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The Socialist Party and Unemployment

(August 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 32 (Whole No. 128), 6 August 1932, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Socialist party has written in some forty planks into its election program. Its promises run all the way from the abolition of child labor to “planned production and social control”. The Socialist party is the party of gradualness. According to this conception they expect to gain all their demands, excluding the very last one, and then the capitalist system will have been so greatly reformed, that its abolition will be a mere triviality. In this, the Hillquits claim, resides the “realism” of their program as opposed to the ‘”fanaticism” of the Communists. But the very “realistic” German social democracy, the blood relations of the party of Thomas, Oneal and Lee have pursued their realistic program to the very end. And where has it led them? Into the camp of the road makers for Hitler’s brown shirted hordes.

The S.P. Program

The Socialist party has a “bold” program on unemployment. They advocate social insurance, the six hour day – five day week, as measures to relieve the suffering of the jobless. And they say further that the curse of unemployment is due to the capitalist system and will not be eradicated until the system itself is done away with. The economic crisis works wonders on the physiognomy of political parties. It gives the democratic party marks of resemblance to the socialist party, and makes the socialist party look somewhat like the Communists. But this is more apparent than real. All these parties have their specific place and specific function. The Communist party is the party of the working class, of the proletarian revolution. The socialist party is the third capitalist party which the bosses call upon when their old standbys have proven unequal to the task. This is easily proven, not by the radical-sounding words in their platform – the treacherous leader’s of the S.P. are past masters at this trade – but by their deeds which always hurl the lie right back into their very glib mouths.

How are the unemployed to attain social insurance, and the shorter work week, according to the S.P.? By struggle? By mass action to force the capitalist class to grant them these burning necessities? No, heavens no! That’s a Bolshevik method, and we Americans disdain to use imported Russian tactics. We stand by the constitution of the U.S., vote for us, and you, the workers, will get everything that your heart desires. Thus the Socialist party throughout its history – in place of action, the holy paper of the ballot box. This, in itself, constitutes outright treason to the working class. It is a trick to lull the workers into satisfied slumber all year round and to rely solely upon the franchise on election day.

When, in the history of the labor movement in this or any country, has the capitalist class granted the workers one single thing except where they have been forced into it by mass pressure? The ballot box did not get even one iota of consideration. Why, the very right to vote for the expropriated masses was achieved through the force of working class power. The eight hour day was not attained by voting one party in and another out. The struggles that finally secured the eight hour day for the American workers (one of the brightest pages in U.S. labor history) constitute the greatest denial of this fake teaching.

Meaning of Ballot Box

The capitalist class well understands the significance of the ballot box. Votes are a clue to the strength of a party, but they do not indicate that the voters are anything else but a discontented, passive mass. It is strikes, demonstrations and huge movements that make the capitalist class sit up and take notice. The S.P. fears to embark upon this course. Thus, as an avowed party of reform, it can never gain any reforms at all.

But, if one wants further proof as to the real meaning of the promise of the S.P. for unemployment insurance and relief, he has only to look to Europe. There the Socialist parties have already had the honor to serve the bourgeoisie, in governmental capacity.

In Great Britain the last act of the late “labor” government is indicative of this fact. Faced by a growing deficit in the budget, the McDonald-Henderson cabinet decided to save the capitalists from bankruptcy. How? By eliminating the allowance to the parasitic royal family? Oh, no! The Labour party leaders are the ’umble servants of his Majesty George V. No, their method was to place this burden on the shoulder of the proletariat, by cutting their already paltry dole.

We have even a more glaring instance in Germany. There the criminal leaders of the German S.D., on pretext that Bruening was preventing the advent of Fascism slashed the unemployment insurance several times, in the notorious emergency decrees. Thomas is shouting aloud about Fascism being prepared for America today. This is laughable. But the workers can rest assured that when Fascism actually threatens, he will bow his knee before the American Bruening.

But the Socialist party says that capitalism is the cause of unemployment. They propose the abolition of the system – by the ballot box. No forcible confiscation of property – they promise to the fearful petty bourgeoisie. When will they “abolish” the capitalist system?!

Only when they get a parliamentary majority. The nearest the S.P. will get to this “revolutionary” act is to hold the reins of government for the bosses. Today they are already in the saddle in the city of Milwaukee. The same evictions and police terror against the unemployed reigns in Milwaukee as in any city controlled by the Democratic and the Republican parties. This is a signpost for the future. If the Republican and Democratic parties are outspoken representatives of Wall St., the Socialist party is its concealed, demagogic, radical-tongued servitor. And as such it is all the more dangerous to the working class in its struggle for emancipation. A vote for the Communist party is an indication that you are aware of the heinous role of the S.P.

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