Brinton's The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control [split from 'Communal Councils' in Venezuela]

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Feb 9 2007 10:23
Brinton's The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control [split from 'Communal Councils' in Venezuela]
Joseph K. wrote:
jonny, though you still haven't said where you're coming from (anarchist, leninist, undecided, other ...), i would highly recommend reading The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control by Maurice Brinton - i'm re-reading it at the moment on account of these Venezuela discussions, and some of the parallels wrt justifications for state involvement in popular organs are striking.

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Feb 7 2007 08:49
Devrim wrote:
I re-read it last month Joseph. It has some good documentation, but shocking politics, especially in the introduction.

the advocacy of 'self-management' (presumably of capital) you mean? yeah i'm more re-reading it for chronology and to see the anti-proletarian arguments/policies deployed in the name of revolution. maybe this is another thread.

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Feb 9 2007 14:24

For your info:

Workers Power and the Russian Revolution
A review of Maurice Brinton’s For Workers Power
http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=41&ItemID=7614

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Feb 9 2007 15:02

And for anyone who wants to read it, it is here
http://libcom.org/library/the-bolsheviks-and-workers-control-solidarity-...

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Feb 9 2007 15:03
revol68 wrote:
Devrim wrote:
I re-read it last month Joseph. It has some good documentation, but shocking politics, especially in the introduction.

Devrim

care to expand?

Yeah, I'm interested too. I read it fairly recently and didn't notice anything glaring...

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Feb 9 2007 17:22

Well I know one criticism an older comrade mentioned that Brinton relied pretty heavilly on secondary translations of Russian materials. I also don't think he does justice to just how deep the economic crisis in the Russian Economy was, as well as how poor the factory committees were at coordinating production.

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Feb 9 2007 18:44

I think the only shocking part of the politics was that Brinton still couldn't bring himself to admit the syndicalists were right.

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Feb 9 2007 19:12

one weakness of the Brinton book is that he didn't really look at the soviets, and at the different types of soviets, that were formed, and how the workers movement tended to accept a division of labor between economy and politics, with "power to the soviets" taking care of the polity part. Pete Rachleff makes a good case that this was their undoing. See his "Soviets and Factory Committees in the Russian revolution":

http://www.geocities.com/~johngray/raclef.htm

Syndicalist has posted a link to my own review of Brinton's book. I have some additional criticisms there.

t.

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Feb 9 2007 19:57

Hi

Ha ha. Excellent thread.

Quote:
I also don't think he does justice to just how deep the economic crisis in the Russian Economy was, as well as how poor the factory committees were at coordinating production.

Agreed. If they had been able to make enough stuff then they’d have stood a much better chance of survival. Perhaps if they’d employed Toyota management techniques then they might have resisted the Leninists.

Quote:
I think the only shocking part of the politics was that Brinton still couldn't bring himself to admit the syndicalists were right.

Interesting comment. I don’t recall poor Maurice ever asserting they were wrong, although I’d concede that he was brought up in a Trotskyite monastery, as was dear Cornelius.

The ideological tradition of Solidarity and Socialisme ou Barbarie includes Pannekoek, recognised as within a hair’s breadth of syndicalism. Indeed, proper lefties deride syndicalists for their advocacy of a “worker controlled market economy”, in the same way they do to SoB and Solidarity and would no doubt do to Class War if it was still popular enough to be worth attacking.

Love

LR

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Feb 9 2007 23:17
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Agreed. If they had been able to make enough stuff then they’d have stood a much better chance of survival. Perhaps if they’d employed Toyota management techniques then they might have resisted the Leninists.

Well if you could eat left communist rhetoric I suppose you wouldn't need all that silly 'stuff' like coal, iron and grain. But unless you are volunteering to spend a Russian a winter without heat or food perhaps you should take that criticism a bit more seriously.

This is often where a lot of the libertarian left seems to drop the ball. OT is right about the syndicalists, the Maximoff program (the most developped A-S program of the time) in a lot of ways anticipated the problems of the factory comiittees and their localism by calling for better communication through federated A-S unions, Unfortunately the Bolsheviks were rather good at jailing the viable alternatives along with everyone else not interested in propping them up. Though the market socialism of syndicalists is certainly not an answer the union structure would have provided for at least some real coordination and communication that was completely absent in the factory committees. Yet another reason why spontaneuous revolutions die in the cradle and a real democratic organisation is needed prior to the revolt.

