Socialist Labor Party Position and Program

This page presents the text of a leaflet
distributed in the 1960s by the Socialist Labor
Party of America. The physical layout of the
original document was part of its design, and it
doesn't look right in a purely text form. A
photograph of both sides, with the document
unfolded, is provided, to illustrate how the
sections were arranged. Also provided are
close-ups of the charts within the section
'Socialist Industrial Government: its function
determines its form.'

Photo of leaflet SLP Position and Program

This is the text of a leaflet distributed in the 1960s
by the Socialist Labor Party of America.

Socialist Labor Party

Position & Program

All the grave social problems we face stem from one common cause: capitalism

War

The cause of war is not ideological. Wars are not fought to preserve democracy. They are not fought to allow "small nations" to determine their own destinies. They have nothing to do with freedom. Such claims are a smokescreen used to hide the real cause -- the conflicting material interests of the ruling classes involved.

Vietnam is a case in point. This war has grown out of the same need for markets, raw materials and spheres of influence that has caused all wars of modern times. The United States economy -- a capitalist economy -- dictates the imperialist foreign policies of its government. It is driven to conquer foreign markets for chronic surpluses of goods that cannot be sold at home. If such markets are not won, economic collapse quickly follows.

The war in Vietnam may or may not end soon. In any case, the economic causes of war will remain -- specifically the exploitation of labor which generates the surpluses that must be sold abroad. As long as the capitalist system continues to exist, there will be a struggle for control of markets and spheres of influence. And this struggle periodically erupts into war.

Racism

Prejudice against Negroes was first spread by Southern capitalists to serve their economic interests. Northern capitalists soon joined them in exploiting the black man's color to form a pool of cheap labor.

The racial antagonisms today convulsing America are nourished by the bitter competition for jobs. White workers believe they benefit from the exclusion of black workers from large areas of the job market. And there are black workers who make the same mistake: they hope to benefit from the creation of a separate Negro economy that excludes white workers.

Both overlook a basic fact: The United States is not "two nations, one white, the other black"! It is a capitalist nation in which the line of division is economic. The American people are split into two social classes, one of which owns the industries, and the other does not. The former are the capitalists, the latter are the workers.

The capitalist owners, black and white, have interests in common that are directly opposed to those of all workers, whatever their color. Between capitalists and workers, there is a class struggle that cannot be appeased.

Racism, far from benefiting either white or black workers, benefits their capitalist exploiters by dividing the working class.

Poverty

The poverty afflicting a large part of the American people is not due to moral defects in its victims. It is not due to "laziness" or "shiftlessness." It is due to the capitalist system under which goods are produced for sale with the aim of making profits.

Capitalist profits come from the exploitation of the mass of workers who have only one thing to sell -- their labor power. The average price they get for this in the labor market amounts to a so-called living wage. And millions of workers get far less than the minimum necessary to make ends meet.

But the chance to earn even a meager "living wage" is periodically denied to numerous workers. This happens whenever their employers can't sell the goods their employees produce. At such times, workers who have been living from hand to mouth while employed are soon destitute.

Worse yet, capitalism has reached the stage where millions of workers are permanently doomed to unemployment and pauperdom. And the increased use of automation is steadily swelling their number.

Note well: Poverty is a consequence of the normal functioning of capitalism. It is an evil that persists and spreads under this system despite constant increases in production of goods.

Violence

The mounting violence in America threatens all of us. It is causing nationwide alarm. Yet, though rightly concerned for our safety, we must not ignore a greater danger which this violence portends, that of a fascist reaction.

Warnings of the imminence of this greater danger are multiplying. Indeed, they are fated to do so in the present social circumstances. For the grim truth is that American capitalism is no longer a viable society:

It cannot exist in peace because it would collapse without the conquests and stimulus of war. It cannot eliminate poverty no matter how much its output increases. It cannot heal racial and social strife because it is unable to provide opportunity for all.

Consequently, this outworn society is seething with the anger of those whose lives and hopes it blights. Frustrated in their efforts to obtain redress through the capitalist political process, thousands of angry Americans believe that violence is their sole recourse.

Such a belief is a grave mistake and can bring disaster on our country. Violent expressions of dissent provoke savage repression by the State's armed powers and furnish the pretext for a totalitarian clampdown. Again, to the extent that violence causes chaos, it paves the way for fascism by inducing many to accept a regimented America as the lesser evil.

Pollution

America's natural environment and resources are rapidly being destroyed: Our atmosphere is choked with poisonous gases. Our water systems are dying of industrial pollution. Our watersheds are being dried up by the razing of our forests. Our soil is being contaminated and our food poisoned by the indiscriminate use of toxic chemicals.

