Westel Woodbury Willoughby.

The American political science review online

. (page 3 of 77)
Online LibraryWestel Woodbury WilloughbyThe American political science review → online text (page 3 of 77)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

introducing the socialist state; while the Communists, repr»
sented in the two Communist parties, oppose parliamentary par-
ticipation except for purposes of propaganda, and advocate the
revolutionary extermination of capitalism as the initial step in
establishing a dictatorship of the proletariat, preceding the or-
ganization of the communist society. The program of the Social-
ist party, therefore, is moderate and opportunistic, while the pro-
gram of the revolutionary Communist parties is ultra-radical,
deprecating all compromise with existing political and economic
institutions and rejecting parliamentary reform as a means of
revolutionizing the social order. Between moderate socialism
and revolutionary communism there is no basis for compromise
and cooperation.® Revisionist and reformist socialism organized
within the Second International is condemned as coimter-revo-
lutionary in philosophy and action, a betrayer of proletarian in-
terests and the prophet of reactionary state capitalism. State

• The Communist f September 27, 1919, pp. 1, 6; The Communist Labor Party
News, September, 1919, p. 1.

Digitized by



capitalism, precisely that type of state capitalism advocated by
moderate socialism, is viewed by the Communists as the highest
expression of imperialism and as designed to buttress capitalism
in further exploitation of the proletariat. Germany is the Com-
mimists' example par excellence of what might be expected under
state capitalism. Moderate socialism proffers a capitalist par-
liamentary republic and not a proletarian dictatorship.^ Revo-
lutionary communism and reformist socialism, therefore, hold
different conceptions of the state; the former adheres to the
theory that there must be a revolutionary demolition of the cap-
italist state and organization of a new state under proletarian
domination; the latter accepts the bourgeois parliamentary state
as the basis for the evolutionary transition from capitalism to

American communism, like Russian bolshevism, its major in-
spiration, is an attempt to return to pure Marxism and to oblit-
erate every vestige of pseudo-Marxism represented in opportunis-
tic socialism. In speaking with the leaders and the rank and file
of American Communists one is impressed with their strong de-
«ire to return to the first principles of communism as enunciated
in the manifesto of 1848; and communist literature is replete
with orthodox interpretations of the revolutionary class struggle,
the materialistic conception of history, the theory of surplus
value, and the law of the concentration of capital. Moderate
socialism both in Europe and in America have wandered far
afield from these fundamental articles of commimist faith; and
American communists, accepting the challenge of what they be-
lieve to be the new era of proletarian dictatorship, are organizing
their forces after the manner of their Russian comrades with a
view to reconstructing the whole socialist movement on the basis
of unadulterated Marxism. One need but examine the manifes-
toes and programs of the Communist parties to grasp the signifi-
cance and determination of this purpose.

The program of revolutionary communism in the United States
may be summarized briefly as follows: (1) complete disruption

' Manifesto of the Communist Party, The Communistf September, 1919, pp. 6-8.

Digitized by



of the capitalist state and the elimination of every vestige of
bourgeois parliaments; (2) organization of a dictatorship of the
proletariat as the initial step in the communist reconstruction of
the social order, subsequent to the anticipated successful social
revolution; (3) participation in political campaigns under capi-
talism to be of secondary importance, devoted only to the task
of disseminating communist propaganda against the bourgeois
state; (4) nominations for public office and participation in elec-
tions to be limited to legislative bodies, as municipal councils,
state legislatures, and Congress; (5) representatives of American
Qommunism in these assemblies not to introduce or support po-
litical and social reform measures, but to use their parliamentary
powers and privileges in exposing capitalistic oppression of the
proletariat; (6) absolute maintenance of the revolutionary class
struggle and no compromise or cooperation with political groups
not committed definitely and openly to that struggle, as the
Socialist party. Labor parties, the Non-Partisan League, and
municipal ownership leagues; (7) major activities of the Com-
munist parties to be carried on in the industrial struggles in order
to develop a general understanding of the strike in relation to
the final overthrow of capitalism, that is, to emphasize the revo-
lutionary implications of the mass strike rather than the immedi-
ate purposes of the local walkout; (8) trade-unions to be revolu-
tionized and industrial unionism to be advocated as against the
reactionary craft unionism of the American Federation of Labor;
(9) cooperation with the revolutionary proletariat of the world to
be encouraged, in order to guarantee the success of the Commun-
ist International and pave the way for the introduction of world
communism comprised of free, coordinated, cooperating commim-
ist societies.*

