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(en) Hungary, The anarchist Barricade Collective presents: Ervin Szabó and the syndicalist attempts in Hungary - pamphlet

Date Sat, 01 Jul 2006 13:01:53 +0300

Published by Barricade Collective website: www.anarcom.lapja.hu
At the beginning of the 20th century, the number of the industrial
workers in Hungary was low in comparison with the number of the
agricultural workers. There were 800 thousand industrial workers,
300 thousand of them worked in the factories. In the next decade,
the number of the industrial workers became almost two times more.
Their wage was less by approximately 40-50 per cents than the wage
of the West-European industrial workers. The workers drudged 12
hours a day in the workshops, sometimes even more. A lot of them
had come from the villages, dreaming about a better existence. The
process of urbanization went on - the towns pulled to themselves an
ever-increasing fresh workforce. Between 1870 and 1900, the
capitalist economy established 80 textile factories in Hungary;
between 1900 and 1913, 220 new textile factories were produced by
the ambitious capitalism. Between 1858 and 1913, the total number
of factories grew from 2747 to 5521. The capitalist production
liquidated more and more the ruling feudal relationships.
The activity of the working-class movement in Hungary grew
together with the level of exploitation. The social democratic
movement (which followed the pattern of the German orthodox
social democracy) had a primary influence within the working class,
and determined its orientation. The Social Democratic Party had
been and remained consequently reformist, just like its foreign
companions. They couldn't be "accused" of revolutionary behaviour
and internationalism. The Second International affected directly all
over in this region, too, and it won the honest status of capitalism's
watch-dog. The aim of this organization - which was essentially a
Marxist church - was the defence of the workplaces and labour laws,
and it became a trained hero of the democratic rights of freedom,
just like its representative in Hungary, the Social Democratic Party.
This party awaked the vision of the red spectre for a time in the
minds of the bourgeoisie, but in the reality, it was a calm,
crumb-picking pigeon, which liked most of all to shit on the
proletariat. The party was accomplished with the trade unions,
which pressed close to the party in an Edenic harmony, and in which
"the self-conscious worker could find a home" when he/she joined
one of them. They organized strikes, published newspapers,
collected money for cultural work, established workers' clubs,
reading circles. This way, they also created those possibilities of
coming to consciousness, which sometimes (as "revolutionary
sparks") swept through the social democratic tombs.
These two pornographic political formations (interwoven with each
other) filled that left-wing space on the political palette which
democracy had reserved for them. Their main desire was the
universal suffrage, this way they wanted to take that place in the
parliament which was their due. Everything was subordinated to this
"noble", counter-revolutionary goal. With its effective bourgeois
functioning, the party gave birth to its opposition, the activity of
which cristallyzed until 1906. (We would like to mention that already
in the last decades of the 19th century there existed an organized
anarcho-communist movement in Hungary, which stood against
social democracy and the capitalist order in general. It was the
Group of Radical Socialists, the history and one document of which
was earlier published by us in English, too.) The activists around
Ervin Szabó gradually withdrew from social democracy, but didn't
break with it totally. The same can be said about Ervin Szabó, who
continuously attacked the behaviour of the party, while he kept up
his relationships with left-wing intellectuals until his death. On the
other hand, the circle of Ervin Batthyány and his comrades had
emerged, and it found comrades among Szabó's circle, and made an
attempt of organizing the anarchist movement in Hungary. Through
its papers, articles, debates and lectures, this interwoven current
attacked social democracy permanently and in an increasing degree.
Batthyány established journals with his comrades, and kept up close
comradely relationships with Ervin Szabó.

