Solidarity for workers' power journal

A complete archive of the excellent journal Solidarity for workers' power produced by the UK libertarian socialist group Solidarity in eight volumes from 1960 until 1977. In particular it contains lots of coverage of the wildcat strikes which swept British workplaces through the 1960s.

Originally called Agitator for the first few issues, Solidarity was published first by the London group, then by the North London group of the organisation, but effectively functioned as the national journal.

An index of the publication from issue 1.01 up to 7.02 can be found here for reference.

The bulk of our collection of this journal was purchased by in September 2013. To help us continue our work and cover our costs please consider making us a small donation. Also we would love to have at least some of the articles from the journal online in text format. So if you can help us OCR them please contact us let us know in the comments below (we can provide you with OCR software).
Some PDF issues have been taken from

Agitator for workers' power #1.01

Issue of Solidarity from October 1960

“Agitator” introduced
Wanted ! Tame youth by Sylvia Bishop and Nick Ralph
Song of the anti-partisan by Samuel Stuart
France and Algeria
Youth in industry by Ken Weller
Thrupp and Maberley strike by Tom Hillier
A letter from Exeter by Harry Forrest
The seamen’s strike by George Foulser
The medal or Fifty years a miner by Neil Sweeney
Cuba by McIntyre
History “a la carte” or Mr Pearce and all that
Sackings by Eric Morse
“A law unto themselves” or “Is the working class a great conspiracy?”

agitator-vol1-n01.pdf2.8 MB

Agitator for workers' power #1.02

Issue of Agitator, probably from 1960, with articles about Natalia Trotsky, the CND, struggles at Renault, white collar workers and more.

agitator-102.pdf3.94 MB

Agitator for workers' power #1.03

Part of the third issue of Agitator, later named Solidarity.

Lift up thine eyes - Sherwood Anderson

Reprint of a 1930 article by American author Sherwood Anderson published in Agitator, laying bare the essential nature of exploiting society: the subordination of human beings to an alien will in the production process.

The following article, written in 1930 by American author Sherwood Anderson lays bare the essential nature of exploiting society – the utter subordination of human beings to an alien will in the process of production.
Political ‘sophisticates’ will no doubt argue the superior merits of ‘planned production’ and ‘state control’ as opposed to the ‘anarchy’ of competitive capitalism. For such people Socialism has been drained of all human content and hence of all meaning. They are obsessed with the legal forms of property, as if these were the fundamental reality and not the social relations between men at the point of production.
What Anderson describes here are the relations of production prevailing in a class divided society. He bases his story on an American plant; but who can doubt that similar relations exist in the nationalised British coal mines or in the tractor factories of Stalingrad. Anderson’s article points implicitly to the primary and most urgent task confronting the socialist revolution: the domination of the producer over the labour process, and the end to the degrading division between rulers and ruled.

It is a big assembly plant in a city of the Northwest, They assemble there the Bogel car. It is a car that sells in large numbers and at a low price. The parts are made in one great central plant and shipped to the places where they are to be assembled. There is little or no manufacturing done in the assembling plant itself. The parts come in. These great companies have learned to use the railroad cars for storage.

At the central plant everything is done to schedule. As soon as they parts are made they go into the railroad cars. They are on their way to the assembling plants scattered all over the United States and they arrive on schedule.

The assembly plant assembles cars for a certain territory. A careful survey has been made. The territory can afford to buy so-and-so many cars per day. .

‘But suppose the people don’t want cars ?’
‘What has that to do with it ?’

People, American people, no longer buy cars. They do not buy newspapers, books, foods, pictures, clothes. Things are sold to people now. If a territory can take so-and-so many Bogel cars, find men who can make them take the cars. That is the way things are done now.

In the assembly plant everyone works ‘on the belt’. This is a big steel conveyor, a kind of moving sidewalk, waist-high. It is a great river running down through the plant. Various tributary streams come into the main streams the main belt. They bring tyres, they bring headlights, horns, bumpers for cars. They flow into the main stream. The main stream has its source at the freight cars where the parts are unloaded, aid it flows to the other end of the factory and into other freight cars. The finished automobiles go into the freight cars at the delivery end of the bolt. The assembly plant is a place of peculiar tension. You feel it when you go in. It never lets up. Men here work always on tension. There is no let-up to the tension. If you can’t stand it, get out.

It is the belt. The belt is boss. It moves always forward. Now the chassis goes on the belt. A hoist lifts it up and places it just so. There is a man at each corner. The chassis is deposited on the belt and it begins to move. Not too rapid. There are things to be done.

How nicely everything is calculated. Scientific men have done this. They have watched men at work. They have stood looking, watch in hand. There is care taken about everything. Look up. Lift up thine eyes. Hoists are bringing engines, bodies, wheels, fenders. These come out of side streams flowing into the main streams. They move at a pace very nicely calculated. They will arrive at the main stream at just a certain place at just a certain time.

In this shop there is no question of wages to be wrangled about. These men work but eight hours a day and are well paid. They are, almost without exception, young, strong men. It is however, possible that eight hours a day in this place may be much longer than twelve or even sixteen hours in the old carelessly run plants.

They can get better pay here than at any other shop in town. Although I am a man wanting a good many minor comforts in life, I could live well enough on the wages made by the worker in this place. Sixty cents an hour to begin and then, after a probationary period of sixty days, if I can stand the place, seventy cents or more.

To stand the pace is the real test. Special skill is not required. It is perfectly timed, perfectly calculated. If you are a body upholsterer so many tacks driven per second. Not too many. If a man hurries too much too many tacks drop on the floor. If a man gets too hurried he is not efficient. Let an expert take a month, tow months to find out just how many tacks the average good man can drive per second.

There must be a certain standard maintained in the finished product. Remember that. It must pass inspection after inspection.

Do not crowd too hard. Crowd all you can. Keep crowding.

There are fifteen, twenty, thirty, perhaps fifty such assembly plants, all over the country, each serving its own section Wires pass back and forth daily. The central office – from which all the parts come at Jointville – is the nerve centre. Wires come in and go out to Jointville. In so-and-so many hours WIlliamsberg, with so-and-so many men, produced so-and-so cars.

Now Burkesville is ahead. It stays ahead. What is up at Burkesville? An expert flies there.

The man at Burkesville was a major in the army. He is the manager there. He is a cold, rather severe, rather formal man. He has found out something. He is a real Bogel man, an ideal Bogel man. There is no foolishness about him. He watches the belt. He does not say to himself ‘I am the boss here’. He knows the belt its boss.

He says there is a lot of foolishness talked about the belt. The experts are too expert, he says. He has found out that the belt can be made to move just a little faster than the experts say. He has tried it. He knows. Go and look for yourself. There are the men out there on the belt, swarming along the belt, each in his place. They are alright, aren’t they ? Can you see anything wrong ?

Just a trifle more speed in each man. Shove the pace up just a little, not much. With the same number of men, in the same number of hours, six more cars a day.

That’s the way a major gets to be a colonel, a colonel a general. Watch that fellow at Burkesville, the man with the military stride, the cold steady voice. He’ll go far.

* * *

Everything is nicely, perfectly calculated in all the Bogel assembling plants. There are white marks on the floor everywhere. Everything is immaculately clean. No-one smokes; no one chews tobacco; no-one spits. There are white bands on the cement floor along which the men walk. As they work, sweepers follow them. Tacks dropped on the floor are at once swept up. You can tell by the sweepings in a plant where there is too much waste, too much carelessness. Sweep everything carefully and frequently. Weight the sweepings. Have an expert examine the sweepings. Report to Jointville.

Jointville says: ‘Too many upholsterers’ tacks wasted in the plant at Port Smith. Bellevile produced one hundred and eleven cars a day, with seven hundred and forty-nine men, wasting only nine hundred and six tacks.’

It is a good thing to go through the plant occasionally, pick out some man, working apparently just as the others are, fire him.

If he asks why, just say to him, ‘You know’.

He’ll know why alright. He’ll imagine why.

The thing is to build up Jointville. This country needs a religion.
You have to build up the xxxxx of a mysterious central thing, a thing working outside your knowledge.

Let the notion grow and grow that there is something superhuman at the core of all this.

Lift up thine eyes, lift up thine eyes.

The central office reaches down into your secret thoughts. It knows, it knows

Jointville knows.

* * *

Do not ask questions of Jointville. Keep up the pace.

Get the cars out.
Get the cars out.
Get the cars out.

The pace can be accelerated a little this year. The men have all got tuned into the old pace now.

Step it up a little, just a little.

• * *
This have got a special policeman in the Bogel assembling plants, They have got a special doctor there A man hurt his finger a little. IT bleeds a little, a mere scratch. The doctor reaches down for him. The finger is fixed. Jointville wants no blood poisonings, no infections.

The doctor puts men who want jobs through physical examination, as in the army. Try his nerve reactions. We want only the best men here, the youngest, the fastest.

Why not?

We pay the best wages, don’t we ?

The policeman in the plant has a special job. That’s queer. It is like this: Now and then the big boss passes through. He selects a man off the belt.

‘You’re fired.’
‘Why ?’
‘You know.’’

Now and then a man goes off his nut. He goes fantoed. He howls and shouts. He grabs a hammer. A stream of crazy profanity comes from his lips.

There is Jointville. That is the central thing. That controls the belt. The belt controls me.
It moves. It moves. It moves.

I’ve tried to keep up . I tell you I’ve been keeping up.

Jointville is God. Jointville controls the belt. The belt is God.
God has rejected me.

‘You’re fired.’

Sometimes a man, fired like that, goes nutty. He gets dangerous.
A strong policeman on hand knocks him down. Takes him out.

* * *

You walk within certain definite white lines.

It is calculated that a man, rubbing down automobile bodies with pumice, makes thirty thousand and twenty-one arm strokes per day. The difference between thirty thousand and twenty-one, and twenty-eight thousand and four will tell a vital story of profits or loss at Jointville.

Do you think things are settled at Jointville, or at the assembling plants of the Bogel car scattered all over America ? Do you think men know how fast the belt can be made to move, what the ultimate, the final pace will be, can be ?

Certainly not.

There are experts studying the nerves of men, the movements of men. They are watching. Calculations are always going on. The thing is to produce good and more goods at less cost. Keep the standard up. Increase the pace a little.

Stop waste. Calculate everything.

* * *

A man walking to and from his work between white lines saves steps. There is a tremendous science of lost motion, not perfectly calculated yet.

More goods at less cost.

Increase the pace.

Keep up the standards.

It is so you advance civilisation.


Agitator for workers' power #1.04

Issue of Agitator, from 1960 or 61.

agitator-104.pdf1.24 MB

Agitator for workers' power #1.05

Issue of Agitator, probably from 1961.

agitator-105.pdf1.39 MB

Agitator for workers' power #1.06

Issue of Solidarity from May 1961

A thorn, by any other name…
Progressive tour : cheap day return to Scarborough by Bob Pennington
Revolutionary Organisation – 3. How ?
Danish dock strike : The facts
Redundancy : A contribution to discussion by Jim Petter
Bricks… and bouquets
The commune by P. Guillaume and M. Grainger
Letter from Ireland by D.P.
Film review by Tom Lejeune : The sins of Rachel Cade

solidarity-vol1-n06.pdf4.41 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #1.07

Part of the seventh issue of libertarian socialist journal, Solidarity.

Kronstadt '21 - Victor Serge

We reproduce an excerpt from Memoirs of a Revolutionary, (1945) by Victor Serge on the Kronstadt rebellion against the Bolshevik autocracy, its dictatorship over the proletariat. Despite Serge remaining an (albeit highly critical) Bolshevik apologist and remaining in the camp of those who claimed Kronstadt as 'a tragic necessity', he is honest enough to describe the facts of the situation in their own damning terms.

For instance, the first act of the Bolshevik hierarchy was to publicly lie about the nature of the revolt, both to loyal party members and to the rest of society; they claimed that it was a revolt of the White generals to restore the old regime. This was the first lie of many about the rebellion that have been perpetuated ever since by Bolshevik apologists. In the final part of the article, Serge also gives a brief analysis of Marxist social-democracy, the Bolshevik party internal structure, and its relationship to the authoritarianism of the the Bolshevik state. This excerpt was reprinted in a US socialist magazine, Politics, in 1945, and in the UK by Solidarity as a pamphlet in 1961. We have retained here the brief introduction by Solidarity.


Solidarity introduction;

Kronstadt '21
(Victor Serge, 1945)

The following text, hitherto unpublished in Britain, first appeared in the American socialist paper POLITICS, over 16 years ago. It describes the tragic Russian events of March, 1921.

The working-class had taken power three and a half years earlier, in the greatest revolution of all time. But it had seen that power slowly slip from its hands, first in the factories, later in the Soviets. A new bureaucracy was emerging. Its core was the Bolshevik party, whose patronage was becoming essential for accession to all important posts, both in the economy and in the state.

With the final victories of the Civil War, working class discontent, which had been smouldering for months, broke out in the great Leningrad strikes of January and February 1921, and in the Kronstadt uprising.

Serge describes an event in working class history concerning which Stalinists, Trotskyists and sundry others have indulged in a systematic campaign of misrepresentation and distortion. He shows how certain ideas concerning 'the Party' worked. out, in practice. The article also exposes the hypocritical pretensions of those who claim the struggle against the developing bureaucracy as some kind of private mantle.

Serge's testimony concerning Kronstadt is of great historical value. It is the testimony of a revolutionary who was in Leningrad during those fateful days, who actively participated in the scenes he describes, and who endorsed, at the time, the actions of the Russian leaders.


DURING THE NIGHT OF FEBRUARY 28-29, I was awakened by a phone call. 'The Whites have taken Kronstadt', an anxious voice told me. 'We are fully mobilized'. It was Ilya lonov, Zinoviev's brother-in-law. This was an appalling piece of news. If true, it meant that Petrograd itself would soon be lost.

'What Whites? Where did they come from? I can't believe it!'

'A general by the name of Kozlovski -'

'But what about our sailors? What about the Soviet? The Cheka? The workers at the Arsenal?'

'I've told you all I know.'

Zinoviev was in conference with the Revolutionary Council of the Army, so I rushed over to the headquarters of the Third District Committee. Everybody was looking pretty grim. 'It's fantastic. But it's true.' 'Well,' I said, 'we must mobilize everyone able to walk. Immediately!' Someone replied, evasively: 'Yes, we must mobilize.' But nothing could be done without instructions from the Petrograd Committee. Several comrades and I spent the rest of the night poring over a map of the Gulf of Finland. We got word that small-scale strikes were spreading through the suburbs. Whites in front of us, famine and strikes behind us! I left at dawn, and on my way out of the hotel I ran into one of the maids, quietly leaving the building with packages under her arm.

'Where to so early in the morning, grandmother? And with such a load?'

The old woman sighed:

There's going to be trouble. You can feel it in the air. They will slit your throats, my poor boy, yours and the others' too. They'll steal everything that isn't nailed down, just as they did last time. So I'm packing off my belongings.'

At intervals along the deserted streets there were little wall posters announcing treacherous seizure of Kronstadt by the counter-revolutionary general Kozlovski and his accomplices, and summoning the workers to arms. But even before I reached the District Committee headquarters I ran into several comrades who had already turned out, mauser in hand, and they told me that the Kozlovski business was a contemptible lie: the Kronstadt sailors had mutinied, and what we were up against was a naval rebellion led by the Kronstadt Soviet. If anything, that was still more serious; and the worst of it was the paralyzing effect of the official lie upon us. For the party to lie to us this way was something new. 'They had to do it because of the mood of the people,' some of my acquaintances explained. But they were frightened too. The strike had become almost general. Nobody even knew whether the street-cars would run.

Later that day I had a talk with my friends in the French-speaking Communist group (I remember that Marcel Body and Georges Hellfer were both present). We decided not to take up arms - to fight neither against the hungry strikers nor against the exasperated sailors. In Vassili-Ostrov, in a street white with snow, I saw a crowd gather, mostly women. I watched it push its way slowly forward to mingle with the military-school cadets sent there to open up the approaches to the factories. Patiently, sadly, the crowd told the soldiers how hungry the people were, called them brothers, asked them for help. The cadets pulled bread out of their knapsacks and divided it up. Meanwhile, the Mensheviks and the Left Social Revolutionaries were blamed for the strike.

Leaflets distributed in the suburbs put forward the demands of the Kronstadt Soviet. They added up to a program for renewing the revolution. In brief: new elections for the Soviets, with secret ballot; freedom of speech and freedom of press for all revolutionary groups.and parties; liberty for the trade-unions; liberation of all revolutionaries being held as political prisoners; no more official propaganda; no more requisitioning in the rural districts; freedom of employment for artisans; immediate withdrawal of the street patrols which were preventing free purchase of food supplies by the general public. The Kronstadt Soviet, the Krontstadt garrison, and the sailors of the First and Second Squadrons had rebelled to get that program accepted.


Little by little, the truth broke through the smoke screen laid down by the press, whose mendacity now knew no bounds. And that was our press, the press of our revolution, the first socialist press in history, therefore the first incorruptible, unbiased press in history. Even in the past, to be sure, it had now and then laid itself open, to some extent, to the charge of demagogy (of a warm, sincere kind, however) and had used violent language about its opponents. But in doing so it had stayed within the rules of the game, and had, in any case, acted understandably. Now, however, lying was its settled policy. The Petrograd Pravda informed its readers that Kouzmin, Commissar for the navy and the army, had been manhandled during his imprisonment at Kronstadt, and had narrowly escaped summary execution - on written orders from the counter-revolutionaries. I knew Kouzmin, an energetic, hard-working soldier, a teacher of military science, grey from tip to toe; his uniform, even his wrinkled face were grey. He 'escaped' from Kronstadt and turned up at Smollny.

'It is hard to believe.' I said to him , 'that they intended to shoot you. Did you really see any such order?'

He looked embarrassed, and did not answer for a moment.

'Oh, one always exaggerates a bit. There was a threatening note.'

In short, he had let his tongue run away with him. That was the whole story. The Kronstadt rebels had spilledd not a single drop of blond, had gone no further than to arrest a few Communist officials, all of whom had been well treated. Most of the Communists, several hundred in all, had gone over to the rebels, which showed clearly enough how weak the party had become at its base. Nevertheless, someone had cooked up this story about hairbreadth escapes from the firing squad!

Rumors played an ugly part in the whole business. With the official press carrying nothing but eulogies of the regime's successes, with the Cheka operating in the shadows, every moment brought its new, deadly rumor. Hard upon the news about the Petrograd strikes, word reached Kronstadt that the strikers were being arrested en masse, and that the troops were occupying the factories. That was untrue, or at least greatly exaggerated, although the Cheka, running true to form, had undoubtedly gone about making stupid arrests. (Most of these arrests were for short periods.) Hardly a day passed passed without my seeing Serge Zorin, the secretary of the Petrograd Committee. I knew, therefore, how many worries he had on his mind, and how determined he was not to adopt repressive measures against workers. I also knew that, in his opinion, persuasion was the only weapon that would pove effective in a situation of this kind, snd how, to back up his opinion he was bringing in wagon-loads of foodstuffs. He told me, laughingly, that once he had found himself in a district where the Left. Social Revolutionaries had popularized the slogan: 'Long Live the Constituent Assembly!' - which clearly was another way of saying 'Down with Bolshevism!'. 'I announced', he went on, 'the arrival of several wagons full of food. In the twinkling of an eye it turned the situation upside down.'

In any case the Kronstadt uprising began as an act of solidarity with the Petrograd strikes, and as a result of rumors (about repressive measures) which were mostly without foundation.

Kalinin and Kouzmin, whose stupid blundering provoked the rebellion, were chiefly to blame. Kalinin, as chairman of the Republic's Executive, visited Kronstadt, and the garrison received him with music and shouts of welcome. But when the sailors stated their demands he called them traitors, accused them of thinking only of their own interests, and threatened merciless punishment. Kouzmirn bellowed at them: the iron hand of dictatorship of the proletariat would strike down all infractions of discipline, every act of treason! The two of them were booed and kicked out - and the damage was done. It.was probably Kalinin who, back in Petrograd, invented 'the White general, Kozlovski'. From the very first, when it would have been easy to patch up the differences, the Bolshevik leaders chose to use the big stick. We were to learn later that the delegation sent from Kronstadt to explain the issues at stake to the Soviet and people of Petrograd had got no further than a Cheka prison.

Some American Anarchists - Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, and a young man named Perkus, the secretary of the Russian Workers Union in the United States - had arrived a short time before. A scheme for mediation took shape in the course of some talks I had with them on several successive evenings. When I told some of the party comrades about it, they countered:

'That won't do any good. We're bound by party discipline, and so are you'.

I protested: 'One can get out of a party'.

Cool, unsmiling, they replied: "No Bolshevik deserts his party. And, anyway, where would you go? Ours is the only party, to put it mildly.'

The Anarchist mediation group used to meet at the home of my father-in-law, Alexander Roussakov. Since the Anarchists had the ear of the Kronstadt Soviet, it had been decided that only Anarchists would take part in the negotiations, and that the American anarchists alone would assume responsibility vis-a-vis the Soviet government; so I was not present. Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman had an interview with Zinoviev. They were received cordially, for they were still able to speak authoritatively in the name of a section of the international proletariat. Their mediation scheme, nevertheless, was a complete failure. As a sop, Zinoviev offered them every facility for seeing Russia from a private railway car. 'Think it over and you will understand'. Most of the Russian members of the mediation group were arrested. I was not - an indulgence which I owed to the good opinion that Zinoviev, Zorin and a few others had of me, and to my position as a militant in tthe French workers' movement.


After much hesitation, my Communist friends and I finally sided with the party. It was a painful step to take, and this is why we did it: the Kronstadt sailors, we reasoned, were right. They had begun a new freedom-giving revolution which would lead to popular democracy. Certain Anarchists who had not outgrown the illusions of childhood gave it a name: the 'Third Revolution'. The country, by this time, was in bad shape. Production had come virtually to a stop. Reserves of all kinds had been used up, including even the reserves of nervous energy which sustain popular morale. The workers' elite, formed in the course of the struggles under the old regime, had literally been decimated. The party, its membership swollen by the influx of bandwagon riders, inspired little confidence. And there was nothing left of the other parties but tiny cadres, of doubtful ability. Some of them, to be sure, might in a few weeks' time have put on flesh, but only by admitting en masse the soured, the bitter, the exasperated - very different types from the 1917 enthusiasts of the young revolution. Soviet democracy had lost its vitality. lt lacked leadership. It had no organisational basis. And it had no defenders, except among the hungry and desperate masses of the people.

The popular counter-revolution translated the demand for freely-elected Soviets into the slogan 'Soviets without Communists!' If the Bolshevik dictatorship were to fall, we felt, the result would be chaos: peasant putsches, the massacre of the Communists, the return of the emigres, and, finally, another dictatorship, of necessity anti-proletarian. The dispatches from Stockholm and Tallinn showed that the emigres were thinking in precisely these terms. (These dispatches, by the way, strengthened the determination of the leaders to put down the Kronstadt rebellion quickly, and without regard to the cost.) Our thinking about all this, had, furthermore, a factual basis. We knew of fifty rallying-points for peasant insurrections in European Russia alone. We knew that Antonov, the proponent of Revolutionary Socialism of the Right, was active in the area south of Moscow, and that he was preaching both the destruction of the Soviet regime and the reinstatement of the Constituent Assembly. He had at his command, in and around Tambov, a skillfully organized army made up of several tens of thousands of peasants, and he had negotiated with the Whites. (Tukachevsky liquidated this Vendee towards the middle of 1921.)

In these circumstances, the party should have beat a retreat by admitting that the existing economic set-up was indefensibe. It should not, however, have given up power. 'In spite of its faults, in spite of its abuses, in spite of everyrthing,' I wrote at the time, ' the Bolshevik party, because of its size, its insight, its stability, is the organized force to which we must pin our faith. The Revolution has at its disposal no other weapon, and it is no longer capable of genuine renewal from within'.


The Political Bureau finally made up its mind to enter into negoiations with Kronstadt, lay down an ultimatum, and, as a last resort, attack the fortress and the ice-bound battleships. As it turned out, no negotiations ever took place. But an ultimatum, couched in revolting language, appeared on the billboards over the signature of Lenin and Trotsky: 'Surrender or be shot like rabbits!'. Trotsky, limiting his activities to the Political Bureau, kept away from Petrograd.

Meanwhile the Cheka had declared war on the Menshevik Social-Democrats by publishing an ourageous official document accusing them of 'conspiring with the enemy, planning to sabotage the railways,' etc. The Bolshevik leaders themselves were embarrassed; they shrugged the charges aside: 'More of the Cheka's ravings!'. But they let the charges stand all the same and promised only that there would be no arrests and that everthing would come out alright. Even so, the Menshevik leaders Dan and Abramovich were arrested (in Petrgrad): and the Cheka (led at this time, as I remember, by a red-headed worker named Semionov, a hard, ignorant little man) wanted to have them shot - on the grounds that they had organized the strike, which was now almost general (and at least 75% spontaneous). I had just had a run-in with Semionov over two students the Cheka had arbitraily seized. I got word to Lenin through Gorky (who was also at that moment intervening to save the Menshevik leaders). Once Lenin had been informed, we knew our friends were out of danger.

Early in March, Red Army troops advanced across the ice against the Kronstadt fortress and fleet. The rebel artillery opened fire on the assailants. Infantrymen wearing long white parkas advanced in waves, and in some places the ice cracked under them. Here and there a huge block of ice would break loose and, turning slowly over, would carry its human cargo with it into the black depths of the water. And then, comrade against comrade, the shameful slaughter began...


Meanwhile, in Moscow, the Tenth Congress of the party, on Lenin's motion, had abolished the requisitioning system ('War Communism'), and put the NEP into effect. All the economic demands of Kronstadt had been met! The Congress had, at the same time, gone out of its way to heap abuse upon all the opposition groups. The Workers' Opposition, for instance, had been described as an 'anarcho-syndicalist deviation with which the party cannot make terms', although it was not Anarchist in any sense, and had advocated nothing but trade union management of production (which, incidentally, would have been a big step in the direction of workers' democracy). Finally, the Congress had drafted its members, many of whom belonged to opposition groups, for the battle against Kronstadt. The extreme Left winger Dybenko, himself once a Kronstadt sailor, and the writer and soldier Bubnov, leader of the group in favor of 'democratic centralisation', went to do battle on the ice - against insurgents with whom, deep in their hearts, they had no quarrel. Tukachevsky was now preparing the final assault.

