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The Impossibilists by Larry Gambone (continued)

Selected articles from the press of the
Socialist Party of Canada and the One Big Union, 1906-1938

[Return to Part One]

Socialism or Leninism?
Bolshevism is roundly criticized in Is It The Dictatorship Of The Proletariat?, On Copying The Bolsheviki, and Russia Never Was Socialist.

Stalinist tactics are criticized in The Eclipse of Trotsky, The Red Trade Union And S. American Labor, and  Communist Hooligans at Their Usual Game.

The entire concept of leadershipparliamentary, trade union or vanguard partyis rejected in Jack London And Leadership, published in the very last issue of the OBU Monthly.

Is It The Dictatorship Of The Proletariat? by John Tyler, Red Flag, October 1, 1919

In the last issue of the Western Clarion, F.S.F. deals with, but does not explain, what the Dictatorship of the Proletariat means. Shedding tears over Kautsky and the SPGB (Socialist Party of Great Britain) does not tell us what is mean by Dictatorship of the Proletariat. What do we mean when we use this term anyway? Does it mean a dictatorship of a minority?

Dictatorship as a form of government in Russia means disarming the opposition, by taking away the franchise, liberty of the press and combination of opponents. Does the working class have to employ such methods?

A government that has support of the masses has not the least occasion to interfere with democracy. Why fear the few, who oppose working class rule? Let them rave on. Or is it the dictatorship of a small section of the working class over the mass of workers? Can a Socialist system of production be built on this foundation? State organization of production, a bureaucracy by the dictatorship of a small section of the people does not mean democratic control of industry. Socialism presupposes democratic control of industry. Socialism presupposes a working class that is capable of running the wheels of industry more efficiently than under capitalism. Again, a dictatorship can mean civil war. An ignorant working class can easily be induced to support reaction. Chronic civil war or its alternatives, apathy and opposition under a dictatorship, would render the organization of a Socialist system well neigh impossible.

No, F.S.F., you cannot get Socialism by Dictatorship of the Proletariat, Bela Kun, Levien, Leibknecht and others tried your methods, but the result was thousands of workers rotting in their graves. What then are the prerequisites for Socialism? The will for Socialism is the first condition for its accomplishment. The will is created by the gigantic development of industry. Where small production is universal in a society, the masses are possessed of the means of industry. Small production creates the will to uphold the institution of private property.

To the ripening condition for Socialism must be added the maturity of the working class. Whenever the working class desires Socialism, we will have Socialism. It is impossible to have Socialism in a country where small production is general as in the case of Russia. It is also impossible to have Socialism where the vast majority of people do not desire it. In other words, Socialism without democracy is unthinkable. F.S.F no doubt remembers that Bill Prichard pointed out to the jury trying him, that the SPC expected to get Socialism only through the support of the majority of the population of Canada.

Surely the SPC realizes how dangerous minority rule would be to their party, and the actions of small groups in the Socialist Party of America and other parties to dominate the membership should sufficiently show the dangers of minority rule.

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On Copying The Bolsheviki, Western Clarion, November 16 1920

At the time of the 1917 Revolution in Russia we approved of the Bolshevik leaders. During the many vicissitudes of fortune that have taken place since, we have seen no reason to alter this position. We understood, as we still understand, that Bolshevism is not Socialism. Our knowledge of Russian conditions, though perhaps meager, was sufficient to acquaint us with the fact that this country was not yet ready for Socialism. Economic and social development had not reached the stage where social ownership of the means of production was possible. A resourceful Socialist minority had been at work for some years. Among the industrial proletariat an extensive educational policy had been carried out. The weakness of the revisionist and reformist elements of Germany, France and England was fully understood long before the Revolution.

A weak ruling class, lacking the means of repression found in highly organized capitalist centres; a peasantry uneducated and consequently devoid of that respect for master class teaching inseparable from well developed industrial communities; a state of war in existence, which spelled starvation, bloodshed, and discontent for the masses; all these circumstances made possible the successful attempt of the Bolsheviki to capture political power. This they did.

Just what procedure our self-educated Simon-pure intellectuals would have followed in such a contingency we are not aware. In all likelihood they would have chosen to remain in wage slavery until they were absolutely certain that a majority were in favor of change. Once they were able to quote a passage from each of the Socialist classics to prove that the time was right, perhaps they would give the proposition their earnest consideration.

