Louis C. Fraina

Revolutionary Socialism

Socialist Readjustment


THE process of Socialist readjustment depends, immediately and ultimately, upon readjustment within the nation; it must start with the reconstruction of the material basis of the movement and the adoption of revolutionary purposes and tactics in the national struggle against the ruling class. This internal readjustment will necessarily express itself in the readjustment of the Socialist International, the creation of a New International that will not break down when the call comes for international revolutionary action, as its constituent national groups will have adopted revolutionary tactics in the internal struggle against imperialistic Capitalism. The attempt to reorganize the International of Socialism without transforming its constituent national groups will inevitably mean a new collapse, new and more acute disappointments. Socialism collapsed internationally because it had previously collapsed nationally; revolutionary action within the nation alone can impose revolutionary action upon the International of the proletariat. It is a general process of reconstruction: the one promotes the other.

The struggle against Imperialism is the starting point of this readjustment, the factor determining our new immediate purposes and tactics, which must break with the immediate purposes and tactics of the past. Under the conditions of the new era, Socialism either organizes aggressively against Imperialism and for the overthrow of the capitalist regime, or it becomes completely submerged in social-Imperialism and reaction.

The new conditions require an abandonment of the fallacy of “growing into” Socialism, and the acceptance of the fact that revolutionary struggle alone is the determinant factor in Socia1ist policy. The revolution becomes, not an aspiration of the future, but an inspiration instinct in the immediate action of the proletariat. The proletariat is a supremely utilitarian class, dominated by the sense of reality; and through this reality of actual struggle the revolutionary spirit has to express itself. The self consciousness of the mass is the impulse of the struggle, the reality of its life and material conditions the fulcrum by which it is moved to revolutionary action. The proletarian mass is animated by the enthusiasm of struggle, rather than by the ideal; but out of this struggle arises the ideal, for the conditions of its activity impose a revolutionary expression. Struggle succeeds struggle, becoming more general, more centralized and national in scope, and project an international struggle by the propulsion of the activity itself. International action becomes imperative. The dualism in Socialist tactics disappears there is no political action alone, there is no industrial action alone, but one unified action : the acceptance and merging of all means into the general revolutionary action of the proletariat. The class struggle becomes more conscious, more bitter and uncompromising, more revolutionary in scope, means and aspirations. Capitalism meets attack after attack, weakening in the measure that the proletariat acquires the consciousness and strength developing out of its struggles. Capitalism succumbs not to an ultimate. revolutionaryacTalbne, but to a series of revolutionary acts which inevitably result in the Social Revolution. “The bourgeoisie, born in the Revolution, maintaining itself in a struggle against the Revolution, can only be overcome by the Revolution.” [1]

The general process of Socialist readjustment is not determined by the formulation of theoretical problems; it is not a study in theory, but a study in the practice and the material basis of the Socialist movement. There is no Socialism without the class struggle, and the carrier of this class struggle is the agency through which Socialism functions. The readjustment of Socialism, accordingly, is determined by adjusting itself to that class in society which is the most typical product of modern industry, and consequently revolutionary. Socialism must locate this class, and express its material conditions of struggle and development.

Socialism reorganizes in accordance with the altered class relations and expression of class interests of imperialistic Capitalism, which for the first time approximate the conditions considered essential for the Social Revolution by the founders of Socialism.


According to our analysis, Socialism has been dominated by the interests of skilled labor, marshalled by the petty bourgeoisie and the intellectuals of the new middle class. This domination directed the movement straight to disaster.

It should not require much discussion to prove the reactionary character of the remnants of the small bourgeoisie and representatives of the new middle class. The petite bourgeoisie is not only not a revolutionary class, it is a class beaten in the struggle for social supremacy, destroyed as an independent factor and a vassal of dominant Capitalism, a class that complains but dares not revolt. Its interest in Socialism, except in the case of isolated individuals, who rise superior to their petty class interests, is simply to use the prestige of Socialism to promote its own narrow interests. The small bourgeoisie is not even any longer reactionary in the sense of Marx, that “it tries to roll back the wheels of history”; it no longer has the necessary vigor and independence. The small bourgeois simply strives to make more comfortable his petty place in the existing system of things. The animating spirit of the petite bourgeoisie is compromise – it compromises with Imperialism; and it compromises with Socialism; but where the compromise with Imperialism strengthens Imperialism, the compromise with Socialism weakens Socialism, softens its aggressive spirit and alters its class activity. As for the new middle class, it is essentially the product of concentrated industry and Imperialism, compelled by its very nature to promote the interests of imperialistic Capitalism, directly, by openly adhering to Imperialism; indirectly, by allying itself with Socialism upon which it imposes its own reactionary purposes. The highest ideals of these two groups are bourgeois collectivism and State Capitalism. But Socialism is a revolutionary force that disrupts capitalist collectivism, that thrives by waging unrelenting war upon Capitalism and the state as unified in State Capitalism; its purposes are not expressed in a pseudo-Socialism of the state, but in the supremacy of the proletariat through industrial communism.