Ervin Szabó

In 1906, the journal Testvériség (Fraternity) was founded. This was
an organ of social democracy, but it turned more and more against
its party, and the anarchist publications became frequent in it. The
central leadership of the party couldn't bear this "shame", and put its
hand on the journal. A little after, Batthyány launched the journal
called Társadalmi Forradalom (Social Revolution), in which the
influence of William Morris, Piotr Kropotkin, anarcho-communism
and the CGT mingled with each other. But the effect of this journal
was not large enough to help the formation of an active, strong
anarchist movement in Hungary - an eclectic, mottled, decentralized
organ, which contained different opinions, was obviously not enough
for this aim. They stressed a lot the false idealist model - which was
followed by a lot of "idealist anarchists" -, according to which the
working class can and must be influenced first of all through its
"consciousness". On a recent comradely leaflet from Greece, we
read: "The school brings light only when it is burning!" This says
enough about the ardour of the enlighteners! The separation of
propaganda activity from the everyday misery and struggle, the mere
citation of Kropotkin, Tolstoy and others without taking into account
the social conditions, led to isolation. The working class movement
(being, in advance, under social democratic influence) didn't take
this current into its good graces.
During the first half of 1907, the edition of the journal went into the
hands of the Budapest Group of Revolutionary Socialists. This group
existed also before, and it maintained contacts with the Italian Il
Libertario (from La Spezia), with L'Aurora and with the Swiss Le
Reveil, among others. Anti-militarist propaganda, direct actions and
the general strike was in the focus of their efforts. The group was
composed of about 200 militants. They traditionally followed the
liberal tolerance and ideological heterogeneity of their predecessors,
mated anarchism with syndicalism, cheering Ravachol and scolding
the "police socialism" (that means, social democracy) at the same
time. They were influenced by the agrarian-socialist ideas and the
Tolstoyan-gnostic millenarian views of the beginning of the century.
(At the beginning the 20th century, the agricultural proletariat waged
numerous struggles, a peculiar form of whose was the harvest strike.
The working-class movement in this period was far more extended
in the villages and market-towns than in the industrial centers. The
agrarian-proletarian movement's messianistic, religious-chialistic
socialist views and the lower tempo of the agriculture's capitalist
development could be the reason for the fact that Ervin Szabó paid
less attention to it than it deserved - though he dealt several times
with the past struggles of the "agrarian communists" in his writings.
Of course, there were thin connections, links between the agrarian
socialists and those in the towns, but they couldn't organize
themselves organically. In addition, at the time when the
anarcho-syndicalists managed to organize themselves into a group,
the more radical wing of the agrarian socialist movement was already
decomposing and, according to this, their efficacy was vanishing.
Before long, we are going to publish in English a document of the
agrarian socialist movement and a sketch of its history.)
The members of the Budapest Group of Revolutionary Socialists
consumed the menu of a peculiar devil's kitchen, which could
contain the rejection of violence as well as Darwin, Malatesta,
Kropotkin and the popularization of the proletarian revolution. They
ate and let their comrades eat with good appetite the "delicacies" of
the mutually contradictory ideologies and views. In the meantime,
Ervin Szabó had moved more and more towards left from social
democracy, and in 1909, he broke with it organizationally. His
movement activity was enmeshed by his contacts with anarchism
from the beginning - he established the "Holy Trinity" of
Marxism-anarchism-syndicalism. In his early years he maintained
contact with Russian revolutionaries, and he began to criticize social
democracy more and more profoundly. He went through its schools,
but already in 1902, he stood up for the real proletarian currents
beyond social democracy. In Italy, he got acquainted with the
syndicalist Robert Michels - Ervin Szabó was influenced by him and
kept contact with him through correspondence. His relationships
widened, and his critical commentaries became more and more
consequent. In 1904, he established contact with Hubert Lagardelle,
who was the founding editor of Mouvement Socialiste. They
regarded each other as comrades, and Ervin Szabó published his
article "Syndicalism and Social Democracy" in the journal of
Lagardelle. In the beginning of the article, the author stated that the
conditions of Hungary were unsuitable for absorbing the writing, and
it couldn't fall on a fertile soil. He had right. Social democracy
managed to conquer the larger masses of the workers for itself, and
this conquest has gone on until today. In the recent elections (they
were held in April, 2006) the bigger part of the working class voted
once again for social democracy, which has already taken off his
Marxist dress, in order to put on the liberal gown. The problem is
posed just like before, since the democratic illusions proliferate
boisterously among the working class.
