1969-02 Why we have resigned from the Socialist Labour Party of Great Britain

For some months we have been increasingly out of harmony with the theory and practice of the Socialist Labour Party. After over six years of membership in the Socialist Labour Party of Great Britain our re-examination of the Party’s program and tactics have left us with no alternative but to discontinue our membership.

This document is intended to explain our reasons for resigning from the SLP. It had been our intention to present a document explaining our dissent from the Party’s position to the next Annual Conference of the SLP of Great Britain, due to be held in May 1969. In that way the whole Party membership would have had a chance to discuss it with us. However, interference by one Arnold Babel, member of Section New York, SLP of America; has upset this plan. This Babel, upon hearing a second-hand version of our dissent has seen fit to relay a garbled and distorted version of it to Arnold Petersen, National Secretary of the American SLP.[l] Petersen, in his turn, with the concurrence of the American SLP NEC-Sub Committee, has not lost any time in bringing Babel’s tales to the attention of the SLP of Great Britain.[2] Faced with Babel’s inaccurate allegations we have no alternative but to present our position now, rather than waiting for the May Conference as we would have preferred. The extent and nature of our disagreement with the Party is such that it is impossible for us to stay inside the organisation.

Circumstances have made us keep this statement as short as possible, which means that many points are only treated in outline form. We hope, however, that we may be able to precipitate an international discussion around the questions that we bring to the surface, and also upon any related questions. We would be pleased to participate in any such discussion, not for the purpose of « knocking » the SLP or its supporters, but in the hope that such a discussion could be a step towards the eventual setting up of a genuine Revolutionary Socialist Party. Such a Party should be free of the bureaucratic and dogmatic distortions of the present day SLP; it should be clear and genuinely scientific with regard to program and its concept of the future Socialist society; and it should have a flexible, dynamic and dialectical approach to tactics. Such a Party should have a more honest view of its own historical past than does the existing SLP, and it should be free from « cults of personality » built around Daniel De Leon or anyone else.

The Law of Value and Socialist Society

A cornerstone of the Marxian analysis of Capitalism is the Law of Value. A correct grasp of the Law of Value and an understanding of how it operates in practice is indispensable as a guide for the program and tactics of a Socialist Party; an understanding of the concept of Value is indispensable for a correct understanding of the goal of the Party, for understanding the nature of the future Socialist society.

A cardinal principle of genuine scientific Socialism has always been that the Law of Value will cease to operate in Socialist society. The Law of Value only operates under conditions of commodity production.

But what is the attitude of the SLP to this fundamental principle of scientific Socialism?

In his last work, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, Joseph Stalin correctly remarks that: « Value, like the law of value, is a historical category connected with the existence of commodity production. With the disappearance of commodity production, value and its forms and the law of value also disappear. »[3] In his pamphlet De Leonist Milestones Arnold Petersen takes great exception to this remark of Stalin’s. Petersen deals with the question in the following manner:

« What is value? Value is congealed labor, embodied in a useful article, and measured by the clock. The value of a commodity is the amount of socially necessary labor time incorporated in it. Does the human labor incorporated in an article disappear when it ceases to be a commodity — that is, when it is produced for use and not for sale? Obviously not. Under Socialism articles for the sustenance and comfort of life will certainly be produced — that is, produced for use only. But they will have to be exchanged. In what ratio, on what basis? Obviously in accordance with the amount of socially necessary labor incorporated in them, measured by its duration.

« Each worker is credited with the performance of so many hours of useful labor. He draws against this credit to obtain the things (produced by other categories of labor) that he needs or desires, hour for hour of labor, properly equated. The labor voucher he receives certifies to the hours of labor he has performed, that is, the volume of values he has accumulated. Under capitalism the worker generally receives the full value of his labor power, which is but a fraction of what he produces. Under Socialism he receives the full value of his labor, which means all that he produces, or its equivalent in social labor value (with the necessary deductions for replacement of worn-out machinery, social services, etc., etc.) »[4]

Petersen states that under Socialism products will have to be exchanged. But if articles are produced for exchange, in addition to having a use-value, then they are commodities. A commodity is a product of social labour having both a use-value and an exchange-value [see Chapter 1 of Marx’s Capital]. As Frederick Engels says in his special Introduction to the English edition of his Socialism; Utopian & Scientific: « We call ‘production of commodities’ that economic phase where articles are produced not only for the use of the producers, but also for purposes of exchange; that is, as commodities. .. . »[5] Petersen erroneously assumes above that articles produced have Value simply because human labor is expended in their production. But products (or for that matter labour-power) have no value until they become commodities. As Engels remarks in this connection with regard to labour-power: « This [labour-power] acquires a value from the moment that it becomes a commodity… . « [6]

« The only value known in economics », wrote Engels, « is the value of commodities…. »[7]

And further:

« Commodity production, however, is by no means the only form of social production. In the ancient Indian communities and in the family communities of the southern Slavs, products are not transformed into commodities. The members of the community are directly associated for production; the work is distributed according to tradition and requirements, and likewise the products to the extent that they are destined for consumption. Direct social production and direct distribution preclude all exchange of commodities, therefore also the transformation of the products into commodities…and consequently also their transformation into values….

« The concept of value is the most general and therefore the most comprehensive expression of the economic conditions of commodity production. Consequently, this concept contains the germ, not only of money, but also of all the more developed forms of the production and exchange of commodities….

« The ‘exchange of labour for labour on the principle of equal valuation,’ in so far as it has any meaning, that is to say, the mutual exchangeability of products of equal social labour, hence the law of value, is the fundamental law of precisely commodity production, hence also of its highest form, capitalist production. »[8]

Speaking of Duhring’s plan to utilise the Law of Value in his concept of the future society Engels writes:

« By elevating this law to the basic law of his economic commune and demanding that the commune should execute it in all consciousness, Herr Duhring converts the basic law of existing society into the basic law; of his imaginary society. .. .he wants to abolish the abuses which have arisen out of the development of commodity production into capitalist production, by giving effect against them to the basic law of commodity production, precisely the law to whose operation these abuses are due…. »[9]

In the future society, Engels remarks: « People will be able to manage everything very simply, without the intervention of much vaunted ‘value « ‘[10] And elsewhere Engels has written that value is « a category characteristic only of commodity production, and just as it did not exist prior to commodity production, so it will disappear with the abolition of commodity production.  » [12]

