To the Editor:
Lewis Corey, in his article “Economic Democracy Without Statism” [in the August COMMENTARY], has presented the issues that underlie the preservation and the extension of democracy in our time. It would be hard to overemphasize the urgency of the need for coming to grips with the problems that he has mentioned. It is frightening to see how few of this country’s top leaders and of our organizations and institutions are involved in working on basic solutions to them.
The longer we wait, the deeper become the social and the economic sores which develop from the stalemate between the desire of the monopolies and the needs of the people, and the harder the cure will be. The English experience illustrates the point. A labor-dominated government backed by a continuing majority vote of the people, is in power. That government has behind it a quarter of a century of intensive worker education and grass-roots training for political responsibility. Nevertheless, England teeters on the edge of catastrophe, in part because many workers cannot forget the humiliation and neglect that they knew under capitalism. They had been kept too much outside of things that mattered to be able to play the central role that is required of them today.
Monopoly dare not permit the people to get the real training for the part that they must play in democracy. It trains people instead for life under an inhibiting—even if protective—shell. That shell can continue to be capitalism-monopolism or it can become state-monopolism. Unless people are trained for democracy, the monopolism of private capitalism will find its alternative in the monopolies of the state which Corey describes.
It will take a good many years of training for democratic living before monopoly can be replaced by democracy. Besides the years of training, it will take many years of experimentation with the mechanisms of political and economic democracy before we will be ready to replace the institutions of monopoly with institutions which serve democracy. The British Labor party had to revise some of its ideas after coming into power, and the party had years of research and planning behind it. There is very little, perhaps not even the beginning, of this kind of research and planning being done in this country today by those whose commitments are to the democracy that Corey describes.
Neither the required education nor the necessary experimentation seems to be pushing forward. In the case of the labor movement, which is a vital part of the structure of democracy that we are talking about, there is a question at this moment as to the extent of the damage done by the Taft-Hartley Law. It is clear that the damage is great, but not until we have had more time to appraise it will we really know how much this particular law has done to set us back in the race between democracy and monopoly. How much are the liberals of this country ready to do to help overcome the edge that this law has given to those who stand against economic democracy?
The co-ops that Corey mentions are also an important part of the training and institutional structure that must be built. What can be done to bring the co-op movement to maturity in this country, how long will it take, and how many of us are working at it today?
TVA is important to the structure of democracy for the same reasons, but how much longer will TVA be a valid illustration of what we mean unless we get some more TVA’s established pretty soon? And what are the chances of that happening?
And so for each of the things to which Corey points as democratic alternatives to statism: as we delay putting into them the intensive, serious, detailed work that they require, we postpone still further the beginning of the period—of how many years? twenty-five? fifty?—that it will take to work out the solutions to the problems of replacing monopoly with democracy. And that delay is an advantage that we can ill afford to give our enemies.
Textile Workers Union of America
New York City