What is responsible for the suicidal destruction of our natural heritage? It is the rapacity and greed of the class that owns American industry. Driven by a hunger for profits, and by the pressure of competition, capitalists operate with a wanton disregard for our health and safety. To lower their production costs and boost their profits, they willfully use our air and water as their private sewer.

But the destruction of our natural environment will not be stopped by blaming particular individuals or corporations. It is the capitalist system which is at fault. The laws of economic survival inherent in this system dictate the actions of the capitalist class. And the capitalist who hesitates to engage in the same antisocial acts as his competitors soon faces bankruptcy. There is no room for human considerations in the capitalist system. It is time we returned the compliment by forming a society in which there is no room for capitalist greed.

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Why capitalism frustrates our needs no matter which party is "in"

What is capitalism? The capitalists claim it is a system of "free enterprise." For them it is. But for at least 95 per cent of the American people capitalism is a most unfree system. It is, in fact, economic slavery because it compels that majority to labor for the benefit of the capitalist minority.

This economic slavery is now inherited just as industrial ownership is inherited. Persons born into the working class are fated to stay in that class, with very few exceptions. While some may rise to supervisory or professional positions, even there they remain hired hands subject to the capitalist will.

The situation is not improving. The trend is definitely the other way -- toward a total enslavement of the greatest number. Four factors inherent in capitalist competition are pushing America in that direction: 1) constant expansion of the scale of production; 2) constant technological improvements involving more expensive, automatic tools; 3) a consequent huge increase in the minimum capital required to start or stay in business; 4) an inevitable concentration of production and ownership as financially stronger capitalists squeeze out their rivals.

The combined effect of these factors is to thin out the capitalists' ranks and to augment those of the workers, with the former acquiring absolute control of the nation's economy and the latter having no choice but to seek capitalist employment in order to live. Of course, capitalist employment means exploitation of the persons employed. No capitalist hires workers just to give them a living. He expects them to produce much, much more than the equivalent of what he pays them. This "much, much more" multiplied by the over seventy million men and women who run America's industries and services equals the enormous wealth that the capitalist class regularly extorts from the working class.

Capitalist exploitation of labor is the underlying cause of war and economic collapse. It is also the breeder of poverty, racism, corruption and crime. Labor exploitation is, therefore, of itself enough to condemn the economic system based upon it.

But there is another aspect of capitalism which equally condemns it -- namely, the despotic, antisocial power, political as well as economic, that ownership and control of industry places in the capitalist minority's hands.

The capitalists make all the momentous decisions affecting our lives. They decide whether the industries are to run in the first place, or are to be shut down, or moved to another region. They decide what is to be produced, how much, and where it is to be marketed. They decide what laws are to be enacted, what policies are to be followed, what changes are to be made in our environment. And, naturally, every capitalist decision is shaped by the aim of maximizing profits.

In this national decision making, the great majority of Americans, the working people, are mere passive onlookers. Since they own no property other than their personal possessions (which obviously is not the kind of property that confers power and influence), they are excluded from participation in decisions on which their lives depend.

The political process, though ostensibly democratic, simply masks the autocratic decrees of the handful who compose America's ruling class. The vast wealth of the capitalists gives them political ascendancy and assures their control of the government -- a government that has become inherently disposed to foster capitalist interests no matter who holds its offices; and that is as ready to crush rebelling workers as any police state.

These are the economic and political facts which characterize capitalism as a social system. One thing is certain: This system cannot be made to work in the interest of everyone. No reformers, however sincere, can possibly reform it. For capitalism feeds on human exploitation, and inequality is its breath of life. More than ever before, the events of recent years prove that material facts, not men, determine the course of history. The material facts of capitalism are rushing this nation from crisis to crisis. If these crises are to be overcome and our society made to serve the interests of all, capitalism must go!

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Concerning Russia

The repeated indictments of capitalism may suggest to some that the Socialist Labor Party holds the Soviet system (and its variants) innocent of the crimes of which capitalism is guilty. Let it be clear that it does not.

The SLP concentrates its attack on capitalism because it is capitalism with which we in America must deal. But in reality, class-divided society everywhere is the culprit.

Though the Russian and American systems are not identical, they have important characteristics in common. Both are class-divided systems. Both rob their workers of the bulk of the wealth the workers produce. Both compete for the same markets, sources of raw materials and spheres of influence.