In The Gotha Program Karl Marx suggests the use of labour-tine vouchers such as are mentioned by Peterson in De Leonist Milestones . But whereas Petersen refers to their use simply « under Socialism », Marx is careful to point out that he is not suggesting the use of vouchers in conditions of fully-fledged Socialist society. « What we are dealing with here », he writes, « is a Communist society, not as it has developed on its own basis, but, on the contrary, as it is just issuing out of capitalist society; hence, a society that still retains, in every respect, economic, moral and intellectual, the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it is issuing. .. . »[12] In the developed Socialist society « …the producers do not exchange their products; just as little does the labour expended on the products appear here as the value of these products. . . »[13]

« In the higher phase of Communist society, » Marx wrote, « after the enslaving subordination of the individual under the division of labour has disappeared, and therewith also the opposition between manual and intellectual labour; after labour has become not only a means of life, but also the highest want in life; when, with the development of all the faculties of the individual, the productive forces have correspondingly increased, and all the springs of social wealth flow more abundantly — only then may the limited horizon of capitalist right be left behind entirely, and society inscribe on its banners: ‘From everyone according to his faculties, to everyone according to his needs !’ « 

In the SLP pamphlet Socialism: Questions Most Frequently Asked and Their Answers it describes the following as happening « under Socialism »; « …the worker will receive a labor-time voucher from his union showing that he has worked a certain number of hours. This time voucher will entitle him to withdraw from the social store as much as he contributed to it…”[l5] This same pamphlet then goes on [l6] to quote Marx in The Gotha Program on the use of labour-time vouchers, but omitting Marx’s important qualification that he was here suggesting the method of distribution in a Socialist society as it was issuing out of capitalist society and. not in its developed form.

Undoubtedly, the conditions of fully-developed, smoothly working Socialist society will not be achieved within 24 hours of the revolution, and a period will exist before « the higher phase of Communist society » is reached. Certain « transitional » measures, possibly such as suggested by Marx in the Gotha Program but not necessarily identical, will be needed. But the essential point is that they would be extraordinary, temporary measures, reflecting « the limited horizon of capitalist right » and not the principles of Socialism. Moreover, nearly 100 years have passed since Marx wrote the Gotha Program. In that time means of production, industrial technique, means of communication and scientific knowledge have increased by an astonishing amount. In terms of industrial capacity and technique in highly industrial countries we have already reached the requirements of the « higher phase of Communist society ». Consequently the period of time encompassed by any « lower phase » would, be extremely short compared with that envisaged by Marx in his day.

In short, the Socialist Labour Party does not advocate and work towards a society where the principle « From everyone according to his faculties, to everyone according to his needs! » will operate, but advocates as its goal, as fully developed Socialism, a society where man will still be enslaved by the Law of Value and its consequences.

The SLP and Religion

The SLP has an opportunist and non-scientific attitude to religion: « The Socialist Labor Party, being the representative and expression of scientific Socialism, holds that religion is a private matter — a matter of individual concern and personal preference. It, therefore, does not fight, and never has fought, religion.  » [17] But essential to the world outlook of scientific Socialism is the Materialist Conception of History, and the Materialist Conception of History, does not regard religion as « a private matter ». Indeed, it explains the origins, functions, social role and changes of religion just as it does those of law and political systems. It is very instructive to contrast the attitude of Marx on the question of religion to the attitude of the SLP. In his Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right Marx wrote, in part, as follows:

« ….[The] criticism of religion is the premise of all criticism…

« The basis of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. In other words, religion is the self-consciousness and self -feeling of man who has either not yet found himself or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man, the state, society. This state, this society, produce religion, a reversed world-consciousness, because they are a reversed world. Religion is the general theory of that world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in a popular form, its spiritualistic point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn completion, its universal consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence because the human essence has no true reality. The struggle against religion is therefore mediately the fight against the other world, of which religion is the spiritual aroma.

« Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people.

« The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusions about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of the vale of woe, the halo of which is religion.

« Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers from the chain not so that man will wear the chain without any fantasy or consolation but so that he will shake off the chain and cull the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man to make him think and act and shape his reality like a man who has boon disillusioned and has come to reason, so that he will revolve round himself and therefore round his true sun. Religion is only the illusory sun which revolves round man as long as he does not revolve round himself.

« The task of history, therefore, once the world beyond the truth has disappeared, is to establish the truth of this world. The immediate task of philosophy, which is at the service of history, once the saintly form of human self-alienation has been unmasked, is to unmask self-alienation in its unholy forms. Thus the criticism of heaven turns into the criticism of the earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of right and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics. »[18]

Of course, a Revolutionary Socialist Party should take care to treat workers with deep religious convictions with respect and understanding; it must learn to approach such workers with great tact and with the realization that the phenomenon of religious superstition will only finally fade away in the conditions engendered by Socialist society. But at the same time the Party should do all in its power to cut through the false consciousness of religious belief and bring to the working class the scientific and liberating philosophy of historical materialism. To do this it must treat religion as a social question, which it is, and not as a « private matter ».[19]

Blueprints and Socialism in One Country

The SLP’s approach to the question of the conduct and administration of affairs in a Socialist society is not one of tracing the outlines, of what, from our present restricted historical vantage point inside capitalist society, we think such administration might be like. On the contrary, in the manner of Utopian system builders, the SLP lays down an exact blueprint of the future structure and administration of society, complete with graphic charts and maps.[20] Even the exact way people will vote is laid down, with students, retired people, etc., disenfranchised![2l] Moreover, the SLP envisages this « blueprint Utopia » on an essentially national scale. It is forever talking about the workers taking over the industries of « the nation”’ and creating a « Socialist Britain” or a « Socialist America ». In a recently issued leaflet the American SLP even went as far as publishing the following expression of a narrow national outlook: « Material wellbeing plus excellent schooling, medical care, cultural and recreational advantages will be the birthright of all Americans. « [22] The charts published in the Weekly People showing the SLP conception of the administration of Socialist society are careful to show a rigid demarcation line along the present day political state boundary between the USA and Canada. In the British SLP pamphlet Socialism & Economic Power a map of the British Isles headed « Socialist Government — Industrial Administration » shows England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland but is careful to obliterate the Republic of Ireland !

When, on occasion, the American SLP does visualize Socialism existing outside the present day political borders of the USA it docs not envisage an integrated world Socialist system. In the Weekly People of December 25, 1965, for example, the question is posed: « Will there be foreign trade under Socialism? » The answer states that there will not be foreign trade « as we understand that term today » but goes on to state that « exchange » will take place « on the basis of the social labor time embodied in the goods exchanged » [the Law of Value under Socialism again’.] between « other Socialist Commonwealths ».

The nationalistic tendencies that exist within the American SLP also find expression in other ways. Witness, for example, the following extraordinarily arrogant outburst by National Secretary Arnold Petersen in a letter to a Russian correspondent: « It is from the United States that revolutionary directions, and eventually instructions, will proceed. Eventually you in Russia will do what we, the De Leon-Marxists in the U.S., tell you to do. « [24] So much for workers’ democracy in Russia!