To the scientific socialist, the works of Marx and Engels are valued on account of the knowledge they impart. But there is considerable difference between being Marxian students and Marxian worshippers. The one implies a critical study and the other a blind faith. In a general sense the tactics of the Socialist movement are contained in the works of Marx and Engels. But the methods of attack are not absolute or rigid. Even if we take the term “dictatorship of the proletariat”—it was not spoken by Marx till he had seen the effects of the Paris Commune. It matters not, for the sake of illustration whether we accept the term in the Kautskian or Leninian sense. The point that Marx did not employ it in his earlier writing, and found occasion to do so only after a new situation had arrived.

So with us today. We must mold our tactics in accordance with the conditions at hand. This is what the Bolsheviki did. They took control the opportune moment. Whether or not their action will lead to Socialism, by the safest and shortest route, only time will tell. That the methods pursued in Russia are not adaptable everywhere else we know full well. In fact, perhaps in that one country alone could such tactics suffice. Too many enthusiasts rush to the conclusion that “What’s good in Russia is good enough here.” They fail to understand the situation. In this connection it might be correct to state that while the Revolution was a good thing for Russian workers, as many impartial persons and delegations have testified, it has had a detrimental effect, in many ways, upon the working class movement in other countries.

Many of our students develop into master strategists and tacticians. They not only understand every move the Bolsheviki made, and the reasons for making them, but persist in laying plans of action, and carving the political framework of the political structure that must be built. In short, they have Bolsheviki on the brain.

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Russia Never Was Socialist, OBU Bulletin, August 23 1929

The Socialist Standard for August contains a review of three books: “An Illustrated History of the Russian Revolution” published by Martin Lawrence, “Preparing For Revolt” by Lenin and “Lessons of October” by Trotsky.

It is clearly shown by means of quotations from these works that the leaders of the Russian Revolution were simply acting under the force of circumstances and that the establishment of socialism was not the main thought that guided them.

One of the most particular features of the so-called Communist propaganda is that it has fooled the public into believing that the Communist leaders are Marxists whereas they are simply Russian nationalists who quote Marx the way the devil quotes scripture: that is to say, they use it as a means to a capitalist end.

Here, from the writings of Lenin, Trotsky and the others you have proof supplied that the whole policy of the Moscowites is, and has been from the first, both reactionary and dangerous from the standpoint of the aspirations of the workers of the Western world. The position is that the Third International is the foreign office of Soviet Russia, and her tools and agents which comprise her diplomatic arm, are by means of this organization, endeavoring to further the national interests of Russia. The real working class movement in the Western countries is fiercely attacked whenever it refuses to accept the leadership of Moscow. The wage slaves of all countries outside Russia are looked upon as material to be molded and used.

We have for years endeavored to get the workers of Canada to realize the danger. We are pleased to note that an ever-increasing number are now beginning to do so and to place these so-called communists where they belong. They are tools of a rising capitalist nation whose slaves work for wages and are like the slaves in other capitalist countries, deluded into believing that they are free. Because the capitalist class has not yet appeared in person in Russia is not to say that capitalism is not there. The capitalist class are also there in embryo and a ruling class in the shape of the so- called Communists of Russia are endeavoring to foster their growth and development.

It is owing to “the low stage of development of Russia’s productive forces and the incompleteness of her economic and technical organization” that the colossal strain of the World War precipitated Tsarism into the abyss. The state machine had to be reorganized, not in order to abolish the imperfectly developed capitalism, but in order to clear the way for its development. As in the French Revolution, so in Russia, the interests of individuals who had amassed great wealth in any form under the old regime had to be sacrificed to the property owning class generally. This is all the so- called Socialism of Russia amounts to.

With an army in revolt and economic collapse in sight, power passed into the hands of the only party with sufficient organization and understanding to face the task of peace and reconstruction. That this party contained a considerable working class element and possessed also a marked degree of Socialist knowledge, is an encouraging symptom of working class ability and the spread of revolutionary ideas.

The foreign policy of the Bolsheviks has likewise proved but a variant of the old Tsarist policy of intrigue. Instead of assisting the education of the international working class it has financed confusion and the propaganda of criminally futile policies of insurrection, long ago obsolete in Western Europe.