The fact that the workers adopted the political tasks and the ideology
of the bourgeoisie is explained by Ervin Szabó by pointing at the
backward economic development and the lack of political rights, and
he watches the gaining ground of social democracy in the mirror of
this analysis. This explanation isn't satisfactory for today and it
wasn't reassuring already in that period. In Hungary, the bourgeoisie
usually spread his ideology successfully, after revolutionary periods
started the times of repression, of economic and political reprisals, to
which the divided class couldn't actually react as a militant class,
that means, as proletariat. It managed only to create the faction of
the proletariat, and, in fact, only the functioning of several groups,
the growing strike-mood and the small signs of everyday protest
show that we are alive. Of course, this is not a specifically Hungarian
phenomenon. The growing democratic illusions go hand in hand
with the "Canaan vision of the EU", the economic legend of joining
Western Europe is effective, while the trade unions have become so
weak, that at the 1st of May several hundreds of democratic heads
were protesting against the bourgeoisie and imploring for "observing
the rights of the employees". The trade unions perform their job
without real workers' support. This would be OK, if at the same
time, the working-class movement woke up. But the murderous
bourgeois angel of the times goes on flitting to and fro.
In 1910, in the circle of Ervin Szabó emerged the idea of manifesting
the synthesis of "revolutionary Marxism" and syndicalism and
making an attempt to create the syndicalist movement in Hungary.
Szabó wrote the manifesto. Already in his writing "Syndicalism and
Social Democracy" he - "as a Marxist" - laid stress on economic
struggles, but this way he differed completely from orthodox
Marxism, which stressed the importance of political struggles. It's
obvious, that the influence of anarcho-syndicalism became stronger
in his views, since he - together with Sándor Hanesz, the Serbian
Krszta Isskruljev, Ignác Bellér and another comrades - now regarded
the general strike as the main weapon of class struggle. The
propagandistic manifesto published below doesn't promise vivid,
new perceptions even in comparison with the usual
anarcho-syndicalist stereotype. It reflects the lack of echo from the
proletariat and the general failures of syndicalism - which were
crowned in 1914, when several activists were squeezed out of the
working-class movement once and for all by their bourgeois
ideological theses and their nationalist ardour. Contrary to the
statements of Szabó on Marx and Bakunin which were vivid and
clarifying, this writing is absolutely typical.
When Szabó - yet under the aegis of social democracy - published
the selected works of Marx and Engels, in one of the prefaces he
wrote: "In France, Georges Sorel and his company around
Mouvement Socialiste, the Italian Sorelists: Arturo Labriola and
others, are devoting all their efforts with not little success to drive
back the working-class movement to the basis of the Marxian
International's brightest period? And maybe before long, the par
excellence Marxist country, Germany will also feel the breath of this
strong Marxism, freed from the fetters of political necessities." At
time of the publication of the manifesto, they also hoped to create
the foundations of a new Marxist-anarchist-syndicalist
working-class movement. They were wrong.
Neither the manifesto, nor the other writings of Ervin Szabó
managed to understand the class struggle in its totality. The stigma
of isolation compelled them to theoretical activity. The signs of this
can be followed best of all on the columns of Társadalmi
Forradalom. By the way, they wanted to publish their own journal
but didn't have financial basis for it.
In one of his rather forgotten works entitled "A t?ke és a munka
harca" (The Struggle Between Capital and Labour), which was
published in 1911, he wrote: "It must be admitted that capitalism
makes a social mission when it organizes the production and clothes
it with the forms of the highest productivity. And if this costs tears
and blood - and we now how much tears it brings and how much
blood it sheds -, it is possible to fight against it only on one terrain:
there, were capital and labour meets directly, within the walls of the
factory itself." From the myths of ouvrierism, the economic struggle
and the general strike steps out the skeleton of anarcho-syndicalism,
which have been discredited historically since then. One of his critics
drops a remark, hinting at his syndicalist activity: "Ervin Szabó
criticized reformism without stepping out from its magic circle."