Socialism, accordingly, must throw off the domination and destroy the influence of these two alien groups; and it is must equally throw off the domination of skilled labor which, as a caste, becomes increasingly a part of the new middle class and of reactionary State Capitalism.

The psychology of skilled labor is the psychology of the small bourgeoisie; it thinks in terms of caste and property, and not in terms of class and solidarity of action. The property of the skilled worker is his craft and his skill, and his struggles against his employer are for the purposes of conserving this property and increasing its purchase price. [2]

The tendency of the skilled trades is to promote their interests irrespective of the rest of the workers, and often by brutal betrayal of the unorganized and the unskilled. Their unions are trusts organized to protect property; – the property vested in a skilled trade or craft. These unions, moreover, are corporate concerns, organizations of crafts which reject solidarity and co-operation with other crafts. Admission to the craft unions is limited by a variety of means, including abnormally high initiation fees. As the owner of small industrial property was concerned solely in the preservation of his property, so the skilled worker is concerned solely in the preservation of his craft skill and prestige; the concentration of industry expropriates both forms of property, but this fact, instead of creating a revolutionary psychology, intensifies the attachment to property and creates reaction in the two groups.

Originally, the slogan of skilled labor unions is, “A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.” As the unions acquire political importance and the development of the industrial technology menaces the skilled crafts, a new conception arises, that of securing recognition as a part of the governing system of things. Unable to cope with the employing class industrially by means of strikes, because of industrial concentration and the decreasing value of skilled labor in the technological process the unions seek to accomplish their ends by becoming part of the government, compromising with the dominant Capitalism by means of governmental coercion. Their activity becomes more intensely that of a caste, a caste that is trying to acquire status by the hocus pocus of claiming to represent the working class. [3] The unions of skilled labor traffic in the requirement of Imperialism for a docile working class, and secure concessions by bartering away their independence and the interests of the unorganized and the unskilled. One of the reasons why State Capitalism grants a measure of recognition to the unions of the aristocracy of labor is for the purpose of using them to maintain the unskilled and the unorganized in subjection. The cleavage between the skilled and the unskilled widens.

The procedure adopted by the unions of skilled labor to secure recognition as a caste in the governing system of things is determined by circumstances; – in Germany and France by using the Socialist organizations; in the United States by bringing pressure upon the government through the political party representatives of Capitalism; in England, Australia and New Zealand by means of a labor party.

The characteristics and purposes of skilled labor jifind their clearest expression in Laborism. Having secured political power, Laborism becomes more than a force for securing skilled labor a place in the governing system of things; it becomes the bulwark of that system, around which rally the interests of the small bourgeoisie and the new middle class, and consequently of dominant Capitalism in its imperialistic activity. When the war broke, the Australian Labor Party was in power [4], with almost complete control of the federal and local governments. Australia immediately sent contingent after contingent of troops to “fight for liberty” in Europe; and one of the first of these contingents was used to “fight for liberty” by maintaining British rule in Egypt. With but half the population Australia provided nearly as many troops as Canada; the officials of the Labor Party gave their heartiest support and encouragement to the war and British Imperialism, proving in this respect much more zealous than the bourgeois government of Canada. The militarist, imperialist and protectionist interests of Australia are in the ascendant. Laborism directly and actively promoted the interests of Imperialism.