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Feb 9 2007 23:28

I remember I really liked it and from what I can remember he seemed to use a lot of the Bolsheviks own propaganda and internal documents, out of necessity...so I don't get the secondary source charge. As for the (generally Leninist) excuse of 'economic difficulties', which undoubtedly existed - how much does that really change what he was discussing?

Oliver,

He never came out and supported them, but would you agree that in the chronology they do come across as the most important explicitly non-statist tendency? In other words, whenever you hear of organised anarchists, its anarcho-syndicalists like Maximov (from what I recall) who had a pretty good position in regards being against factory committee isolationism and so on, even if they weren't to be successful.

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Feb 9 2007 23:33

Och damn, Edmonton - didn't see your post.

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Feb 9 2007 23:33

Sorry Volin, that's what the older comrade told me, and I'm just passing this on, I can't substantiate it as he is the guy who could read Russian. What I was told is he drew heavilly from translations, not the original russian documents. Also I just want to clear up: Brinton is one of my favorite thinkers, and th pamphlet in question is overall quite good, I'm just bashing because that is what the thread asked for.

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Feb 9 2007 23:44

Hi

Quote:
http://www.geocities.com/~johngray/raclef.htm
They had to elect committees which gradually re-established a normal system of work. The committees had to find the necessary raw materials, and altogether to take upon themselves all kinds of unexpected and unaccustomed duties.

If only they’d documented their business processes properly. Good job we’ll have this covered next time around. It’s such a pity we don’t have any productive industry to take control of.

Quote:
http://www.geocities.com/~johngray/raclef.htm
The revolution was determined--if only passively--by the vast peasant population.

Food supply, then as now. As Castoriadis (as translated by Brinton) says when discussing the problems faced by a localised revolt in the UK…

Quote:
http://libcom.org/library/on-the-content-of-socialism-ii-socialisme-ou-b...
…or Great Britain (where, inversely, the main problem would be that of the country's extreme dependence on food imports).

Dig for Victory.

Quote:
But unless you are volunteering to spend a Russian a winter without heat or food perhaps you should take that criticism a bit more seriously.

For the love of all that’s holy, I wasn’t being sarcastic.

Quote:
Yet another reason why spontaneuous revolutions die in the cradle and a real democratic organisation is needed prior to the revolt.

Absolutely. A new set of social institutions. Without decadence theory and paralysis-by-Internationalism, accepting the working class as a historic creative force that makes its own society, what are the material tasks to be undertaken aside from tail-gaiting flash points of class conflict? Perhaps it’s impossible to set out the steps and the outcomes, in which case the organisation has no reason to exist.

Love

LR

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Feb 9 2007 23:53

Sorry Lazy, you're sarcastic so much its sometimes tough to tell smile. As for your last question I think if any of us answer it we'll wind up living through every debate libcom has ever had. Best to wait and see what other criticisms of Brinton's pamphlet come up.

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Feb 10 2007 01:27

LR

I don't think he ever accused the syndicalists of being wrong; but he certainly didn't give them as much credit as, to me, it seemed they deserved from the very words he quoted from them.

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Feb 10 2007 15:43

Hi

Quote:
I don't think he ever accused the syndicalists of being wrong; but he certainly didn't give them as much credit as, to me, it seemed they deserved from the very words he quoted from them.

Bless. The idea of this-or-that tendency deserving credit for their services is delusional. All political groups get their just deserts in the end. Besides, if syndicalism is an organisational expression of communism then they’d hardly want Brinton’s support anyway.

Quote:
As for your last question I think if any of us answer it we'll wind up living through every debate libcom has ever had. Best to wait and see what other criticisms of Brinton's pamphlet come up.

Perhaps. But the point’s relationship to the pamphlet is clear. The institutions proposed won’t prevail unless they satisfy the mercenary desires of your average punter. Further, the legislative territory sequestered by such an organisation would have to be economically self-sufficient enough to keep itself fed.

Love

LR

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Feb 10 2007 19:22

Well maybe he cou;d've broadened his perspective a little. As it is, it is more based on being the opposite of leninism than anything else. His ideas are primarily based on rejecting leninism; rather than looking positively towards other tendencies to see if what they had to say was relevant.