On one of these black days, Lenin said to a friend of mine (I use his exact words): 'This is Thermidor. But we shall not let ourselves be guillotined. We'll be our own Thermidor.'

The Orianienbaum incident is never mentioned; but in my opinion it brought the Kronstadt rebels within reach of a victory which they did not want - and might easily have resulted in the fall of Petrograd. Serge Zorin, the blond Viking who was secretary of the Petrograd Committee, noticed something peculiar about the orders being given by one of the infantry commanders. For instance, certain arbitrarily chosen cadets were kept standing guard close to the artillery emplacements, and regroupings were being effected for which there was no evident reason. After a couple of days there was no longer any doubt that a conspiracy was afoot. As an act of solidarity with Kronstadt, an entire regiment was going to switch sides and call upon the army to rebel. Zorin immediately ordered into the regiment men who could be counted upon, doubled the number of sentry posts and the compliment of soldiers assigned to each, and arrested the regiment's commanding officer, a man who had spent many years as an officer in the Imperial Army. He was brutally frank: 'For years I had looked forward to that hour. I hate you, you murderers of Russia. Now I've lost, life means nothing to me.' Along with a considerable number of his accomplices, he was shot. His regiment, by the way, had been withdrawn from the front in Poland.


The rebellion had to be liquidated before the thaw. The final assault was launched by Tukachevsky on March 17 and resulted in an audaciously-won victory. The Kronstadt sailors, fighting without competent officers (one of their number, to be sure, was an ex-officer named Kozlovski, but he played an unimportant role and had no authority), made poor use of their artillery. Some escaped to Finland; some fought a savage defensive battle, from fort to fort and street to street, and died shouting. 'Long live the World Revolution!'. Some even died with the cry: 'Long Live the Communist International!'. Several hundred were taken into Petrograd and turned over to the Cheka, which months later - criminally, stupidly - was still shooting little groups of them. These prisoners belonged body and soul to the revolution; they had given expression to the sufferings and will of the Russian people; and there was the NEP to show that they had been right! Furthermore, they had been taken prisoner in a civil war, and by a government which for a long while had been promising an amnesty to those of its adversaries who were willing to become its supporters. Dzerjinski presided over this endless massacre - or at least let it happen.

The Kronstadt leaders, men unknown up to the uprising, were drawn from the ranks. One of them, Petrichenko, escaped to Finland and may still be alive. Another, Perepelkin, turned up later among some friends I used to visit at the old prison in Shpalnernaya Street - through which so many revolutionaries, Lenin and Trotsky, among others, had passed in days gone by. From the depths of his cell, before disappearing finally from sight, Perepelkin told us the whole story of Kronstadt.

That dismal March 18! The morning papers had big headlines in honor of the proletarian anniversary of the Paris Commune. And each time the cannon fired on Kronstadt, the window panes rattled in their frames. In the offices at Smolny, everyone felt uneasy. Conversation was avoided, except between close friends and even they spoke sharply to each other. The vast Neva landscape had never before seemed to me so bleak and desolate. (By a remarkable coincidence, there was a Communist uprising in Berlin on that same March 18, one whose defeat marked a turning-point in the strategy of the International, from the offensive to the defensive.)


Kronstadt inaugurated a period of doubt and dismay inside the party. In Moscow, a Bolshevik named Peniuchkin, who had distinguished himself during the Civil War, pointedly resigned from the party to found a new political movement - to be called, if I remember correctly, the Soviet Party. He set up his party headquarters in a street lined with workers' homes, and for a while nothing was done about it. Then he was arrested. Several comrades came to me and asked me to intervene on behalf of his wife and chlld, who had been evicted from their home and were sleeping in a hall somewhere. I was unable to do anything for them. The worker Miasnikov, another old Bolshevik - he had taken part in the revolt in the Upper Volga in 1905, and there was a close personal tie between him and Lenin - spoke out in favor of freedom of the press 'for everybody, from the Anarchists at one extreme to the Monarchists at the other'. After a sharp exchange of letters he broke with Lenin, and before long he was deported to Erivan, in Armenia. From there he went to Turkey. I was to run into him in Paris some twenty years later. The 'Workers' Opposition' seemed to be heading towards a definite break with the Party.

As a matter of fact, we were already well on the way towards being overwhelmed by a nascent totalitarianism. The word 'totalitarianism' itself had not come into existence yet; but the thing it stands for was ruthlessly making itself our master without our knowing it. I belonged to the ridiculously small minority which did know. But the majority, both of the party's leaders and of its militants, had come to regard 'War Communism' as a merely temporary economic adjustment analogous to the highly centralized productive arrangements which Germany, France and England had worked out during the war.These centralization schemes had been called 'War Capitalism'. So the majority believed that once peace was restored the state of siege would automatically dissolve, and that we would then get back to some kind of Soviet democracy - what kind it was no longer possible to say.

The great ideas of 1917, the ideas which had enabled the Bolshevik party to sweep along with it the peasant masses, the army, the working class and the Marxist intelligentsia, were certainly dead. Had not Lenin, in 1917, argued in favor of a Soviet press so free that any group able to muster 10,000 supporters would be allowed to publish its own newspaper, and at public expense? Had he not written that the transfer of power from one party to another within the Soviets could be accomplished peacefully, without sharp conflicts? Had he not held out, in his theory of the Soviet State, the promise of a form of political organization entirely different from the old bourgeois States, with 'no functionaries and no policemen, apart from the people themselves'? - a State in which the workers would exercise power directly through their own militia system? What with the monopoly of power, the Cheka, and the Red Army, all that was left of this dream of a 'State-Commune' was a myth, of interest only to theologians. War, measures of internal defense against counter-revolution, and famine (leading to creation of a bureaucratic machine to take care of rationing) had put an end to Soviet democracy. How and when would it be reborn? The party nourished itself precisely on the belief that the slightest relaxation of its grip on power would give the reaction the opportunity it was waiting for.


In addition to these historical factors, there were important psychological factors. Marxism has meant different things in different periods. The child of bourgeois science and philosophy on the one hand and the revolutionary aspirations of the proletariat on the other, it makes its appearance at a time when capitalism is entering upon its decline. It puts itself forward as the natural heir of the society which gave birth to it. Just as capitalist-industrialist society tends to draw the entire world into its orbit, and to bring each and every aspect of life into conformity with its value, so the Marxism of the beginning of the twentieth century seeks to re-make everything - the system of property holding, the way production is organized, the map of the world (abolition of frontiers), even man's inner life (displacement of religion). Since its objective was a total transformation it was, etymologically speaking, totalitarian. It included within itself both aspects of the society that was coming into being: the democratic and the authoritarian. The German Social-Democratic party, largest of the Marxist parties through the period 1880-1920 adopted a bureaucratic form of organization modelled upon the State itself. It devoted itself to the conquest of power within the bourgeois State, and wound up thinking in terms of State Socialism.

Bolshevik thought takes it for granted that truth is its peculiar possession. To Lenin, to Bukharin, to Trotsky, to Preobrajensky, to many another thinker I could mention, the materialist dialectic of Marx and Engels was at one and the same time the law of human thought and the law of the natural development of societies. The party, quite simply, is the custodian of truth; any idea at variance with party doctrine is either pernicious error or backsliding. Here, then, is the source of the party's intolerance. Because of its unshakable conviction of its exalted mission, it develops astonishing reserves of moral energy - and a theological turn of mind which easily becomes inquisitorial. Lenin's 'proletarian Jacobinism', with its disinterestedness, its discipline in both thought and action, was grafted upon the psychology of cadres whose character had been formed under the old regime - that is to say, in the course of the struggle against despotism. It seems to be unquestionable that Lenin chose as his co-workers men whose temperament was authoritarian. The final triumph of the revolution eased the inferiority-complex of the masses - the always bullied and always downtrodden masses. At the same time, however, it awakened in them a desire for retaliation; and this desire tended to make the new institutions despotic also. I have seen with my own eyes how a man who only yesterday was a worker or sailor gets drunk on the exercise of power - how he delights in reminding others that from now on he's giving the orders.


These same considerations explain some of the contradictions with which the leaders themselves (despite the verbal and sometimes demagogic solutions which the dialectic enables them to put forward) have wrestled in vain. On a hundred different occasions Lenin paid democracy high praise, and insisted that the dictatorship of the proletariat is both 'a dictatorship against the expropriated expropriators' and 'the broadest workers' deromracy'. He believed it, wanted it to be true. He went into the factories to give an account of his stewardship. He wanted to face all-out criticism from the workers... But he wrote in 1918 that the dictatorship of the proletariat was by no means incompatible with personal power, and by doing so justified in advance some kind of Bonapartism. When his old friend and co-worker Bogdanov came forward with embarrassing objections, Lenin had him locked up. He outlawed the Mensheviks on the grounds that they were 'petit-bourgeois' socialists who made themselves nuisances by always being wrong. He welcomed the Anarchist spokesman Makhno, and tried to convince him of the validity of Marxist doctrine; nevertheless, Anarchism was outlawed too - if not on Lenin's initiative, at least with his consent. He ordered a hands-off policy towards the churches, and promised believers a truce; but he kept on saying that 'religion is the opium of the people'. We were advancing towards a classless society, a society of free men; but the party never missed an opportunity to remind people that 'the reign of the workers will never end'. Over whom were the workers to reign then? And that word 'reign' - what does it mean anyhow? Totalitarianism - and within ourselves!

Solidarity for workers' power #1.08

The eighth issue of Solidarity for workers' power with articles on the opposition to nuclear arms, reprinted advice from Sylvia Pankhurst and book reviews.


vol1no8.pdf17.52 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #1.09

The ninth issue of the first volume of Solidarity for workers' power from late 1961 with articles on the Committee of 100, BLSP strike, state socialist Cuba and more.


solidarity-109.pdf2.75 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #1.10

Issue of Solidarity (undated)

Civil disobedience and the state
Industry by Jim Petter
Stalinist swan song by E. Morse
Democracy and housing by John Reynolds
Humpty splits again : A political pantomime by E. Morse
Down with the Army ! The pacifism of leaders and bosses ! Long live the power of the workers’ councils
Algeria November 1st
About ourselves
The real conspiracy by Bertrand Russell

solidarity-vol1-n10.pdf3.77 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #2.01

First issue of the second volume of Solidarity with a series of articles looking at on-the-job action in the workplace including working to rule, withdrawing goodwill, sabotage and more.


solidarity-201.pdf1.74 MB

Solidarity 1913

A reprint – within Solidarity for Workers’ Power, vol. 2, no. 1 (1962) – of a passage from the first issue of Solidarity: A Monthly Journal of Militant Trade Unionism produced by the Industrial Democracy League in September, 1913.

Introduction by Solidarity (1962)

Comrade C. Lahr, of the ILP, has very kindly given us a number of back issues of ‘SOLIDARITY’, some of them nearly fifty years old. The paper first appeared in September 1913. Subtitled ‘A Monthly Journal of Militant Trade Unionism’ ‘SOLIDARITY’ was first produced by the Industrial Democracy League (more information about the League at the end of this article).

This first version of ‘SOLIDARITY’ should not be confused with another paper of the same name which appeared during the second half of the First World War, was at one time edited by Jack Tanner1 and became the organ of the Shop Stewards and Workers’ Committees movement.

We are pleased to reprint the following passage from the very first issue (September 1913) of ‘SOLIDARITY’ No.1

FELLOW TRADE UNIONISTS, – The widespread strikes occurring in recent years have had very mean results. We have failed to make any inroad upon the capitalist preserves owing to our foolish and criminal sectionalism. This state of things should claim our serious attention and careful consideration, and should create a desire in the militant members of the unions to get to work in order to make our organisations a fighting force and a power to be feared.

Trade is booming. In spite of such favourable circumstances we find sections of the workers being defeated in their struggles with the capitalist. One has only to recall to mind the Transport Workers’ Strike of last year, the London Plasterers’ Strike, and, more recently still, the Leith Dock Strike. It is true that some sections of our class have received a meagre rise in prices of the necessities of life and the relative fall in the purchasing power of wages. Our share of the increase in wealth production is a lower standard of living. The increasing centralisation of power by the capitalists enables them to fight the class war with ruthless ferocity. Speeding up, the introduction of the bonus system, the displacement of labour-power by machinery, and victimisation have caused fiercer competition among the workers and the sapping of the spirit if their manhood. The extension of the tentacles of the State into the vitals of organised labour by the establishment of Labour Exchanges and the National Insurance Act, the further bondage which that Act imposes, the desire of politicians to make our burden still more grievous by means of Compulsory Arbitration, the vicious use of the coercive forces of the State – all these factors create a demand for a more efficient form of industrial organisation than our present-day Trade Unions provide. It is just as feasible to oppose a maxim gun with bow and arrow, as to fight the modern capitalist combinations with our Craft Unions. Our weakness lies in our sectionalism, our methods of fighting, the bureaucratic control of our unions, and our objective.

We have 1,700 separate Trade Unions; this results in competition for membership, overlapping, and demarcation quarrels between Union and Union, making us an easy prey to our enemy. There is a desire for Solidarity in the rank and file, but these defects will remain so long as they are split up into so many different unions, each having a separate agreement with the masters, who make use of this fact to prevent unity of action. To remedy these defects we advocate Industrial Organisation along the line of class, instead of craft; the amalgamation of all existing Trade Unions into Industrial Unions; the formation of a National Council of Industrial Unions. Thus we should have a fighting force to secure that much-needed improvement in our conditions.

A change in spirit is just as necessary as a change in form. Conciliation has failed; arbitration has failed; their only use has been to damp our fighting ardour, to make us pawns in the class struggle – pawns sacrificed to protect rooks, queens and bishops. The capitalist hits hard; we turn the other cheek. He acts at once; we tell him when and where we are going to try and hit him. He moves quickly and intelligently; we move slowly and timorously. We must fight boldly and spontaneously, unhampered by separate agreements, unfettered by long notices; organised on a class basis, permeated by a class spirit we should become a force to be feared by the strongest.

The most amazing spectacle in the recent industrial upheavals has been that of the leaders brining up the rear. They have utterly failed to lead. They have often been in harmony with our masters in settling the strike at any price, in getting the workers back to work, even without consulting those who risked their jobs. The attitude of a large number of prominent officials more resembles that of a manager of a limited liability company than an elected official of a working class organisation. It happens far too often that the unionist has to fight not only the tyranny of the boss, but also the bureaucracy of his own officials. This must cease, the control of the unions must be transferred to the rank and file. That is where their destiny should lie. Bureaucracy is inimical to initiative; the workers must be allowed to develop collective initiative if they are ever to better their conditions and finally win their freedom. Labour produces all wealth, and to labour all wealth rightly belongs. The strife in society is over the division of wealth between owners and workers. It is the historic mission of the Working Class to end this struggle by obtaining control of the means of production and distribution.

With that end in view we have not to look to Parliament, but to the building up of an Industrial Organisation that will be capable of securing and controlling industry by the workers and for the workers. Labour must accomplish its own emancipation, and in order to march forward to our final conquest we must perfect our Industrial Solidarity.

Let our battle-cry be ‘One Industry! One Union! One Card! An injury to one is the concern of all’. Let us change our demand from ‘A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay’ to the abolition of the wages system.

Afterword by Solidarity (1962)

The objects of the Industrial Democracy League were ‘to carry on an educational campaign among Trade Unions, Trade Councils and other working class organisations in favour of Solidarity and Direct Action’.

The League advocated a) ‘industrial organisation upon the basis of class, instead of craft; b) the amalgamation of all existing trade unions into industrial unions; c) the formation of a National Federal Council of Industrial Unions.’

The I.D.L. sought ‘to stimulate the formation of Amalgamation Committees in every industry and every industrial centre throughout Great Britain; to inspire the existing organisations with a fighting spirit so as to improve the material conditions of the wage workers; to facilitate joint action of the workers in the furtherance of their interests, nationally and internationally; and ‘to prepare the workers for their economic emancipation by taking possession of the means of production and distribution through an economic organisation outside the control of any Parliamentary Party’.

Many rank-and-file militants supported these objectives of the ‘industrial unionists’. Contributors to our witty and hard-hitting predecessor included Tom Mann, George Hicks, Norman Young (of the NUT), Jack Wills (of the Builders), T.E. Naylor (of the Compositors), W.F. Watson and Jack Tanner (of the Engineers), Fred Bower (of the Stone Masons) and George Barker (of the Miners).

The League lacked however a clear understanding of why the traditional organisations of the working class were becoming both increasingly reformist and increasingly bureaucratic. It sought to get round this process by purely organisational means. Union amalgamation proceeded apace… but so did the growth of giant bureaucracies. We shall return to this whole subject in a future issue.

  • 1. Present address: c/o I.R.I.S. News (Witch-hunters Incorporated), 404, Maritime House, Clapham, SW4.
Bureaucracy is inimical to initiative; the workers must be allowed to develop collective initiative if they are ever to better their conditions and finally win their freedom.

Solidarity for workers' power #2.02

Issue of Solidarity from 19 April, 1962 with articles about a huge sit-in at the British Motor Corporation, the US civil rights movement, work on the London docks and more.


solidarity-202.pdf1.76 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #2.03

Issue of Solidarity from 21 May 1962 with articles about an unofficial struggle against tea break reductions at Ford Dagenham, the civil rights movement and more.


solidarity-203.pdf1.79 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #2.04

Issue of Solidarity from June 30th 1962

Revolutionary politics today by Paul Cardan
The seamen :
1. Conditions today by Larry Petersen
2. Rank-and-file organisation by G. Foulser
The man without a country by Sylvia Pankhurst
Trotskyists and barrow boys by H. Mann
Indec ? To sit or to stand by Harry Forrest
Make up the most of your telephone !
The shagness monster or The Labour Party illusion
Marxian clap-trap ? by John Papworth
We don’t think so…
About ourselves
The 266 dispute : How we won by Colin Seal
Review : Democracy at work

solidarity-vol2-n04.pdf4.17 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #2.05

Issue of Solidarity from 16 September 1962 with articles about a Committee of 100 leaflet being distributed in Moscow, the situation in Vauxhall plants, the Japanese Zengakuren and more.


solidarity-205.pdf2.03 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #2.06

Issue of Solidarity from October 23rd 1962

Freedom at work
Italy, 1962
Russian diary by Keiichi Suzuki
Don’t shoot the operator
Beat the heat by Jorrocks
Over to you
Busman’s holiday by a Timbuctoo Busman
About ourselves
White guards ? Or workers ? by Ida Mett

solidarity-vol2-n06.pdf4.02 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #2.07

Issue of Solidarity from 10 December 1962.

solidarity-207.pdf1.99 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #2.08

Issue of Solidarity from 11 February, 1963.

solidarity-208.pdf2.08 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #2.09

Ninth issue of the second volume of Solidarity for workers' power with articles about the enquiry into labour relations at Fords, dissent from the CND rank and file, the thoughts of unemployed folks in West Hartlepool and more.

vol2no9.pdf17.55 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #2.10

Special edition of the Solidarity for workers' power journal dedicated to Aldermaston and events within the CND.

vol2no10.pdf17.82 MB

Thoughts on bureaucracy - Bob Potter

Bob Potter of Solidarity critiques bureaucratic state socialism in 1963.

One of the greatest problems facing the revolutionary movement today is that of bureaucracy. What is it? Is it a rootless "thing," floating between the working class and their rulers? Is it a "new class"? No other issue more clearly shows up the bankruptcy in ideas of the traditional "left" than its inability seriously to grapple with this problem.

The traditional "left" is incapable of looking at reality as it is, of analysing it here and now. Instead it gazes at society from the standpoint of political doctrines expounded a century ago, doctrines in many cases relating to very different social conditions and class alignments.

The contributions of Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and other "giants" of the past have been reduced to "sacred scriptures." They are quoted as "divine authority" on the assumption that "nothing has changed." The term "revisionist" has become a term of abuse. That the "giants" themselves constantly revised their ideas in the face of the constantly developing experience is conveniently forgotten.

This "religious" attitude to the past is a complete rejection of dialectical thinking. With such tram-lines firmly laid in their brains it is little wonder that so many self-styled revolutionaries fail to see that Russia today, for instance, is as much a class society as any Western country.

The traditionalists, for instance, are all obsessed with the legal status of property, as if this were the fundamental thing. They fail to see that the bureaucracy in Russia has assumed the role of ruling class because it dominates production, manages it in its own interests and decides, through the exclusive control of the State, all about the distribution of the social product. State capitalism hadn't developed in Marx's day. His doctrines must be brought up to date in this respect.

Marx's dream of state ownership, centralised [1] and rapidly increasing productive forces, has been fulfilled with a vengeance in Russia today. But is this socialism? The Russian workers are never consulted in the important, everyday decisions that concern them most: hours or tempo of work, wages, consumption and leisure. They were never consulted about the resumption of nuclear tests (any more than ordinary people in the West were). Sometimes they are not even informed of such facts. And in the arts, what the Party says, goes.

Marx defines capitalism as a society based on commodity production and wage labour and in which "surplus value" is extracted from the workers. Part of this surplus value goes to capitalisation and part goes to the unproductive consumption of the rulers themselves. But many "marxists" fail to see that from this standpoint the Russian worker is exploited just as much, if not more, than his American counterpart.

The mere assertion that the State is "owned" by the workers has about as much relevance to the Russian worker as the fact that British Railways are "publicly owned" has for the rank-and-file member of the NUR. The abolition of private ownership is clearly not enough. Private ownership is only one "legal form" for the power of the ruling class. The ruling class has certainly perceived this. It is high time the revolutionaries did too.

The more far-sighted sections of the ruling class are beginning to realize that only by introducing State ownership can they effectively rationalize their economics, overcome the old type of economic difficulties, and thus maintain their rule. [2]

At the same time the rulers have learned that they need the Labour bureaucrats to discipline the workers, to tie them ever more closely to the job. They need the traditional unions as an outlet for grievances. In parallel with the increased State intervention in the economy, the Labour leaders and the unions have become increasingly integrated into the political structure of capitalism.

For the worker, these developments have meant increasing domination from above, both in work and in leisure. More and more the employer tries to fashion his employees along the lines so accurately depicted by Charlie Chaplin in Modem Times.

Many other "doctrines," unquestioningly accepted by the "left" today, are equally contradictory. For instance, some people pay lip service to the idea that "the liberation of the working class can be achieved only by the working class itself." But the same people act and speak as if the working class is an unintelligent herd, incapable of achieving socialism without an "elitist" party, "steeled in struggle," "disciplined," "centrally controlled," a party which would lead the class to revolutionize society by capturing political power.

Socialism to us means the maximum freedom for the worker in all his activities. It is the very opposite of the massive bureaucratic control which has developed on both sides of the Iron Curtain. The germ of socialism, i.e. maximum participation of the workers themselves, existed in the Paris Commune of 1871, in the Soviets or Workers' Councils of 1905 and 1917, in Spain in 1936 and 1937, and for a few weeks in Budapest in 1956. What has happened to that germ?

Millions of words have been written about the "degeneration" of the October Revolution and of the Bolshevik Party. The writers invariably miss the crucial point, namely that the seeds of the degeneration lay in the dual (and typically capitalist) conceptions of an elitist party and of the authoritarian management of industry. These ideas - or rather this mentality - was to govern all decisions on political and economic questions.

The elitist theory finds its highest expression in the works of Lenin. In What Is To Be Done, written in 1902, he argues that the working class is incapable of independently developing "socialist consciousness," which has therefore to be injected from outside. "Socialist consciousness," he wrote, "arose quite independently of the spontaneous growth of the working class movement. It arose as a natural and inevitable development of ideas among the revolutionary socialist intelligentsia." [3]

From here it is a logical step to the overall conception of the ignorant herd of workers on the one hand, and the leading "cadre" of intellectuals on the other. The "cadre" do all the "thinking." The workers "test" the resultant "theories" in their everyday struggles with the boss. The division of labour between manual and intellectual, which capitalism developed, has now affected the ranks of the would-be "revolutionaries." Here is the ideological justification for bureaucratic politics.

Once these premises are accepted it matters little how opponents are fought, so long as workers "believe" the facts given them. In describing how one should deal with opposing factions (i.e. members of the same party) Lenin advocated "the spreading among the masses of hatred, aversion and contempt for the opponents." "The limits of the struggle based on a split are not Party limits, but general political limits, or rather general civil limits, the limits set by criminal law and nothing else." Modern "Leninists" [4] certainly seem to have learnt this part of the message!

In the field of production, this philosophy found expression in the doctrine of "one-man management," the militarization of labour and the determination to prevent the rank-and-file bodies from taking over the factories. It was presumed, in a typically bureaucratic way, that only those possessing technical knowledge were entitled to impose decisions concerning production. "In the interests of socialism, the revolution demands," Lenin wrote as early as 1918, "that the masses unquestionably obey the single will of the leaders of the labour process." Writing in Terrorism and Communism, Trotsky echoed: "The unions should discipline the workers and teach them to place the interests of production above their own needs and demands." Trotsky continued: "That free labour is more productive than compulsory labour is quite true when it refers to the period of transition from feudal to bourgeois society. But one needs to be a liberal to make that truth permanent and to transfer its application to the period of transition from the bourgeois to the socialist order."

These quotations show the contemptuous attitude held by the Bolshevik "vanguard" for the working class. It was to have disastrous results. It led for example to the bloody suppression of the Kronstadt mutiny in 1921, when workers demanded that the power stolen from the Soviets by the Bolshevik Party be returned to them. The mutineers were massacred by the Bolsheviks. Significantly, both Lenin and Trotsky publicly claimed that it was a counter-revolutionary rebellion, led by Tsarist officers. They both knew this to be a lie, but truth did not matter. Political expediency did.

The culmination of these doctrines was the introduction of completely capitalist methods into Russian production: speed-ups, piecework, unpaid "voluntary" overtime, permanent labour control, time and motion study, and the open advocacy of a drive for "American efficiency." Engels could have been foreseeing modern Russia when he wrote: "The modern State, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine, the State of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage workers, proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with. It is rather brought to a head." [5]

"Being determines consciousness" is an oft-quoted marxist truism. Related to a bureaucrat it means that any man possessing power over others cannot fail but to see society through the eyes of a master. So long as political power exists, class society will exist. So long as a specific social stratum manages production, the ruler and ruled relation ship will persist. The political power held by Lenin and his elite over the rank and file of the pre-revolutionary Bolshevik Party was simply transformed, by the October Revolution, into State power. The Party appointed the industrial managers. It opposed workers' management of production. Its members took up key positions in the State apparatus. The Party built a society in its own image.

