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De Leonism – Toward a more Equitable and Democratic society

Socialist Labor Party Hall (1900) – stone historical marker / flickr creative commons, Don Shall

A number of ideas and possibilities have been put forth over the years to achieve this outcome. Some have been more successful than others. Some have been completely ineffectual. Communism and classic socialism have been tried to various degrees.  A source for intellectual discussion galore.  In one diary though a commenter mentioned Syndicalism. I had not heard of this previously so decided to research just what they were referring to. From Wikipedea.

Syndicalism is a type of economic system proposed as a replacement for capitalism and an alternative to state socialism, which proposes confederations of collectivised trade unions or industrial unions. It is a form of socialist economic corporatism that advocates interest aggregation of multiple non-competitive categorised units to negotiate and manage an economy.[1]

For adherents, labour unions are the potential means of both overcoming economic aristocracy and running society fairly in the interest of the majority, through union democracy. Industry in a syndicalist system would be run through co-operative confederations and mutual aid. Local syndicates would communicate with other syndicates through the Bourse du Travail (labor exchange) which would manage and transfer commodities.

. . . . . . . .

Syndicalism is one of the three most common currents of socialist economics, together with Market socialism and socialist planned economies. It holds, on an ethical basis, that all participants in an organised trade internally share equal ownership of its production. By contrast, socialism emphasises distributing output among trades as required by each trade, not necessarily considering how trades organise internally. Communism rejects government-sanctioned private ownership of the means of production in favor of ownership by the class of individuals who actually use such property (i.e., the workers or proletariat, who under most variants of communism would have control of the state as well, muddling the distinction between state and proletarian ownership). In syndicalism, unions exist independent of the state rather than needing the state’s micromanagement and central planning. As with businesses in capitalism, labor unions in syndicalism would likely share a complicated relationship of co-operation and opposition with the state (with the obvious exception of anarcho-syndicalism, under which there would be no state).

So far so good. This then lead me to De Leonism, Wikipedea again:

De Leonism, occasionally known as Marxism-Deleonism, is a form of syndicalistMarxism developed by Daniel De Leon. De Leon was an early leader of the first United States socialist political party, the Socialist Labor Party of America. De Leon combined the rising theories of syndicalism in his time with orthodox Marxism. According to De Leonist theory, militant industrial unions (specialized trade unions) are the vehicle of class struggle. Industrial Unions serving the interests of the proletariat (working class) will bring about the change needed to establish a socialist system. The only way this differs from some currents in anarcho-syndicalism is that, according to De Leonist thinking, a revolutionary political party is also necessary to fight for the proletariat on the political field.

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According to the De Leonist theory, workers would simultaneously form Socialist Industrial Unions in the workplaces, and a socialist political party which would organize in the political realm. Upon achieving sufficient support for a victory at the polls, the political party would be voted into office, giving the De Leonist program a mandate from the people. It is assumed that at that point, the Socialist Industrial Unions will have attained sufficient strength in the workplaces for workers there to take control of the means of production.[citation needed]

The De Leonist victory at the polls would be accompanied by a transfer of control of the factories, mines, farms and other means of production to workers councils organized within the industrial unions. De Leonists distinguish this event from the general strike to take control of the workplaces advocated by anarcho-syndicalists, and refer to it instead as a general lockout of the ruling class.[citation needed]

The existing government would then be replaced with a government elected from within the Socialist Industrial Unions, and the newly elected socialist government would quickly enact whatever constitutional amendments or other changes in the structure of government needed to bring this about, adjourning “sine die”. Workers on the shop floor would elect local shop floor committees needed to continue production, and representatives to local and national councils representing their particular industry.

This sounds very similar to what Professor Richard D. Wolff has been promoting in his talks and on his website Democracy at Work. It’s also the system that was originally promoted by the IWW in it’s original conception. There are some major differences though. For one De Leonist thought proposed doing away with wages per-se and replacing the money aspect with labor vouchers.

Unlike money, vouchers cannot circulate and are not transferable between people. They are also not exchangeable for any means of production hence they are not transmutable into Capital. Once a purchase is made the labour vouchers are either destroyed or must be re-earned through labour. Therefore, with such a system in place, monetary theft would become impossible.

Such a system is proposed by many as a replacement for traditional money while retaining a system of remuneration for work done. It is also a way of ensuring that there is no way to ‘make money out of money’ as in a capitalist market economy.

Additionally, the only kind of market that could exist in an economy operating through the use of labour vouchers would be an artificial market (arket) for mostly non-productive goods and services; as with the dissolution of money, capital markets could no longer exist and labour markets would also likely cease to exist with the abolition of wage labor which would by necessity occur with the adoption of vouchers.

Author and activist Michael Albert and economist Robin Hahnel have proposed a similar system of remuneration in their economic system of participatory economics (parecon). A difference is that in parecon “credits” are generally awarded based on both the time spent working and the amount of effort and sacrifice spent during labour, rather than simple contribution. Some later advocates of participism and parecon have also proposed awarding more based on job difficulty or danger. Also, in contrast to the physical note or cheque format used for labour vouchers in the past, parecon credits are proposed as being entirely digital in keeping with advances with technology and are stored in electronic accounts and usable through cards similar to current day debit cards.

Secondly a De Leonist system promotes political activism with the eventual outcome to taking control of the government. The end result being to implement these concepts of a democratic work place and eventually doing away with the central governing system. One of the oldest unions around is based on the concepts.  The Socialist Labor Party.

These two differences have caused a good deal of debate within the World Socialist Movement (WSM), The Canadian De Leonist Society and was partly the reason for the split with the IWW, forming the Workers International Industrial Union (WIIU).

The major problem I see though is one of cultural attitudes towards power, entitlement and privilege which have not changed much – it at all – since the days of feudalism. I would say that capitalism is indeed an form of neo-feudalism in that it embraces these concepts and attitudes.

And one of the biggest hurdles is NOT the practicality of such a system but that all the Abrahamic religions – as well as a few Eastern religions – also embrace these  corruptive attitudes toward  power, entitlement and privilege. That every union and labor organization takes a subservient stand toward the elites, capital and authoritarianism.

Obviously this mean s that for any system of this type to be successful we need to diminish and better yet eliminate these attitudes and reject outright power, entitlement and privilege, as well as being subservient  toward the elites, capital and authoritarianism. Then spread this rejection far and wide. Otherwise we are simply spinning our wheels while the world becomes more and more uninhabitable.


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