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Feb 10 2007 19:52

Hi

Inclined to agree. All critique and no meaningful action.

Love

LR

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Feb 12 2007 10:23

I think Edmonton's criticisms are correct concerning the economic crisis and the inadequacies of the Committee Movement. The economic crisis in Russia accelerated rapidly during and after Red October. Unemployment in industrial areas went above 60%, the streets were filled with angry, armed workers who had left the imperial Army and wanted jobs.

The Factory Committees that Brinton presents as "the highest manifestation of the class struggle achieved in 1917" (!) were actually posting armed guards at the factory gates to keep the unemployed out! They also sentout armed contingents to procure factory supplies which then came into conflict with others doing the same.

The Committees also became notoriously unstable as the crisis progressed. In several of the major factories of Petrograd, workers turned against their own committees, citing excessive discipline, incompetence, and that the delegates acted like "factory inspectors". For their part, committee delegates considered the attitude of the rank-and-file completely unfair given the enormity of the crisis. A dangerous cycle appeared: workers would elect a committee, conflict between the masses and their delegates would emerge, new meetings and elections were called: and the cycle began all over again.

More resentment was caused by the fact that state intervention - which was being demanded by practically everybody from workers' mass meetings, factory committees and soviets - consistently failed to materialise. The Bolsheviks, who had denounced the failure of the Provisional Government to sort out the economic mess as proof they were in hock to the bosses, now found themselves being tarred with the same brush. Combined with the mass dispersal of industrial workers around the country to find work, the fact that the most class conscious workers were snapped up either by the Party or the soviets and were removed from the mass of the class, this resentment saw Bolshevik supporters replaced by Menshevik and SR delegates in the Committees. The Bolsheviks became increasingly hostile and denounced recalcitrant committees as "anarchist" or "syndicalist". The response came back pointing out that anarchy at the top was a more serious problem than anarchism in the committees and that the Bolsheviks ought to get the state in order to bring relief to the committees!

The second principle criticism of the method is the total lack of an international perspective. There's no effort to grapple with the difficulties of spreading the world revolution, dealing with the international blockade, etc. The absolute best "workers control" could have achieved in Russia was a form of capitalism, still dominated by wage labour, commodity production and the market. Contrast this with Luxemburg's critique, which is equally caustic concerning the growing trend towards authoritarianism in Bolshevism but pointed out that these trends were the Bolsheviks response to immediate pressures generated by situation bearing down on Russia. The only way to relieve those pressures was to spread the revolution, otherwise the degeneration would inevitably continue.

The Bolsheviks made many mistakes in Russia - the use of terror, errors regarding the trade unions, managing the economy, etc. to name but a few! - but the way Brinton approaches the problem seems trite and superficial.

The most telling criticism for me, still comes from Luxemburg when she stated: "By their determined revolutionary stand, their exemplary strength in action, and their unbreakable loyalty to international socialism, [the Bolsheviks] have contributed whatever could possibly be contributed under such devilishly hard conditions. The danger begins only when they make a virtue of necessity and want to freeze into a complete theoretical system all the tactics forced upon them by these fatal circumstances, and want to recommend them to the international proletariat as a model of socialist tactics."

It was precisely the growing tendency to "make virtues of necessity" - which can be seen, for example, in Bukharin's effort to theorise "War Communism" as a step forward or Trotsky's desire to militarise the economy as they had the Red Army - that showed the Bolsheviks' growing inability to recognise the degeneration of the revolution and their own role in it.

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Feb 12 2007 10:37
Demogorgon303 wrote:
The Bolsheviks made many mistakes in Russia

isn't this Brinton's criticism of the contemporary left-communists though, the contention that with better management things would have turned out better?

although i agree an international perspective is lacking, which leaves the vaguely defined self-management to which brinton looks looking a lot like self-managed capitalism or mutualism or something. whether self-managed capitalism would have been better than state capitalism is perhaps an interesting question.

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Feb 12 2007 11:11

JosephK

Not sure I understand you here. The thrust of Brinton's method seems to simply paint the Bolsheviks as "authoritarian" and fixating on immediate economic structures. Of course workers have to keep the economy going - we'll have to eat after the revolution - but this can only ever really be stopgap measures.

