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They would say that a
labor party unconnected with revolutionary economic action would
necessarily be conservative, no matter how revolutionary it seemed. The
truth from the broader revolutionary standpoint is doubtless that
neither political nor economic action in isolation can long continue to
be revolutionary. Exclusively economic action soon leads to exclusive
emphasis on material and immediate gains, without reference to the
relative position of the working class or its future; exclusively
political action leads inevitably to concentration on securing
democratic political machinery and reforms which by no means guarantee
that labor is gaining on capital in the race for power.

To Kautsky a labor party, it would seem, might be sufficient in itself,
even if economic action should, for any reason, become temporarily

"The formation and the activity of a special labor party which
wants to win political power for the working class already
presupposes in a part of the laboring class a highly developed
class consciousness. But the activity of this labor party is the
most powerful means to awaken and to further class consciousness in
the masses of labor, also. It knows only objects and tasks which
have to do with the whole proletariat; the trade narrowness, the
jealousies of single and separate organizations, find no place in

It is easy to see how an equally strong case might be made out for the
educative, unifying, and revolutionary effect of an aggressive labor
union movement without any political features. The truth would seem to
be that any form of organization that honestly represents the working
class and is at the same time militant--and no other--advances
Socialism. The objections to action exclusively political hold also
against action exclusively economic. Both trade union action as such,
which inevitably spends a large part of its energies in trying to
improve economic conditions in our _present_ society by trade agreements
and other combinations with the capitalists, and political action as
such, which is always drawn more or less into capitalistic efforts to
improve present society by political means is fundamentally
conservative. What Socialism requires is not a political party in the
ordinary sense, but political organization and a political program; not
labor unions, as the term has been understood, but aggressive and
effective economic organization, available also for the most
far-reaching economic and political ends.

It seems probable that the anti-political element in the new
revolutionary unionism will soon be outgrown. When this happens, it will
meet the revolutionary majority of the Socialists on an identical
platform. For this revolutionary majority is steadily laying on more
weight on economic organization.


[253] The _New York Call_, Nov. 13, 1911.

[254] Edmond Kelly, "Twentieth-Century Socialism," p. 152.

[255] The _Socialist Review_ (London), September, 1910.

[256] Winston Churchill, _op. cit._, p. 73.

[257] The _Socialist Review_ (London), October, 1911.

[258] The profound opposition between the "State Socialism" of the
Labour Party and the revolutionary aims and methods of genuine Socialism
and the new labor unionism appeared more clearly in the coal strike of
1912 than it had in the railway strike of the previous year. As Mr.
Lloyd George very truthfully remarked in Parliament, no leaders of the
Labour Party had committed themselves to syndicalism, while syndicalism
and socialism [_i.e._ the socialism of the Labour Party] were mutually
destructive. "We can console ourselves with the fact," said Mr. Lloyd
George, "that the best policeman for the syndicalists is the socialist
[_i.e._ the Labourite]."

The conduct of many of the Labour Party leaders during this strike, as
during the railway strike, fully justified the confidence of the
Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr. MacDonald, for example, spoke of
syndicalism in much the same terms as those used by Mr. Lloyd George. He
viewed it as evil, to be obviated by greater friendliness and
consideration on the part of employers towards employees, a position
fully endorsed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the other Radicals
of the British Cabinet.

The coal strike throughout was, indeed, almost a repetition of the
railway strike. What I have said of the one applies, with comparatively
slight changes, to the other. Even the so-called Minimum Wage Law is
essentially identical with the methods adopted to determine the wages of
railway employees.

[259] The _New York Call_, April 17, 1910.

[260] The _International Socialist Review_, June, 1911.

[261] The _Industrial Syndicalist_ (London), July and September, 1910.

[262] _Le Mouvement Socialiste_ (Paris), 1909, article entitled,
"Plechanoff contre les Syndicalistes."

[263] "Le Federation des Bourses de Travail de France," p. 67.

[264] Hubert Lagardelle, Le Socialisme Ouvrier (Paris), 1911.

[265] _Le Mouvement Socialiste_, 1909, article entitled, "Classe Sociale
et Parti Politique."

