Workplace Democracy

Submitted by JonnyMadFox on October 24, 2023

Hi Guys.

We urgently need an alternative to capitalism. And concret things that people can relate to, at least in their imagination. The best thing seems to be workplace democracy, coops or more radical models. Richard D. Wolff does good work on this, and most importantly: HE REACHES PEOPLE.

Additionally we need a grass-roots movement, which demands and advocates workplace democracy and does demonstrations, organizes people around this topic and so on. If Extinction Rebellion can do this with climate change issues, we can do the same with workplace democracy. I think the bigger point is not so much to demand a concret model of workplace democracy, but more to get the idea into people’s heads.

OK. I'am from Germany and I thought about starting such a movement. First I want to create flyers and pamphlets, go to the city and give it to people and talk about it. Then I organize a meeting date. When there are enough people, we can actually start a movement. I got enough convincing arguments. Let's GO!!

westartfromhere

7 months 1 week ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on October 24, 2023

My spouse and I are both workers in UK. Our workplaces at most include only two other workers. Between these workers there already exists democracy in the sense that we are free to interact in whatever manner we wish to get the work done. Understandably this is not the scenario for all workers but atomisation of the sort we work under is a general trend amongst the working class.

Pamphleting, on whatever cause is worthwhile for our class, is a worthwhile endeavor and helps to break down atomisation, and can be fun outside of the ordinary fun.

As to movements of the oppressed, these associations spring up when a necessity for them arises. There is no need for activism, voluntarism, on your part. WE ARE GOING....

Craftwork

7 months 1 week ago

Submitted by Craftwork on October 24, 2023

Workers' self-management (autogestion) is not an alternative to capitalism; all businesses are forced to operate according to the logic of the market economy, focusing on profit maximisation. Changing the way that they are owned or managed won't affect this.

Bordiga provided an effective critique of this strategy (https://www.marxists.org/archive/bordiga/works/1920/seize-power.htm):

It is rumoured that factory councils, where they were in existence, functioned by taking over the management of the workshops and carrying on the work. We would not like the working masses to get hold of the idea that all they need do to take over the factories and get rid or the capitalists is set up councils. This would indeed be a dangerous illusion. The factory will be conquered by the working class – and not only by the workforce employed in it, which would be too weak and non-communist – only after the working class as a whole has seized political power. Unless it has done so, the Royal Guards, military police, etc. – in other words, the mechanism of force and oppression that the bourgeoisie has at its disposal, its political power apparatus – will see to it that all illusions are dispelled.

westartfromhere

7 months 1 week ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on October 24, 2023

What does Bordiga mean by conquering the factory? And what does he mean by seizing political power?

Personally, I found factory production as an operative deadening. I don't think it would be anything other than that for me.

Political power must be abolished, not seized.

I see that he is described as "more Leninist than Lenin" and I can find no reference to him working in a factory or any other sort of productive labour. Was he just a bookworm?

Submitted by Craftwork on October 24, 2023

westartfromhere wrote: What does Bordiga mean by conquering the factory? And what does he mean by seizing political power?

Personally, I found factory production as an operative deadening. I don't think it would be anything other than that for me.

Political power must be abolished, not seized.

I see that he is described as "more Leninist than Lenin" and I can find no reference to him working in a factory or any other sort of productive labour. Was he just a bookworm?

Does taking over individual workplaces do anything to abolish capitalism? No. The state is the central administrative and repressive institution of capitalist society.

Political power cannot be abolished whilst we live in a capitalist world, divided into competing nation-states. Whenever proletarian revolutions have broken out (e.g. Paris 1871, Russia 1917), they have been encircled and violently suppressed by counterrevolutionary forces.

Any successful proletarian revolution which is limited to a particular locale/territory will therefore face hostile actions from capitalist powers, and it will be necessary for the proletariat to govern and defend the territory it controls against hostile forces by having an army, in other words a dictatorship of the proletariat must exist prior to world socialism.

Various forms of “workers’ control” have been posited as potential, alternatives to the market, but popular mobilisation alone is unviable as a co-ordinating mechanism for production, and fundamentally less capable than the self-sustaining dynamics of a market, which can only be replaced by global, computerised planning. Instances of workers’ control in revolutionary Russia or Spain only made sense as emergency measures but were otherwise dysfunctional.