The trade union and Labour bureaucrat in this country plays the same role as his Russian counterpart. His prime concern is to maintain himself. This he has no difficulty to do as he is an essential cog in the whole edifice of bureaucratic capitalism. Socialism and workers' power would mean his extinction.

It is no accident that trade union and Labour bureaucrats, of every political colouring, instinctively and inevitably must oppose any form of rank and file activity. The bureaucracies are fully integrated into the structure of capitalism. Independent action by the working class is the greatest threat to their existence. To talk, therefore, of these leaders "selling out" the membership is absurd. There is no other way in which they could act. They differ with one another only in respect to the kind of class society they would choose: the Western, based to an ever-diminishing degree on private ownership, or the Russian brand, organized through total State ownership.

As capitalism develops, the State bureaucracy "takes over" managerial functions to an increasing degree until it becomes the ruling class. The economic basis for this new bureaucracy is the enormous concentration of capital and power and the increasing intervention of the State in all economic transactions, and finally in every aspect of social life. The old "property-owning bourgeoisie," which characterized the capitalism of the days of Marx, is dying together with the era of laissez-faire. It now has to share its power with the new bureaucracy. It will eventually be eliminated altogether, either gradually and piecemeal (as in the West) or suddenly, as the result of a violent struggle (as in Russia and China). In this respect the only difference between East and West is that the former has already achieved total centralization in the hands of the State, while in the West the process still continues. It is a quantitative difference...not one of quality.

In their attitude to rank and file ("unofficial") activity, the organizations of the "left" reveal most clearly their bureaucratic make-up. The great Frank Foulkes, then "Communist" President of the ETU, could say to the power workers (November 14,1960) that "Unofficial bodies are not in the best interests of the industry." The Stalinist weekly World News devoted a major article, in May 1958, to attacking the "unofficial" attempts of sections of the London busmen to extend their strike. Even the ultra "r-r-revolutionary" S.L.L. declares its policy in all strikes is to make them official. [6] This is a permanent call for workers to leave control of the disputes in the hands of the bureaucrats. It goes hand in hand of course with calls for "better leadership" (i.e. themselves).

Experience has shown that movements relying on leaders can achieve nothing of fundamental benefit to the working class. Bureaucratic parties can only build bureaucratic societies. Socialism cannot be built with capitalist tools. The only saviour of the working class must be the working class itself - a statement that must be taken in its most literal sense.


[1] " wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e. of proletariat organized as ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible." Manifesto of the Communist Party, Foreign Languages Publishing House edition, Moscow 1957, p. 85.

[2] Bismarck and Churchill were advocates, in their time, of nationalisation. Even the Nazis put forward the following economic demand, in 1923: "We demand the abolition of unearned incomes and the abolition of the thraldom of interest. We demand the nationalisation of all industrial trusts." History of Nazi Germany, Pelican Books, p. 199.

[3] What Is To Be Done, Foreign Languages Publishing House edition, p. 51.

[4] Lenin, Selected Works, Vol. Ill, Lawrence & Wishart, pp. 493 and 494.

[5] F. Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Foreign Languages Publishing House edition, Moscow 1954, pp. 105-106.

[6] Gerry Healy, letter to The Guardian, October 26, 1961.

From London Solidarity, 1963
OCRed by lurdan, 2013

Solidarity for workers' power #2.11

Eleventh issue of Solidarity for workers' power with articles on the lastest in the CND and at Fords, the Committee of 100, hitchhiking in the US and more.

vol2no11.pdf7.52 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #2.12

Issue of Solidarity for workers' power containing a Building Stewards Committee of London statement in favour of higher wages, commentry on the 1963 Public Order Act and more.

vol2no12.pdf18.79 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #3.01

Issue of Solidarity from 28 October 1963.

solidarity-301.pdf1.78 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #3.02

Issue of Solidarity from 19 December 1963.

solidarity-302.pdf1.84 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #3.03

Issue of Solidarity from March 9th 1964

Politics 1964
The London workers association
Algeria today by Marvin and Barbara Garson
Eviction in Tunbridge wells by Brian Rose and T.J. Burton
The shop stewards : Another experience… by Les and Grace Jacobs
Song of justice
The general election by Harry Forrest, Alan Hollingum and Tony Clark
About ourselves

solidarity-vol3-n03.pdf3.59 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #3.04

Issue of Solidarity from May 25th 1964.


Theory and practice : The “brotherhood of man” by M. Brinton
The yellow peril by Dick Wilcocks
The shop stewards – 3 by Bill Hierons and Jock Graham
Labour advert ?
As the busmen said
Direct action and the unemployed 1920-21 by Ken Weller

solidarity-vol3-n04.pdf3.9 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #3.05

Issue of Solidarity from 28 August 1964.

solidarity-305.pdf1.57 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #3.06

Issue of Solidarity from 19 October 1964.

solidarity-306.pdf1.71 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #3.07

Issue of Solidarity from 3 February 1965.

solidarity-307.pdf1.57 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #3.08

Issue of Solidarity for social revolution from 16 April 1965 with articles about the free speech movement and civil rights, a workers' defeat at Ford and more.

solidarity-308.pdf1.7 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #3.09

Issue of Solidarity from 16 June 1965 with articles about Italian chemical workers, sexual alienation, Kevin Halpin, Clark Kerr and more.

solidarity-309.pdf1.32 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #3.10

Issue of Solidarity from 16 August 1965 with articles about Errico Malatesta, struggles at Ford, Notting Hill and more.

solidarity-310.pdf1.66 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #3.11

Issue of Solidarity probably from October 1965 with articles about a struggle of homeless families in Kent, management and modern capitalism, Ford and more.

solidarity-311.pdf2.13 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #3.12

Issue of Solidarity from 8 December 1965 with articles about the King Hill homeless struggle, a struggle of apprentices, Maoism, Malatesta and more.

solidarity-312.pdf1.6 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #4.01

Issue of Solidarity from 8 April 1966 with articles about bus workers, borstals, Errico Malatesta and more.


solidarity-401.pdf5.05 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #4.02

Issue of Solidarity with articles on Poland, Ford, "bourgeois music" and more.

solidarity-402.pdf3.57 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #4.03

Issue of Solidarity from August 1966 with articles on ASS, the fate of Marxism, Ford and more.

solidarity-403.pdf3.68 MB

The fate of Marxism - Paul Cardan

Part 1 of Paul Cardan AKA Cornelius Castoriadis' critique of Marxism.

Between 1961 and 1965 ‘Socialisme ou Barbarie’ published (in its issues 36-40) an important article by Paul Cardan entitled ‘Marxisme et ThÈorie RÈvolutionnaire’. Part I dealt with ‘the historical fate of marxism and the notion of orthodoxy’ and this pamphlet is based on that section. Part II went on to discuss ‘the marxist theory of history’. We published it under the title ‘History and Revolution’ in August 1971. Further sections, not yet translated, deal with ‘the marxist philosophy of history’, ‘the two elements in marxism and what historically became of them’, ‘the balance sheet’, and ‘the nature of revolutionary theory’.

The present text first appeared in Solidarity (London) vol.IV, no.3 (August 1966). A later reprint was produced by Solidarity (Clydeside).

which marxism?
For anyone seriously concerned with the social question, an encounter with marxism is both immediate and inevitable. It is probably even wrong to use the word ‘encounter’, in that such a term conveys both something external to the observer and something that may or may not happen. Marxism today has ceased to be some particular theory or some particular political programme advocated by this or that group. It has deeply permeated our language, our ideas and the very reality around us. It has become part of the air we breathe in coming into the social world. It is part of the historical landscape in the backgrounds of our comings and goings.

For this very reason to speak of marxism has become one of the most difficult tasks imaginable. We are involved in the subject matter in a hundred different ways. Moreover this Marxism, in realizing itself, has become impossible to pin down. For with which marxism should we deal? With the marxism of Khruschev or with the marxism of Mao Tse Tung? With the marxism of Togliatti or with that of Thorez? With the marxism of Castro, of the Yugoslays, or of the Polish revisionists? Or should one perhaps deal with the marxism of the Trotskyists (although here too the claims of geography reassert themselves: British and French trotskyists, trotskyists in the United States and trotskyists in Latin America tear one another to pieces, mutually denouncing one another as non marxist). Or should one deal with the Marxism of the Bordighists or of the SPGB, of Raya Dunayevskaya or of CLR James, or of this or that of the still smaller group of the extreme ‘left’? As I well known each of these groups denounces all others as betraying the spirit of ‘true’ marxism which it alone apparently embodies. A survey of the whole field will immediately show that there is not only the abyss separating ‘official’ from ‘oppositional’ marxisms. There is also the vast m plicity of both ‘official’ and ‘oppositional’ varieties each seeing itself as excluding all others.

There is no simple yardstick by which this complex situation could be simplified. There is no ‘test of events which speaks for itself’. Both the marxist politician enjoying the fruits of office the marxist political prisoner find themselves specific social circumstances, and in themselves these circumstances confer no particular valid to the particular views of those who expound them. On the contrary, particular circumstances ma] essential carefully to interpret what various s men for marxism say. Consecration in power gives no more validity to what a man says than does the halo of the martyr or irreconcilable opponent. For does not marxism itself teach us to view with suspicion both what emanates from institutionalized authority and what emanates from oppositions that perpetually fail to get even a toe hold in historical reality?

a return to the sources.
The solution to this dilemma cannot be purely and simply a ‘return to Marx’. What would such a return imply? Firstly it would see no more, in the development of ideas and actions in the last eighty years, and in particular in the development of social democracy, leninism, stalinism, trotskyism, etc, thann layer upon layer of disfiguring scabs covering a healthy body of intact doctrine. This would be most unhistorical.

It is not only that Marx’s doctrine is far from having the systematic simplicity and logical consistency that certain people would like to attribute to it. Nor is it that such a ‘return to the sources’ would necessarily have something academic about it ( at best it could only correctly re-establish the theoretical content of a doctrine belonging to the past – as one might attempt to do, say, for the writings of Descartes or St. Thomas Aquinas). Such an endeavour could leave the main problem unsolved, namely that of discovering the significance of Marxism for contemporary history and for those of us who live in the world of today.

The main reason why a ‘return to Marx’ is impossible is that under the pretext of faithfulness to Marx – and in order to achieve this faithfulness – such a ‘return’ would have to start by violating one of the essential principles enunciated by Marx himself. Marx was, in fact, the first to stress that the significance of a theory cannot be grasped independently of the historical and social practice which it inspires and initiates, to which it gives rise, in which it prolongs itself and under cover of which a given practice seeks to justify itself.

Who, today, would dare proclaim that the only significance of Christianity for history is to be found in reading unaltered versions of the Gospels or that the historical practice of various Churches over period of some 2,000 years can teach us nothing fundamental about the significance of this religious movement? A ‘faithfulness to Marx’ which would see the historical fate of marxism as something Un important would be just as laughable. It would in fact be quite ridiculous. Whereas for the Christian the revelations of the Gospels have a transcendental and an intemporal validity, no theory could ever have such qualities in the eyes of a marxist. To seek to discover the meaning of marxism only in what Marx wrote (while keeping quiet about what the doctrine has become in history) is to pretend – in flagrant contradiction with the central ideas of that doctrine – that real history doesn’t count and that the truth of a theory is always and exclusively to be found ‘further on’. It finally comes to replacing revolution by revelation and the understanding of events by the exegesis of texts.

All this would be bad enough. But there is worse. The insistence that a revolutionary theory be confronted, at all stages, by historical reality 1 is explicitly proclaimed in Marx’s writings. It is in fact part of the deepest meaning of Marxism. Marx’s marxism did not seek to be – and could not be – just one theory among others. It did not seek to hide its historical roots or to dissociate itself from its historical repercussions. Marxism was to provide the weapons not only for interpreting the world but for changing it. 2 The fullest meaning of the theory was, according to the theory itself, that it gave rise to and inspired a revolutionary practice. Those who, seeking to exculpate marxist theory, proclaim that none of the historical practices which for 100 years have claimed to base themselves on marxism are ‘really’ based on marxism, are in fact reducing marxism to the status of a mere theory, to the status of a theory just like any other. They are submitting marxism to an irrevocable judgment. They are in fact submitting it, quite literally, to a ‘Last Judgment’. For did not Marx thoroughly accept Hegel’s great idea: ‘Weltgeschichte ist Weltgericht’. 3

marxism as ideology
Let us look at what happened in real life. In certain stages of modern history a practice inspired by marxism has been genuinely revolutionary. But in more recent phases of history it has been quite the opposite. And while these two phenomena need interpreting (and we will return to them) they undoubtedly point to the fundamental ambivalence of marxism. It is important to realise that in history, as in politics, the present weighs far more than the past. And for us, the present can be summed up in the statement that for the last 40 years Marxism has become an ideology in the full meaning that Marx himself attributed to this word. It has become a system of ideas which relate to reality not in order to clarify it and to transform it, but on the contrary in order to mask it and to justify it in the abstract.

It has become a means of allowing people to say one thing and to do another, to appear other than they are.

In this sense marxism first became ideology when it became Establishment dogma in countries paradoxically called ‘socialist’. In these countries ‘marxism’ is invoked by governments which quite obviously do not incarnate working class power and which are no more controlled by the working class than is any bourgeois government. In these countries ‘marxism’ is represented by ‘leaders of genius’ – whom their successors call ‘criminal lunatics’ without more ado. ‘Marxism’ is proclaimed the ideological basis of Tito’s policies and of those of the Albanians, of Russian policies and of those of the Chinese. In these countries marxism has become what Marx called the ‘solemn complement of justification’. It permits the compulsory teaching of ‘State and Revolution’ to students, while maintaining the most oppressive and rigid state structures known to history. It enables a self-perpetuating and privileged bureaucracy to take refuge behind talk of the ‘collective ownership of the means of production’ and of ‘abolition of the profit motive’.

But marxism has also become ideology in so far as it represents the doctrine of the numerous sects, proliferating on the decomposing body of the ‘official’ marxist movement. For us the word sect is not a term of abuse. It has a precise sociological and historical meaning. A small group is not necessarily a sect. Marx and Engels did not constitute a sect, even when they were most isolated. A sect is a group which blows up into an absolute a single side, aspect or phase of the movement from which it developed, makes of this the touchstone of the truth of its doctrine (or of the truth, full stop), subordinates everything else to this ‘truth’ and in order to remain ‘faithful’ to it is quite prepared totally to separate itself from the real world and henceforth to live in a world of its own. The invocation of marxism by the sects allows them to think of themselves and to present themselves as something other than what they are, namely as the future revolutionary party of that very proletariat in which they never succeed in implanting themselves.

Finally marxism has become ideology in yet another sense. For several decades now it has ceased to be a living theory. One could search the political literature of the last 30 years in vain even to discover fruitful applications of the theory, let alone attempts to extend it or to deepen it.

We don’t doubt that what we are now saying will provoke indignant protests among those who, while professing to ‘defend Marx’, daily bury his corpse a little deeper under the thick layers of their distortions and stupidities. We don’t care. This is no personal quarrel. In analysing the historical fate of max we are not implying that Marx had any kind of moral responsibility for what happened. It is marxism itself, in what was best and most revolutionary in it, namely its pityless denounciation of hollow phrases and ideologies and its insistence on permanent self-criticism, which compels us to take stock of what marxism has become in real life.

It is no longer possible to maintain or to rediscover some kind of ‘marxist orthodoxy’. It can’t be done in the ludicrous (and ludicrously linked) way in which the task is attempted by the high priests of stalinism and by the sectarian hermits, who see marxist doctrine which they presume intact, but ‘amend’, ‘improve’ or ‘bring up to date’ on this or that specific point, at their convenience. Nor can it be done in the dramatic and ultimatistic way suggested by Trotsky in 1940 4 who said, more or less: ‘We know that marxism is an imperfect theory linked to a given period of history. We know that theoretical elaboration should continue. But today, the revolution being on the agenda, this task will have to wait’. This argument is conceivable – although superfluous – on the eve of an armed insurrection. Uttered a quarter of a century later it can only serve to mask the inertia and sterility of the trotskyist movement, since the death of it’s founder.

a marxist 'method'?
Some will agree with us so far, but will seek final refuge in the defence of a ‘marxist method’ allegedly unaffected by what we have just discussed. It is not possible, however, to maintain ‘orthodoxy’ as Lukacs attempted long before them (in 1919 1 precise), by limiting it to a marxist method, which could somehow be separated from its content and which could somehow be neutral in relation to its content. 5

Although a step forward in relation to various kinds of ‘orthodox’ cretinism, Lukacs’ position is basically untenable. It is untenable for a reason which Lukacs forgets, despite his familiarity with dialectical thinking, namely that it is impossible, except if one takes the term ‘method’ at its most superficial level, to separate a method from its content particularly when one is dealing with historical and social theory.

A method, in the philosophical sense, is defined by the sum total of the categories it uses. A rigid distinction between method and content only belongs to the more naive forms of transcendental idealism (or ‘criticism’). In its early stages this method of thought sought to separate and to oppose matter or content (which were infinite and undefined) to certain finite operative categories. According to this permanent flux of the subject matter could not alter the basic categories which were seen as the form without which the subject matter could not be grasped or comprehended.

But this rigid distinction between material and category is already transcended in the more advanced stages of ‘criticist’ thought, when it comes under the influence of dialectical thought. Formerly the problem arises: how do we determine which is the appropriate analytical category for this or that type of raw material? If the raw carries within itself the appropriate ‘hallmark’ allowing it to be placed in this or that it is not just ‘amorphous’; and if it is genuinely amorphous then it could indifferently be in one category or in another and the distinction between true and false breaks down. It is precisely this contradiction which, at several times in the history of philosophy, has led from a ‘criticist’ type of thinking to thinking of a dialectical type. 6

This is how the question is posed at the level of logic. When one considers the growth of knowledge as history, one sees that it was often the ‘development of the subject matter’ that led to a revision of the previously accepted categories or even to their being exploded and superseded. The ‘philosophical’ revolutions produced in modern physics by relativity theory or by quantum theory are just two examples among many. 7

The impossibility of establishing a rigid separation between method and content, between categories and raw material becomes even more obvious when one passes from knowledge of the physical world to understanding of history. A deeper enquiry into already available material – or the discovery of new material – may lead to a modification of the categories and therefore of the method. But there is, in addition, something much more fundamental, something highlighted precisely by Marx and by Lukacs themselves. 8 This is the fact that the categories through which we approach and apprehend history are themselves real products of historical development. These categories can only become clear and effective methods of historical knowledge when they have to some extent become incarnated or fulfilled in real forms of social life.

Let us give a simple example. In the thinking of the ancient Greeks the dominant categories defining social relations and history were essentially political (the power of the city, relations between cities, relations between ‘might’ and ‘right’, etc.). The economy only received marginal attention. This was not because the intelligence or insight of the Greeks were less ‘developed’ than those of modern man. Nor was it because there were no economic facts, or because economic facts were totally ignored. It was because in the social reality of that particular epoch the economy had not yet become a separate, autonomous factor (a factor ‘for itself’ as Marx would say) in human development. A significant analysis of the economy and of its importance for society could only take place in the 17th century and more particularly in the 18th century. It could only take place in parallel with the real development of capitalism which made of the economy the dominant element in social life. The central importance attributed by Marx and the marxists to economic factors is but an aspect of the unfolding of this historical reality.

It is therefore clear that there cannot exist a ‘method’ of approaching history, which could remain immune from the actual development of history. This is due to reasons far more profound than the ‘progress of knowledge’ or than ‘new discoveries’ etc. It is due to reasons pertaining directly to the very structure of historical knowledge, and first of all to the structure of its object: the mode of being of history. What is the object we are trying to know when we study history? What is history? History is inseparable from meaning. Historical facts are historical (and not natural, or biological) inasmuch as they are interwoven with meaning (or sense). The development of the historical world is, ipso facto, the development of a universe of meaning. Therefore, it is impossible radically to separate fact from meaning (or sense), or to draw a sharp logical distinction between the categories we use to understand the historical material, and the material itself. And, as this universe of meaning provides the environment in which the ‘subject’ of the historical knowledge (i.e. the student of history) lives, it is also necessarily the means by which he grasps, in the first instance, the whole historical material. No epoch can grasp history except through its own ideas about history; but these ideas are themselves a product of history and part and parcel of the historical material (which will be studied as such by the next epoch). Plainly speaking the method of the biologist is not a biological phenomenon; but the method of the historian is a historical phenomenon 9.

Even these comments have however to be seen in proper perspective. They don’t imply that at every moment, every category and every method are thrown into question. Every method is not transcended or ruined by the development of real history at the very instant it is being utilized. At any given moment, it is always a practical question of knowing if historical change has reached a point where the old categories and the old method have to be reassessed. But this judgment cannot be made independently of a discussion of the content. In fact such an assessment is nothing other than a discussion on content which, starting with the old categories, comes to show, through its dealings with the raw material of history, that one needs to go beyond a particular set of categories.

Many will say: ‘to be marxist is to remain faithful to Marx’s method, which remains valid’. This is tantamount to saying that nothing has happened in the history of the last 100 years which either permits one or challenges one to question Marx’s categories. It is tantamount to implying that everything will forever be understood by these categories. It is to take up a position in relation to content and categories, to have a static, non- dialectical theory concerning this relationship, while at the same time refusing openly to admit it.

In fact, it is precisely the detailed study content of recent history which compelled us to reconsider the categories – and therefore the method of marxism. We have questioned these categories not only (or not so much) because this or that particular theory of Marx – or of traditional marxism – had been proved ‘wrong’ in real life, but because we felt that history as we were living it could no longer be grasped through these traditional categories, either in their original form 10 or as ‘amended’ or ‘enlarged’ by post-marx marxists. The course of history, we felt, could neither be grasped, nor changed, by these methods.

Our reexamination of marxism does not take place in a vacuum. We don’t speak from just anywhere or from nowhere at all. We started from revolutionary marxism. But we have now reached the stage where a choice confronts us: to remain marxists or to remain revolutionaries. We to choose between faithfulness to a doctrine which, for a considerable period now, has no longer been animated by any new thought or any meaningful action, and faithfulness to our basic purpose revolutionaries, which is a radical and total formation of society.

Such a radical objective requires first of all that one should understand that which one seeks to transform. It requires that one identifies what elements, in contemporary society, genuine challenge its fundamental assumptions and are in basic (and not merely superficial) conflict with its present structure. But one must go further. Method is not separable from content. Their unity, namely theory, is in its turn not separable from the requirements of revolutionary action. And anyone looking at the real world, must conclude that meaningful revolutionary action can no longer be guided by traditional theory. This has been amply demonstrated for several decades now both by the experience of the mass parties of the ‘left’, and by the experience of the sects.

P. Cardan, The Fate of Marxism (London: Solidarity)
Marky b's blog

  • 1. By ‘historical reality’ we obviously don’t mean particular events, separated from all others. We mean the dominant tendencies of social evolution, after all the necessary interpretations have been made.
  • 2. K. Marx. Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach.
  • 3. ‘Universal History is the Last Judgment’. Despite its theological form, this statement, expresses one of Hegel’s most radically atheistic ideas. It means that there is nothing transcendental; that there is no appeal against what happens here and now. We are, definitively, what we are in the process of becoming, what we shall have become.
  • 4. In his ‘In Defence of Marxism’.
  • 5. See the essay ‘What Is Orthodox Marxism?’ Lukacs’ book ‘History and Class Consciousness. An English translation of this essay was recently published by ‘International Socialism’, Nos. 24 and 25 (obtainable from 36 Gilden Rd., London NW6 ) C. Wright Mills adopts a rather similar viewpoint in his book ‘The Marxists‘.
  • 6. The classical example of such a transition is the passage from Kant to Hegel, via Fichte and Schelling. But the basic pattern can be discerned in the later works of Plato, or among the neo-Kantians, from Rickert to Last.
  • 7. It is obviously not just a question of turning things upside down. Neither logically nor historically have the categories of physics been ‘simply a result’ (and even less ‘simply a reflection’) of the subject matter. A revolution in the realm of categories may allow one to grasp raw material which hitherto defied definition (as happened with Galileo). Moreover advances in experimental technique may at times ‘compel’ new material to appear. There is therefore a two-way relationship – but certainly no independence – between categories and subject matter.
  • 8. See Lukacs ‘The Changing Function of Historical Materialism’ (loc. cit.).
  • 9. These considerations are developed mo on p. 20 et seq. of the French text.
  • 10. In the present article we cannot enter into a detailed discussion as to which of the concepts of classical marxism have today to be discarded for a real grasp of the nature of the modern world and of the means of changing it. The subject is discussed in detail in an article ‘Recommencer Ia Revolution’ (published in January 1964 in issue No.25 of ‘Socialisme ou Barbarie’) of which we hope to publish extracts in forthcoming issues.

