Daniel De Leon, As To Politics
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As To Politics
Daniel De Leon, Editor
New York Labor News Co., 1907
First Letter of Sandgren, and Answer Thereto
Letter of La Bille, and Answer Thereto
Letter of Wagner and Vasilio, and Answer Thereto
Letter of Giovannitti, and Answer Thereto
Letter of Hoffman, and Answer Thereto
Second Letter of Sandgren, and Answer Thereto
Letter of Kopald, and Answer Thereto
Questions by Spettel, and Answers
Questions by Eherich, and Answers
Questions by Kiefe, and Answers
Questions by Rice, and Answers
The contents of this pamphlet are a discussion that took place
in the columns of The People, under the head "As To Politics," during
the months of November and December, 1906, and January and February,
The discussion consisted of letters written to The People by
correspondents who advocated the dropping of political action
altogether, and reliance exclusively upon revolutionary,
classconscious Industrial Unionism; and The People's answers. The
letters are published in this pamphlet together with the answers given
to each by The People, combating the error. An important part of the
discussion consisted of a number of questions asked and answers to
them by The People. These are also included, closing with an
editorial from The People entitled "Supplemental" to the subject, and
answering the last question put.
The subject matter of the discussion, besides being of deep
interest, is timely. True to the Marxian observation that, contrary
to the law of bourgeois revolutions, the law, obedient to which the
revolutionary movement of the proletariat acts, is to "criticize
itself constantly; constantly to interrupt itself in its own course;
to come back to what seems to have been accomplished in order to start
over anew; to scorn with cruel thoroughness the half measures,
weaknesses and meannesses of its first attempts; to seem to throw down
its adversary only in order to enable him to draw fresh strength from
the earth, and again to rise up against it in more gigantic stature;
to constantly recoil in fear before the undefined monster magnitude of
its own objects - until, finally, that situation is created which
renders all retreat impossible, until the conditions themselves cry
out: "Hic Rhodus, hic salta !" - true to that Marxian observation,
the Labor Movement of America is today thoroughly criticizing itself.
No more important subject of criticism can there be than
half-measures - one time purely of physical force, another time purely
of political action - which the movement has, in previous years,
pursued. No more important a subject to be clear upon than the proper
tactics of the movement. Means and ends supplement, they even
dovetail into each other. No clearness, as to ends, is well
conceivable without correctness of means; no correctness of means can
well be hit upon without clearness as to ends. This principle is
peculiarly applicable to the ends and the means thereto of the
Socialist or Labor Movement.
The publication, in pamphlet form, of the discussion conducted
during those four months in The People is intended to furnish in
compact form the information whereby to arrive at the correct tactics
wherewith to reach the goal of the Socialist Commonwealth.
Daniel De Leon
New York, July 8, 1907
First letter, by John Sandgren, San Francisco, Cal.
The most important issue confronting the working class today is
the question of the proper method, the proper tactics to adopt ill
order to attain the aim upon which even the most hostile fictions
agree, namely, the overthrow of the capitalist system.
A discussion of this kind leads us immediately to the question:
shall it be accomplished through political organization, or through
economic organization, or through both.
It is imperative that this question should be openly, honestly,
and widely discussed, in order to arrive at a solid basis upon which
all workingmen may unite; it is imperative that the cloudiness and
uncertainty, which now divides revolutionary workingmen and frustrates
in part their best energies and efforts, should be dispelled. Having
very decided opinions on the subject, I beg leave to submit my views,
hoping they will be received in the same good faith as they are given,
without prejudice or rancor, solely with the aim of benefiting the
working class movement.
The first preamble of the Industrial Workers of the World says
that "the workers must come together on the political, as well as the
industrial field, and take and hold that which they produce by their
labor, through an economic organization, without affiliation with any
The second convention of the I.W.W., held this year, adopted an
amendment to this clause to the effect that the I.W.W. does not wish
to endorse or be endorsed by any political party, which amendment will
no doubt be adopted by referendum vote. The amendment does not
materially change the original clause. This clause declaring for
political unity, but at the same time striking a noli-me-tangere,
don't-touch-me, attitude to all political parties has been, is, and
will be subject to an endless variety of interpretations.
A document like the preamble should be positive in its
statements, not negative. It should outline a definite, absolutely
definite, policy, which could leave no room for essential
disagreement, between those who endorse its program at least. Its
weakness on this point lies in enumerating two things out of the
thousand and one things which it does not want, namely, it does not
want to endorse any political party and it does not want to be
endorsed by a political party. Instead of doing this, the preamble
ought to state most positively what the I.W.W. _does_ want and thus
serve as a fixed star to steer by, instead of presenting us with a
moving cloud to steer by, on this most essential point, the question
However presumptuous it may appear, the writer will undertake
to suggest an amendment for the next convention to consider, an
amendment which will remove the apparent contradiction and express the
ideas and the conception of revolutionary workingmen, and it would be
To strike out all reference to politics in the I.W.W.
In defense of a preamble thus amended, may I be allowed to
submit the following reasons.
It is not in order to dodge or to escape a difficult situation,
with which two I.W.W. conventions have unsuccessfully wrangled that
this amendment is submitted for discussion. It is submitted because
_political activity may justly be considered of little or no value_
for the overthrow of the capitalist system. If the following
arguments in support of such a sweeping statement are defective to the
point of making the conclusion wrong, they should be annihilated, in
the best interest of the working class.
It is being asserted by the adherents of a revolution at the
ballot box, that the working class outnumbers the other class as
voters (some enthusiasts say "as 10 to 1"). If this statement is
true, it would be theoretically possible to vote capitalism out of
existence, provided nearly all workingmen could be made to vote
solidly for revolution, and provided the class in power would count
their vote, and provided the ruling class would abide by their vote,
and provided that an economic organization is in existence to "back
up" the vote, if the ruling class does not abide by it. But in the
final analysis this contention is based upon the statement that the
workers are a _majority of the voters_. The contention stands or
falls with the question whether the workers are in a majority at the
ballot box or not. Thus far nobody can disagree with me, except those
who depend for political success upon the votes of people who do not
belong to the working class.
The writer maintains that the working class is not in a
majority at the ballot box, which he will proceed to prove in the
following simple manner, by the aid of statistics.
According to United States statistics, as summed up in the
Socialist Almanac, page 101, the working class was in 1870, 62.81 per
cent of the population,, in 1880, 58.91 per cent, and in 1890, 55 per
cent of the total population. Later statistics I can unfortunately
not quote, my little library having been destroyed in the great San
Francisco fire. But I am certain that later statistical figures are
not such as to wreck my conclusions, as we will find further on.
Taking the figures of 1890 the wage working class 55 per cent
of the population and the plutocrat, middle, and professional class 45
per cent. Assuming that we have universal and equal manhood suffrage
it would then be correct to assume that the working class controls 55
per cent of the votes and the master class 45 per cent.
But these 55 per cent are by no means all voters. In this
percentage of workingmen are included men of foreign parentage who
have not become voters and the disfranchised Negroes, and many other
Considering first the foreign-born, included in the 55 per cent
we find that in 1900, according to my best recollection, they were
about 18 per cent of the whole population. of these approximately 12
per cent may be counted as belonging to the working class, and the
other 6 per cent to the other class. these 6 per cent being nearly
all citizens and voters. Of the 12 per cent belonging to the working
class only a small part are voters. A large percentage are not in the
country a sufficient time to be citizens, and outside the Celtic and
Teutonic races comparatively few foreigners acquire citizenship,
partly because they do not learn the language well enough to become
citizens, partly because their imperfect knowledge of the language
makes them indifferent to citizenship "privileges," partly on account
of the difficulty in securing witnesses in accordance with law, partly
because they have lost faith in the ballot in the country where they
came from. Taking all these factors into consideration it is safe to
assume that of the 12 per cent counted with the working class about 8
per cent have no vote.
Subtract 8 from 55 you have 47 per cent., as against the 45 per
cent. of the other class. Your majority is dwindling dangerously
Now we come to the Negroes included in the 55 per cent. They
number about 10 per cent of the population. Most Negroes being wage
workers about 7 per cent of them are included in the 55 per cent. Of
these approximately 5 per cent are disfranchised directly.
Subtract 5 per cent from 47 per cent and you have 42 per cent.
as against the 45 per cent of the other class. Now where is your
majority? You are already in the minority, and I have already proven
my statement that you do not outnumber the other class at the ballot
But in addition to these large groups who have no voice in the
nation's affairs we have an immense number of citizens, who are
counted in the 55 per cent, who lose their vote through poll tax,
property and residence qualifications and through the nature of their
occupation. About 200,000 seafaring men can not vote. Hundreds of
thousands of workers, aye over a million, who work in railroad
construction, in the woods, or drift from Manitoba to Louisiana with
the harvest season, or between the different crops in California and
the Northwest, or from mining camp to mining camp or from one
industrial town to another, are disfranchised. It is safe to deduct 5
per cent more from the 55 per cent. Deducting 5 per cent from 42 per
cent we get 37 per cent as opposed to the 45 per cent of the other
class. You are now 8 per cent behind, which leaves a generous margin
to cover any errors made in this argument. That the figures will not
stand essentially different in 1910 or 1920, counting by per cent, is
also safe to assume. It may be said with some truth that since 1890
the working class has been largely swelled by accessions from a dying
middle class, and that nearly a million wage workers (largely
disfranchised come to this country every year, and that the working
class as a consequence is now more than 55 per cent of the population.
But as stated above the figures were for 1870, 62.81 per cent, for
1880, 58.91 per cent, for 1890, 55 per cent. If the pendulum has
swung the other way since 1890, it is still hardly probable that it
has swung far enough to give the working class a majority at the
ballot box. It is up to my critics to prove that it has, by quoting
later, authentic statistics.
It is proven, then, that the working class does not outnumber
the ruling class at the ballot box. And a miss in politics is as good
as a mile. To fall short 100 voters of a majority is, for all
practical purposes, as bad as getting only 100 votes in all.
Rut this argument against the value of the ballot as a working
class weapon is so strong that I can afford to be generous. I will
grant, for the sake of argument, that we do outnumber the ruling class
at the ballot box.
Can we, then, judging by past and present success, entertain
the hope of gathering, in any reasonable time, that problematical
working class majority upon one program, under one revolutionary
banner? Probably not. The ruling class holds the strings of the
bread and butter of millions of slaves so tightly that they can not
vote for revolution. Furthermore the ruling class controls the
schools and poisons the young minds of the children. It owns the
press and controls the minds of the fullgrown. It controls the
pulpit, and there pollutes the mind of child and man. What becomes of
your working class majority before these facts?
Again, granting for the sake of argument, that we now outnumber
the master class at the ballot box, is there any reasonable
justification for hoping that the master class will cease to impose
new restrictions upon the right to vote, when that has been their
course for the last ten years, as witness Texas, Louisiana,
Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and other states? Or
is there any guarantee whatsoever that our ruling class will not
resort to gerrymandering or election geometry, that is, redistributing
of districts and representation as has been done in Germany, Sweden
and other countries, in order to curtail the effect of a working class
Granting, again, that we not only outnumber the ruling class,
but have actually succeeded in getting a majority vote, what hope is
there that they will not count us out, as is being done in every
election, not only against workingmen's parties but between the
masters themselves? What would it matter if we had the vote "backed
up with an economic organization"? As long as we insist on
accomplishing our aim "legally," so long can the master endure the
game of showing us black on white that we are in the minority, and if
we were to attempt the "backing up" of this minority, we would be
"illegal" in the eyes of the ruling class anyhow, is long as they are
Having granted so many impossible things, for the sake of
argument, let us grant one more. Let us assume that a revolutionary
political party carries a national election, and is allowed to take
possession of all offices from President down. What will be the
As has so frequently been demonstrated, that day of our
political victory would be our political funeral. The function of
government is to make and enforce laws for the running of the
capitalist system and to safeguard it against all comers. Or in other
words, the sole purpose and function of government is to regulate the
relations springing from the private ownership of the means of
production and distribution, and everything connected therewith. But
the new form of society, which we are preparing for, does not
recognize this private ownership, it proposes to recognize production
and distribution on collective lines, a function which can not
possibly be filled by politicians, by a President, a Secretary of War,
a Secretary of the Navy, a House of Representatives, a Senate, a
Custom House Department, an Internal Revenue Department, etc. Like
Shakespeare's Moor, the politicians would find their occupation gone.
There would be positively nothing for them to do, unless they were to
continue to run society on capitalist lines, the very thing they were
supposedly elected to discontinue.
Neither can it reasonably be suggested that these men, thus
elected, should instantly sit down and reorganize society on
co-operative lines. Society may be _reformed_ by decrees and
resolutions, but a _complete organic change_, a revolution, as we
contemplate, must begin at the bottom, is a matter of evolution within
the constituent parts of the organism itself, is a building of cell
upon cell until the organism is completed. The so-called political
organization does not occupy itself with this task. This task is left
to the economic organization such as the I.W.W. which is even now
grouping and arranging the individual human units as cells in the
future organism of society. Such an organization as the I.W.W. will,
when the proper time comes, pass society over from private to
collective ownership with no more jar, than when a railroad train,
after crossing a steel bridge, glides over the narrow slit which
separates the bridge from terra firma, no matter what its struggle may
be before it reaches that point. And such an organization, instead of
having to abdicate on the day of victory, reaches first then its
perfection, and becomes the permanent form of the new society.
Of course I realize that little, if any, objection will be made
to this manner of stating the function of the economic organization.
The objection I anticipate is that we need the political movement as
an auxiliary, at least in the every day battle with the master class.
Against this objection I maintain, and will try to prove, that the
political propaganda, far from being needed as an auxiliary for the
overthrow of capitalism, is positively harmful to true working class
interests. Such propaganda fosters and maintains the illusion that
all the evils of society can be mended at the ballot box, which I have
shown not to be the case. _Reforms_ can be enacted through the
ballot, but not revolutions contrary to the interests of those who
control the ballot. Political activity puts us on a par with the
capitalist parties and places us in a position where we have to
tacitly endorse and cooperate in maintaining the capitalist system. I
Suppose Jackson of the S.L.P. had been elected governor of New
York, Haywood of the S.P. governor of Colorado, or Lewis of the S.P.
governor of California, and all three suppositions are unreasonable,
for the capitalist class is not going to allow us to play at
governing, simply for the pleasure of having us demonstrate our
What would happen if these three men had been elected together
with their whole tickets, controlling state legislature and everything
Could they have declared the cooperative commonwealth in
existence? Everybody answers no. The legislature would have to sit
down and tackle the bitter tasks of making, amending and improving the
laws pertaining to the private ownership of the means of production
and distribution. To do anything else would bring upon them the U.S.
Supreme Court and eventually the U.S. regular troops. They would
perforce have to be accomplices of the capitalist class in
administering capitalist law to the workers. Could they even shorten
the hours of toil or increase the pay of the workers? Experience
tells us no. Ten-hour laws have been declared unconstitutional in the
State of New York. An eight-hour law was passed by a referendum by
the people of Colorado, but it never was taken up by the legislature,
so it never had a chance to be declared unconstitutional, but nobody
doubts that it would have been so declared had the legislature passed
it. Even a local victory would thus be futile. Oh, but you will say,
we could keep the militia off in case of strike. Yes, but could you
keep the federal troops off? No, we could not.
In the meantime the Western Federation of Miners, and many
unions of the American Federation of Labor even have an eight-hour day
and a minimum wage. Have they been declared unconstitutional? No,
and they did not gain it through political action, but through
The advocates of political working class activity predicate
their success upon being "backed up" by an economic organization which
is to take the chestnuts out of the fire for them. The economic
organization stands on its own legs and declines political
"assistance". The economic organization makes just such demands as it
is able to enforce, and it is able to make demands and to enforce them
from the very first, it does not have to wait for that hazy day when
we shall have a majority. For them to waste their energy on the
building up and maintaining a political organization, which they
afterwards would have to "back up," only to awaken to a realization of
its impotency, would be like crossing the river to fill your water
bucket, when you can just as well get your water on this side.
One more objection I will anticipate and meet. It will be said
perhaps: "The workers have the right to vote, and, if we do not give
them a chance to vote for revolution, they have no choice but to vote
for capitalism." But this objection has only a sentimental value.
Some workingmen may feel some satisfaction in teasing the bear with a
vote for revolution. I, for one, do not any longer. I do not enjoy
practical jokes, and still less do I enjoy being insulted by having my
ballot counted out. I wish to see my fellow workers quit wasting
their time and energy on an illusion, drop politics, and unite on a
plan of action which will bring about the results we desire, and that
plan of action I find expressed in an economic organization on the
lines of the I.W.W.
You will then, finally, ask: "What are we going to do with the
political working class organizations already in existence, the
Socialist Labor Party, and the Socialist Party?"
The question is simple and easily answered. Both these
organizations maintain that there is war between the two classes. In
the war both of them have rendered splendid service, especially the
S.L.P., in educating the workers up to the point where they were able
to see the necessity of, and to form an economic organization like the
I.W.W. They have done well as propaganda societies, but that is all
they have ever been, their names and platforms notwithstanding. That
they should have originally chosen the political field was natural,
due to the deep rooted idea that all social evils can be cured at the
ballot, in a "free" country. But their role is now played.
In war, success depends often upon a complete change of front,
upon a swift flank movement, upon abandoning one position and taking
up a new one. Such movements are often necessary to avoid exposing
your own men to your own fire. Such is the position of the S.P.
and the S.L.P. now. They are right in the line of fire. Their war
cries are confusing and demoralizing the gathering proletarian army
and may cause a temporary reverse. What kind of organization is
theirs for war purposes! It is a machine, a general staff, composed
of sections, of locals, calling on their army (and an unreliable army
it is) every two or four years for parade and review at the ballot box
and then dismissing it. What sensible man could any longer
participate in that sort of stage war? It is up to you to break up
camp and take up the struggle from a point of vantage in the I.W.W.
and get out of the line of fire. Turn over your funds and your
institutions at the earliest possible date to the I.W.W. and let us
join in the drilling and perfecting of the revolutionary industrial
army which is never dismissed, but fights and forges forward
irresistibly to the goal, the overthrow of capitalism and the
establishing of the new society.
Before closing allow me again to request that my arguments be
considered exclusively on their merits, and that every critic give as
much time and sincere thought to the subject as I have.
Sandgren's article falls within the general province of the
burning question of Unionism, with a special eye to political
activity, as its title indicates. The writer plants himself upon the
industrial form of organization, or the I.W.W., as essential to the
emancipation of the working class, and proceeds to present a chain of
reasoning from which he concludes that the political movement is
worthless, harmful and should be discarded, and he calls upon the
Socialist Labor Party and the Socialist Party to "break up camp," and
to "turn over their funds and institutions" to the I.W.W. Finally,
the writer makes an earnest appeal for the serious consideration of
his arguments, and invites discussion thereupon.
The writer's premises are in the main wrong, and his conclusion
is not only wronger, but not even logical, his own premises being
defective. Nevertheless, the article is timely. Due to its
timeliness, seeing that a perceptible anti-political sentiment has
latterly broken out in several quarters, the article is published.