It is not scientific and permissible to lay down an exact blueprint of how the future Socialist society will be organised. At the most we can enumerate certain basic principles and guidelines, and give an indication in very broad and tentative outline of the way we think society might be conducted. But the exact administrative structure and precise mode of behavior of people in a Socialist society will be determined by the specific material conditions of that society. What these specific material conditions will be, and how people will react to them, cannot be known to us at the present time. Our speculations on such questions must, of necessity, take an extremely generalised form.

The view that Socialism is viable in one country alone, surrounded by world capitalism and inevitably subject to the dictates of world capitalist economy, is ludicrous. True, the world is at different stages of development and the Socialist revolution will not take place simultaneously in all countries of the world, but it will be essential for it to take place, more or less at the same time, in a least several industrially advanced countries. Moreover, the aim would then be the extension of the Socialist revolution to the entire globe as soon as possible. Socialist society, existing in several countries or over the whole world, will not cling to the rigid demarcations of the present day capitalist nation-states, complete with their exchange of products on the basis of the Law of Value!

We do not deny the complexity of the national problem. The inequality of relationships existing between nations, and indeed the severe national and racial oppression, in the capitalist world, and the intense chauvinistic conditioning of the masses will undoubtedly leave an unfortunate and difficult legacy with which Socialist society will have to grapple and overcome. But this only reinforces the responsibility of a Socialist Party to struggle against all manifestations of a narrow national outlook. Such a Party must never, at any time, tail-end the working class on the question of nationalism; it must constantly do all in its power to imbue workers with whom it is in contact with a profoundly proletarian internationalist ideology. A Socialist Party cannot accomplish this task with talk about the « Americanism of Socialism »[25} but only by emphasizing the internationalism of Socialism.’

Peaceful Revolution?

The SLP lays great stress on the possibility of a peaceful overthrow of .capitalist society. In our view the concept that the Socialist revolution stands a very good chance of being achieved peacefully is a dangerous illusion. A peaceful solution to the social question would be the most advantageous and if such a peaceful solution can be achieved then a Revolutionary Socialist Party should work towards it. It is just conceivable, under certain extraordinary and quite exceptional conditions that the ruling class may be unable to carry out any forceful resistance to the Revolution. But such an ideal situation would be most unlikely, and it would be disarming the working class theoretically and organizationally to base its main strategy on the chance of peaceful revolution. The notion of the capitalist class giving in meekly, without any attempt at forceful resistance and suppression, is ridiculous; and we do not think that the SLP’s concept of Socialist Industrial Unionism is a sufficient guarantee that the working class will be able to impose its will upon the exploiters: organs for the forcible suppression of the ruling class and its supporters will be needed.

We are not advocating violence for its own sake, we do not wish the movement to « degenerate into underground conspiracies and rathole methods”[26] and we do not say that the political weapon is « futile, compromising, counterrevolutionary”[27] as Arnold Petersen suggests must be the case with all opponents of the SLP line on peaceful revolution. Revolutionary Marxists are not pacifists and therefore we must propagate the principle that the working class, in the face of counterrevolutionary violence on the part of the capitalist class, must be prepared to answer with revolutionary violence. But, of course, a Socialist Party must use and take advantage of the conditions of bourgeois democracy whenever it can; and at all tines it must avoid any futile or adventurous acts. But it must not make a fetish out of the ballot and the norms of bourgeois legality. And certainly the kind of reasoning that Eric Hass employs in his pamphlet Socialist Industrial Unionism displays extreme naïveté on the question of bourgeois legality. The fact that the U.S. Constitution has an article that « legalizes » revolution provides, says Hass, « the means to amend, or even to abolish, the present system », and he goes on: « In the language of Washington the people hold the government in the hollow of their hand. We can, whenever we like, unite to effectuate the revolution to Socialism by the peaceful and legal means of the ballot, i.e., by voting for the candidates of a political party of labor that demands the unconditional surrender of capitalism in its platform. »[28] This notion that, because of one article in the U.S. Constitution, the American capitalists will meekly submit without any attempt at violent resistance is incredible. True, a few pages later Hass conies to the position that the Socialist ballot will have to be backed up with the « might » of the Socialist Industrial Union, but this pamphlet is not able, and no other SLP pamphlet is able, to give any concrete indication of how the Socialist Industrial Union is going to prevent the ruling class from using counterrevolutionary violence.

We do not have a simple answer to the question of how the revolution is going to be effectuated. Indeed, this will depend in its details upon the precise objective conditions obtaining in any particular revolutionary situation. A Revolutionary Party must examine a number of alternatives on this question. Above all it must train its members and supporters to be ever ready to adapt to a new or unexpected turn in events and not to be trammeled by one static perspective.

Dogmatic Sterility or Scientific Development?

No Party can be perfect in its analysis and program. But a Party that, inspite of imperfections, has a healthy, vigorous, internal life, with debate, discussion, questioning, taken as a normal, fundamental, political necessity, (with this debate and discussion carried out in an atmosphere of genuine scientific enquiry, accepted without, at the first sign of dissent or of an original approach, raucous cries of « disrupter », « anarchist », « Bakuninist », « pseudo-intellectual » and other shibboleths uttered by bureaucrats and ignoramuses when they feel unable to grapple with new ideas), can be a living thing. Such a Party, given an uncompromising revolutionary perspective and a well-posted membership to start with, could respond alertly to ever changing reality, could be ever enriching its theoretical armory, could constantly deepen and sharpen its membership’s knowledge and ability. Such a Party would not only be able to recognise its errors and shortcomings, it would stand a good chance of correcting such errors, overcoming shortcomings.

Unfortunately, the SLP does not have such a vigorous and healthy internal life. It has become an ossified sect bureaucratically administered. Everything is laid down once and for all. Nothing should be questioned; the official line must be right. In case anyone thinks that this is an exaggeration a few quotations from the SLP Party manual Disruption and Disrupters[29] will give some indication of the kind of internal atmosphere and mental attitudes that prevail in the SLP.

