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

101 posts / 0 new
Last post
Lazy Riser's picture
Lazy Riser
Offline
Joined: 6-05-05
Feb 13 2007 19:22

Hi

Alf, how would you see it unfold? Would you be looking to install a multi-party democratic socialist state of “nationalised” industries and other necessary social institutions, in the wake of an inevitable economic crisis (food shortages, widespread violence, and the like), and then form a communist majority within it to guide and spread the revolution internationally?

Love

LR

Demogorgon303's picture
Demogorgon303
Offline
Joined: 5-07-05
Feb 13 2007 19:30
JosephK wrote:
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.*

I found your post quite interesting and its made me think about this question again, hopefully more deeply.

Today we live in the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. There is no challenge to its power, yet the class struggle continues because there are antagonistic classes in society. In fact, the bourgeois dictatorship exists because of this fact, not it spite of it.

The proletarian dictatorship exists for exactly the same reason. The state power of the bourgeoisie may be smashed but bourgeois social relations will still exist. Unless we are advocating a policy of Red Terror to exterminate the bourgeoisie, the class will still exist both as a class and as a group of individuals that are entirely hostile to the new regime.

And lets not forget the peasantry (very much an issue in the developing world if not so much in the industrialised west) who will have no interest in communisation. Economic conditions will undoubtedly be harsh and there will be just as much a threat of famine as there was in Russia, it may even be much greater. We cannot guarantee these peasants, farmers, etc. will be happy to hand over their food to us when we have nothing to offer them in return. This is exactly the situation that the Bolsheviks faced and we will face it again.

And we have the middle classes, the petit-bourgeoisie with their shops and small businesses, the technical specialists, etc. all of whom are used to certain privileges in society beyond that of the proletariat. These people - doctors, engineering professionals, maybe even the blasted accountants! - will be needed in the early stages of managing the economy and, again, its unlikely that they will help us for free.

So we are faced with two choices: we either negotiate with these other classes or we coerce them into assisting us. Even a negotiation can only ever be a temporary peace because sooner or later, we must absorb these roles into the proletariat. Many of them will not go quietly. Either way, sooner of later, force or the threat of force will be necessary to keep the peace.

This is exactly why a state will both inevitable and necessary. Refusing, as a point of principle, to make use of state organs (i.e. the application of armed force subvervient to the will of the proletariat) is, quite frankly, nothing but pacifism and suicidal pacifism at that.

Now hopefully we can agree with that so far. The problem is how to control these organs? Now the obvious answer is okay, so lets give the Soviets (or the factory committees, etc, the precise organ isn't important here) monopoly of armed force. That will guarantee the state organs remain subservient to the proletariat, right. Well, not necessarily. Because suddenly the Soviets have now effectively become the state (and this is, incidentally, exactly what the Bolsheviks did) in all but name.

In other words, the Soviets are now an instrument for controlling and dominating society as a whole - and thus, like any state, become responsible for making compromises between the proletariat on one hand and other strata on the other. Because of this, they can no longer represent the pure proletarian class interest. The proletariat will thus still need organs in which it can express itself as a class - and an exploited class at that, because all those still-priveleged but necessary strata exist as parasites on us - unsullied by any concerns for anybody else.

Without organs entirely separate from the state (whatever name we give it), we risk the loss of any independent political life from the "dirty business" of managing a still-class-ridden society.

You are thus quite correct in one sense that the "dictatorship of the proletariat" is entirely contradictory. But the problem is that the whole essence of the proletariat is a contradiction: it is the concentrated inhumanity of existence in capitalism while, at the same time the key to the only human future of our species; it is an exploited class with no means of material or intellectual production and yet it is still a revolutionary class. The issue is not that these contradictions exist but how they will be played out in history and whether the result of that dialectical struggle will result in the end of exploitation of man-by-man or the destruction of our civilisation.

gatorojinegro's picture
gatorojinegro
Offline
Joined: 21-01-07
Feb 13 2007 19:41
Quote:
So we are faced with two choices: we either negotiate with these other classes or we coerce them into assisting us. Even a negotiation can only ever be a temporary peace because sooner or later, we must absorb these roles into the proletariat. Many of them will not go quietly. Either way, sooner of later, force or the threat of force will be necessary to keep the peace.

This is exactly why a state will both inevitable and necessary. Refusing, as a point of principle, to make use of state organs (i.e. the application of armed force subvervient to the will of the proletariat) is, quite frankly, nothing but pacifism and suicidal pacifism at that.

The conclusion doesn't follow from the premise. What is required is a structure of governance, controlled by the working class, that is, a structure that exercises the political funcions of making the basic rules (laws), a court system for adjudication of criminal accusations and other disputes, and a means of enforcement of the new social arrangement (e.g. militia).