Solidarity for workers' power #4.04

Issue of Solidarity from November 1966 with articles about the King Hill homeless struggle, buses, murder at Ford, the CNT in crisis, the Vietnam War and more.

solidarity-404.pdf7.35 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #4.05

Issue of Solidarity from 1 March, 1967.

solidarity-405.pdf1.4 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #4.06

Issue of Solidarity from 3 April, 1967, with articles about the Vietnam war, a struggle at the London School of Economics and more.

solidarity-406.pdf2.04 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #4.07

Issue of Solidarity dated May Day 1967 with articles about the day's events and more.

solidarity-407.pdf2.01 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #4.08

Issue of Solidarity from July 1967.

solidarity-408.pdf3.3 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #4.09

Ninth issue of volume 4 of Solidarity.

solidarity-409.pdf2.39 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #4.10

10th issue of volume 4 of Solidarity.

solidarity-410.pdf1.72 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #4.11

Issue 11 of volume 4 of Solidarity, including two leaflets which were included in the magazine.

solidarity-411.pdf1.78 MB
solidarity-411-extra.pdf2.33 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #4.12

Final issue of volume 4 of Solidarity.

solidarity-412.pdf2.91 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #5.01

Issue of Solidarity from May 1968

May Day 1968
The Woodall-Duckham agreement and the C.E.U. by Ken Weller
Woodall-Duckham : some lessons by MAC
Vauxhall follow up by “Spartacus”
Solidarity conference report by F.P.
Sociologists in crisis by Edward Ludd
Pamphlets received

solidarity-vol5-n01.pdf3.25 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #5.02

Issue of Solidarity from July 12th 1968

The meaning of France
French workers defence committee
Linwood-Rootes and the motor industry by Ken Weller
The Rootes (Dunstable) sackings by Spartacus
Big Brother is watching you ! by Ron Bailey
Kellogg’s men break “consolidated” ceiling
Stop press

solidarity-vol5-n02.pdf3.21 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #5.03

Issue of Solidarity from August 25th 1968

Injection moulders lock-out by Tom Hillier
Even in the army… by Caporal Le Bris
Horse and coach
Lying low
Literature and revolution
Review by K.W. : Know you enemy : A report on the reports by Bernard Ross
Hills precision (Coventry)
The Internationale unites the human race
Czechoslovakia : the end of an era

solidarity-vol5-n03.pdf3.47 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #5.04

Issue of Solidarity from October 1968

The power struggle at Kingsnorth by E. Stanton
France : the theoretical implications by M.B. : France : the struggle goes on by Tony Cliff and Ian Birchall
The troubles in the valley by Mike Gonzales

solidarity-vol5-n04.pdf4.48 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #5.05

Issue of Solidarity from October 27th 1968

1945 : the Saigon insurrection by Van
The revolt at Brentford nylons by Ernie Stanton and Ron Bailey
The Lucas empire (takes a bashing) by our Industrial Correspondent
About ourselves

solidarity-vol5-n05.pdf3.57 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #5.06

Issue of Solidarity from December 9th 1968

The economic crisis
The Aberdeen paper mills by Aberdeen “Solidarity” Group
Review by T.W. : Student power : theory and practice
Strike at Ford Genk
Libertarian left v Regina
Capitalism and Socialism by Maurice Brinton
Furniture workers show the way by Mike French
October 14th labourer demands

solidarity-vol5-n06.pdf3.39 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #5.07

Issue of Solidarity (undated)

Kingsnorth : the struggle continues by Ernie Stanton
Aberdeen shipyard by a shipworker
Work – at whose expense ? Work – to what end ? Work – does life begin at 8 A.M. or end ? by George Shaw
The Bristol sit-in by Rod Choler
Bread or freedom ? (A comment on the article “Capitalism and Socialism” in Solidarity, Vol. 5, No. 6)

solidarity-vol5-n07.pdf3.69 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #5.08

Issue of Solidarity from March 1969

Fords : the implications by Mark Fore
Student revolt in search of positive self-consciousness by Foreign Scum
Reviews :
By Peter Gibbon : Education, Capitalism and the student revolt by Chris Harman and others
By M.B. : Damned ! (An adjudication on the Press Council) by Andy Anderson
Furniture workers’ struggle : a follow up by Pete Olstead
Document by the Council for the Liberation of Family Life
About ourselves
Link and chains by Ian R. Mitchell
Capitalism and Socialism : a rejoinder by M.B.
Teachers learn the hard way by Don Kirkley

solidarity-vol5-n08.pdf4.12 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #5.09

Issue of Solidarity from April 1969

Ford : the settlement by Mark Fore
Will the workers manage production ? Lenin and the workers councils by A.O.
Italy : The struggle at Lancia by the Lancia Struggle Committee
Reviews :
By K.W. : Revolutionary movements in Britain 1900-1921 by Walter Kendall
By I.M. : The human sciences and philosophy by Lucien Goldmann
By M.B. : Obsolete Communism : the left wig alternative by D. And G. Cohn-Bendit
Sheffield : party and police : Ad hoc and ad nauseam by the Sheffield Vietnam Campaign
About ourselves

solidarity-vol5-n09.pdf3.74 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #5.10

Issue of Solidarity from May 1st 1969

May Day 1969
Aberdeen paperworkers : Follow up by I.M.
Students’ challenge to bourgeois education by Tom Fawthrop
Vauxhall : Militants beware ! by Taurus
Solidarity conference

solidarity-vol5-n10.pdf3.03 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #5.11

Issue of Solidarity from June 1st 1969

Neither castle nor feather, but job organisation
Derry : How the people fought by A. Berke
Holman’s of Camborne by “Jack Straw”
The industrial revolt by A.O.
About ourselves
Inside Vauxhall
Thoughts about May Day
On “active minorities”
Star letter from “Canuck”

solidarity-vol5-n11.pdf4.32 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #5.12

Issue of Solidarity from July 15th 1969

The Punfield and Barstow strike by M.F.
Review by G.W. : The Hornsey affair by Students and Staff of Hornsey College of Art
Working class consciousness
Letter from a teacher by G. Reynoldson
Vauxhall – the crisis nears by Black Pedro
Solidarity conference

solidarity-vol5-n12.pdf3.71 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #6.01

Issue of Solidarity from 12 September 1969 with articles about occupied Ulster, a wildcat strike against a racist foreman at Ford Mahwah and more.

solidarity-601.pdf1.83 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #6.02

Issue of Solidarity from 13 November 1969 with articles about disputes at Ford and GEC, and the KAPD and more.

solidarity-602.pdf1.9 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #6.03

Issue of Solidarity from January 19, 1970 with articles about Ford, Third Worldism, Germany, Ireland, the LSE and more.

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Solidarity for workers' power #6.04

Issue of Solidarity from April 1970 with articles about nurses, the economics of self-management, students and more.

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Solidarity for workers' power #6.05

Issue of Solidarity from August 1, 1970 with articles about youth culture, Vauxhall Motors, a review Listen Marxist and more.

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Solidarity for workers' power #6.06

Issue of Solidarity from October 15, 1970 with article about the ambiguities of workers' control, Trotskyism, the Durham explosion and more.

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solidarity-606-leaflet.pdf127.84 KB

Solidarity for workers' power #6.07

Issue of Solidarity from December 1, 1970, with articles critiquing black separatism and the trade union "left" and a report from an IWC conference.

solidarity-607.pdf2.49 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #6.08

Issue of Solidarity from February 6, 1971 with articles about the Industrial Relations Bill and more.

solidarity-608.pdf4.07 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #6.09

Issue of Solidarity dated May Day 1971 with articles about the May Day demonstrations, community action, occupied Ireland and more.

solidarity-609.pdf3.18 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #6.10

Issue of Solidarity with articles about the role of wife and mother, and disputes at Halewood, a struggle against pollution in Swansea, the Post Office and more.

solidarity-610.pdf2.97 MB

Carbon Black - Ian Bone

An article by the lovely Ian Bone about residents of Port Tennant, Swansea organising against pollution in their neighbourhood. Taken from Solidarity: For Workers’ Power, Vol. 6, No. 10.

The United carbon Black factory, situated in the Port Tennant area of Swansea, produces carbon blacks for use in car tyres. It is American controlled, Although large in size it only has a small, non-union labour force.

Besides carbon blacks the factory also produces clouds of black smut and dirt which constantly rain down on the houses nearby. This makes it impossible for washing to be hung outside. Within an hour it is filthy, so all washing has to be dried indoors. But the dirt also comes indoors, covering food, furniture, children and babies. A local manager of the factory once remarked that the people of the area were living in slums anyway, we why were they complaining about dirt?

Port Tennant is a working class area composed of rows of terraced houses. It has returned Labour councillors since time immemorial. Twenty years of protests to the Labour Council have not however changed the situation as regards the pollution.

In January 1970 local housewives dumped their dirty washing at the Guildhall and temporarily blocked the road leading to the factory. In response to this the management installed a new burner in March 1970, claiming this would end the “muck-spreading”.

By January 1970 the situation was as bad as ever. Having tired of useless protests to the Council, to M.P.s and to the local Health Department to people of Port Tennant decided to act on the own behalf. At a meeting on January 26, it was decided to block the road leading to the factory indefinitely, until the filth it spewed out ended.

To maintain surprise a Committee consisting of one representative from each street in the area was elected to decide the time of the action. When the time came each Committee members would inform all the households in his or her street.

On February 1 it was announced at a Council meeting that the Carbon Black factory was planning to increase production by 25%. At 9.30 a.m. on February 3, fifty housewives moved onto the road leading to the factory and stayed there, The aim was not a symbolic temporary blocking of an entrance. It was to be permanent obstruction until production was brought totally to a halt or the pollution ended. The housewives were also determined to remain until the plans for expansion had been scrapped.

Cars and lorries bringing in supplies were turned away, but police escorted empoyees and others through the crowd on foot. The blockage continued throughout the night, much to the annoyance ad surprise of the management who had confidently told lorry drivers to park ‘round the corner’ and deliver during the night. If the management had any further doubts that the road blockers were there to stay these were son dispelled. A large tent was pitched on that road and a fire built up. Chairs, stores and radios were brought in. Meals were cooked on the spot. Local trades-men brought in wood, coal and other supplies. A fish ad chip shop sent a huge tray of free pies and another small shop stayed open till 4.00 a.m. to supply the night shift with tea and sandwiches.

As the days went by, the organisation improved. To combat the cold weather – there were strong gales with driving sleet and rain throughout the first weekend of the protest – ropes were slung across he road at head hight, and large tarpaulins draped over them. To one of these tarpaulins was attached a notice reading “We’re not budging, even if we catch pneumonia”.

Shifts of fifty a time were organised on an informal basis – “We just dash round each others’ houses to see who can or can’t go on blockade duty”. The whole pattern of everyday life was changed. The women were getting up early to cook breakfast for husbands and children, then going immediately to guard the factory entrance against lorries trying to enter. Then, sometime during the day, they would take a two-hour break to do essential housework. At night the men took over – often coming straight from work.

Even the local newspaper was moved to write “It is in the evenings that the comradeship is most evident. Fighting spirit becomes akin to party spirit as people bring portable record players and share their food.”

Many of the men took their winter holidays to take part, though one remarked “We don’t normally spend our holidays on the Port Tennant Riviera”. The humour of those taking part was apparent throughout.

On Shrove Tuesday a fancy dress and hot pants pancake race was run round the factory and the residents turned out en masse to join in the fun. By staging such events the road blockers were able to keep their morale high at a tie when lack of sleep and terrible weather could easily have dampened enthusiasm.

During all this time no vehicles of ay kind were allowed to enter or leave the factory, though employees were able to come and go. It was not long before this had an effect on production, although a full week elapsed before the management admitted that production had been cut back.
At the end of three weeks several departments had bee closed down and the employees were being put on maintenance work. Since no lorries could leave the factory all finished products were being stockpiled.

At this stage the management proposed a “truce”. This was immediately rejected. The management then stated that they were meeting their legal requirements (and they were). They appealed to the Secretary of State for Wales to back them up. Swansea Council had also referred the matter to the Welsh Office, being only too pleased to pass the buck. The fact that the management were not taking some initiatives revealed that they were not seriously concerned at the protesters threat to stay till Christmas (“the one after next”, as the local people were at pains to point out).

Peter Thomas, Secretary of State for Wales, (and also Chairman of the Conservative Party) stated on February 12 that the report of a Welsh Office Alkali Inspector showed that the factory was indeed meeting its legal requirements. Some interesting facts then emerged about Thomas’ position. The Carbon Black parent company is Anchor Chemicals Ltd. The Deputy Chairman of Anchor Chemicals is Sir Clyce Hewlett, an active member of the Conservative Party and friend of Peter Thomas, whom he met at the young Conservatives’ Conference at Eastbourne, during the blockade Thomas’ decision came as no surprise.

There followed another report, this time by Britain’s Deputy Chief Alkali Inspector. This ended with the same result. Edgar Cutler summed up the thoughts of the road blockers when he said “We’ve not been hanging around here 24 hours of the day for 17 days for nothing. We will continue our stand”. It was noted that as the Inspector arrived, the works momentarily went out of production; no smoke come out of the stack that day. As soon as the Inspector left; production started up again.

Production was now being increasingly affected. On February 26 a meeting was held in Cardiff, between the road blockers, the management and Swansea Council. The management made some concessions. The promised to control the smut and grime more effectively, stating that they were to spend £200,000 on pollution-control. The factory was to be thoroughly spring-cleaned. Lorries would be re-routed. More importantly it was agreed to half production when strong easterly winds were prevalent (surely a unique agreement in British industry). A Liaison Committee was to be formed consisting of the management, the Port Tennant residents and the council. This Committee was to keep a continual watch on the pollution situation, enabling the residents to exert some control over the situation. It was hinted that the expansion plats were to be dropped.

Were these proposals a victory for the residents or not? Obviously this would depend on how they were interpreted. What constitutes “a strong easterly wind”? Would the decisions of the Liaison Committee have any weight? Would the new expenditure by the management really take place? And it so, would it be any more effective than previous expenditure in stopping pollution? Only time would tell.

Given these terms, the residents reluctantly agreed to life the blockade. Howard Bevan spoke for many when he said “A lot of us are not satisfied. We’ve heard all these promises before. Although we have taken down our shelter we have stored it near the entrance. If Carbon Black don’t keep their promises we won’t take long to erect it again. All we can do now is wait and see what the outcome will be If we blockade again it will be on a much larger scale than during the last three weeks.” Three days later it was announced that the plans for the extension of the factory had been shelved.

The blockade had lasted 24 days, in the middle of winter. After years of asking the Council to do something for them the people of Port Tennant had acted unitedly, on their own behalf. At the end of it many who had taken part were despondent about what they had achieved. But they were not despondent about the type of action they had undertaken. All were contemptuous of the Council and confident that in the future it would only be by their own action that they could change the situation. If they had not got all they wanted it was because their action had not been strong or direct enough, not because it what been the wrong type of action.

The people of Port Tennant had however established some important principles, and shattered some myths in the process. The management of a large factory has been forced to allow those who lived near it to have some measure of control over its production (i.e. no production when there was an easterly wind, and shelving of the plans for expansion).

Direct action has gone beyond the range of the symbolic protest:
You don’t show that you could close the factory if you wanted to – you try and do it!

The concern of politicians and businessmen over “pollution” has been expressed for the sham it is. The Carbon Black factory was operating quite legally as its filthy much ruined the peoples’ homes and health. Peter Thomas, one of the Tories whose concern for the environment is never off his lips, was quite happy to see the pollution continues. The pollution could be stopped entirely if the management was willing to spend the money. The people of Port Tennant knew this. The management had been refusing as this would have meant cutting into profits.

Mrs Barbara Davies summed it up simply: “I remember picking water lilies, wild irises, bulrushes, and blackberries from the banks of the canal. As children we swam there. There were swans and we held fishing competitions. Now we have to wash our windows every day, spend at least 15/- a week on a family wash at the launderette and dare not put a baby in its pram in the garden. All this when everyone’s talking about pollution ad conservation.”

Finally, and most important, the people of Port Tennant have discovered in themselves a new sense of comradeship and self-conficen in their own ability to take action and change their surroundings. This will not quickly be lost.

A few weeks ago the Chief Public health Inspector of Swansea referred to the smashing of pollution-deposit gauges on an old cinema in Port Tennant. He said “it seems that out attempts to look after the interest of the community are not appreciated”. He can say that again! As one of the women said: “I don’t need an Alkali Inspector to tell me if my babies’ nappies are dirty”. Now she can add that she doesn’t need a Councillor to tell her how to put an end to it, either.

Ian Bone.

Solidarity for workers' power #6.11

Issue of Solidarity from October 15, 1971, with articles about UCS and Plessey, Maoism in crisis, housing in Ealing and more.

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Solidarity for workers' power #6.12

Issue of Solidarity from December 25, 1971 with articles about UCS and Plessey, modern capitalism and more.

solidarity-612.pdf3.13 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #7.01

Issue of Solidarity from April 9, 1972, with articles about workplace occupations, the UK miners' strike Ireland and self-determination and more.

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Solidarity for workers' power #7.02

Issue of Solidarity from 30 June, 1972 with articles about the Industrial Relations Act, workplace occupations, kibbutzim, William Reich and more.

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Solidarity for workers' power #7.03

Issues Solidarity from 1972 with articles about Ireland, the docks, Ford, women and the trade unions and more.

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Solidarity for workers' power #7.04

Issue of Solidarity from 8 December, 1972 with articles about Ford, tenants in Manchester Angela Davis, women's liberation and more.

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Solidarity for workers' power #7.05

Issue of Solidarity from early 1973 with articles about Vietnam, General Motors in Australia, the Angry Brigade, work-ins and more.

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Solidarity for workers' power #7.06

Issue of Solidarity from April 22, 1973, with articles about Ford, docks, being and consciousness and more.

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Solidarity for workers' power #7.07

Issue of Solidarity from June 20, 1973 with articles about Northern Ireland, "penis power", Ford, May 1973 in Paris and more.

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Solidarity for workers' power #7.08

Issue of Solidarity from 13 October, 1973 with articles about the crisis, Ford, LIP and more.

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Solidarity for workers' power #7.09

Issue of Solidarity from January 26, 1974 with articles about miners, Northern Ireland, disputes at Ford and LIP and more.

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Solidarity for workers' power #7.10

Issue of Solidarity from April 1974 with articles about the "crisis", the 1930s, psychiatry and more.

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Solidarity for workers' power #7.11

Issue of Solidarity from mid-1974 with articles about the UWC strike, James Connolly, Paul Cardan, the ACTT and the WRP and more.


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Revolutionary Bureaucracy – Solidarity

An article from Solidarity for Workers’ Power vol. 7, no. 11 on the nature of the bureaucratisation seen in the Russian Revolution.

The October 1917 revolution in Russia was recognised by friend and foe as a major historical event. It was clear that this was not just the overthrow of a government and a regime, but that an entire social order collapsed and out of its ruins something genuinely new was about to be constructed. The debates about the nature of the new social order and its origins have been with the revolutionary movement ever since and split it up into mutually hostile camps. What is the political basis for this hostility?

As early as November 1918, while Lenin was in full command with Trotsky at his side and Stalin was hardly heard of, Rosa Luxemburg, a comrade-in-arms of the Bolsheviks, wrote a sympathetic but critical appraisal of the Bolshevik revolution. Her criticism contained an ominous warning on the possible consequences of Lenin’s restrictions on the authority, and freedom of expression, of the workers’ councils (soviets).

“Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element. Public life gradually falls asleep, a few dozen party leaders of inexhaustible energy and boundless experience direct and rule. Among them, in reality only a dozen outstanding heads do the leading and an elite of the working class is invited from time to time to meetings where they are to applaud the speeches of the leaders, and to approve proposed resolutions unanimously – at bottom then, a clique affair – a dictatorship, to be sure, not the dictatorship of the proletariat, however, but only the dictatorship of a handful of politicians, that is, a dictatorship in the bourgeois sense, in the sense of the rule of the Jacobins (the postponement of the Soviet Congress from three-month periods to six-month period).

Yes, we can go even further: such conditions must INEVITABLY cause a brutalisation of public life, attempted assassinations, shooting of hostages, etc. (Lenin’s speech on discipline and corruption.)”
(“Rosa Luxemburg speaks”, Pathfinder Press, New York, 1970, p. 381.)

The warnings of Rosa Luxemburg were ignored by most revolutionaries during the first years following the revolution. Even her own party in Germany did not publish them. This can be understood when one considers the tremendous enthusiasm for the first successful breach of the Bourgeois world. However, as the years passed, and the regime of the Bureaucracy in Russia produced unprecedented “brutalisations of public life”, Rosa Luxemburg’s warnings acquired a new significance.

Already in the mid-1920’s and throughout the 1930’s many in the revolutionary left started a critical reappraisal of the Russian revolution, regime, and the relation between these two.

“What went wrong?”
“When did things start to go wrong?”
“Why did things go wrong?”

One of those who attempted to answer these questions was Trotsky, whose role in the revolutions of 1905, and October 1917, makes him second only to Lenin. Trotsky produced many analyses of the new society that was taking shape under Stalin’s rule. Stalin did not merely establish the dictatorship of the Politburo and the Secret Police, but moulded an entire society to go with it. New property relations, new social roles, new motivations, new personality types, new authority relations, new legitimisations, new social classes and strata, new attitudes to production, life, sciences, arts. Whether one liked this society or not – it came into existence as an accomplished fact and had to be dealt with.

In the new Russian society there was no private ownership of the means of production, no free market economy, and no profit motive, so that it could hardly qualify as “Capitalism”. However, since 99.9% of the population in that society had no influence on the political decision-making process and were reduced to the permanent status of an audience “invited from time to time to meetings where they are to applaud the speeches of the leaders and approve proposed resolutions unanimously” it was not what most revolutionaries understood as “Socialism”.

The essence of Trotsky’s answer was that Russia was still a “Workers’ State” due to the fact that there was no private ownership of the means of production, but the Party’s apparatus (i.e. the full-time officials), though not a “class”, established itself as a cancerous “growth” on a basically healthy political system. The rule of the Bureaucracy was, said Trotsky, “a temporary relapse”.

Trotsky’s answer calmed the gnawing doubts of many revolutionaries by invoking historical analogies: “just as it was too early to appraise the French Revolution and the post-revolutionary society during the period of Napoleon, so was it too early to appraise the Russian revolution and society during Stalin’s period”.

How “temporary” must a social system be before it is recognised as a viable historical phenomenon?

What conclusions must revolutionary socialists draw once they recognise the rule of the bureaucracy as a viable historical entity?

Again it was Trotsky who dared to touch these ideologically explosive questions. In September 1939, shortly after the start of the Second World War, but well before Russia was attacked, he expressed his views clearly with an ideological courage most of his followers lack:

“If this war provokes, as we firmly believe, a proletarian revolution, it must inevitably lead to the overthrow of the bureaucracy in the USSR and the regeneration of Soviet democracy on a far higher economic and cultural basis than in 1918. In that case the question as to whether the Stalinist bureaucracy was a ‘class’ or a growth on the workers’ state will be automatically solved. To every single person it will become clear that in the process of the development of the world revolution the Soviet bureaucracy was only an EPISODIC relapse.

If, however, it is conceded that the present war will provoke not a revolution but a decline of the proletariat, then there remains another alternative: the further decay of monopoly capitalism, its further fusion with the state and the replacement of democracy where it still remained, by a totalitarian regime. The inability of the proletariat to take into its hands the leadership of society could actually lead under these conditions to the growth of a new exploiting class from the Bonapartist fascist bureaucracy. This would be, according to all indications, a regime of decline, signalising the eclipse of civilisation.

An analogous result might occur in the event that the proletariat of advanced Capitalist countries, having conquered power, should prove incapable of holding it and surrender it, as in the USSR, to a privileged bureaucracy. Then we would be compelled to acknowledge that the reason for the bureaucratic relapse is rooted not in the backwardness of the country and not in the imperialist environment but in the congenital incapacity of the proletariat to become a ruling class. Then it would be necessary in retrospect to establish that in its fundamental traits the present USSR was the precursor of a new exploiting regime on an international scale.

We have diverged very far from the terminological controversy over the nomenclature of the Soviet state. But let our critics not protest: only by taking the necessary historical perspective can one provide himself with a correct judgement upon such a question as the replacement of one social regime by another.

The historical alternative, carried to the end, is as follows: either the Stalin regime is an abhorrent relapse in the process of transforming bourgeois society into a socialist society, or the Stalin regime is the first stage of a new exploiting society.

If the second prognosis proves to be correct, then of course, the bureaucracy will become a new exploiting class. However onerous the second perspective may be, if the world proletariat should actually prove incapable of fulfilling the mission placed upon it by the course of development, nothing else would remain except only to recognise that the socialist programme, based on the internal contractions of capitalist society, ended as a Utopia.

It is evident that a new ‘minimum’ programme would be required for the defence of the slaves of the totalitarian bureaucratic society.”
(“The USSR in war”, from “In defence of Marxism”, Merit publishers, New York, 1965, p. 9.)

In the decades that passed since these words were written Stalin’s Russia fought the bloodiest war in human history and emerged victorious. The society created by Stalin proved viable and the political bureaucracy ruling it emerged entrenched in its dominant role beyond its own expectations. Moreover, the same type of regime spread to Eastern Europe, and later – to China. Trotsky’s wondering as to whether the bureaucracy was an “episodic relapse” or “a precursor of a new exploiting regime on an international scale” received an unambiguous answer by the development of history over the last thirty years. The rule of the bureaucracy is a viable historical phenomenon in its own right. The bureaucracy can develop and manage a modern industrial society and become a world power in the political, economic, and military sense.

Once the bureaucracy is recognised as a viable historical entity it must be treated as such, that is: its own history must be treated not as some accidental diversion from the mainstream of human history, but as a major feature.

What is the life cycle of this new ruling caste?
Where was this bureaucracy before it established itself in a dominant role?
What is the embryonic, pre-revolutionary, phase of the bureaucracy like?
What is the self-image of the bureaucracy?
How does the bureaucracy legitimise its role to its followers before it becomes a ruling caste?
How does the bureaucracy reproduce, and legitimise, its role to new generations?

History is not a magician’s hat out of which ruling castes and new societies are conjured by snapping dingers. The Bourgeoisie emerged and developed long before the Bourgeois revolution established it as a dominant class, Christians were crucified for centuries before the Church became the most powerful institution in Europe. Doesn’t the bureaucracy exist before it takes over power?

The standard answer to these questions, accepted by most Marxists, locates the origin of the bureaucracy in the backwardness of Russia and its isolation by hostile imperialist regimes. These specific circumstances no doubt created conditions favourable to the ascendance of the Bureaucracy, but in history, as in crime, it is not the circumstances but the motivations that account for the act.

The motivations of the Bureaucracy in its pre-revolutionary phase must not be judged by its post-revolutionary face. The revolutionary bureaucrat is not a power-hungry political careerist, seeking to further his own interests, nor is he an adventurer seeking “a place in history”. Lenin and his followers were willing to pay with their lives and careers for their convictions – and many of them did so. Most of them could choose a different life and gain success in Bourgeois society – some did. Those who chose to remain revolutionaries were amongst the most intelligent and sensitive in their generation. They had the courage to face external perils as well as inner doubts and temptations. Many despaired after the failure of the 1905 revolution, others succumbed to the pressures of “normal” family life. Those who remained were neither organisational fanatics nor theoretical doctrinaires which today, alas, swell the ranks of most Marxist organisations. Their motives were totally unselfish, they were appalled by the suffering of workers and peasants in Bourgeois society and were determined to bring about a fundamental change in society so as to put an end to this suffering. Lenin did not rule by personal authority of by disciplinary regulations. He was often outvoted in his party and never advocated expulsions. It is doubtful whether a sincere and sympathetic investigation, from a revolutionary viewpoint, will reveal any overt flaw in the personality or motives of most pre-revolutionary Bolsheviks, including Stalin and associates like Molotov. And yet it was this party which carried within itself the potentialities of developing into a regime which inflicted unprecedented cruelties upon those whose suffering it sought to alleviate, and unprecedented humiliations upon its own disciples.

