Manifesto of the Unemployed Workers' Organisation

UWO cover

The Manifesto of the Unemployed Workers' Organisation, as it appeared in the Workers' Dreadnought on 7 July 1923 (Vol. 10 No. 16). The UWO split from the more reformist National Unemployed Workers' Committee Movement.

Submitted by adri on August 8, 2023

A Revolt Against Futility.

Fellow workers,—

The above is the name of a new organisation which is not in any way connected with another organisation known as the National Unemployed Workers' Committee Movement. On the contrary, this organisation is the outcome of the inability of the N.U.W.C.M. as at present constituted to accomplish anything approaching a better standard of living for the workers, whether employed or unemployed.

Three Years Wasted.

We contend that the reason the N.U.W.C.M. after three years' attempt at organisation, has not accomplished anything, is because it has been dominated by professional politicians, many of whom have never been workers, and consequently know nothing of the working-class movement. This makes the movement a catspaw of political parties and has the effect of dividing the workers against themselves instead of uniting against the forces of Capitalism.

A Better Policy.

Therefore the principles on which the unemployed workers organise will be built as follows:

The working class and the employing class have nothing in common; there can be no peace as long as hunger and want are found amongst the millions of the working people whilst the few who make up one employing class have all the good things of life.

Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organise as a class, take possession of the earth and machinery of production, and abolish the wage system.

Not Work or Maintenance, but Abolition of Wagedom.

Instead of the Conservative motto of the N.U.W.C.M. "work at Trade Union rates or maintenance at Trade Union rates," we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword: "Abolition of the Wage System."

It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with Capitalism. The army of production must be organised not only for the everyday struggle with Capitalism, but also to carry on production when Capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organising industrially we are forming the structure of the new Society within the shell of the old.

Direct Action.

Realising that poverty caused by unemployment cannot be permanently abolished by palliative methods, we advocate the intensification of the class struggle by the application of direct action whenever necessary and whenever possible.

No Affiliation to Labour Party.

We are opposed to affiliation to a counter-revolutionary party as the Labour Party or such a reformist party as the Communist Party of Great Britain.

We likewise oppose affiliation to such reactionary organisation as the Trade Union Congress, and reject the R.I.L.U. [Red International of Labour Unions] because it admits Trade Unions to affiliate.

We firmly believe in the application of a rigid dictatorship of the proletariat when the collapse of Capitalism arrives, but until that time does arrive, we strongly object to the dictatorship of a [small caucus?] of self-seeking politicians who make the "united front" an excuse for their own self-aggrandisement.

No Reformism.

We fully expect to be charged with trying to split the movement—that is a stock cry of the politicians—but that will leave us quite cold. Who has split the movement more than these pseudo revolutionaries? They have made discipline a fetish instead of trying to understand what it means. In effect, they say: "Unless you agree with all our reformist ideas, unless you submit to our dictatorship, you cannot remain in our movement," forgetting that the workers' psychology does not permit of mental slavery.

On behalf of the Joint Committee,

Alfred J. Mummery, Chairman.

G. E. Soderberg, Secretary.

* * *

The Unemployed Workers' Organisation.1

We publish on our front page the manifesto of a newly formed Unemployed Workers' Organisation, and in subsequent issues we shall give further space to the activities of this organisation in our columns.

We are glad to do so, because we believe that the basis of the organisation is sound in the main. We hope that it may develop into a sturdy fighting body.

The organisation appears to have sprung up spontaneously. As a matter of fact, it is the result of a steady growth of progressive opinion, and it is the natural outcome of that Left-Wing opinion which was a factor when the original unemployed organisation was formed of numerous diverse elements.

The original organisation, which now calls itself the National Unemployed Workers' Committee Movement, has drifted steadily rightward since its formation. Originally the object stated on its membership card was the overthrow of the capitalist system. Now its objects are stated on its card as follows:

"The objects shall be to educate and organise the unemployed with a view to establishing the principle of 'Work or Full Maintenance at Trade Union rate of wages.'"

The original organisation has also applied, unsuccessfully, for affiliation to the Labour Party. Its activities have been greatly modified by the desire to secure such affiliation. This was specially evident at the time of the march to London, when the great effort ended with unexpected tameness under Labour Party influences.

One phrase has crept into the manifesto of the Unemployed Organisation which requires discussion. It is a phrase of which all Communists have made use, both of late and also since the days of Marx, Engels and Bachunin [Bakunin]. We refer to the term "the dictatorship of the proletariat." This in its original use meant the rigid suppression of the middle and upper classes in so far as they may endeavour to resist the coming of Socialism and to combat the popular will.

Latterly, under the inspiration of Russian bureaucrats, the term "dictatorship of the proletariat" has been used to justify the dictatorship of a party clique of officials over their own party members and over the people at large. So far has the dictatorship been carried [out] that the parties submitting to it have become utterly sterile as instruments of education and action. In Russia the dictatorship has robbed the revolution of all it fought for; it has banished Communism and workers' control.

Liberty is an essential part of the Communist revolution. We must not sacrifice it to the ambitions of would-be dictators.

  • 1This explanation of the Dreadnought's inclusion of the Manifesto appears in the same issue.