Moreover, in honor to the good spirit which prompts the article, and
for the purpose of systematizing the discussion which it invites, and
preventing the same from degenerating, as such discussions
unfortunately but too frequently do, into an indefinite rambling that
wanders more or less from the conclusion or the premises under
consideration, the article will here be divided into its two main
component parts, and these dissected.
I -- WORKING CLASS STRENGTH AT THE BALLOT BOX
After the first four introductory pages which can be safely
left undiscussed, whether pro or con, the writer devotes much space to
prove statistically that the working class does not outnumber the
capitalist class at the polls, and hence the workingman's ballot can
never win. The figures are wrong. For one thing, part of them are
nearly twenty years old; for another, the deductions are made only
from the figures for the working class, whereas many a deduction
should also be made from the figures for the voting strength of the
capitalist class. Here are, for instance, a few serious discrepancies
between the writer's figures and the figures of the Census for 1900:
The writer estimates the foreign born population in 1900 at 18
per cent; the census states 23.7. The writer estimates the number of
citizens among the foreign born at considerably below 10 per cent (6
per cent as capitalists and all voters, and of the remaining 12 per
cent, workingmen, he says, "only a small part are voters"); the census
for 1900 gives 80 per cent of foreign born males as citizens, and only
20 per cent as remaining aliens. The writer climaxes his errors under
this head by subtracting his deductions, not from the working class
population in 1900 (about 70 per cent), but from the working class
population in 1890 (about 55 per cent).
Again, the writer deducts in lump from the voting strength of
the working class "about 200,000 seafaring men as unable to vote; the
census for 1900 gives less than one-half that number, only 78,406 as
the total for "boatmen and sailors," exclusive of U.S. sailors and
marines who are comparatively few, seeing that, together with the
soldiers, they number only 43,235 men.
Again, the writer overshoots his own mark. He points to the
influence, physical and mental, that the ruling class exercises
through "the strings of the bread and butter of millions of slaves"
which that class "holds tightly," as well as through its schools,
press and pulpit, and concludes therefrom that these slaves "can not
vote for revolution". If these influences, which no doubt must be
reckoned with, are so absolutely controlling that these wage slaves
will be too timid to perform even such a task as voting, a task that
the veriest coward could perform with safety, and they must be
deducted in lump from the voting strength of the working class, upon
what ground can the writer feel justified to enroll those same slaves
as reliable material for the revolutionary act of the I.W.W.? If they
must be excluded from the former, they can not for a moment be thought
of in the latter.
No doubt deductions must be made from the voting strength of
the working class; but the necessary deductions are not the slashing
ones made by the writer. So overwhelming is the numerical
preponderance of the working class that, all justifiable deductions
notwithstanding, it preserves an ample majority at the polls.
Moreover, the revolutionary working class ballot may safely count with
reinforcements from the middle and kindred hard-pushed social layers.
While corrupt and vicious is all attempt to secure split votes for the
revolution from classes that vote the rest of capitalist tickets,
legitimate is the attempt to induce hard-pushed middle class elements
to tear themselves from their class prejudices and plump their vote
for the revolution - and justified is the expectation that big chunks
of that class will hearken the summons. If the decision for or
against politics were to depend exclusively upon the numerical
strength of the working class at the polls the decision would have to
be for, not against.
II -- THE MISSION OF POLITICS
The second of the two main component parts of the writer's
article is devoted to proving that even if the working class ballot
were more numerous than the ballot of the foe, the former would be
counted out by the latter; and that, even if it were not counted out,
working class political victory would be a Barmecide's Feast, in that
the Socialist Republic has no use for the political or modern form of
Both these points have been enlarged upon and proven in detail
in De Leon's address on "The Preamble of the Industrial Workers of the
World"; they were proved so thoroughly that the pure and simple
political Socialists, who felt the cold steel of the argument enter
their bourgeois souls, have handled the argument like a hot potato,
and confined themselves to vapid slurs about "vagaries," or the more
vapid indulgence in "calling names" against the maker of the argument.
That argument, however, was made in _support_ of the I.W.W. position
regarding the necessity of uniting the working class on the "political
as well as upon the industrial field"; the writer of the article under
discussion, on the contrary, makes the argument _in opposition_ to the
The opposite application of the identical argument brings out
the basic error that underlies Sandgren's reasoning - he confuses
_political agitation_ with the _ballot_. The two are distinct.
How completely the vital distinction is missed by those who
oppose political action is graphically illustrated by a favorite
argument among them, an argument that Sandgren reproduces in
beautifully pictorial style when he says that for the working class
"to waste their energy on the building up and maintaining of a
political organization, which they afterwards have to 'back up,' only
to awaken to a realization of its impotence, would be like crossing
the river to fill your water-bucket, when you can just as well get
your water on this side". This is begging the question. The very
point at issue is whether that economic organization, able "to fill
the water-bucket," can at all be brought together without the aid of
political agitation; the very point at issue is whether the politics -
ignoring economic organization has hitherto accomplished anything of
lasting value to the working class at large; or to put it in yet a
third and summary form, whether the decline of power with the economic
organization is not due to its contradictory posture of "voting" for
one thing and "striking" for its opposite. Of course, if such a thing
is conceivable as the bringing together of an industrial organization,
able "to fill the bucket" without the aid of political agitation, it
were folly to waste time, energy and funds in building up and
maintaining a political organization. But the thought is visionary.
To him in whom such a thought can find lodgment the blood spilt in
Russia during the last sixteen months is blood wasted - and the error
is born of the confusion of "political agitation" with the "ballot".
The value of the "ballot" as a constructive force is zero; the
value of "political agitation" is immeasurable.
Not everything that capitalism has brought about is to be
rejected. Such a vandal view would have to smash the giant machine of
modern production as well. Among the valuable things that capitalism
has introduced is the idea of peaceful methods for settling disputes.
In feudal days, when lords fell out, production stopped; war had the
floor. The courts of law have become the main fields of capitalist,
at least internal capitalist battle, and production continues
uninterfered with. It matters not how corrupt the courts have become,
or one-sided against the working class. The jewel of civilized or
peaceful methods for settling disputes is there, however incrusted
with slime. Capitalism, being a step forward, as all Socialists
recognize, can not help but be a handmaid, however clumsy, to
civilized methods. Of a piece with the court method for the peaceful
settlement of disputes is the political method. The organization that
rejects this method and organizes for force only, reads itself out of
the pale of civilization, with the practical result that, instead of
seizing a weapon furnished by capitalism, it gives capitalism a weapon
The "filling of the bucket" must be done by the million-masses.
The agitation for force only clips the wings of the agitation for the
"filling of the bucket". The inevitable result is that the agitation
has to degenerate into "conspiracy"; conspiracy can be conducted in
circumscribed localities only, such localities exclude the masses -
and the wheels of time are turned back. _The bringing together of the
physical force organization becomes impossible_. Political agitation
equips the revolution with a weapon that is indispensable. Political
agitation enables the revolution to be preached in the open, and
thereby enables the revolution to be brought before the million-masses
- _without which there can be no "bucket" fashioned to do the
In short, political agitation, coupled with the industrial
organization able to "take and hold," or "back up" the political
movement, or "fill the bucket," places the revolution abreast of
civilized and intelligent methods - civilized, because they offer a
chance to a peaceful solution; intelligent, because they are not
planted upon the visionary plane of imagining that right can ever
prevail without the might to enforce it.
Of course, "political agitation" implies the setting up of a
political ticket, and that, in turn, implies the "ballot". Indeed,
the "ballot" may be lost; let it; the fruits, however, of the
"political agitation" are imperishable. _Under the shield of that
agitation the "bucket" is shaped_. To Father Time the final issue may
be safely left. No doubt there are many thorns to the rose of the
political movement. No rose is without them. Irrelevant is the
enumeration of these thorns. What the adversaries of political action
in the I.W.W. should do in the endeavor to convert their fellow
workers of the opposite view is not to indulge in the superfluous
repetition regarding the folly of the political movement when the
"bucket" is in shape, but how the "bucket" can be put in shape without
the aid of the agitation and education which the political movement
places in the hands of the revolution.
The Socialist Party will as little "break up camp," by the
argument, however crushingly convincing, of the futility of the
"ballot" only, as the capitalist class will break up camp by the
argument, however crushingly convincing, that it is doomed. For that
the S.P. is too legitimate an off-shoot of bourgeois thought, which
is clogged with "reform" notions, and for which the pure and simple
ballot is a useful weapon. The S.P. will break up camp only when
the revolutionary element in its ranks discovers that it is upon their
shoulders that such a caricature of Socialism actually rests, and that
it is from them only that the caricature draws its strength. The S.P.
will "break up camp" only when this revolutionary element, by
withdrawing, removes the plug from under the concern.
As to the Socialist Labor Party, it never will need to be
appealed to "to break up camp" after the "bucket" of the I.W.W.,
having gathered sufficient solidity, will itself have reflected its
own political party. That day the S.L.P. will "break up camp" with a
shout of joy - if a body merging into its own ideal can be said to
"break up camp."
-Ed., The People.
Second letter, by J. A. La Bille, St. Louis, Mo.
I have been much interested in the discussion under the heading
of "As to Politics"; so much so that I was sorry to see it stop almost
before it started. The article by John Sandgren was very good except
in regard to the vote, which does not affect the question. All we
need to know is that the working class is in the majority. We _do_
know they will be counted on the economic field. So I will take a
stand in this discussion that working class political action,
parliamentary or agitation, is not only harmful to the marshalling of
the working class, but that the industrial organization is all
sufficient, hence, I contend the I.W.W. should change its preamble by
declaring against political action.
Comrade De Leon says we confuse "political agitation" with the
"ballot," so we will analyze "political agitation' and endeavor to
determine if its value is "immeasurable"; also if "the bringing
together of an industrial organization able "to fill the bucket"
without the aid of political agitation" is impossible. Political
action may be summed up as follows: Political organization, business
meetings, mass meetings, conventions, propaganda meetings, placing
tickets on the ballot, watching at polls, burning midnight oil
studying election laws and tricks of the professional politician,
spending tremendous sums of money, all of which means a great deal
when the organization attains any size of importance. Then Mr.
Workingman is in politics so confused and befuddled that he don't know
whether he is a workingman or a professional politician.
Comrade De Leon is correct when he states: "In feudal days,
when the lords fell out, production stopped; war had the floor; the
courts of the law have become the main field of capitalist, at least
internal capitalist, battles, and production continues uninterfered
with." Thus showing the capitalists have good reason to settle their
disputes by the courts through politics because they are property
owners and needs must have their revenues uninterrupted. The working
class, on the other hand, are propertiless, giving them advantage on
the economic battlefield, having nothing to lose but their chains. It
is there where the struggle must be, and it is there and there only
where the working class will reach the heart of capitalism.
Every victory won, every hour of leisure gained, every "supply
wagon" captured, will be of unlimited more value to the revolution
than the conquering of a piece of paper called the ballot. Then what
is political agitation but the urging of the working class to go into
politics, and when you do that you can't give it any material reason
for so doing because the fight of the working class is economic in
character, not political. The economic organization can "back up" the
political, but the political can not back up the economic, in this
country any more than in Germany or Russia. Those expecting to secure
power on the political field will some day find themselves chasing the
rainbow which appears very beautiful, but always out of reach. The
workingman is not exploited by the political "burg" of capitalism, but
through the private ownership of the means of production, hence his
malady is not a political disease but economic. His environment in
the mills, factories, mines, fields, etc., gives him an economic
character out of which it is folly to lure him into a field of battle
entirely foreign to his characteristics and environments for no other
purpose than agitation. The reason he first took to the "ballot" was
from an illusion that all that was, was the result of the ballot. The
slave saw his master feed the slaves, hence, he thought the slaves
were supported by the master. The workman today kisses the hand that
pays his wages and believes he is exploited as a consumer because he
sees the prices go up. He sees the police, soldiers and the
politicians in office come after him with "fixed bayonets," so he
thinks his struggle is a political one. He does not know that, like
Russia, the army and police are here to stay until the end of the
struggle and the only way to get the best of them is by cutting off
their base of supplies.
I further contend the I.W.W. is all sufficient, both as to
education and force. Comrade De Leon says: "Of a piece with the
court method for the peaceful settlement of disputes is the political
method. The organization that rejects this method and organizes for
force only, reads itself out of the pale of civilization with the
practical result that, instead of seizing a weapon furnished by
capitalism, it gives capitalism a weapon against itself." The
impression seems to be that the economic organization, the embryo of
the coining republic, is physical force only. I take the position
that it not only has the force, but all the means of educating the
working class necessary, in fact, it is only through the industrial
organization that the proletariat can be educated to its true class
interests. And if they go into politics, the longer they are there
the more befuddled they become. If they must have politics let them
have it in the I.W.W. as the Socialist Republic, where a vote
qualification will be had. "No producer, no voter." The worker does
not need political agitation in order to reach the masses, and I
believe at this stage of the game the capitalist "committees" will
have their hands full suppressing agitation by the industrially
organized workers. If it be the case, that agitation will be
hampered, and the economic organization can not protect itself, then
how is it to protect both itself and the "fiat of the ballot"? The
idea of a "general strike" entailing many hardships on the part of the
working class, to defend the ballot, in my opinion is absurd. _We are
not fighting for the privilege of registering our votes on capitalist
books. We are fighting for bread and butter now, and our emancipation
as soon as we are well enough organized_ to take charge of the various
industries and operate them entirely in the interests of the workers
therein. If the worker centralizes his struggle for liberty on the
economic field only, then his education need be very simple. Yea; he
could travel the path of his class interests almost by instinct; but
if he divides his fighting forces, one on the political, one on the
economic, then his education will require years of study and
experience to know which one of the many paths is safe for him to walk
over (these remarks apply to the working class as a rule). We must
remember also that only a small percentage of any organization must
shoulder the greater part of the work, and when the strength of these
valiant workers is divided between two organizations it handicaps the
general movement to a great extent.
As I said before, if the working class devotes its efforts to
the building up of the industrial organization, the foundation of the
future republic, his education need be very simple and along such
lines as: (1) Labor is the source of value, therefore should have
full product; (2) Capital does not produce value, therefore the
capitalist is not entitled to any part of the product, and show him
how he is exploited, and the method to his emancipation, as we do
today, except cut out all agitation for politics, and show him the
fallacy of expecting to derive benefits from political action.
It appears to me that the honest workingman who would go into
political action for agitation is a pure and simple borer from within
as much so as the honest man who votes and agitates in the A.F. of
Scabs and S.P. who also works and agitates to educate the rank and
file of those organizations. The result, in all three cases, is the
same. Will we smash the capitalist institution of politics by boring
from within or smashing from without? Let the workers do their voting
in the I.W.W., a place the capitalist can not vote. Let them do their
fighting in that army, and, when the industries have been thoroughly
organized, let them move the I.W.W. in the capitol building if they
so will, and if there be senators and representatives of capitalist
hell there, sweep them with the rest of the rubbish into the sewer if
necessary, and remember it won't require a single workingman in
political office from president up to dog catcher to do it, either,
for the moment the source of the capitalists' existence is cut off by
the industrially organized workers the dome of capitalism will crumble
and fall of its own weight. In the meantime, let the capitalists have
the ballot all to their precious selves. Let them fill their offices
with all the rotten eggs in the country, let them make the laws to
their hearts' content, yes, all the laws, and fill their political
citadels with law books, lawyers and jurists, too. We will rest at
ease, knowing their laws and interpretation of laws will be as a
bullet without force to propel it, _their politics will be impotent_.
It matters not how many laws or what they are, the whole question is
in their ability to enforce them and their ability to enforce them
depends not on their political supremacy but on their economic
supremacy over the working class. It is the same with the working
class whose demands will be limited only by the full product of their
toil and their ability to enforce.
So with these few suggestions (I could make many more but do
not wish to abuse a privilege), I will say in conclusion that it is
practically the same for the pioneer to attempt to be an Indian in
order to capture their war councils as for the worker to be a
politician in order to capture the war councils of the capitalist
class; in other words, we want the pig, we will not waste energy
following echoes trying to capture the squeal; when we get the pig
we've got the squeal, too.
The S.L.P. undoubtedly has done and is doing a great service
for the revolution and deserves to be called the "Fighting S.L.P".
But its _real great service lies in its economic teachings_.
A little discussion on this subject will be beneficial for the
members of the S.L.P. and I.W.W., myself included. We should all
study it thoroughly and know the whys and wherefores and avoid taking
things for granted.
The above is published out of excess of courtesy to the side
that our correspondent holds with. The columns of The People were
held open for a month to the matter and not one contributor to the
discussion having sustained the anti-political action position the
discussion was closed. Out of courtesy to views different from those
of The People, the discussion is re-opened to the extent of allowing
space to the above.
There may be those who suppose that some slight perfidy is
alloyed with our courtesy. Perhaps these are not wholly wrong. The
courtesy may be perfidious that allows the great space which our
correspondent takes and yet leaves unanswered the only question that
is pivotal to the issue - How are the masses to be recruited and
organized into capacity to take and hold if the agitation is to be
conducted upon lines that wholly reject the peaceful theory of
It is time wasted to point out the thorns on the political
stalk. They are all admitted beforehand. The question is, Is that
stalk all thorns and no rose? Nor do we get any nearer to the truth
by incorrect definitions. Our correspondent's definition of what
political action embraces is woefully deficient. That is the system
of "giving a dog a name and then killing him".
The rose on the stalk of "political action" is the posture it
enables a man to hold by which he can preach revolution without having
to do so underground; in other words, by which he can teach the
economics and sociology of the Social Revolution in the open, where
the masses can hear, and not in the dark, where but few can meet.
The nomination of tickets, together with all the routine that
thereby hangs, is but an incidental - like the making of a motion to
which to speak, and without which motion being before the house,
speaking degenerates into disorder.
Simply to assert that the masses can be reached, educated and
drilled for the revolution by any other process does not remove the
fact that it can not be done; at any rate it does not enlighten those
who hold otherwise, and who, having no hobby to serve, but only a
goal, the emancipation of the working class, to reach, are ever ready
to learn. Assertions teach nobody.
Finally, the just compliment our correspondent pays to the
"Fighting S.L.P." should cause him to ponder and overhaul his
anti-political-action views. He will have a hard time to explain how
it comes about that it is the S.L.P. that has been teaching the real
fighting economics, if political action is the worthless thing that he
takes it for.
The theory of preaching revolution against the capitalist class
only by brandishing the sword, in a country where the suffrage is in
vogue, leaves unexplained the phenomenon of the unquestionable hatred
that the capitalist press manifests for the S.L.P. - for that
political organization that admits its impotence to carry out its
program, unless the working class is organized into possession of the
national machinery of production, in other words, that is aware of and
admits the fact that it is only a shell, but the necessary shell,
within which the physical force is to be hatched whereby to enforce
the demands peacefully made by the ballot. The capitalist class of
the land dotes upon pure and simple political Socialism (the hollow
shell, without the substance); it likewise dotes upon pure and simple,
or non-political Unionism (the amorphic substance, amorphic because
shell-less within which the mass can grow and gather shape). For that
combination that combines both shell and substance - for that
combination the capitalist class, together with its pickets of all
grades, has only the hatred which it manifests upon the slightest
provocation for the S.L.P. and for the I.W.W. with its political
- Ed., The People.