Rosa Luxemburg wrote in the heat of the mass strike debate: "The
working class doesn't have two distinct class struggles, an economic
and a political class struggle, there's only one class struggle." Let us
keep in mind this very important statement, because to become able
to get square with the totality of capitalism and its ever stronger
totalizing ambitions, we have to free us from the comedy of the
separation of political and economic struggles. We have to regard the
round dance of the workshop, the factory, the school, the physical
and the mental exploitation, production and consumption, in
general: the rotation of capitalism's weekdays. Syndicalism rejects
the organic centralization of the proletariat just like social democracy
or bolshevism. It buries us alive in the factories, workshops - the hell
of the world of labour, just like the trade unions? The general strike
remains a mere illustration of the class struggle if it isn't coupled
with the revolution of the totality - that means, with the dictatorship
of the proletariat, which doesn't think in transitions, doesn't ponder
and use tactics, but acts consequently, the harmonic unity of
revolutionary program and act pushes aside the curses and sins of
the old working-class movement, and the power-mad lust of its
inquisitors. The company of Szabó didn't recognize that the strike
can only be a device but not a goal. Moreover, they only partially
recognized that the trade unions aren't autonomous workers'
organizations, but a quite effective bourgeois force against the class
struggle, which can become really powerful through the
self-restricting fervour of the workers.
Szabó and his comrades really wanted the working class to establish
its own organizations and fight against the world of capital. Their
defeated attempt serves with a lot of lessons. First of all, they could
become aware of the fact that they couldn't act effectively as
"working-class activists without working-class movement". The
group remained alone and didn't manage to enlarge itself neither in
Hungary, nor internationally. But the hard core of its activists
continued their struggle, which was marked by elements of
syndicalism but in which syndicalism never became a dominating
practice. So, anarcho-syndicalism more or less remained an element
in the Hungarian proletarian struggles, but it played a subordinate
role. We can see it in the anarcho-communist movement which
grew stronger from 1917 on, and in which Ervin Szabó was one of
the activists among a lot of others. During the death orgy of the
bourgeois war, he became the direct theoretical leader of the Group
of Revolutionary Socialists (in which participated Ottó Korvin,
Tivadar Sugár, Ilona Duczynska and other comrades), which
accepted the program of Zimmerwald.
At the same time, almost no signs of the new revolutionary
movement can be found in the writings of Szabó. He even wrote an
article in 1917 entitled "Imperializmus és tartós béke" (Imperialism
and Lasting Peace), related to which his "mature" critic, József
Révai says, that a totally false picture of imperialism developed in
Szabó: there's a "good imperialism" in England with free trade, and a
"bad imperialism" in Germany with protective tariff. (Révai was a
comrade of Szabó during the proletarian struggles at the end of the
war, later he became a Stalinist. He wrote his critique already in his
Stalinist period, nevertheless, it is often apt.) At the same time,
Szabó cheers internationalism and the Russian revolution on illegal
The group around Szabó actively agitated against the war, and the
class struggle movement became wider and wider. A lot of
enthusiastic young communists got in touch with Szabó and his
comrades. Antal Mosolygó (a member of the group) got to know the
IWW through Szabó, and became a devoted follower of this
anarchist organization, the brochures of which went from one hand
to another. Some comrades arrived from the circle around Kassák,
others from the Galilei circle. At this time the many-colored
organization didn't have a common platform, anarcho-communism
was mixed with syndicalism, pacifism with class militancy, but the
movement soon went beyond the ideological motley and the
anarcho-communist activism got the upper hand. The hatred of the
bourgeoisie and the war became a centralizing force.
The proletarian revolution in Russia had influence also in Hungary.
In the first half of 1917, 20 thousand Hungarian soldiers deserted,
the strikes spread. Already at the beginning of the war there was a
big unemployment. In the building industry, 4140 workers out of
12400 were unemployed. The imperialist war also raised the length
of the workday, there were branches in which the workers drudged
78 per week (in 1917). The wages fell quickly, and if there were
cases when the payment of the workers rose, it was because "the
front", the proletarian-trampling war raised them - the conjuncture
made by the capitalist war sometimes led to the increase of wages.
Because of the war production, the capital at the most of the
companies rose: in 1914. A half of the industrial joint-stock
companies finished the year 1914 with gain. In 1917, 75 per cent of
them were profitable. The social democratic puppets had still barked
that the working class had to act for the reform of the suffrage and
not for the revolution.
