Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Why We Must Organise Politically and Industrially. (1913)

Letter to the Editors from the June 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

M. Geeson (Toronto) writes:—
  “In reading the editorial of the S.S. for February 1913, I came across a statement which I would like you to explain a little fuller. The statement is this: ‘In regard to the revolutionary economic organisation the Socialist position is identical. That such an organisation will be called for as part of the organisation of the working class for the achievement of their emancipation must be admitted by every Socialist.' The question I would like to ask is, does not the political organisation exterminate the economic organisation, or vice versa, as the case may be, for one or the other must be incorrect for the emancipation of the working class, and if that is so a person accepting the double position must, consciously or unconsciously, deny the class struggle.”

It would have been much easier to deal with this matter had Mr. Geeson attempted to support his statements with arguments. As life is too short, and energy, at the present price of provisions, too valuable, to permit one or the other to be wasted in slogging at ideas which perhaps exist neither in Mr. Geeson’s mind nor in anybody else’s, the present penman is forced back on to the request for a fuller explanation.

The emancipation of the working class must not be conceived as a simple, single step to be taken either on the political or the industrial field. It is nothing of the kind. On the contrary it is to be a process, and an elaborate process at that, carried out upon both the political field and the industrial.

The process commences on the political field, and ends on the economic. That, at all events, is the Socialist position. The Anarchist position is that it commences on the economic field and ends there. A certain party in this country (the S.L.P.) has taken up the position that it commences upon the economic field and ends on the political. It is left for Mr. Geeson, however, to complete the round in the implication that the process of emancipation begins and ends in the political arena.

Now the Socialist and the Anarchist argue that the end aimed at is economic transformation. The former says that, under present conditions, this transformation must be preceded by the capture of the machinery of Government, while the latter cries out upon political action. The S.L.P. man stands upon his head and does his thinking with his feet, for the implication of his position is that we must bring about Socialism in order to capture the political machinery. But Mr. Geeson—ah! courtesy forbids.

The Anarchist thinks that the machinery of government is to be overthrown by merely ramming the people’s heads against it. They would oppose the rifle and bayonet, the prison and the hangman’s noose, with the petard that so often goes off in its maker’s pocket, and the hunger-strike that so effectively prevents its devotees doing any mischief. Such people, logically enough, have no use for political action, and hence no use for a political organisation.

The Socialist, on the other hand, holds that the process of emancipation involves, first of all, the disarming of the master class. This must be the fruit of a political struggle, and therefore renders political organisation necessary at all events up to the time of its achievement.

But would Mr. Geeson have matters stop there? Does he think that the emancipation of the working class is completed with the disarmament of the master class and the decreeing of common ownership in the means of life? It is quite a while now since food came down from heaven. It is because we can only feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves through the means and instruments of production and distribution that we are going to so much trouble to obtain possession of these means and instruments. But they will no more operate themselves as the common property of society than they do as the private property of a class. On the contrary, their economical operation will, for obvious reasons, call for far more perfect organisation than exists to-day.

Such organisation is, of course, economic, not political. It is economic from the very nature of things—from the very fact that it is organisation on the economic field for an economic purpose. Whatever the organisation may call itself, or whatever its members may think themselves, directly it takes concerted action on the economic field, the action is necessarily economic action and the result of organised economic effort. Such action becomes imperative for the simple reason that when the political organisation has shot its bolt, or, if you like it better, when the revolutionary working-class organisation has shot its political bolt, it has not by any means emancipated the working class. It has only, by destroying the State, made it possible for the workers to complete their emancipation. This they must do by taking possession of the means by which alone they can live, and operating them intelligently and collectively so that they may live.

This, then, is what we mean when we say that the workers must organise both politically and economically. The emancipation of the working class necessitating organised action upon both the political and the economic plane, obviously necessitates both political and economic organisation.
A. E. Jacomb

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