Arnold Petersen, in his Introduction to this booklet states, in part, that: « The chief purpose of this Party manual is to put the newcomer in our movement on guard against disrupters and disruptive influences…. Party history proves the essential one-ness of disrupters, and the uniformity of the course followed by all disruptions. When disruption rears its head, the loyal and well posted S.L.P. man ‘knows the answers’ in advance… »[30] (Our emphasis.) This manual is designed to condition Party members to the view that any questioning, dissent or criticism in the Party is automatically the work of « disrupters », and that a good Party member should not try and look into the concrete points at issue, but that he « knows in advance » what critics, labeled from above as « disrupters », are saying. The good Party member « knows in advance » that anyone in the Party who questions Party program or practice in a persistent or serious way must be wrong; no need to read and study what they say. Indeed, if they follow the rules they cannot read what they say. For example, here is the text of a motion adopted by the National Executive Committee of the American SLP in May 1935 (still in force):

« Moved that all Subdivisions be instructed that all mail or correspondence addressed to the Section, or the organizer of the Section, be opened only by the organizer of the Section, or by such other officer of the Section as temporarily may have been appointed to act as organizer. All official correspondence must, of course, be presented to the Section for action, all other matters of a disruptive nature, including lampoons, shall be returned unopened, to the sender. [Members-at-large are to be guided accordingly, i.e., lampoons received by them, whether obviously lampoons or disguised as ‘newspapers,’ ‘bulletins’ or what not, are to be returned to the disrupters unopened, or immediately destroyed] »[31]

Just how a communication can be deemed of « a disruptive nature », or a « lampoon », without first opening and reading it the clairvoyants in the American SLP National Office have never, to our knowledge, revealed. Be that as it may, if such an allegedly « disruptive » communication is opened it must be immediately destroyed! No chance here of a SLP member being « contaminated » by a fresh or controversial idea; absolutely no confidence shown in the ability of a SLP member to grapple with error and overcome such error. The picture of the ideal Party member that emerges from reading Disruption and Disrupters is a certain Comrade Ostrich, who has a splendid ability to bury his head firmly in the sand in the face of opposition! [32]

Of course, a Revolutionary Socialist Party needs firm and consistent discipline, of course such a Party must guard against freaks and troublemakers, and of course it must not become just a discussion club. But revolutionary discipline must not exclude genuine controversy, must not stifle research, examination and re-examination. A real Party of scientific Socialism would welcome original thought, would train its members to query and probe. And its Press would reflect this internal atmosphere, Today the SLP press hardly ever lets a word of dissent or controversy creep into its pages, and such a thing as an internal discussion journal or bulletin where members could exchange opinions and examine theoretical and practical problems in detail is out of the question.

Apart from internal discussion a Socialist Party should be able to carry on a dialogue with workers outside the Party. But the line of the SLP is just to present a set exposition of the Party program and « blueprint »; and avoid becoming involved in real two-way discussion. In Britain, for example, questions, but no discussion, are allowed from the floor of SLP public meetings, and this in spite of the fact that contributions to discussion from the floor are a standard feature of serious public political meetings in Britain!

A Party of living Marxism should be able to respond to, and interpret, the events of the world in a truly scientific and dialectical way, and not with sterile reflex reactions. The tremendous and inspiring events in France of May and June 1968, for instance, are an example of the SLP’s inability to make a concrete, true and living analysis of new and unexpected events. The biggest general strike in the world’s history, events that shook French capitalism to its roots; and the Weekly People just trots out the same old formulas, misrepresents the strike movement (it was not a simple economic strike), ridicules the students, and in general makes no attempt at a deep and concrete analysis.

The Weekly People deals with student radicalism in the U.S. in a smugly superior, arrogant way, even using the same language as the bourgeois press: « …impatience and cocksureness of youth…knowing all about the world he sees for the first tine…The extremists have damned the ‘New Left’ in the eyes of the public… »[33] If only the youth were as patient, unextreme, and politically advanced as this « public »!

Without a doubt, the duty of a Marxist Party is to criticise radical students and youth whose understanding and tactics fall far short of that required of revolutionary Marxists. But we should be pleased that they have become radicalized; we should be delighted that they do not meekly accept capitalist society and its morality and its atrocities. The approach should be one of sympathetic and perceptive criticism. A great effort should be made to respond positively to their discontent in order to make contact, influence and win over to the position of genuine Marxism. This will not be done by the indiscriminate slinging of the epithet « anarchist! »

We cannot speak with first-hand experience of the « New Left » in America, but we can of the radical and militant students and other youth in Britain. Although they fall far short of what Marxists wish for, in our view the radicalization of students and youth in Britain is the only bright spot on a grim horizon of acceptance of capitalism, apathy, cynicism and racism on the part of what the Weekly People would call « the public ». For the first time thousands of young people are studying the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg and others. In London they pack public meetings and listen attentively to lectures on the French events, on Vietnam, on Rosa Luxemburg. They ask perceptive questions and seriously participate in discussion at such meetings. Their journals carry many articles on questions of history, Socialist theory and so on. While London Dock workers and meat porters demonstrate and strike in support of the racist demagogue Enoch Powell the students organize demonstrations against Powell. Most of the militant students have a perspective of joint worker-student action for the overthrow of capitalism, realising that students cannot do this on their own.

All this, in spite of serious shortcomings regarding theory and tactics, is a healthy sign. But what is the attitude of the SLP of Great Britain to this radicalization of youth and students? The British SLP organ, The Socialist, presents an analysis [34] of what it calls the « New Left » in Britain that flies completely in the face of reality. It falsely accuses this « New Left » of claiming to have a « non-ideological orientation » (in fact most claim to be Marxists); it falsely accuses them of rejecting a class analysis of society (in fact even many of those who do not claim to be Marxists would accept some form of class analysis); it incorrectly states: « …its [the New Left’s] adherents are so completely fascinated by the idea that numbers are a substitute for principle that they seem determined to preserve their tenuous ‘unity’ at the expense of abstaining from serious debate on the pregnant issue of the age — the issue of Socialism versus capitalism. » In fact, few of the youth and students subscribe to the idea that numbers are a substitute for principle (and this is manifested by their contempt of the « Labour » party — hunting ground of the « Old Left »); in fact, they do not have unity — tenuous or otherwise — but are split into a number of groups and factions, between whom there is often serious debate and even sharp polemics, mostly around « the pregnant issue of the age — the issue of Socialism versus Capitalism »!

