Source: The Communist, August 26, 1922.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2009). 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.
To the Editor of THE COMMUNIST.
DEAR SIR,—As a consistent reader of your paper, and until quite recently member of the Communist Party, I would be obliged if you could enlighten me on Communist policy, in relation to your leader on “British Unionism and the American Strike.”
You take exeption to the leader in the Daily Herald which honestly states that “nothing can be done” to help the American miners. This, unfortunately, is the truth, for the following reasons.
There is over eight million tons of coal on railway sidings at the present time, more than can be moved, even at high-pressure in at least two months. That coal has already been cut by union members, and coal that they will be cutting in the next few months may or may not be for use in America, that is a point that the miners are practically unable to ascertain.
The miners have been actually starving for months, and will continue to suffer for some considerable time yet, they want bread for themselves, and their wives and children, and the only way they can get it is by cutting coal, for America or wherever it is wanted.
The coal having been already cut, railwaymen feel, on the one hand, that they should not be asked to bell the cat, and refuse to handle it, and also because they are not aware of its ultimate destination.
The position of the dockers is much the same, except that they do know whether the coal is to be need for the purpose of breaking the American strike. Granted that they do know this they also feel that, coal that has been cut and handled by unionists already, is good enough for them to handle. They also have suffered much from underemployment, and unemployment, and there is also a large surplus of unemployed in their industry who are not class-conscious, and who are hungry.
Those, briefly, are the human, or inhuman facts as far as the rank and file concerned. The next position to face is the officials of the unions. THE COMMUNIST has consistently preached the removal of the present leaders, on several grounds, the main one being that they have not the real working class outlook, and that all they are concerned about is their jobs, their political aggrandisement, and a life as free as possible from strife.
THE COMMUNIST has declared often that these leaders have betrayed their members, and then your leader asks and expects them to “give a clarion call to the miners and transport workers.” If you are honest with yourself, you can answer the question, as to whether they will give such a clarion call. You know that they won’t for all the reasons that you have given, in addition to those I have mentioned.
You claim to be realists, yet knowing these facts to be true, you expect something to be done, when you know that nothing will be done.
THE COMMUNIST has consistently attacked the officials of the unions, not in my opinion, without justice, but I feel that no benefit accrues to the rank and file by continuing in these attacks, without giving constructive and practical alternatives to their policy. No amount of shouting “Long Live the Revolution” will ever bring revolution, no amount of invective used against the present leaders will remove them. It is work that does these things.
A class conscious membership of the unions, led by class-conscious, revolutionary and not reformist leaders could, in twenty-four hours, help the American miners, could stop coal going out of this country, could stop the attack on wages and conditions. You and I both know this, but you also ought to know, out of your own mouth, that a consciousness does not exist. The job clearly for you and I is to speed up our organisation, to wake, up our comrades, to get them to take control of their unions so that they can control production and distribution. We have got to got back to our Workers’ Committees and build up One Big Unofficial Union inside the present trade unions. Then will the leaders bend to the real desires of the members, and not until. They control the machine, and not the members, and as long as such control rest with them nothing can be done nationally, let alone internationally.
Briefly, my criticism is that you are not consistent; branding yourselves as realists; you expect miracles; your energy is misdirected, it should not be directed at the leaders but at the rank and file, in getting the organised effectively, for if all you say of the leaders is true they will be making the rope to hang themselves with, while you are organising. To use your own favourite expression “get down to earth,” organise for revolution, don’t talk about it. Believe me, comrades the high sounding theatrical stuff has got to be cut out, and I have got to get back to the plain and simple elementary facts if we will convert and organize the proletariat. Abusing “J.H.T. and Uncle Arthur” and all their colleagues does not cut any ice. If you think it does, I, like the man from Missouri, will have to be shown.
In conclusion, I ask, as does many other workers, what is the practical policy of the Communist on the industrial field, not the ultimate aim, or the advanced steps, I know them by heart, but what is your immediate plan and method of getting my mates to think and act intelligently, and to acquire that blessed solidarity that is as scarce as bread in the coalfields.
P.S.—Anent your frequent criticisms of the Daily Herald I think that it ill becomes an organ representing the class-conscious to jeer at the official policy of what is now an official paper, only because you and the people you represent, did not give it the support that would have kept it independent. Be Realists.