The policy of laborism in England has been equally: reactionary. It used the war to conserve the status of the unions as a caste; it bartered away its integrity for a place in the governing system of things, and secured the place. The strikes in England during the war were generally either a revolt against the policy of Laborism or an expression of the unskilled; and where the unions of skilled labor waged strikes it was to protect its status as a caste and to maintain the unskilled and the unorganized in subjection. In its policy on war and peace the British Labor Party promoted the interests of Imperialism, justified and manufactured an ideology for the war, and became the last bulwark of defense of British Imperialism. It played fast and loose with terms of peace, and perpetrated the outrageous fraud of pretending to have declared its solidarity with revolutionary proletarian Russia, when as a matter of fact its whole program was a negation of the declarations of revolutionary Russia. In January 1918, the Labor Party opened its doors to “workers of the brain,” thereby completing and emphasizing its character as a party of skilled labor, the small bourgeoisie and the new middle class, uniting to promote their interests through State Capitalism. The government of Lloyd George more and more had to depend upon British Laborism to promote the war, and the attitude of the Labor Party, as much as the attitude of the dominant Socialism and trades unions in Germany, directly discouraged and prevented revolutionary action of the great mass of the workers. There was an abandonment of the general interests of the proletariat. Laborism in England airectly and actively promoted social-Imperialism.

In this country, the American Federation of Labor pursued a policy similar to that of the trades unions in England, France and Germany. It declared for the war, and the officials of many of its affiiliated unions became even more rampantly patriotic than the National Security League. It did not even flaunt the colors of the liberal bourgeoisie, but adopted an unrelenting and reactionary attitude on the war. The national bureaucracy of the AF of L acquiesced in proposals by which the workers could be cajoled from striking during the war. Gompers acted as the office boy, not of the “liberal” elements of American Capitalism, but of its most reactionary representatives. Indeed, the AF of L policy was even too reactionary for the British Labor Party and the French unions, the representatives of which vainly tried to convince Gompers and the “American Labor Mission” of the reactionary character of their attitude. Moreover, Gompers and his bureaucracy did not even show the low intelligence of British labor leaders in their dealings with the government. The British Labor Party as payment for its support of the war secured a recognized place in the government, and became a direct factor in the management of things; but the AF of L bartered away its independence and integrity and received no mess of pottage as payment. The policyof laborism results from the concept that the interests of labordepend upon the interests of capital. Where these interests clash it is assumed as being more or less accidental and incidental; their identity of interest is still the dominant factor. As the struggles between groups in the capitalist class, often severe and bitter, do not destroy their fundamental identity of interests, so the struggle between labor and capital, according to the theory of Laborism, does not alter their identity of interest. The unions are careful that their struggles shall in no way menace Capitalism itself. The employer may be fought, but his power must not be menaced. On the field of international action, this policy is expressed in backing up the capitalist class in its projects of imperialistic expansion and wars. If our Capitalism is weakened by defeat, reasons Laborism, the unions will suffer through unemployment, longer hours and lower wages; and, therefore, Laborism promotes the interests of imperialistic Capitalism. Nationally, the policy of Laborism concerns itself simply with the interests of skilled labor and ignores the bulk of the workers, Internationally, its policy promotes the narrow interests of a nation to the exclusion of general proletarian revolutionary interests. Nationally and internationally, accordingly, Laborism betrays the cause of the proletariat. [5]

An essential characteristic of Laborism in power is that it uses the power of the state to suppress ruthlessly the strikes of the unorganized and the unskilled. But this procedure is an inevitable consequence of the psychology and status of Laborism, which is non-proletarian and has “grown into” the existing system. The industrial proletariat of unskilled labor threatens this system, and Laborism uses all its power of repression against this revolutionary class. All non-proletarian elements coalesce into one general reactionary mass against the unskilled. Laborism in action proves conclusively its non-proletarian character, and strengthens the consciousness of the unskilled, who decide upon independent action. The cleavage widens between the non-proletarian and proletarian elements among the workers, and it is the task of Socialism to intensify and organize this cleavage by arousing the independent action and emphasizing the revolutionary character of the industrial proletariat of unskilled labor – the carrier of the Social Revolution. [6]


