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The Political Organization of the Proletariat.
HERE is much popular confusion regard
the nature of political action and its relation to economic movements. This confusion is responsible for a deplorable waste of time and work in useless projects. A political critique is demanded by the needs of the proletarian movement.
Economic power and political power are one in substance. The economic power of an individual is not political power, but the organized economic power of a class is political power. Political power is organized economic power. Economic power is not a thing of air; it arises only from material things. The possession and control of the means of human subsistence is the source of all political power. Political power exists under no other conditions.
The capitalist class is vested with this possession and control of the means of subsistence. Every power exerted by the capitalist class is an emanation of this fundamental control of the means of subsistence. The means of subsistence is the lever of every capitalist power. A cursory analysis of every capitalist function will reveal this fact.
Political parties, congresses, courts, presidents and all other forms of political organization are subsidized agencies of the economic dominion of the capitalist. They are absolutely subservient to economic power. The voting power of the non-possessing class is a farce. The capitalists either nominate the political candidates or else buy them after election.
No class without economic power ever exerts any political power, and its political power is determined entirely by the form of its economic power.
That the political power of the capitalist arises entirely from his control of the means of production is proved by the fact that the capitalist loses his political power when he loses his control of the means of production. The function of the means of production in the form of capital is selfaccumulation. In other words, the means of production appropriates the products of the working class in the form of means of production. Capital is the means of production in the process of accumulative consolidation. This concentrating movement of the means of production is the economic movement of society. It makes, unmakes, forms, and reforms all social classes, political movements, e.c., as the potter moulds the clay.
This concentrated movement of the means of production or capital is now vested in the hands of the capitalist class. It imparts to the capitalist its economic or political power. But note the movement of capital within its own class.
As the means of production proceed in its concentrating movement, it withdraws itself from the hands of many capitalists and steadily concentrates itself in the hands of a decreasing group of capitalists.
What is the political potentiality of the expropria:ed small capitalist? It is nothing. His vote, his party anci his political represenation in congress and in the executive government are merely the decayed forms of paralyzed functions. The economic power of capital has withdrawn itself from these forms. But what of the great capitalists wihin whose hands capital is concentrating itself? This class 1: arrogating to itself all polirical powers and functions. It manipulates, recasts and overturns the political machinery according to its economic need. In his fight with organized Tabor, the capitalist has brazenly brushed aside congress and the president and has seized the judiciary as the most convenient instrument for his economic expression. Thus, capital, or the means of production in the process of concentration, reveals itself as the economic power of the capitalist and the motive power of political forms.
The essence of the economic power of the means of production is its command of the social labor power of the workiing class. The capitalist, because of his possession of the means of production, controls the social labor power of the working class. This control of the social labor power of the working class, or proletariat, is the source of all economic or political power.
If the capitalist should lose his control of the social labor power of the proletariat, he would lose his control of all government and every social power. If the proletariat, on the other hand, should acquire conscious control of its social labor power, it would control all government and every social power. Hence, the struggle of the proletariat is a struggle to obtain control of its own labor power. This is the poli ical problem of the proletariat.
How is the proletariat to acquire the control of its own social labor power? By the conscious organization of its social labor power. With the conscious, organized control
of its own social labor power, the proletariat would assume all economic and social power. It would move as class. No movement would be made except as it willed. Industries would run or not as it directed. At this point the economic power of the capi.alist would become a thing of the past. His power has vanished as if it had never existed.
The real question is, How to organize the social labor power of the proletariat? What is the social labor power of the proletariat? It is his capacity to operate the social means of production. The social labor power of the proletariat is engaged in operating the industries of societies in the mills and mines, etc. To organize this capacity is to organize the labor power of the proletariat. Hence, the social labor power of the proletariat is to be organized as the motive power of the social productive process.
The organization must adapt itself to the industrial process. No artificial or arbitrary methods are possible. The method of organization is determined by the industrial process itself.