The economic policy of a proletarian dictatorship will have to limit itself to management of a market economy in which the commanding heights+profits are socialised, until full communism can eradicate the market economy.

Bordiga was an engineer.

JonnyMadFox

7 months 1 week ago

Submitted by JonnyMadFox on October 24, 2023

Cooperatives can be an alternative to capitalism. At least when done right. I see no other practical concret alternative which can be implemented. That's like the minimum we should demand in this society where no ones knows what to do.

Submitted by Craftwork on October 24, 2023

JonnyMadFox wrote: Cooperatives can be an alternative to capitalism. At least when done right. I see no other practical concret alternative which can be implemented. That's like the minimum we should demand in this society where no ones knows what to do.

Cooperatives are businesses that produce commodities for sale on the market. Like all businesses they need to remain profitable in order to exist. They operate within the framework of the market economy, not outside of it, and are therefore not an alternative to capitalism.

The bourgeoisie historically superseded the aristocracy by outcompeting it, first economically (by earning more), then politically (political reforms/revolution). The proletariat cannot supersede the wealth of the bourgeoisie, and thus eclipse it economically, since its most valuable asset is only its labour power. It can only do so politically, as the numerically superior class, organising itself into a political force that overthrows the old world.

adri

7 months 1 week ago

Submitted by adri on October 24, 2023

Cooperatives are capitalism. Just because workers take on the role of managing businesses themselves doesn't mean that they wouldn't still be subjected to the same pressures as any other top-down capitalist enterprise. I'd also take most of what Richard Wolff writes with a grain of salt. Whether intentional or not, he distorts Marx quite a bit (such as in his book Understanding Marxism) in order to make him out to be some advocate of Wolff's "worker self-directed enterprises" (i.e. worker cooperatives). Luxemburg, who Wolff has praised in the past without ever seeming to have actually read—the same with Marx—also said it well when she wrote,

Luxemburg wrote: Cooperatives, especially in the field of production, constitute a hybrid form in the midst of capitalism. They can be described as small units of socialized production within capitalist exchange.

But in capitalist economy exchange dominates production (that is, production depends to a large extent on market possibilities). As a result of competition, the complete domination of the process of production by the interests of capital—that is, pitiless exploitation—becomes a condition for the survival of each enterprise. The domination of capital over the process of production expresses itself in the following ways. Labor is intensified. The workday is lengthened or shortened, according to the situation of the market. And, depending on the requirements of the market, labor is either employed or thrown back into the street. In other words, use is made of all methods that enable an enterprise to stand up against its competitors in the market. The workers forming a cooperative in the field of production are thus faced with the contradictory necessity of governing themselves with the utmost absolutism. They are obliged to take toward themselves the role of capitalist entrepreneur—a contradiction that accounts for the failure of production cooperatives, which either become pure capitalist enterprises or, if the workers' interests continue to predominate, end by dissolving.

In other words, workers in a cooperative would still be forced to compete with other enterprises or else be steamrolled by the competition. They would also be subjected to the same vagaries of the market as any other capitalist enterprise. "Democratizing" capitalist social relations also just ignores how capitalism is awash with completely pointless and destructive industries (e.g. automobile production and the fossil fuel industry, to a large extent) that would never exist in any rational system of production.

The real alternative to capitalism is not isolated cooperatives competing with one another in the market, but rather producers directly associating with one another in order to meet society's needs, without the mediation of money or the market.

If you need another reason to ignore Wolff, he also did an event with Boots Riley and Andrew Kliman, in which he and Riley defended Stalin and other totalitarian regimes masquerading as "socialist."

JonnyMadFox

7 months 1 week ago

Submitted by JonnyMadFox on October 24, 2023

Sry. I know all the critique of worker coops and workplace democracy. But it seems to be the most viable idea to create something new. And, most importantly, it is something of which we have experience and with which we can reach people. I see no other way. These theoretical musings are nice, but practically they do nothing. We have to reach people and stop these high in the sky discussions.