The process of concentration in industry expropriates the skill of the skilled worker by standardizing labor through the perfection of machinery. But this fact, as in the case of the small bourgeoisie, makes skilled labor even more reactionary. The unions try to maintain the prestige of their craft skill by means of their organizations, through political action, and by bringing the unskilled under their subjection. Attempts are made by the unions to organize the unskilled, but the purpose is simply to maintain the power of the crafts. The ideology of property, which is the ideology of the small bourgeoisie, continues to dominate the minds of the skilled after their “property” has been expropriated by the machine process. This ideology, in the first place, prevents the unions from generally organizing the unskilled; and, in the second place, injuriously affects those unskilled that come under the domination of the unions. Unions composed essentially of the unskilled proletariat, such as the United Mine Workers, are seduced into reaction by their affiliation with the AF of L; the bureaucracy of these unions becomes a typical craft union bureaucracy, and time and again have the mine workers been betrayed by their own officials. The unskilled ire organized, where they are organized by the AF of L, simply to protect the crafts from the ravages of the machine industry. [7] The members of craft unions have repeatedly scabbed during strikes of the unskilled in the past, when their’s was the power; today, the unions make perfunctory efforts to organize for their own interests the unskilled to whom is passing the actual power in industry.

This circumstance of power is determinant. The unskilled proletariat is the typical product of modern Capitalism and controls the basic industries. This proletarian class controls equally the destiny of Capitalism and of skilled labor. The mining industry and the steel industry are domuiated by the unskilled; and, except in a few cases, as for example the locomotive engineers, this is equally true of the railway industry and of transportation generally.

What are the characteristics of the proletariat of average unskilled labor? The unskilled proletariat is the industrial proletariat of standardized machine industry. An unskilled proletarian is not necessarily and always simply a worker who has no skill. The Mexican peon, the “coolie” of China, may have no skill or craft, but he is not an unskilled proletarian in the sociological sense. The unskilled proletariat is a machine proletariat. As Capitalism develops, the industrial process is standardized, the labor specialized. The perfection of machinery expropriates the skilled worker of his skill, as such, makes him simply a machine-minder, or drives him into minor industries where technological development lags; individual skill becomes of no importance except for a small group, and what slight aptitude may be necessary can be acquired in a few days or weeks. The worker becomes an appendage of the machine; it is no longer a skilled worker that uses the machine, but the machine uses an unskilled worker. Labor becomes average labor, standardized and specialized as an automatic factor in the machine process. The machine subjects the worker to its process; the procedure becomes mechanical, the organization systematic and standardized; standardization eliminates skill, craftsmanship, intelligence and individuality; the worker no longer has the skill of a craft: he has simply labor power, hands and muscle, and the eyes that direct these hands and muscle. A new skilled labor is created, the very small minority of engineers, superintendents, and technicians generally. The efficiency movement climaxes this development: its exponents are concerned not in the skill of the workers, but in the regularity and standardization of their movements. The proletariat becomes in fact a machine proletariat. [8]

The machine process dominates not a single factory or industry, but the whole of industry, integrating and standardizing the industrial system. Industry correlates itself, and if it ceases functioning at one point, the whole system feels the shock. The concentration of capital and the machine process operate jointly to unify the industrial system, in which common labor controls the working activity. Thus, while the machine process strips the worker of all skill, it simultaneously creates and places in his hands an immense power, the power of at any moment dislocating the process of production through the mass action of any considerable group of proletarians. The strikes of the unskilled unconsciously but inevitably assume the large proportions of mass revolts, including scores of thousands of workers, where the strikes of the crafts seldom did; it is easy to replace a few thousand workers at their jobs, but it is much more difficult to replace twenty or one hundred thousand. The proletariat instinctively adjusts itself to this fact.

The machine process makes a homogeneous mass out of the heterogeneous racial and religious elements; the machine process subjects the diversity of these workers to a common discipline, a common suffering, a common ideology. “By and large,” says Veblen, “the technology of the machine process is a technology of action by contact.” Action by contact! This technological fact permeates the consciousness of the unskilled workers, subtly inculcates them with the ideal of solidarity of action. The outstanding fact in the revolts of the unskilled is that they exhibit a remarkable degree of solidarity and assume revolutionary proportions and expression. The great industrial revolts of the past twenty years in this country have been revolts of the unskilled, revolts that coalesced around revolutionary organizations and activity. While the skilled were bargaining, the unskilled were fighting. Moreover, the strikes of the unskilled have been remarkably free from violence, while the craft unions have repeatedly indulged in that individual and secret violence which is characteristic of groups beaten in the social struggle. The machine process impresses upon the minds of the unskilled the value of force, of control of the industrial process, of solidarity in action; and these circumstances inevitably discourage sporadic acts of individual violence. It is the great fact and hope of the machine proletariat that, during the great strikes of the unskilled, in which men and women speaking dozens of languages participated, there was no violence on their part, no hysteria of despair, but there was determination, solidarity, the aggressive spirit of the revolution in action. The proletarian revolution is not fostered byviolence, but it makes use of industrial power and organized force.