This article in The Socialist goes on to accuse this « New Left » in Britain of holding the view that the social question can be solved by an intellectual elite and claims that they are « full of intellectual snobbery ». In fact few of them adhere to this « intellectual eliteist » position, and these « intellectual snobs » are continually calling for worker-student unity! The article ends up by calling upon workers to reject and to be contemptuous of the « Now Left », i.e. radical youth and students in Britain. This line is similar to that taken by the French « Communist » party in 1968, when it did its best to keep the working class away from, and out of contact with, the radical French students; but the students acted as the « detonator » for the greatest general strike in the world’s history! [35]

The student radicals have serious faults and many illusions, but they are, nonetheless, a step forward from student acceptance of capitalism. It is the duty of Marxists to intervene in this climate of radicalism and discontent. But a genuine intervention can only be made by a sympathetic approach combined with an objective analysis of the phenomenon of this radicalism, and of the changing role of students in capitalist society in general, (their vast increase in numbers, their mostly working class background, the effects of passing through the capitalist « education » sausage-machine to become specialist wage-slaves, and so on). It is no good creating dogmatic blueprints of how the (nice and peaceful) revolution is going to take place, issuing a few pamphlets, and then sitting back to wait for the Big Day. Revolutionaries must be constantly in touch with the over changing real world, must always respond to all manifestations of discontent, must creatively develop their theory. To translate this perspective into practice, to efficiently and effectively carry out its great historic tasks, the Revolutionary Party must combine strict revolutionary discipline with the broadest internal democracy. It must engage in the frankest debate and frequently put its theory and practice under the closest critical scrutiny.[36] And it must be a Party of firm scientific principle that is ever alert and ready to go into action.

A Note on Demonstrations

An example of the SLP’s inflexible, formalistic, undialectical approach to tactical questions is shown in its attitude to demonstrations, all demonstrations. The SLP advances the line that all demonstrations are cases of utterly useless pleading with the powers that be, futile protests against authority, always a diversion away from the real struggle. Well, most demonstrations are just such, and must be severely criticised accordingly. But not all of them are. Some demonstrations, at certain times, with specific slogans, with an awareness of their limitations, can play quite a different role at certain stages in the development of a struggle and building of a movement. They can be a means of propaganda; a rallying and focal point for those that we wish to reach; an example to the more timid; an episode in a wider struggle. But an inflexible line has been laid down by the SLP on this question of tactics and it is now beyond discussion within the SLP.

It is interesting that this question of demonstrations is one of the very few points about which the present day SLP admits that it differs from the position taken by Daniel De Leon, [37] Indeed, it is interesting to reflect that without a workers’ demonstration that De Leon witnessed he may never have been drawn into the radical movement, and from there into the SLP. [38]

The S.L.P. and Soviet Russia

Few incidents in SLP history have exposed the Party’s theoretical weaknesses, opportunist tendencies, lack of honesty about its own past and unwillingness to frankly and openly admit mistakes to the full, than its attitude over the years to Soviet Russia.

We do not have the time available to trace the complete history, or to delve into all the implications, of the SLP’s attitude to Soviet Russia over the years. At best we can give an outline indication, and at the same time recommend our readers to do some research themselves into this question.

The first reaction of the SLP to the Bolshevik Revolution, although not without faults, was basically healthy. In the Weekly People of November 24, 1917, Arnold Peterson correctly pointed out that it would not be possible to build Socialism independently in an industrially backward, peasant country like Russia. In time, however, particularly after it was reported that Lenin was an admirer of Daniel De Leon, the SLP attitude softened in relation to Russia. Nonetheless, we might have expected, with the rise of the Stalinist despotism, that the SLP, claiming to be the Party of scientific Marxism, would have been able to find its bearings again without too much trouble or delay. But not so. By the late 1930’s the SLP had become a de facto supporter of, and apologist for, the Stalinist terror regime, albeit a critical supporter and apologist.

Let us take a look at a pamphlet by Arnold Peterson entitled Soviet Russia; Promise or Menace? published in 1939. It should be carefully observed that in the Foreword to this pamphlet it is stated, « …it should be noted that the contents of this booklet have been expressly approved by the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Labor Party, thus constituting the expression of the Party’s official attitude on the questions dealt with, and concurrence in the general views expressed. »[39]

In this pamphlet Petersen lists a number of points that he says summarize criticisms of, or objections to, Stalinist Russia. Below we print some of these points followed by a summary of Peterson’s replies to them, or an indication of the nature of his answers. For the full flavour of his replies, however, we recommend that readers of this document try and get hold of copies of this now out of print pamphlet to read for themselves.

« 1. That the Russian ‘dictatorship’ is as ruthless as the Nazi-Fascist ditto. » (p.10) Petersen answers this by suggesting that the ruthlessness of the Stalinist dictatorship is inspired by concern for the safety of « the workers’ republic » (p.11) and concludes that: « We may, therefore, dismiss this point as being irrelevant ».

« 2. That the ‘dictator’ — Stalin — is answerable to no one. » (p.10) Comments Petersen, in part: « That Stalin is answerable to no one is a contention which seems neither reasonable, nor supported by the facts ». (p.12) Also, « …it would seen that there are good grounds for believing that with all its shortcomings, the Russian democracy [sic] is more responsive to the will of the masses than in the United States. »(p.14)

« 3. That Soviet Russia is being deliberately and consciously directed or driven toward Industrial Feudalism, and. that it wants to ‘stabilize capitalism. ‘ » (p.10) Petersen concedes that Russia may be moving in the direction of Industrial Feudalism [inspite of this « Russian democracy » that was so responsive to the will of the masses » ?] , but he starts off his answer with the following astonishing (in 1939) remark: « Is Soviet Russia deliberately being directed or driven toward Industrial Feudalism? It has not been possible to find any evidence of such. » (p.17) .

« 5. That Soviet Russia constitutes the model from which have been patterned the Italian and German gangster governments, and that ‘trials’ conducted by the Nazi dictators (specifically the Reichstag fire trial) was fairer than the Russian trials. » (p.10) In the course of his answer to this point, Petersen, in a footnote, draws the readers attention to an appendix in the pamphlet wherein articles and editorials printed in the Weekly People that in effect justify and approve — yes, justify and approve — the hideously shameful Moscow frame-up trials of the 1930s that led to the liquidation of nearly all the « Old Bolsheviks » — the comrades in arms of Lenin and Trotsky during: the Revolution and the early days of soviet rule. Here are a few choice quotations from these articles:

« The Socialist Labor Party is not unduly impressed with the fact, deplorable as that fact is, of some of the most prominent men in Russia having turned traitors. In our own Party we have had similar experiences, yet the Socialist Labor Party has had no qualms in dealing properly and effectively with traitors and disrupters, no matter whether they held the lowest or the highest posts in the Party. And in our ability to maintain discipline, and dispense Socialist Labor Party justice, with complete Party, i.e., rank and file democracy and publicity we have found proof of our strength, our ‘indestructibility.’ And so with Soviet Russia. [Our emphasis]

« That men go wrong in great causes is a fact too well known to require proof. The Russians who have paid with their lives for their errors (whether these resulted from serious disagreement with principles or from baser motives) serve as a warning that revolutions are not to be trifled with, even though the revolutionists in command are themselves far from being spotless or correct in all details. » [40]

« It behooves all clear-thinking Marxists not to be led astray by the dramatic trials in Moscow…The battle-lines will eventually shape themselves with the international capitalist robber class on one side, and the international, exploited proletariat on the other. And. when the battle-lines are being finally formed, Soviet Russia (if she and her leaders remain true to Marxian principles) will be found on the side of the Socialist Labor Party and its principles….And a Foster, a Browder, or their successors in the dock will present no prettier sight than did the Bukharins, Rykovs, Radeks, Zinovievs, et al….