The program of revolutionary communism in the United States
is similar to the program of Russian bolshevism, namely, com-
plete disruption of the capitalist state, oppression and expropriar
tion of the bourgeoisie, the organization of a proletarian dicta^

* The Program of the Communist Party, The Communist, September 27, 1919,
p. 9; The Program and Platform of the Communist Labor Party, The Communist
Labor Party News, September, 1919, p. 2.

Digitized by



torship and, eventually, the reconstruction of the social order
upon a communistic basis. The immediate objective of the
Communist attack is the political and economic foundations of
the present society. In the Communist program there is no pro-
vision for a temporizing compromise with the institutions that
constitute the major defenses of capitalism, such as private prop-
erty, the wage system, the courts, and the parliamentary struc-
ture. There is to be no gradual growing into socialism. Evo-
lutionary development has no place in commimist parlance;
revolutionary extirpation of all those institutions the continued
existence of which might facilitate counter-revolutionary mov^
ments is the strategy par excellence of communism. ''The im-
mediate objective of the proletarian revolution is the conquest
of the power of the state; and this means the annihilation of the
bourgeois state, its parliamentary system and bourgeois democ-
racy, and the introduction of a new 'state' comprised in the dicta*
torship of the proletariat," states the international secretary of
the Communist party of America.^

The proletarian struggle, then, is essentially a political strug-
gle. It is political in the sense that its objective is political — ^the
annihilation of all parliamentary defenses of capitalist power,
and the substitution therefor of a proletarian commonwealth.
It cannot be emphasized too strongly that communism does not
propose to "capture" the bourgeois parUamentary machinery, as
does moderate socialism, but rather to conquer and destroy it
completely, for "As long as the bourgeois state prevails, the capi-
taUst class can baflBe the will of the proletariat."^® This immedi-
ate aim of American communism is identical with that executed
by Lenin and Trotzky in the Bolshevik Revolution, and is be-
lieved to be a tactical necessity in disposing of the old social
structure and defending the communist order in its germinal

For the realization of their immediate purposes the Commun-
ists have outlined a specific program of action. There is to be,

• Fraina, Louis C. Revolutionary Socialism— A Study in Socialist Reconstruc-
tiony p. 213.

1" Manifesto of the Communist Party, The Communiatf September 27, 1919, p 7.

Digitized by



first, the development of a general political strike in which elec-
tions will be boycotted, as they were in Russia by the Bolsheviki
in the elections for the Second Duma in 1906, and, second, the
germination of mass action through the general strike. The
method of the Communist attack, therefore, is to be both eco-
nomic and political. The nature of the political boycott is not
at all clear from statements issued by the Communist parties.
From the expressions on the convention floor it seems that the
political strike is to consist in nonparticipation in . elections,
which is to serve the purpose of a silent proletarian taboo of the
parliamentary regime of capitalism and to emphasize the irre-
concilability and incompatibility of bourgeois and proletarian
interests. The pronouncements of the Commimist groups — the
manifestoes, platforms, and constitutions — do not contain pro-
vision for such a boycott of elections and do not, moreover, pre-
clude election to public office.