The economic or political power of the proletariat is found in the control of its social labor power, and the control of its social labor power is found in the organization of the industrial process. Hence, industrial organization is the political method and form of the proletariat. In industrial organization, the proletariat finds its economic and political power. It will find these powers nowhere else.
Every social class developes a political organization adapted to the expression of its economic power. When its economic power wanes, its political organiéation goes into decadence. The present political organizations are the decaying forms of the dying economic power of the capitalist. These political forms are in no way adapted to the growing economic power of the proletariat. The proletariat already has its political form in the process of development. The elements of that political form are the trade unions. The political power of the trade unions is dormant and potential, and will remain so until the trade unions re-organize into a general industrial class union. Then their economic power will find its full expression. In this form of organization, the labor power of each individual worker becomes subject to the will of the general organization. In other words, the general organization controls the labor power of society. The economic power of society passes into the hands of the industrial organization, and the capitalist no longer exists.
The Socialist parties are not political organizations of the proletariat. The spokesmen of these organizations regard political or economic functions as independent functions. They speak of the Socialist parties as occupying the political field and the labor organizations the economic field. Two fields are two separate territories and the terms imply two separate capacities. A vague connection between political and economic functions seems to be implied, but the members of Socialist parties do not attempt to define the distinction or relation between political and economic functions. They come to a full stop right here, where the real problem presents itself.
These parties seem to believe that the class ownership of the means of production is merely a matter of legal title to property. They forget that the legal forms of the capitalist class are merely expressions of its economic power. The capitalist did not acquire any legal title to wealth until he acquired the economic power to establish that title. When he loses his economic power, he will lose his legal power. The proletariat will not acquire any legal title to the means of production until it has acquired the economic power to establish that title. When the proletariat has acquired the economic power to establish its claim upon the social means of production, the legal title of the capitalist will be void. Thus the class struggle gravitates everywhere to its economic base, and the economic base of the proletariat is its social labor power.
The political power of the proletariat is not independent of its economic power. The political field is not separated from the economic field. The political power of the proletariat, as of every class, is in its economic power. The socalled political field is enclosed within the economic field and the economic field of the proletariat is the industrial process.
The Socialist parties are essentially educational and propaganda organizations. As political organizations, they are imitations of the old capitalist political forms. The growing class consciousness of the proletariat has not yet developed its medium of political expression. Meanwhile, its awakened powers grope blindly within the old capitalist shell. As its economic powers develop, the necessary form of its political organization will shape itself within the consciousness of the proletariat. The capitalist process is organizing the social labor power of the proletariat. The growing organization of its social labor power will reflect itself in the proletarian consciousness as the form of its political power. When this consciousness becomes general the proletariat will seize political power by assuming conscious control of its industrial organization.
This political consciousness of the proletariat will be hastened by the pressure of capitalist exploitation. Capitalist expropriation of surplus values is exhausting the purchasing power of the world market. With the breaking down of the world market, the capitalist will disappear as the employer of the proletariat. Then the proletariat will be dependent upon its class action to continue the industrial pro
At this point, the economic power of the proletariat will develop its full expression.
The dissolution of the capitalist form through the breaking down of the world market is impending. The general industriai organization of the proletariat is a rapidly growing necessity. Every power should be exerted along this
general conference of labor unions should be called for this purpose as soon as possible.
But in the midst of the social agony, with the cries of suffering men, women and children calling for help, we find Socialists entangled in an old capitalist political form, and the Socialist press silent regarding the necessary movement of the working class. Utopian "intellectuals" shout to heaven the evils of capitalist society, and thunder at the class tyranny of the capitalists.
But the great capitalist is performing a neseccary function for the proletariat. He is organizing the means of production for the use of the future industrial organization of the proletariat, while “political Socialists" are wandering among the crumbling walls of political ruins.
ALBERT E. AVERILL. Rockland, Maine.