It is often argued that Lenin’s organisational concept of “Democratic Centralism” is the root of the bureaucratisation. Clearly, this organisational structure enables those at the centre to dominate the entire organisation indefinitely.

However, even if “only a dozen heads at the centre do the leading” it is up to them to decide how to use the organisational apparatus which is at their disposal. Why choose to abolish the National Congress of Workers’ Councils? Why choose persistently to oppose shop-floor management in industry? The organisational structure cannot account for the nature of the political decision.

A penetrating analysis of the Russian revolution reveals that Lenin had to choose between a policy of “All power to the workers’ councils” and one of “All power to the revolutionary party”. As long as the party has a majority within the workers’ councils this painful choice was not apparent, but how was a revolutionary to choose if the two came into conflict? The answer in know to every Marxist: only those aware of the historical, rather than the immediate, interests of the working class, can take the right decisions. It is therefore their duty to put their understanding of history into action. The revolutionary bureaucrat’s self-image is that of “a specialist in the science of History”.

Could it be that the potentiality of bureaucratisation in the socialist revolutionary movement resides not only in Lenin’s concept of Democratic Centralism, but in Marx’s concept of the dynamics of history?

All revolutionaries share the conviction that he existing social evils cannot be cured by reforms, but only by changes in the foundations of the social structure. This shared view often blinds them to the fundamental differences within their own ranks.

In all past revolutions one section of the revolutionary camp established itself as a new dominant class revealing horrifying potentialities to their former comrades. The Levellers, Danton, Bukharin, and Trotsky suffered worse than eventual assassination by their former comrades, they suffered the belated realisation that they helped create regimes they abhorred.

Is this the inevitable fate of most successful revolutionaries? Even if the answer is yes it would not deter many from joining the revolutionary camp. Those who do so in full awareness of this terrible possibility will have only themselves to blame if they play down the fundamental differences between the various revolutionary ideas and organisations.

Social revolution is, possibly, the most profound act of creation; its products are not creations outside our selves, but new patterns of selves. We do not know if it pays to be careful with that mysterious process called History, but we know what one pays for being uncareful.


We do not know if it pays to be careful with that mysterious process called History, but we know what one pays for being uncareful.

Solidarity for workers' power #7.12

Issue of Solidarity from November 1974 with articles about Pannekoek's Party and class, malaise on the left, the Windsor free festival, reviews and more.

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Invergordon mutineer by Len Wincott review - Joe Jacobs

Joe Jacobs of Solidarity reviews a book written by a leading Invergordon mutineer about the strike in 1931.

I got to know Len Wincott soon after the mutiny, and saw him off when he went to the Soviet Union in 1934. I was pleased to be among those who met him again during his recent visit to Britain to promote his book.

From the very beginning of his visit Len made it clear to all concerned that he was not here to talk about his experiences in Russia over the last 40 years. A circular handed out by his publishers stated:
‘During the Second World War he served in the Red Army, but later was arrested as a “British spy” and spent 11 years in a labour camp in the Northern Urals. In 1957 he was released and cleared of all charges when the gates of the labour camps opened after Khrushchev’s denouncement of Stalin’.

Len Wincott, now aged 67, lives in Moscow with his fourth wife Lena whom he married in 1965. He decided to return to the Soviet Union because (as he explained to the assembled newsmen at a press

conference) he had no intention of trying to start a new life at his age, in his very bad state of health, when his wife had all her friends and relations in Russia where they were quite comfortable, with access to good medical and other facilities. This meant he could not talk about those things which the press would have dearly loved to report. If he wanted to go back it meant they would be deprived of their stories and, incidentally, so would we. That he was unable to tell us about the Soviet Union says a great deal about the state of affairs existing in Russia today. His silence made a very loud noise!

Len Wincott’s book is a forthright statement of the facts of the mutiny. It contradicts much of what has been written about it by ‘official’ historians an others. It begins with a description of his childhood. He was one of a family of eight with a drunken, brutal father and a long-suffering mother, and was brought up in the dire circumstances of working class life in Leicester. He joined the Navy when he was 16. As he puts it: ‘No one will suppose that a 16-year-old boy was moved by the ideas of heroism to read a pamphlet on how to join the Royal Navy. In my case the urge was certainly the ominous spectre of unemployment.’

Len’s background is an adequate recipe for what went into his actions during the mutiny. The gulf which separated the men from the officers, those who gave the orders and those who were expected to carry them out, was so great that the mutiny had to take the course it did. The officers never had a clue about how the men felt – and they cared even less. Maybe there were one or two exceptions.

The publisher's blurb says: ‘the book tells the story of the famous naval mutiny at Invergordon when the men of the lower ranks spontaneously – and successfully – rebelled against the Admiralty’s decision to make drastic cuts in their basic pay. It was an event unprecedented in naval history with far-reaching consequences for both the navy and the country in general’.

I personally well remember the Invergordon Mutiny. Two leading members of the Communist Party were trapped by government agents in a compromising situation. [1] The Party was quite willing to present them as victims of the government’s actions, without making it clear it [the CP] had nothing to do with the mutiny. It suited the government to produce these ‘reds under the beds’ in order to hide the true character of the mutiny which was started, managed and carried through by the ratings of the Atlantic Fleet. The mutiny was self-managed and reached a degree of success which no amount of ‘leadership’ from the Communist Party could have provided.

As Tony Carew said in a letter to Tribune (August 23, 1974): ‘Far from being a model strike such as the Communist Party might approve, it was a relatively spontaneous and loosely organised affair, in which a predominantly conservative body of men showed their ability to take effective action without being led by the hand. And it was nonetheless radical for that’. [2]

Some retired naval officers and others have tried to knock Len’s account of the Mutiny. Whatever differences may arise in various accounts of this historical event, it cannot be denied that it was a great example of ordinary people taking matters into their own hands. There is no evidence that the rank and file sailors ever had any contact with any outside person or body (such as a trade union or political party) during the course of the mutiny. All decisions were made by the men on all 8 ships* independently, after the initial mass meeting on shore where it had been decided to ‘strike’.

If you want to know the form and content of a self-managed struggle, in which the rank and file never surrendered the decision-making to any outside, self-appointed leaders, then read this book. [3] It’s a practical lesson on many levels – even if, like me, you don’t share all the author’s views. But remember that many of Len’s views are coloured by the fact that he suffered a great deal more from some of those he came to regard as his ‘friends’ than he ever did from his known enemies.
J. J.


1. W G Shepherd and George Allison were charged under the Incitement to Mutiny Act and sentenced to 18 months and 3 years penal servitude respectively in November 1931 for trying to spread communism among sailors (after the mutiny). Security files confirm that they were set up with the help of an informer. (The ‘compromising situation’ was a political one).
2. For a fuller account of this position, see Anthony Carew, The Lower Deck of the RN, 1900-1939: the Invergordon Mutiny in perspective, Manchester University Press, 1981: Chapter 8, The Road to Invergordon. Carew interprets the mutiny in terms of industrial relations.
3. This advice is repeated in Joe Jacobs, Out of the Ghetto, London, 1978, pp.123-4, where he adds ‘little details which Len told’ him:
He described some of his feelings while the Atlantic Fleet was without effective control by the officers. How they organised communications between ships. How they spent time speculating on the possible consequences of their actions. How different people reacted to this situation. How discipline was maintained at a very high level, on a completely voluntary basis. The elected representatives were respected and committee decisions carried out with efficiency.

‘The result of the mutiny’, Joe continues, ‘is a living testament to the ability of the ordinary seamen, rank and file, in organising their own affairs under conditions of extreme stress.’ Other parts of the review are integrated into the chronological narrative of his book, with some additional recollections of Wincott as a fellow CP activist in Stepney for a time before going to the USSR.

* There were more than 8 ships in the Atlantic Fleet, up to 15 including different classes of warship, but not all were involved in the mutiny to the same extent, 2 or 3 possibly not at all.
Estimates put the number of men involved in the mutiny at 12,000.

OCR version taken from

The malaise on the left - Maurice Brinton

Maurice Brinton of Solidarity's 1974 critique of the statist left.

Forget for a moment the scare campaigns of the recent elections: Scanlon and Jones presented by the yellow press as proselytisers of red revolution, Mr. Wilson in the garb of a latter-day Kerensky opening the gates to Bolshevism or worse, bank clerks freezing (a la Portuguese) the funds of fleeting fascists, the great fear of the bourgeoisie about a "mafia of fanatical socialists" in control of the commanding heights... of the National Executive of the Labour Party!

The reality is less lurid - and less encouraging. What we see around us is a confident and aggressive movement, increasingly aware of the fact that real power does not lie in Parliament, but profoundly divided as to objectives, strategy and tactics and completely at sea as to values and priorities. So divergent are its component strands that one has to ask, quite bluntly, whether one can legitimately speak of a movement. Among thinking socialists there is a deep malaise.

The purpose of this article is to explore the roots of this malaise, and to show that they lie in the transformations of class society itself. Over the last few decades - and in many different areas - established society has itself brought about the number of the things that the revolutionaries of yesterday were demanding. This has happened in relation to economic attitudes, in relation to certain forms of social organisation, and in relation to various aspects of the personal and sexual revolutions. When this adaptation in fact benefits established society, it is legitimate to refer to it as "recuperation". This article seeks to start a discussion on the limits of recuperation.

Recuperation, of course, is nothing new. What is perhaps new is the extent to which most "revolutionaries" (whether they are demanding "more nationalisation", more "self-management" or "more personal freedom' are unaware of the system's ability to absorb - and in the long run benefit from - these forms of "dissent". Class society has a tremendous resilience, a great capacity to cope with "subversion" to make icons of its iconoclasts, to draw sustenance from those who would throttle it. Revolutionaries must constantly be aware of this strength, otherwise they will fail to see what is happening around them. If certain sacred cows (or certain previous formulations, now found to be inadequate) have to be sacrificed, we'd rather do the job ourselves.

Recuperation of economic demands

Keynesian economic policies, once considered radical threats to bourgeois Society, are today widely accepted as essential to the functioning of modern capital ism. The demands for nationalisation of the mines or railways, for national health insurance, for unemployment benefit and for state pensions have been totally recuperated. Despite occasional nostalgic (and largely irrelevant) glances into the past, no Conservative politician, seeking to retain a shred of credibility, would today advocate the return of the mines or of the railways to private ownership - or the dismantling of the essential structure of the "welfare" state. All socialists would agree, thus far.

But there is then a parting of the ways. We would claim that the centralisation of all the means of production in the hands of the state - the most "radical" demand of the Communist Manifesto - has been achieved in many parts of the world without any corresponding enhancement in the areas of human freedom. In fact an exploit ing society, divided into order-givers and order-takers, functions far better on this type of economic base, which eliminates many of the irrationalities of laissez-faire capitalism. Whatever the human aspirations of their rank and file, the ideologies and programs of Social Democratic, Communist, Trotskyist or Maoist groups in the West provide the most articulate demands for this kind of social organisation. These groups are the midwives of State Capitalism. They may differ as to tempo and as to tactics. They may argue about what they consider to be (for others) the acceptable or unacceptable costs. But their fundamental objective is the same - and is moreover in keeping with the deepest requirements of Capital itself. Pace the ghosts of Hayek and of Schumpeter, pace Enoch Powell and Keith Joseph, the division of society into rulers and ruled will not be abolished by the abolition of the "free market" or, for that mailer, by anything that Messrs. Wilson or Gollan (or the "theoreticians" of any of the Marxist sects) may have in mind.

Moreover all over the Third World (from Sékou Touré's Guinea to North Vietnam, from Iraq to Zanzibar) "Marxist-Leninist" ideas are today influencing the birth and molding the economic life of many developing countries. All are ruthlessly exploitative societies, geared to the rapid development of the productive forces. Today this is only possible on the basis of intense primary accumulation, carried out on the backs of the peasantry. Here again erstwhile revolutionary ideas are becoming vehicles for new forms of enslavement.

To paraphrase Marx, it is not what men think they are doing that matters. What mailers is the objective result of their beliefs and actions. Class society can well recuperate the economic demands of the traditional left. It is not of fundamental importance, in this respect, whether various ruling classes are fully aware of what is happening to them. They clearly differ from one another in the degree of insight they have achieved into their own long-term, historical interests. The more far-sighted among them now accept the centralisation of the means of production in the hands of the State as the essential precondition for the growth of the productive forces. For most Marxist socialists (and for the bourgeoisie) this growth is the fundamental issue. This is what unites them. This is where the bourgeois vision and the Marxist vision coalesce. For both of them economic growth is what politics (and ultimately what life itself) is all about. There are few other dimensions to their thinking. For both of them the future is mainly about "more of the same". And the rest? The rest is for "after the revolution". At best, it will look after itself. At worst, if one speaks to a traditional Marxist about such issues as women's liberation, ecology, the "counter-culture", etc. one is denounced as a "diversionist" in tones showing how deeply the work ethic, patriarchal attitudes and value system of the existing society have permeated their thinking.

Recuperation of institutional forms

Sections of the left have fortunately gone far beyond the demands for nationalisation, planning, etc. In the wake of the Russian Revolution small groups of "left" communists clearly foresaw the course of events which this type of "socialism" would lead to. Slandered by Lenin, denounced by the "orthodox" communists, they warned of what lay ahead: the rule of the party would soon result in the emergence of a new ruling class, based not on the private ownership of the means of production but on a monopoly of decisional authority in all areas of economic, political and social life. To the hegemony of the Party and to the omniscience of its Central Committee the left communist counter-poised the knowledge and power of an enlightened and autonomous working class. They posited the institutional form this power would take: the Workers' Councils. This was no genial blueprint for a new society sucked out of the thumb of a Gorter or a Pannekoek. From the Paris Commune to the Russian Revolution of 1917 the "council" form of organisation had been the living historical product of the class struggle itself. The warnings of these earlier revolutionaries have been fully justified.

But their vision remains limited. Despite Pannekoek's interests in science and philosophy, Ruhle's interest in pedagogy, and Korsch's stress on the need for a deep-going cultural critique, most of the writings of the left communists centered on problems of work and of production and distribution. They lived in a very different era from our own, and had little of significance to say about what have become very important areas of social life: bureaucratization, alienation in consumption and leisure, authoritarian conditioning, the "youth revolt," women's liberation, etc. Even some of their institutional proposals have been partly overtaken by events.

The recuperation of the demand for working class power at the point of production and for a society based on Workers' Councils has, for instance, taken on a particularly sinister form. Confronted with the bureaucratic monstrosity of Stalinist and post-Stalinist Russia, yet wishing to retain some credibility among their working class supporters, various strands of Bolshevism have sought posthumously to rehabilitate the concept of "workers' control". Although "workers' control" was only referred to once in the documents of the first four congresses of the Communist International it has recently become one of the Top Ten Slogans. Between 1917 and1921 all attempts by the working class to assert real power over production - or to transcend the narrow role allocated to it by the Party - were smashed by the Bolsheviks, after first having been denounced as anarchist or anarcho-syndicalist deviations. Today workers' control is presented as a sort of sugar coating to the pill of nationalisation of every Trotskyist or Leninist micro-bureaucrat on the make. Those who strangled the viable infant are now hawking the corpse around. The Institute for Workers' Control even runs annual conferences, addressed and dominated by trade union officials appointed for life. Those who are not prepared to allow workers to control their own organisations here and now serenade sundry simple-tons with fanciful tunes as to their fate in the future. Recuperation here is taking place amid incredible confusion.

For a long time the advocacy of genuine workers control (or, as we prefer to call it, workers' self management) remained confined to small groups of revolutionaries swimming against the great bureaucratic tide. Following the French events of May 1968 the demand took on a new reality and a new coherence. People began to see self-management as the dominant theme (and Workers' Councils as the institutional form) of a new society in which bureaucracy would be eliminated, and in which ordinary people would at last achieve genuine power over many aspects of their everyday life. But this again was to ignore the system's capacity for integrating dissent and harnessing it to its own advantage.

Can the demand for self-management be geared to the requirements of class society itself? An honest answer would be "yes, in some respects". Yes, providing those operating the self-management still accepted the values of the system. Yes, if it remained strictly localised. Yes, provided it was eviscerated of all political content Car assembly plants seeking to obtain the participation of the workers have been operating for some time in the Volvo and Saab factories in Sweden. Under the "with it" guise of enriching the workers' job, employers have continued to enrich themselves. Groups of workers are allowed to manage their own alienation. The powers- that-be seek to resuscitate the anemic institutions of existing society (increasingly abandoned by those expected to make them function) with transfusions of "participation". No wonder the slogan has been taken up by everyone from Gaullist deputies to our own Liberals.

Revolutionaries are in some measures to blame for this confusion of form and content. They have insufficiently warned against the dangers inherent in any attempts at self-management with capitalism. And, in relation to the future, they have insufficiently stressed the limitations of the demand. Self-management and Workers' Councils are means to liberation. They are not liberation itself. Many revolutionaries have, moreover, tended to underestimate the complex problems of society as a whole. These have to be considered in addition to the problems of particular groups of workers. Our vision has never been "the railways to the railway men, the dust to the dustmen". We are not for self-managed insurance empires, for self-managed advertising companies, for the self-managed production of nuclear weapons.

This is not to say that self-management will not be the dominant theme, and the council probably the institutional form of any kind of socialist society. But they are no more than that. Into those particular bottles many wines can be poured. In contemporary society self-management could very well develop on a reformist, racist, nationalistic or militaristic basis. The historical precedents are here. Many Workers' Councils in Germany - in December 1918, and again later on - voted to surrender power to parliamentary institutions. Between 1930 and 1945 the vast majority of the British and German people identified with their respective rulers and mobilised themselves (or allowed themselves to be mobilised) in the defence of interests that were not their own. Israeli self-managed kibbutzim are vehicles for the dissemination of Zionist ideology and for implementing (anti-Arab) discrimination, i.e. anti- socialist policies. In Northern Ireland, amid an "unparalleled explosion of self-management", the self-activity of a civilian population recently brought down a government. . . in the name of sectarian and mystified objectives. The lessons are clear. Self- management, divorced from socialist politics, is meaningless.

Recuperation of "proto-Marxist" demands

Confronted with the fact that established society has successfully co-opted both the economic objectives and some of the institutional prescriptions of those who wanted to challenge it, radicals have responded in a numbers of ways.

One response has been to delve deeper into Marx. The 'communist project' is redefined in proto-Marxist terms. We now have Marx a Jo carte. What is stressed is not what was the historical reality of Marxism (even in Marx's day) but a vision which, although valid, seldom went beyond the realm of rhetoric. The Marx of "the proletarians have no Fatherland" replaces the Marx of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71 who supported first Bismarck's armies, then - after Sedan - the forces of the Second Empire. The Marx who denounced the slogan "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work" (arguing instead for "the abolition of the wages system") replaces the more prosaic Marx, manoeuvring among the Lucrafts and the Maltman Barrys in the counsels of the First International. The Marx who thundered that "the emancipation of the working class is the task of the working class itself' erases the pathetic figure of the Marx of 1872, cooking the last congress of the International (the only one he attended in person), inventing non-existing delegations, shifting the venues of future meetings to harass the supporters of the equally authoritarian Bakunin.

But are even these proto-Marxist prescriptions adequate? Is the "abolition of frontiers" any kind of guarantee as to the type of regime that will hold sway over the new, frontier-less expanse? Is the vision of an exploitative society, fusing the techniques of domination of both East and West, just a nightmare dreamed up by the writers of science fiction? Is the abolition of the wage labour any guarantee against exploitation and alienation? Were there not exploitative societies long before wage labour appeared on the historical scene? Wage labour underpins and reinforces hierarchies of power. Its abolition does not necessarily abolish such hierarchies. Class society might even recuperate demands of this kind.

Recuperation of the "personal revolution"

Another response of those confronted with the tremendous recuperative powers of established society has been a tendency to seek individual emancipation, to create in the "here and now" microcosms of the alternative society. Some advocates of this viewpoint see the growth of social freedom as the by-product of the addition of one "free" individual to another, rather like workers going to Ruskin College to become "emancipated one by one". This type of revolt, as long as it is conceived in purely individual terms, can readily be recuperated by established society. Individual revolt, whether in clothing or in hair styles, whether in food preferences or in musical tastes, whether in sexual mores or in philosophical attitudes, readily becomes a commodity to be frenetically exploited in the interests of Capital itself. (The important book The Failure of the Sexual Revolution' by George Frankl, deals with this theme.)

The limits of recuperation

In the Irrational in Politics we wrote that exploiting society would not be able to tolerate "the mass development of critical, demystified, self-reliant; sexually emancipated, autonomous, non-alienated persons, conscious of what they want and prepared to struggle for it". We still hold this idea to be basically correct. Its core, that, one cannot conceive of any genuinely liberatory movement without genuinely liberated individuals seems irrefutable. But our formulation was inadequate. We should have spoken of individuals prepared collectively to struggle for what they wanted. And we should have spoken more about the objectives of the struggle. We should have described more clearly what the vision was, in our eyes at least. The socialist transformation of society is not an automatic process, or a reflex activity. It requires a sense of direction. There may be many roads to the Promised Land but it can surely only help if people know where they are going.

Let us take it for granted that meaningful activity needs to be collective, that social transformation needs emancipated individuals, and that the institutional framework of any new society will probably be based, in part at least, on those forms which the struggle itself has repeatedly thrown up at its moments of deepest insight and creativity. What we now need to think about - and to discuss widely throughout the libertarian left - is the political content of an activity that consciously seeks both to avoid recuperation and to be relevant to the conditions of today.

Are certain yardsticks necessary to define such an activity? I personally think the answer is "yes" - with the proviso that the definition must be seen as an ongoing process. Should revolutionaries who share common objectives group together, first to discuss their objectives and then to fight for them? Again I think the answer is "yes". "Political Inexistentialism" is only relevant if one thinks there is some divine guidance ensuring that every struggle helps move society in a socialist direction.

It is only if libertarians speak openly about these questions that they will be able to present a credible alternative to the authoritarian left. If socialism is the creation of forms of living that will enable all - free from external constraints or internalised inhibitions - to rise to their full stature, to fulfill themselves as human beings, to enjoy themselves, to relate to one another without treading on anybody (and this is as good a definition of socialism as any other) - we should say so loud and clear. And we should not be afraid of criticising any activities - however "self-managed" - that lead in an opposite direction. Socialism, after all, is about a specific way of socialising. In this discussion we must not forget the economic prerequisites of what we seek. Nor must we confuse them with the objective itself. Finally we must not under estimate the forces we are up against, including the recuperative powers of established society. An ongoing reassessment of the degree to which one's former goals have been recuperated is the most effective antidote to the malaise on the left, and the only possible prescription for remaining a revolutionary.

This article was taken from Originally published in Solidarity VII, 12 (November 1974)

Maurice Brinton- The malaise on the left.pdf209.47 KB

Solidarity for workers' power #8.01

Issue of Solidarity from February 1975 with articles about a dispute at Cowley, men's groups, economics and more.

solidarity-801.pdf3.74 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #8.02

Issue of Solidarity from 31 May, 1975 with articles about an "occupation at Ford Dagenham, the menus from Singapore, Czechoslovakia, Brazil and more.

solidarity-802.pdf3.71 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #8.03

Issue of Solidarity from December 1975 with Maurice Brinton's diary of the Portuguese revolution, articles about a postal workers' manifesto, workers councils and more.

solidarity-803.pdf3.07 MB

Portuguese Diary 1: August 1975 - Maurice Brinton

A diary by Maurice Brinton describing some experiences in Portugal during August 1975.

Struggles in Alentejo
Evora is at the heart of the Alentejo, and the Alentejo is the heartland of the agrarian revolution. The latifundia are vast and for decades have been neglected. The soil is dry and hard, and upon it grow olives and cork. Wheat and maize would also grow readily if it were ploughed and watered. But this would interfere with the joys of hunting,

It is here that the class struggle has erupted in one of its most advanced forms. The agricultural labourers have seized many of the large estates. In some the former owners have fled, occasionally leaving ‘managers’ to, defend their interests. In others they have remained, seeking to repossess their property through the courts or through direct action. The balance of power varies from village to village, estate to estate.

We sleep on the floor of a large isolated farmhouse about 3 miles out of town. Some 15 Portuguese comrades have been lodging there every night for several months. The farm has been expropriated by the local Institute for Agrarian Reform (IRA) in which libertarian revolutionaries work in uneasy alliance with the representative of the Ministry of Agriculture and members of the local MFA. Their aim is to help the farm workers to solve some of the practical problems which immediately and inevitably crop up in the wake of occupations. The libertarians want to assist, without substituting themselves for those they are seeking to help. It is an almost impossible task.

The farm comprises a large communal living room in which meals are taken at daybreak or sundown. From it passages lead to a number of communicating rooms, stripped of all furniture and fittings, except for mattresses strewn on the floor. There is running water and electricity. There is beer in the fridge and bread and cheese are brought back from the town each day. There are also sten-guns amid the guitars. Dispossessed landlords have threatened to string the young revolutionaries up from the nearest lamp-post at the opportune time, ‘when we return to power’. Under such a threat the wine tastes sweeter and life is lived to the full.

On our first evening we drive out in a jeep some 30 miles to Santana do Campo. The villagers have a problem. They want representatives of the IRA there, ‘to help them bring pressure on the government’. Several farms were occupied in the morning. The owners have paid no wages for several weeks. Two managers were locked up that very afternoon ‘to help the absentee landlord face up to his responsibilities’.

The people are gathered in the local school – 130 agricultural workers with their wives and kids, and quite a number of the old folk. As so often in the countryside, the school is the only public hall. The lights can be seen from a long way off. They illuminate rugged faces, as varied as their owners, and quite unlike the crude stereotyped models of the maoist posters. The whole village has turned up to elect the Council and to decide what to do with the two men incarcerated in the stable. Everyone knows everyone. Anyone over 16 can be nominated and can cast a vote. Little tickets are handed out. Some of the olderwomen decline to take one. Anyone can write anyone else’s name on the slip. The eight people securing the highest number of votes will constitute the Council. Speeches are unnecessary. It is in struggle, over the last few months, that credentials were earned. The selected names are read out by four ‘tellers’, the tickets sorted into little piles. The new Council has been elected.