Third letter, by Jos. Wagner and Leon Vasilio Springfield, Ill.
It is with doubt as to being allowed space in the columns of
The People that the undersigned take the decision to express their
opinion in regard to Comrade Sandgren's article.
We realize the degree of annoyance that we are causing the
editor by our action; and were it not for the fact that we have seen
in The People so many reflections cast at the privately owned press of
the S.P. in regard to refusals to publish whatever is not to their
heart, we would, most assuredly, try to kill our temptation to give
out what is our honest and sincere conviction.
We know that our opinion is that of thousands of members of the
Industrial Workers of the World, and consequently ask for the same
privilege that we both have been granted in the past, when our views
were not at variance with the attitude of The People.
After both reading and rereading carefully Sandgren's article,
and the answer of the editor of The People; after giving the matter
earnest consideration from all viewpoints for the last three weeks, we
arrived at the conclusion that, of all the answers that Comrade De
Leon has made in his life in capacity of editor of The People, the one
just mentioned must be the poorest and the weakest one. Not that he
is no more the same brilliant writer, but that the time has come when
he is in the wrong, defending a wrong cause. Why and how is this
thus? We shall see.
In order to be better understood, we would like to refer the
reader to the two articles in question, which are published in the
Weekly People of December 1, 1906, under the title "As to Politics".
But as every one who will happen to lay hands on this number may not
be in position to get that one, we shall give here the quintessence of
His contention is that the political activity is useless and
harmful, and that the emancipation of the working class can be
accomplished through economic revolutionary organization only.
In the first part of the article, which in our opinion is a
complete failure, Sandgren endeavors to prove that the working class
are not in the majority at the ballot box. Unless Sandgren wanted to
be altogether "original" we can not understand how a man of his
calibre could have ventured such an absurdity. This we consider a
waste of time to take up for discussion.
In the second part of the article, he admirably shows the
impotence of a political organization, and also how fitted an economic
organization is to bear the struggle.
"Ten-hour laws have been declared unconstitutional in the State
of New York.... In the meantime the Western Federation of Miners and
many unions of the A.F. of L., even, have an eight-hour day and a
minimum wage. Have they been declared unconstitutional? No, and they
did not gain it through political action, but through economic
organization. The advocates of political working class activity
predicate their success upon being 'backed up' by an economic
organization which is to rake the chestnuts out of the fire for them.
"The economic organization stands on its own legs and declines
"The economic organization makes just such demands as it is
able to enforce, and it is able to make demands and enforce them from
the very first; it does not have to wait for the hazy day when we
shall have a majority."
And now comes De Leon's answer. He says that "the basic error
that underlies Sandgren's reasoning" is the confusion of the
_political agitation with the ballot_. The two are distinct, says the
"How completely the vital distinction is missed by those who
oppose political action is graphically illustrated by a favorite
argument among them, an argument that Sandgren reproduces in
beautifully pictorial style, when he says that for the working class
to waste their time on the building up and maintaining of a political
organization which they afterwards have to 'back up' only to awaken to
a realization of its impotence, would be like crossing the river to
fill your water-bucket when you can just as well get your water on
First of all Comrade Sandgren - as well as all of us,
industrial workers, who dropped ballot box activity - gives the
Socialist political agitation its due credit when he says: "Both
these organizations (the S.P. and the S.L.P.) maintain that there
is a war between the two classes. In the war both of them have
rendered splendid service.... They have done well as propaganda
societies, but that is all they have ever been, their names and
platforms notwithstanding.... Their role is now played."
This means that Sandgren does not confuse political agitation
with the ballot; he only rejects the ballot, which, as a constructive
force, even in the opinion of the editor is zero. In order to make
this point clear, let us analyze the nature of a Socialist political
In the first place it is an incessant criticism of the actual
system of society based on the private ownership of the means of life,
for which it intends to substitute another system, based on the social
or collective ownership of those means - the cooperative commonwealth.
This is the political nature of it.
On the other hand, this Socialist political party activity
consists of a laborious propaganda for the attainment of that social
system, a propaganda for the class struggle on the political field,
which "implies the setting up of a 'ticket,' and that, in turn,
implies the 'ballot'".
But if the ballot, as a constructive force is zero, so must
necessarily be all the amount of work spent in getting that ballot,
such as holding nomination conventions, caucuses, getting signatures
on petitions, watching at the polls, etc., etc. And we know that most
of the energy of a Socialist political victory is wasted on that zero
proposition. A revolutionary organization of the working class that
aims at the overthrow of the capitalist system and the establishment
of the cooperative commonwealth is essentially political in character
and such is the I.W.W., as Comrade De Leon himself ably proved in his
Chicago speech on September 12, 1906.
The one who does confuse the political agitation with the
ballot is De Leon. On page 32 of the Preamble of the I.W.W., he says:
"A part, the better, the constructive part of Socialist economics,
translates itself into the industrial organization of the working
class; it translates itself into that formation that outlines the
mould of the future social system; another part of Socialist
economics, however, inevitably translates itself into politics."
Should he not confuse the political agitation with the ballot, he
would never dismantle a revolutionary industrial organization "that
outlines the mould of the future society" of its sufficiency to carry
on the political agitation of the working class, and give this
function to another organization which, as we have seen is spending
its energy on a zero proposition - at the working class expense.
The Industrial Workers of the World sufficiently fulfills that
role of a political party of Socialism by that, that it aims at the
cooperative commonwealth and it teaches the class struggle on the
industrial field where every victory is a step towards the social
revolution - and doesn't waste the energy of the working class on a
zero proposition, on something that not only may be lost, but that is
So much in regard to confusing the political agitation with the
Now to "the point at issue". "The very point at issue," the
editor says further, "is whether that economic organization, 'able to
fill the bucket,' can at all be brought together without the political
agitation; the very point at issue is whether the politics - ignoring
economic organization has hitherto accomplished anything of lasting
value for the working class at large; or to put it in a third and
summary form, whether the decline of power with the economic
organization is not due to its contradictory posture of 'voting' for
one thing and 'striking' for its opposite. Of course, if such a thing
is conceivable as the bringing together of an industrial organization
able 'to fill the bucket' without the aid of political agitation, it
were folly to waste time, energy and funds in building up and
maintaining a political organization."
Let us ask Comrade De Leon, why is he beating around the bush?
What does he mean by politics-ignoring economic organization? Does he
mean the Industrial Workers of the World, or the American Federation
of Labor? His allusion to "the decline of power with the economic
organization" on account of "its contradictory posture of voting for
one thing and striking for its opposite" conveys to our minds the A.
F. of L., and not that economic organization "able to fill the
water-buckets," the "I.W.W.," which is now under discussion.
And since when is Comrade De Leon willing to admit that the A.
F. of L., as an organization, is doing on the economic field the
opposite of what its members are doing on the political field? This
sounds very familiar to those who have heard the pure and simple
political Socialist appeal to the pure and simple craft unionist to
vote as he strikes. But let us not indulge any longer in these
The question is "whether that economic organization able to
fill the bucket can at all be brought together without the aid of
political agitation". Before answering this question, let us consider
the nature and the activity of an economic organization, such as the
Like the political party of Socialism, it aims at the
overthrowing of the present System: it aims to take possession of the
tools of production from the capitalist class and operate them for the
benefit of the working class, which will be the whole of society.
But for the attainment of this end, the economic organization
fighting the class struggle on the industrial field, it organizes the
workers in their various locals, industries and departments in order
to make them able to cope with modern capitalism in their everyday
fight, and wrest concessions from that class locally, industrially or
generally, as the case may be - concessions, which, unlike the
politician's reforms, are steps towards the revolution, as they put
the working class more and more in control of the industries in which
they are working.
It is founded on the recognition of the fact of the division of
society into two classes, between which a struggle must go on, until
all the toilers will come together and take over the means of
production. Its aim is revolutionary, its activity _political_. It
is revolutionary and political because its aim is to change the
foundation of this society from an exchange of commodities to the
co-operative commonwealth. In other words, it is not like the pure
and simple union, which acts as buffer between the opposing forces -
the capitalist class and the working class - but it is one of these
Such an organization as the I.W.W. is brought about by the
modern economic conditions, that is, by the industrial development and
the revolutionary propaganda, absolutely independent of any ballot
party activity, which has an altogether different function, as we have
In all that preceded we can not see at all where the role of a
ballot organization comes in. In his attempt to answer Comrade
Sandgren, the editor tells us of the "jewel" of "civilized or peaceful
methods of settling disputes". If this is the only argument left to
defend an organization which wastes our time, energy and funds, then
we can rest assured that the industrial organization is the only thing
able to fill the bucket or to accomplish the revolution. He might as
well tell us about those lovely seances of looking each other in the
eyes. They are more to the question.
But it is an irony of fate to hear men telling us of settling
disputes. Is that the reason for which we are organizing? We are
organizing to struggle, and not to settle disputes, which have never
been settled in the interests of the working class.
Nothing could settle disputes better than a powerful
organization - able to strike terror in the heart of the capitalist
class would. Confronted with such an organization the capitalist
class would either have to submit or bear the consequences.
The methods employed by the revolutionary industrial
organization are peaceful and civilized enough for the working class.
We are assembling peacefully and in a civilized manner discuss matters
of our class interest which we afterwards submit to the capitalist
class in form of demands. We can not understand how Comrade De Leon
jumps at the conclusion that the I.W.W. agitation - which he terms
"agitation for force only" - has to degenerate into conspiracy, which
excludes the masses. The industrial agitation is not and can not
degenerate into a "conspiracy" for the simple reason that it is
preached in the open, and thereby enables the revolution to be brought
before the million masses. Not only does the industrial organization
bring the revolution before the million masses, but it also draws the
million masses to its ranks and keeps aloof the hard pushed middle
class element, with its lawyers, priests and intellectuals in general
- in a word, all that is foreign to the working class. It draws all
the toilers of all nationalities; citizens and non-citizens; all the
disfranchised, all the cramps and "coffee-and-doughnut-bums," which
are able to beat their way from Frisco all the way through the "wild
west" to Chicago in order to do their own business.
As far as the "chance to a peaceful solution" goes, we are very
little concerned about it. It does not depend on the working class
how the last blow will have to be struck. If the capitalists will not
be satisfied with a decree to step out, we can rest assured that they
will, most likely, get worse.
The events that have taken place in the last sixteen or
seventeen months have taught us more than the preceding two decades.
They have taught us not only that the political party agitation is
useless, but harmful to the industrial organization from the Pacific
to the Atlantic. We have seen men eagerly listening to the industrial
speaker, accidentally being an S.L.P. man, start to show the
"difference" or something of that sort, then the men would turn away
with a sneer at "the politician".
That the ballot agitation is harmful to the bringing together
of an economic organization able to fill the bucket, is obvious; so
obvious is this fact that, at the last convention of the I.W.W. we
have witnessed Comrade De Leon make a motion to the effect that no
organizer of any political party should be employed as organizer for
the Industrial Workers of the World. Yes, one year of I.W.W.
agitation and experience has brought about great changes in the
revolutionary thought in this country.
Men that but a few months ago were feeling as touching an
extremely delicate spot when speaking of the non-party affiliation
clause of the I.W.W. preamble, are now dropping politics without any
And let us not for a minute fool ourselves and think that this
is merely a passing crisis, a temporary manifestation of a few
over-heated brains. No! This let-alone politics tendency that we now
are noticing in this country is the American expression of a general
tendency of the revolutionary working class the world over. In Italy,
Spain, Switzerland, and France and even Germany with its great
three-million-strong-paper-party we can see the same thing.
In a lengthy article by our Parisian comrade, A. Bruckere,
recently published in The People, we can see how the working class of
France, tired of political parties, is gathering in a revolutionary
organization, "The General Confederation of Labor," after dropping
politics altogether and adopting the "direct action". The history of
this let-alone-politics tendency in Europe would make a mighty
interesting and instructive work, which would considerably help in the
understanding of the great change that is going on in the
revolutionary thought of the working class of the world.
Before closing we would like to say that, in writing this
article, we have not been actuated by any prejudice against any
particular man or party; that in speaking against ballot activity we
have meant all Socialist parties of the world.
We have been good, faithful members of Socialist parties in
Europe and in America for many years, but our experience as wage
slaves has shown us that we have been in the wrong. We expressed our
opinion, which, we are sure, will not meet with the approval of those
who have forgotten nothing and learned nothing by years of bitter
The question repeatedly asked of the advocates of physical
force only, who have favored us with their contributions, remains
How do you expect to recruit and organize your Industrial army
if you begin by rejecting the peaceful method of solving the Social
Question, to wit, the political method? It is significant that none
of our opponents has cared to meet this point. They all give that
question a wide berth. Instead of covering the only point that is
decisive they go into a vast number of subjects that may or may not be
so, but have nothing to do with the real point - HOW?
The nearest our above esteemed contributors come to an answer
on this particular point is the passage: "The I.W.W. sufficiently
fulfills the role of a political party of Socialism by that it aims at
the cooperative commonwealth and teaches the class struggle on the
industrial field." This statement is doubly defective.
If to "aim" at a thing is enough, then to "wish" for it should
be equally sufficient. Every practical mind knows that wishes and
aims, like steam, must be in the boiler of a properly organized
machine before results can be obtained. Wishes are good, aims still
better. Without the organization to realize them they are, well, so
much hot air. The question is how to recruit the elements that will
constitute the requisite organization.
The second defect in the passage is still more marked It is
fatal to the contention of the anti-political agitation. Indeed, the
I.W.W. "teaches the class struggle," and can teach it freely, and
freely can proclaim its purpose to "take and hold"; but it can do so
only because it plants itself upon the non-Russian, that is, upon the
civilized principle of solving social difficulties. The I.W.W.
expressly recognizes the necessity of working class unity "on the
POLITICAL as well as upon the industrial field". So doing, the I.W.W.
can preach and teach in the open. Its posture is clear - to organize
the economic body that shall be able to reflect its own political
party, whereby to give a chance to the peaceful settlement of the
present social "unpleasantness," and that shall, withal, have the
requisite power to enforce the fiat of its ballot. To say that the
I.W.W. can freely teach the class struggle, now that its preamble is
so wise and sound, is a substantial denial of the claim put forth by
our correspondents that political agitation is worthless. Let the
I.W.W. follow our correspondents' views and strike out the political
clause, that moment they will find out that the present revolutionary
agitation conducted by the I.W.W. will have come to an end. Having
placed itself upon the plane which the Russian revolutionists are
constrained to agitate on, the I.W.W. will be treated to a dose which
it will itself have invited, a dose of Russian governmental terrorism.
So far from having contributed to raise the tone of the country, the
I.W.W. will have helped the capitalists to drag that tone down to the
level from which the Russian revolutionists are now seeking to raise
This disposes of the only remotely relevant argument made by
our correspondents. There are, nevertheless, two others that should
not be ignored, however irrelevant.
Our correspondents say: "We can not understand how Comrade De
Leon jumps at the conclusion that the I.W.W. agitation - which he
terms 'agitation for force only' - has to degenerate into conspiracy."
The answer to this is: Either our correspondents claim that De
Leon has said that "the present I.W.W. agitation has to degenerate
into conspiracy"; if that is their meaning then they will have a hard
time to prove that De Leon made any such statement. The I.W.W. is
what the I.W.W. is today, not what our friends, who sign the letter
published above, seek to turn it into. They are not yet so far. If,
however, our correspondents merely made a slip in their statement, and
what they meant to say is that De Leon holds that by removing the
political clause from the preamble of the I.W.W., AND RETAINING THE
"TAKE AND HOLD" CLAUSE, then the I.W.W. would have to degenerate into
conspiracy - if that was their meaning, then they have quoted De Leon
correctly. A simple denial of this conclusion does not refute a
conclusion drawn from the irrefutable historic experience from which
the conclusion flows.
At this point a serious illusion seems to reveal itself as
taking possession of the minds of our esteemed contributors. They
seem to believe that the preaching of the "industrial" form of
organization would be sufficient to drill a revolutionary economic
organization. We would like to hasten to dispel the illusion by
suggesting to them the following principles:
1. The exclusion of the political clause from the I.W.W.,
leaving the "take and hold" clause extant, would drive the agitation
into the narrow quarters of a conspiracy, with all the evil results
2. The exclusion of both the political clause and the "take
and hold" clause, leaving extant only the "industrial" form of
organization, would fatally steer the I.W.W. into the quagmire of the
Gompers-Mitchell A.F. of L.
The other of the two irrelevant arguments that should be taken
up is the one contained in the passage: "So obvious is this fact [the
harmfulness of the ballot agitation] that, at the last convention of
the I.W.W., we have witnessed Comrade De Leon make a motion to the
effect that no organizer of any political party should be employed as
organizer of the I.W.W." - De Leon is correctly quoted there; the
purport of his motion is, however, misinterpreted. So far from his
motion being an evidence of the harmfulness of the political
agitation, it is an evidence of his position that such agitation is
essential to success. Considering such agitation essential to
success, he is earnestly bent upon the bringing together of a
revolutionary economic organization powerful enough to reflect its own
political party, that is, its own forerunner that may afford a chance
to a peaceful solution. Consequently, recognizing tile fact that
there are today in this country two rival and hostile political
parties, both flying the colors of Socialism, it should be obvious
that organizers of either of the two parties, acting simultaneously as
I.W.W. organizers, could not choose but hamper, rather than promote
the growth of the I.W.W.
- Ed., The People
Fourth letter, by Arturo Giovannitti, New York
I have read very attentively the articles by Comrades Wagner
and Vasilio in The People of Tuesday, and the few remarks by Comrade
De Leon, and, as a result, I should like to give my humble opinion and
try to answer the still unanswered questions of The People's Editor.
It seems to me that both Sandgren and De Leon have given a
wrong definition of what they term "the political activity of the
working class," an error which has been but partly redressed when they
drew a line between ballot and agitation. Yet although Sandgren and
his followers want no politics, they want a revolution, and whilst De
Leon excommunicates the ballot, he still persists in having an S.L.P.
ticket on the very same ballot. The first forgets that a revolution
must be essentially political before it can be anything else, the
latter is a little afraid to reconduct the revolutionary method on the
straight road of the "outside political action," to wit, the general
strike and the revolt.
The question is not whether we should bother about politics or
not, but how we should conduct our political fight; should we remain
even temporarily within the orbit of legality, or should we get out of
it altogether and enforce our rights and will with new means and
weapons adequate to the opportunity of the historical moment which we
cross? In Europe, to define this legal fight, for to be peaceful it
must be legal, we have coined a new word: parliamentarism - and all
the question, according to me, lies in that word, that is to say, the
political struggle of the working class within the capitalist state
Does then Comrade De Leon mean parliamentarism when he speaks
of a peaceful method of solving the Social Question? If not, where is
then the necessity of having a ticket in the field so far as we don't
expect and don't want to send our "Honorable Comrades" to Washington?