At the end of 1917 began the agitation for the forming of workers'
councils - remembered later Gyula Hevesi. The council movement
ripened and came to life, but its social democratic features stood out,
and it acted under social democratic influence? At the same time,
the Group of Revolutionary Socialist spread leaflets in workshops
and army barracks, the leaflets reach also the front. In 5th of January
1918, the group organized a demonstration against the conditions of
the conclusion of peace at Brest. (We don't know the members'
exact opinion about the twitching in Brest, but their revolutionary
ardour could defy the bolshevik class peace.) Several comrades had
been arrested, others took their places.
The bourgeois friends of Szabó (people like Mihály Babits, the
humanist poet, Oszkár Jászi, the leftist-liberal sociologist and other
soft-hearted literate men) didn't know anything about his illegal
movement activity - because he conspired in the front of them.
Because of his ethical idealism and his too intellectual cast of mind -
and because of his inconsistency which was a result of these - he
didn't break with those, who were separated from him "only" by a
class front. This infantilism worked perfectly from the point of view
of conspiracy, but at the same time, he had to face up day by day to
the fact that he shakes hand with those, against whom he wages
war. This phenomenon is not rare in the revolutionary working-class
movement even today.
Szabó was tubercular and he was flat on his back from the summer
of 1918 on. He died in September of that year. In October, the
revolutionary wave accelerated as an avalanche. Soon the
Communist Party of Hungary was formed, and after a few months
the bolsheviks, the anarcho-communists and the syndicalists fused
with the Social Democratic Party - announcing the formation of the
Soviet Republic of Hungary.
This fusion foreshadowed the crushing of the revolution. Faced with
the orders of the Soviet Government (the "Revolutionary Governing
Council", as it called itself), the more consequent elements turned
against it, and continued their struggle against the bourgeoisie. "In
the post-war period, a saying went in the Hungarian anarchist
circles: 'If he (Ervin Szabó) lived to see, he would surely have
impeded the forming of the bolshevik dictatorship.'" - wrote the
anarcho-syndicalist A. Dauphin-Meunier. This statement is naïve,
but let's look at his writings and his biography, and search the signs
of this?
At last, we would like the draw the reader's attention to the fact that
in a former English-language publication about him, we wrote, that
Ervin Szabó wasn't an eclectic militant. Well, this is a half-truth,
because he was quite consequent in his analysis of the
Marx-Bakunin dispute and in some other questions, but he was no
less eclectic in the alloying of Marxism-syndicalism-anarchism in

Barricade Collective
June, 2006

The ensign of the Hungarian anti-militarists

Ervin Szabó
Syndicalism. Manifesto to the Workers of Hungary

Fellow Workers!
The Hungarian working class has been fighting for forty years for
universal suffrage. We don't say that this fight was in no way in the
interest of the working class. It is very much in the interest of the
working class that the power of the state should rest with a less
heavy hand on its organizations and that the organs of legislation and
administration should place fewer obstacles in the way of the
working-class movement and its institutions. As far as the struggle
of the working class is aimed at the democratization of Hungarian
legislation, we have nothing against it. And we also admit that this
long struggle can proudly look back at not a few courageously fought
battles which will always remain part of the history of the working
However, while we state all this, we cannot suppress a serious
concern: for two generations the struggle for universal suffrage was
fought almost exclusively by the working class, hence, it is no
wonder that the best members of the working class are convinced
that class struggle and struggle for democracy are the same. For two
generations the working class was told about the struggle for
democracy by men who had learned their ideas from the great
socialist thinkers, hence, it was easy for the workers to assume that
socialism and democracy are identical and, therefore, called the party
of radical democracy the Social Democratic Party. Now, after forty
years, when a genuine industrial working class begins to reach mass
size and a mass organization in Hungary, it is time, comrades, that
the warning be made loud and clear: the fight for democracy is not
the same as the class struggle of the workers, and socialism is not
equal to social democracy. It is time to make it clear: the true class
struggle is fought in the field of economic confrontation and true
socialism cannot be achieved through the state, even the most
democratic one, but only on the ruins thereof.