The main problem is then outlined to the visitors from the Evora IRA. Two opinions emerge: a union representative urges caution. (The Agricultural Workers’ Union is affiliated to Intersindical, the PCP dominated trade union federation. The Minister of Agricultµre, who is sympathetic to the Party, must not be embarrassed.) Others suggest a different course of action. ‘Give them no food or drink. Let the news out. The Bank will cough up soon enough’. No one discusses the PCP or its politics as such. The two alternatives are mutually exclusive. The radical proposal secures a majority. The cheque materialises within 24 hours.

The following day we set out in the jeep, in the full heat of the early afternoon, to visit a big farm where the workers are reluctant to impose any kind of control on the owner. The farm, built in 1945, is beautifully laid out. The main buildings and barns are painted blue and white. Cows are grazing in the fields and watch us pass impassively. Only the turkeys noisily announce Our arrival as the jeep edges its way between them, raising a great cloud of dust.

The farm workers are gathered in a large barn, eight or ten of them, sitting on sacks of grain, talking heatedly. Our party enters three young agronomists from the Evora Institute of Agrarian Reform (with long hair and determined expressions), a young officer in uniform (with even longer hair) and us two political tourists. An excited argument gets under way and lasts about an hour. The local MFA is keen to ensure that the workers elect a committee which would exercise some ‘control’ on the owner and prevent him from doing ‘economic sabotage’ – such as slaughtering cattle, disposing of his tractors or selling the grain (instead of keeping it for sowing). The workers are not convinced. The farm is a ‘model farm’. The boss has maintained reasonable relations with his men, often working among them. The paternalism has had its effects. The men lack confidence. An old, edentulous worker fiercely articulates their innermost fears. ‘If we elect a committee, the boss will sack some of us. Work is hard to come by these days. If we make things difficult for him, will he continue to pay our wages? Come on, young man, yes, you with the gun, answer us. Look at all the problems in the other farms in the area!’, It is strange to see his innate conservatism clash with the vision of the young revolutionaries. The visitors depart: mission unfulfilled.

Later that afternoon we go to another big farm, 35 miles away in the opposite direction. On the way we pass through whitewashed Alentejo villages, bespattered with red slogans. These villages are strongholds
of the PCP. The agricultural workers are natural, genuine, down-to-earth communists. They want to share and share alike. No one seeks individually to appropriate anything. The Party calls itself communist. The workers vote for it. It’s as simple (and as complicated) as that. The inability to read fosters and sustains a fierce radicalism. The workers are not confused by the tortuous ambiguities of the politicians.

The farm, near Oriola, is owned by an absentee Spanish landlord. The last two miles have been very rough track, which only the jeep can Cover. The workers have taken the farm over, despite the government’s half-hearted undertakings not to allow the expropriation of foreign-owned properties. The men have had no pay for tea weeks. There are big stocks of cork, neatly piled up, to be sold. But the lorry has been stolen. There are problems too with the vegetable produce. To be sold in the cities, refrigeration is needed. People are fed up with eating tomatoes.
The Communist Party’s solution to all these problems is simple, eminently ‘practicable’. All occupied farms should become state farms. The Ministry of Agriculture will eventually pay the wages. A state trust will be set up to buy the produce, provide the lorries, look after problems of distribution. The workers are tempted, but instinctively suspicious. They want to get together with other workers on other farms to discuss things with them, to create cooperatives, to deal directly with the population in the towns. They distrust the parasitic officials, sitting in their offices in far-away Lisbon. But they are desperately in need of money to buy shoes, shirts, soap, string, nails and agricultural implements. The men who work the farm over the hill have a tractor which isn’t being used full-time. Will the Army please instruct them to release it for a while? A joint meeting is arranged to thrash things out. The Institute will try to arrange a bridging loan from the local bank. A lorry will be provided to take the cork into the town. Ad hoc solutions are improvised. The wolf is kept from the door for a short while. The Institute has done
a job of first aid. Hope will survive a little longer.

Amid the wasps, an old woman is washing her linen at the fountain.
The crickets are chirping. The sky is unbelievably blue.

The Second Congress of Councils

The Second Congress of Revolutionary Councils of Workers, Soldiers and Sailors (CRTSM) was held on August 2 and 3, 1975 in Lisbon’s Technological Institute, a vast concrete building at the top of a hill. Posters announcing it (in the best ‘socialist-realist’ style) had broken out like a rash on the, city walls several days beforehand. Once the paste had dried they ripped off easily, to the delight of large contingents of revolutionary tourists in search of souvenirs.

We attended the afternoon session on the second day. At the entrance, a vast display of duplicated literature, distributed free. Posters are on sale, their price escalating rapidly as it becomes obvious that demand will exceed supply.

The foyer is packed with young people. Most look like students and a substantial proportion are not from Portugal – one hears almost as much French and German as Portuguese. Young PRP supporters answer questions. Few relate to work, its problems, its tyranny, its organisation, its transcendence. Most are about Cuba, or Chile, or the political allegiances of this or that Army commander. The answers stress Portuguese particularism. The Army will be with the people. Otelo (Saraiva de Carvalho) has made friendly noises about the PRP.

We go up a flight of wide stone steps, with impressive columns on either side. The meeting is due to start in a vast hall which has doubtless harboured many a degree-giving ceremony or governmental function. Row upon row of wooden chairs. About 600 people present. The same mixture as before. Very few workers (quite a number had apparently been there the ” previous day but had not attended for a second dose). No readily identifiable sailors. Banners on the walls seek nostalgically to recapture the atmosphere – and even the vocabulary – of the Petrograd of 1917: ‘Fora com a canalha! Poder a quem trabalha! – Out with the scum! Power to the workers! Long live the Socialist Revolution’. In the haze of cigarette smoke, the leftists dream on: the Technological Institute is SmolnY; the
Lisnave shipyards, the Putilov plant.

At the far end of the hall an elevated platform, on which a long table has been erected. Seated behind it,perhaps a dozen comrades, most of them bearded, two of them women. In front of the leaders neat stacks of cyclostyled notes. Slightly to one side of the High Table the television crews with their wires, floodlights and other paraphernalia, busy creating images. The 1970s are here, regardless.

The afternoon session starts about an hour late. Several speeches from the platform, most of them lasting half an hour or more. ‘Various analyses’, we are told, ·of the current situation. No interruptions. No laughter. No protests. No cheers. As platform speaker succeeds platform speaker the texts of their ‘contributions’, already duplicated, are handed out by stewards. Only one speaker elicits any enthusiasm – a soldier in civvies. It transpires he is making a ‘critical analysis of a text recently issued by COFCON (the section of the MFA devoted to Internal Security!). Some of the formulations are being challenged in the best tradition of dialectical nit-picking. The legitimacy of that particular fount of revolutionary wisdom is not, however, being questioned.

People quietly drift in and out throughout the proceedings. It is formal, well-behaved, self-disciplined and incredibly dull – an exercise in,’ revolutionary’ masochism. It has upon it the hallmark of death – or rather of a verbose still-birth. The corridors outside are plastered with slogans. The revolution is suffocating under the written word. In the gents’ toilets, amid the usual graffiti, a wit has scrawled PCP = Joaquim
Agostinho (Primeiro Cyclista Portugues).

After 3 hours we drift out. Near the exit we pass a large notice beard. On it are listed the workplaces ‘represented’ at the Congress. It looks impressive: factories of all kinds, transport depots, shipyards,
telephone exchanges, hospitals, banks, shops, offices, all the areas in modern society where people are exploited and oppressed. On direct enquiry however – and after our refusal to accept evasive answers – it was admitted that although members or supporters of the PRP worked in these various places, very few were attending in a delegate capacity. The whole episode left an unpleasant flavour of manipulation.

I doubt we will hear much more of the CRTSM. When the next upsurge develops, it will find different forms and a different content.

The Limits of Self-Management
Guimaraes is a small industrial town, some 40 miles north of Porto. The Sousabreu textile factory there is typical of many in the region, reflecting many of the problems of Portuguese capitalism.

The factory, which makes towels, was occupied on September 14, 1974, after it had been abandoned by its owner. Earlier in the year the boss, who owned another factory in the town, had begun to move out the more modern dying equipment under pretext of repairs. He had also removed the lorry.

Thirty three workers (22 women and 11 men) had taken over the factory to preserve their livelihood, and decided to continue production. They had had to learn everything from scratch. They bought the cotton at local wholesale rates and sold directly to shopkeepers, to ,visitors, to political sympathisers, and even at the gates of local factories. To start with they had sold part of the stocks to pay their own wages. They had received little help from the local textile and metalworkers sections of Intersindical, which were dominated by the PCP. The Party’s support for self-managed units was highly selective. And Sousabreu was not a unit of which the Party approved.

The workers had elected a Committee of seven which met almost daily. There were, also fairly’ frequent assemblies grouping everyone in the factory. They all worked 48 hours a week. There had been a sustained attempt at equalising earnings. The average wage was 127 escudos (just over £2) a day. The machine minders earned 190 escudos. The newly taken-on apprentice 70 escudos. The main theme discussed at recent general assemblies had been whether to take on more labour.

The factory consisted of a number of large, fairly dilapidated hangers adjoining one another, in one of which the looms were situated. The machines looked at least thirty years old and were noisy and dusty. There were cobwebs, everywhere and little light filtered in. The first task of the socialist revolution would be a sustained attack on capitalist technology. But here there were scarcely funds enough for wages, let alone for modernising the plant.

In the adjoining rooms women were checking the towels, folding them, packing them in plastic cases. The room was brighter and they spoke to one another. I approached a woman in her forties Who had worked there for 15 years. What was now different? ‘For one’, she said, ‘there are no longer foremen breathing down your neck. There used to be 3 foremen in this room alone.. We now decide the pace of our own work, and no longer live in fear of displeasing someone. We run the place ourselves. If I want to go ‘-shopping one afternoon, or if one of the children is ill, we can consult together and have a little time off, without loss of earnings. No one takes advantage. We know that our collective livelihood depends on producing a certain number of towels each month’.

Adversity had bred a firm solidarity. When earnings were low, the most needy had, been provided for first. Everyone seemed aware. Of the others’ problems. Recently things had not been too bad. This year, for the first time ever, they had enjoyed a fortnight’s holiday with pay.

Their main complaints were about the way people deformed the meaning of what they were doing. Their wall posters showed an intense awareness of their own condition. There can be few factories in the world plastered with excerpts from Marx’s ‘Philosophical Manuscripts‘. They knew well enough that they were still wage slaves, that what was being self-managed was their own alienation. They worked harder now than they did before. But they had gained a confidence in themselves that they had not felt previously. They had held ’round table’ discussions with representatives of other self-managed factories to establish links and to exchange both experiences and products. They had even bartered shirts for towels, one of them told us with a twinkle in his eye. They had discovered a great deal about the functioning of capitalist society which would be of use to them ,’When the real time came’. They had also learned very quickly about the trade unions, which had refused to help them or had only damned them with faint praise. Above all, they had learned a lot about themselves.

Reaping the harvest
The PCP headquarters in Famalicao, north of Porto, lie shattered. Before April 1974 it was widely believed by those in power that literacy bred subversion. There was only one place in the town where the wealthy could obtain secondary education: an expensive private school, solidly built and set behind a row of tall trees.

With the collapse of the Caetano regime the building had been taken over by the local PCP cell. I couldn’t help thinking what an ideal Stalinist redoubt it made, separated by its high walls, from the bustle of the multitude, set on higher ground, its impressive drive redolent with respectability. From here the Party had carried out its manipulations of local government, of trade union branches, of cooperatives, of the granting of agricultural credit. The reaction had been handed things on a plate.1

After an open air meeting, early in August, a crowd protesting against the unrepresentative nature of several local bodies had set siege to the school and tried to burn it down. Party militants had fired from the upper windows, injuring two demonstrators. The MFA had arrived on the scene to ‘restore order’ (their fire had killed two more demonstrators).

MFA interventions in such episodes had, we were told, been interesting to watch. At times the soldiers would threaten the crowd with their weapons, turning their backs on the besieged stalinists. On other occasions they would turn their backs to the crowd, confronting the Party members with their guns. Attitudes had varied from locality to locality, regiment to regiment, moment to moment,. At Famalicao the soldiers had faced the crowd, seeking to restrain it. After a siege of 48 hours the local Party stalwarts had been ordered by Party Headquarters in Lisbon to evacuate the premise. The Army had then left almost immediately. During the whole siege there had bean no sign of working class support in the town, not even a token strike. The institutions controlled by the Party apparatus were empty shells.The Party had no roots in real life.

Popular anger had then erupted. The place looked as if it had been hit by a tornado. An overturned car, burnt out, lay grotesquely in the road outside. The drive was littered with charred papers, posters, Party cards. A disconsolate leaflet announcing a meeting that was never to take place. In the building itself every window had been broken. Searchlights installed on the upper balcony had been smashed. Not a stick of furniture, not a fitting remained. The place was now unguarded. Visitors were strolling about, looking at the debris. They had to step carefully for the ‘victors’ had left shit allover the place.
The MRPP (maoists) issued a statement welcoming ‘the people’s_retribution against the social-fascists’. It wasn’t however as simple-as that. The red flag had been burned. A Portuguese flag now stuck out provocatively from an attic window. Beneath it, a large inscription proclaimed ‘Building to be taken over for refugees from Angola'.

Solidarity: For Workers' Power
, Vol. 8, No. 3 (December 1975), pp. 17-23
Markyb's blog

  • 1. The reaction already had an economic and ideological base in the North (based on the structure of land tenure, on the fears of impoverished small farmers of being rendered poorer still, and on systematic propaganda by the Church.
Maurice Brinton Portuguese Diary 1.pdf310.68 KB

Solidarity for workers' power #8.04

Issue of Solidarity from July 1976 with first-hand reporting of the Portuguese revolution, articles about Italy, Czechoslovakia, Spain and more.

solidarity-804.pdf2.61 MB

Portuguese Diary 2: 1976 - Maurice Brinton

A second diary by Maurice Brinton describing some experiences in Portugal during 1976.

April 19, 1976, a Radio Televisao Portugues crew, in a van, is doing a programme on "the vision of socialism". It is stopping in the street, at factory gates, in markets, talking to people and recording their replies. It's a tight fit inside: seven people and lots of equipment.

We make for Barreiro, an industrial town across the river from Lisbon. Once there, there is no problem getting to the giant CUF chemical works. The sky is grey, part cloud, part smoke. The walls are grey too, but bespattered with the red of posters. The plant, the stacks, the water towers hovering above us look as if built in the last century. Long streets of hangers, stores, sheds, many with broken windows. There is noise, and rust and the plaster is peeling off the front of many buildings. Heavy smells hang in the air. The road is in poor repair. An old-fashioned capitalism dearly cohabits with the new.

We pace through mean little streets of minute, decrepit terraced housing. "'Sulphuric Acid Street". "Candle Grease Street". Capitalism even murders the imagination. The houses were built six, seven decades ago, possibly more. People still live there - sort of.

This is the heartland of the PCP, its ideological and physical domain. Its posters are everywhere. A gigantic PCP balloon is tied to a rope between two rooftops. "Unity with the MFA". 'Vote PCP". The van stops and the crew take up their positions near 10 a group of women of indeterminate age, going in. They are not in the least shy and talk readily. "Socialism?" - "A steady job!" - "Like this?" - No answer. A steady drizzle is falling. "Like this?", the producer repeats. The women, sensing something strange, turn on him, abuse the television, and march off, their fists raised, shouting "PCP! PCP!"


There are joyful moments, too. Walking along the Tagus waterfront, between lie Station and the Praca do Comercio we stop in front of a particularly fine example of mural art. Enormous. Unforgettable. "Socialist realism" at its hideous best.

The reds and yellows are gaudy as usual - caricatures of real colour. The oppressed have very square jaws, very short hair, enormous arms, a very determined look. The proletariat, as seen by the Maoists is clearly more brawn than brain: the sort of animal any skilful Leninist could easily ride to the revolution! But the "anarcho-cynicalists" have been at work. Modern capitalism requires modern transport.
The MRPP leader is calling for a cab.


Another story about taxis. In Elvas, in the East, some of the estates belonging big landlords have been taken over by those who work them. The usual pattern - for the agricultural workers to occupy first and seek authority later -from the local centre of the IRA.

One recently expropriated latifundiario (latifundista in Spanish) also happened own the biggest taxi business in town. His drivers disliked him heartily and were much impressed with the new goings on in the co-operative. So they took over the taxis.

But the cult of authority dies hard. The act had to be "legitimized", entered "into the books". So the cab drivers all turn up one morning at the IRA Headquarters for an "official" sanction. The Ministry of Agriculture has files on tenants, trees, touros ... and technical aid - but nothing on how legally to appropriate a fleet of taxis. The Revolution creates its own surrealist precedents.


May Day, 1976. Top of the Avenida Almirante Reis in Lisbon. The demonstration called by Intersindical is marching past. Municipal workers in their Sunday best Railway workers in serried ranks, decorated lorries packed with agricultural workers carrying pitchforks. Occasional singing. Very occasional laughter. Sellers do a roaring trade in political stickers, selling to those watching the procession: stickers for the Association of Collectivized Farms, for the Housing Fund, for student or women's groups. Schoolteachers, building workers, hospital workers chant "Intersindical, Intersindical" as they pass, ten or twelve abreast. Twenty thousand people march by _ apparently far fewer than last year. The traffic has prudently been stopped, although Portuguese motorists have learnt patience - the hard way.

It is a fine warm day. Banners, unbelievably, still demand "Unity with the MFA' - the very MFA which is now the main brake on the revolution. They also demand the right to full employment and vigilance against fascists.

Do I sense a certain weariness? There is none of the exaltation, of the euphoria of even a few months ago - as if people realized that it would take more than mural graffiti to bring down the walls of capital. The Party is everywhere, though nowhere in its true garb. In the Association of University Professors. In the Association of Municipal Associations. The bank employees march by shouting "No to Reaction!" One or two Tenants' Committees carry colourful banners ... demanding government loans. The two groups march next to each other. Someone should introduce them to one another!

At the end of the procession a mass of red flags and a few hundred very young people shouting raucously: "Unidad sindical unidad sindical". One might be dreaming. They want the PCP and PS (Socialist Party) to take power, in order to expose them. And Intersindical too. To form a government "without generals or capitalists". Yes, the Trots. In their rightful place. At the tailend of a Stalinist demonstration.

Markyb's blog

Maurice Brinton Portuguese Diary 2.pdf183.7 KB

Solidarity for workers' power #8.05

Issue of Solidarity from November 1975 mostly about the role of the unions and the union bureaucracy.

solidarity-805.pdf3.07 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #8.06

Penultimate issue of Solidarity from 22 April, 1977, with articles about the Labour Party, the unions, the Bullock report on industrial democracy and more.

solidarity-806.pdf3.09 MB

Solidarity for workers' power #8.07

Final issue of Solidarity for Workers' Power dated 8 August, 1977. Articles about the Grunwick strike, Lucas Aerospace, 'Why I left the C.N.T.', 'Listen, Psychiatrist' by Cornelius Castoriadis (as Paul Cardan) and a review of Heilbroner's 'Business Civilization in Decline'.


Two recent industrial struggles stand in stark contrast. One is the Grunwick strike, with its allied solidarity actions. The other is the initiative of the Lucas Aerospace shop stewards.


At the centre of all the razamatazz is a strike of heavily exploited, initially non-unionised, largely immigrant workers who wanted a sacked colleague reinstated, an end to compulsory overtime, better ventilation, the option of a holiday during the summer months, less insulting and arbitrary attitudes on the part of foremen and managers, and an unspecified increase in their near-starvation wages. It has escalated into a battle over union recognition involving a mobilisation of the 'left' and of sections of the trade union movement.

Of course we support the strikers. They are seeking to control a little more of their working lives. Their courage and tenacity have been impressive. Dockers and Heathrow Airport workers have shown solidarity. For three weeks Cricklewood postmen refused to handle Grunwick mail. They were suspended by the Post Office, and only voted to return to normal working (and this by the narrowest of majorities: 51-48) under tremendous pressure from 'their' officials. These actions have shown employers throughout the country that working class solidarity - in the Britain of 1977 - is still, potentially, the nightmare they always feared.

Many will say things like this. But let's look below the surface. The 'support' the strikers have been getting provides us with a cross-section of the contradictions, manipulations, schizoid thinking and well-meant humbug that can be found today in the 'socialist' and trade union movement. The attitude of the employers is also revealing; it is equally riddled with cant and double-talk.


The tenacity of the Grunwick management cannot be explained solely in terms of economic expediency. Other firms, both.larger and smaller, have 'allowed the union in' without automatically collapsing. In fact, what an APEX 1 implantation might have gained (in terms of wages and conditions, over a long period) has probably already been conceded by the management - if only for propaganda purposes. What is at stake for Grunwick is the maintenance of a given pattern of authority relations within their plant. 'Who is boss here?' seems their main concern. In this their attitude is not unique. "Certain managements would quite literally prefer to close factories down rather than continue operations with their authority reduced or constantly challenged. How big is the iceberg, bf which this obsession with authority is the visible tip? How many employers, in their heart of hearts, identify with Grunwick?

The fact is that the employers are by no means unanimous. Some applaud privately but few do so in public. The behaviour of the Grunwick management is undoubtedly an embarrassment to those more far-sighted capitalists who see the unions not as a threat, but as essential allies in the maintenance of labour discipline. The Confederation of British Industries has carefully avoided giving public encouragement to Mr Ward. Tory spokesmen, keen to avoid appearing as 'union bashers' (which they see as an electoral liability) have concentrated their impotent anger on the 'illegality' of mass pickets, or on the solidarity action of the postmen.

What the Grunwick management have done, though, is to puncture a vast balloon of pretence. They have called the bluff of the liberals and the social democrats. They have shown that the noises of the left are so much piss and wind. They have shown that 'reports' and 'recommendations' in a capitalist democracy have 'weight' only insofar as everyone plays the game, internalises (or pretends to internalise) the rules of the system. They have monumentally demystified the situation. They have shown that, as far as employers are concerned, both state and unions only have velvet fists in their iron gloves.


The anti-working class division of labour, here, worked to perfection. Each did his share of the dirty work. We are not suggesting this was consciously orchestrated, or part of a great conspiracy. Just that the various roles dovetailed very nicely.

The 'right wing' urge reliance on the capitalist courts, on the 'moral' pressure that will be exerted - in the fullness of time - on the Grunwick management. Things drag on. Grunwick seek to have declared null and void an ACAS (Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service) report recommending that APEX be recognised. The Lord Chief Justice rules against Grunwick. The Court of Appeal then rescinds Lord Widgery's verdict. ACAS now trots off to the House of Lords. Meanwhile: 'Cool it, brothers and sisters'. The Scarman Court of Enquiry - whose judgments are not legally binding either - meanwhile seeks to 'ascertain the facts'. 'Freeze it, friends', till they too have reported.

The UPW (Union of Post Office Workers) does all it can to prevent solidarity action from spreading among postmen, spontaneously refusing to handle the Grunwick mail. The first blacking almost succeeds (in Grunwick's own admission). The union leaders plead with the Post Office to refrain from 'provocative' action, i.e. from sacking the men. 'In exchange' the UPW will circumscribe the action to the Cricklewood depot - all the better eventually to scuttle it. Grunwick resort to provocations. But is it likely
the local UPW officials knew nothing when the Post Office allowed the firm to collect 64 bags of mail in a private, unmarked van from the Cricklewood Post office, on the afternoon of Saturday, July 23? The police certainly knew. So shabby are the UPW manoeuvres that Norman Stagg (Deputy General Secretary) is denied access to branch meetings. This does not prevent him from using the big stick. On Friday, July 22 postal workers, summoned to Conway Hall, are threatened with withdrawal of hardship money, withdrawal of union protection should the employers sack them, and even suspension from the union.

The APEX leaders, 'struggling' for union recognition within the factory, are a similar shower. Roy Grantham and his cronies do all they can to smother the struggle from within. They fight consistently... to limit the size of the mass picket. They oppose the Strike Committee's call for a second mass demonstration on August 8. They too threaten withdrawal of strike pay should the Committee proceed with its plans. Like frightened mice they run back and forth between Whitehall and TUC headquarters. The government and the TUC are scared stiff of escalation. APEX will convey the message to 'their' striking members.

The TU 'left' plays a pathetic role. Much publicised - and much photographed - parades outside the Grunwick gates allow every tired official, whose radical image needs a revamp, to have a field day. After torrents of meaningless rhetoric about solidarity, the 'left' led a march away from the factory gates, on the one day (Monday, July 11) when a genuine mass mobilisation (20,000 people perhaps) could really have kept out the scabs ... or even taken the factory over.


Members of 'revolutionary' groups are there, on the picket line, for a variety of motives: out of genuine solidarity, because they want to fight the police, to sell their papers, to recruit, because they don't want to be seen not to be providing as many bodies as their rivals. The pervasive politics of their support runs something like this: 'the capitalist class are attacking the Labour Movement and its right to organise. The trade unions are in danger. Grunwick is a crucially important test case, which has to be won by the workers'. From here on forcing union recognition on Grunwick becomes the issue. The original demands of the strikers are swept under the carpet (it will be interesting to see how many of them are 'remembered' when the final 'historic compromise' is achieved). Outside the gates there is hardly any criticism of the unions as such, of how they divide workers. There is only criticism of this or that action of this or that trade union leader or Labour politician. This implies that the Len Murrays, the Audrey Wises, etc., together with every full-time union official with a radical phrase in his head, are somehow on the same side as the strikers. To criticise is 'divisive'.


Such a view can only help hide all the dirty work going on. We see things quite differently. Modern capitalism has learned to live very confortably with trade unions - and vice versa. The struggle for socialism goes on within the unions, not through them. Autonomous action by groups of workers in unions is de-fused, squashed, denounced or pissed on from a great height by the full-time officials (and by some of the lay officials too). Socialism is about people acting for themselves, on a massive scale. It is most emphatically not about taking orders, or being bullied into actions that every class instinct tells one are wrong.