I shall consider only the first hypothesis and endeavor to
prove as briefly as I can that parliamentary action, to use an
imported word, spells simply reform and not revolution, in the real
historic sense of the word.
Parliament is a bourgeois institution, the cornerstone of
capitalism, as it is the very same organ with which the republic
struck the monarchy and through which capitalism emerged from
feudalism. Previous to and through the insurrectional phases of the
French Revolution, the rising bourgeoisie knew that it could not fight
feudalism with the legal weapons that were then possible, and realized
that in order to transform society it needed first the absolute
destruction of the existing State, and therefore forced and developed
a new form of State that had nothing in common with the old one, i.
e., the Parliament. It must be so of the proletariat as it was of the
"The proletariat does not escape the common rule of all the
revolutionary classes that preceded it. It also forms itself an organ
for the representation of its collective interests. This organ is the
labor organization, the trade syndicate. Not a class truly
revolutionary can think that the use of legal machines of the existing
regime can be enough to guarantee the collective interests. It must
form itself its own organ and strive to make it prevail on those of
the existing society." (Labriola)
In other words, a class that really intends to fulfill its
historical function must be revolutionary, not in aim, but in methods
and means. The task of revolution is not to construct the new society
but to demolish the old one, and, therefore, its first aim should be
the complete destruction of the existing State so as to render it
absolutely powerless to re-act and re-establish itself. When
revolution fails to do so, the old regime may absorb some of the new
ideas but will always remain, as it was the case in Italy and Germany,
and as it will happen in Russia if the working class does not strike
violently at the root of the monarchy and forcibly impose its own
political organs against both the Czar and the Duma.
In other words, when the revolutionary process gets off the
track of violence and insurrection without having achieved its
destructive function and comes to argue and discuss within the circle
of legality, when it does not strike at the existing political machine
from the outside, but comes to bore from within, it utterly fails to
its new ideal, but a new action to realize historical mandate and does
nothing but a mere act of reform.
"To use the organs of the existing society to transform the
same society means to collaborate to defend and guarantee it, to wit,
do a work openly anti-revolutionary." (Sorel)
Consequently, if the S.L.P. goes to Congress, it means that it
recognizes its usefulness, and in so doing it will cooperate to its
perpetuation and give the State, and therefore capitalism, a longer
lease of life. Therefore, it is not only an organization with a
revolutionary aim that we need, but one ready to follow the
revolutionary process in not only a new ideal, but a new action to
realize the same. By this, it is evident that such an organization
can not and must not employ legal and lawful methods, neither can it
hope in a peaceful solution, as the simple fact that a class is
revolutionary implies that it is outlaw.
This, Comrade De Leon does not discuss, neither does he answer
arguments with arguments and facts with facts. He does not say that
such an organization would not lead the working class to victory, but
he is simply worried as to how we are going to recruit it if we
abandon the idea of a possible peaceful solution of the Social
This peaceful solution could be attained only through
parliamentary action, but, again, if capitalism has opened its Holy of
Holies to an enemy class that wants not less than its head, it means
that it is no more afraid of the proletariat when the latter is
willing to visit capitalism at home and talk matters over. My enemy
is my enemy and I fear him while he waits for me outside with a gun or
a stiletto, but, when he comes in and sits down to expose his reasons
I cease to fear him, and the whole quarrel is liable to end with a
merry supper and abundant glasses of wine with relative toasts and
madrigals. How can we believe that even with the most rigid logic,
and with the fear of a strong revolutionary organization, we could
convince the master class to give itself up into the hands of the
rival class that knows no Christian charity and will not commute the
death sentence of capitalism? Are we then to understand that
capitalism will commit suicide rather than to face the I.W.W.
executioner? Is there an example in history than can justify such a
sweet dream of peace and love? Not even the Holy Father, who believes
in turning the left cheek when somebody slaps his right one, ever
refrained from the sweet help of the hangman and other Christian
accessories any time he saw his throne and holy purse attacked.
Suicide is not 'the act of a normal being, neither have we any reasons
yet to believe that the capitalist class will get crazy all at once in
the last moment.
It is then by main force and through violence only that we can
transform society, but collective, organized violence, not as it is
now in Russia but as it was in this country fifty years ago. It is
not a conspiracy, but an open and loyal fight, not an assault but a
regular duel, and it will not be a riotous outbreak but a good and
proper civil war, if you wish to call it so. If an act of Congress
can prevent all that and yield to the working class the land and the
means of production and distribution, so much the better, but this is
their business, not ours.
How can we get the men together for this glorious proletarian
epopee? Well, how did the International get them? How did we build
Local 199, Tailors' Industrial Union, the strongest and most numerous
in the city, where not even once was election mentioned, although
every member is fully acquainted with the take and hold clause? HOW?
Why, by going to them and telling them all about it without
considering them either tigers or rabbits, but men who, once having
understood, can prove that they are right in the good old American
fashion, and put up a good fist fight when words and arguments fail.
Are then the S.P. and the S.L.P. so necessary to the I.W.W.
that, without the former, the latter could not exist? Are the polls
the only means to convince them to unite, to go on strike, to resist,
and to press their action so on the political field (political
agitation) that those from above will let something drop every once in
a while before the whole edifice tumbles down?
Why should we speak to the working class of a peaceful
settlement when probably not ONE of the S.L.P. members believes in
Fifty vacant seats in Congress will frighten capitalism more
than fifty "Honorable" Socialists sitting there and doing nothing, and
if we must use the ballot for something let us use it for the sole
purpose of emptying their ranks.
The future of Socialism lies only in the general strike, not
merely a quiet political strike, but one that once started should go
fatally to its end, i.e., armed insurrection and the forcible
overthrow of all existing social conditions. It may be objected that
it is yet too early to throw the alarm of parliamentarism in America,
but the fact is that the Socialist movement has degenerated so in all
European countries on account of parliamentarism that it would be
simply foolish not to take advantage of their lesson and follow
another road. Let us not strike out the political clause from the
I.W.W. constitution, but let us understand that the I.W.W. must
develop itself as the new legislative and executive body of the land,
undermine the existing one, and gradually absorb the functions of the
State, until it can entirely substantiate it through the only means it
has: The Revolution.
First of all let the fact be once more recorded that this
week's opponent of the S.L.P. posture, like each and every one who
preceded him, leaves unanswered the practical question put by The
People at the beginning of this discussion - how can the ranks of the
I.W.W., of the revolutionary army intended to take and hold the means
of production, recruit the necessary forces for that eventful and
final act of the revolution, if it starts by rejecting the civilized
method of settling disputes, offered by the political platform, and
plants itself instead upon the principle of physical force
Surely this is a question worth answering. It is essential to
a common understanding. Why is the question persistently evaded?
Every evasion thereof can only be construed as an evidence of
inability to answer it; consequently, as demonstration of the
soundness of the practical principle that it implies. The
demonstration is only made all the stronger by the indulgence in vast
digressions, and the taking up of space on side matters.
In the instance of this week's correspondent the evasion is all
the more marked. Giovannitti starts with the admission that the
question put by The People has not been answered. Indeed, it is for
that very reason that he asks for space to "try to answer the still
unanswered questions of The People's Editor." Does he answer that
question? With not a word.
Or is this sentence, perhaps, an answer: "How can we get the
men together for this glorious proletarian epopee? Well, how did the
International get them ?" - The sentence implies that the
International did get the men together for this glorious proletarian
epopee. That's news to us. If the International had "got the men
together for this glorious proletarian epopee" there would be no
capitalist class today to overthrow; the epopee would have been
enacted. That it has not been enacted, that Giovannitti recognizes
the epopee has yet to be enacted, is ample refutation of the implied
claim that the International "got the men together".
Or is, perchance, this other sentence the answer promised by
Giovannitti: "How can we get the men together for this glorious
proletarian epopee? Well... how is the I.W.W. getting them ?" This
sentence is of a piece with that analyzed last week from the
correspondence of two St. Louis opponents. That sentence does not
"answer" The People's question; the sentence confirms The People's
question; the sentence is fatal to the posture of The People's
opponents. This discussion was initiated by Sandgren's proposition
"to strike out all reference to politics in the I.W.W. preamble".
Upon that The People's question, re-stated above, was put, and the
contention both of Sandgren and of all who sided with him, this week's
correspondent included, was and is, logically enough from their
premises, that political agitation should be excluded as harmful and
unnecessary. No opponent of The People's position can quote the
successful agitation of the I.W.W., whose platform has the political
clause, as an evidence that the ranks of the I.W.W. can be recruited
with the necessary numbers upon the principle of physical force only.
Giovannitti, accordingly, leaves unanswered the question he
promised to answer; and strangest of all he closes by opposing
Sandgren's proposition to expunge the political clause from the I.W.W.
platform! Inextricable are the contradictions that this week's
opponent tangles himself in.
We might stop here. The gist of the above letter is disposed
of. Nevertheless our correspondent incurs a number of collateral
errors that we trust he will thank us for calling his attention to.
And this we do for reason of the knowledge that frequently it happens
that collateral errors are responsible for central ones. So long as
the former becloud the mind, the latter remain unperceived.
Giovannitti says: "A class that really intends to fulfill its
historical function must be revolutionary, not in aim, but In methods
This sentence sins doubly against social science.
Its first sinfulness lies in the use of the expression,
"revolutionary methods and means". 'There is no such 'thing as
"revolutionary means" or "methods". Means and methods may be good or
bad, wise or unwise, timely or premature - "revolutionary" never.
Physical force, the revolutionary methods and means meant by our
correspondent, is by no means essentially revolutionary, it may be
archly reactionary. If physical force were the test of "revolution"
the palm for revolutionariness would have to be awarded to the Czar's
establishment. Unconsciously Giovannitti himself acts obedient to
this view of the matter. If he did not he would not now be in the
revolutionary camp of the I.W.W.; he would have fallen with the
Sherman crew of reactionists who resorted to physical force.
The second sinfulness of the sentence lies in its first part,
the notion that the function of the proletariat "must be
revolutionary, NOT IN AIM, but in methods and means". In other words,
that the aim is a negligible quantity in determining the revolutionary
or non-revolutionary character of a body. Such a conception of Social
Evolution or of the march of human events is untenable. Marx well
said that "force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a
new one". According to our correspondent's idea of things, however,
all that is needed for the birth of a child would be the midwife; the
functions of the father and the mother count for nothing. There is a
violent clash of physical force now in progress in Russia. If
physical force were the test of "revolution" then both the contending
sides would be revolutionists. We all know this is false. How do we
all determine which is the side of revolution and which that of
reaction? Why, by their respective AIMS.
This serious error on the part of Giovannitti leads to the
following other error, which runs like black warp through the woof of
his argument. He says in one place: "Should we remain even
temporarily within the orbit of LEGALITY"; in another place: "the
LEGAL fight, for, to be peaceful it must be LEGAL"; again: "the use
of LEGAL machines of the existing regime"; still in another place:
"such an organization [the organization that we need] must not employ
LEGAL and LAWFUL methods"; and so forth. The continuous iteration and
reiteration of the terms "legal," "legality," "lawful," betray a
misconception of The People's posture. Giovannitti will not find the
words used once by The People in this discussion.
The People is not troubled with the thought of "legality". The
People planted itself upon the principle of "civilization".
Giovannitti and the Editor of The People are civilized men.
Being civilized men they are discussing the subject politely. Were
the two a couple of barbarians they would have begun by breaking each
Giovannitti's confusion of thought in the matter is such that
he has read "legal" for "civilized," "legality" for "civilization,"
and that has interfered with his understanding of The People's
arguments in this discussion, beginning with the answer to Sandgren
where the principle of civilization was treated at large. Political
action is the civilized, because it is the peaceful method of social
debate and of ascertaining numbers. He who rejects that method places
himself upon the barbarian plane, a plane where the capitalist class
would be but too glad to see him, seeing that he thereby would give
the capitalist class a welcome pretext to drop all regard for decency
and resort to the terrorism that would suit it.
But civilization is CIVILIZATION. It implies not only the
effort for peace, but also the knowledge of the fact that Right
without Might is a thing of air. ACCORDINGLY THE CIVILIZED
REVOLUTIONARY ORGANIZATION PROCLAIMS THE RIGHT, DEMANDS IT, ARGUES FOR
IT, AND WILLINGLY SUBMITS TO THE CIVILIZED METHOD OF POLLING THE VOTES
- AND IT ORGANIZES ITSELF WITH THE REQUISITE PHYSICAL FORCE IN CASE
ITS DEFEATED ADVERSARY SHOULD RESORT TO THE BARBARIAN'S WAY OF
ENFORCING HIS WILL.
The civilized man answers force with force; the barbarian
begins with force. "Civilization", not "legality", demands the
A third collateral error committed by Giovannitti happens in
the passage in which he quotes Labriola in support of what Labriola
does not hold. Labriola belongs to the "Syndicalist" (Unionist) wing
of what? Of the Socialist PARTY of Italy. The quotation from
Labriola becomes a misquotation in the place where it occurs. It is
perfectly sensible in connection with Labriola's position, which is as
exactly that of the S.L.P. as two positions in two different
countries can be.
Finally a luminous insight is obtained into the loose methods
of thought of our opponents by the following passage from
Giovannitti's letter: "Fifty vacant seats in Congress will frighten
capitalism more than fifty 'Honorable' Socialists sitting there and
doing nothing, and if we must use the ballot for something let us use
it for the sole purpose of emptying their ranks," - a notion that can
only proceed from a mistaken comprehension of facts in the case. Even
if the whole Working Class abstained from voting, there would be NOT
ONE SINGLE SEAT VACANT, the capitalist candidates would then be
elected unanimously by the capitalists themselves.
The theme of this discussion is serious. It should be
approached, not with anger or preformed thoughts, but with a mind open
to apprehend the facts and to reason from them.
- Ed. The People.
Fifth letter, by H. B. Hoffman, New York
Whether the debate on the political situation is closed or not
it is up to the editor of the Daily People to reply to the following
trite questions and answers. And, as no comment can be made without
presenting the matter from which the argument is drawn, I would be
pleased to see this contribution printed in full:
The questions are addressed to an S.L.P. man:
1. "Are you a revolutionary body?" "We are and decided so."
2. "Very well. If, then, you are a political party you are
organized to enforce or evolve legislative enactments?"
(Hesitatingly). "Yes, we are organized for legislative purposes."
3. "And yet you call yourself revolutionary. Legislation
within the capitalist State, in order to be declared valid, must be of
a mild constitutional nature. It must partake of the capitalists'
notion of validity. It must harmonize with the existing order of
things, must it not?" "Yes."
"So that if you harmonize with the capitalist State you can
effect reforms, radical or ultra radical, but such reforms are drawn
within the boundary lines of private property. In fact, you succeed
in palliating rotten conditions, you ease the lot of the workingman
and make him able to bear up. You unconsciously harmonize the
workingman to existing conditions because you build up a hope in him
that you are there to help him, and that through legislation. You are
in fact doing the work of the reformer, which he, as a useful
lieutenant of the capitalist, can better do himself. Hearst can bring
about more reforms through legislation in a shorter time than can five
"You furthermore build up a false hope which the working class
will not forgive you, when they realize the emptiness of it. As a
conscious Socialist you know that the capitalist is well entrenched;
legislatures, courts and police make up his armaments of war, all
effective legislation can be nullified by the courts which are
generally not of an elective nature. You know the helplessness of
your situation and yet you would goad the workers on and make them
believe in the strength of legislation."
"No! No! We are in politics for agitational purposes,"
answers the disturbed S.L.P. man.
"Ha! ha! in politics for agitational purposes! Were I not
fully conscious of your extreme honesty I would call you a knave. As
it is, I am content to think you are in the wrong.
"A political party means something. It has its classical
mission which is popularly understood. A political party is a body
either in office or trying to get in office. It nominates men for
especial offices. In coming before the electors it makes certain
specific promises which it also promises to enforce if elected.
Absurd is it not to imagine that it can masquerade as a political
party with no political intentions. Absurd is it not to simply spread
agitational propaganda and yet go to the trouble of organizing a
political body. It is misrepresentation, culminating in a farcical
tragedy. And how absurd would it be to practice both politics and
agitational propaganda through a political party and yet sustain its
revolutionary character of the body. It is a reformer's carnival with
the fitting mask of the masquerader."
Again let, first of all, the significant fact be recorded that,
along with his predecessors, this week's opponent of the S.L.P.
position also leaves unanswered the question put by The People at the
beginning of this discussion - how can the ranks of the I.W.W., of the
revolutionary army, intended to take and hold the means of production,
etc., recruit the necessary forces for that eventful and final act of
the revolution, if it starts by rejecting the civilized method of
settling social disputes, offered by the political platform, and
plants itself instead upon the principle of physical force only?
Surely none can claim the question to be a trick, or unfair.
Men who aim at the overthrow of the capitalist system; men who
recognize the necessity of a revolutionary economic organization of
the working class to accomplish the revolution; finally men who reject
the civilized method of social warfare, political action; - such men
certainly owe to the public, the working class public, an answer to
the question put above - how do you expect to recruit your forces?
The persistent avoidance to answer this question justifies the
conclusion that it is unanswerable; that it knocks the bottom from
under the notion of rejecting political action; that indeed, the
question needs but to be put in order to expose the error of the
notion. Nor is the evasion at all concealed by an answer which puts
other questions and, as Hoffman does this week, himself furnishes a
series of answers unwarranted, in the main, by the exhaustive answers
given by The People to previous correspondents on the subject, and the
well known posture of the S.L.P. in the premises.
The facts in the case are simply these:
The Socialist party asserts that political action is
all-sufficient to emancipate the Working Class. "Elect us to office,"
it says, "and we will emancipate you.
Whatever there is intellectually clear and clean in the Labor
Movement readily sees through the error; it even sees deeply and
perceives that such a body, if it does not start corrupt, must
inevitably degenerate into a fraud upon the proletariat.
The emancipation of the proletariat, that is, the Socialist
Republic, can not be the result of legislative enactment. No bunch of
office holders will emancipate the proletariat. The emancipation of
the proletariat can only be the mass-action of the proletariat itself,
"moving in," taking possession of the productive powers of the land.
This correct, this indisputable position leads directly to the
principle that the revolutionary proletariat can not fulfill its
historic mission unless it is so organized economically, that it can
take possession integrally, shed the slough of the capitalist
political State, and assume the reins of industrial administration of
The industrially organized revolutionary Union, in short, the
I.W.W., was the product of this insight into things.
This position, by reason of its very purity, brought its lees
along with it. An element there arose, which - whether nauseated by
the unavoidable corruption in the pure and simple Socialist party; or
whether, dazzled by the very brilliancy of the position itself,
disabled them from seeing aught but that - contends that political
action should be wholly discarded; accordingly, that the I.W.W.
should drop the political clause from its preamble where it expresses
the necessity of uniting the working class "on the political as well
as on the industrial field".
