Mary E. Marcy

A Revolutionary Party

(5 September 1919)

Published in Truth (Duluth), Vol. 3 No. 35, September 5, 1919. [1]
Copied with thanks from the Revolution’s Newsstand Website.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

We American revolutionary socialists are in process of finding ourselves and some of us have a long way to go.

One Left Wing group imagines and teaches, by inference, if not by design, that revolution is a project, a plan, and this group has issued blue prints of the coming change and promises of what it means to do during the transition and after, even going so far as to guarantee the profits of small investors. This group adopted wholesale the program of our splendid Russian comrades – even to their recognized mistakes, and to the compromises the Russian Soviets have sometimes been forced to make during a period of chaos, in order to expedite the processes of production and secure food and clothing for a desperate and hungry people.

These of us are not going to be guided by events and circumstances and requirements and necessities: we are going, to make our plans and stick to them though the heavens fall! We are already compromising with the petty bourgeoisie when we may never be forced into this extremity. We are promising things we can never perform.

Another group which formerly called itself a part of the Left Wing, seems to be so enamored with Its own narrow, incorrect interpretation of political action that it seems about to cut off those branches of this form of activity which are counted most essential in the Left Wing program of Europe. Of late several writers in this group have been denouncing mass action, under the mistaken idea that we can get nowhere by following the working class and in the evident belief that leaders alone will be able to guide the workers into the New Society. They forget that Lenine and Trotzky followed the Russian workers, straight into the revolution.

This group is not advocating the election of socialists on reform platforms, but it evidently does intend to overthrow capitalism by one grand political coup. Since they disapprove of mass action, they must mean by the election of socialists to office.

This group, which is tolerably well-informed of the writings of Marx, has forgotten that Marx declared he would give all the theories in the world for ACTION by the working class, and that Marx organized the Workers’ International, an economic, rather than a political organization.

Some of the comrades in this group are discouraging strikes and telling the workers that all strikes are failures. Covertly, they are disparaging all forms of unionism. seem to forget that men learn by doing instead of by theorizing; that the Great Man Theory of making history belongs to a by-gone period, and that strikes are the best schools on earth for developing class consciousness, class loyalty, class power, class fighting spirit.

They forget that Necessity is today treading so closely upon the toes of all workingmen that workers HAVE TO BE ETERNALLY FIGHTING to keep pace with the rising cost of living. The workers HAVE TO FIGHT on the industrial field, with their fellows, or acquire deadly habits of-slavish submission under which they would sink lower and lower into utter degradation and despair. The only alternative such a worker would have would be the performance of some rash individualistic act that would lodge him in jail.

A great opportunity is before us revolutionary socialists today. We ought all to be in the very heart of every industrial fight, helping the worker and showing him that while higher wages will help him to keep pace with the rising cost of living, the cost of living is going to continue to go up.

We should show him that the only real hope for the working class is in the abolition of the wages system. We ought to be able to sum up our platform in this theme;

“Abolition of the Wages System!”

And if we are to qualify that phrase in any way we ought to add:

“By the working class; using political action, which includes mass action, and revolutionary unionism.”

Many and many a page of perfectly good, clean paper has been spoiled during the last few weeks by groups calling themselves revolutionary socialists berating the I.W.W. because that organization refuses to endorse political action, whereas a well-known group, formerly in the S.P., has itself repudiated political action as defined by the Socialist Party of America in recent years.

The I.W.W. is a revolutionary industrial union aiming to abolish the wages system. It is the chief organization in this country today that is fighting, organizing and educating ON THE JOB. No intelligent person who knows anything about the I.W.W. imagines, for a moment, that its members would, in a time of revolution, permit any group of capitalist thugs, gunmen or bandits to go about killing workingmen, or robbing the workers of their products, without organizing to prevent these things – had any other outrages against the working class. The I.W.W. is so busy waging the class war on the job that it has not laid out any specified plans for next year. But no organization that fails to adapt itself to the need of the times can possibly endure, and the I.W.W, intends to stay in the game.

If, instead of denouncing the only revolutionary movement that is actually making inroads in industry, we would learn what political action really is, and tell our friends what it is; if, instead of petty criticizing, we were to back up this fighting organization and show it that an army is the force that makes the State something besides a few words, or laws written upon pieces of paper; that mass action may be political action and ’that we are all so close together that we ought to present a solid front to the capitalist enemy, we might then develop a movement in this country that would actually move and grow. Every worker is turning toward socialism or industrial unionism today. Why not educate these men and women instead, of confusing them with our own errors?

A fine young Marxian student said a few days ago, when referring to a most exclusive group which called itself a part of the Left Wing movement: “We are going to keep on as we have done if we only have 10,000 members; we mean to be right if only have TEN.”

But a social revolutionist, a would-be builder of the now society, cannot be right If his group numbers only ten. To be right today when financial systems are dissolving before our eyes, when economic systems are being revolutionized and great nations going bankrupt and workers everywhere demanding a new deal, or the abolition of the existing system, to be right at such a time we have to eat and sleep and talk and fight and suffer and learn with the man on the job!