Your leaders know this well and even told you something along
these lines, and made economic organizations and prophesied about
the coming of socialist society. But what are those words worth
when their actions day by day deny these beautiful ideas?
Or do those economic organizations that give priority to the service
of a political party instead of the economic confrontation of the
capitalist class-the true class struggle-in fact subscribe to class -
struggle? The best forces of these organizations, leaders, staff,
money, and time, are wasted not on economic confrontation but in
political struggle. Do those organizations in which the worker may
hear about many things, but in which the A and Z, the top and the
bottom of everything is the praise of democracy, of universal
suffrage, and parliamentarianism, really educate you for socialism?
Let us look once at this ceaselessly cited and praised-to-heaven
democracy! Is it really the source of all happiness? Does the welfare
and future of the working class really depend on it?
We believe, comrades, that political forms, whether they are called
aristocracy, democracy, absolutism, republic, or what have you, are
not basic factors of human happiness. Always and under all
conditions it was the organization of social production that defined
all other organizations of society, and no political regime could ever
end the bitterness of hunger, misery, and the fight for daily survival.
Rather the economic struggle of classes was always that force which
granted the one more, the other less, and modified according to this
ever-changing balance of economic struggle the entire form and
image of society. When the economic struggle of the oppressed
classes achieved more, then political oppression also diminished,
liberty grew, and the ruling classes had to give up some of their
power; and conversely, whenever the system of production and the
economic class struggle pushed down the fighting producers, their
rights were curtailed, too.
From this it does not follow that you should not be concerned with
the form of that state by which the wealthy classes dominate your
life. Man lives not by bread alone. One wishes not merely to have
one's fill, but wants to be well-dressed as well. We may say that the
form of the state is the clothing of society; if we have had our fill,
that is, if our economic struggle was successful, we don't want to be
cold, and we even gain strength for the struggle for our food when
we can fight in well-fitting clothes. Therefore, it is not irrelevant for
the working class what type of state is the political organization of
However, we would surely find foolish and self destructive someone
who spends his greatest efforts not on securing the basic necessities
of life but on obtaining handsome garments. It seems that the
working class is on its way to becoming just like such a person.
Instead of remembering that the political form of society was always
the fruit of its economic organization; instead of keeping in mind
that liberty always depended on the outcome of economic struggle;
instead of drawing the only possible conclusion that the basis of the
entire society-that of a future society no less-lies in the fighting
organization of the opposing classes; instead of being keen to spend
their best energies on such economic organizations and economic
struggles-instead of all this we see that it spends its best mental
capacities, all the treasure of its enthusiasm, self-sacrifice, and
courage on the struggle for the form of government and places these
at the feet of the idol of democracy, as if this idol and not- a hundred
times more so-immediate economic struggle, could eliminate all its
sufferings. And when the government stands in its way, when the
ruling classes mobilize the power of the state against the working
class, then, instead of applying an opposing force against the state,
the workers sacrifice life and limb to conquer a piece of the state
through parliament or even take it over, while it is obvious that the
state cannot be anything else but the state of the economically ruling
classes and the workers can be its masters not by votes but by their
increased economic power.
In this schizophrenic fight the working class cannot become
conscious of its real tasks. In the economic organization one fact
dominates their soul the fact of fighting capital. Their consciousness
is filled with the idea that all the good they can achieve is to be
gained in the struggle against capital. The basis of its entire moral
and intellectual betterment is higher wages and shorter working
hours; these are the objects of the everyday struggle. In this daily
struggle the soul of the workers is filled with hatred for capitalist
domination and from this hatred and fighting spirit emerges the
wish, the hope, the will for a society in which the powers of capital
do not lord over the workers, where capital, wealth, the source of
liberty belongs to him, to the producer-for socialism. In the political
organization, however, he is told that what moves the worker in the
economic struggle, to overcome capital and achieve socialism,
cannot be achieved but through the state, through political power;
that first governmental power has to be achieved and a majority in
the legislature; that he has to elect deputies and reform the state in a
democratic process; and the economic organizations serve no other
aim but to strengthen the working class for the task of democratic
reforms. The principles of democracy are pronounced with such a
devotion and assiduity that the trade unions of the Hungarian
working class cannot now be regarded as anything else but the
branches of a political party, the Social Democratic Party. And we
have frequently experienced that economic interests had to be
silenced for the sake of politics.