JonnyMadFox

7 months 1 week ago

Submitted by JonnyMadFox on October 24, 2023

We need a workplace democracy movement. Richard D. Wolff in the US can be a starting place. Even if the goal is to get the idea into people’s heads. That would be a minimum improvement. Also i think this would resonate very well with quiet quitters!!

adri

7 months 1 week ago

Submitted by adri on October 24, 2023

We need a workplace democracy movement. Richard D. Wolff in the US can be a starting place. Even if the goal is to get the idea into people’s heads. That would be a minimum improvement. Also i think this would resonate very well with quiet quitters!!

If you want to follow some charlatan and liar, who thinks that criticism of Stalin should be tempered with a recognition of some of his "many achievements," and go democratize a McDonald's or oil-drilling operation (on a Native American reservation in the American Southwest perhaps?), then be my guest. Just know that you won't be posing any alternative to capitalism and the countless social and ecological problems stemming from it, chief among them being world-wide poverty and the adverse effects of climate change.

Do you think Bangladeshi or Chinese garment workers can just decide to "work slower," without risking contracts with Western retailers, once they democratize their sweatshops? What about the capitalist sweatshops who don't do any of that? Wouldn't these more "efficient/productive" companies have a leg up on you? Are you going to be a "responsible" oil-drilling or mining company, which somehow finds the resources to not cut corners or pollute the environment, once you throw off the yoke of authoritarian managers?

Submitted by JonnyMadFox on October 24, 2023

adri wrote:

We need a workplace democracy movement. Richard D. Wolff in the US can be a starting place. Even if the goal is to get the idea into people’s heads. That would be a minimum improvement. Also i think this would resonate very well with quiet quitters!!

If you want to follow some charlatan and liar, who thinks that criticism of Stalin should be tempered with a recognition of some of his "many achievements," and go democratize a McDonald's or oil-drilling operation (on a Native American reservation in the American Southwest perhaps?), then be my guest. Just know that you won't be posing any alternative to capitalism and the countless social and ecological problems stemming from it, chief among them being world-wide poverty and the adverse effects of climate change.

Do you think Bangladeshi or Chinese garment workers can just decide to "work slower," without risking contracts with Western retailers, once they democratize their sweatshops? What about the capitalist sweatshops who don't do any of that? Wouldn't these more "efficient/productive" companies have a leg up on you? Are you going to be a "responsible" oil-drilling or mining company, which somehow finds the resources to not cut corners or pollute the environment, once you throw off the yoke of authoritarian managers?

So, id like to hear your proposal for what we should fight and how we can reach people, be concret as possible. Otherwise you just belong to, what i call, reactionary left, who don't really want change, they just want to talk abour their theory

Agent of the I…

7 months 1 week ago

Submitted by Agent of the I… on October 24, 2023

I can't speak for adri but other posters like myself favor syndicalism as a viable strategy to abolish capitalism and the state. You should look into it.

Submitted by westartfromhere on October 24, 2023

Craftwork wrote:

westartfromhere wrote: What does Bordiga mean by conquering the factory? And what does he mean by seizing political power?

Personally, I found factory production as an operative deadening. I don't think it would be anything other than that for me.

Political power must be abolished, not seized.

Does taking over individual workplaces do anything to abolish capitalism? No. The state is the central administrative and repressive institution of capitalist society.

Political power cannot be abolished whilst we live in a capitalist world, divided into competing nation-states. Whenever proletarian revolutions have broken out (e.g. Paris 1871, Russia 1917), they have been encircled and violently suppressed by counterrevolutionary forces.

Hi Craftwork, you quote me but then answer our German friend's proposition. I haven't suggested that individual capital's democratised can form the basis of communism. My point was that factories are innately dehumanising under whatever form of ownership. I don't have much notion of what means of producing can replace the factory system. My thoughts are craft work on a mass scale.

Political power is abolished whenever the working class rise. The reason that the Paris Commune and the revolution in Europe after 1917 was suppressed was because it fell back on political power and opposed anarchy. The working class has learned its lesson. The revolutionary movement of today refuses all political leadership.

Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.

The dictatorship of the proletariat is not a seizure of political power as the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party instituted, or that Bordiga envisaged. It is a transition out of political rule, to anarchy.

Agent of the I wrote:
...posters like myself favor syndicalism as a viable strategy to abolish capitalism and the state.

Unions, whether they be Trade Unions, base unions, or syndicalist, always act as arbitrators of commerce. Only the bond of union between the proletariat brings about anarchy, socialism, communism and finally the form of human society.