But the machine process does not simply organize the proletariat through the mechanism of production itself; it simultaneously creates a new ideology among the workers. The skilled worker thinks in terms of craft, of the individual and his property; the unskilled proletariat thinks in terms of the mass, of power, and of the control of the machine process. The skilled cling to craft strikes, the unskilled turn to mass action. All the facts, all the indications prove that the action of the unskilled industrial proletariat inevitably proceeds along general and revolutionary lines, that it is a revolutionary class. [9]

The proletariat of unskilled labor is a pariah; it has no part in the existing system, except that of a beast of burden. Its pariah position and the domination of the machine process in its ideology separate it from the rest of the community. The proletariat is out of touch with the pernicious upper class ideas that contaminate skilled labor; and the great danger is that the unions of the “aristocracy of labor” may for a time impress these ideas upon a portion of the unskilled, although the machine process itself prevents this from being permanent. All the circumstances, all the conditions, all the thoughts of this industrial proletariat place it against the existing system; its control of industry gives it the power of overthrowing that system. All other classes are arrayed against this machine proletariat, even the skilled portions of the working class. They all have contempt for this proletariat of unskilled labor; its strikes are betrayed by the skilled and crushed by the violence of the state. The unskilled proletarian has no rights except what he can conquer by his own power; he trusts no one but himself. The conditions of imperialistic Capitalism, with its merging of upper class interests into a general reactionary mass, including the aristocracy of labor, intensifies the brutality against the unskilled and the contempt in which they are held. The unskilled proletarian is determined by his very existence against the ruling system of things. Bourgeois morals, bourgeois law, bourgeois rights, are things with which he comes in contact only when they are used to oppress him,tocheat him, to drive him back to work as a slave. Is it any wonder, then, that when the unskilled proletariat acts it acts in a revolutionary way that shakes the whole social fabric? [10]

The ideology of the machine process is a vital factor in the discussion of the problems of a revolutionary class. Such a class must not only be economically in antagonism to the ruling class, it must equally develop an ideological antagonism. This ideological antagonism cannot be created simply by propaganda; it must spring out of the material conditions of the class litself. Skilled labor, after all, is a survival of the era of handicraft, and its ideology cannot be typical of the modern revolutionary class. Moreover, the attachment of the craft unionist to the property vested in his skill creates a property ideology, an ideology that psychologically affiliates skilled labor with the small bourgeoisie. Skilled labor, accordingly, cannot as yet think and act in terms of the revolution; it thinks and acts in terms of the bourgeois system of things.

It is clear, of course, that the interests of skilled labor could more advantageously be promoted by revolutionary struggle. But this requires forward vision, which skilled labor cannot develop until it emancipates itself from the psychological domination of the small bourgeoisie; and this emancipation can be achieved only by the pressure of revolutionary events from below through the action of the unskilled proletariat; only by a Socialism that, based upon the industrial proletariat of average labor, wages an uncompromising struggle against the whole Capitalist regime. Skilled labor, or what remnants of it may remain, will become a factor in the revolution only when it is compelled to align itself with and recognize the power of the great industrial proletariat. But this is not yet. Subtly, in a hundred and one ways, the craft unionist absorbs the ideology of the bourgeois order. He sees his equal, not in the common proletarian, but in the man of property. All the ideals, all the hypocrisy, all the pettiness of soul of the existing order eat away at the psychological vitals of the skilled worker. It is different with the unskilled. The material conditions and ideology of the Proletarian class unite to produce a revolutionary expression; not because it is consciously revolutionary, but because its social position drives it on toward revolutionary action as the only immediate as well as ultimate way out of its misery. The machine process is typical of modern conditions and it alone can determine a revolutionary consciousness. If the machine process affects the whole culture of our day, including science, as Veblen shows, how much more compelling must its influence be upon the minds of the men and women actually engaged in this process! The machine process creates an economic antagonism to the existing order among the proletarians; it equally creates that ideological antagonism without which a revolutionary class cannot fulfill its historic mission.