Other SLP literature deals at length with the Soviet system. But for the purpose of this paper it is sufficient to make these two points: Soviet Russia is not a Socialist nation. It is a despotic, class-ruled society which shares with capitalism criminal responsibility for war, imperialism and international anarchy.

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The Socialist Labor Party rejects capitalism in its entirety, proposes a new form of society, Socialism, that can serve the needs of all people in this industrial age. The SLP stands alone in the clarity of its idea of how Socialism must be constituted, and, equally important, how the workers of our nation must organize themselves to get it. Both the means and the goal are part of a single concept: Socialist Industrial Unionism.

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The Socialist goal ...

In Socialist America, all power to make social decisions will be vested in the people in a form secure from future usurpation. Our industries, their ownership, and how they are run are far more important to our lives and welfare than any other aspect of our national existence. Socialist society and government will be based on these truths. Accordingly:

The industries (the means of producing all goods and serv-vices) will be owned collectively by all the people.

The industries will be administered democratically from bottom to top by representatives elected directly by the workers in each industry.

This industrial administration will, in fact, be the new government.

Production will be carried on to satisfy the people's wants, not for private profit. Each person who has performed useful work will receive in goods and services the full equivalent of that work.

There is nothing in this picture which in any way resembles the workings of class-divided capitalism and its political State.

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and the capitalist present ...

Capitalist development and history make available to the workers three precious assets:

First, the industries. They are superb. Rationally used, they can make possible the production of an abundance that will wipe out every vestige of poverty.

Second, working class organization. Capitalism has organized us workers to run the industries. It puts us in daily physical possession of them. We can turn this position to our decisive strategic advantage.

Third, our democratic heritage. For all its weaknesses, we still have a potentially powerful ballot. We have a constitution and a tradition that sanction change when the majority wills it.

Thus, even as capitalism goes down in decay, there are available to us the means with which to build a sane and affluent society.

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shape the SLP program:

To enable us to get where we want to go, the SLP program takes into account where we are. It calls upon the workers to take two kinds of action:

1. Political Action -- We, the worker majority, must use the ballot to affirm our revolutionary right to replace capitalism with Socialism.

2. Industrial Action -- We workers must be ready to back up the Socialist ballot with an irresistible, non-violent force. The place to muster this force is in the industries. The way to muster it is by organizing revolutionary industrial unions. It is through our Socialist Industrial Unions that we will take hold of the economy and oust the outvoted capitalist class. It is with their united economic power that we will quell any antidemocratic violence. And it is these same unions that will be the framework of our Socialist Industrial Government.

Here, in outline, is the program through which the majority can peacefully carry out a Socialist reconstruction of America and at the same time easily put down a possible procapitalist rebellion.

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Socialist Industrial Government: its function determines is form.

The government of Socialist America will have the coordinating and administering our industrial activities. It will, accordingly, have an industrial base. And it will be so constituted that all authority will come directly from the workers, integrally organized in Socialist Industrial Unions.

In each plant (and in each school, hospital, etc.), the rank and file will elect a management committee to supervise their plant operations. In each subdivision of a plant, every worker will participate in making the necessary plans for carrying out the directives of the management committee and for efficiently running his economic unit.

Besides electing their immediate supervisors, the workers will also elect representatives to a local and a national council of their respective industry - and to a central congress representing all the industries and services.

The All-Industry Congress (see adjacent chart) will ascertain what goods and services we the people want and the resources needed to supply them. It will draw up the necessary production, expansion and improvement plans and allocate these to the various industries. It will arrange a just distribution of the output, with each worker receiving the full social equivalent of the labor he has contributed.

All persons elected to posts in this economic administration, at whatever level, will be subject to removal whenever a majority of those who elected them find it desirable to replace them.

This is the only democracy possible in highly-industrialized America: democracy founded on social ownership and economic freedom. It is the only form of society that can solve the problems capitalism has imposed upon us. It is the only social structure that can release the abundance for all now locked up in the capitalist economy.

For you as an individual, Socialist Industrial Democracy will mean a full, happy and useful life. It will mean the opportunity to develop all your talents. It will mean participation in the councils of a society of free human beings.

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In the Socialist future:

* No man or woman will be denied useful employment. Everyone will have the widest choice of occupation.

* Automation will be employed to gain us more leisure as well as to increase our product.

* Material wellbeing plus excellent schooling, medical care, cultural and recreational advantages will be the birthright of all Americans.

* We will utilize our natural resources intelligently, using every pertinent science to keep our land bountiful and beautiful.

* America will be a peaceful neighbor seeking cooperative economic exchange with all mankind.

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Your role in building a Socialist America is of great importance. Read SLP literature to see why!