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November 02, 1968 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1968-11-02

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

STEVE ANZALONE

Street-corner
revolutionaries

-;

"Unite with us to save humanity from catastrophe"
-SLP platform

HENNING BLOMEN is a gentle-looking man
with gray hair. He dresses matter-of-factly
and when he walks down the street, he goes
unrecognized. Blomen could very well be the
typical man on the street except for one thing
-he's running for President.
Blomen (pronounced Blo main) is the
Presidential candidate of the Socialist Labor
Party (SLP). He has ten weeks leave from
his job as a machinist in Boston to make a
tour of about 16 states where the SLP is on
the ballot. '
Blomen could hardly be considered a char- '
ismatic candidate, and nothing could interest
him less. For Blomen does not expect to win
this year. His campaign is idea-oriented. He is
not out to win votes; he would just like to
change some people's way of thinking.
The platform that Blomen and other Social-
ist Labor Party candidates are running on has
one major plank: the abolition of capitalism.
It is to this end that the educational campaign
of the SLP (Blomen calls it the "university
of the working class") is aimed. And it is to
this end that the SLP has been working tire-
lessly since 1890.
Frequently on a cold night, students duti-
fully on their way to the UGLI see local mem-
bers of the SLP passing out their newspaper,
the Weekly People. For many this is a depress-
ing sight. One student once remarked to me, "I
think it's pathetic that these people keep on
with this when they aren't going 'anywhere."
This remark is probably typical of the way
many students regard these "curious" mem-
bers of the old left; they are impressed by
their dedication but doubt the efficiency of
hanging on to socialism in these times of "ap-
parent" prosperity.
IT IS UNFORTUNATE that these people are
pitied. Their dedication transcends getting
cold in front of the UGLI. Like many people
they do not think that the present political and
social make-up of the country is just. They
have a plan to reconstruct this society. They
are not just agitating for destruction of capi-
talism; they have a program that has been
thoughtfully worked out to replace it. In short,
like a current advertising campaign, the SLP
feels that they have a better idea.
So pity is hardly in order. They don't seem
to- be getting anywhere now, but then again,
a they do not feel that their time isnow. They
believe, however, that conditions will come
some day that will make people take notice
of their plan.
The party's chapter in Washtenaw county
shows the dedication of the membership. Con-
sistent with the party's belief in using elec-
toral politics as a means of education, the
chapter is running a candidate for Congress
from ,this district and is joining with other
Michigan chapters to run candidates for all
the state posts. up for election this year,
Most of the members one would see at a
chapter gathering, in Washtenaw County or
anywhere in the United States, are in their
50's, since most joined the party in the 1930's.
It is a party for the working class, and most
of them look the part. Their dress is unassum-
ing, they sometimes call one another com-
rade, and they drink beer. They enjoy explain-
ing their program to outsiders and are always
eager to make their literature available to any-
one showing interest in socialism.