« Accordingly, not censure and condemnation, but understanding and interpretation in the light of Marxism, have been the aim of the Socialist Labor Party with respect to the ‘Russian trials.’”[4l]

« 7. …the criticism has been made that Russia is maintaining a huge military establishment (in contravention of Socialist principles) in order to protect the interests, and preserve the power, of the Soviet bureaucracy. » (p.10) In the course of « answering » this point Petersen observes: « Whether or not the army in any degree or sense is being used by the Stalin bureaucracy to defend their ‘vested’ interests as bureaucrats, is a question that cannot be discussed on the basis of available facts…. »

« 8. And from still other quarters [the criticism has been made] that there is no freedom of speech, press and assembly in Russia. »(p.11) To this criticism — made at a tine of unrestrained Stalinist terror when tons of thousands of Communists had been executed during the purges, when up to 20 million Soviet citizens were slaving in labour camps under the most inhuman conditions — Petersen replies, in part:

« As to freedom of speech, etc., in Russia, there is probably all that could be reasonably expected in a country which recently has brought to book a large number of self-confessed traitors and conspirators…. there is no indication that there are restrictions which prevent the people of Russia from discussing fully and freely problems directly relating to the Soviet economy… » (p.41-42)

There is much more of the same calibre in this pamphlet. And this rubbish is modestly introduced to the reader in a blurb printed on the inside front cover: « This is no offhand answer [to the questions: Where is Russia headed? Why the purge? etc.]. It is the critically scientific reply of a well posted Marxist who, in the tradition of Marx and De Leon, has hewn and let the chips fall where they may. »

It may be argued that all the facts about Stalinist Russia were not available in 1939. It is true that all the facts were not known, but enough facts were known to enable genuine Marxists to make a reasonably accurate assessment of the nature of the Soviet Union in 1939. Many did, in fact, make such a reasonably accurate, or very close and quite valuable, assessments then, or indeed long before: vide, the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB) and its counterparts in other countries. And what about Leon Trotsky’s The Revolution Betrayed [42] which was published in an English edition in the U.S.A. in 1937?

Indeed, it is evident that several members of the SLP were on the right lines and very close to a correct position in 1939. For Petersen states on page 7 of Soviet Russia: Promise or Menace?:

« Generally speaking, the claims made that there is no difference whatever between Soviet Russia and the Nazi-Fascist dictatorships proceed from the camp of capitalism, or from avowed counter-revolutionists, or anti-Soviet conspiratorial groups. It has been somewhat startling, however, to note similar contentions made (or doubts expressed) from otherwise sound and well-posted Marxists. »

The pamphlet is designed to bludgeon these dissidents within the SLP back into line, for it is « the criticisms made by sincere and convinced Marxists » (p.7) that Petersen sets out to « answer ». And hence, apparently, the warning already cited in the Foreword, « … it should be noted that the contents of this booklet have been expressly approved by the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Labor Party, thus constituting the expression of the Party’s official attitude on the questions dealt with, and concurrence in the general views expressed. »

With the Stalin-Hitler pact and the Russian invasion of Finland even Petersen’s attitude to Stalinist Russia changed, and from then on Soviet Russia was denounced without reservations, and a much better assessment of Soviet Russia evolved in the Party. But even after these events Soviet Russia: Promise or Menace? was pushed as a Marxist assessment. For example, in the pamphlet issued by the SLP in 1943 on the dissolution of the Communist International [43] the following advertisement is printed on the inside back cover:

« SOVIET RUSSIA: PROMISE OR MENACE? (l0c.) The Socialist Labor Party, in 1939, asked: Where is Russia headed? Back to capitalism? Etc. And answered in the light of Marxian science. »

In the 1950 edition of the pamphlet Stalinist Imperialism [44] Soviet Russia: Promise or Menace? is still advertised for sale, this time with the recommendation that it « discusses the question of Russian Stateism from all angles »!

The pamphlet was allowed to go out of print, however, and now the SLP tries to give the dishonest impression that it was always more or less on the right lines with regard to Soviet Russia, and certainly that it never supported the Stalinist terror. For example, the pamphlet by Arnold Petersen Marxism versus Soviet Despotism[45] which was first published in 1958 and has been reissued at least twice since that date, sharply criticises and condemns in strong terms the Soviet Union of 1953 and before. An appendix to this pamphlet reprints Petersen’s November 24, 1917 Weekly People article on the Bolshevik Revolution, which is introduced as a conclusive demonstration of the SLP’s « prescience ». Nothing is said, however, of support by the SLP to Stalinism, and the newcomer is left with the impression that all along the SLP has had a principled and scientific Marxist stand on Russia.

In fact, of course, the SLP is still unable to produce a satisfactory definition of the Russian social system. It is characterized as a « bureaucratic state despotism ». This might do as a tentative description pending deeper study and investigation (there is no evidence of such deeper study or investigation in relation to Russia on the part of the SLP) but it is inadequate as a socio-economic definition. The point being that all class divided societies are to one degree or another « bureaucratic » and all such societies are to one degree or another « despotic » or ‘”state despotisms ». [46]

Daniel De Leon and the S.L.P.

It is evident from the contents of this document that we are in disagreement with many of the ideas of Daniel De Leon. But even more are we in disagreement with the present day SLP. In spite of the faults of the SLP in De Leon’s day we are of the opinion that the Party was then a much healthier organization, much more in contact with the working class, and capable, to some extent, of reassessment and change. But now the SLP has mummified De Leon’s teachings into a set of immutable dogmas, instead of creatively developing the SLP’s program and tactics from the time of De Leon’s death. The stage has long been reached where the Party clings tenaciously to many thoroughly unscientific positions without question; indeed, elevating them into principles!

The seeds of the SLP’s degeneration into a sect were, no doubt, present in the SLP during De Leon’s lifetime: there is evidence that De Leon was, in part at least, aware of the need for a new approach or even a new Party. [47]

Daniel De Leon was a great revolutionary, but he had his faults and shortcomings. Now the SLP makes De Leon’s theories and teachings, including the faults and shortcomings, into an infallible doctrine that must not be questioned. De Leon is placed on a pedestal; a higher pedestal than his theoretical abilities and knowledge would, warrant, even if it were a good thing to place anybody onto a pedestal. By so doing De Leon’s epigones do not do him a service. One task of a new, genuinely scientific, Revolutionary Party will be to make a fresh and objective assessment of De Leon and his contribution to the Socialist movement; incorporating into its program what was best and sound in his ideas, and rejecting the rest.