But the polity or governance structure need not be a state. A state is a top-down hierarchical structure with the sort of internal articulaation of roles that exists in corporations, and as such it is dominated internally by the class of professionals and managers, the coordinator class. You set up a state in an anti-capitalist revolution and you inevitably empower that class as the dominant class. And no class will give up its power voluntarily.

The alternative is a polity or governance structure that has a more horizontal, grassroots structure. Not every polity or goverance structure need be a state. As Engels pointed out, the state has an especially sharp separation from the control of the mass of the people. This is necessary for it to fulfill its role as guardian of the interests of the dominating classes.

But a governance structure that doesn't have this sort of separation from the mass of the people, a governance structure controlled by the working class, through bodies based on participatory democracy, is not a state, by the criterion that Engels states.

t.

Lazy Riser's picture
Lazy Riser
Offline
Joined: 6-05-05
Feb 13 2007 19:50

Hi

Quote:
The issue is not that these contradictions exist but how they will be played out in history and whether the result of that dialectical struggle will result in the end of exploitation of man-by-man or the destruction of our civilisation.

The end of exploitation of person-by-person will make a world so dull its inhabitants will wish it was destroyed.

Love

LR

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Feb 13 2007 19:58
gatorojinegro wrote:
But the polity or governance structure need not be a state. A state is a top-down hierarchical structure with the sort of internal articulaation of roles that exists in corporations, and as such it is dominated internally by the class of professionals and managers, the coordinator class. You set up a state in an anti-capitalist revolution and you inevitably empower that class as the dominant class. And no class will give up its power voluntarily.

From what you wrote before this, Cat, I think that you recognise that a dictatorship of the proletariat is necessary. I don't think that if we call it a state, or you call it something different is very important. It is just an anarchist fetish against 'the state'.

Quote:
But a governance structure that doesn't have this sort of separation from the mass of the people, a governance structure controlled by the working class, through bodies based on participatory democracy, is not a state, by the criterion that Engels states.

Here the ICC's conception disagrees with yours. To me also, the term the 'mass of people' seems strange. Surely the dictatorship of the proletariat should be run by the working class, not the 'mass of people'. In fact it is from the 'mass of people' that your 'co-ordinator class' comes from.

Devrim

Lazy Riser's picture
Lazy Riser
Offline
Joined: 6-05-05
Feb 13 2007 20:15

Hi

Demogorgon303 wrote:
Without organs entirely separate from the state (whatever name we give it), we risk the loss of any independent political life from the "dirty business" of managing a still-class-ridden society.

Let me get this straight…

1.
An economic crisis starves the working class into revolt.

2.
The working class installs an otherwise ideologically neutral state of “nationalised” industries and other necessary social institutions under the control of a multi-party democracy that excludes non-working class people. The state seizes property as required, and hopefully raises the working class’s rations, we’re in economic crisis after all.

3.
The working class coerce the non-working class into submission, and over time absorb or eliminate them.

4.
We continue rationing until we can make as much as any decent communist could stand to consume and then we all do a “William Morris”.

Does that give a fair assessment of the way you see it playing out?

Love

LR

Beltov
Offline
Joined: 10-05-05
Feb 13 2007 20:45

I'd agree with Alf and Demogorgon that there are many serious errors in Solidarity's pamphlet on the factory committees:

1. The lack of an international perspective is clear. The revolution is treated as a specifically Russian experience and not part of an international wave.

2. The effort to drive a wedge between 'correct' Luxemburg and 'authoritarian' Bolsheviks is also clear, and totally hides the solidarity the two had for each other. The Bolsheviks and the Spartacists were part of the same international movement against the degeneration of the Second International.

3. By judging the success of the revolution in terms of 'who runs the economy' Solidarity were on a slippery slope from defending self-management towards the possibility of 'socialism in one country', and we know who declared that!

4. The comments made by Alf and Demogorgon on the necessity for the political independence of the soviets and factory committees from the state remind us of one of the prime lessons from the Russian Revolution. The proletariat's unitary organs and its political party have to retain their autonomy from the state in the period of transition. Brinton in effect said that the factory committees should have become the state, directing the economy themselves.

Speculating whether or not the factory committees could have achieved higher levels of production than Taylorism turns things on their head. What use are higher levels of production in one country if the proletariat has not overthrown the political power of the bourgeoisie at the international level? Sure, production in a proletarian bastion can be geared towards supporting the extension of the revolution internationally - but only if planning decisions are made with the international political dimension in mind. There's not much chance of that if the prime focus is the local economic situation.

Finally, I'm suprised Joseph K. doesn't see the dialectical nature of the state in the period of transition (I thought your Hegel specs looked pretty cool - did you sit on them?) - a nessary evil whose limbs the proletariat will have to 'lop off' as Engels said.