MEMBERS OF the SLP show a high degree of
awareness of social and economic issues,
a quality which they attribute to their pro-
gram of internal education. If we cannot label
these people intellectuals, we can at least point
out that they understand issues far better than
their fellow factory workers. This is reflected
in the fact that they are not usually swayed
by such non-essential considerations as a
man's image when it comes time to select a
political candidate. 58-year-old Henning Blo-
men, son of Swedish immigrant parents, Is not
the Kennedy-Percy type of image politician.
SLP members seem to be more interested in
arguments. Many of these are based upon his-
torical analogy. For example, they will go
back to the time of the Revolutionary War to
lay the groundwork for their arguments. They
use historical analogy probably because they
cannot cite examples of socialism itself; they
do not feel it exists today.
The membership of the party has not grown
since the 1930's. SLP members are reluctant to
reveal the actual number of their membership,
only admitting that it is quite small.
ONE MISTAKE often made by people - and
a constant source of irritation to members
of the SLP-is the tendency to categorize the
SLP with other "socialist" parties, including
the Communist party. The SLP is almost as
violently opposed to these other "old left"
groups as they are to capitalists. To them, the
other parties have no claim to socialism. They
see the Communists as a bandit organization
that has distorted Marxism in order to estab-
lish a bureaucracy that still exploits the work-
ers. While the Socialist Workers Party, Fred
Halstead's organization, they say, is merely
the Trotskyite offshoot of the Communist
Party. They maintain that this party makes
improper use of the term "socialism" and has
no program.
Both the Socialist Workers and the Com-
munists are seen as reformists by the SLP. The
party does not believe that either of these
outfits really calls for the destruction of
capitalism.
Neither did they find the precepts of
"scientific socialism" in the program that the
Socialist Party of Norman Thomas espoused
in the '30's. Thomas once said that FDR had
appropriated socialist ideas in his New Deal,
a statement that the SLP considers indicative
of Thomas' misrepresentation of socialism.
They consider the New Deal a reformist,
"finger-in-the-dike" type of action not at all
consistent with true socialism.
The enmity toward other leftist groups
shows how the SLP feels about reform meas-
ures. They desire to replace the entire capital-
ist state with an "industrial republic of labor."
This, they believe, is the only way to com-
pletely abolish the existing ills of society-a
patchwork of reforms will not do the job. The
SLP begins with the fundamental premise that
society must be reorganized completely and
that this' task falls to the workers.
THE REVOLUTION they envision is peaceful,
, accomplished democratically and constitu-
tionally through a ballot by the workers. The
role of the SLP, therefore, is to organize and
educate the workers to this end. Unlike the
Nationalist Chinese, Blomen and the SLP are
not really waiting in the wings to take power

themselves. The positions they are running
for would in fact be replaced if they ever
garnered enough support to be elected. The
party sees its role confined to education;
if the day comes when the workers vote to
install the SLP system, the party plans to go
out of existence.
Much of the SLP program was the work
of Daniel DeLeon, a prominent Marxist
around the turn of the century. DeLeon re-
jected a promising career as a "bourgeois
professor" at Columbia to take over as editor
of the Weekly People. It was DeLeon who
called for a new union movement - an idea
that has become central to the SLP's plan of
socialist industrial unionism.
The SLP's plan of government for the new
state is based on this concept-a redrawing of
the system of representation according to oc-
cupation rather than geography. All political
authority will rest with the workers, who will
exercise it through "social industrial unions."
These unions will consist of all the workers in
an individual plant. They will decide all pro-
duction and will vote for a committee that
will manage the activities of the plant. The
union will be vested with full authority; there
will be no leaders in a system of socialist
industrial unionism.
THROUGH THE socialist industrial unions,
the workers will then elect representatives
to the "local industrial union." An example
of this would be an organization of representa-
tives from all the various steel factories in
Detroit. The workers in each shop would also
cast their ballots for representatives to the
"national industrial union," the national
council tf the particular industry. Finally,
they would elect representatives of their in-
dustry to the "socialist industrial union con-
gress," which would be the national council
of various groups of industries such as manu-
facturing or farming.
Would students be part of that union and
have the right to exercise a share of the con-
trol of that university? Ralph Muncy of Ann
Arbor, SLP congressional candidate from the
second district, says that the answer to this
question is something that will be decided later
-after the socialist industrial unions have
come into effect. Muncy said that the SLP plan
is only a general blueprint and that such decis-
ions as the role of students in their "indus-
try" can be determined later on by the work-
ers.
THE REMOVAL of class structure is part of
the SLP's view of the society that will come
into existence when capitalism is abolished and
the social industrial union takes its place.
Since class distinctions are primarily econ-
omic, the removal of private ownership will
remove the basis for these distinctions.
Everyone will be a producer and his labor
will entitle him to something produced by
someone else. This will not be done in terms of
money; there will be no money. A worker will
receive labor-time vouchers which will allow
him to draw from the social store the equiva-
lent amount of goods and services produced by'
someone else, measured in terms of labor-
hours.
This arrangement points up the frequently
asked question: will a highly skilled man with
years of training and education receive the
same amount of compensation that a totally
unskilled worker would receive? Not initially,
the SLP answers. Blomen explains that in the
beginning each man will receive according to
his ability. The value of one man's output can
be weighed against another by the use of com-
puters, which will take into account such
things as education and the portion of a man's
life that his job allows him to work.
Hopefully, SLP members feel, production
will reach such a degree-through the elimina-
tion of a parasitic capitalist class, waste, and
the production of war materials-that there
will be no reason for one man to receive less
than another.