For us the positive content of the Grunwick struggle lies in the initiatives of the strikers to spread the strike. It is in the workers' resistance to Grantham., of APEX, when he ordered the end to mass picketing. (Incidentally, defending APEX as if one was defending socialism is hilarious. APEX was expelled from the TUC, at one point, because of its attitude to the Industrial Relations Bill. It also proscribed the SWP - called IS at the time.) It was great when the Cricklewood Post Office workers continued to black Grunwick mail, although instructed not to by their 'leader' Jackson. Even better was the way that these workers, once suspended, continued to work at sorting and delivering mail (until locked out) - with the exception of Grunwick's. There was socialism, too, in the genuine solidarity of the picket line.

Union bureaucracies use the threat of mass action as a bargaining lever. This will only work if the lever can be seen to stop mass action as well as start it. The potential power of the unions is real and massive : confrontations between government and unions can today result in a defeated government, as Mr Heath learned to his cost. It is obvious that Grunwick could be quickly closed down by concerted action. Trade union leaders are doing everything to stop this developing. This is not because they want to see the Grunwick strikers defeated, though this will probably be the result. Nor is it, to any great extent, out of fear of taking 'illegal' action or of prejudicing good relations with the Labour government - though the vote-losing image of militancy on the picket line is very much in the mind of the Labour politicians. Overwhelmingly it is a fear of losing control. The day-to-day business of blacking Grunwick work has already involved close contact between the Strike Committee and postal workers - cutting out the middle men. The more the blacking develops the more this parallel organisation grows... and the more the bureaucrats are cut out. Behind the rhetoric of support by the full-time officials is the constant concern to assert control over 'their' members, a control which, once achieved, means the effective demobilisation of the rank and file.

It is doubtful whether the Grunwick dispute can be won by mere ritualised picketing. The 'concessions' gained on the picket line effectively deny the strikers any chance of stopping the coaches which daily bring in the scabs. The most significant of the 'concessions' gained by Grantham, of APEX, was the arrangement whereby a small group of 'real pickets' (on foot) are entitled to speak to scabs (in buses), after being properly separated (by massive cordons of police) from all potential supporters. People quickly saw through this one. Talk of 'doing a Saltley' on Grunwick resulted in heavyweight batallions of Yorkshire miners under General Scargill arriving on July 11. Jack Dromey of the Strike Committee proclaimed: 'Here you have the highly paid, highly organised and disciplined working class'. The mass picket defeated the police. According to a normally reliable source, the bus was turned away four times. But Scargill then persuaded the batallions to march around Willesden. And the bus rolled in. 'Highly paid and highly organised' or not, the batallions were a damn sight too disciplined. What was needed was a little less 'discipline' and a little more of the offensive spirit.

We support the mass picket. But what is needed now, in addition, is a more subtle and imaginative approach. If such disputes are to be won, people must turn away, completely and finally, from the rotten juntas that have been 'controlling' - and throttling - their struggles. Workers must start taking the initiative into their own hands. A modern factory needs water, gas and electricity. It needs efficient drains and facilities for waste disposal. These are provided by working people. The National Association for Freedom have shown that they were ready for eventualities of this kind. Is our collective capacity less than theirs?


One of us recently talked with a convenor of a Lucas Aerospace factory factory about the initiative that his Shop Stewards Combine had recently taken. Some of our readers may be familiar with the details but for those who are not here's what it's about.

The Stewards Combine have proposed a shift from Defence to 'socially useful' production. They want this linked with a breakdown of the managerial hierarchy in the factories. These wide-ranging demands originated in a struggle against redundancies which the firm had proposed. The stewards felt that protest action or rearguard defence - by occupation or systematic blacking for example - did not have a very good track record. It seemed to make sense, if only from a propaganda point of view, to suggest alternative projects for Lucas' unused capacity. But these proposals gathered a momentum of their own.

An approach was made to people in the Alternative Technology movement. This didn't turn out to be particularly useful. One naive group in Leeds set up a seminar for the stewards but didn't tell them that it had also invited the management, with whom the workers were in dispute at the time ! More generally it wasn't a case of this kind of ineptitude. It was the do-it-yourself, alternative technologists having their minds boggled by the capacity and technological sophistication of the Lucas empire. It was like a child being given a toy too big to play with. With one or two exceptions the Combine had to work out its ideas by itself.

It concentrated on three projects: heat pumps, kidney machines, and a hybrid car. (This has a petrol engine, working at constant revs, which charges a battery which actually drives the car. This arrangement allows highly efficient fuel use, and creates much less pollution and noise.) There was much discussion and detailed technical feasibility studies were drawn up. These discussions were carried on within the combine in a democratic way. Parallel sets of proposals were well received. The proposed development and production teams were composed of democratic groupings of administrative, design, skilled and unskilled workers, instead of the present hierarchical heap. (The proposals were in fact drafted by one of the effective 'alternative technologists'.)

Within the Combine there were difficulties. Representatives of the design technicians (officially 'staff') saw things at times in a very 'wide perspective' and would invite the older, more traditional type of worker to condemn, for instance, the Agee/Hosenball expulsions. Some felt this to be 'external' to their immediate concern. The strains involved in this new kind of struggle nearly led to breakaways. The more traditionally minded at one point proposed to form an 'Hourly Paid Workers Shop Stewards Combine Committee'. (There may have been some discrete lobbying for this proposal by the Lucas management, but the breakaway was averted.)

As far as the Lucas management was concerned the proposals were out of this world. Their response has been confused. Faced with technical suggestions and organisational proposals which directly or indirectly would take away a large lump of their power and authority, the management reacted with an instinctive refusal. Yet the ideas were good ones, well thought out by highly competent and also highly motivated technicians. In fact the management had decided to carry out a pilot project on the heat-pumps at Milton Keynes. Just a pilot project, mind you, no precedents to be claimed! But the stewards in the Combine were not prepared to act as an unpaid think-tank for Lucas. 'It is fundamentally a question of control' they say. They see their proposals for the new, socially-useful production as indivisible from the new social structure of production. They see their set of demands as winnable this side of revolution, through traditional forms of rank and file activity. They also see great potential in appealing to management as fellow trade unionists! They point out with some justice that mergers, asset-stripping and shutdowns make managers redundant too, and to the fact that in recent years unions like the ASTMS have made advances in lower management in the new atmosphere of insecurity.

All this should make one think. One could react in at least three ways. Starry-eyed enthusiasm. Or 'they've not got a chance in hell'. Or 'yes, but it will only be self-managed alienation, with the profits still filling the bosses' pockets'. The fact remains that a new type of issue has arisen, in an area where revolutionaries have feared to tread. Revolutionaries tend to see society as more polarised than the bulk of people. They tend to see certain kinds of demands as only realisable 'after the revolution'. This can work out as a variety of doctrinaire wet-blanket pessimism, since it means that proposals for 'genuine self-management' are made in terms of an indeterminate future, while the present is dealt with in terms of critiques of Wedgie Benn type co-ops, Swedish 'worker participation', etc. The effect can be depressing. Yet historically there have been several examples where the immediate and the utopian were combined in an agitational proposal, in a libertarian way. Two examples: At the end of World War I coal miners in South Wales were seriously considering bankrupting coal owners by 'economic' strikes and taking over the mines at knock down prices and running them as co-operatives. In 1902 the French syndicalist CGT sent out a circular asking its constituent sections to send in detailed proposals as to how they would run their industries after the revolution. This was also intended to guide day by day activity 'in the right direction'. The fact that proposals in the above tradition are re-emerging from the base (the Combine is not officially recognised by either unions or management) should be taken as most encouraging and openly welcomed. In the last decades workers have tried to preserve jobs. The Lucas workers want this, for sure, but they also want to transform work and to put management out of a job.

Of course there are things on the debit side. So far this development has very largely concerned the stewards. They seem to be solidly backed as individuals on the shop floor, but it is not at all clear how much their proposals are supported or understood there. Anyway, self-management is about everybody acting, not some leading and some following. The transformation of these shop floor relationships is only elliptically thought of. Although confidence is a good thing, misplaced confidence, based on hopes of and assumptions about 'the left' in the Labour Party and the unions, can only be harmful to seIf-management. The battle can be re-defined in theory but only resolved in practice. And by their action the Lucas stewards have shown that it is not a question of whether workers can manage production, but of how they will fight to get there. We are entering a time when workers will increasingly seek not only to control wages and conditions but also what is made and how it is made. Such initiatives will repay scrupulous examination.


by Phil Mailer (£2.25 + postage)

Sales are going reasonably well. There have been reviews in TIME OUT (April 15-21, 1977), LEEDS OTHER PAPER (April 16, 1977), NEW SOCIETY (April 21, 1977), PEPYS (April 28, 1977), THE SUNDAY TIMES (May 1, 197?) FREEDOM (May 28, 1977) and UNDERCURRENTS (no.22, June-July 1977).

Reviews available on request. The trad left have ignored the book, probably because it doesn't call for the creation of yet one more vanguard party. We ask all our readers and supporters to make sure their local district, community or university library has a hardback copy (£5.00 + postage).



We welcome the re-emergence, after years of repression, of the revolutionary libertarian movement in Spain. We see in it the seeds of the future. It is much wider than the CNT, although we can't discuss it without reference to that organisation. If the errors of the past are to be avoided the new movement will have to learn, however painfully, from previous mistakes.

Politically aware revolutionary libertarianism must be prepared, today, to struggle on a very wide front. It must be prepared to challenge all those who, consciously or unconsciously, seek to limit the organisational and ideological autonomy of the working class.

We publish the following text (which originally appeared in the February 1977 issue of the Italian journal 'A Rivista Anarchica') as a part of a continuous effort to grapple with an old disease: revolutionary nostalgia. The CNT was important in Spanish labour history. Those who claim to speak for it are well aware of the power of myths and legends. As far as the British movement is concerned the legends are still with us. One example was the bitterness with which a debate over Sam Dolgoff's review of Semprun Maura's 'Revolution et Contre-Revolution en Catalogne' was conducted (see Freedom, vol.36, nos. 46-52; vol.37, nos.2 and 4). Another was the uncritical applause which met the CNT's first mass rally, in a bullring (see, for example, Zero no. 1).

This text fits in with other pieces of information that have come our way. We are told that there are many genuine revolutionaries outside the CNT who are dubious about its present form. There seems to be internal criticism of the centralist tendencies of the regional committees. Recent industrial struggles in Spain have evolved an Assembly structure of workplace democracy which has largely by-passed the Workers' Commissions. The CNT's response to these Assemblies remains ambiguous. (Basically, the question is whether the workers are more important than the union, or vice versa !) Many CNT militants still seem to hold a very traditional attitude concerning the relation of 'their' organisation to the working class as a whole. (Even the author of the article doesn't escape entirely from voicing such a viewpoint.) For those who are against all patriotism - even 'revolutionary' 'organisational' patriotism - the problem remains immense.

Readers with long memories may recall an article (still available) which we published over ten years ago (Solidarity vol. IV, no. 4). In it we reported the agreement concluded in 1965 between the fascist 'labour syndicates' and a section of the CNT, in Spain. The fruits of opportunist, 'non-political' libertarianism (or militancy) were already clearly apparent then, for those with eyes to see. They are a great deal more obvious today.

We know that what we say will prove unpopular with sections of the revolutionary movement. But so long as people spring to the defence of bodies they know little about, so long are they thinking with parts of their anatomy other than their brains. And so long does it remain important that the questions raised in this article be put clearly, fearlessly and repeatedly.

QUESTION: I'd like you to talk about the situation in Barcelona today, in 1977.

ANSWER: I can't really talk in absolute terms because I've only recently been released from prison,and what's more, a short time ago I left the CNT because it has become an institution, but I do still carry on with my anarchist activities. I can however give you my opinions, which wi11 no doubt be subjective, but they probably come fairly near to a realistic assessment of the situation. To speak of anarchism in Barcelona means in fact to speak of the CNT. This causes a great deal of confusion because the majority tendency in the CNT is not in fact anarchist and so its policies and the stances it takes are used by the left-wing press to criticise, not so much the CNT, as much as anarchism itself. I think that the CNT has been reconstituted with too much haste. The original CNT was formed after 40 years of preparation, of propaganda and militancy. Such a process almost certainly guaranteed a wel1-developed sense of mi1itancy, with deep-rooted anarchist conceptions. Obviously in this manner it was possible to build a mass movement with 1ibertarian-anarchist tendencies.

Today the reconstitution of the same organisation has been brought about without having taken into account the fact that a generation gap exists which means that for 40 years there has been a break in continuity,and so an intermediary generation does not exist which could have transmitted its experiences in the anarcho-syndicalist movement to the young. The result has been that for many people the reconstitution of the CNT has meant the readoption of the same organisational form, of the same statutes, the creation of committees, and then sitting back and waiting for the people to arrive and thus inflate the organisation. Moreover the reconstitution of the CNT has been brought about with such haste that it has now been formed as the result of an agreement between groups already in existence: there was the old CNT, which existed only in committee form, made up of old militants completely disconnected from social reality, student anarchists groups, neo-marxists from the MCL (the "Libertarian Communist Movement"),and autonomous groups.

All these groups agreed to the reconstitution of the CNT, but each of them did so with the intention of imposing its line on the organisation which led to a series of sterile struggles for the occupation of the various posts on the regional committees. This state of affairs was only overcome by deals between the various tendencies in order to save the organisation. There is a "cult of the organisation" in Spain which traditionally has been strong and this phenomenon is now repeating itself. But "saving the organisation" today entails the saving of a bureaucratic structure and the formation of regional committees which are not really representative of the militants in the factories who have been having a certain effect on the work-place. I'll quote you a recent example.

The building workers' union, which has about 200 members, recent1y had to elect its delegate for the regional committee. However, at the meeting in which the election was to take place only about 20 members were present. The other workers were not present because they had not even been told that the meeting was to take place. Despite all this the union delegate still held the votes of all the members at the regional plenary meeting,including the votes of all those who had been unaware of the electoral meeting.

The same thing happened in the media workers' union. This led this group of workers to rebel, demand an end to this way of doing things, and that instead of a plenary session a general assembly of all the workers should be held at which the regional committee could be elected by popular acclaim. This general assembly was never held but the bureaucrats took note of the danger that these demands represented and so proposed the election of a regional committee in which everybody would be fairly represented, and this is the aforementioned committee in which all the tendencies are represented: the faction which identifies with the FAI and is tied to the "official" CNT in exile, the faction which identifies with the Parisian paper "Frente Libertario", the autonomist faction, the marxists (ex-MCL), the ex-members of the State unions and the revolutionary syndicalists.

Many people say that the CNT should be an occasion for debate between the various tendencies and I agree with them to a certain extent, but I'm also convinced that there are limits; it's not acceptable to have to argue with marxists within the same union, nor with people who advocate moderate proposals such as many of those in the media workers' union, the majority of whose members have come from the State controlled union.

Personally,when I saw what was happening in the CHT I voiced my disagreement. So they asked me if I would take on the post of secretary of the "Oficios Varios" union (a union for workers not covered by the other sectors),but I refused,just as I refused to take on all the other posts that I was offered because of my ethical conception of anarchism, although I still sympathise with the motives of those comrades who occupy posts in the CNT bureaucracy. I was informed later on that my name had been put forward for a regional secretariat and also learned that several individuals had started a campaign against me in an attempt to counter any possible influence that I might have had on the younger and more rebellious sections of the CNT. The attacks on me of a personal nature were either taken up or tolerated by the various factions fighting for power inside the CNT. Obviously people like me who are opposed to bureaucratisation are seen as enemies to be fought by any possible means and to be removed from the organisation. Having seen how things were developing I decided to take the initiative before the regional plenary meeting since I thought that my intervention could have a positive influence on the anti-bureaucratic tendency in the CNT. I wrote a letter stating the reasons for my resignation and I read it out during a meeting. Those present applauded me but none of them felt able to speak out directly and positively, and in fact I had the feeling that those closest to me had also isolated me so as to avoid being attacked themselves. In other words they chose to sacrifice their anarchist individuality in favour of the organisation.

QUESTION: What is your opinion of the general position of the CNT?

ANSWER: it seems to me that both on a theoretical and ideological level the CNT simply wishes to become a repetition of what it once was. And I believe that this is catastrophic because present-day Spanish society is certainly not the same as that of 1936. In fact the first plenary held in Spain since 1936, instead of starting a theoretical discussion on the actual problems in Spanish society, started by asking for the ratification of the decisions taken by the congresses of 1911, 1919, 1920 and 1936, all of them congresses at which none of the youngsters present could possibly have taken part in, and even if the general principles of those decisions were still relevant, they are of no use for the development of anarcho-syndicalist activity in the advanced capitalist society of 1977. The CNT as it now presents itself is not capable of providing an alternative to the new social order.

QUESTION: Has the FAI been reconstituted?

ANSWER: There has been an attempt to re-create the FAI in Catalonia inspired by the FAI in exile; in fact this attempt has so far had few and debatable results, of a formal nature only and with no substance. Despite all this, I believe it to be extremely important to rebuild a specifically anarchist movement composed of groups, and federations which could "produce" new ways of looking at things. Indeed the existence of such a movement could contribute a content to the CNT which it does not have today.

Today, for instance,the CNT in Barcelona has a little over 2000 militants but there are over 4000 libertarians who operate outside the CNT and many of these people do not belong to the CNT because they see themselves as anarchists only. There seems to exist a refusal to join organisations on the part of the vast majority of the population,and this not only affects the CNT but also affects the other organisations such as the UGT, which after a year of work only has about 20,000 members in the whole of Spain, which is a very small number. The Comisiones Obreras (Workers' Commissions) issued a million membership cards but it seems that they had to eat most of them because nobody seemed to want them, so they set about forging many of the membership cards and also sent many of the others abroad, but even then they didn't succeed in getting rid of them; the USO has no more than a handful of mi1itants.

This refusal exists, therefore, not only on the part of those people who are not politicised but also on the part of those who are eager for action and for rebellion but have no wish to join parties or unions because they are not interested in work of a reformist nature. It is just in this area that we should intervene as anarchists in order to study the problems of Spanish society from an anarchist point of view and to try and offer the perspectives for anarchist struggles in all aspects of life. For example, there exist in Spain local associations in which the most restless and rebellious people gather together. There are about 30 of these associations in Barcelona which produce over 30 magazines a month between them; in these associations many debates take place discussing the problems of education, work, women's 1iberation, the adulteration of food, town planning, pol1ution, the provision of open spaces, etc., in other words, the totality of problems which affect the life of the individual. You see, I believe that anarchists have an important role to play in these associations; indeed, in the places where anarchists are present, such as the Sans area of Barcelona (where they are in the majority) they have succeeded, through tackling issues from an anarchist or libertarian approach, in becoming a focus for the people of the area.

QUESTION: You have criticised the reconstitution of the CNT, but as regards the FAI you haven't said so far in what way an organisation, which I would regard as indispensable in order to have an effect on the Spanish labour movement, should be reconstituted or created. Moreover, it seems to me that the main concern of those people who reconstituted the CNT was to face up adequately to the "competition" provided by the other political organisations (Communist Party, Comisiones Obreras, UGT) which in this politically transitional period were already putting themselves forward as the true representatives of the labour movement in Spain. This meant that there was a need to re-establish this organisational structure before it was too late and so before the authoritarian political forces monopolised the labour movement.

ANSWER: The argument you have just put forward is the same as that of many old comrades and this preoccupation of theirs is easily understandable. But let's examine this further. At a time when there is the freedom to organise and belong to unions, it is proposed that the CNT be offered as an alternative to the other political forces but I wonder whether this isn't just playing the same game, just so as not to be a step behind the others. A centralised union organisation? What for? To be like the Socialists or the Communists? To gain control over the labour movement? I think that the CNT could easily achieve all this, but for us anarchists it would be extremely disadvantageous for it to do so.

I've already said at the beginning of this interview that whenever anarchism is mentioned in Spain one's thoughts immediately turn to the CNT. This has led to a chronic confusion in the Spanish libertarian movement, and it is taking place just at the same time that syndicalism has been seen, even on an international level, to have embarked on an irreversible process of integration with the system of exploitation. The Spanish anarcho-syndicalists think that by rebuilding the CNT they are following a different process but this faith of theirs comes more from sentimental attachment than from a realistic appraisal of the situation. They forget that Spain has started its process of political and economic integration with Europe which is progressing at an accelerating rate. Thus both the political panorama and the unions are being levelled up to a European level.

If the CNT refuses to follow the rules of the game to their ultimate conclusions (in other words, if it does not become a "civilized" central union organisation) it will soon be reduced to the status of a simple "groupuscule", which will prevent the anarchists from having any influence on a mass scale (because of their lack of importance through being too few in numbers) or even on a specific level (because of the fear of superceding the basic presuppositions of anarcho-syndicalism). The reformist tendencies, which are in the majority in the CNT, have indicated on many occasions their intention to establish a differentiation between anarchism and syndicalism, a point which unfortunately the anarchist tendencies have not yet picked up.

The alternatives which the Spanish anarchist movement could offer should in actual fact be arrived at through a general analysis of Spanish society, but I fear that so far nobody has bothered to make a serious study of the socio-economic changes which have taken place since the end of the Civil War. Only a few sectors of the CNT have so far tried to organise some work in this direction, but moreover, since an autonomous anarchist movement independent of the CNT does not exist, it has not been possible to learn how Spanish anarchists see the present situation and what are, if any exist, their projects for revolutionary transformation. Generally what has taken place has been the mechanical repitition of the alternatives adopted by the CNT in its pre-Civil War congresses.

Personally, I'm firmly convinced that the Spanish anarchists must establish their ideological and organisational autonomy from the CNT. Since leaving the CNT I've been unable to take part in activities which are organically related and I believe that many anarchists find themselves in the same situation. I believe that we must create a coordinating body for all anarchists to refer to so as to begin the urgently-needed deep study of the possibility of intervening "negatively" in the actual evolutionary process of Spanish society. Neither the central union organisations nor the political parties enjoy the benefit of massive popular support owing to an instinctive fear of manipulation by the various bureaucracies. We should remember that the social struggles of the last few years have basically been uncontrolled struggles and it is precisely in this area that Spanish anarchism should initiate its researches and interventions,instead of engaging in the reconstruction of a central union organisation of a traditional type.

We must think less about the past if we want to have a greater effect on the present. Still less should we limit our activities to those that only concern work; anarchism should stand for the total liberation of the individual, but although this liberation depends ultimately on the liberation of the workers as the exploited class, we must avoid descending to the level of simplistic marxist abstractions. There are an infinite number of issues which are considered to be secondary by the marxists, but which little by little are becoming increasingly important for the emancipation of the individual.

I'd say that the tasks of anarchism in Spain are as follows: 1) affirm its ideological and organisational autonomy from the CNT; 2) begin work on wide-ranging theoretical debate and clarification; 3) intervene, as a coordinated force, in all the areas which provide the movement the opportunity to tackle the totality of the problems of society and of the individual, trying all the while to use means which are consistent with the ends; 4) strengthening international contact and solidarity with anarchists engaged in struggles in other countries, with an exchange of experiences and reciprocal help.

As regards Spain, in my opinion, one of the most urgent tasks is (along with those of struggle and organisation) the denunciation of the pact which exists between the opposition and the government in order to achieve "democratic" normality; to make people seriously aware through sound arguments of the fraud of pariiamentarianism, whi1st at the same time giving greater emphasis to the initiatives based on direct action which had already begun in the final period of the francoist regime, all of which entails opposition to the institutionalisation of the organisms of mass revolutionary struggle.

Despite all this, I believe that excellent conditions exist in Spain for the development of an anarchist society as long as the movement avoids the error of digging its own grave, which is likely if it dedicates itself exclusively to the strengthening of a union organisation which in order to prosper will have to make deals with the authorities and exclude the anarchist influences from the organisation.

David Urbano, ex-CNT militant


In a forthcoming issue we will be discussing the inadequacies and ambiguities of the concept of syndicalism (as distinct from trade unionism) as exemplified by the traditions of the Wobblies, of the Shop Stewards' Movement before and after World War I, of the IWMA, and of such drives to 'industrial unionism' as that which created the CIO.

For those interested in our own views on industrial organisation, we recommend the following: Motors and Modern Capitalism (Solidarity vol. III, no. 12); *Participation: a trap (IV, 6); For a Socialist Industrial Strategy (IV, 10); *Trade Unions: the Royal Commission Reports - the story of a nightmare (IV, 11); The ambiguities of Workers' Control (VI, 6); *Unity for ever...with the Institute of Workers Control (VI. 7); *The Miners' Strike (VII. 1); * Caught in the Act (VII. 2); *The Unions Keep Us Weak (VIII. 5); *Unionism and the Labour Front (VIII, 5) and our pamphlets What Next for Engineers ? (no. 3); The Standard Triumph Strike (5); The BLSP Dispute (8); Truth About Vauxhall (12); Busmen What Next? (16); Mount Isa (22); What Happened at Fords (26); *GMWU: Scab Union (32); Strategy for Industrial Struggle (37); *Trade Unionism or Socialism (47); * Bureaucrats and Women Cleaners (52). Items marked with an asterisk are still available : lOp + postage.


In Vol. 8, no. 5 (p.25) P.F. made a staggering error of 'fact' which I would like quickly to 'correct'. She/he claimed that 'In the October Revolution itself, the organisation of the armed uprising was the task of the Petrograd Soviet, from which the various armed bodies depended; the actual uprising was not started by the Party, but was a reaction, in which Lenin had no role, to the decision of the Provisional Government to close down two Bolshevik papers...'

This is not my reading of the situation. The date for the October Revolution was fixed at a Central Committee meeting of the Bolshevik Party (which Lenin attended) on October 10. (See Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, p.1007.) The uprising, therefore, was planned 15 days in advance. It was organised not by the Petrograd Soviet but by the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, an organisation which was stacked out with Bolsheviks. The revolution might have begun a few hours early because of the Provisional Government's decision to close two Bolshevik papers, but why did the Provisional Government take that decision? The answer is that they were vainly trying to stop the coup which they knew the Bolsheviks were about to stage. The October Revolution was therefore not a spontaneous revolution but a planned take-over of power by the Bolsheviks.

A. B.

After reading your 'Wildcat at Dodge Truck' 2 I thought I might contribute a few more nails for the coffin of the Revolutionary Union. Last summer I had the 'fortune' to see Steve S. and his merry manipulators in action. At a forum about their strike, they managed to link up with some workers from an optical factory on strike for union recognition. Although I am not sure whether the optical workers digested any Mao Tse-Tung Thought they agreed to hold a joint forum in Ann Arbor in the fall ('Workers' Struggles and the Crisis of Imperialism' - or words to that effect). The forum was sponsored by the Revolutionary Student Brigade, the R.U.'s unofficial satellite for children.