This curcumstance of ideology is an important factor, the importance of which has been slighted in Socialist propaganda. [11] A revolution does not spring simply out of material conditions, but out of an ideology corresponding to these material conditions. The material conditions provide the objective forces necessary for a revolution; but this must be supplemented by the subjective force of revolutionary intensity, of an ideology that is completely alien to the ruling ideiology of the nation. This ideology is not created by the revolution itself, but precedes the revolution and becomes a factor in bringing the revolution; and it is indispensable for the Socialist in theory and in practise to adapt himself to this ideology. Of course, the dominant Socialism has an ideology of its own, but it is an expression of the modes of thought of skilled labor and the small bourgeoise; no effort has been made to study and express the ideology of the basic industrial proletariat.

This new ideology finds vivid and concrete expression in the solidarity concept animating the action of the unskilled proletariat. Solidarity is a concept alien to the consciousness of the craft unionist, whose material existence creates the psychology of laissez faire, of being interested in his own craft interests alone. The skilled crafts usually scab upon each other; the unskilled workers, seldom. The really vital manifestations of solidarity in the American labor movement have been dominantly the expression of unskilled labor in action. In the fury produced by the betrayals of skilled labor, the unskilled occasionally scab upon the craft unions, at first; but so strong is their consciousness of solidarity that this is the exception, and not the rule. Repeatedly have the unskilled rallied to the support of the skilled during strikes; and repeatedly have they been betrayed in the settlement. An important expression of craft unionism is organized scabbery. The craft interests split the unions; the identity of occupation an conditions unites the unskilled. Instinctively, they sense in solidarity their great offensive and defensive weapon. Even the unskilled proletarians not continuously in contact with the machine process express a fine sense of solidarity, such is the compelling influence of their pariah conditions. Moreover, recent labor history shows that the only international solidarity of labor in action has been an expression of the unskilled industrial proletariat. The material conditions of the machine process are producing a proletariat with a sense of class solidarity without which there cannot be a Social Revolution.

As the machine process develops in scope, skilled labor comes under its influence; more and more the lachine process presses the skilled down to the level of the unskilled proletariat. But this development is not sufficient to make, ideologically, a proletarian out of the skilled worker; it makes the skilled use the proletariat to artificially bolster up his declining prestige. It is the action of the unskilled proletariat from below that will dominate the skilled workers up above. There develops, moreover, an unskilled opposition within the unions, and the struggle becomes bitter; it is the unity of this unskilled opposition in the unions with the unorganized unskilled out of which will be forged a revolutionary labor movement, and this movement will sooner or later revolutionize the whole labor struggle. [12]

The machine proletariat of average unskilled labor constitutes the typical proletariat in the Marxian sense; it includes increasingly the overwhelming bulk of the workers, and it alone is a revolutionary class? This proletariat must constitute the material basis of Socialism. It must be awakened to consciousness and independence of action; it must be rescued from a complete or partial domination by the craft unions; it must become the driving force of Socialist propaganda and activity. On the basis of a reorganization that expresses this revolutionary class and its industrial power, Socialism alone can adopt a revolutionary attitude toward all other problems.

The class struggle, is a struggle for power. The class struggle itself is a form of war, social war, and class power decides the issue. The power of the feudal nobility lay in land; that of the bourgeoisie in money, capital; the power of the proletariat lies in its mass, in its control of production. This control makes the proletariat a revolutionary class, and determines the conditions of its struggle and social supremacy. Only this power can “put a bone” in Socialism, only this power can prevent Socialism losing itself in the clouds of Utopia or in the quagmires of reaction. The struggle is a struggle for power; the readjustment of Socialism is the organization and expression of the actual revolutionary class in modern society. This class is the proletarian class, the mass of unskilled labor dominating zhe industrial process of concentrated Capitalism in the new imperialistic epoch. This class emerges to consciousness, throws off equally the domination of skilled labor and the small bourgeoisie, and organizes its power for the overthrow of Capitalism. Revolutionary Socialism is the expression and synthesis of this development.


1. Democracy and Organization, by H. Laufenberg and Fritz Wolfheim.

2. A labor union is not necessarily a part of the proletarian class struggle. Not if the members aim only at immediate advantages, perhaps even at the cost of other groups of workers. – Democracy and Organization, by H. Laufenberg and Fritz Wolfheim.

