Guido Baracchi June 1920

Proletarian Comment

Source: "Reason in Revolt", Source documents of Australian Radicalism;
First Published: in The Proletarian Review, Editorial “Proletarian Comment” by the Editor (Guido Baracchi), June 1920;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

THE PROLETARIAN REVIEW is offered to the working class in the hope that it may assist them in their efforts to understand the system which enslaves them. The Marxian method of thought being alone capable of satisfactorily explaining the antagonisms of Capitalism and their outcome. THE PROLETARIAN REVIEW is accordingly uncompromisingly Marxist, and will endeavour to interpret the developments of contemporary society from this standpoint. In grappling with the fundamental problems of the working class, it hopes to arouse a more intelligent interest in those problems on the part of its readers, and to stimulate them to study and to thought. It will recommend sound working-class literature to the working-class student, and should it succeed in increasing the reading of the proletarian classics it will not have been in vain.

THE PROLETARIAN REVIEW opens its columns to contributions in line with its proletarian standpoint. It welcomes questions from its readers upon matters of working-class interest, and will set aside a part of its space for the purpose of answering them. A limited space will also be set aside for brief correspondence.

Karl Marx once wrote that “philosophers have only interpreted the world differently, but the point is to change it.” The working class will change the capitalist world, when, with the aid of the proletarian philosophy, they understand it aright. “To understand means to overcome.” But to overcome one must first have understood. It is in the certain knowledge of this that THE PROLETARIAN REVIEW starts upon its way.

The Class Struggle in Australia

The ultimate decision as to whether Capitalism or Communism shall control the world will not be made in Australia. A Communist Europe and America will mean a Communist Australia, whether the proletariat of this country likes it or not; but the reverse by no means necessarily applies. Although this is a fact, it is not an argument for the working class in Australia passively awaiting their deliverance at the hands of their European and American fellow-workers; nor, yet, is it an argument for the Australian proletariat contenting itself with the methods it has unavailingly pursued in the past. Apart from the fact that, for its very manhood’s sake, it must “do its bit,” in preparation for and participation in the world revolution, the actual developments of Capitalism in Australia urgently call for the discarding of an outworn policy, and fighting of the class struggle by new methods. Against the encroachments of the greater Capital, Trades Unions no longer, in the words of Marx, “work well as centres of resistance,” and the political futility of the Labor Party is patent to the very bonehead. The net result of their combined efforts is that during the last twenty years the social condition of the Australian worker has grown steadily worse. In the face of this complete shipwreck of the policy of reform, what new steps are the workers of this country taking? The front ranks of the European and American workers at the present time are actively projecting new methods. What are we doing in Australia?

The Potentialities of Industrial Unionism

Arising from the fact that the Trades Unions no longer “work well as centres of resistance against the encroachments of capital,” we have had in this country an agitation for Industrial Unionism, and, as a practical step in this direction, the very recent launching in Melbourne of the O.B.U. or W.I.U. of A., with a considerable membership. In this connection, we wish to draw our readers’ attention to a statement by the Bureau of the Third International on Industrial Unionism. “The agitation for, and construction of, industrial unions,” the statement proceeds, “provides, in an immediate and practical way, the opportunity to articulate and mobilise the militant spirit of discontent developing in the old unions, to carry on the struggle against corrupt bureaucracy and the ‘aristocracy of Labor’. Industrial Unionism, moreover, provides the opportunity of calling to action the unorganised, unskilled workers, and to release the unskilled, organised in the Trades Unions from their bondage to the reactionary upper layers of the working-class. The struggle for revolutionary Industrial Unionism is a factor for the development of Communist clearing and for the grasping of the might.”

The Limitations of Industrial Unionism

But, although a factor, Industrial Unionism is not, the Bureau of the Third International tells us, the decisive factor in the conquest of power by the workers. “The concept that Industrial Unionism alone is necessary for the conquest of Capitalism must be decisively rejected. It is sheer Utopia to imagine that all the workers, or an overwhelming majority, can be organised in Industrial Unions under Capitalist economic conditions. The upper layers of the working-class, being the impulse of Laborism [the creed of the Labor Party], will necessarily reject revolutionary Industrial Unionism; while the lower layers will not move very rapidly until thrown into action by the impact of the revolution itself. Moreover, the concept that the workers under Capitalism must, in their Industrial Unions, acquire the experience and technical management of industry, ‘growing into’ the new society by the Industrial Unions’ gradual acquisition of industrial control, is identical (though inverted in form) with the proposals of Parliamentary Socialism – that the working-class must gradually ‘grow into’ Socialism by acquiring experience of State affairs and ‘absorbing’ control of the bourgeois state. Each concept in its own way, rejects the fundamental problem of the revolutionary conquest of State power.” The Third International, since its formation in 1919, has all along laid it down that Mass Action and Soviets were the means to the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Under the protection of the Soviet Dictatorship , however, “Industrial Unionism comes actually to function in the economic reconstruction of society on a Communist basis; and the stronger the Industrial Unions, the easier the process of reconstruction.”

Class Consciousness

Whatever the role of Industrial Unionism and other things, there can be no doubt about the paramount importance to the workers of proletarian education. For the workers to be CONSCIOUS of the present situation of their CLASS, how it grew out of the past, and whither it tends in the future, that is what really matters. In this respect, there are some encouraging signs. Among others, one. In Melbourne, there is plainly discernible among the more revolutionary elements a new seriousness to supplement the instinct of revolt with a sound knowledge of scientific Socialism. Some of those who had previously confined themselves to the philosophy of “action” have now betaken themselves to the philosophy of Engels, with the result that their actions in future will be less Utopian and more scientific. Let them persist in their studies, and induce to study others. In this way only, in Australia as elsewhere, will arise a powerful vanguard of proletarians, capable of directing that struggle whose outcome shall forever make an end, the whole world round, of all misery whose source is slavery, exploitation, and ignorance. Happy he who is called to share in this sublime battle and has fitted himself to do so.