Now, obviously the methods employed do make a difference and I agree workers do have to take control of the forces of production as far as possible while still realising the limits to which this can be immediately achieved.

The problem with the Factory Committees was that their frame of reference was overtly economic and their origins (tied to each factory) left them wide open to localism. When the pressure was on, they cracked and collapsed into every factory for itself. The reason for much of the resistance to Brest-Litovsk in Petrograd was because the committees of the arms factories feared that peace would bring their total collapse!

"Workers control" can't mean "factory control", unless we are talking about them managing their own exploitation in a fundamentally capitalist economy. Economic production has to be controlled on a far wider basis and orientated to match social needs. This can't be done factory by factory. The Bolsheviks realised this and this was why they tried to subordinate the committees to a wider co-ordination.

Revol68

Unless you think the Spanish Republican Government represented the proletariat, you are talking about two entirely different situations. What matters is the political domination of society by the mass of the working class. If Spain showed anything it was that "workers control" in a factory sense means sweet fanny adams, if workers lose or fail to gain that political power.

In Russia, too, it was the independent political life of the working class, its capacity to use the state without being absorbed by it, was far more important than "workers control".

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Feb 12 2007 11:41
Demogorgon303 wrote:
"Workers control" can't mean "factory control", unless we are talking about them managing their own exploitation in a fundamentally capitalist economy. Economic production has to be controlled on a far wider basis and orientated to match social needs. This can't be done factory by factory. The Bolsheviks realised this and this was why they tried to subordinate the committees to a wider co-ordination.

i'm pretty ignorant of the details of the period, but weren't the anarcho-syndicalists also advocating federating the factory committees and arguing against localism, only they took a bottom-up approach and the bolsheviks a top-down one?

Demogorgon303 wrote:
Of course workers have to keep the economy going - we'll have to eat after the revolution - but this can only ever really be stopgap measures.

doesn't anyone other than workers running the economy (and society in general) imply a class society? unless you're saying there should be broader social control/co-ordination of production by proletarian organs (federated councils and the like), in which case i agree.

Demogorgon303 wrote:
What matters is the political domination of society by the mass of the working class. If Spain showed anything it was that "workers control" in a factory sense means sweet fanny adams, if workers lose or fail to gain that political power.

In Russia, too, it was the independent political life of the working class, its capacity to use the state without being absorbed by it, was far more important than "workers control".

see, this is where the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' ties itself in knots. a dotp requires a class society for there to be other classes for the proletariat to dominate - classes are only maintained by state (or psuedo-state if the bourgeoisie hire mercenaries etc) violence protecting alienated property relations.

thus the dictatorship of the proletariat is a paradox - for there to be dictatorship - not civil war but dominance - the power of the bourgeoisie must have been smashed and thus there is no obstacle to the self-negation of the proletariat. in practice this can only mean an attempt by the proletariat to use the state as a tool can only result in the proletariat becoming a tool of the state.*

this is not to say proletarian power should be purely economic, but that the political expression is through organs such as federated directly democratic councils etc, which even if maintaining a monopoly on the sanction of legitimate force represent a significant enough departure from the states as we know them to merit different nomenclature.

* i think this is what dauvé refers to when he says communism is anti-political, taking politics to equal statecraft, whereas perhaps being a bit softer on foucault i see politics as power relations, power being the causing of intended effects and thus not something that can or should be destroyed, but reconfigured in our own interests.

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Feb 12 2007 11:45

"I also don't think he does justice to just how deep the economic crisis in the Russian Economy was,"

As Kropotkin and other anarchists stressed, *every* revolution would face economic crisis. Russia confirmed their predictions, as did the near=revolution in Germany in 1918-9. For a discussion see my article on "How the Revolution was Lost?":

http://anarchism.ws/writers/anarcho/revlost_critique.html

"as well as how poor the factory committees were at coordinating production."

Firstly, the Bolsheviks did not give them much a chance. Moreover, compared to the centralised system the Bolsheviks imposed it did a reasonably good job.

I discuss these issues in my review of "For Workers Power":

http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=1170

Suffice to say, Brinton's work is a bit too focused but its main conclusions have been supported by later research.

