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Those organized
are, as a rule, the more developed and prosperous, the skilled or
comparatively skilled workers.

Third, their method of action is primarily that of the strike and
boycott--economic and not political. They demand certain legislation and
in several cases have put political parties in the field; they exert a
political pressure in favor of government employees. But their chief
purpose, even when they do these things, is to develop an organization
that can strike and boycott effectively; and to secure only such
political and civil rights as are needed for this purpose.

The unions are primarily economic, and the Socialist Party is primarily
political--both, to have any national power, must embrace a considerable
proportion of the same industrial wage-earning class. It is evident that
conflict between the two organizations is unnecessary and we find,
indeed, that it arises only in exceptional cases. Many Socialists,
however, look upon the unions primarily as an economic means, more or
less important, of advancing political Socialism--while many unionists
regard the Socialist parties primarily as political instruments for
furthering the economic action of the unions.

There are several groups of Socialists, on the other hand, who ascribe
to the economic action of the unions a part in attaining Socialism as
important or more important than that they ascribe to the political
action of the party. These include, first, all those for whom Socialism
is to be brought about almost exclusively by wage earners, whether by
political or by economic action; second, those who do not believe the
capitalists will allow the ballot to be used for anti-capitalistic
purposes; third, those who believe that, in spite of all that
capitalists and capitalistic governments can do, strikes and boycotts
cannot be circumvented and in the end are irresistible.

Other Socialists, agreeing that economic action, and therefore labor
unions, both of the existing kind and of that more revolutionary type
now in the process of formation, are indispensable, still look upon the
Socialist Party as the chief instrument of Socialism. As these include
nearly all Party members who are not unionists as well as a considerable
part of the unionists, they are perhaps a majority--internationally.

As the correct relationship between Party and unions, Mr. Debs has
indorsed the opinion of Professor Herron, who, he said, "sees the trend
of development and arrives at conclusions that are sound and commend
themselves to the thoughtful consideration of all trade unionists and
Socialists." Professor Herron says that the Socialist is needed to
educate the unionists to see their wider interests:--


"He is not to do this by seeking to commit trade-union bodies to
the principles of Socialism. Resolutions or commitments of this
sort accomplish little good. Nor is he to do it by taking a servile
attitude towards organized labor nor by meddling with the details
or the machinery of the trade unions. It is better to leave the
trade unions to their distinctive work, as the workers' defense
against the encroachments of capitalism, as the economic
development of the worker against the economic development of the
capitalist, giving unqualified support and sympathy to the
struggles of the organized worker to sustain himself in his
economic sphere. But let the Socialist also build up the character
and harmony and strength of the Socialist movement as a political
force, that it shall command the respect and confidence of the
worker, irrespective of his trade or his union obligations. It is
urgent that we so keep in mind the difference between the two
developments that neither shall cripple the other."[240]


Here is a statement of the relation of the two movements that
corresponds closely to the most mature and widespread Socialist opinion
and to the decisions of the International Socialist Congresses.

This view also meets that of the unions in most countries. The President
of the American Federation, Mr. Gompers, understands this thoroughly and
quotes with approval the action taken recently by the labor unions in
Sweden, Hungary, and Italy, which demand the enforcement of this policy
of absolute "neutrality." Formerly the federation of the unions of
Sweden, for example, agreed to use their efforts to have the local
unions become a part of the local organization of the Social Democratic
Party. These words providing for this policy were struck out of the
constitution by the Convention of 1909, which at the same time adopted
(by a considerable majority) a resolution that "by this decision it was
not intended to break up the unity and solidarity of labor's forces, for
the convention considers the Social Democratic Party as the natural
expression of the political ambitions of the Swedish workers." A similar
relation prevails in nearly every country of the Continent.

