Austin Lewis

The California Situation

(April 1911)


Source: From International Socialist Review, Vol. 11 No. 10, April 1911, p. 614.
Transcription: Matthew Siegfried.
HTML mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists Internet Archive (2022).
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2022). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


MANY thanks from many comrades in California, including myself, for your editorial on the statements of Max Hayes in this month’s Review. As a matter of fact, the movement in California is now in a most dangerous condition. Things have progressed so far that the “impossibilist” position is being actually worked out with a curious directness and clearness such as has not been seen in any other place, unless perhaps France. The war between the greater and smaller capital ism with the present electoral triumph of the latter, has resulted in exactly what we always maintained would be the case. The smaller capitalism coming into power finds itself passing a whole series of legislative enactments aimed at giving it a purchase with which to meet the attacks of the corporation machines. Primary election laws, which destroy the validity of party organization, the initiative, the referendum, and the recall which will possibly be applied even to the courts, are all on the way, female enfranchisement and pretty nearly everything of that kind which was a dream ten years ago are coming into being before our eyes, but the greater capitalism is hiding its time. It is maintaining no lobby this year as it does not know whether a legislative lobby is worth the expense. It knows perfectly well that the smaller capitalism can effect no real changes and it relies, and with perfect safety, on its economic position to right the craft if it seems in any danger of a real upset.

Under these circumstances when above all it is necessary for the movement to maintain its strategic position, we get the most idiotic and futile meddling with affairs. A socialist lobby has been established at Sacramento and our embryonic statesmen, with an itch for distinction, are putting their messy fingers in the bourgeois political pie.

Not content with this, they are anxious to drag the Socialist party into the mire of pure and simple trade union political action. The record of San Francisco official unionism is to be endorsed by the Socialists if the opportunist group has its way and the movement is to be turned over, body and breeches, to the men who have always treated it with disdain and have no greater conception of the industrial conflict than a Square Deal between capital and labor. In other words, the Socialist movement is politically to be made subservient to the wishes of union officials. The rank and file are rapidly outgrowing this official attitude. In fact, in Oakland union after union has turned down the proposals of the union leaders and has voted for the straight Socialist ticket independent of any compromise.

This is not the place to enter upon a description of just what the labor party has made itself responsible for in San Francisco and indeed one cannot very well tell the truth about the matter in print without causing animosities and stirring up strife which need not be aroused. As a matter of fact, the whole structure of pure and simple trades unionism is rapidly disintegrating. Someday the push will come which will show its absolute and utter weakness. It is a dying manifestation and if the Socialist party ties itself to that movement and the political expression of that movement, it ties itself to a diseased and dying thing and will itself perish along with its companion.

Such an alliance will lose the Socialist party and indeed the Socialist political movement the adherence of the vast mass of the rank and file in the unions themselves.

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Last updated on 11 June 2022