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Feb 13 2007 01:03

Joseph K., you're right that the syndicalists proposed to federate the factory committees, along industrial and regional lines. (Thereby throwing out both the leninist notion that the factory committees were inherently localist, and the councilist idea that syndicalism only means 'unions'.)

Who knows what problems would have resulted if the syndicalist plan had succeeded? I think it is safe to say, however, that it could not have been much worse.

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Feb 13 2007 16:59

gatorojinegro wrote:

"one weakness of the Brinton book is that he didn't really look at the soviets, and at the different types of soviets, that were formed, and how the workers movement tended to accept a division of labor between economy and politics, with "power to the soviets" taking care of the polity part. Pete Rachleff makes a good case that this was their undoing. See his "Soviets and Factory Committees in the Russian revolution":
http://www.geocities.com/~johngray/raclef.htm"

I agree that this is a central problem with Brinton's book. Any separation between the soviets and the factory assemblies (which in principle are the ‘electoral unit’ of the workers’ soviets as well as of the factory committees) can only be harmful to the unity of the proletarian movement. But to me this implies that Brinton doesn’t really escape the syndicalist vision, which is predicated precisely on subordinating the political to the economic, on an inability to go beyond the vision of the future society as a federation of economic units. I would like to re-read Rachleff and come back to this argument.

Edmonton wrote:

"I also don't think he does justice to just how deep the economic crisis in the Russian Economy was, as well as how poor the factory committees were at coordinating production".

Along with Demogorgon, I agree with Edmonton that this is another flaw in Brinton’s case, especially because he only responds to the traditional Trotskyist apologetics on this question, rather than considering the question itself.

The point about coordination is also linked to the relationship between factory committees and soviets. Coordination of production in a revolutionary situation is a political as well as an economic task, and it has to be taken in charge above all by the organs which most clearly unify both these aspects – the soviets.

Demogorgon wrote:

The second principle criticism of the method is the total lack of an international perspective. There's no effort to grapple with the difficulties of spreading the world revolution, dealing with the international blockade, etc. The absolute best "workers control" could have achieved in Russia was a form of capitalism, still dominated by wage labour, commodity production and the market. Contrast this with Luxemburg's critique, which is equally caustic concerning the growing trend towards authoritarianism in Bolshevism but pointed out that these trends were the Bolsheviks response to immediate pressures generated by situation bearing down on Russia. The only way to relieve those pressures was to spread the revolution, otherwise the degeneration would inevitably continue

The most telling criticism for me, still comes from Luxemburg when she stated:

"By their determined revolutionary stand, their exemplary strength in action, and their unbreakable loyalty to international socialism, [the Bolsheviks] have contributed whatever could possibly be contributed under such devilishly hard conditions. The danger begins only when they make a virtue of necessity and want to freeze into a complete theoretical system all the tactics forced upon them by these fatal circumstances, and want to recommend them to the international proletariat as a model of socialist tactics."

[i]It was precisely the growing tendency to "make virtues of necessity" - which can be seen, for example, in Bukharin's effort to theorise "War Communism" as a step forward or Trotsky's desire to militarise the economy as they had the Red Army - that showed the Bolsheviks' growing inability to recognise the degeneration of the revolution and their own role in it".

Agree completely. But Brinton and, even more so some of those who follow his approach, have a different attitude from Luxemburg’s, because they do not start from her view that the Bolsheviks had proved their “unbreakable loyalty to international socialism” in 1914 and 1917. On the contrary, they accuse the Bolsheviks, from their inception, of being hostile to international socialism. To me, this accusation is itself an expression of disloyalty to the proletariat's own history.

Joseph K:

"see, this is where the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' ties itself in knots. a dotp requires a class society for there to be other classes for the proletariat to dominate - classes are only maintained by state (or psuedo-state if the bourgeoisie hire mercenaries etc) violence protecting alienated property relations.
thus the dictatorship of the proletariat is a paradox - for there to be dictatorship - not civil war but dominance - the power of the bourgeoisie must have been smashed and thus there is no obstacle to the self-negation of the proletariat. in practice this can only mean an attempt by the proletariat to use the state as a tool can only result in the proletariat becoming a tool of the state.*
this is not to say proletarian power should be purely economic, but that the political expression is through organs such as federated directly democratic councils etc, which even if maintaining a monopoly on the sanction of legitimate force represent a significant enough departure from the states as we know them to merit different nomenclature.
* i think this is what dauvé refers to when he says communism is anti-political, taking politics to equal statecraft, whereas perhaps being a bit softer on foucault i see politics as power relations, power being the causing of intended effects and thus not something that can or should be destroyed, but reconfigured in our own interests
".