COUPLED WITH the increase in production
and thus more-wealth-for-all concept of
the SLP's view of what society will be like after
reconstruction, they believe that they can
eradicate conflict from society. SLP attri-
butes this conflict between the classes to
economic disparity. Laws are written to protect
the vested interests of the capitalists. When
socialist industrial unionism is established
and economic and political authority is exer-

servant of the ruling capitalist class, and that
the "useful functions" it does provide are in-
cidental. For example, they note that traffic
control could be carried on by industry.
Another major form of conflict is that
among nations. The SLP sees this conflict as
another ill of capitalism. They say that wars
are a result of international economic com-'
petition - that excessive greed on the part of
the ruling capitalist class often involves one
nation in wars with other nations.
SLP members believe that their program
would eliminate war since the capitalist class
would no longer exist. Production would be in
the hands of the workers, who, they say, would
work to produce only what they need. And by
no longer needing to produce war materials,
more needs of every worker can be met.
SUCH A PROPOSAL is certainly attractive.
Most people would be glad not to be in-
volved in any more wars. The idea, too, of us-
ing the energies now directed at large defense
and war production for more humane, con-
structive purposes deserves merit. If this is
idealistic, it certainly shows thinking in the
right direction at a time when we are having
difficulty in accomplishing something so minor
as the non-proliferation treaty.
Whatever merits the Socialist Labor Party
program may sport, every year they have a
difficult time getting the opportunity to pre-
sent their ideas on the ballot. Ralph Muncy
charges that the Democrats and Republicans
make it far from easy for other parties to get
on the ballot.
Petitions must be circulated to get signa-
tures of a large number of voters in order to
secure a place on the ballot. In many states
this must be done. for every election. In some
states,,such as Michigan, it must be done ev ry
time their party does not receive a certain per-
centage of the vote cast. And in some states,
New York for example, the total number of
signatures gathered must be spread to some
extent among every county. This is extremely
restrictive on the SLP since most of its sup-
port comes from industrial areas.
NEVERTHELESS, as Muncy reports, the SLP
Nhas been, successful in getting themselves
on the ballot regularly in about 16 states. But
their troubles to make themselves heard elec-
torally do not end here.

Muncy believes that the votes cast for the
SLP often do not get reported. Election offi-
cials often suppress many of their votes, he
claims, so they never know for sure how many
votes really have been cast for the SLP. He
referred to one election in which hisprecinct
reported no votes cast for the SLP. Muncy said
that both he and his wife had voted a straight
ticket and a few other people in the precinct
told him they had done so too. But when the
results were listed, the returns showed no
votes for the SLP.
With harassment to keep them off the bal-
lot, and the increasing complacency with the
capitalist system on the part of labor, their
fight becomes more uphill every year. But the
SLP keeps up its program of education and
agitation to pave the way to the day when,
finally, the heat will arise and the ballot will
usher in their program.
The SLP will only be content with total vic-
tory-the complete destruction of capitalism.
No temporary measures, no reforms within
the system of capitalism are wanted. They will
not alter their position to make the SLP plan
more eye-catching.
Their ideas have been formulated; their
program is inflexible to the point that it be-
comes dogma. The SLP will not even take in
new members merely to swell their ranks; they
must first be convinced that a person really be-
lieves and understands their principles. And
a new member must realize that the life of a
socialist in this country is not an easy one;
a certain amount of social ostracism from
capitalist society must be expected. And it's
no secret that young people are not at-
tracted to their program. Without a new gen-
eration to carry the torch, the SLP will be in
trouble. But conditions can change. That's
what the SLP is counting on.
H ENNING BLOMEN is a shoo-in to lose the
Presidency. Socialism might not be in the
offing for a long time, if ever. But a "pure,"
uncompromising SLP will be prepared should
that day ever come. However that may be, it
is somehow comforting to know that no matter
what the electoral climate may be next election
time, we can be sure of what the SLP plat-
form will be. And for that certainty, this so-
ciety exacts a difficult price from the Socialist
Labor Party.

I

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