Predictably enough, the Spartacist League arrived at the forum, presumably to raise some 'transitional demands' during the discussion period. Also predictably, the R.S.B. excluded them, since 'the people don't want to hear that kind of thing'. A few of us in the audience (i.e. 'the people' walked out in protest.

In March, the R.U. colony in Albuquerque, N.M., held a forum on 'Soviet Social-Imperialism', for which they imported a speaker from California. Needless to say, the factual content of his talk was quite low. So I felt compelled to set the record straight on a few points (e.g. 'socialism' under Stalin, Chinese foreign policy). The immediate response was 'This is the typical kind of Trotskyite slander with which we are all familiar'. I might have taken up the gauntlet, but the debate soon shifted to a dispute with a smaller stalinoid group who took offense at the R.U.'s suggestion that Comrade Stalin had made any mistakes. The R.U. hastened to deny this charge of lese majeste, notwithstanding the few criticisms they had made in passing.

This laughable exchange went on for about half and hour, replete with quotations from the master and solemn avowals of the need for further study of Marxism-Leninism. Perhaps this is the American equivalent of arguments over 'deep entrism' vs. 'shallow entrism' into the Labour Party.

L. C., Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The position at Cowley didn't change much last year. The ultra left and the right wing are still fighting each other rather than the management. The right wing are winning easily because the ultras lack any tactics at all. They have no support among the people they claim to be leading towards the socialist revolution.

What is even more distressing is that the Company, through the medium of collaboration (sorry, participation) have succeeded in buying many of the senior stewards in Leyland, including most members of the C.P. The man at the top, Derek Robinson (C.P.), is in favour of a fringe benefit offer that includes penalty clauses for unconstitutional action. He has been nicknamed the communist copper of the shopfloor.

Apart from that, things aren't too bad

G. H., Cowley.

I have just read your Motor Bulletin No.5. You ask for feedback. First of all, I welcome it. There have been some dreadful statements in 'left' publications regarding the opening of the Ford plant at Valencia. Some say that Ford moved there because Spanish workers don't strike, as strikes are illegal! I have had great difficulty in trying to convince members of my own union committee of the falsity of this picture of our fellow workers in Spain.

Your report can help counter such ideas. From a personal/practical point of view I would appreciate more facts and less analysis in future reports. Ford workers are not dumb - we can draw our own conclusions from facts.

I also question the value of the (not very veiled) attack on the C.P. I am not a C.P. supporter here. Nor do I support the C.P.'s policies in Spain. But such an attack is divisive. The C.P. has a lot of militants in Ford's. What we need to do is build solidarity with our fellow workers in Spain. The C.P. people at least seem to understand the need for international solidarity. So I would only be able to use your report 'selectively' at the union meeting, i.e. the bits with the facts and the report from the SEAT worker (good, that). To try and distribute the whole bulletin might alienate C.P. members who are leading (O.K., for their own ends, but still...) in solidarity struggles.

Ditto the attacks on unions per se. I am aware of the nature of the TGWU, to which I belong! But I fail to see how we can organise effectively outwith a union framework. My position is that we must fight for workers' control of the union, as well as of the factories!

I think you must decide whether you are producing bulletins to inform the general public, or to be of use within the motor industry. Naturally I think the second emphasis more useful.

If and when you produce a bulletin on the latest strike wave in Barcelona I hope you will include a section on how the wives and children of the strikers organised. Unlike the infamous 'Cowley wives' the Barcelona wives occupied the cathedral in support of the strike. And, as there was no strike pay or social security, they asked the people of Barcelona to feed and provide for them, which they did, in abundance!

We have a lot of ground work to do to build international working class solidarity. To be fair to British Ford workers, they remember only too well that no Ford worker abroad supported them during the 10-week strike in 1971. We have been insular ever since. I hope your Bulletins will help overcome this,

J. Smith,

...Good to see you're working in with other libertarian socialist/anarchie groups; though while you state the issue so much more precisely than other groups your separate existence is vital. There's growing understanding oi the relevance of your critique here in New Zealand. Andrew D. (Wellington) sold out of your pamphlets very quickly. In the future a movement specifically developing your type of approach will undoubtedly develop here, but at present the libertarian left is so small that to get anything done I don't think we can afford the luxury of division.

Richard B., Christchurch, N.Z.


Revolutionaries are often faced with 'scientific', psychological objections to revolution. These are aimed as much at the revolutionary as at what he or she is saying. The 'argument' usually goes like this: 'your ideas about a new society are a cloak for hidden motives. They are a projection of unmentioned desires. They are a vehicle for your lust for power'. Or: 'your vision is an infantile daydream: an escape mechanism which allows to live in two worlds at once. It is all just imaginary compensation'.

One could retaliate: 'and what of the motives - conscious or unconscious - leading to the conformism of psychiatrists '. But playing shuttle-cock with the problem won't make it go away. The question of self-knowledge is a real one: why are we revolutionaries? Everyone needs insight here, for a revolution embedded in unconscious urges could only re-enact, yet again, the incoherence of preceding history. It would remain dominated by obscure forces which would ultimately impose upon it their own finality and their own logic.

Why men and women are revolutionaries is by definition a highly subjective matter. Here is just one personal statement. 3 The author hopes it won't be pointless if it helps a single reader 'see more clearly into another human being - even if only into his (Cardan's) illusions and errors', and thereby more deeply into himself or herself.

...I wish, and I feel the need to live in a society other than the one around me. Like most people I can live in this one and adapt myself to it - I am, anyway, existing in it. However critically I look at myself, neither my capacity for adaptation nor my responses to reality seem to me below the sociological average. I don't ask for immortality, ubiquity or omniscience. I don't ask that society 'give me happiness'. I know that happiness isn't something that could be dished out at the local Social Security office, or by the local Workers Council. If such a thing exists, I alone can create it to my own measure, as has happened to me before and may happen to me again. But in everyday life, as it impinges upon me and upon others, I find myself up against a mass of things I can't accept. I say these things are not inevitable , and that they depend upon the way society is organised.

Firstly, I want and I ask that my work have some meaning. I want to approve of its purpose and of how it is done. I want genuinely to involve myself in it, to make use of my faculties, to be a more complete person, to develop myself. I hold that this would be possible for me and for all others, if society were organised differently. It would already be a big change in that direction if I were allowed to decide (along with everyone else) what I have to do and (together with those I work with) how to do it.

I (and all of us) want to know what is going on in society, to control the extent and the quality of the information we are given. I want to take part, directly, in all the social decisions which will affect my existence, or which help shape the world in which I live. I don't accept that my fate should be decided, day after day, by people whose plans are hostile (or simply unknown) to me, and for whom I and everyone else are but figures in a plan or pawns on a chessboard. I reject the fact that, at the limit, my life and my death should be in the hands of people of whom I know that they can't see either me or others.

I know that bringing about a new kind of social organisation and making it live won't be easy. There will be difficult tasks at every turn. But I would prefer to get to grips with real problems than with the cynicism, double-talk or manipulations of our leaders. Should we fail in our endeavour, I would prefer failure in a meaningful attempt to a state of affairs which remains permanently on the wrong side of either failure or non-failure, that is simply derisory.

I want to meet others as an equal, and yet as someone absolutely different, not as a numbered object, not as a frog perched on another rung (whether higher or lower is of little matter) in the hierarchy of income and power. I want to see others, and for them to see me, as another human being; that our relationship be not a battleground of aggressions, that our rivalry remain within the limits of the game, that our conflicts (inasmuch as they can't be resolved or surmounted) be about real problems and real stakes, that they carry as little unconscious material as possible, that they be burdened as little as possible with things that are unreal. I wish that others may be free, for my freedom begins where that of others begins. 4 Alone, at best, I can only be 'virtuous in misfortune'. I don't count on people becoming angels, nor do I expect their souls to be as pure as mountain lakes - which incidentally have always bored me stiff. But I know how much our present set-up aggravates people's problems of existence - and of existence with others - and how vastly it increases the obstacles to our freedom.

I know for certain that my wish can't be realised today. Even were the revolution to take place tomorrow, my wish would not be fully achieved within my lifetime. I know that one day men and women will live for whom even the memory of problems which today cause us great anguish will no longer exist. That is my destiny. I have to accept it, and I do. But that does not reduce me either to despair or to a state of catatonic rumination. Wanting what I do, I can only act so as to bring it about. And I am already partly fulfilling myself in the choice that I make of the main interests in my life, in the work and time I put into trying to change things - a work full of significance for me (even if I meet in it - and have to accept - partial failure, delays, detours, tasks that have no meaning in themselves). I enjoy my participation in a collective of revolutionaries which tries to overcome the reified and alienated relationships of present-day society. If I had been born into a communist society, would happiness have come more easily my way? I don't know - and I can't do anything about it anyway. But I will not, under that pretext, spend all ray time glued to a TV set or reading thrillers.

Does my attitude reflect a refusal of the reality principle? But what is the content of that principle? Must one work? Must work necessarily be deprived of meaning, embody exploitation, always contradict its claimed objectives? Is the reality principle valid, in that form, for someone living on unearned income? For the inhabitants of Samoa? Up to what point does the reality principle reflect nature and where does it begin to reflect society? Up to what point does it manifest society as such, and from where on a given form of society? Is the critical point serfdom? The galleys? The concentration camps? From where would a philosophy acquire the right to tell me: 'here, at this precise level of existing institutions, I will show you the frontier between phenomenon and essence, between temporary historical forms and the eternal kernel of social systems'? I accept the reality principle because I accept work (as long, that is, as it is real - which each day becomes less evident) and the need for work to be socially organised. But I reject the invocation of a pseudo-psychoanalysis or of a pseudo-metaphysics which smuggle into the precise discussion of historical possibilities gratuitous affirmations about 'impossibilities' concerning which it knows precisely nothing.

Would such a wish be infantile? But the infantile situation is surely that in which everything in life is given to you, in which the Law is handed down to you. In the infantile situation you have life for no obvious reason and the Law is given on its own, with nothing more. No discussion is possible. What I want is the very opposite. It is to make my own life, to give life if possible, in any case to give for my life. I don't want the Law just handed down to me. I want, at one and the same time, to create it and to give it to myself. It is not the revolutionary who is permanently in the infantile situation. It is the conformist, or the non-political person. It is those who accept the Law without discussing it, without wishing to take part in its creation. Those who live in society with no thoughts about how it functions, with no political will, have only replaced their personal father with an anonymous social one.

What is infantile is the state of affairs where one receives without giving. It is the state where one does, or is, just in order to receive. What I want, to start with, is a fair exchange. Later, I want to go beyond exchange. The infantile situation is the dual relationship, the illusion of a fusion. It is today's society which is constantly infantilising everyone, by its fusion of the imaginary with unreal entities: leaders, cosmonauts, pop stars, national interest. I want society to cease at last to be a family (which is false, furthermore, to the point of being grotesque) and for it to acquire its proper dimension, namely a network of relationships between autonomous adults.

Is this a lust for power on my part? But what I want is to abolish power in the current sense of the word: I want power for all. Power in its present sense means thinking of and treating other people as things. Everything I want runs contrary to this. Those for whom others are things are themselves things. I don't want to be a thing, either for my own sake or for that of others. I don't want others to be things: I wouldn't know what to do with them. If I can exist for others, and be recognised by them, I don't want it to be because I have something external to me: power. Nor do I want to exist only in their imagination. The recognition of others is valid for me only inasmuch as I myself recognise them. Would I run the risk of forgetting all this, should events ever bring me close to the exercise of power? It seems to me most improbable. If it came about, it would be a battle lost, not the end of the war. Am I going to regulate my whole life upon the assumption that I may one day regress into childhood?

Am I pursuing an illusion, that of wanting to eliminate the tragic side of human existence? It seems to me, on the contrary, that I am seeking to eliminate the melodrama from life, the false tragedy - the one where unnecessary catastrophes occur, where all would have been different if only the actors had known this, or done that. It is a macabre farce that people should be dying of hunger in India, while in America and Europe governments penalise farmers who produce 'too much'. It is a Grand Guignol show, in which both corpses and suffering are real. But this is not tragedy: there is nothing inescapable about it. And if one day humanity perishes under H-bombs, I will refuse to call it tragedy; I will call it a monstrous fuck-up. I want the suppression of the Punch and Judy show. I want to stop people being turned into nonentities by other nonentities who 'govern' them. When a neurotic treads for the umpteenth time the same path of failure, recreating for himself and for those around him the same type of misfortune, to help him get out of it is to eliminate the grotesque farce, not the tragedy, from his life. It should help him discern at last the real problems of his life (and any tragic element they may contain) which the neurosis may partly have expressed, but more massively served to mask.


We are publishing this statement, in this particular issue, as a 'first-person-singular' antidote to the 'Why you should be a socialist' type of propaganda (John Strachey, Gollancz, 1938; Paul Foot, SWP, 1977) now flooding the movement. Bob Potter 5 and P.G. 6 have written excellent critiques of the leninism permeating Foot's political perspectives and shown up his very limited vision of 'socialism'. We here seek to take up an additional criticism.

The marxist left too often sees socialism as the disincarnated fulfilment of the 'logic' or of the 'dialectic' of history. For them, socialism is too often 'the answer to the contradictions of capitalism' or 'the removal of the capitalist brake on the development of the productive forces'. The revolution, for them, is 'not what this or that proletarian, or even the whole of the proletariat, at any moment, considers as its aim'. The question, for marxists, 'is what the proletariat is, and what - consequently on that being - it will be compelled to do' 7 - under the expert guidance, no doubt, of the vanguard party. Our text seeks, on the contrary, to root the vision of a new society not in mechanistic abstractions (or in middle class guilt, or in 'Third World voyeurism'), but in the everyday life of ordinary men and women - here and now.


BUSINESS CIVILISATION IN DECLINE by Robert L. Heilbroner. Marion Boyars, 1976. 124pp., £3.95" Also in paperback.

At a time of general preoccupation with analysing the latest crisis (or non-crisis) this review is an attempt to stand aside from the debate and look (with the author) into the future. I am not an economist, and thus am not concerned to provide an account of the book's inadequacies as a work of economics. I shall attempt to present Heilbroner's main argument and indicate some of its implications. I hope others will be stimulated to read the book (though not to pay its exhorbitant price) and provide the sort of analysis that I cannot.

The book comprises an amplification of essays initially published between 1965 and 1974. Heibroner cites his mentors as Marx 8 and Schumpeter 9 'without following either slavishly'. The major thesis is that '... the political apparatus within capitalism is steadily growing, enhancing its power, and usurping functions formerly delegated to the economic aphere - not to undo, but to preserve that sphere. In the end I think this same political expansion will be a major factor in the extinction of the business civilisation'. 10

Using the American experience RLH looks at 'The Immediate Future'., 'The Middle Distance' and 'The Long Run'. He starts by indicating three overlapping periods in the history of government intervention. From the earliest days as a colony to a heyday in the early/middle decades of the 19th century, government intruded into the economy as a direct stimulus to economic expansion itself: roads, canals, railroads and public-sector schools, etc.. Needless to day, this function of government has not come to an end. From about 1865, accelerating through the New Deal and peaking now, intervention appears in the proliferation of regulatory agencies. Such agencies have the prime function of regulating markets - often at the behest of the business community. Lastly, as from the New Deal period (1932 onwards), there has been the active use of central government's powers to bring the economy to an acceptable level of employment, growth and welfare.

It seems to me relatively unimportant that RLH cites only the history of the USA here. The sort of developments he discusses have occurred in all advanced capitalist countries, to a greater or lesser extent, in one form or another. The proliferation of regulatory agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission may be a mainly American phenomenon but some form of regulation occurs in most advanced economies, regardless of the differing forms it takes. Often it is proposed by the business community. Influential members of the City of London, and those who articulate their views, are well aware, for example, that regulation is required to stop the repeated occurrence of IOS and Slater Walker scandals; thus they encouraged the formation of a Government Inquiry into their own affairs (even though they might not have chosen Harold Wilson to chair it). Most governments have adopted Keynesian policies. Most governments encourage investment in productive enterprise - either by doing it themselves (e.g. the Italian IRI and ENI; perhaps the British NEB), or by providing a favourable framework of incentives for business, or both.

Heilbroner proceeds to identify difficulties, present in varying degrees in all capitalist economies, that are likely to accelerate this trend of increased state intervention:
a) the continued propensity to develop generalised disorders (e.g. inflation, depressions);
b) the tendency to develop serious localised disorders (e.g. the near-breakdown of mass transportation in the USA in the early '70s, resulting in 'Amtrak'; the near collapse of the financial structure in the USA and Western Europe in the same period; urban insolvency);
c) dangers imposed by a constricting environment (overrunning the resource base before technological remedies can be found, ecology).

None of these problems, nor the consequent increase in government intervention are seen as necessitating any alteration in 'the inertial core of social privilege'.

The extrapolation into the 'Middle Distance' is presented fully cognisant that previous attempts (the Marxian and the Liberal 'end of ideology') have failed. Both, RLH avers, held the primacy of the economic machinery of capitalism in setting the tone and temper of its political and social life. This is no longer valid. Since 1945 we have witnessed '...the rise of the political superstructure to a position of much greater equality with, and now indeed to a prospective position of superiority over, the economic mechanism'. 11 The prognosis for the period 25-30 years hence attempts to identify potential strains and challenges to business civilisation.

Firstly, perhaps surprisingly, the problem of affluence. Heilbroner doesn't foresee any general lowering of all incomes, nor the elimination of the social security net, but does believe that inflation (a major constituent of which is the enhanced power of labour) will be a continuing 'problem'. He also foresees problems in the ability of society to get its 'dirty jobs' done - unsolved by automation, partly because of resource difficulties, partly because of the loss of purchasing power it might entail. What he could have mentioned, but doesn't, is that these tasks are frequently undertaken by Third World immigrants. (In fact nowhere does he discuss, in more than three lines, the possibility of racial conflict in the future.)

Secondly, the common technology of all capitalisms affects social structures, leading to a hierarchical organisation of work (hardly new - S.A.C.) and to a coordinating bureaucracy. RLH sees the conflict of the future as being between not Capital and Labour but Capital and the elite of the bureaucratic technostructure.

Thirdly, the need to establish effective social control over technologies holding the capacity for enormous social mischief, i.e. social censorship over the advance of science.

Finally, RLH notes (as his 'firmest generalisation') that '... its problems are at least as much rooted in the nature of industrial society as ... in capitalism proper' 12 He proceeds to identify these problems in 'Socialism', and analyses the merits and demerits of East and West as regards their abilities to meet them:

'This is not to say that capitalist and socialist nations will not have their general differences in coping with common problems. The capitalist group brings with it the obsolete privileges of inherited wealth, of acquisitiveness as a dubious source of social morale, of a clash between a "business" outlook of decreasing relevance and a technical-planning outlook of uncertain strength. On the other hand, these nations generally enjoy parliamentary forms of government that, if they withstand the transition through planning, may provide useful channels for social adaptation. On the socialist side we find the advantage of economic systems stripped of the mystique of "private ownership" and the presumed legitimacy and superiority of the workings of the market. On the negative side is the cumbersomeness of their present planning machinery, their failure to develop incentives superior to capitalism, and above all, their still restrictive political attitudes.

'In the middle run, then, it seems plausible that the economic institutions of socialism may prove superior to those of planned capitalism, whereas the political institutions of capitalism may present advantages over those of socialism (as matters now stand). The hope, of course, is that we can combine the two...' 13

In 'The Long Run', both systems face the blunting, and ultimate halting, of the drive for growth through resource limitations and pollution exacerbated through intensified exploitation by poorer nations trying to catch up, the antagonism between rich and poor nations, and nuclear proliferation - perhaps mitigated by technology and the development of synthetics. But capitalism has problems that are specific to itself - and they are all related to the blunting of the drive for growth. Firstly, the constriction of the expansive drive: the progressive elimination of the profits that are the means and ends of the accumulation of private property. For Heilbroner this implies the end of property rights as we know them, since it will have become '...impossible to satisfy the claims of the working majority by granting it ever larger absolute amounts of real income ... that do not come out of the pockets of the rich but out of larger total output'. 14

Secondly, the expansion of the planning apparatus. Thirdly, the erosion of the 'spirit' of capitalism, i.e. changes in the value structure - a waning belief in the ability of a business civilisation to provide social morale. The 'hollowness at the centre' has two aspects: the tendency to substitute impersonal pecuniary values for personal non-pecuniary ones, e.g. in advertising and sport; and a disregard for the value of work:

'A business civilisation regards work as a means to an end, not as an end to itself. The end is profit, income, consumption, economic growth or whatever; but the act of labour itself is regarded as nothing more than an unfortunate necessity to which we must submit to obtain this end ... the business civilisation carries the disregard of work far beyond what is required by the objective necessities of survival even at a fairly high level of material enjoyment'. 15

A commonplace? Perhaps, But Heilbroner concludes that:

' the very time that the mechanism of the business system must prepare to undergo an unprecedented trial, the participants in the system cannot be expected to rally to its defence with enthusiasm .." economic patriotism is on the decline, especially for believers in the orthodox capitalist faith'. 16

Within his overview of the next century Heilbroner has also glanced at related problems: whether industrialism is the society of the future and whether the rise of the multinational corporation heralds a new phase of capitalism. His answer to the first question is qualified. If postindustrial is defined as post-capitalist, then we shall witness 'a system in which the traditional problems of capitalism will give way to a new set of problems related to the altered organisational structure of a postindustrial world' 17 - one with an enhanced trend towards hierarchy, bureaucracy and concentrated economic power, a 'tertiary' sector increasing at the expense of the 'primary', and vulnerable to the threat of labour stoppage. Above all, it will feature '...the exertion of active control in place of passive submission (corresponding) directly with the elevation of the political will over the blind interplay of economic forces. society thus becomes that period of economic history in which men (!) make their boldest attempt to escape from the thraldom of social forces over which they hitherto exercised no control'. 18 This begs a large question and will be returned to later. RLH also concludes that the multinational corporation does not herald a new phase of capitalism. While not denying their influence, their malpractices abroad are not new. They are not multinational but rather national companies operating abroad. And in accordance with his general view, Heilbroner sees them as likely to succumb to planification and the exertion of the political will mentioned above. This could be accomplished in any number of ways.

So what is the future of capitalism? Naturally the answers will differ according to the country concerned, but in the near future

'...the emerging economic structure will ... be characterised by large, bureaucratic corporations, organised into a viable whole by a planning agency that attempts to reconcile the drive for business profits with the evident need to curtail activity in some areas and to encourage it in others ... the planning agency will also seek to avoid disasters, either at the macro or micro level, that threaten the business system as a whole'. 19

This is almost straight Schumpeter - indeed, I regard the debt to Schumpeter as rather larger than that to Marx, although Schumpeter acknowledged a debt there too. For the latter '...Capitalism, whilst economically stable, and even gaining in stability, creates, by rationilising the human mind, a mentality and a style of life incompatible with its own fundamental conditions, motives and social institutions, and will be changed, although not by economic, necessity and probably even at some sacrifice of economic welfare, into an order of things which it will be merely a matter of taste and terminology to call socialism or not'. 20

Perhaps it is odd to use a conservative social theorist to make the following point? While the 'Futureworld' envisaged1 by Schumpeter and Heilbroner may also be that envisaged by Social-Democrats, Stalinists and Trotskyists, it is not that envisaged by Solidarity and groups like it. Heilbroner admittedly mentions hierarchy, bureaucracy, and capitalism's disregard for the value of work, but seems not to conceive of the possibility of a radical transformation in productive relationships (or their equivalent in other areas of society). Schumpeter and Heilbroner may be conservatives; Social-Democrats, Stalinists and Trots, 'radicals'. But ultimately they are all ideologues of the same sort of society: state capitalism, which for their varying reasons they all identify with socialism. And they'd all love to get their sweaty little hands on Heilbroner's 'planning agency'.

The significance of this book seems to me to be its recognition that state capitalism will (unless working people decide otherwise - S.A.C.) come about sooner or later through bourgeois politics - it will be the creation of conservatism. In the British context, it means that it is quite irrelevant whether Labour (with or without 'illusions') or Conservative is in power. If the latter, the options chosen will, in all probability, be different from those chosen by the former (however 'radical' or 'left') if only because the Labour Party has an obsession with nationalisation. Conservatives, while genuinely believing that the future lies with backward-looking economists such as Milton Friedman (almost an inevitable phenomenon at a time like this) will usually - but not always - opt for less blatant forms of social control. But the long-term result will be little different. If the Conservative Party 'wins' the next General Election, it is quite possible that they will be without an overall majority in Parliament - hence dependent on the support of other parties. Who knows? Who really cares? An increasing number of the major decisions are taken by the bureaucracy, upon which the parliamentary process has little effect. We may expect to see the Official Representatives of Labour continuing some form of 'social contract' under a new name, but with doubtless more 'left' rhetoric. The incorporation of the TUC as a de facto arm of the state will proceed further, as it has done for fifty years. Electing more 'Lefts' onto it may alter the balance of rhetoric but it will make it not one whit more representative of the interests of working people, nor will it bring us any closer to socialism.

Heilbroner has implicitly posited a form of 'convergence theory' by acknowledging that many of the problems capitalism will face in the future will be shared by 'industrial socialism', i.e. the bureaucratic state capitalisms of the East. Heilbroner transcends 'capitalist breakdown' by showing that capitalism can, and will, survive its future problems by altering its form. And of course there will be forms beyond state capitalism (not necessarily socialism). State capitalism may well be the period in which political will is asserted over the blind forces of economic life. However, our own period provides enough examples of the 'benefits' of such assertion at the 'systemic' level: the 'what's good for capitalism/"socialism"/The Party/The City, etc., ad nauseam, is good for the individual' argument. Benefits defined in terms of individual control over productive (and other) relationships, and confidence in one's own abilities, have a negative value. And the only factor that can change it all would be the decision of working people not to share a Brave New World that, in its essential features, will be Oh, so Old!


Published by SOLIDARITY (London), c/o 123 Lathom Road, E.6. - August 8, 1977

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Solidarity for workers' power: Detailed Bibliography

Detailed bibliography of the Solidarity (London) publication.

detailed-bibliography-solidarity-london.pdf188.29 KB