A History of Trade Unionism in the United States

By Selig Perlman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 15
THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT
AND TRADE UNIONISM

The rise of a political and economic dictatorship by the wage-earning class in revolutionary Russia in 1917 has focussed public opinion on the labor question as no other event ever did. But one will scarcely say that it has tended to clarity of thought. On the one hand, the conservative feels confirmed in his old suspicions that there is something inherently revolutionary in any labor movement. The extreme radical, on the other hand, is as uncritically hopeful for a Bolshevist upheaval in America as the conservative or reactionary is uncritically fearful. Both forget that an effective social revolution is not the product of mere chance and "mob psychology," nor even of propaganda however assiduous, but always of a new preponderance of power as between contending economic classes.

To students of the social sciences, it is self-evident that the prolonged rule of the proletariat in Russia in defiance of nearly the whole world must be regarded as a product of Russian life, past and present. In fact, the continued Bolshevist rule seems to be an index of the relative fighting strength of the several classes in Russian society—the industrial proletariat, the landed and industrial propertied class, and the peasantry.

It is an irony of fate that the same revolution which purports to enact into life the Marxian social program

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