Can the economic organizations in this situation fulfill their socialist,
revolutionary calling? Can they become strong when new members
are not asked whether they wish to fight against capital but whether
they are believers in universal suffrage?
Let us underline once again: we do not dispute that the
democratization of Hungary would help the working class. We do
not deny that if the bourgeoisie is unable to complete this task alone,
the working class should take part in the struggle. Let them form a
political party and fight for universal suffrage. And those who like
democracy more than socialism, let them go into politics with all
their energy. But let them not make the economic organization
satellites of the political fights! The trade unions should not for a
moment be derailed from their main goal, to be organs for the
struggle against capital, bases of a non-capitalist society-now, as
well as in the future!
Say not that trade unions without a parliamentary party cannot
achieve anything. What brought about that little that the unions had
achieved so far? Merely their economic power! And the little weight
that the party now has is due to what? To the same! And not the
other way around, that the unions should be indebted to the party.
Not only the great tasks of the future, but even the immediate
interests of the Social Democratic Party demand that the economic
organizations be their own masters, go their own way, fight their
own struggle, and follow their particular aims.
Unions, be your own masters! Nobody should be your guardians,
not even the workers party. No political interest should interfere with
your economic decisions. Only the needs of the fight against capital
shall decide what's to be done.
Unions, go your own, way! Follow the road of economic struggle!
Let the single members be free to participate in partisan struggles,
but the organization itself, as a body, as the representative of the
economic and moral interests of the working class should never
leave the road that leads immediately to the fulfillment of the basic
needs of the workers: the immediate economic struggle.
Unions, fight in your own manner! The weapons of syndicalism are
different from those of parliamentary politics. Economic fights are
not decided by majority. If the principles of majority democracy
would decide economic struggles, then all confrontations with
capital should bring the victory of the workers, for they, clearly are in
majority and there are certainly more people who want higher wages
and lower working hours than those who don't. Economic struggles
were always fought out by a conscious, leading minority, and they
could decide the fight only when they were ready to throw in their
entire life and energy even for the most immediate target.
The action to which the conscious minority of the working class
applies all its force and power, with which it stands or falls, is the
strike. The strike is the final word in economic struggle, the final
threat, the final deed. No economic action against capital can have a
chance of success unless it is backed up by the final act of stopping
profit: suspension of work. That is why the paramount and distinct
weapon of the economic organizations. their indispensable and
supreme fighting mode, is the strike. This holds true for semi-feudal
Hungary just as much as for republican France and democratic
America. Under the rule of capital there can be no political
organization, there can never be so much liberty as to make strikes
Hence, all formal and tactical questions of the economic
organizations fight have to answer one question: how can the
working class strengthen this main weapon of its struggle, how can
the greatest success of strikes be assured. In less developed
countries, where the industrial centers are but loosely connected, or
in underdeveloped branches of an industry, where the employers
exploit labor in small, insulated enterprises, the working class will
organize its fight also in loosely connected, local units. As
industrialization progresses, as the employers unite and confront
their workers in the form of major, national associations, the workers
will also unite. From the grassroots up their local unions will
concentrate into national organizations, in order to oppose massed
force against massed power. However, whether they are set up
locally or unite in national or industrial organizations, the unions
may have only one task: to develop and serve the working class's
preparedness for strike.