Although the Commimists emphasize the fact that not one of
the great teachers of scientific sociaUsm has taught the possibility
of social revolution through the use of the ballot, they do not
ignore entirely the value of voting, or the election of revolution-
ists to public office, provided these achieve beneficial results for
the workers in their great economic struggle. Cognizance is taken
of the fact that political campaigns and the election of party
representatives to seats in parliamentary bodies provide oppor-
tunities for exposing capitalist democracy, educating the workers
to a realization of their class interests, and demonstrating the
necessity of overthrowing the existing regime. The Communist
parties entertain no hope of achieving their purposes at the
polls, and warn their adherents against placing confidence in leg-
islative reforms under capitalism.

There is nothing in the program of the Commimist Labor
party that would prohibit its parliamentary representatives from
introducing and supporting legislative measures in the interest of
the workers, and on the whole the party appears not adverse to
reformative statutes of any character, provided these advance
the proletarian conquest of the state." The Communist party is

" Program of the Communist Labor Party, The Communist Labor Party News,
October, 1919, p. 2.

Digitized by



less vacillating and opportunistic, for its program provides that
(1) participation in parliamentary campaigns is of secondary im-
portance, to be used only for the purpose of revolutionary propa-
ganda; (2) parliamentary representatives of the party shall not
introduce or support reform measures; (3) Commimist represen-
tatives shall use the parliamentary forum to interpret and empha-
size the revolutionary implications of the class struggle, to expose
the oppressive class character of the capitalist state, and to show-
that parUamentarism and bourgeois democracy deceive the
workers with reform palliatives." In order to concentrate its
political activity and to prevent degeneration of parliamentary
action into reformism, the Communist party limits nominations
for public office to legislative bodies, including municipal councils,
state legislatures, and the national Congress. For the same reasons
the party prohibits cooperation with organizations not committed
to the revolutionary class struggle." A similar position in regard
to such cooperation is taken by the Commimist Labor party."

In relegating legislative reforms to a position of minor im-
portance or completely ignoring such measures, American com-
munism differs from other reform movements, including moder-
ate socialism. For this reason its program is not likely to prove
attractive to practically minded American workmen. From
parliamentarism the Communist turns to mass action as the most
effective means of expediting the social revolution, which he de-
clares to be inevitable. If the immediate aim of communism is
political in character, its method of achievement is both political
and economic. Politico-economic mass action is the sine qua
non of the social revolution. According to the Communist analy-
sis of historical developments, isolated economic action in the
form of craft unions and sporadic strikes, and parliamentary action
in the bourgeois assemblies, have proved futile when viewed from
the standpoint of the revolutionary class struggle. The new
phase into which the class struggle is just entering necessitates

" The Program of the Communist Party, The Communist, September 27, 1919,
p. 9.
" Ibid.
1* The Communist Labor Party News, October, 1919, p. 2.

Digitized by



the unification of industrial and political action as a determinant
of successful proletarian conquest of political power." As a
matter of fact, however, the mass action of American communism
is more industrial than poUtical in character.

For the propagation of mass action through the general strike
revolutionary commimism has a definite policy. Since the ulti-
mate aim of commimism is the organization of a workers' indus-
trial republic, the logical channel of approach is through the
.united action of the industrial and agricultural proletariat. Con-
sequently, communism is conveying to these workers the mes-
sage effectively enunciated by Marx and Lenin, namely, that
capitalism expropriates the proletariat, the difference between
wages and product constituting the unearned profits of the capi-
talists. This surplus value attributed to the efforts of labor
must, therefore, become the property of the workers. The dif-
ferential of production can be regained through mass action in
seizing the machinery of industry and appropriating it for the
workers. To attain this end the industrial strike must cease to
be isolated and passive and become positive, general, and ag-
gressive, preparing the workers for the assumption of industrial

The mass strike is possible only under a synthetic organization
of the workers in the basic industries. Recognition of this fact
has led revolutionary communism to denounce conservative
craft unionism represented in the American Federation of Labor,
which it characterizes as a shackle upon the militant movement
of the American proletariat, because of its tendency to divide the
workers into disintegrated fragments under a reactionary bureau-
cracy. To the Communist the most vital and promising fact in
American trade-unionism is the attempt of the membership to
break the rule of conservative officials, and to develop a type of
industrial unionism that will respond sympathetically and spon-
taneously to thg revolutionary impulse of the workers. If the
Commimists' analysis is correct, disintegrated craft unionism is
destined to be superseded by industrial unionism, just as moder-

i» Fraina, op. cit., pp. 178, 179.

