Reprinted from the No. 4 -- 1964 issue The Western Socialist, pages 15-16.


Note: The following letter which we reproduce below came to us as an enclosure by a correspondent. It was written on official Socialist Labor Party stationery and signed by Mr. Arnold Peterson, himself. Mr. Petersen, who has occupied the chair of National Secretary of the Socialist Labor Party for fifty years, certainly should be in a position to speak for his organization and his letter speaks for itself. Omitting only his correspondent's name and address and the introductory few words, the Petersen missive dated Oct. 21, 1963, reads:

In reply to your inquiry: The little group with the grandiose title "World Socialist Party" (publishers of the so-called Western Socialist) is a freak outfit somewhat resembling (in manner and language) a council of Talmudist word spinners. They claim, appropriately enough, to have their headquarters in Boston, the hub of the universe! Their grandiloquent title is in inverse ratio to their size and importance.

On occasion some kind soul sends me a copy of their "official organ." The issue before me contains an attack on the SLP -- or, rather, an attack on Marx's "labor check." The writer cautiously "explains": "Certainly one can find no better authority on Socialism than Marx but this does not imply that socialists should regard his statements as a Messianic 'word.'" The familiar line when a phony "Marxist" adjusts Marx to his own pet theory!

These freakish fellows profess belief in political action while ridiculing Socialist Industrial Unionism, which obviously they don't understand. It may be said that they represent what De Leon called "pure and simple" politicians with this proviso that while acclaiming "political action" there is no evidence whatever that they ever engaged in political action!

In their "Declaration of Principles" (No. 6) they declare that the workers must organize "politically for the conquest of powers of government, in order that this machinery (of political government), including these forces ("the armed forces"), may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation..." The inference, of course, is clear that the political state will conduct the processes of production -- an inescapable conclusion in any case, since they reject the Socialist Industrial Union Government as such an "agent." Converting the capitalist political state into a "Socialist political state" may be called a species of "political alchemy"!

We have long ceased to pay any attention to their freakish notions, a fact which seems to make them very sad, indeed!


National Secretary

* * *

From time to time over the past quarter of a century The Western Socialist has handled the strange case of the Socialist Labor Party. As recently as our No. 1 -- 1964 issue, in fact, we listed the issues in which such articles appeared and offered free copies of all while they lasted. A gratifying number of requests for the issues came in and we responded as promised.

Apparently, despite the silence from Cliff St., New York, on the points we made, our jabbing needle has made contact as the above letter would seem to indicate. But, Mr. Peterson, why do you still remain silent on our exposures and our challenges? Why do you take refuge in name-calling and avoid our points? Do you feel, perhaps, that by saying nothing the S.L.P. skeletons will vanish from your closet?

Let us sum up once more our case against the Socialist Labor Party by the following queries. We dare you to answer either in your own paper or in ours:

1. If Marx recognized that a "first phase" of socialism, a stage in which "labor checks" would be needed, was only necessary because of the low development of the production of his time, (a) why is it that Mr. Petersen and his comrades can't get the point? Does the Socialist Labor Party really fail to comprehend the magnitude of the productive forces of 1964? How are they planning to hold back these forces under their "Socialist Industrial Union Government," to produce goods in limited quantities, rather than abundantly, so that "labor checks" (money) will be required for the circulation of such goods? And, more important than how, why should this be necessary? What purpose could it serve?


(a) See page 31, The Gotha Program, New York Labor News (SLP) edition.

2. What is it that prevents the Socialist Labor Party from recognizing state capitalism in Russia? Why have they consistently refused to label the economic system in the Soviet Union preferring, rather, to refer to the Soviet government? Such terms as "Soviet Republic," "Worker's Republic," "Workers' Fatherland," "Bureaucratic Statism," "Industrial Feudalism" fail entirely to meet the point: what type of economic system exists in Russia? Is this evasion based upon a more than slight resemblance between the S.L.P. and the Bolshevik image of a socialist revolution? (b).


(b) See WS No. 6-1962 for development of this point.

3. When the S.L.P. informs us that the "Socialist Industrial Union" will "win and hold economic freedom," whom do they feel are going to be in the position of authority or power to make such "holding" necessary? Granted that unions are useful weapons under capitalism in the never-ending fight over the sale of labor-power; granted for the sake of argument that the S.L.P. image of a union has validity; what is the purpose of a union of any sort in a society where goods are socially owned?

4. Inasmuch as this is an election year and the S.L.P. are offering the voters the chance to vote for what they call socialism, how do they explain the following gem of wisdom from their fountain of wisdom, Daniel De Leon?

"The situation in America... establishes the fact that the 'taking and holding' of the things that labor needs to be free can never depend upon a political party. (Applause). If anything is clear in the American situation it is this: That if any individual is elected to office upon a revolutionary ballot, that individual is a suspicious character. (Applause). Whoever is returned elected to office on a program of labor emancipation; whoever is allowed to be filtered through by the political inspectors of the capitalist class -- that man is a carefully selected tool, a traitor of the working people, selected by the capitalist class. (Applause)." ("Proceedings, First Annual Convention, Industrial Workers of the World," 1905, New York Labor News Company, p. 226).

Will Mr. Petersen and his comrades kindly have the S.L.P. candidates for political office in 1964 explain to their audiences the meaning of these De Leon words? Since they delight in reaching back for and reprinting all De Leon editorials and opinion perhaps they can explain in the Weekly People when and why the De Leon attitude toward political action was changed.

Finally, Mr. Petersen might be able to show us where in any of our literature we make reference to a "political state conducting the processes of production." He might, we say, but it is most improbable since such a statement is in opposition to everything for which we stand. A closer reading rather than hasty "inferences" should make this point clear. It would enable him to quote accurately. He omitted the key words "consciously and" immediately preceding "politically" in our principle 6, and thus misrepresents our position.

We could go on but is this not enough of a chore to burden him with? We await his reply - or must we get it once more via a private Petersen letter to a correspondent or from the SLP of Britain?