The I.W.W. denies the soundness of such a position. It goes
further; it points to the fatal error involved in the same. The
rejection of political action would throw the I.W.W. back upon the
methods of barbarism - physical force exclusively. Where, as in
Russia, no other method exists, none other can be taken up. Where,
however, as in the rest of the Western Civilization, especially in
America, the civilized method exists of public agitation, and of
peaceful submission to the counting of ballots that express the
contending views; - where such methods exist, the man or organization
that rejects them does so at his or its peril. This is especially the
case in the capitalist America of today. The capitalist class,
however powerful, is not omnipotent. It feels constrained to render
at least external homage to the Genius of the Age. The Genius of the
Age demands free speech and a free vote. So soon, however, as a Labor
Organization were to reject the peaceful trial of strength, the
capitalist class would be but too delighted to apply the system of
Russian Terrorism. The long and short of it all is that the
revolution could not gather the necessary recruits. On the other
hand, clad in the vestments of civilized, fully civilized conflict,
the I.W.W. recognizes the indispensable usefulness of political
agitation whereby it may demand the unconditional surrender of the
capitalist class; whereby it may preach and teach the reasons thereof;
whereby it may express its willingness to abide by the fiat of the
ballot, that is, by the peaceful trial of strength; and by reason of
such conduct, recruit, drill and organize the physical force which it
may need in order to safeguard the civilized because peaceful victory
that it has striven to win.
Putting the matter in a nut-shell - without the revolutionary
economic organization of the Working Class the day of the Socialist
political victory would be the day of its defeat; without the
revolutionary political action of Socialism, the revolutionary
economic organization of the Working Class can not be fully shaped for
The Socialist Labor Party represents this view. Though
recognizing its preponderatingly economic importance, it perceives its
incidental political necessity.
"Ha!" cries out Hoffman, our this week's opponent, "A
The ways of civilization are no mask on the face of civilized
man. The ways of civilization are part and parcel of the civilized
man's being; they sharply mark the profile of his face.
For the same reason, and by the identical principle, that
Sherman's defeat in the I.W.W. could be encompassed only by the
policy of those delegates who went to last September's convention
sincerely believing, not masked with the belief, that the man was
honest, but who soon as they found him out a scoundrel, grabbed him by
the slack of his reputation and threw him out of the Convention and
the I.W.W., for the same reason, and by the identical principle, the
overthrow of the Capitalist Class will be the work of those men only
with whom the ways of civilization are, not a mask but part of their
nature; men who insist upon exhausting the ways of civilization, and
who, when Capitalism shall have dropped its mask, will be found ready
to resort to the ways of barbarism - all the more determinedly so
because the method is repellent to the civilized cause that they are
the apostles of.
For the same reason, and by the identical principle, that
Sherman would have remained in possession of both the convention and
the I.W.W. if the policy of those delegates had prevailed who went to
the convention convinced in advance of the man's scoundrelism, and who
wanted to throw him out from the start, - for the same reason, and by
the identical principle, the Capitalist Class would remain enthroned
if the policy were to prevail of that impatient and angry element who
reject in advance the expectation of a peaceful trial of strength, and
would start with resort to physical force.
The S.L.P. ballot demands the unconditional surrender of the
Capitalist Class. The S.L.P., accordingly, preaches the Revolution,
teaches the Revolution, and thereby enables the recruiting and
organizing of the physical force element requisite to enforce the
Revolution. The S.L.P. does all this, including the latter, because
it strikes the posture of holding the Ruling Class to the civilized
method of a peaceful trial of strength.
Maybe the S.L.P. will triumph at the hustings, that is, win
out and be rightly counted. In this case the S.L.P. would
forthwith dissolve; the political State would be ipso facto abolished;
the industrially and integrally organized proletariat will without
hindrance assume the administration of the productive powers of the
land. Is this impossible? We admit it is highly improbable.
More likely is the event of S.L.P. triumph at the polls, but
defeat by the election inspectors, or resistance, as the Southern
slaveholders did at the election of Lincoln. In that case also the
S.L.P. would forthwith dissolve into its economic organization. That
body, having had the opportunity to recruit and organize its forces,
and the civilized method of peaceful trial of strength having been
abandoned, the Might of the proletariat will then be there, free to
resort to the last resort, and physically mop the earth with the
barbarian Capitalist Class.
Most likely, however, the political expression of the I.W.W.
will not be afforded the time for triumph at the polls. Most likely
the necessities of capitalism will, before then, drive it to some
lawless act that will call forth resistance. A strike will break out;
capitalist brutality will cause the strike to spread; physical,
besides moral support, will pour in from other and not immediately
concerned branches of the Working Class. A condition of things -
economic, political, social-atmospheric - will set in, akin to the
condition of things in 1902, at the time of the great coal miners'
strike, or in 1894, at the time of the Pullman - A.R.U. strike. What
then? The issue will then depend wholly upon the degree, in point of
quality and in point of quantity, that the organization of the I.W.W.
will have reached. If it has reached the requisite minimum, then,
that class-instinct of the proletariat that Marx teaches the Socialist
to rely upon, and the chord of which the Capitalist Class
instinctively seeks, through its labor fakers, to keep the Socialist
from touching, will readily crystallize around that requisite I.W.W.
minimum of organization. The Working Class would then be organically
consolidated. Further efforts for a peaceful measuring of strength
would then have been rendered superfluous by capitalist barbarism.
Capitalism would be swept aside forthwith.
For this consummation, however, in the eventuality under
consideration, be it remembered, the I.W.W. must have reached the
requisite quantitative and qualitative minimum of perfection, AND THAT
IN TURN WILL DEPEND UPON THE FREENESS OF ITS PREVIOUS AGITATIONAL
WORK, A FREEDOM THAT IT NEVER COULD. ENJOY EXCEPT IT PLANTS ITSELF
UPON THE PRINCIPLE THAT RECOGNIZES THE CIVILIZED METHOD OF PEACEFUL
TRIAL OF STRENGTH - THE POLITICAL BALLOT.
Accordingly, it all comes back and boils down to the question,
How is the I.W.W. to recruit and organize its forces if it starts
with the absolute rejection of the political ballot?
All talk concerning the thorns that beset the political stalk
are beside the question. Such talk our opponents should reserve for
the pure and simple political Socialist party men. Addressed to the
S.L.P. men, such talk is superfluous and inconsequential - as
inconsequential as would be extensive dissertations on the stench that
periodically is felt in dissecting rooms, and of the diseases such
stenches occasionally breed: THE DISSECTING ROOM IS NECESSARY; - as
inconsequential as would be extensive dissertations on the accidents
and discomforts that result from ocean travel: OCEAN TRAVEL IS
REQUISITE. The pure and simple political Socialist man is on the
political question what a man would be who favors the dissecting room
for the sake of its stench, or the man who favors ocean travel for the
sake of its perils and discomforts.
That, our physical force opponents know, is not the S.L.P.
The S.L.P. knows that the political State is worthless, and
can not legislate the Socialist Republic into life. The S.L.P. man
clings to political action because it is an absolute necessity for the
formation of that organization - the I.W.W. - which is both the
embryo of the Workers' Republic and the physical force that the
proletariat, may, and in all likelihood will, need to come to its own.
-Ed., The People.
Sixth letter, by John Sandgren, San Francisco
Having been granted the privilege of answering the criticism of
my views "As to Politics," I shall gladly avail myself thereof.
First, as to the strength of the working class at the ballot
box, I have no alternative but to accept the figures given by the
Editor of The People, namely that the working class in 1900
constituted seventy per cent of the population and that we would,
theoretically, be able to muster a majority at the ballot box. But it
must be admitted that the change from 1890, when the working class
were fifty-five per cent, with a downward numerical tendency, is so
astonishing, that one may justly question the correctness of at least
one set of the figures.
However, seeing that little importance is attached by my
critics, who must be considered to represent the S.L.P. position, to
the ballot as such, and to the question of our strength at the ballot
box, discussion on this point may be dropped.
But, from another point of view the figures I gave under this
head, somewhat amended, are of great significance in attempting to
determine the proper posture toward political activity on the part of
the working class, namely in the following sense:
Out of the whole mass of actual wage workers, men, women and
children, there are approximately eighteen millions who can in no
manner be directly interested in politics, to wit: 1,700,000 children
wage workers, 4,800,000 women wage workers, 3,500,000 foreign wage
workers, 5,000,000 Negro wage workers, 3,000,000 floating and
otherwise disfranchised wage workers; total, 18,000,000 approximately.
And nobody will deny that in the building up of the economic
organization and constructing the framework of the new, collective
form of society, we will sooner or later have to take account of every
one of these eighteen million wage workers. In fact, they are "grist
for our mill," but what is to be done with them politically?
This open admission on the part of spokesmen for the S.L.P.,
although not new or brought out for the first time in this discussion
- this admission that the ballot counts for little or nothing, will
come as a shock to many faithful adherents of the ballot, who with one
of my critics bravely exclaim: "Outvote them we shall!" This
admission is another sign of the fact that working class
"parliamentarism" has come upon evil days, the tendency throughout the
whole world being to bring economic organization to the forefront and
relegate politics to the rear.
It may be hard for those who have seen and helped the
revolutionary movement grow on political lines to vigorous manhood to
now discard politics; the new tendency to reorganize the forces on
exclusive economic lines, entering the political arena only in the
negative way of "direct action" may strike them as unholy violations
of sacred principles. But as Marx says in effect: "The proletarian
movement ever comes back to its starting point, ever retraces its
steps and begins anew, until it has finally struck solid foundation."
So it is now. Parliamentary experience having brought out the weak
points of the political method, a revolt from the "million masses"
brings into existence an organization in which the workers shall meet
the master class face to face (direct action), thus realizing, as
Comrade Bruckere says, the Marxian motto: "The emancipation of the
workers by the workers themselves."
In regard to the position that we needs must continue political
organization for the sake of political agitation, to be used as a
shield under which to mold and form the working class movement proper,
i. e., the economic organization, I am far from convinced of its
Political organization and agitation without faith in the
ballot or without, as in Russia, demanding the ballot, or as in
Sweden, an extension of the franchise, is like running a windmill
without any grain to grind or without any millstones to grind it with.
The position being an artificial one it will soon become untenable.
It WILL FAIL to accomplish what it was intended for: to deceive the
master class as to our purpose; it WILL accomplish what we least
desire: to deceive our fellow workers and confuse. Such is the
penalty one always has to pay for one of the gravest tactical errors
in the revolutionary movement: double sense, dissimulation upon which
see page 85 in De Leon's work: "Two Pages from Roman History."
Political organization and agitation becomes an absurdity
without the ballot, without parliamentarism. On this score allow me
to quote from a recent article in the International Socialist Review
on the Italian movement:
"Parliaments are not and can not become organs of social
revolution. The inherent social and economic qualities and tendencies
of parliamentarism limit the possibilities of reforms.... It is a
most ridiculous utopian supposition that a Socialist party ever can
obtain a majority in the parliaments of any country. The social
revolution which shall establish 'the autonomous government of
production man' aged by the associated working class' (Labriola) is
above all a technical and economic fact which can not be called into
existence by an incompetent assembly such as the parliaments of all
countries are, but must result from the autonomous development of the
capacity, and from the spontaneous initiation of those who attend to
the process of production."
Again, I hold that my critics have not established the fact
that the I.W.W. needs any shield, or that the political organizations
have any shield to offer. While the I.W.W. certainly needs the well
trained membership of the S.L.P., I can not but see that we must
respectfully decline their offer to hold a shield over us to protect
our coddling infancy.
The I.W.W. can do, and is doing, everything in the way of
agitation that the political organization is doing, it can address by
word of mouth, it can distribute and sell literature, it can organize,
and what more can the S.L.P. do?
In fact, it would be a direct advantage to have the shield out
of the way, as we could then address our fellow-workers somewhat in
"Politics is the game of capitalism; it is a flimsy shell game
in which your very lives are the stakes played for. As long as you
workingmen are allowing yourselves to be bamboozled into pinning your
faith to the ballot, the capitalist class does not want any better
snap. For no matter how you vote, capitalism is perfectly safe.
'Praise be to God,' the capitalist class whispers, 'the blamed fools
are still voting!' Therefore, throw away that old weapon of times
bygone, the boomerang vote, and spring into the ranks of the militant
industrial army, where shoulder to shoulder with our fellows we shall
gain victory through organized strength."
But here are some of the best fighters of the I.W.W., one night
fearlessly proclaiming emancipation through organization and the next
night "holding the shield" and exhorting street audiences to vote the
S.L.P. or S.P. ticket, when they well knew that such course is
about as fruitless as an Eskimo dog's barking at the moon.
No, the shield is not needed, not appreciated, and does not
Past has shown that the political agitator enjoys no more
immunity or security than others. He may be "legal" and
"constitutional," but legal opinions and supreme court decisions are
made to order and cost only the paper on which they are written, so we
are as much exposed to "law and order" if we parade in the mask and
disguise of politicians as if we come openly forward as an economic
organization, not to speak of the advantages of an open,
To those who defend political organization and agitation,
because it would suggest to the ruling class our willingness to adorn
ourselves in the conventional garb of legality, civilization, peace,
etc., I would put the question: when did economic organization cease
to be a legal, civilized and peaceful weapon? In fact, I would
maintain that it is one of the newest and most perfected products of
To those who plead for a much to be desired peaceful solution
of the social problem, I wish to say that economic organization even
with the purpose of taking and holding is primarily a peaceful
organization, and it is a straining at gnats to maintain that politics
is more civilized, more peaceful weapon, when the political
organization proposes to carry behind its back "the big stick" of the
economic organization, with which to emphasize its civilized and
peaceable intentions. The whole difference is the difference between
direct and indirect action.
The question of peace or war is optional with the master class,
it is not for us to decide which it shall be. But it is our duty to
be prepared for both. Only the economic organization can do this.
The political organization is capable of preparing for neither. It is
incompetent to bring about a peaceful solution, because society will
have to be reconstructed on economic lines; it would be incapable of
preparing for war because its organization is only a general staff
without a regular army.
But why speak of peace or war! The capitalist class has
already chosen war. Our blood has run in torrents, as in the Paris
Commune, or bespattered the road to Hazelton and Cripple Creek; the
rope has strangled some of our early champions and is in preparation
for others. To speak of a possibility of peaceable settlement between
us and the master class is the same as the mutual agreement between
the man flat on his back and him who holds the dagger to his throat.
The war has been going on these many years and is raging fiercely now.
How can anybody suggest a peaceable settlement, especially as we
demand complete surrender?
Another thing which seems to worry some of my critics is that
if we were to discard politics and have only an economic organization,
we would, Peter Schlemil-like, be without a shadow or reflex, which is
against the rule, as no economic manifestation should appear in public
without its political reflex or shadow, any more than a
self-respecting citizen would go out without his shadow. These
critics seem to forget that a revolutionary, economic organization
with an aim to reconstruct society, has its reflex or shadow projected
forward, and that no true reflex could be contained in the frame of
politics. In so far as the organization also serves the incidental
purpose of fighting the every-day battles of the working class, it is
entitled to a shadow on the political field. But that shadow will be
thrown as indicated in Bruckere's report of the French movement; our
organized strength will cause the ruling class to fall all over
themselves in an attempt to "reflect" us on the political field, in
order to save themselves from a worse calamity.
For these and other reasons I still maintain that the Preamble
of the I.W.W. should be so amended as to exclude political action.
Only thus will we have found a solid basis upon which all workingmen
can unite. The operation may be painful, but it must be endured.
Again, for the sake of keeping the record clear, the first
thing to be done is to record the fact that the question asked by The
People at the incipience of this discussion remains unanswered, to
wit, how are the ranks of, the I.W.W., of the revolutionary
army..intended 'to "take' and hold" the means of production, etc., to
recruit the necessary forces in America for that eventful and final
act off the revolution, if the I.W.W. were to start by rejecting the
civilized method of settling social disputes, the method of a peaceful
trial of strength, offered by political action, and plant itself,
instead, upon the principle of physical force only ? This is the
issue. Sandgren, like the others who hold with him, leaves it
We say Sandgren leaves it untouched. That is putting the case
mildly for him. In so far as he can be said to have at all touched
it, he overthrows himself. What, was Sandgren's motion, so to speak?
It was that THE I.W.W. DROP THE POLITICAL CLAUSE FROM ITS PREAMBLE.
He who comes with such a proposition, and is met with the question,
How are we to recruit our forces if we start by discarding the
political, or peaceful trial of strength ? He who comes with a motion
such as Sandgren's, and is met with the question just put, can not do,
as Sandgren does, show that the I.W.W. today, with the political
clause which he would strike out, is doing the very work that we claim
it could not do in the long run without that clause. If such a
statement was meant as an answer to our question, the answer
overthrows the original motion. It yields the point at issue.
We may again stop here. All that is essential to the issue is
covered by the above observation. Nevertheless, again mindful of the
experience that central errors often derive their nourishment, if they
do not actually rise, from collateral errors, we shall here take up
the principal mistakes in Sandgren's reply - mistakes, which, though
irrelevant to the real issue, are important, relatively and
First. - Those critics of Sandgren, who agree with him against
political action, but find fault with his looking for support in
statistics, do him and their cause injustice. There is no theory but
should be based upon facts. Sandgren yielded to a correct instinct in
seeking the support of figures for his conclusion. Who knows to what
extent his erroneous conclusion was due to the erroneous figures that
he quoted. Yielding to the same correct instinct he correctly returns
Again his statistical reasoning is at fault. The array of
items that foots up eighteen million, child, woman, foreigner, Negro,
floating, and otherwise disfranchised wage workers by no means
warrants the conclusion that they "can in no manner be directly
interested politics". Far from it. The conclusion reveals one of the
false notions that dominate the anti-political action mind. That mind
can not disengage itself from the notion that political action begins
and ends with conventions, nominations of tickets and voting. This is
false. Political action, conducted by revolutionists, consists in
something else besides those acts; it consists in something else
infinitely more important than any or all of those acts; it consists
in revolutionary agitation and education upon the civilized plane that
presupposes a peaceful trial of strength: that is, settlement of the
dispute. "What is to be done with them [these child, woman, foreign,
Negro, floating and otherwise disfranchised wage workers]
politically?" asks our friend. What? Fully sixty per cent of them,
that is, all, except the infants and the sick, can be made the
carriers of the agitational and educational propaganda of the
revolution conducted upon the civilized plane. Though they be not
entitled to cast a single vote, they can distribute literature, and
those who have the gift - though foreign, female, Negro or otherwise
disfranchised - can by speech promote the revolution by teaching it
on the political platform. We all know that this actually happens.
Second. - The indisputably correct and, indeed, cheering fact
mentioned by Sandgren concerning the widespread revulsion from
"parliamentarism," or be it pure and simple Socialism, by no means
warrants his conclusion that, therefore, the other extreme, total
rejection of political action, is correct. Such a conclusion is a
"non sequitur," is illogical from his own premises; indeed, his own
premises warn against the conclusion. The knowledge that the pendulum
just was at one extreme is a warning against, rather than an argument
in favor of the point which the pendulum is bound to strike
immediately after - the other extreme.