I don’t follow this. You seem to imply that the last act of the class struggle is the taking of political power by the working class. For a start the taking of political power in any one area inaugurates a period of international civil war. But even after the working class had established the international power of the councils, the class struggle would continue because in that phase (necessarily marked by social convulsion of all kinds) it would not have been possible to dig out all the economic and social roots of classes (private property, commodity production, etc). Dauve, in my opinion, jumps several stages ahead of himself by implying that the purely contingent economic measures taken by the working class during the insurrectionary period can be understand as a process of communisation. He repeats the error many Bolsheviks made about War Communism, which Demogorgon mentions, while at the same time making concessions to the anarchists with his refusal to accept that the revolution has political tasks and cannot simply ‘abolish’ the problem of the state. Yes, the revolution is anti-political in the final analysis because communism will abolish the realm of politics. But there is a transition of perhaps several generations to go through first.

Perhaps I have misrepresented your position because you seem in your last line to accept that political power is something we will have to use.

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Feb 13 2007 17:30

In response to Alf, i think that he should not attribute the problem of the factory committee movement's economism -- their self-limitation of their movement to the economy -- entirely to the syndicalists.

The syndicalists, as most of the libertarian Left in the Russian revolution, did have a solution to the problem posed by the separation between the factory committees/assemblies and the soviets, this was the concept of the "non-party" or "free" soviet.

As Sam Farber (a member of the Marxist group Solidarity) points out in his book "Before Stalinism" the entire tradition of Russin Marxism, both Mensheviks and Bolsheviks, had no concept of, and no commitment to, participatory democracy. They thought only in terms of election of leaders to run the state, or other hierarchical bodies. Thus their approach to unionism was the highly centralized Russian trade unions with power concentrated in the national executive committee. Hence the main soviets built on the initiative of these parties in early 1917 were controlled in a top-down way. Also, since they believed that the party should be in control of the movement, they allowed election of professionals ("intelligentsia") by factory groups, rather than requiring that only workers be elected.

The only exception to this top-down orientation among Russian Marxists pre-1917 was the small group Workers Truth. This group had originated as a syndicalist tendency in the Bolshevik Party, around the personality of Alexander Bogdanov, in 1908 and was expelled, at Lenin's insistence, in 1909.

The importance of the Kronstadt soviet is that it poses an alternative possibility. In Kronstadt there was no split between the workplace assemblies and the soviet. That's because the assemblies in the workplaces and among ship crews controlled their delegates to the soviet and they only allowed sailors, workers or soldiers to be elected. You had to be a member of your electing unit to be elected. Moreover, the plenaries of the Kronstadt soviet were where the real power lay, they debated and made the decisions, they didn't concentrate all power in the executive committee, as happened in Petersburg and Moscow.

And in Kronstadt in October, 1917 it was the libertarian Left -- the alliance of the maximalists and syndicalists, with support from the Left SRs -- who were dominant in that soviet. Thus the socialization of land and housing and businesses in Kronstadt in January, 1918, was the result of a proposal introduced into the Kronstadt soviet by Efim Yarchuk, an anarcho-syndicalist delegate and later a member of the national executive committee of the Russan anarchosyndicalist confederation. The maximalists and people like Yarchuk wanted this model of soviet extended throughout Russia, and for them "soviet power" was to mean a federative "Toiler's Republic" of these "free soviets".

Hence it's not quite correct to say the syndicalists or the libertarian Left had no concept of "proletarian political power" becuase that's what the Kronstadt soviet represented in Kronstadt. The problem was how to extend this solution to all of Russia. The syndicalists were too small and were not always clear on this issue of political power -- a traditional problem of lack of clarity among anarchists on this, but nonetheless they were grappling with it and had some ideas about how to proceed.

t.

