Monday, June 15, 2020

Rab - Part 1

Isaac Rabinowich, better known by his pen-name as Rab, was a prominent member of the World Socialist Party of the United States.

 A biography was written,  'Role-Modeling Socialist Behavior: The Life and Letters of Isaac Rab,' available to read at 

This is the first of a series of essays adapted from his writings 

The state and parliament

To establish socialism must the workers first gain control of the powers of government through their political organisation?

It is the recognition that the state is the central organ of power in the hands of the capitalist class. By gaining control of the powers of state, the socialist majority are in a position to transfer the means of living from the parasites, who own them, to society, where they belong. This is the only function or need the working class has of the state/government. As soon as the revolution has accomplished this task, the state is replaced by the socialist administration of affairs. There is no government in a socialist society. We emphasise that the ballot is the lever of emancipation. We do this just because the conscious, socialist majority takes political action in order to be in a position to transfer the means of living from the hands of the parasites into the hands of society, as a whole. The ballot symbolises the nature of the socialist revolution.

We advocate the ballot because we cannot visualise the need for a socialist majority to use violence. Violence does not symbolise the socialist revolution. However, we can get all tangled up in speculations of projecting possible contingencies that may exist in a future event. History may make liars out of us in predicting the workings of social forces based on scientific analyses. When we say that socialism is inevitable it always implies: barring unforeseen catastrophes such as astronomical collisions or the wiping out of the human race. However, given capitalism and its laws of motion, the next stage in social evolution is socialism.

Regarding the common accusation that the WSM is unaware that Parliament is not the real seat of power, and that Parliament is only a façade for the real rulers: Question: what is the central organ of power used by the “real rulers,” if it isn’t the state itself?

The word “government” is often confused with the word “administration.” It is a very common misconception, until one realizes that “government” is but a synonym for the “state,” that is, rulers and ruled; governors and governed. (Although all governments have a secondary function of administering social affairs, it is a secondary function that is subordinate to its primary function of ruling society in the interest of the ruling class.) Where the social relationships of private property exist, there is a need for state machinery (a government) to keep the people in check and under control, as well as to protect the national ruling class interests against the rivalries of foreign “enemies.” Thus, we have had governments in chattel slave, feudal, and capitalist societies. Primitive tribal societies were typically administered communally and had no governments, as such. Socialism is a classless society, without rulers and ruled. a genuine democracy where there exists a real community of interests between all the members of society and society as a whole. It is a social administration of affairs where everyone cooperates in the common.

The state has demonstrated its function as the executive committee of the capitalist class. You will never hear the anarchists or syndicalists, at any time, mention just what is the seat of power of the ruling class! It only points out incidents, in a vacuum, out of context of the workings of the state. They can’t deny that the final decision must be determined in Parliament, when the chips are down, just because modern capitalism cannot function fully and properly and for any length of time under a military dictatorship.

Many compound the felony by accusing the WSM of seeking to be returned as a Parliamentary majority. Where did the WSM, ever, at any time, agitate such a program. We are uncompromisingly opposed to any leadership policy or principle! We urge the socialist majority to vote for socialism, and socialism alone. If the workers ever rely or depend on the WSM, the WSM may well indeed sell them down the river. Nothing could be more repugnant to the WSM than the idea of voting for the WSM so that the WSM might do something for the workers.

Anarchists make a distinction between “direct action” and “political action,” . The key question is “Action for what?”

We are organised for action to change the world from capitalism to socialism. We are not concerned with the problems of administering capitalism. Capitalism cannot be administered in the interests of the working class or of society as a whole. Karl Kautsky:

"It is claimed that we have today sufficient democracy in all civilized countries to make possible a peaceable revolutionless development. Above all it is possible to found cooperatives for consumption whose extension will introduce production for use, and so slowly but surely drive capitalist production out of one sphere after another. Most important of all, it is possible to organize unions that shall continually limit the power of the capitalist in his business, until constitutionalism shall supplant absolutism in the factory, and thus the way will be prepared for the slow transition to the republicanized factory. Still further, the socialists can penetrate into the municipal councils, influence public labor in the interest of the laboring class, extend the circle of municipal activities, and by the continuous extension of the circle of municipal production narrow the field of private production. Finally the socialists are pressing into parliament, where they are ever gaining more influence, and push through one reform after the other, restrict the power of the capitalists by labor legislation, and simultaneously extend ever wider the circle of governmental production, while they work for the nationalization of the great monopolies. So by the exercise of democratic rights upon existing grounds the capitalist society is gradually and without any shock growing into Socialism. Consequently the revolutionary conquest of political powers by the proletariat is unnecessary...This idyll becomes true only if we grant that but one side of the opposition, the proletariat, is growing and increasing in strength, while the other side, the bourgeoisie, remains immovably fixed to the same spot. Granting this, it naturally follows that the proletariat will gradually, and with no revolution, outstrip the bourgeoisie and imperceptibly expropriate it."

Nor are we primarily concerned with the economic phase of the class struggle (unions) although we are always prepared to fight the economic struggles between the wage slaves and their parasitic masters over the division of the wealth produced by the workers. We are also always prepared to fight for civil liberties. Workers who are satisfied, contented slaves are poor prospects for socialist revolution. The fight for civil liberties is basic, just because democratic forms are powerful tools for socialist victory.

The work of introducing socialism is the work of the working class. Socialism is democratic both in objectives and means. Our objective of socialism — which is real democracy — shapes our means, which can only be democratic. This is socialist action — real “direct action”!

Now look at the anarchists and syndicalists. If they have the majority convinced of socialism, the weapon in existence for the majority to use is the ballot, already at hand. The trouble is not the franchise, but the political ignorance of the workers, who support capitalism.

To many the road to socialism is via the economic organisation of the workers. They stress that the State is an organ of the ruling class. It can only function as the central organ of power and the ballot is a deception, merely a democratic form and not democratic essence. However, they overlook that it is not the economic phase that is the highest expression of the class struggle, but the political phase. The economic phase by its very nature is limited to working within the framework of capitalism. It is the fact that State power is in the hands of the ruling class that stymies workers from revolutionary changes. Titles and deeds, the military forces, etc., are in the hands of the ruling class through its control of the State.

The essence of Marx’s writing was consistent in stressing the need for political action; and this view has stood the acid test of unfolding events. Just because the state is the central organ of power, it requires the political action of a resolute, determined class conscious majority to accomplish the transfer of the means of living from the hands of the parasites to the possession of society, as a whole. That is socialist political action. What confuses the question is the activities of reformists who call themselves “socialists.” Their political activities are confined to administering the capitalist state, and instituting palliatives for the smoother operation of capitalism.

The missing ingredient

Nothing can be more basic than the realisation that socialism is, by its very nature, a classless society. It is not composed of workers, as such. This concept is a carry-over from capitalist social relationships. Such a view is alien to the social relationships of socialist society, and gives rise to such expressions as “workers’ councils” as features of socialism, which typify several “democratic, libertarian, socialist” journals. Can it be denied that the socialist revolution has for its object: the establishment of a system of society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution of wealth by and in the interest of society as a whole? It is not a quibble to emphasize both that the socialist revolution emancipates not only the working class but all mankind from the chaotic limitations of outworn capitalism, and also that the revolution must be the work of the working class. Nor can it be denied that the immediate goal, today, of class-conscious and revolutionary socialists is to gain political power in order to transfer the means of production from the parasites to where it belongs, the new socialist society. The capitalist class is powerless when confronted by a determined, overwhelming majority of socialists. It is an illusion to think that the workers in the factories can institute socialism while the political machinery remains in the hands of the capitalist class. The revolutionary political struggle for power is not to be confused with parliamentary efforts to reform the effects of capitalism. The very essence of scientific, revolutionary socialism is that the political struggle for power is the highest expression of the class struggle. In the factories, co-ops, unions, we are fragmented, sectionalised and tied to our interests, but on the political field, we can make our numbers tell in a way win which they cannot use the state to strangle.

Based on the writings of I. Rab, a member of the World Socialist Party of the U.S.

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