Therefore, the functions of the economic organizations must not be
hampered by such things which serve rather to reduce their fighting
ability, impede their mobility and increase their risks. If the working
class needs institutions for supporting the victims of unemployment,
illness, disability, or other calamities, such insurance companies
(mutual help societies, sickness benefit funds) should be established
independently of the fighting organization. For the mixing of these
insurance purposes with the aims of the fighting organization leads
only to the accumulation of an ever larger number of members,
usually with little class consciousness, in order to increase insurance
capital, and then to shield both members and wealth from any risk of
struggle. In the last resort, when these associations are eventually
forced to fight, they enter the field with mem­bers unused to and
untrained for struggle, and, in spite of their filled coffers, lose out
against the still much richer and more powerful organization of the
employers. Can't we see this happening in several cases of the major
industrial countries, whenever their rich and large organizations have
to face hard struggle? Wasn't this the lesson of the German iron
workers and miners? Or of the great Swedish strike?
We don't advocate small economic organizations; to the contrary, we
hold that they will and have to grow together with industry and the
frequency of confrontations. But whether small or large, whoever
belongs to them should be ready to fight and not look for sickness
benefits. More or fewer workers-but fighters! Ten courageous men
are worth more than a hundred peaceable, sheepish (albeit honest
and decent) ones.
Every action and every weapon of the economic organization must
be aimed at one purpose: the struggle. For every program, be it
aimed at the state or the employers organization, the practice of
direct action is to be developed in every member. Whenever the
achievement of a material mental moral interest of the workers
depends on the employers or on the state, they must be prepared to
fight for it by immediate pressure, and, if need be, by strike. If the
state has to be forced to comply, this too must be achieved either by
immediate action or by the means of political parties continuously
disturbing the peace of the electors.
Fight against everything that stands in the way of such a struggle!
The state and the ruling classes try to set the armed forces against
the unarmed fighting force of the working class. Even in Germany,
where hitherto a few gendarmes seemed sufficient to curb strikes or
demonstrations, the army is used ever more against the workers and
machine guns threaten the fighters. Hence, one of the most urgent
tasks of the economically organized workers is to blunt, to damage,
and finally to wrest from the hands of their enemies this weapon.
That is why antimilitarist propaganda is important, essential, and
indispensable in the economic struggle of the workers.
Direct action, strike, and the ever-widening participation in
antimilitarist propaganda will mobilize more and more fighting
workers for common struggle. Strikes will become more and more
frequent and widespread, the working class will grow more and more
militant, and the increased unreliability of the armed forces will
make the resistance of the state and the ruling classes weaker and
weaker. Everything leads to the moment when the workers challenge
the capitalist society to a last decisive battle by a great,
all-embracing, general strike.
Thus will the general strike become the final weapon of the
economic organizations must follow their own, distinct goal:
It may fail often, may be defeated again and again, but once it
succeeds, it cannot be followed by anything but the socialist society,
in which capital will no longer dominate the working class, but in
which the working class, the community of all producers will be the
masters of the great productive forces of society. That is socialism.
That is why we say that the economic organizations must follow
their own, distinct goal: socialism. No other existing organization
can achieve the aim of syndicalism; the economic liberation of the
working class, its becoming its own master, that is, socialism,
cannot be reached by any other path. The trade unions' distinct goal
cannot be anything but to fill the souls and minds of their members,
who suffer through the economic struggles, with the great ideals of
socialism, so that they have spiritual strength in the misery of today
and that they be ready and mature for the time, when mankind,
having eliminated the domination of capital, establishes its new
society, to fill the new institutions with the spirit of socialism and to
form their mutual relationships in that spirit.
Fellow workers, we call you to this goal, to this struggle! We speak
not of a new party or of competition with the existing economic
organizations. What we say is that you should understand and
embrace the ideas of revolutionary syndicalism and socialism and
carry them not only into the shops and factories but also fill the trade
unions with them. There is no point in splintering existing power,
rather we should enhance and redirect the already organized forces.
The point is to stop being forced to fight each other and to turn more
efficiently against our great common enemy. You know well, we are
few and shall remain few for quite a while. Carry into the common
economic struggle the great force of the ideas of new syndicalism
and socialism, so that its self-sacrificing courage and fighting spirit
may increase many fold. We believe and confess that this is the way
to serve the present and the future of the working class. We shall be
your trusted comrades in this service at all times.

József Lengyel, Ottó Korvin, János Lékai and Antal Mosolygó -
members of the Group of Revolutionary Socialists
e-mail: shmintaka@yahoo.com
2006, summer
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