After much thought and research over a period of several months we have come to the inescapable conclusion that we have no alternative but to leave the Socialist Labour Party. Our differences are so deep and thorough-going, and the SLP is so set in its erroneous and dogmatic ruts, that we are convinced that we can only work effectively for Socialism outside of the SLP. We had hoped to hold on until the May Conference, confining our Party activities to routine technical tasks connected with the Party Press. For some period now we have confined our activity to such limited technical tasks as we have felt unable to defend SLP policy against critics. At the same time, we have been reluctant to leave the Party prematurely and in haste, before we had studied the questions upon which we had doubts in a thorough manner, before we were quite convinced that the Party was in error, and before we had worked out our own position in sufficient detail to enable us to produce a document such as this one.

By waiting longer before producing our document (which would have been circulated to the British SLP membership one month before Conference) we would have had the time to go into more detail than has now been possible. Also, a more orderly transfer of our Party duties may have resulted at a Party Conference than seems likely at any other juncture. However, as we explained at the beginning, we have been faced with allegations which oblige us to state our position without further delay.

We have produced this document for two basic reasons, We feel that our former comrades in the SLP are entitled to as complete an explanation as possible for our departure. Also, the questions that we deal with are so important that we think as many people as possible, both inside the SLF and among many who are outside its ranks, should be induced, if possible, to think about, and study, these questions.

Inevitably, we have concentrated on the negative aspects and the faults of the SLP. This does not mean that we do not see any positive features in the Party and its propaganda activities. There are many such positive features; but in our view the negative and erroneous sides of SLP policy and methods of thinking preclude the SLP from being classified as a genuinely scientific and effective Party of Socialism, and we have not seen any indications that it could ever become such a Party. There are many splendid and dedicated men and women in the SLP’s of various countries. We hope that in some small way this document can play a role in helping them to detach themselves from the unscientific and dogmatic aspects of the SLP philosophy, thus preparing themselves to play a part, along with others, in the creation of a new and genuinely scientific, principled, Revolutionary Socialist Party, and the creation of a new International. We hope that this document will stimulate discussion around the idea of such an objective.

London, February 9, 1969

Jim Plant

Nasrin Plant

108 Cambridge Gardens, London W10., England


[1]Letter from Arnold Babel, New York, to Arnold Petersen, New York, dated December 3, 1968.

[2]Letter from Arnold Petersen to James Forrest, British SLP National Secretary, dated December 13, 1968.

[3]Joseph Stalin, Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, p.21 (International Publishers, New York, 1952.)

[4]Arnold Petersen, De Leonist Milestones, pp. 31-32. (New York Labor News, n.d. [1952-3?)

[5] Frederick Engels, Introduction to the 1892 English edition of his « Socialism: Utopian & Scientific ». In Marx & Engels Selected Works, Vol. 2, p.88 (Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1951.) This Introduction is printed as a pamphlet by the SLP under the title Historical Materialism (NYLN, 1963), but the portion containing the passage that we have quoted has been left out of the SLP version without any word of explanation.

[6] Engels, Anti-Duhring. p.282. (FLPH, Moscow, 1959).

[7] Ibid., p.422.

[8] Ibid., pp. 425-430.

[9] Ibid., p,430.

[10] Ibid., p.427.

[11] Sotchinoniia Marksa-Engelsa, T. XXVII, c.408. Quoted by Raya

Dunayevskaya in The American Economic Review, September 1944, p. 535. We recommend Miss Dunayevskaya’s article, and her rejoinder to discussion in the Sept. 1945 issue of the same journal, to anyone who wishes to look deeper into the question of the Law of Value and Socialist society. These articles are particularly useful for the light that they throw on the relationship between value and alienation.

[12] Karl Marx, [The Critique of] The Gotha Program, p.28. (NYLN,1963)

[l3] Ibid., sane page.

[14] Ibid., p.31.

[15] Socialism: Questions Most Frequently Asked & Their Answers, p.20. (NYLN, 1965.)

[16] Ibid., p.21.

[17] Ibid., p. 39.

[18] Marx in K. Marx & F. Engels On Religion, pp. 41-42. (FLPH, Moscow, 1957).

[19] See also Marx in The Gotha Programme p. 53 on the need of a workers’ party to declare that it strived to free the conscience from religious superstition.

[20] Charts and maps frequently printed in the American SLP organ the Weekly People. Also, for example, in Socialist Industrial Unionism, The Workers’ Power by Eric Hass (NYLN, 1964) . For a British variation see chart and map in Socialism & Economic Power by A. Tomkins (Socialist Labour Press, London 1965). On page 9 of his Socialist Industrial Unionism Eric Hass claims that the SLP does « not presume to make a rigid blueprint of the Industrial Union Administration… » But this declaration does not alter the fact that the SLP charts and their accompanying texts are nonetheless blueprints.

[2l] For a description of voting in the future Society see page 10 of Hass’s SIU pamphlet.

[22] In an undated [1968?] fold-out brochure issued by the American SLP entitled Socialist Labor Party: Position & Program. The words quoted were the text of one of a number of special points printed in heavy type.

[23] Socialism & Economic Power, p. 10.

[24] Letter from Arnold Petersen to L. G. Raisky, Leningrad, USSR, dated March 16, 1932. Printed in Appendix 2 of The Struggle, Against Opportunism In the American Labor Movement by L. G. Raisky (NYLN, 1959) p. 63.

[25] « The Americanism of Socialism » title of SLP pamphlet by Eric Hass (NYLN, 1967).

[26] Arnold Petersen in his Preface to Engels ‘ Introduction to Marx’s « Class Struggles in France », printed in pamphlet form by the SLP under the title Peaceful Revolution Vs. Violence [this title is not Engels’] (NYLN, 1966) p. VI.

[27] Ibid., p. VII.

[28] Hass, Socialist Industrial Unionism pp. 30-31.

[29] Disruption and Disrupters (Socialist Labor Party, New York, 1935). This booklet is not for sale to the general public; the SLP obviously feels that its contents must be hidden from general view. Published in 1935, it is still in use. It is approved by the British SLP and issued to all new Party members in Britain.

[30] Disruption and Disrupters, p.4-5.

[31] Ibid., p.48. Emphasis and square brackets as printed in booklet.

