"I have no country to fight for; my country is the Earth, and I am a citizen of the World." -
Eugene V. Debs
Thursday, January 14, 2016
What to do and not what to do
The trade unions are the organising centres of the working class, the most important mass organisations of workers. Trade unions first arose in order to eliminate the existing competition among the workers. They arose as organising centers that provided the workers with their initial lessons in class struggle. The solidarity learned in the course of the trade union struggle was a school of socialism. The immediate aims of the first trade unions were to win the basic economic demands of the workers, through collective action. The boss tries to squeeze as much profit out of the worker as he can. The worker tries to wring as close to a living wage out of the boss as he or she can. And if the workers stopped struggling, they’d just be squeezed more, that’s all. That’s why there’s a class struggle.
Immediately it became apparent that the function of the trade unions was not only to fight on the economic front, but to fight for the abolition of wage slavery itself, to fight to end the rule of capitalism. We want to get rid of the class struggle too. We’re going to do it by getting rid of the profit system, which exists only because there is a class of exploiters and a class of the exploited.
Many of the fundamental rights of the working class today were a result of the early trade union struggles, such as the eight hour day. Today this advance is being eroded by the capitalists. But certainly, in response to the austerity cuts of the recession, the class struggle is sharpening. The storm clouds of great battles ahead are filling the air. The task of Socialist Party is to assist linking these with the aim of our movement–the establishment of socialism. This task can only be accomplished through patient and careful work, challenging any viewpoint which denies the necessity of trade unions, or that belittles the nature of the class struggle to be waged, and suggests trade unions engage in the line of class collaboration.
To increase profits and expand investments, capitalists have to pay workers lower wages and benefits and keep down the expenses needed to provide safe and healthy conditions. Therefore, workers have to fight both to maintain any gains they have won and make any new advances.
As socialists, our approach recognises that the class interests of workers and capitalists are in basic conflict. We are also concerned that working people do not narrow their attention just to the economic struggle (wages, benefits, working conditions) in their particular workplace. When working people take an active role in struggling with major social and political issues they increase their strength and help both themselves and all oppressed people worldwide. This means taking stands that offer solutions for discrimination, war, pollution and other problems that nobody can really afford to ignore.
There is no kind of labour unionism by itself which is going to provide a solution to the exploitation of the working class. Unions helps to strengthen the working class’ position against the capitalists, and therefore it can contribute to building a movement of the working class to overthrow the capitalist system and construct a socialist society. Only in socialism do working people have the means to collectively decide the direction their society will take and how they will participate in it.
As socialists we believe society’s main problem is the capitalist system itself and always uphold that the only real solution is socialism and political rule by working people, not capitalists. A socialist party fights for the interests of the working class as a whole and doesn’t take a narrow sectional view of just looking out for the interests of a few trades. A socialist party struggles for the long-term, political interests of working people, and not just a few short-term economic gains. Socialists also recognise that international borders should not be allowed to divide workers from other working people around the world because we are all fighting one international capitalist system.
Of course, not everyone who calls him or herself a socialists is one. Some leftists who may have the best of intentions cannot be considered socialists because they have the wrong idea of what a socialist society is and advocate the wrong strategy for making a revolution. Too many left-wing activists engage in adventurist acts as publicity stunts to gain attention primarily for their own organisation. They try to be impressive to other working people by striking a “militant” pose, but often their reckless actions just make them end up looking irresponsible and foolish. Typically, a group like this overestimates the conditions that could create a revolutionary situation because it needs to justify its adventurist actions because it has an over-inflated view of its own importance. They cause unnecessary divisions among the working class, and it ends up strengthening the position of the repressive political forces. What is most serious is that it tends to fan anti-socialism by discrediting genuine socialists in the eyes of the working class.