The Secretary of the German Federation (who is its highest officer)--a
man who is at the same time an active Socialist,--has defined accurately
the relation between the two organizations in that country. He says that
the unions cannot accomplish their purposes without securing political
representation "through a Party that is active in legislative bodies."
This is also the view now of the British unions, which in overwhelming
majority support the Labor Party. And they do this for the same purposes
mentioned by Legien: to protect the working people from excessive
exploitation, to enact into law the advantages already won by the
unions, and so to smooth the way for better labor conditions. Similarly,
the American Federation of Labor secures representation on legislative
bodies, and hesitates to form a national Labor Party, not on principle,
but only because American conditions do not in most localities promise
that it would be effective.

Mr. Mitchell expresses the position of the American Federation when he
says that the "wage earners should in proportion to their strength
secure the nomination and the election of a number of representatives to
the governing bodies of city, State, and nation," but that "a third
Labor Party is not for the present desirable, because it would not
obtain a majority and could not therefore force its will upon the
community at large." The European Socialists would perhaps not
understand the political principle of our governmental system, which
requires a plurality in the State or nation in order to obtain immediate
results. For in this country the more important branches of the
government are the executive and judges, and these, unlike the
legislatures, cannot as a rule be divided, and therefore give no
opportunity for the representation of minorities, and are necessarily
elected by State or national pluralities and usually by majorities. In
the monarchical countries of the Continent either such officials are not
elected, or their powers are circumscribed, and even England lies in
this respect halfway between those countries and the United States. What
Mr. Mitchell says is in so far true; it would certainly require a large
number of elections before a party beginning on the basis of a minority
of representatives in Congress or the legislatures could win enough
control over the executive and judges to "force its will upon the
community at large." Mr. Mitchell and the other leaders of the
Federation are, it is seen, unwilling to undertake a campaign so long
and arduous, and, since they have no means of attracting the votes of
any but wage-earning voters, so doubtful as to its outcome.


Mr. Mitchell says that the workingmen in a separate party could not
even secure a respectable minority of the legislators. The
numerical strength of the Unions in proportion to the _voting_
population is scarcely greater than it was when he wrote (1903),
and what he said then holds true as ever to-day.

Mr. Gompers has also stated that labor would not be able to secure
more than twenty-five or fifty Congressmen by independent political
action. This is undoubtedly true, and we may take it for granted,
therefore, that, unless the unions most unexpectedly increase their
strength, there will be no national or even State-wide Trade Union
or Labor Party in this country, though the San Francisco example of
a city Labor party may be repeated now and then, and State
organizations of the Socialist Party, which enjoy a large measure
of autonomy, may occasionally, without changing their present
names, reduce themselves to mere trade-union parties in the narrow
sense of the term. President Gompers has claimed that 80 per cent
of the voting members of the American Federation of Labor followed
his advice in the election of 1908, which was, in nearly every
case, to vote the Democratic ticket. There were not over 2,000,000
members of the Federation at this time, and of these (allowing for
women, minors, and non-voting foreigners) there were not more than
1,500,000 voters. About 60 per cent of this number have always
voted Democratic, so that if Mr. Gompers's claim were conceded it
would mean a change of no more than 300,000 votes. It is true that
such a number of voters could effect the election or defeat of a
great many Democrats or Republican Congressmen, but, as Mr. Gompers
says, it could only elect a score or two of Independents, a number
which, as the example of Populism has shown, would be impotent
under our political system. Moreover, as such a Congressional group
would be situated politically not in the middle, but at one of the
extremes, _it could never hold the balance of power in this or any
other country_ until it became _a majority_.


Mr. Mitchell is careful to qualify his opposition to the third party (or
Labor Party) idea. He writes: "I wish it to be understood that this
refers only to the immediate policy of the unions. One cannot see what
the future of the dominant parties in the United States will be, and
should it come to pass that the two great American political parties
oppose labor legislation, as they now favor it, it would be the
imperative duty of unionists to form a third party in order to secure
some measure of reform."[241] Certainly both parties are becoming more
and more willing to grant "some measure" of labor reform, so that Mr.
Mitchell is unlikely to change his present position.

Whether the unions form a separate party or not, is to them a matter not
of principle, but of ways and means, of time and place.



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Keywords: countries, members, measure, development, worker, nearly, relation, voters, purposes, organizations
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