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The Eclipse Of Trotsky, by C.L., OBU Bulletin, Feb. 9 1928

The sending of Trotsky into exile is causing a number of students of Socialism to ponder, and many who heretofore have been enthusiastic supporters of the Soviet government are now realizing that “things are not what they seem” in the land of the Muscovite. Those who have carefully studied the French Revolution will observe a parallel between the Russian and French upheavals and classify Trotsky as the Russian Danton. In many features the Bourgeois Revolution and the Russian Revolution are the same.

Labor power is a commodity in Russia and sells at the cost of production. Any attempt on the part of the Russian proletariat to raise itself will be ruthlessly suppressed by the Stalin outfit, because within the framework of the capitalist society the working class cannot raise itself “without springing everything into the air.”

This man who proved his worth in the days of trial and error, who stood by Lenin in the hour of danger, this man who created the Red Army, who did the best by his writings and great organizing ability to help the workers win is now sacrificed to the gods of the capitalist world. Trotsky has his faults—who does not? But all through he has proved himself a true soldier of the Revolution.

Let his traducers, the so-called Communist Party revile him: let his enemies who have no other objective in view but to sell Russia to the highest capitalist bidder persecute him, the more they do this the better from the standpoint of his honor. Trotsky stands higher in the estimation of the revolutionary proletariat than at any time since the revolution.

It is up to those who are class conscious to stand by him and so long as he continues to maintain those principles to defend him against his treacherous enemies, the so-called Communist Party.

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The Red Trade Union And S. American Labor, OBU Bulletin, Sept. 20 1928

In the issues 50, 51, and 52 of the “Red Trade Union International Bulletin” 1928, the resolutions of the last International Congress are published. It is a waste of space to reproduce the long wound rigmarole which changes back and forth every year and always religiously begins with a so-called “analysis” of the capitalist system and ends with pompous praise of Soviet capitalism—“the synthesis”. But when South America is “discussed” we come across many of those bald statements which are stock in trade of the All High Priests in Moscow who dictate to the working class. It is said there again: The Latin American movement suffers from two diseases—Anarcho-syndicalism and Reformism. While this admits the strength of the Syndicalist movement there, they forget that the dictatorship of the Communist Party is no better than the Reformism they complain against. We then read that “ an idea of creating a Latin American secretariat is born.” If so, it will be stillborn! We shall see to it that like so many other Moscow monsters this will not live long. We have only to remind them of the much tomtommed Anglo-Russian committee of “union” which returned to where it started in spite of the great “scientific socialist” methods tried by the Muscovite professors of Marxism.

The Anti-authoritarian, libertarian labor movement of South America will know how to put a short end to the Red Trade Union International Latin American bureau hatched in the laboratories in Moscow. The syndicalist movement is neither corrupted nor diseased with party politics and therefore is strong enough to survive all, including the spurious new office of the much tom-tommed RTUI.

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Communist Hooligans at Their Usual Game, OBU Bulletin, June 18 1931

The Socialist Party of Canada was again subjected to a violent and unprovoked attack at the hands of the choicest scum of the Communist Party Sunday evening last. A group of organized ruffians made the attack when the speaker was inviting questions, the gangsters being led by one who stood in front and gave signals to the rest.

Whilst the meeting had been proceeding, certain communist elements tried to deprecate the statements made, but failed to make any impression on the crowd. And as the matter dealt with did not include the Muscovites and their party, the hooligans were unable to find an excuse to butt in.

Suddenly, however, during the question time a rush was made and the speaker pushed off the box onto other thugs who had worked in behind, one of who aimed a vicious kick at him then ran away. A wild fight then followed, the communist gang making desperate efforts to get Lestor, the speaker, on the ground, but with the aid of one or two friends fought his way through and escaped. The communist gangsters then attacked a harmless old man named Jim McGrath, striking him from behind and then beating him in the face. Why do these loathsome scoundrels resort to this brutal and cowardly method of trying to prevent the workers from obtaining the education that is so much needed at the present time?

There is only one answer: They are being used by a section of the master class for a sinister purpose. Whenever they operate they always pursue tactics which are designed to disintegrate the workers’ organizations and strengthen the position of the ruling class. This is the reason they are allowed to make statements on the public platform in many places which, if attempted by anyone else, would result in the speaker being immediately arrested.

