The Impossibilists by Larry
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?
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 leadership—parliamentary,
trade union or vanguard party—is 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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
Jack London and Leadership, OBU Monthly,
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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