Aye, Sandgren correctly alludes to Marx. The proletarian
revolutions as Marx says, "criticize themselves constantly; constantly
interrupt themselves in their own course; come back to what seems to
have been accomplished, in order to start over anew; scorn with cruel
thoroughness the HALF-MEASURES, weaknesses and meannesses of their
first attempts"; etc. The proletarian revolution started with
exclusive physical force attempts; it "criticized," "interrupted"
itself, and swung over to the other extreme of exclusive politics; it
is again "criticizing" and "interrupting" itself and receding from
that second extreme posture. The experience it has been making
teaches it to "scorn with cruel thoroughness the HALF-MEASURES,
weaknesses and meannesses of its first attempts". Experience teaches
it that all extremes are HALF-MEASURES; that all half-measures are
WEAKNESS; that all weakness leads to MEANNESS - corruption and
treason. What corruption and treason the half-measure of pure and
simple political Socialism leads to is palpably shown by the record of
the Socialist party Careys of Massachusetts, Hillquits of New York,
Buechs and Bergers of Wisconsin. At the same time, written in the
blood of the workers is the corruption and treason that flows from the
half-measure of exclusively physical force, or so-called "direct"
action. The names of the McParlands, of Molly Maguire fame, and of
the McKenneys, of modern Colorado fame, should suffice as hints - to
say nothing of what the more recent Dumases and Petriellas are capable
The S.L.P. seeks not patronizingly to officiate as a shield to
the I.W.W. The endeavor of the S.L.P. is directed toward promoting
the vigorous development of the I.W.W., to the end that the I.W.W.
may, schooled by the experience of previous half-measures, itself set
up its own shield and itself hold up that shield which will protect
it, in front, against the pure and simple politician; in the rear,
against the "agent provocateur".
Third. - Sandgren slips badly when he quotes, against the
S.L.P. attitude, page 85 of De Leon's "Two Pages from Roman History,"
wherein the warning is correctly uttered and illustrated against the
practice of double sense and dissimulation in revolutions. The
passage is recommended to our readers. It describes Gaius Gracchus as
bent upon overthrowing the power of the Senate, but keeping the secret
"locked in his breast," and indulging in a bit of pantomime that could
not throw his foes off their guard, and only succeeded in confusing,
thereby "keeping away forces needful to his purpose, whom
straightforward language would have attracted".
We take Sandgren for too honest a seeker after truth to wish to
imply that anything the S.L.P. has done, said or printed, whether
with regard to the economic or the political action, can even remotely
be compared to that HALF-MEASURE of Gaius Gracchus. The ballot of the
S.L.P., and the ballot of that political reflex which the I.W.W., as a
full-measure body, is bound to reflect, demands and will demand plump
and plain the unconditional surrender of the capitalist class; that
ballot does, and will, place the revolution on the civilized plane of
a peaceful trial of strength; last not least, and above all, that
ballot, equipped with all the experience of our Age, will school the
proletariat in the absolute necessity of organizing the physical force
- the integrally industrial Union of the working class - which it may
and in all probability will need in order to enforce its program in
case the capitalist class resorts to the brute measures of the
barbarian. There is no "double see" or "dissimulation" in that
Fourth. - Not unless Sandgren would make out of Marx a sort of
Bible - a compilation of scraps from different periods of
civilization, and therefore often contradictory - can he quote the
Marxian saying "the emancipation of the workers by the workers
themselves," as an argument against political action, seeing that the
same Marx stated "Only the Trades Union can give birth to the true
party of Labor." Was Marx's idea that the Union would give birth to a
useless thing? If "the emancipation of the workers. by the workers
themselves" excludes the thought of political action, then Marx
floundered when he made the latter utterance.
Marx was not infallible. If he is found to have erred the
error should be specifically pointed out. Otherwise, in quoting Marx,
he should be quoted fully.
Fifth. - The next slip made by Sandgren is closely related to
the previous one. He quotes Labriola. The quotation is a
misquotation. It is that because it is put in a way suggestive of the
idea that Labriola wholly spurns political action. The idea is wrong.
Labriola's syndicalists (substantially the attitude of the S.L.P.) are
affiliated with - what ? - with the Socialist PARTY of Italy! - A
POLITICAL ORGANIZATION! The sentiments in the quotations from
Labriola are not different from those of the S.L.P. Such sentiments
recognize the necessity of the ballot, without "pinning our faith" to
it. They recognize in the ballot a potential means of a peaceful
trial of strength, and they, so far from "pinning their faith to the
ballot," provide for the organization of the physical force, which the
political agitation enables us to organize, and which in all
likelihood will be needed, but which the Movement will not allow
itself to be heated into the blind passion of pushing out of the
Sixth. - We must frankly admit our utter inability to handle
Sandgren's contention that an economic organization, determined to
ignore the political ballot, is "a peaceful organization". Either he
is color blind, or we are, on the subject.
Seventh. - Finally, Sandgren's closing paragraphs, declaring
that there is WAR now, consequently, what is the use of considering
peaceful solutions, reflects the unfortunate psychology of our
anti-politics friends. Why spend so much time with claims about the
peacefulness of the revolutionary economic organization, quotations
from Labriola and Marx, statistical figures, parallels in history,
etc., etc.? What they mean is that there is WAR now, and consequently
we might as well fight. THERE IS NO WAR NOW. Unreliable are the
conclusions of men who take a word, used in a technical sense,
transfer that word to another technical sphere, and then give it, in
the second, the meaning it has in the first sphere.
There is CLASS WAR today; but the word WAR in that sense means
something essentially different from the word WAR in the sense used by
Sandgren when he says we might as well wage WAR now against the
capitalist class. War, in the sense used by Sandgren, has not yet
broken out. If it had, his articles could not be published in The
People, this discussion could not be going on, the capitalist
institutions would not be available for the transportation of our
thoughts, and neither could write with the peace and comfort that we
do. There is no such WAR now. If there were, the discussion would be
superfluous; the very fact that Sandgren has raised his anti-politics
point is proof that there is no such WAR now. The only justification
for Sandgren's contention would be the actual existence of war.
Seeing there is none, the ground fails on which to sustain his point.
In the absence of the only reason why political action should
be dropped - the existence of actual war - the only question of moment
is how to equip ourselves for that war that we are all agreed we shall
in all likelihood be involved in. The question put by The People at
the incipience of this discussion remains unanswered. The glove,
thrown down to our anti-political friends, remains on the field
challenging to be picked up.
-Ed. The People.
Seventh Letter, By V. H. Kopald, New York
At the time Comrade Sandgren started the discussion. "As to
Politics," I was in complete accord with the Editor. Since, I have
gone over to the other side, and I wish to give a few reasons why.
In actual fact we live now in a state of war, a war of classes.
It was always a maxim of war: Do what the enemy does not want you to.
The capitalist class let you do all the political agitation you want,
but use all obstacles possible, even force and gallows against
No matter what anybody thinks, the end of all political
agitation must be the ballot; and the ballot and election is one of
the principal assets of capitalism. After every election the whole
capitalist class is elated, the proletarian is depressed. Naturally
so. The sight of even a would-be people's tribune, like Hearst,
getting "defeated" by a majority of 75,000 makes Comrade Sandgren
argue that the capitalists are more numerous than the proletarians,
and makes thousands of proletarians think, Socialism is hundreds of
years away. It puts at the disposal of the capitalist the
unanswerable argument, We'll give in to Socialism, whenever the
majority of people want Socialism. As to civilized argument and
What is "civilized agitation"? Are we in a state of war, or
not? If we are in a state of war, then war is hell and civilization
is impossible. We have only one object in view: emancipation of the
working class. Civilized agitation between bandits and victims!
With all my means in my power I shall still support The People,
as The People is more industrial than political. But I shall support
no political party. The little energy I could give to the former
before I shall now turn to the Industrial Workers of the World.
The distinguishing feature of this week's contribution against
the position of the Industrial Workers of the World, whose preamble
proposes the unification of the working class "on the political as
well as on the industrial field"; or that correlative position of the
S.L.P., whose literature announces that, without the economic
organization the day of the political victory of Socialism would be
the day of its defeat, and that, without political action, which
places the Social Revolution in America upon the civilized plane of
endeavoring to reach a peaceful trial of strength, the emancipation of
the workers would be indefinitely postponed, and could then be reached
only by wading through a massacre, both the delay and the then
assuredly vast amount of bloodshed being brought on and rendered
necessary by the workers themselves; in short, the distinguishing
feature of this week's contribution against all political action and
in favor of physical force only - that distinguishing feature lies in
that this week's contribution indulges in no feints. Kopald wastes no
time upon the corruption that politics engender; he consumes no space
with recitals of the dangers that beset politics; he resorts to no
needless quotations concerning the revolutionary character of the
Labor movement; he leaves alone all attempts at statistical display;
he gives a wide berth to phrases and to controversial finessings; - he
says plump and plain what he means. What he means is that there is
_actual war today_. If all the previous contributors against politics
and in favor of physical force only had been as clear in their minds
upon the thought that was working upon them, then they would have
taken less space; they would have saved us much work; and the question
- how are the ranks of the Industrial Workers of the World, of the
economic revolutionary army intended to "take and hold" the means of
production, etc., to recruit the necessary forces in America for that
eventful and final act of the revolution if the Industrial Workers of
the World were to start by rejecting the civilized method for settling
social disputes, the method of a peaceful trial of strength, offered
by political action, and plant itself, instead, upon the principle of
physical force only? - this question, put by The People at the
inception of the discussion, and left unanswered up to date, would not
have been put. It would have been unnecessary. The question could be
met only in one of two ways - either by answering it
straightforwardly, or by pronouncing it preposterous. Kopald is the
only contributor who can not be charged with having evaded the
question. His contribution amounts to pronouncing the question
preposterous. From his premises he is right. But his premises are
Of course, if indeed our present state were one of actual war,
then a question that proceeds from the premises of there being actual
peace, would be preposterous. Of course, if actual war had already
broken out, then none but a lunatic would strike the posture of a
possible "peaceful trial of strength". Such a posture would not rest
upon the elevation of civilization; it would be a mockery of
civilization. Such a posture would rest upon the depths of stupidity.
With bullets flying around, and the "dead line" established by
pickets, there is nothing left but force. Woe would be to the
proletariat of America, woe to the emancipation of the proletariat of
the world, whose emancipation depends upon that of their American
fellow wage slave, if the outbreak of actual war found the working
class of America as disorganized as now they are.
Were that to happen, then that which The People has been
warning against, as the inevitable result of a system of organization
that started with the rejection of the civilized method of striving
for a peaceful trial of strength, which political action alone offers
- then, that result would not be questioned by our opponents. The
movement of the American working class would find itself dwarfed into
a conspiracy; and they could see their actions reflected in the
actions of the Russian revolutionists: compelled to move about in
disguise, creeping stealthily at night to place bombs in the chimneys
of the residences of the American Wittes, the heroines among their
women sacrificing their chastity upon the altars of Freedom as the
only means to gain access to the soldiery of the Despot class, in
order to stir them to mutiny, as was done by several heroic Russian
revolutionary women in the fortress of Kronstadt.
We are confident in the belief that Kopald thanks his stars
that actual war is not yet. The statement that the "Capitalist class
use all obstacles, even force and gallows against economic agitation
is mere rhetoric. The issue in this discussion can not be settled by
rhetoric. Obstacles? yes, many; force? yes, quite often; the
gallows? that also, occasionally; - these and other devices does the
capitalist class apply against the economic agitation - and it has
applied them, though not yet the gallows, against revolutionary
political agitation as well. It has done all that in the course of
the _class war_. But the "class war," that socioeconomic term, is not
All reasoning, proceeding from the premises that there is
_actual war_ now, proceeds from incomplete premises; being incomplete,
the reasoning is premature; such reasoning can not choose but be false
in consequence, and, by every operation, multiplying into wider error.
There is no actual war now. The question put by The People at
the incipience of the discussion stands.
We rely upon it that the sense of right on the part of our
opponents will do us the justice to admit their side has been treated
with fairness. The contributors have not been limited in space; their
contributions have not been mutilated; the subject has during these
months been thoroughly and courteously ventilated; an impartial and
thoughtful audience, bent upon ascertaining the best in behalf of our
common cause, will have read and reflected. Further discussion on the
subject should be unnecessary. There must be an end to the best of
things. Moreover, there are imperative calls upon the limited space
of the Weekly People for other matters.
Accordingly, the _discussion_ is closed with this issue. We
say the _discussion_. The columns of The People will remain open
under the head "As to Politics" to any reader who will furnish a
direct answer to the question that The People has propounded, and
which has been repeated above; what that question purports, the
discussion has made clear. None but _direct answers_ will be
accepted; such answers, if forthcoming, need occupy but little space.
If the question is answerable, the movement is entitled to it.
The S.L.P. is not nailed to any special "means"; it is bent
upon a "goal". The S.L.P. will hail any "means" that will stand the
test of reason and experience, and would give justifiable promise of
reaching the goal more swiftly than the means of combined political
and economic action, to which the Party now holds.
There still remain unpublished five communications. Four of
them - George F. Spettel's of St. Paul, Minn.; O. Eherich's of
Oakland, Cal.; Charles Rice's of New York; and Julius Kiefe's of
Cincinnati, Ohio - will be successively published in the course of the
next two weeks. With the exception of Kiefe's, these communications
contain bona fide questions exclusively. Under ordinary circumstances
they would have been answered in the Letter Box. It is, however,
preferable in this instance to publish the questions themselves. They
will appear under the head "As to Politics," with the answers
Kiefe's communication, while embodying questions, might be
justly excluded, seeing that it trends on the controversial, and also
wanders from the question. Nevertheless, its shortness assists in
giving it the benefit of being considered as bona fide questions only.
It will go in.
The fifth communication, from Goldie Karnoil, St. Louis, Mo.,
is barred by the decision to close the discussion. It is a lengthy,
eleven-page closely written and merely controversial production, that
merely repeats past assertions made by the lady's side of the issue,
and that, although it is the last one received, having come in only
last week, again evades the question put by The People. Phrases like
these - "every lost strike is a lesson ; since our planet revolves
through space nothing of lasting value for the working class has ever
been accomplished through preaching"; etc., etc. - are no answer to
the question. Of course, every event is a lesson: even the Thaw
trial is a lesson. Of course, preaching alone is worthless: aims
without "organization" to carry them out are, as The People has shown
before, just so much hot air. Still less are phrases of which the
following is a type - "once class-conscious and organized, there is no
power on earth to keep the working class from taking over production"
- an answer to the question. That is a begging of the question.
Finally, and least of all, is the repetition of the statement that the
Industrial Workers of the World (with its present preamble proclaiming
the necessity of working class unity "on the _political_, as well as
on the _industrial_ field") is organizing grandly - least of all is
that an answer to the question, especially when the "answer" comes
from those who wish to remove the political clause from the Industrial
Workers of the World preamble. It does not follow that because a man,
in possession of both his legs, walks steadily, _therefore_, one of
his legs being sawed off, he will be able to keep from hobbling and
falling. Reason dictates an opposite conclusion. The _discussion_ is
-Ed. The People
Eighth Letter, By C. F. Spettel, St. Paul, Minn.
In your answer to Arturo Giovannitti you say, "Accordingly, the
civilized revolutionary organization proclaims the Right, demands it,
argues for it, and willingly submits to the civilized method of
polling the votes. And it organizes itself with the requisite
physical force in case its defeated adversary should resort to the
barbarous way of enforcing his will."
Now my question is: How is the organization to know when its
adversary is defeated? Is there any probability that the political
machine that counts the votes will become good or terror-stricken, and
honestly count the votes, and thereby proclaim the defeat of the idle
class by the working class?
A political movement knows from a thousand and one sources
whether its numerical forces are strong or weak. In this city, for
instance, Hearst was elected Mayor two years ago. Everybody knows
that. The reason he is not in the City Hall today is that he was not
equipped with the physical force to enforce his victory. The counting
out of Hearst deceived nobody.
The above answer is on the supposition that the political
movement of Labor would triumph, and the Capitalist Class then attempt
the trick played on Hearst. The chances are against such a
contingency. The chances are as stated several weeks ago in the
answer to Hoffman. Some capitalist outrage on the economic field will
precipitate war. In that case the issue will depend upon the degree
of integrally industrial organization that the proletariat may find
If they should find themselves in so weak a degree of
integrally industrial organization as they now are in, or in a
stronger one, yet not possessed of the minimum of strength needed for
resistance, cohesion and attraction, then the armed force of the
capitalist class will mop the earth with them. Then there will be
born an "Underground America," as there has long been an "Underground
Russia". The handful of revolutionists will be forced into
surreptitious propaganda, and the Revolution will have to raise itself
above ground by its own boot-straps.
If, however, the proletariat should, at such a time, find
themselves organized to such a degree of integral industrialism (and
the more strongly the better) that sufficient resistance could be
offered to the capitalist, and sufficient attraction could be
exercised upon the rest and not yet organized workers, then the
proletariat would mop the earth with the capitalist class. It would
be able to do so because its industrial form of organization would not
only furnish it the required physical force, but would also enable it
forthwith to conduct production.
But that possibility, or eventuality, is out of all question if
the industrial organization were to start upon the theory that there
is _actual war now_. If it did, it would be throttled in short order.
Only by recognizing the civilized method of peaceful trial of
strength, implied in political action, will the proletariat be able to
recruit the physical force (industrially organized workers) with the
aid of which, under the first supposition, it will be in position to
enforce its political triumph; or with the aid of which it may be
able, under the second supposition, to meet successfully capitalist
Thus, in either case, political action is as necessary as
industrial organization is indispensable.
- Ed. The People.
Ninth Letter, By O. Eherich, Oakland, Cal.
Since the controversy as to politics has tapered down to this
point, I feel constrained to ask the question of the Editor: "Have
the workers in reality the choice left as to effective tactics?"
Granted the validity of the assertion by the Editor, that
without open political agitation the working class movement will
narrow down to conspiracy, is it not being driven that way by the
tactics of the ruling class? And must not the ruled class adopt the
same methods if it wishes to meet and vanquish the opponents? Was it
any more or less than a "conspiracy" that the mine-owners resorted to
in the war in Colorado? Did it not burst through the thin veneer of
constitutionality and brag of it in words? Did not the men In
Colorado express their political will in regards to an 8-hour law by a
majority vote of 47,000, for a constitutional amendment? If all the
laborers in that state had been organized in as sound and solid an
organization as the W.F. of M., could they not have borne the brunt
of the battle without the political movement? Could an utterly
irresponsible autocratic power in Russia have gone any further after
the same amount of provocation? Could these things not happen in any
other State than Colorado, after the late Supreme Court decision? Let
us not deceive ourselves, but do we really live in a constitutional
country, or is it only an illusion? The powers in Colorado were only
provoked to the extent of being compelled to employ three shifts of
men instead of two, yet when they could not starve the men into
submission, did they not play their last trump? Could they have done
any worse in the face of an existing conspiracy on the part of the
miners? Is it not a merit for the W.F. of M. to have unmasked the
law and order brigands by tearing the mummery of hypocrisy from the
faces of the plutes and shown the working class with what kind of an
enemy they must reckon? Is there a possibility of emancipation by
peaceful methods after these experiences? Will not the ruling class
provoke violence if the demands for better conditions of the workers
threaten the profits of the former? Has the working class really a
choice left as to tactics, or is not the manner of resistance
determined by the methods of oppression?