Submitted by Anarcho on October 25, 2023

Craftwork wrote:
Does taking over individual workplaces do anything to abolish capitalism? No. The state is the central administrative and repressive institution of capitalist society.

Taking over workplaces by the workers is an essential step in the process of abolish capitalism. Obviously -- as anarchists have long pointed out -- this will put you in conflict with the state and the struggle needs to extend to abolishing the State as well. But it is hard to envision a social revolution without workplaces being expropriated by those who work in them and then being placed under workers' self-management.

Political power cannot be abolished whilst we live in a capitalist world, divided into competing nation-states. Whenever proletarian revolutions have broken out (e.g. Paris 1871, Russia 1917), they have been encircled and violently suppressed by counterrevolutionary forces.

You are confusing defence of the revolution with "political power", a common Marxist mistake.

Any successful proletarian revolution which is limited to a particular locale/territory will therefore face hostile actions from capitalist powers, and it will be necessary for the proletariat to govern and defend the territory it controls against hostile forces by having an army, in other words a dictatorship of the proletariat must exist prior to world socialism.

Yet the Leninist schema is not that the proletariat governs the freed territory but rather the party does. Bordiga was clear on this, arguing for "the dictatorship of the party" -- which was Bolshevik orthodoxy by 1919 and then exported to the world socialist movement.

Various forms of “workers’ control” have been posited as potential, alternatives to the market, but popular mobilisation alone is unviable as a co-ordinating mechanism for production, and fundamentally less capable than the self-sustaining dynamics of a market, which can only be replaced by global, computerised planning. Instances of workers’ control in revolutionary Russia or Spain only made sense as emergency measures but were otherwise dysfunctional.

But nowhere near as dysfunctional as the Bolshevik attempts to centrally run the economy in 1919 to 1921... and, really, if you postulate a global planning system then be aware of how many variables are involved -- not to mention the bureaucracy needed to identify, gather, process, communicate and so on the various needs and facts of billions of people, millions of products, workplaces, communities, etc. Invoking "computers" is no answer but would suggest an unawareness of the issues.

Still, this sort of glib comment is commonplace in Marxist circles -- starting with Marx in The Poverty of Philosophy (as I discuss here: https://anarchism.pageabode.com/proudhons-constituted-value-and-the-myth-of-labour-notes/

And, before any one says anything, I'm not advocating mutualism just pointing out the problems with central planning -- libertarian communists will need to understand the issues and move beyond glib comments.

The economic policy of a proletarian dictatorship will have to limit itself to management of a market economy in which the commanding heights+profits are socialised, until full communism can eradicate the market economy.

So a system of co-operatives within a market economy is bad but the party's dictatorship over a market economy is good? The difference being what?

In terms of Wolfe, I have reviewed one of his books here: https://anarchism.pageabode.com/review-democracy-at-work-a-cure-for-capitalism/

I should also note the irony of Bordiga writing: "At this time, such a party should and would have no other task than that of directing all its activity towards making the working masses increasingly conscious of the need for this grand political attack – the only more or less direct route to the take-over of the factory, which if any other route is taken may never fall into their hands at all."

So workers actually taking-over the factory is not the "direct route" of taking over the workplace? Rather, it is getting the party into power -- who will then do what? Pass a law nationalising the workplaces? And in the meantime, what are we to do? Work for bosses? Watch them close down the workplace?

All in all, it is like Kropotkin never wrote a word. It is clear why the Italian revolution of 1920 failed, with people like Bordiga about.

westartfromhere

7 months 1 week ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on October 25, 2023

Anarcho, thank you for sharing your critique of Marx in relation to Proudhon's philosophy of poverty. I only know about Marx's material poverty. Just to note, whilst Proudhon was the first to proclaim himself "anarchist", it was Marx that advocated "For the party of anarchy".

Submitted by Craftwork on October 25, 2023

westartfromhere wrote:

Craftwork wrote:
westartfromhere wrote: What does Bordiga mean by conquering the factory? And what does he mean by seizing political power?

Personally, I found factory production as an operative deadening. I don't think it would be anything other than that for me.

Political power must be abolished, not seized.

Does taking over individual workplaces do anything to abolish capitalism? No. The state is the central administrative and repressive institution of capitalist society.