Digitized by



ate socialism is giving place to revolutionary communism. Thus
unionism will become an agency for militant action in the
aggressive struggle of the proletariat against capitalism, and
industrial union organization, divorced from the methods and
policies of autonomous craft unions and "inspired with the
revolutionary purpose, becomes a vital factor in the proletarian

Industrial unionism develops its real power among the
unskilled workers who, untrammeled by obstructions of craft dif-.
f erentiation and stratification and welded into a common mold
by machine industry, possess a clear conception of group inter-
ests and cultivate the esprit de corps of the industrial proletariat.
It is this industrial "consciousness of kind," this vigorous sense of
common interests, that makes industrial unionism, structurally
and functionally, the peculiar unionism of the unskilled workers.
American communism has ingeniously sensed this peculiar psy-
chology of the untrained mass.^^ The Communists, however,
find limitations even in industrial unionism, on account of the
impossibility of organizing the whole working class into industrial
unions under the capitalistic regime, and they contend that to
achieve the social revolution it will be necessary to enlist the
workers, organized and unorganized, by means of revolutionary
mass action.^® Nevertheless, industrial union organization is to
be effected whenever and wherever possible, and the general
strike is to be generated; for as strikes become general they
''acquire political significance, action becomes the action of the
mass, the integrated action of an integrated proletariat."^'

To marshal the forces of the miUtant masses, American com-
munism has determined to function through local and district
units of the two parties assigned to the task of establishing inti-
mate contact with the workers in the mills, workshops, and mines.
It is the. business of these party units to initiate and support

" The Communist, September 27, 1919, p. 2. •

" Cf. The Programs, Platforms, and Manifestoes of the Communist Parties,
and Revolutionary Socialism — A Study in Socialist Reconstruction, by Louis C.

^" Manifesto, Program, Constitution, etc., of the Communist Party, 1919, p. 12.

!• Fraina, op. cit., p. 187.

Digitized by



plans for the organization of labor along the lines of the shop
steward and shop committee movement in England. More-
over, Communist propagandists are to encourage the organizar
tion of thiese shop committees into industrial councils, district
coimcils, and a central council of all industries, as proposed under
the Whitley Plan.*® These committees and councils afford an
effective medium for the dissemination of Communist doctrines,
and suggest the practicability of the administration of industry
by the workers. Paradoxical as it may seem, many employers,
both in Europe and in the United States, have inaugurated simi-
lar schemes of shop committees and industrial councils with the
hope of satisfjdng the workers' demand for industrial democracy
and preventing the spread of Communist philosophy. There is
little doubt, also, that industrial councils have been introduced to
"break the back of trade-unionism," precisely what the revo-
lutionary Commimist hopes will be achieved.

The organization of a general type of industrial unionism em-
bracing the Industrial Workers of the World, the Workers' Inter-
national Industrial Union, independent and secession unions,
militant unions of the American Federation of Labor, and the
unorganized workers, becomes the major task of American com-
munism for two reasons. First, because this type of proletarian
organization makes possible the mass strike, with its revolu-
tionary implications, constantly suggesting the feasibility of the
conquest of capitaUstic political power ;2i and, second, because
industrial unionism, organizing the workers by industries, be-
comes potentially, if not actually, the fundamental basis of the
new communist society, together with other administrative agen-
cies necessary to correlate the nonindustrial functions of the new
regime.** "After the conquest of power the industrial unions
may become the starting point of the communist reconstruction
of society.""

*' Special Report on Labor Organization, The Communist Labor Party News,
October, 1919, p. 2; The Program of the Communist Party, The Communistf Sep- *
tember 27, 1919, p. 9.

*i Manifesto of the Conmiunist Party, The Communist, September 27, 1919, p. 8.