The great European Left Wing revolutionists, some of whom have died in the cause of the workers, knew this. They knew, with Marx, that the emancipation of the workers must be accomplished by the workers; that the working class and not the theoreticians are the makers of history; they knew, as Lenine and Trotzky showed so plainly, that no man, however wise, can actually lead the workers into revolution. They can only help the workers to get what they Want when they begin to fight for it. They can only remove the obstacles from the torrent of blind, desperate revolution and help it sooner to find a safe outlet in the satisfaction of working class needs and desires.

This is precisely the reason our European comrades insisted upon standing for mass action as being the best means for revolution. This is why the socialists or communists of Europe who met at the third International held in Moscow last March emphasized mass action as being most effective in the days of revolution. In the Manifesto of the third International our comrades declare that this is “the era of the collapse of capitalism,” believing, as foreseen by Marx, that capitalism is disintegrating through its own contradictions and that the workers will everywhere be forced into revolution.

The workers never have agreed nor ever can agree on, or plan, a revolution. Revolutions are the results of desperate needs, great economic convulsions and financial collapses. The workers revolt when they have to, and never in the history of the world have they ever revolted before that time.

Today the working class is anxious to hear the message of communism, revolutionary unionism, or whatever it is you have in mind when you speak of the Abolition of the Wage System. Every revolutionist ought to sink himself among a group of wage workers and help organize and educate then, after he is sure he knows what he is talking about himself.

We ought not to discourage strikes because strikes hinder production, help increase the cost of living, because they cause further currency dilution (the printing of more unsecured paper money), as well as because strikes are the great training schools in the class war. The worker who is militant enough to fight loyally in a strike becomes a fighting man. He is going to take part in the Social Revolution. He is going to learn to do some thinking for himself, and it will be difficult for Blind Leaders to mislead him. May the gods deliver us from workers, no matter where they are, who listen to would-be leaders who advise them to sit down supinely during a falling labor market (falling wages) and LIVE on LESS while they are waiting for the revolution!

It is the good fortune of the workers today that they have to keep up a constant fight to catch up with the cost of living. If we only help to force prices up for all commodities, as well as for the commodity labor power, we will see the working class whipped into shape for revolution by everyday events, because it will learn to fight by fighting. Every strike hastens the downfall of capitalism.

Today the Russian Soviets are printing tons upon tons of new unbacked paper money because they know that they are thus, once and for all time, putting capitalism permanently out of business. Rising prices, strikes, rising wages, etc., force the capitalists of every nation into further currency inflation. They force capitalism to dig its own grave.

These are great days and the only way we can actually take part in the great struggle going on is to ally ourselves with the workers in industry whence the great economic revolution is taking place. Small, exclusive groups that get together to mull over Marxian theories, while the facts of are galloping past (precisely in accordance with the Marxian analysis of capitalist society), will be left on their shelves during these stirring limes.

We believe that everyone who calls himself a revolutionist is a strong advocate of education, but if we are to have “education” opposing strikes, mass action and industrial unionism, I am sure we can dispense with such “education” to the advantage of the Class Struggle.

Further, even the very wisest of us does not know quite all there is to learn. We have to learn as we go along; we shall have to adapt ourselves to the rising tide of revolution. We may be sure it will never turn aside to shape itself to our small preferences or desires.

We may as well realize, too, that there are no true blue prints of the revolution and that the great change is not going to be encompassed by an “educated” working class. In the socialist sense. As conditions grow worse and the workers’ fighting spirit increases, I suspect we are going to be amazed to see a lot of good Catholics, and stanch Republicans and hide-bound craft unionists who will be forced to jump right in and fight just as hard and just as well as we Marxians. They may not know exactly what they want or how to get it. They may want to destroy instead of to use, as they did in Russia, and so the more educated workers we have the easier will the transition be for us all.

But the rank and file, The Henry Dubbs, if you please, are going to do what Necessity makes them do, and Necessity is heading them straight for revolution. The more they strike and suffer, and suffer and learn and raise Cain generally, the sooner will the capitalist system progress far enough in the process of disintegration to enable the workers to throw off the burden of wage slavery.

Then will come the big job for wise heads. And if we are in close touch with the working class, if we know the job and the needs of the job and the men on it, if we are trusted by the workers and are OF the workers, then we can more easily help bring order out of chaos and help build the New World. In other words, if we are close enough to the workers we can, with them, shorten the birth-pangs of the New Society.

* * *

Note by MIA

1. A historic document of our movement, this contribution by International Socialist Review editor Mary E. Marcy to the debates tearing the workers movement apart in 1919 was handed out as a flyer to the Socialist Party convention, and associated Communist Party foundings, in Chicago that August. Printed here in her close comrade Jack Carney’s paper, it serves as Marcy’s statement on those forces and her position on the way forward.

Truth emerged from the The Duluth Labor Leader, a weekly English language publication of the Scandinavian local of the Socialist Party in Duluth, Minnesota and began on May Day, 1917 as a Left Wing alternative to the Duluth Labor World. The paper was aligned to both the SP and the IWW leading to the paper being closed down in the first big anti-IWW raids in September, 1917. The paper was reborn as Truth, with the Duluth Scandinavian Socialists joining the Communist Labor Party of America in 1919. Shortly after the editor, Jack Carney, was arrested and convicted of espionage in 1920. Truth continued to publish with a new editor J.O. Bentall until 1923 as an unofficial paper of the CP.

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