[266] Hubert Lagardelle, "Syndicalisme et Socialisme" (Paris), p. 52.

[267] Hubert Lagardelle, "Syndicalisme et Socialisme" (Paris), p. 50.

[268] Paul Louis, "Le Syndicalisme contre l'État," pp. 4-7.

[269] Paul Louis, "Le Syndicalisme contre l'État," p. 244.

[270] Karl Kautsky, "Parlamentarismus und Demokratie," pp. 136 and 137.



Nearly all strikes are more or less justified in Socialist eyes. But
those that involve neither a large proportion of the working class nor
any broad social or political question are held to be of secondary
importance. On the other hand, the "sympathetic" and "general" strikes,
which are on such a scale as to become great public issues, and are
decided by the attitude of public opinion and the government rather than
by the employers and employees involved, are viewed as a most essential
part of the class struggle, especially when in their relation to
probable future contingencies.

The social significance of such sympathetic or general strikes is indeed
recognized as clearly by non-Socialists as by Socialists--even in
America, since the great railroad strike of 1894. The general strike of
1910 in Philadelphia, for instance, was seen both in Philadelphia and in
the country at large as being a part of a great social conflict. "The
American nation has been brought face to face for the first time with a
strike," said the _Philadelphia North American_, "not merely against the
control of an industry or a group of allied industries, but _a strike of
class against class, with the lines sharply drawn_.... And it is this
antagonism, this class war, intangible and immeasurable, that
constitutes the largest and most lamentable hurt to the city. It is,
moreover, felt beyond the city and throughout the entire nation." (My
italics). It goes without saying that all organs of non-Socialist
opinion feel that such threatening disturbances are lamentable, for they
certainly may lead towards a revolutionary situation. Both in this
country and Great Britain the great railway strike of 1911 was almost
universally regarded in this light.

The availability of a general strike on a national scale as a means of
assaulting capitalism at some future crisis or as a present means of
defending the ballot or the rights of labor organizations or of
preventing a foreign war, has for the past decade been the center of
discussion at many European Socialist congresses. The recent Prime
Minister of France, Briand, was long one of the leading partisans of
this method of which he said only a few years before he became Premier:
"It has the seductive quality that it is after all the exercise of an
incontestable right. It is a revolution which commences with legality.
In refusing the yoke of misery, the workingman revolts in the fullness
of his rights; illegality is committed by the capitalist class when it
becomes a provocator by trying to violate a right which it has itself
consecrated." That Briand meant what he said is indicated by the advice
he gave to soldiers who might be ordered to fire against the strikers in
such a crisis. "If the order to fire should persist," said Briand, "if
the tenacious officer should wish to constrain the will of the soldiers
in spite of all.... Oh, no doubt the guns might go off, but it might not
be in the direction ordered"--and the universal assumption of all public
opinion at that time and since was that he was advising the soldiers
that under these circumstances they would be justified in shooting their

The Federation of Labor of France has long adopted the idea of the
general strike as appropriate for certain future contingencies, as has
also the French Socialist Party--"To realize the proposed plan," the
Federation declares, "it will be necessary first of all to put the
locomotives in a condition where they can do no harm, to stop the
circulation of the railways, to encourage the soldiers to ground their

As thus conceived by Briand and the Federation, few will question the
revolutionary character of the proposed general strike. But in what
circumstances do the Socialists expect to be able to make use of this
weapon? The Socialists of many countries have given the question careful
consideration in hundreds of writings and thousands of meetings,
including national and international congresses. Through the gradual
evolution of the plans of action developed in all these conferences and
discussions, they have come to distinguish sharply between a really
general strike, _e.g._ a nation-wide railroad strike, when used for
revolutionary purposes, and other species of widespread strikes which
have merely a tendency in a revolutionary direction, such as the
Philadelphia trouble I have mentioned, and they have decided from these
deliberations, as well as considerable actual experience, just what
forms of general strike are most promising and under what contingencies
each form is most appropriate.

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Keywords: contre, syndicalism, review, george, present, justified, socialists, london, employees, lagardelle
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