3. The Rt. Hon. G.N. Barnes. Laborite Member of the British War Cabinet, said in an interview in November, 1917: “There are two main things which account for the [labor] unrest. One is the question of status and the other the question of wages. Of these two, the chief, to my mind, is the first.”

4. The Australian Labor Government recently sent over its labor Prime Minister to England to represent its interests and as another pledge of loyalty to the Empire. The utterances of “Labor Premier” William Morris Hughes, who started his career as a particularly “revolutionary” labor leader, have met with delighted applause from the imperialistic British press, which is featuring his utterances on “organizing the Empire.” Mr. Hughes was active in the Paris Trade Conference of the Allies, which met to determine ways and means of an economic war against Germany after the military war is over. He expressed himself se favoring: “A joint tax system which will establish minimum rates among the Allies and their colonies, reasonable rates for neutrals, and strong discrimination against all dealings with hostile countries.” A federated empire, with a centralized War Department, aggressive militarism and Imperialism, were other British aims formulated by Mr. Hughes ... But is there any real difference between Australian Laborism and English Laborism? Superficially, yes; actually no. The apparent differences flow from the circumstance that Laborism is in power in Australia and is a negligible governmental force in England. Laborism, whether in Australia or in England, starts from the same premise : working within the bounds of the national organization, and maintaining the unity of the empire. It may be remembered that Keir Hardie refused granting independence to India. – Louis C. Fraina, “Laborism and Imperialism in Australia,” in the New Review, June 1916. The Labor Party repudiated the excesses of its Prime Minister and other officials, but did not fundamentally alter its policy; incidentally, it may be mentioned that even ordinary bourgeois liberals disapproved of Mr. Hughes’ excesses. Prime Minister Hughes and other “Labor” officials formed a coalition with the bourgeois representatives, while the Labor Party was strongly influenced by radical currents of thought and action generated by the industrial proletariat.

5. This ideology is the ideology of Socialism wherever its councils are dominated by skilled labor. Wolfgang Heine represented this “Socialist Laborism” when in a speech on February 22, 1915, he said: “Our working people live from industry. Especially from export trade. If this is destroyed, the worker will be more damaged than the employer. The capitalist can take his money away and put it in other undertakings, even abroad. The worker, if he has no more work, is ruined. It has been taid, ‘What difference does it make whether the worker has any longer a living in Germany? He emigrates and expends his labor power elsewhere.’ That is no longer such a simple affair, and our German working people are too good to serve as fertilizer for foreign civilization. In spite of all conflicts with the present state, the worker it bound to it.”

6. In New Zealand, the Labor Party repeatedly betrayed the unskilled, and these betrayals finally resulted in the formation of a new proletarian party, the Social Democratic Party. Five years ago the United Federation of Labor, which practically adopted the IWW preamble, prepared for a general strike, relying chiefly upon seamen, dock laborers and miners. The strike was betrayed by skilled labor, which deserted. Moreover, the United Labor Party issued a manifesto against the strike, and this betrayal was one of the chief causes of the strike’s failure. Skilled labor, its unions and its party, joined hands with the employers and strikebreakers.

7. Briefly, the organization of the unskilled is not compatible with the AF of L, for the reason that the latter in its essentials is a federation of individual crafts, whereas the unskilled cannot by any means be so classed ... The consciousness that they [the unskilled] cannot achieve their solidarity with the American Federation of Labor is one of the chief reasons why they do not join the United Laborers’ Locals which have been instituted in their special behalf. They know that there is no identity of interest between themselves and the craft organizations; that the latter will use them when it is convenient to do so, otherwise they will repudiate them or will refuse to make any effort to help them gain better conditions. – Austin Lewis, Organization of the Unskilled, in the New Review, November, 1913.

8. The share of the operative workman in the machine industry is typically that of an attendant, an assistant, whose duty it is to keep pace with the machine process and to help out with workmanlike manipulation at points where the machine process engaged is incomplete. His work supplements the machine process, rather than makes use of it. On the contrary, the machine process makes use of the workman. The ideal mechanical contrivance is the automatic machine. Perfection in the machine technology is attained in the degree in which the given process can dispense with manual labor; whereas perfection in the handicraft system means perfection of manual workmanship. It is the part of the workman to know the working of the mechanism in which he is associated and to adapt his movements with mechanical accuracy to its requirements. – Thorstein Veblen, The Instinct of Workmanship.

