A leaflet distributed by Solidarity at a May Day demonstration in London, probably in the early 1960s (perhaps 1961) advertising one of their meetings and promoting socialism from below as opposed to the statist socialism of the Labour Party or the USSR.
’A WORLD TO WIN…’
On May Day we demonstrate and reaffirm our belief in internationalism, socialism, and workers' power.
THE TRADITIONAL PARTIES
The Labour and Communist Parties do not stand for these things. They stand for societies in which there are rulers and ruled, wage-slavery, rich and poor, officers and men, order-givers and order-takers. They stand for societies in which the State (courts, police and army) maintains and strengthens these divisions. Khruschev denounces egalitarianism and praises one-man management of industry. Wilson wants to change our rulers. Out with the Old Etonians! Forward the technocratic elite!
In the West, the power and wealth of those who rule us are based on the private ownership of the means of production. In the East, a privileged bureaucracy collectively exploits the workers. It collectively manages production and, through its control of the State, determines the distribution of the social product.
Both East and West these parties have become obstacles to the emancipation of labour. They stand for a society in which exploitation will be ‘rationalised’, the worker totally tied to production, and people will be constantly manipulated both in consumption and in leisure. Khruschev talks of introducing a labour passport. Wilson would like time-and-motion study introduced into every workshop and office in the country.
Both East and West the traditional parties conspire to maintain the workers in ignorance of what is done in their name. Under a peacetime Labour Government, Britain began the manufacture of the Atom Bomb. It was only many years later that the people were informed of the decision (which had not even been discussed in Parliament). At the time of the Cuba crisis when the world was on the brink of destruction, the Russian people were officially told that there were no Russian missiles on the island. In 1956 they had been told the Hungarian Revolution was a fascist putsch!
Out rulers still try to sell us the shopworn wares of nationalism and patriotism. Militarist propaganda pits nation against nation. Employers talk of competition and markets. They set the workers in one country against those of another. Those who echo them, like the trade union leaders, seek to tie the workers of all lands to the productive machine of their respective bosses.
Today the Labour and Communist Parties both preach nationalism. Labour ex-ministers go to the House of Lords, and the Communist Party marches, on May Day, with the Union Jack at its head. Wilson talks of ‘modernising Britain’ to keep her ‘competitive’. He reassures the employers they will have nothing to fear from a Labour Government. Gollan talks of ‘British Independence’ from American economic penetration. He denounces ‘German rearmament’ (as though German militarism was worse than the British).
We still believe that ‘the working class has no country’ and that for revolutionaries ‘the main enemy is always in one’s own country.’
WHO DOMINATES PRODUCTION?
The traditional organisations have a degenerated conception of what socialism is all about. Socialism is not primarily about more production and ‘better’ organisation. It is about freedom, freedom in the most real, down-to-earth sense: freedom of people in their everyday lives and activities, freedom to decide collectively how much to produce, how much to consume, how much to work, how much to rest. Freedom to decide, collectively and individually, what to consume, how to produce and how to work. Freedom to participate in determining the orientation of society. And freedom to direct one’s own life within this social framework.
Who dominates production dominates society. Nowhere in the world do working people, the large mass of society, dominate production. Everywhere management decides, the workers just carry out. That is why East and West are both class societies.
Yet in production is born the embryo of the new society. New methods, new values and new relations are constantly created: shop-floor solidarity, the shop stewards movement. At a higher level, at certain periods of history, the workers’ councils or soviets. It is no accident that these spontaneous ‘new’ kinds of organisations, controlled from below and with mass participation, have repeatedly been thrown up throughout the last hundred years. 1871: the Paris Commune. 1905: Russia. 1917: Russia again. 1936: Spain. 1956: Hungary.
THE REVOLUTIONARY ORGANISATION
‘The main ideas of each epoch are the ideas of its ruling class’. Capitalist ideas constantly seep into our social consciousness. The reformist organisations have completely assimilated them. They even permeate the so-called ‘revolutionary’ organisations. Hence the belief that the working class needs a ‘general staff’, a ‘vanguard’, a ‘leadership’, and that socialism will be brought about when particular, well-disciplined elites capture state power and expertly manipulate the economy from above. Fabians and Bolsheviks share these typically capitalist conceptions.
But centralisation, hierarchical and bureaucratic organisations of this type have only—and can only—create societies in their own image. ‘The emancipation of the working class must be the task of the working class itself’. This task cannot be delegated to anyone, not even to a Party which claims to act ‘on behalf of the working class’. Such parties may start off with the best of motives. They end by becoming the rallying point of new bureaucracies and obstacles in the road to total emancipation.
Socialism will mean that each and every person will participate in decision-taking at every level. ‘Under socialism all will govern in turn and will soon become accustomed to no one governing’. The struggle for socialism needs an organisation built on consciously anti-bureaucratic lines. Such an organisation should seek to mirror the future of society, and not its capitalist past!