The workers of Canada and other lands are now beginning to grasp the fact that the ruling class are able to divide the workers by making use of the Communist Party. The activities of this bunch have at all times been the excuse given for the repressive measures used against labor.

Some time ago we saw much of the tactics, slogans and other weird and wonderful concoctions of this nefarious crew, but they all have failed, and now as a last resort they descend to the lowest strata of savagery in order to escape their inevitable doom. Soviet Russia is a capitalist country in which the workers are enslaved and exploited. They work for wages and suffer the horrors of the wage system and are prevented by a ruthless dictatorship from expressing what they really think.

One thing we note with interest, and that is the changed attitude of the ruling class of the Western world towards the Russian question. They are giving it a sympathetic investigation with the object of duplication along certain lines in their own habitat. State slavery would be the result if they succeeded and the Canadian working class, if they fell for it, would step from the frying pan into the fire.

The workers of Canada who hold the view that we must work out our own emancipation by making the best use of the materials provided by nature and history in this country and operate independently of this alien and degrading influence imported from Moscow are called to unite and put an end, once and forever, to the present intolerable state of things. As the BULLETIN has often stated, we are in Canada and must deal with special Canadian conditions. Our path lies not along the path of Moscow.

We stand for democracy and freedom of speech; Moscow stands for dictatorship and suppression. We hold the view that by education and organization the present social order can be changed into a co-operative commonwealth in which wage slavery and profit are unknown. They stand for violence and bloodshed and their ultimate aim is not the emancipation of those who do the world’s work, but bringing the peoples of all countries under the iron heel of the fanatics of Moscow.

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Jack London and Leadership, OBU Monthly, April 1938

Just prior to his death, Jack London wrote thus, “Will the proletariat save itself? If it won’t, it is unsaveable... I am not bitter: I am only sad in that the proletariat seems to perpetuate the seeds of its proletarianess.”

By which London meant that the working class seems to perpetuate itself as a working class, and yet London saw clearly that if the workers are to saved, they must do it themselves. He did not entertain the illusion that someone could take the workers by the collar and drag them into freedom.

Were London alive today he would he would restate the above with emphasis. This in view of the fact that at no time in the history of the working class movement has there ever been such a flock of self-appointed leaders both in the economic and parliamentary wings of the labour movement. Leaders everywhere, leaders in the old craft form of organization, leaders in the CIO, leaders in the CCF, leaders in the Communist Party, all striving to gain ascendancy in their particular field, all, placing before the workers their particular brand of salvation, “Believe in me” and like the Moses of old, we shall lead you to the land of milk and honey. Yet in spite of years of effort put forth by these gentlemen, the working class are still looking for a way out of their present difficulties.

The One Big Union is the only organization that today comes before the workers and preaches the gospel of “Abolition of Leadership”, of control of the organization by the rank and file: the only organization that gives the membership the right to decide what they shall pay in the form of monthly dues. The only organization that correctly understands the message as stated by London, that the working class cannot be led, but whatever intelligent action they must take must be on an understanding of the problems that confront them in present day society. If the workers can be led anywhere not knowing the why and wherefore, by any particular brand of leaders, they certainly can be led anywhere else by any particular brand of leaders.

No, fellow workers, blind leaders leading the blind will get us nowhere—only to chaos, and you can be sure that the message proclaimed by the OBU since it’s inception, that of building a movement wherein the membership directs the destiny of such a movement, is the only correct basis upon which to build and while other organizations may for the time being seem to make some progress, especially in the parliamentary field owing to the fact that as London said, the workers still want to be led: they still want to follow the path of least resistance.

This state of affairs will not last; there will come a day when the workers will realize the futility of leadership; they will assert themselves; they will throw off the yoke of reactionary leadership and when that day comes the OBU will come into its own. The workers will then realize that the work at hand is the building of a movement that has as its objective, the working class organized on the basis of understanding, marching toward the ultimate goal, economic freedom. Such an organization, fellow workers, is the OBU. Do your part in the great struggle that lies ahead by signing its application form, elsewhere in the MONTHLY and show your willingness to become a member in this great movement.

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