[32] Another example of how SLP members are kept in cocoons is the following rule in the American SLP Constitution:

« No member of the Party shall be permitted to attend courses in economics offered by schools or ‘institutions of public education’ of collegiate, preparatory or secondary-school rank, except in cases where such courses are prescribed and required toward the attainment of a professional or academic degree or diploma. » (Constitution of the Socialist Labor Party of America, SLP, New York, 1966, p.19.)

What confidence in the Marxist training and ability of SLP members that they are not allowed to withstand, unless they need a degree or diploma for their livelihood, a few blasts of bourgeois economics! And how are SLP men and women to combat bourgeois economic theories if they are not permitted to study what bourgeois economists say?!

[33] Main front page article in the Weekly People, Sept. 21, 1968.

[34] ‘The Impotence and Danger of The ‘New Left’ », in The Socialist, Jan-Feb. 1969.

[35] The way the SLP talks about the « New Left », i.e., the radical students, in Britain is not many steps away from the manner in which, the bourgeoisie talk. Witness, for example, the following from a London Times [Jan. 30, 1969] report:

« ‘They are not socialists, they are not even respectable Marxists » he [Mr. Short, Education Minister in the British Government, speaking in Parliament] said. ‘They are a new brand of anarchist. Some of them are Maoists, some of them are a new « brand-X » of revolutionary for which there is yet no name.’ They were wreckers concerned only with the disruption of society ‘by lies, misrepresentation, defamation, character-assassination, intimidation and, very recently, by physical violence. ‘

« The Commons, clearly delighted that someone was at last speaking out in the strongest terms on this matter, ranged themselves solidly behind Mr, Short. From the Tory front bench Sir Edward Boyle said: ‘We cannot afford to have our nation torn in two over this [the activities of radical students]. ‘

« From the Liberal benches Mr, Grimond said the House would wholeheartedly agree with the terms the Minister had used… »

Perhaps the unanimity of the hostility of the bourgeoisie to the radical students will give the « respectable Marxists » of the British SLP pause?

[36] A price example of how discussion and critical assessment is feared and stifled in the SLP are measures pushed through the 1967 Annual Conference of the British SLP that make it virtually impossible for members of the British SLP to write any letters to SLP members in other countries that seriously discuss questions of Socialist theory and SLP policy, that in any way question any aspect of British SLP conduct. Correspondence must be limited to the repetition of sterile platitudes, mutual back-slapping and the weather.

[37] In an address to striking textile workers in 1898 De Leon concluded his remarks, in part, as follows:

« …my best advice to you for immediate action, is to step out boldly upon the streets, as soon as you can; organize a monster parade of the strikers and of all the other working people in the town; and let the parade be headed by a banner bearing the announcement to your employers…” (Daniel De Leon, What Means This Strike? [NYLN,1963, p.31.])

[38] « One day De Leon was sitting there [Columbia College, where he was a lecturer] together with a number of his colleagues. Suddenly there was a great noise — bells ringing, horns tooting. The street cars came in a row down the avenue. The workers had won [their strike]. The group of professors hastened to the window and saw the parade go by. De Leon’s colleagues expressed during this procession so much contempt and scorn and even threats against the workers that De Leon felt his blood boil. His resentment and anger were aroused and in this temper he wrote offering his support to Henry George whom he had heard the workers were intending to nominate for mayor. » (Olive M. Johnson, Daniel De Leon: American Socialist Pathfinder, p.11 [NYLN, 1935].)

[39] Arnold Petersen, Soviet Russia: Promise or Menace?, p.3(NYLN 1939).

[40] From article by Arnold Petersen in the Weekly People entitled « Soviet Justice and Revolution », reproduced in part in Appendix A. of Peterson’s Soviet Russia: Promise or Menace? (see pp. 52-53).

[41] From article by Arnold Petersen in Weekly People (March 26, 1938) reproduced in part in ibid.p.56.

[42] Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed: What is the Soviet Union

and Where is it Going? (Merit Publishers, Hew York, 1965). This work was first published in an English edition in the U.S.A. by Doubleday in 1937. We do not find ourselves in agreement with Trotsky’s conclusions regarding the class nature of the Soviet Union, but we cite this work by Trotsky as there is enough material in this one book, published two years before Peterson’s Soviet Russia pamphlet, to completely refute the SLP line on Russia. Likewise, our citing the SPGB does not necessarily moan that we think that they have said the last word on the nature of the Russian social system, but we give them as an example of an organization that was miles ahead of the SLP on the Russian question long before 1939; and many others wore also ahead.

[43] Workers of the World. Unite! (NYLN, 194-3).

[44] Eric Hass, Stalinist Imperialism, (NYLN, 1950).

[45] Arnold Petersen, Marxism versus Soviet Despotism, (NYLN, 1958).

[46] Before the reader moves onto the next section of this document we would like to draw attention to another question touched upon by Petersen in Soviet Russia; Promise or Menace? that throws interesting light on the SLP’s conception of Socialist society. On page 29 of his pamphlet Petersen quotes the following from Lenin’s State & Revolution:

« Under Socialism much of the primitive democracy will inevitably be revived. For the first time in the history of civilized nations, the mass of the population will rise, beyond voting and elections, to a direct control of the everyday administration of the affairs of the nation. Under Socialism, all will take a turn in management, and will soon become accustomed to the idea of no managers at all. »(*)

On this interesting, clear and correct idea of Lenin’s Petersen exclaims: « The notion that all will take ‘a turn in management’ is scarcely less fantastic than the astounding concept of there being no managers at all! If this is not good old-fashioned anarchist doctrine, then it certainly comes mighty close to it? » Petersen reduces Lenin’s idea to the formula: « No managers — no government! and comments that this is an « amazing conception ». The fact is that the SLP is unable to escape from the « officers & men » attitudes of class divided society; it cannot visualize a social system without one group of people whose social function will be to give orders and another group, the majority, who obey. Hence its talk about « foremen » in the workshops of the future Socialist society (see Socialism Means printed in most issues of the Weekly People).

(*)[In Vol. VII of Lenin’s Selected Works (Lawrence & Wishart, London 194-6, p.108) a different, and probably a more accurate, translation of the above passage of Lenin’s is printed thus:

« Under socialism much of the ‘primitive’ democracy will inevitably be revived, since, for the first time in the history of civilised society, the mass of the population will rise to independent participation, not only in voting and elections, but also in the everyday administration of affairs. Under socialism, all will take part in the work of government in turn and will soon become accustomed to no one governing. » This is akin to Engels’ observation that under Socialism « the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things ». (See Socialism: From Utopia to Science. NYLN 1961, pp. 60-61.)]

[47] On this point see David Herreshoff, American Disciples of Marx, (Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 196?), pp. 163-166. Herreshoff’s study of De Leon in this work is a valuable step in the direction of an objective appraisal of De Leon, but it by no means says the last word.


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