9. This great fact was proven and emphasized during the proletarian revolution in Russia. The moderate socialists, the Mensheviki, representing the dominant Socialism, largely expressed skilled labor and the small Bourgeoisie; while the great strength of the Bolsheviki lay in their influence among the industrial workers, the unskilled proletariat. The railway unions, dominated officially by the skilled workers, acted in favor of the revolution to overthrow Czarism, but they acted against the proletarian revolution as expressed in the Bolshevist movement; and when the revolutionary proletarian government dissolved the Constituent Assembly, because it was counter-revolutionary, representative of the bourgeois democracy of all the classes and an expression of the parliamentary system that the revolution must necessarily annihilate, the railway unions opposed the Bolsheviki and supported the Constituent Assembly. The Social. Revolution can be carried through only by the industrial proletariat of unskilled labor, in spite of and acting against all the ideas and activity of all other social groups. The circumstance that individuals, even if in considerable numbers, may migrate from one class to another, does not alter the character or interests of the classes.

10. The machine process tends to widen the gulf between the possessing and the revolutionary classes ... The proletariat, or at least that nucleus of it Which we have pointed out as being engaged in the machine process, actually does tend to become more and more revolutionary, that is, to take up a continually more iconoclastic attitude to the natural rights theories. – Austin Lewis, The Militant Proletariat.

11. The vital thing to us as men of action, as seers of a new vision of life, is to analyze and interpret the psychological reaction of the workers to their conditions of existence; the emotional temper produced by machine industry, the new type of mind, of men, of outlook upon life being developed ... The literature of Socialism abounds with phrases concerning “proletarian psychology,” and ‘’proletarian modes of thought.” But these terms are simply convenient phrases with no concrete meaning. This literature deals thoroughly and magnificently with the material conditions determining the consciousness of men; but scarcely an effort is being made to analyze that consciousness itself, particularly the changes wrought therein by the changing social existence. The philosophical system of Marx recognizes the immense power of psychological factors in history. Maix stressed the importance of human effort and the human factor. In his Poverty of Philosophy Marx scored Proudhon for not understanding that “social relations are as much produced by men as are the cloth, linen, etc. ... The same men who establish social relations in conformity with their material productivity, produce also the principles, the ideals, the categories conformably with their social relations.” In the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte: “Man makes his own history.” In one of his fragmentary notes on Feuerbach, Marx indicates the dynamic role of the individual in the revolution: “The materialistic doctrine that men are the products of conditions and education, different men, therefore, the products of other conditions and changed education, forgets that circumstances may be altered by men, and that the educator has himself to be educated.” The importance Marx attached to the human factor emphasizes itself in Capital: “By thus acting on the external world and changing it he [man] at the same time changes his own nature. He develops his slumbering powers, and compels them to act in obsdience to his own sway.” Man changes his own nature. Are not these changes as important as, perhaps more important than, the social conditions producing these changes? ... The value of psychology is greater than the simple analysis of social problems. As social conditions are transformed, men are transformed; and the supreme utility of psychology lies in the analysis of the transformation in the nature of man ... Economics has given us a vision of the new society; psychology will give us a vision of the new humanity. – Louis C. Fraina, Socialism and Psychology, in The New Review, May 1, 1915.

12. During this struggle, the question of industrial union organization crops up in the unions, and ends in a miserable compromise in the form of “amalgamation.” Moreover, the “industrial” form is adopted only if the skilled crafts can maintain the unskilled in subjection. At the 1914 Congress of German Labor Unions, the executive committee reported: “Labor Union development is undeniably in the direction of the amalgamation of organizations into great and powerful unions, and technical evolution more than ever requires the entrance of helpers and unskilled into the trade and industrial unions to which they are eligible.” The Factory Workers’ Union, composed of unskilled machine workers, proposed the following amendment: “And also the entrance of skilled workers in the unions of the unskilled for which they are eligible.” The amendment was defeated, and the executive committee’s recommendation of an arbitration court was adopted. The factory workers thereupon made a statement re-affirming their claim to the skilled workers in establishments under their control and called the proposed court a “compulsory arbitration court.” The transport workers and unskilled workers generally manifested a decidedly oppositional tendency. In the existing unions the unskilled are a minority, and it is only by contact with the unorganised unskilled that they can dominate the industrial situation.


Last updated on 14.10.2007