M Cf. Fraina, op. cit., p. 220.

'» Manifesto of the Communist Party, The Communist, September 27, 1919, p. 8.

Digitized by



The social revolution, which communism predicts will conae
through mass action generated in the industries, and which is to
assume poUtical character and significance, will introduce the
dictator^p of the proletariat as it did in Russia. American
Commimists entertain no hope of immediate revolution; it may
be a decade away, but it is inevitable. Their present task, there-
fore, is to prepare the workers for the administration of the state
and industry during the approaching cataclysm, which will come
at a moment of utter collapse of the old structure of society.
Commxmism teaches no obedience to the blind fatalism of what
it terms pseudo-Marxism, but purposive and conscious action in
the interest of proletarian triumph. The creation of mass action
is all important in the immediate poUcies of communism. '' Un-
der the impulse of the crisis, the proletariat acts for the conquest
of power, by means of mass action. Mass action concentrates and
mobilizes the forces of the proletariat, organized and imorganized;
it acts equally against the bourgeois state and the conservative
organizations of the working class."" To the communist philos-
opher the vital facts of industrial evolution are the concentra-
tion of the machinery of production in the hands of a few, the
increasing tendency toward combinations and trusts, and the
leveling down of all workers to the ranks of the unskilled. To
these facts the unskilled proletariat — the hope of communism —
is expected to respond through mass action for the appropria-
tion of political power and the organization of the proletarian

The dictatorship of the proletariat is a recognition of the fact
that in the communist reconstruction of society the proletariat
alone counts as a class.*^ This dictatorship, however, is designed
not only to perform the negative task of crushing the old order
of capitalism, but also the work of constructing a new society
which is to function not in the government of persons but in the
management of production and distribution. The proletarian
• dictatorship is viewed by the Communist as a necessary but
temporary expedient in effecting the transition from capitalism to

" Ibid.
«» Ibid.

Digitized by



communism. Out of the disorder and chaos of the disrupted
capitalist regime the revolutionists believe there will arise the
complete structure of a new social order of communist socialism
— industrial self-government of the communistically organized
producers. When this structure is perfected, which implies ab-
solute economic and political expropriation of the bourgeoisie,
the dictatorship is to end. To imderstand the Communists' jus-
tification of this ruthless ad inberim dictatorship one must recall
that to them the state is a symbol of intimidation and coercion,
functioning always in the interest of the ruling class. Thus,
with the conquest of political power by the workers who become
the dominant authority, political rights and recognition are de-
nied the bourgeois class.^* During the transition from capitalism
to communism, therefore, democratic government as it is gener-
ally interpreted cannot obtain; rather must there be a proletarian

All this prompts the query: who constitutes the proletarian
class? The term proletariat as used by the Communists refers
to that class of persons which is dependent for its livelihood upon
selling its labor power to the owners of industry.*^ The profes-
sional and skilled classesVeceive little consideration, and are very
likely classified with the petite bourgeoisie. It is the unskilled who
are the real proletariat in Commimist terminology, for the skilled
and professional groups think in terms of their craft, of individuals
and their property, while the imskilled — ^the standardized product
of modem industry — think in terms of the mass. "The Social
Revolution can be carried through only by the industrial prole-
tariat of unskilled labor, in spite of and acting against all the ideas
and activity of all other social groups J^^^ And again, "The mar
chine proletariat of average unskilled labor constitutes the typi-
cal proletariat in the Mandan sense," and "constitutes the mate-
rial basis of Socialism.''** Marx and Engels, it will be recaUed,

«• Fraina, op. oit., pp. 214, 217.

" Mr. C. £. Ruthenberg, Exeoutive Secretary of the Communist Party, in a
letter to the writer, November 20, 1919.

** Fraina, op. cit., p. 137. The italics are ours.
" Fraina, op. cit., p. 143.

Online LibraryWestel Woodbury WilloughbyThe American political science review → online text (page 3 of 77)