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Feb 13 2007 18:36

Interesting post, gato. But I am not trying to blame everything on the syndicalists. They were a current of the workers' movement of the time and they reflected both its strengths and weaknesses. But I would certainly associate syndicalism as a general approach with confusions about political power, as you yourself seem to do to some extent.

I also don't agree with singling out Workers Truth group (formed in 1922) as the only Russian marxist group to oppose the 'top down' approach that became increasingly dominant in the Bolshevik party after it became a party of state in 1917. As we show in our book on the Russian communist left, groups within the Bolshevik party had already begun to question this from 1918 onwards. I would say that the clearest on the question of workers' power, soviets, trade unions and factory committees was Miasnikov's Workers Group, but all these currents were part of a proletarian reaction within the Bolshevik party to the process of its degeneration.

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Feb 13 2007 18:58

The role of Russian Marxism, however, in the 1917 revolution was shaped by its development pre-1917. This contributed to those aspects of the Bolsehvik party's programmatic and strategic orientation that would empower a new ruling class even under more favorable conditions, such as the commitment to central planning (setting up of Vesenkha in Nov 1917), "one-man management" (which follows from central planning), the emphasis on who is in charge, on control through hierarchical bodies, the theory of the "vanguard party" as managers of the movement for change and thence of the new society, the strategy of forming a party to capture control of a state, to thus rule top-down through a state hierarchy.

t.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
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Feb 13 2007 19:04
Alf wrote:
But there is a transition of perhaps several generations to go through first.

i don't know why this is the case, i mean if there's still a bourgeoisie, there's civil war not a dotp, if we win the civil war, there's no obstacle to their total expropriation and our self negation. You say:

Alf wrote:
But even after the working class had established the international power of the councils, the class struggle would continue because in that phase (necessarily marked by social convulsion of all kinds) it would not have been possible to dig out all the economic and social roots of classes (private property, commodity production, etc)

private property can't be sustained without a state or psuedo-state (i.e. mercenaries i.e. an undefeated bourgeoisie i.e. civil war not dotp), commodity production follows from that, or from proletarian organs choosing some kind of mutualism either out of lack of widespread 'communist will' for want of a better term (which means we're not putting our case in the councils well enough), or because of difficulties co-ordinating a global gift economy.

Alf wrote:
Perhaps I have misrepresented your position because you seem in your last line to accept that political power is something we will have to use.

well this is a terminological issue, unlike most anarchists i see power as immanent to life, 'the causing of intended effects', not something to be destroyed, and i generally follow foucault in seeing politics as the deployment of power, not statecraft as per dictionary definitions.

so on such a definition 'political power' seems a bit like 'financial money', but obviously you're talking about power not limited to the separate domain of 'economics' as you caricature anarcho-syndicalism; i.e. you want soviets - by which i assume you mean councils of everyone, not just (former-) wage-workers. here i'd agree, but i wouldn't say such organs represent proletarian 'political power' but a merger (and thus the mutual destruction) of both economics and politics in their bourgeois sense. i also don't think anarcho-syndicalists are necessarily opposed to this either, whatever the current's historical failings all the anarcho-syndicalists i know advocate 'community' as well as 'workplace' stuff and are not averse to overcoming that division.

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gatorojinegro
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Feb 13 2007 19:20

it's clear from the program of the CNT as agreed to at its congress in Zaragoza, that they did not conceive of only worker-based oranizations being a basis of social organization. They envisioned the polity being based on the geographic assemblies, in neighborhoods and villages, the "free municipalities" and "people's congresses" made up of delegates from these base assemblies. They didn't really get to the point of implementing these in the Spanish revolution in the '30s, but they did conceive of it. Nonetheless, this shows that it is incorrect to think of anarcho-syndicalism as advocating solely worker power at the point of proudction.

i don't think the working class can have power without eliminating the power over them of other classes, and that means they have to abolish private ownership of the means of production and set up organizations for worker self-management of production as part of the process of the working class taking power itself. The working class also needs to consolidate political power but there is no reason to put this at odds with economic power.

The more difficult issue is not abolishing private property in the means of production -- the basis of the class power of the capitalists -- but the class hierarchy internal to production in which control is accumulated by the hierarchies of professionals and managers -- the coordinator class. Getting rid of their power is inevitably a more protracted process because it involves the working class learning how to do their work -- the parts of their work that are useful and necessary.

t.