Political power cannot be abolished whilst we live in a capitalist world, divided into competing nation-states. Whenever proletarian revolutions have broken out (e.g. Paris 1871, Russia 1917), they have been encircled and violently suppressed by counterrevolutionary forces.

Hi Craftwork, you quote me but then answer our German friend's proposition. I haven't suggested that individual capital's democratised can form the basis of communism. My point was that factories are innately dehumanising under whatever form of ownership. I don't have much notion of what means of producing can replace the factory system. My thoughts are craft work on a mass scale.

Political power is abolished whenever the working class rise. The reason that the Paris Commune and the revolution in Europe after 1917 was suppressed was because it fell back on political power and opposed anarchy. The working class has learned its lesson. The revolutionary movement of today refuses all political leadership.

Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.

The dictatorship of the proletariat is not a seizure of political power as the Russian Social Democratic Labour

1. "Innately dehumanising" is your opinion, and more an ethical/sentimental judgement than any kind of useful analysis. Factories are necessary for producing efficiently, at scale, and for specialised production. I don't believe craft work is scaleable, and can actually be more wasteful and environmentally harmful in some instances. In reality, there will always be a mixture of different forms of production, but for specialised equipment, or medicines, or things that need to be produced with precision (e.g. equipment for human space exploration), factories are necessary.

2. Political power is not abolished as long as class society exists and the class struggle is unfinished. Class society is, by definition, a field of competing interests, and either the one or the other must come to dominate the rest of society. Neither in the Paris Commune nor in the Makhnovist Ukraine was political power abolished, but instead committees of the working-class in arms exercised power over society, and wielded the machinery of repression (e.g. the Kontrrazvedka) against its class enemies. The Paris Commune made laws, issued decrees, and repressed class enemies (e.g. Priests), thus its members had political power.

3. "The dictatorship of the proletariat is not a seizure of political power as the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party instituted, or that Bordiga envisaged. It is a transition out of political rule, to anarchy." - Is it not necessary for the revolutionary working-class to organise itself in order to defend its revolution and help aid the revolution in other territories? If you answer in the affirmative, then you accept that we are dealing with a dictatorship of the proletariat, which is fighting for anarchy, but has not achieved it.

Anarcho:

1. It's possible that workplace occupations may arise spontaneously in the course of a mass strike, but this is quite different from advocating it as the principal aim of workers in order to get rid of capitalism, which is what OP is suggesting.

2. "You are confusing defence of the revolution with "political power", a common Marxist mistake", I'm not. I just don't deny that as long as different classes exist, and the armed working-class (and poor peasantry) enforce policies that go against the interests of other classes, then that is political power.

3. "Yet the Leninist schema is not that the proletariat governs the freed territory but rather the party does. Bordiga was clear on this, arguing for "the dictatorship of the party" -- which was Bolshevik orthodoxy by 1919 and then exported to the world socialist movement." As you are aware, there are many different schemas for dictatorship of the proletariat for Marxists.

4. In some instances it was the factory committees themselves in Russia that advocated nationalisation of factories, since fuel, transportation, and raw materials couldn't be obtained and amidst the economic crisis, employers simply gave-up. NEP stabilised the economy after the Civil War, but benefitted the peasantry/rural economy, at the expense of the proletariat, the urban areas, and industry. The Soviet Union thus embarked on the course of the Five Year Plan, rapid industrialisation, and collectivisation of agriculture to break the class power of the peasantry. It was capable of simple industrialisation, but as it grew more complex and consumer-oriented, after Stalin, it faltered.

I don't believe the specific problems faced by revolutionary Russia in 1918 to 1921 are necessarily what we will face in the future, we are at a much greater stage of development. But I believe a system of moneyless, in-kind planning (socialism) can only be viable on a global scale, and the existence of a high degree of development+education are necessary conditions for socialism. Until then, the economic policy of a proletarian dictatorship fighting in a capitalist world will look like what is commonly (mis)labelled as "market socialism"; money, markets, and businesses will need to carry on existing in order to keep goods flowing.

At the same time, the present-day state, with all its functions (healthcare, pensions, cybersecurity), is too complicated to be abolished. The state and many of its functions will persist under the hegemony of the proletariat.