequacy of the methods employed by the workers in seeking redress on the economic field, the Socialist Labor Party applauds the spirit which prompts the workers to strike against the inhuman wage slavery under which they suffer, and, reaffirming its previous resolutions and declarations on this head, pledges itself to the support of striking workers in any manner consistent with the principles and ultimate aim of the Party. In so doing we also reaffirm our acceptance of the statement by Daniel De Leon in his immortal address, "What Means This Strike?", to wit:

"The attitude of workingmen engaged in a bona fide strike is an inspiring one. It is an earnest that slavery will not prevail. The slave alone who will not rise against his master, who will meekly bend his back to the lash and turn his cheek to him who plucks his beard - that slave alone is hopeless. But the slave who persists, despite failures and poverty, in rebelling, there is always hope for."

2. The Socialist Labor Party, however, warns the workers of America that strikes in and by themselves cannot solve their problems, let alone abolish the cause which creates these problems, namely, the capitalist system. We emphasize that, however understandable is their resort to strikes and related activities, such efforts and attempts at ameliorating their lot must prove futile while the capitalist system of private ownership in the land and the means of production prevails. As the great champion of the working class, Karl Marx, once said:

"... the general tendency of capitalist production is not to raise, but to sink the average standard of wages, or to push the value of labor more or less to its minimum limit. Such being the tendency of things in this system, is this saying that the working class ought to renounce their resistance against the encroachments of capital, and abandon their attempts at making the best of the occasional chances for their temporary improvement? If they did, they would be degraded to one level mass of broken wretches past salvation.... The necessity of debating their price with the capitalist is inherent to their condition of having to sell themselves as commodities. By cowardly giving way in their everyday conflict with capital, they would certainly disqualify themselves for the initiating of any larger movement."

While the workers are wage slaves under capitalism, their condition is bound to grow worse and worse, and, whatever incidental improvement or increases in wages groups of workers may achieve, they are secured either at the expense of the working class as a whole, or because of a temporary condition which happens to favor such groups of workers economically. Nevertheless, and notwithstanding the facts referred to, the workers must resist the encroachments of their capitalist exploiters, and through their day-by-day struggles seek at least to maintain the prevailing working conditions where these cannot be improved.

3. The Socialist Labor Party points to the fact that capitalism fatedly creates conditions which render the lot of the workers ever more precarious and insecure. The Party also points to the fact that attempts at this stage at bettering their lot through legislative enactments can result in nothing but the fastening of the chains of wage slavery upon them ever more firmly and securely, while at the same time such legislative enactments in effect constitute certification of their slavery, and amount, in fact, to a codification of the terms of this slavery, besides accelerating the tendencies, and consolidating the social and economic forces which, barring Socialism, must inevitably lead to absolute economic serfdom. The Socialist Labor Party, accordingly, heeding the words, and acting in the spirit of labor's great champions, Karl Marx and Daniel De Leon, urges the working class of America to organize into class unions to the end of doing away with the causes which now reduce them to the status of wage slaves, and which inescapably block their every attempt to throw off the yoke of this degrading and intolerable slavery. The primary cause is capitalism, but among the subsidiary causes stand out prominently the outworn craft unions and the reactionary, so-called mass-organizations known as the CIO, and kindred bodies. And last, but not least, there stand as enemies of labor's emancipation from virtual economic serfdom the corrupt labor leaders. Whether these are of the AFL or CIO variety matters not at all. While on the political field also there stand prominently as labor's enemies the political reformers and visionaries who fraudulently claim to be able to effect improvement of the lot of the working class under capitalism through the mere enactment of laws, even as the so-called labor leaders falsely claim to be able to do so on the economic field.

To develop the requisite power with which to resist the encroachments of their capitalist exploiters, and eventually to effect their emancipation, the workers must organize into Socialist Industrial Unions, thoroughly integrated, prepared to take, hold and operate the industries, when through the ballot a majority shall have decreed the abolition of capitalism, and the inauguration of the Socialist Republic of Labor.

4. Being unable to furnish employment to millions of workers, and fearing the consequences of these millions getting out of control and taking matters into their own hands, the capitalist class, through their political puppets in national and state governments, has been compelled to dole out relief, so-called, to the starving jobless workers, though constantly seeking to keep down to its lowest level, or to reduce to such level, the pittance which they otherwise find themselves compelled to hand out. The Socialist Labor Party warns the workers not to barter their manhood, or their political rights, privileges and prerogatives as citizens, for such miserable doles. While under the circumstances the workers are compelled to, and naturally ought to, accept such so-called "relief," we warn them not to regard such "relief" as either gifts or as measures leading to permanently improvement of their condition. Where such "relief" is not absolutely prompted by their capitalist masters' mortal fear of working class rebellion, it is intended as bribes by scheming and corrupt or reactionary politicians. "Relief," then, should obviously be accepted by the workers as the very least they are entitled to as victims of a social system whose beneficiaries live on the wealth produced solely by the working class.

5. To sum up. While, therefore, the members of the Socialist Labor Party must never fail to explain to the workers the ultimate futility of all attempts made by them to better their conditions under capitalism, and while Socialist Labor Party members must constantly point out to the workers that there is no hope for then except through a speedy overthrow of capitalism and all its works, on the basis of the program and principles of the Socialist Labor Party, no member of the Party should belittle or underestimate the social significance of strikes and similar manifestations of working class rebellion, for the reasons stated before, and on the principle, moreover, that a contented or submissive slave is a degraded and all but hopeless creature. While it is not the function of SLP members to encourage workers to strike under the prevailing circumstances, it is their duty to encourage and stimulate the spirit and the sentiment which prompt the workers to strike, and they should also at the same time attempt to direct that sentiment into revolutionary channels via Socialist political and economic organizations, on the lines laid down by the Socialist Labor Party.