Fully realizing the importance of keeping the proletarians from
indulging in a headlong reckless, unheedful rush, can the
class-conscious workers be trusted enough to learn from past
experiences and shape their course accordingly? Have we any choice?
Boiled down to their substance, the above questions proceed
from the error of holding that actual war exists now. In last week's
answer to Kopald the error was exposed. Eherich himself would
recognize his error if he allowed his eyes a wider sweep of the
It is true that the capitalist class has violated the
constitution in the instance of the Colorado men. But that is not
evidence enough of the existence of actual war. The rest of us are
doing what Haywood was kidnapped for, and yet we are at large. The
kidnapping and other outrages had taken place, and yet the convention
of the Industrial Workers of the World met and worked in peace,
although the capitalists aimed at its destruction, and evidently had
their agents there to do their bidding.
Of identical nature is the error implied in the question
whether the workers should not "adopt the same methods" as the
capitalists. In this, as in the instance just touched on above,
Eherich just sees one thing, but overlooks other things that are
necessary for a correct conclusion. Eherich correctly points out the
barbaric methods resorted to by the capitalists. He overlooks another
thing that these self-same capitalists resort to, and without which
their barbaric methods would not work in the manner they do. That
other thing that capitalists resort to is external homage to the ways
of civilization, external homage to the Genius of the Age. He who
says the workers should adapt themselves to the methods of capitalism
and cites their barbarism may not exclude their external homage to
civilization. Adaptation in this instance would consist in a
hypocritical posture towards political action, plus preparation of the
means of barbarism. Adaptation, accordingly, would reject Eherich's
suggested repudiation of political action. The bona fide Movement of
Labor may not "adopt" the methods of the capitalist class in the class
war. The Labor Movement must, on the contrary, place itself upon the
highest plane civilization has reached. It must insist upon the
enforcement of civilized methods, and it must do so in the way that
civilized man does. Civilized man acts equipped with experience.
Experience teaches that Right is a toy unless backed by Might;
experience teaches also that the capitalist class is a brigand class
bearing the mask of civilization, and that it is helped in the cheat
by the undoubted circumstance that it has been a promoter of
civilization. Equipped with this experience and knowledge, the
civilized man will take up political action as the only means that,
theoretically, promises a peaceful trial of strength; and he will
simultaneously organize the integrally industrial union as the only
available and the all-sufficient Might to enforce the Right that his
As to the question, whether or not the capitalist does not now
"conspire" and "act in secret," and whether the worker should not
adopt that method also - that question, partly answered above,
deserves special treatment. _No; secrecy is the bane of the union
generally; it would be the destruction of the revolutionary union_!
The Mahoneys and Shermans wanted secrecy. The widest publicity is
essential to safety. Secrecy leaves the majorities in the Unions in
ignorance of what happens at Union meetings; secrecy promotes the
trade of the police spy, the "agents provocateurs," those raw-boned
"anti-political revolutionists," like McParland, in the pay of the
capitalist politicians. Left in ignorance of what happens in the
Union, the majority of the membership is ever dependent upon private
information; the informant may be honorable, he may also be
dishonorable; the revolution must not be exposed to trip upon
misinformation. On the other hand, the "agent provocateur" will find
his occupation gone if publicity is enforced; the blood and thunder
ranter, knowing his words would be published as coming from him will
love his neck too well to indulge in crime-promoting declamation.
Secrecy is _death_; publicity, _life_.
Has the Movement any choice? Certainly it has.
- Ed. The People.
Tenth Letter, By Julius Kiefe, Cincinnati, O.
The S.L.P. members of the Industrial Workers of the World
always claimed, that political (parliamentary) action is an absolute
fluke: except, if it is backed up by economic organization on the
lines of the Industrial Workers of the World. They also tell us in
word and print, that people, believing the economic organization to be
the sole factor, by using the general strike tactics are just as wrong
in their theory as the Socialists from the Socialist party who are of
the opinion that the ballot only will bring them economic and
political liberty. Another argument we hear at present quite often
and that is: How could we (non-parliamentary Socialists) organize the
workers on general strike tactics without being jailed or hanged at
present? Indeed very easy to answer. We tell the working class that
the Industrial Workers of the World (and that is the reason we belong
to it) is a revolutionary economic organization, whose ultimate object
will be to free the workers, who are robbed under the capitalist
system of exploitation in the production of wealth by not owning the
necessary tools to produce commodities for themselves. For this
reason the Industrial Workers of the World was organized and not like
pure and simple unions a la American Federation of Labor to get for
the workers an increase in wages and possibly a shortening of hours.
- If the capitalist class fears this proposition so much, that it
would not tolerate such an organization, because it trains its members
for the Social Revolution, how is it that it allows a political party
such as the S.L.P. or even S.P. to make propaganda for Socialism?
In my opinion this looks very funny indeed, or is it perhaps that the
capitalist attorneys and the leaders of the different parliamentary
Socialist parties have some kind of an agreement to blind the workers
if you please, when the day of the social revolution arrives and is
declared by the working class themselves by refusing to work any
longer for the capitalist parasites? In fact Mr. Iglesias of Spain
and also Mr. Vandervelde of Belgium, two of the prominent members of
the international political Socialist parties, blinded the workers of
their respective countries, when they were in conflict several years
ago, while the social general strike was tested there. (This
information I received by reading a leaflet on the general strike by
Walter Arnold about a year ago.) As far as the preamble of the
Industrial Workers of the World in regards to organizing the workers
on the political as well as on the economic field is concerned, it is,
to say the least, confusing and should be changed at our next
convention to read: The workers should be organized on the economic
field to overthrow the economic and the political State of capitalism.
Upon a more careful reading of the above the impression that it
asked some questions was found to be false. Had a first glance at the
communication conveyed the correct impression, it would have been
excluded by last week's decision to close the discussion. Kiefe's
contribution not only evades the question repeatedly put by The People
to the total opposers of political action, but it is cast in an
unhappy controversial mold, unhappy because in not a single instance
are its premises correct, the whole thing reveals a woeful confusion
of facts and rashness in arriving at a conclusion. The promise of an
answer having been made last week, the promise will be kept.
When ten years hence - 'tis to be hoped sooner - Kiefe, a
member of last year's Industrial Workers of the World convention, may
happen to read his above argument, he will feel quite charitable
towards those workers, who, notwithstanding they have frequently heard
his arguments against the American Federation of Labor and the
capitalist class in general, still keep coming back with retorts that
prove they still are muddled, still remain tangled in previous
misconceptions, still continue stuffed with prejudices, and still have
failed to learn the lesson that reckless accusation can only work
against the unification of the working class.
If Kiefe can still use the term "parliamentary" action as
identical with "political" action in this discussion; if he can still
venture to insist that, without political action so as to recognize
the civilized method of peaceful trial of strength, the _working
class_ (not a handful of men behind closed and barred doors) can
organize itself for the revolution, and to insist by simply insisting;
if he still does not see the difference between the power that a
political body (a body recognizing the peaceful method of trial of
strength) enjoys, by the mere fact of its civilized posture, to force
the capitalist class to draw in its horns against it, and the contrary
power which a body, that preaches physical force only, does, by the
mere fact of its own uncivilized posture, suicidally exert to furnish
that same capitalist class a welcome excuse to draw out and sharpen
its horns against it; if he still does not see that, and can only
consider "funny" the arguments of those who do see, explain, and
declare the difference; if he still is so confused on the subject at
issue that he perceives not the radical difference between a "strike"
and a "general strike"; if he still is so reckless as to repeat,
wholly without verification of the charge, such slander against the
integrity of Iglesias and Vandervelde, as he hurls at them and
insinuates indiscriminately against all other Socialist political
parties, is satisfied with merely stating the source from which he
borrows his slanderous conclusion, is ready to appear as a swallower
of the untested charge of somebody else, and ventures to make such a
sequence the basis of his stand; - if notwithstanding his contribution
is dated as late as February 7, months after the discussion started,
and enjoying better opportunities than the average worker, whom he
addresses in behalf of the Industrial Workers of the World, Kiefe
himself is found guilty of their foibles, himself comes back with
retorts that prove he still is muddled, still remains tangled in
previous misconceptions, still continues stuffed with prejudices, and
still has failed to learn the lesson that reckless accusation
unaccompanied with even a vestige of evidence, can only work against
the unification of the working class - if this is thus, Kiefe should
not despair of the "dullards".
Taking up Kiefe's statements seriatim we shall rapidly run
"Parliamentary" action is not "political" action. Without
"political action," true enough, there could be no "parliamentary"
action. But the latter need not follow the former. For instance.
There was a campaigning and election for delegates to last year's
convention of the Industrial Workers of the World. Some of the
delegates tried to parliamentarize at the convention. Those were the
ones who favored compromise with treason and corruption. The
revolutionists refused to "parliamentarize". They stood to their
guns. They neither compromised nor bolted, and they triumphed.
Superfluous to heap up further proof that a body that organizes
for war only can expect to remain unbattered by the capitalist, from
above, or unscuttled by the McParland "agents provocateurs," or their
kindred the Dumases and Petriellas, from below. The style of argument
adopted by the woman who _insisted_ against her husband that a knife
was a pair of scissors, and who, when finally ducked under water,
stuck out her arm, and with her fingers made the motion of scissors,
will not stead in the discussions of the labor movement - least of all
by folks who evade a direct answer to a pointed, legitimate and fair
If the ballot, an acquisition of civilization for peaceful
trial of strength, is a concession from the capitalist class, then all
other conquests of civilization are concessions, _the right to
organize economically included_. If it is "funny" to utilize the
concession of political action, it must be side-splitting for any
inflexible non-accepter of concessions to start Unions. Consequently,
if "funny" is the claim that the capitalist class should "allow a
political party such as the S.L.P." but will not tolerate an
organization that repudiates the civilized method of trial of
strength, if that claim is "funny," then roars-provoking must be the
hint that the S.L.P. and all Socialist political bodies
indiscriminately are in the pay of the capitalist class.
The organizing for the ordinary strike is no social act; the
organizing for the general uprising of the working class is an act of
high social significance. The latter is a political act in that its
purpose is the remodeling of society. Consequently, though "physical
force," after a fashion, rather than the "ballot," is the means for
the trial of strength in ordinary strikes, civilization does not
condemn the Union that organizes for such "physical" demonstration.
In the instance of the so-called "general strike" (a most infelicitous
and contradictory term in the mouths of those who mean the
dispossession of the capitalist class) the union that organizes for
that to the tune of "down with political action!" would today, in
America, tactlessly and uselessly bring down upon itself the
condemnation of civilization.
Walter Arnold libeled Iglesias and Vandervelde. As to the
latter, The People has more than once expressed its opposition to his
methods. To suspect his integrity, however one may suspect his
judgment, is gratuitous insult. As to Iglesias, the gratuitousness of
the insult is still crasser. Spanish conditions are among the most
backward. Difficult is there the part of the revolutionist. So
difficult that suffering has bred unreasoning rage in many heads and
breasts. Not even of these would it be fair to say they "blinded the
workers" by "some kind of agreement," although they have more than
once led the workers to useless slaughter - and then themselves
escaped over the mountains into France, or over the water to Italy.
The charge that Iglesias "blinded the workers" by "some kind of
agreement" is an unqualified libel.
- Ed. The People.
Eleventh letter, By Charles Rice, New York
The controversial columns "As to Politics" have proved
intensely interesting and suggestive even to workers outside of the
ranks of the Socialist Labor Party or the Industrial Workers of the
World. Quite a notable element, ever growing numerically, of the
Socialist party men, members as well as non-members (the writer among
them) are on the point of turning a new leaf in Socialist theory and
tactics. Many of us are disgusted with the untenable, double-faced
hobnobbing of the Socialist party organizations and its prominents (a
la Hanford, Hoehn, etc.) with the A.F. of L., not to speak of
campaigning methods frequently resorted to by the Socialist party in
different States that nauseate by their stench of the Rep-Dem
vote-catching. We are now taking stock of our traditional
parliamentarian Socialism and are looking around us for a new light.
I am confident that I voice the sense of a great number of
Socialist party members and sympathizers in propounding the following
questions for our especial benefit:
What is the exact position of the Daily People on the question
of so-called political action in connection with a class-conscious
labor consolidation of the Industrial Workers of the World type? So
far, unfortunately, we have not been able to cull from the columns of
The People a _definite_ and _exhaustive_ exposition of The People's
attitude on this head, an exposition _definite_ as to the terms
involved (e.g. "political action") and as to practical steps to
carry out that attitude. Let the Editor take the trouble to give an
exhaustive statement of all that his position implies, taking care to
_define_ preliminarily _every doubtful_, or involved, or ambiguous
term or expression, and assuming nothing for granted until he has
covered _this_ part of his work (i.e., definition) and he will have
cleared the way for a much more effective and beneficial discussion of
this question of the utmost importance to all wage slaves.
Is the position taken by the Daily People on this question
identical with that of the S.L.P. itself?
This query is put here simply as a hint to the Editor to take
account of it in formulating his answer to the first query, as the
answer to the third is necessarily involved in the answer to the
first. The platform of the S.L.P. states that "The time is fast
coming when, in the _natural course of social evolution_ [italics are
mine], this [capitalist] system, through the destructive action of its
failure and crises, on the one hand, and the constructive tendencies
of its trusts and other capitalist combinations, on the other hand,
will have worked out its own downfall," and "We, therefore, call upon
the wage workers of America to organize under the banner of the
Socialist Labor Party into a class-conscious body, aware of its rights
and determined to conquer them."
In view of this, the following queries under this head are
(a) _What_ is there to conquer and from _whom_ to conquer, if
this system will _naturally_ work out its own downfall?
(b) If some conquering has to be done, who will do it - the
Socialist Labor Party or the Industrial Workers of the World (through
a political organization of its own)?
(c) What shall we, in quest of new and certain light in our sea
of doubts, meanwhile do? Shall we join the S.L.P., build it up, get
ourselves drilled for the final "conquering" and then disband and walk
over to the political organization that the Industrial Workers of the
World will have by that time evolved?
(d) Will the Industrial Workers of the World at all be likely
to evolve such an organization if we persist in building up the
S.L.P.? If we are to join the Industrial Workers of the World and to
try to steer its course away from politics, that is, from endorsing
any existing Socialist political organization, and at the same time
band ourselves outside as a body of staunch S.L.P.-ites, then where
will our Industrial Workers of the World political expression through
an organization of its own come in?
(e) Shall we not join the S.L.P., but stay in the S.P. and
try to do what we can to counteract the semi-bourgeois tendencies and
dubious methods of the Bergers, Wilshires, and their ilk, and wait
till the Industrial Workers of the World _will_ work out its own
political machinery for "taking" and afterwards "holding" the means of
wealth-production and distribution, as we will have to at any rate; to
disband, to strip ourselves of our S.L.P. or S.P. garments in
order to don the full revolutionary dress suit of the Industrial
Workers of the World?
Answer to I
A rapid sketch of the social evolution that underlies the word
"political" may aid in understanding the different shades of meaning
that the word conveys.
Genesis 2:24, proclaims this maxim: "Therefore shall a man
leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife"; the
same Genesis 3:16, proclaims this other maxim: "And thy desire shall
be unto thy husband, and he shall rule over thee."
The two maxims are obviously contradictory. They can not stand
abreast of each other. They were not reflected by the same, they were
reflected by different social stages. The first was reflected by an
earlier, the second by a later social stage. At the earlier social
stage a male of one gens marrying a female of another gens (marriage
was not allowed within the same gens) went over to and was absorbed by
his wife's gens; at the later social stage it was the wife who left
her own and passed over into her husband's gens. At the earlier
social stage inheritance was in the female line; at the later social
stage it was in the male line. At the earlier social stage property
was communal, at the later social stage it became private.
Hand in hand with these changes went a series of institutional
changes. "Government," "administration," or whatever name may be
given that central guidance found indispensable in organization, was
revolutionized. The original system, under which "government" rested
upon the _people_, not upon _territory_, was reversed. "Government"
resting upon _territory_, not upon the _people_, reached the latter
only through the former, only as they came within the territorial
property demarkation. This change of institutional "government" was
in keeping with the change that property had undergone. Natural
enough the institutional change culminated in the building of cities
and the establishment of class-rule. The word "political" has its
root in the Greek word for city. For fuller information read Lewis H.
Morgan's "Ancient Society". It furnishes the ethnic groundwork for
Socialism, and at the same time sheds light upon terminology.
Obedient to its origin, the word "political" has more than one
The word occurs, for instance, in the Socialist maxim: "The
'political' concept dominates the economic aspirations of a Union;
hence no Union is worth the name whose economic aspirations are not
dominated by Socialist thought." Sloven users of words have
misconceived the meaning of the word "political" in the maxim;
self-misled, they have come to cite the maxim as follows: "The
political organization must dominate the economic organization." This
is nonsense. Political organization neither does nor can dominate
economic organization. Such a notion is at war with the
Morgan-Marxian materialist conception of history and the error leads
to grave false steps in tactics. The word "political" in the maxim,
as correctly quoted, means the conception that a Union may have
regarding the social structure. A Union whose conception of society
is capitalistic will find its economic aspirations dominated
accordingly. Ignorant of the wage slave nature of its membership, it
will seek to deal with the employers as peers. At first blush this
view also may be considered at war with the Morgan-Marxian principle
of the material basis of thought. There is no contradiction. It is a
fact, insisted upon by these scientists, that thought lingers behind
newly formed and forming material bases. Indisputable is the fact
that most of the economic efforts on the part of workingmen today -
despite their material conditions, which no longer furnish a basis for
"conservatism" - are conservative. The circumstance is only
additional argument why such efforts are fatedly ineffective. On the
other hand, a Union whose conception of society enlightens it on the
wage slave status of its membership, together with the rest that
thereby hangs, such a Union will not circumscribe itself to
conservative aspirations. There is no economic organization without a
"political" concept, consciously or unconsciously. The word
"political" in that connection has no reference to voting. It simply
means conception appertaining to social structure. In identical
sense, the word "political" recurs in the term "political economy".
The word "political" occurs also in the expression "political
government," or the "political State," etc. In these connections the
word "political" is the equivalent of "class rule". "Political
government" means class rule government. The social theory of Anarchy
(the term is used in its strictly technical sense, as given by
Anarchists themselves) presupposes government to be identical with
class rule, or despotism. The theory is based upon a myth. It is not
the myths of the Bible only that ethnology overthrows. It also
overthrows the myths of Anarchy. Man appears on the stage of
traceable or inferable history in organized society, and with
government. Government was then wholly compatible with freedom. (See
the address "Reform or Revolution", pp. 6-9.) The social evolution
and revolutions that culminated in the overthrow of the mother-right,
the rise of private property, inheritance in the male line and
territorial institutions, divided society into economic classes;
government lost its former character of a function in co-operation, it
became a means of oppression by property-holders. The building of
cities being the culmination of the external development, government
became "political". This "political government" means "class rule
government," the "political State" means a social order reared upon
the class system.
Finally a third order of connection, in which the word
"political" recurs, appears in the term "political action". Here
"political" means neither "appertaining to social structure," nor
"class rule". At the International Socialist Congress of Zurich,
1893, Landauer, an Anarchist of the bomb-throwing variety, demanded
admission on the ground that the blowing up of capitalists was also
"political action". He used the word "political" in the first of the
two senses just considered. He was denied admission, and the delegate
of the Socialist Labor Party contributed his vote towards the motion
that kept Landauer out, and preserved for the term the technically
historic meaning it had acquired. "Political action" is a purely
technical expression. It means the peaceful trial of strength in
social issues. As such, the term is generic. It embraces a number of
things, that is, all the things necessary for its realization. It
embraces primaries; conventions, or any other established method for
the nomination of candidates for office in the "political," that is,
the "class rule" government; campaigning, that is, agitation in favor
of the principles and, of course candidates, of the party; voting (not
private voting) but voting in the same place where the opponents vote;
finally as a consequence, "parliamentary activity".
None of these details of "political action" has a doubtful or
double meaning, except the last - "parliamentary activity."
Parliamentary activity is of two natures. One style of
parliamentary activity takes place between opponents who have a common
ground to stand upon. That sort of parliamentary activity is marked
by "log-rolling," or "compromise". It is the parliamentary activity
of free traders with protectionists, gold standard with silver
standard men, pro and anti-Trust people - in short, elements who stand
upon the common ground of the capitalist system. Another sort of
parliamentary activity is that observed between opponents who have no
common ground to stand upon. Such parliamentary activity is the only
one permissible to the representatives of a party of Socialism in the
parliament of a country, such as America, where feudalism is
tracelessly abolished, and the two classes Capitalist and Proletarian
- face each other. Such parliamentary activity does not tolerate
"log-rolling". Such parliamentary activity, wherever obtainable, is,
to a great extent, the continuation, upon the much more widely heard
forum of parliament, of the agitation and education conducted by such
a party on the forum of the stump during the campaign. Such
parliamentary activity preaches and demands the revolution the
surrender of the capitalist class. Anything short of such activity by
the elected candidates of a party of Socialism is "log-rolling";
"log-rolling" implies a common ground between the "log-rollers";
consequently the "log-rolling" Socialist must have shifted his ground
to that of his capitalist opponent. Such a Socialist betrays the
Working Class. (See "Flashlights of Amsterdam Congress", Addendum M.,
Review of the Dresden Convention, pp. 124-127.) A branch of what may
be called "parliamentary activity" is the activity in executive
offices. There also the principle above laid down is enforceable.
Socialist incumbents may act only obedient to the principle that
impossible is the attempt to represent two classes engaged in the
conflict of the class war; that, consequently, they represent only one
class - the Working Class.
Summing up "political action" by the revolutionary Working
Class, the action means the endeavor to settle, by the peaceful method
of trial of strength, the issue between the Working Class and the
Capitalist Class. That issue demands the overthrow of the capitalist
regimen, implies the razing to the ground of that peculiar structure
of government that arose with the rising of cities from which it took
its name - _political_ government, class rule government. The
overthrow of the capitalist regimen, in turn, means the restoration of
administrative co-operation in production. (See "Address on the
Preamble of the Industrial Workers of the World", pp. 29-47.)
Answer to II
The discussion "As to Politics" started more than three months
ago - Daily People, November 23, 1906. It was started with a letter
from John Sandgren, California, a non-Party man, opposing political
action and proposing that the S.L.P. and the S.P. both "break up
camp". The same issue of The People contained The People's answer.
The principles, set up in that answer, are the principles that have
been upheld throughout these more than three months.
That whatever member the S.L.P. may happen to put in charge of
the editorial management of the Party's English organ may fail to
voice the Party's views on this, or any other vital question that may
spring up, is quite imaginable. _Un_-imaginable is that state of things
under which such an S.L.P. Editor would not have been ousted long
ago. The Party's constitution, together with the strict discipline
that it enforces, would have suspended the Editor of The People within
48 hours after his first misstatement of the Party's position; and
long before the discussion would have lasted three months and more, he
would have been removed.
In view of this fact; in view of the further fact that not the
slightest evidence of dissatisfaction has manifested itself on the
part of the Party, but quite the reverse; the conclusion is justified
that the position taken by The People in this question is the position
of the S.L.P.
The word "identical" is here avoided because it is
unnecessarily sweeping, although there is nothing to indicate that it
would not be justified, and everything to warrant the belief that the
word would fit the situation.
Answer to III, (a)
What is there to conquer? Economic freedom, which involves all
From whom? - From the ruling class.
It does not follow that, because the _capitalist_ system works
out its own downfall, therefore class rule will have ceased.
It may be a question whether we are now under the capitalist
system proper. Much may be said on the side of the theory that, if we
are not yet under a different system, we are fast tending towards it.
The downfall of capitalism from the causes indicated in the S.L.P.
platform is by no means equivalent with the uprise of the Socialist
Readers of The People are recommended to read the booklet "Two
Pages from Roman History," especially the first of the "Two Pages" in
the latter third of which this very subject is handled in detail. The
country is now moving into a social system to which the name
"Capitalism," in its proper sense, is applying less and less. A
monopoly period is now surging upward to which the designation
"Plutocratic Feudalism" is the fitter term. It does not follow that,
if the very Few are gathered on one side, and very Many are lumped on
the other, the latter will necessarily swamp the former. They will do
so only when they shall have understood their own revolutionary
mission, and organized accordingly. Contrariwise - let the Working
Class continue a sufficiently longer spell befuddled by the labor
lieutenants of the Capitalist Class; confused by the clatter of pure
and simple political Socialists on the one side, and the shrieks of
pure and simple Physical Forcists, on the other; periodically swamped
by the floods of misinformation with regard to things and men; and
perpetually the victims of such sinister characters as the "Man of the
Furred Cap" in Eugene Sue's master story "The Iron Trevet"; and let
those within or in the suburbs of the Movement who are neither labor
lieutenants of the Capitalist Class, nor pure and simple politicians,
nor pure and simple clubbists, nor spreaders of false information, nor
yet "Men of the Furred Cap," persist in the apathetic course of
philosophically standing by and looking on, and fatuously expect to
see things straighten up, instead of contributing emphatic share
towards order - then, whatever periods of senseless (senseless because
un-revolutionary and, therefore, merely riotous) upheavals may betide,
the Many will sink to the depths of serfs, actual serfs of a
plutocratic feudal glebe.
There will be everything to conquer - and from whom to conquer
Answer to III, (b)
Proceeding from the belief that the conquering will be done
without the country having first to go through the ordeal of
Plutocratic Feudalism - proceeding from that belief, the conquering
will be done by the Industrial Workers of the World, assisted, step by
step, by a political party that blazons the Revolution; assisted,
accordingly, by a body that expresses, in the only practical manner
known, the civilized sentiment of the Industrial Workers of the World
to seek a peaceful trial of strength.
What the name of that political party will be it is now too
early to know. What the leading characteristics of that Party will be
- _that_ is knowable today. That political Party must demand the
unconditional surrender of the Capitalist Class; that Party must be
aware of the fact; and its every act must be in accord thereto, that
the necessary evolution, which has to precede the evolutionary crisis
known as "revolution," has already taken place in the womb of society
in the shape of development and concentration of the means of
production; consequently, that all talk about "evolution" as an excuse
for bourgeois improvements, or "one thing at a time," is born either
of hopeless stupidity, or of designing corruption, or of a
constitutional poltroonery, from any one of which the Revolution can
only expect betrayal at the critical moment; that Party must be _one_
thing only to all men, _one_ thing in all latitudes and longitudes of
the land - no perfidy to principle under the guise of "autonomy"; that
Party must have room within its camp for all the desirable social
elements whose occupation excludes them from bona fide membership in
the Industrial Workers of the World, and who attest their
desirability, in point of sentiment and intellect, by standing
unswervingly upon the class interests of the Working Class, and gladly
submitting to the discipline such a Party requires; last, not least,
and fundamentally to the above four features, that Party must
recognize that the economic organization can no more be subject for
"Neutral" treatment than the crew of a ship can be subject for
"Neutral" treatment by the ship itself; that the Union, industrially
organized and revolutionarily animated, is the embryo of future
society, the sole constituency of the Congress of the future, the
fated supplanter of "political government," hence the only available,
and, withal, the all-sufficient physical power to enforce the Party's
The only Party that today promotes the Industrial Workers of
the World program is the Socialist Labor Party. How things will shape
themselves - whether the clear-headed and upright elements in the
Socialist party will be able to attain control of and cleanse their
own party and in that case whether that cleansed party will merge in
the S.L.P., or, jointly with it, perfect a new party, under a new
name; or whether those clear-headed and upright elements in the S.P.
will fail within their own party, be absorbed in the S.L.P., and they,
who alone impart whatever fiber and respect the S.P. today
possesses and enjoys, having withdrawn and the old S.P. having
inevitably collapsed in consequence, the Industrial Workers of the
World will accept the S.L.P. or the newly-organized Party as its
political reflex; or, as a third hypothesis, whether in any event the
Industrial Workers of the World will prefer to cast its own political
reflex, disentangled from all annoying reminiscences of past political
conflicts - "all that, forsooth, rests on the knees of the gods."
Answer to III, (c) and (e)
These two questions are too interdependent for separate
Since the founding of the Industrial Workers of the World,
Fellow Worker Eugene V. Debs wrote a number of articles on the merits
of the new organization, and the wrongfulness of the hostile posture
held towards it by men of his own party, the S.P. Among these
articles, two - the one originally published in the "Miner's
Magazine," October 25, 1905, and the other published in "The Worker,"
July 28, 1906, both of which were reproduced in The People - are
especially to the point. Debs ridiculed with pungent satire the
"peculiar logic" that led those S.P. men to set up the theory of
"boring from within" the American Federation of Labor and expect
success, notwithstanding they justly reject the idea of "boring from
within" the Democratic and Republican parties; and he correctly
stigmatized association with the American Federation of Labor as
"contamination". Debs was left unanswered. The only retort that
would have turned the edge of the points he made - that retort the
A-F-of-L-first-S-P-next men who dominate the S.P. did not dare to
come out with. That retort was: "If you consider 'peculiar' the
logic of expecting success from 'boring from within' the American
Federation of Labor, and are of the conviction that association with
the American Federation of Labor is 'contamination,' by what process
of reason are you expecting success from 'boring from within' the S.
This retort embodies the answer to III, (c) and (e).
An organization is a structure. A steamer constructed for an
excursion boat can not be transformed into a battleship. No amount of
pruning, nursing and grafting will turn a sour apple tree into a tree
that will bear oranges. The S.P. was not a scheme - though
schemers may have joined it, and did. It arose obedient to a
principle - the wrong principle that political action is
all-sufficient, the obverse of which is the denial of the essential
function of the Union in the achievement of the Social Revolution.
Such a political structure can not be "bored from within". The
nuisance can be abated only by its own decay which has visibly set in.
The joining of, or staying in it by fresh and sound elements could
have for its effect only to retard the politico-geologic and
atmospheric conditions that doom the false political structure to
decline and fall.
Otherwise with regard to the S.L.P. Whatever defects there may
be in the Party, these defects can only be of secondary nature. They
are not structural. On the fundamental issue of Unionism the Party is
sound to the core. Those who would not waste their efforts should
join it. By doing so, not only will they not retard, they would
promote the politico-geologic and atmospheric conditions that will
ripen the well-rounded, full-orbed revolutionary movement.
Should the third of the three hypotheses, considered under
Answer III, (b), come to pass, then, as stated in the answer to the
first Sandgren letter in this discussion, "the S.L.P. will 'break up
camp' with a shout of joy if a body merging into its own ideal can be
said to 'break up camp'".
Answer to III, (d)
The bulk of the answer under this head has been given under the
heads of the answers to III, (b), (c) and (e) - at least indirectly.
More than once has the remark been heard that it was
unfortunate for the normal growth and development of the Industrial
Workers of the World that there were two rival parties of Socialism in
the field. Quite possibly Sandgren's position has its roots in that
experience. To the obvious fact of the retarding effect upon the
Industrial Workers of the World of the rivalry of these two parties
probably is due his wish that they both "break up camp"; and probably
hence, and not due to any conscious objection to political action, he
has unwittingly flown to the extreme of the theoretical rejection of
political action altogether.
However this may be, vain are all tears over facts. The only
wise thing to do is to see the facts squarely in the face.
The two rival parties are in existence. Their rivalry proceeds
from different conceptions regarding the function of the Union, and,
inferentially, regarding the function of political action. The
conception of the one, the S.L.P., tallies with that of the Industrial
Workers of the World; the conception of the other, the S.P., is at
variance with that of the Industrial Workers of the World. Inevitable
was the experience that members of both parties should find themselves
in the Industrial Workers of the World - members of the Socialist
Labor Party, graduates from the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance,
entering the Industrial Workers of the World as ducks do a mill-pond;
and members of the S.P., segregating into that party's component
elements; one element, like ducks that had been hatched out by hens,
fraternizing on and in their common element with their newly-found
brothers from the S.L.P.; the other element, like hens who had hatched
out ducks, cackling and fluttering and scolding, incensed at a thing
that is contrary to their nature.
A comprehensive grasp of all these facts, and these confronting
conditions, dictates the conclusion that the growth and full-orbed
development of the Industrial Workers of the World could only be
benefited, indeed, will be mightily subserved, by multiplying the
"ducks" for the Industrial Workers of the World pond. Ducks are more
naturally hatched by their kind; henneries are less safe. The S.L.P.
is today the hatchery of revolutionists, and of the propagandists of
the aims and methods of the revolution. Wisdom may be relied upon, in
the fulness of time, to dictate the Industrial Workers of the World's
political expression an expression that will materialize under one or
other of the three hypotheses advanced under Answer to III, (b).
-Ed. The People.
Since the closing of the discussion "As to Politics" was
announced in these columns a correspondent, who prefers not to have
his name published, sent in this question:
"I'm no 'pure and simple political Socialist,' as you will
see; and I am no 'pure and simple physical forcist,' as you will
also see. I believe with you that political action is necessary.
The Labor Movement may not step down from the plane of civilized
methods. If it did, none would be better suited than our
capitalist masters. I hope I've set myself clear on that score.
I also believe with you that the ballot is just so much paper
thrown away, without the physical force to back it up, or, as you
have neatly said, 'to enforce the Right that the ballot
proclaims'. I've set myself clear on that score also, I hope.
"Now, what I want to know is this: Does it follow, as you
seem to think, that we must have the Industrial Workers of the
World, I mean an industrial Union, to supplement the ballot? I
think not. I think we should concentrate our efforts, instead of
dividing them. Why should we divide our efforts, and our money,
and our time between a political and an economic organization?
I'll watch the Letter Box."
The answer merits more thorough than off-hand treatment in the
Letter-Box. Both the question and the answer will fitly supplement
the discussion which closes in this issue with the answers to Rice's
What our correspondent desires is to avoid a division of
energy. A wise desire. Does his plan answer his desire? Evidently
he fails to see that it does not. The only interpretation his plan
admits of is the organizing of a military, of an armed force to back
up the revolutionary ballot. The division of energy is not avoided.
It is only transferred to an armed, instead of to an economic
Seeing that, in either case, the evil of divided energies is
incurred, and can not be escaped, the question resolves itself into
this - which of the two organizations is it preferable to divide
energies with, the economic or the military?
A military organization implies not one, or two, it implies a
number of things. Bombs, explosives, generally, may be left out of
the reckoning. They may be of incidental, but not of exclusive use by
an organized force.
First of all powder is needed. The best of powder needs
bullets and balls to do the business. The best of powder, bullets and
balls are useless without guns. Nor are inferior guns of much avail
when pitted against the up-to-date guns at the command of the
capitalist class. The military organization of the revolutionary
proletariat will need the most effective weapons. The question has
often been asked from capitalist sources, Where will you get the money
from to buy the railroads and the other capitalist plants? The
question is silly. No one proposes, nor will there be any occasion,
to "buy" those things. Not silly, however, but extremely pertinent,
is the question, Where will the proletariat get the billions needed to
purchase such a military equipment?
Suppose the billions be forthcoming. Weapons, in the hands of
men unskilled in their use, are dangerous, primarily, to those who
hold them. Numbers, undrilled in military evolutions, only stand in
one another's way. Where and how could these numbers practice in the
use of their arms, and in the military drill? Where and how could
they do the two things in secret? In public, of course, it would be
out of question.
Suppose, finally, that the problem of the billions were solved,
and the still more insuperable problem of exercise and drill be
overcome. _Suppose_ the military organization of the proletariat took
the field and triumphed. And then it would immediately have to
dissolve. Not only will it not have been able to afford the
incidental protection that the revolutionary Union could afford to the
proletariat while getting ready, but all its implements, all the money
that it did cost, all the tricks it will have learned, and the time
consumed in learning them, will be absolutely lost. Its swords will
have to be turned into pruning hooks, its guns into ploughshares; its
knowledge to be unlearned.
How would things stand with the integrally organized Industrial
First, its cost is trifling, positively within reach;
Secondly, every scrap of information it gathers while
organizing is of permanent value;
Thirdly, it will be able to offer resistance to capitalist
encroachments, and thereby to act as a breast-work for its members,
while getting ready;
Fourthly, and most significant and determining of all, the day
of its triumph will be the beginning of the full exercise of its
functions - the administration of the productive forces of the Nation.
The fourth consideration is significant and determining. It is
the consideration that Social Evolution points the finger to,
dictating the course that the proletariat must take dictating its
goal; - dictating its methods; - dictating its _means_. The
proletariat, whose economic badge is poverty; the proletariat, whose
badge, the first of all revolutionary classes, is economic impotence;
- for the benefit of that class, apparently treated so stepmotherly by
Social Evolution, Social Evolution has wrought as it has wrought for
none other. It has builded the smithy of capitalist industrial
concentration; and, in keeping with the lofty mission of the Working
Class to abolish class rule on earth, Social Evolution has gathered
ready for the fashioning, not the implements of destruction, but the
implements of future peace, withal the most potent weapon to clear the
field of the capitalist despot - the _industrially ranked_ toilers.
The integrally organized Industrial Union is the weapon that Social
Evolution places within the grasp of the proletariat as the means for
Division of energy being unavoidable, can there be any doubt
what organization should divide the energies of the proletariat with
their political organization - the military or the Industrial?