B.

BTW, we replied to an anarchist who had questions on Brinton's pamphlet in the mid '90s. Some of you might find the article of interest:
http://en.internationalism.org/wr/187_factory_committees.htm

gatorojinegro's picture
gatorojinegro
Offline
Joined: 21-01-07
Feb 13 2007 20:50

Devrim:

Quote:
From what you wrote before this, Cat, I think that you recognise that a dictatorship of the proletariat is necessary. I don't think that if we call it a state, or you call it something different is very important. It is just an anarchist fetish against 'the state'.

No. I clearly explained what the difference between a non-state polity or governance structure and a state is. The distinction is crucial because it makes the difference between the working class holding power or not. It is not a question of mere words.

me: "But a governance structure that doesn't have this sort of separation from the mass of the people, a governance structure controlled by the working class, through bodies based on participatory democracy, is not a state, by the criterion that Engels states."

Devrim:

Quote:
Here the ICC's conception disagrees with yours. To me also, the term the 'mass of people' seems strange. Surely the dictatorship of the proletariat should be run by the working class, not the 'mass of people'. In fact it is from the 'mass of people' that your 'co-ordinator class' comes from.

No, the coordinator class is an elite, about 17 percent of the population currently in the USA.

As I explained, the dissolution of the power of the coordinator class is a protracted process. The working class needs to have power in society to ensure this process is carried out.

However, as all classes get dissolved into the working class, and the powers that the elite classes had before that are actually socially necessary become the possession of producers in general, power devolves to "the mass of the people" because the class system is dying off, and with it division into classes.

The problem with proposing a purely workplaced-based form of political power is that it leaves out people not working, such as retirees, people on long vacations, the disabled.

A possible way the Spanish revolution could have developed, given the CNT's program, if it hadn't been derailed by popular front collaboration and German/Italian military intervention, would have been an initial transitional period where the militia, defense and economics councils, and congresses are rooted in the workplace assemblies and organizations -- you might call this the period of "proletarian dictatorship", but as the process deepens, and "free municipalities" are established, initially locally, the geographic structures of political governance, based on the assemblies in the neighborhoods, could acquire more centrality in the overall social governance structure, as per the Zaragoza program. But under this scenario there wouldn't have been a state because the workers assemblies, grassroots worker congresses, union-controlled militias, and revolutionary committees accountable to base assemblies -- if it all functioned as anarchist principles said it should -- would not have been sufficiently separated from popular control to make a state.

Let me take an historical example. Consider the polity or governance structure that ruled in Iboland, the region inhabited by the Ibo-speaking population, in the middle ages, in what is now southeast Nigeria. These were not hunter/gatherer bands but settled agrarian villages. The land was not "privately owned" as we now understand this, land was not bought and sold. A household might have a use right to some area for their gardening or running their herds, but the village controlled this.

There was no separate administrative class. The village was divided into an age system. As soon as someone became a certain age they were allowed to retire and their household or the village took care of them. They became part of the council of elders. To make decisions, the elders would send out town criers to assemble all the villagers. The village assembly would then have to make the decision. The elders would ask for opinions and try to propose compromises where differences existed. It was a kind of guided consensus system of direct democracy. Criminal actions such as theft of someone's animal or murder or rape were also dealt with in some similar fashion.

Also, the women had their own organization which had a power of veto over decisions affecting women and children. There were no chiefs with power to rule over anyone, no administrative class. So, there was no state as Engels defines it because the governance structure, the way the villages were run, was not separated enough from the mass of the people. There also was no division into classes as we understand this. (This is all described in "African Anarchism" by Mbah and Igariwey.)

t.

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Feb 13 2007 21:04
Demogorgon303 wrote:
Unless we are advocating a policy of Red Terror to exterminate the bourgeoisie, the class will still exist both as a class and as a group of individuals that are entirely hostile to the new regime.

as a group of individuals i don't think the dispossessed bourgeoisie are any more bourgeois than reactionary workers, however, you do raise a point i've overlooked - that the newly dispossessed bourgeoisie would have a common class interest, and would perhaps be more united in it than ever, which perhaps provides space for a dictatorship of the proletariat of sorts ... i'll come back to this.

Demogorgon303 wrote:
And lets not forget the peasantry (very much an issue in the developing world if not so much in the industrialised west)

from my limited experience in the developing world (2 months in peru), campesino demands were one of two things; either for greater autonomy for andean communities from the central state and landlords and for the return of some form of traditional communal land ownership, or for jobs in the cities (rural extractive industries are generally unpopular for ecological reasons, but supported as a source of wages by some). i don't see either demand as incompatible with communisation.

Demogorgon303 wrote:
We cannot guarantee these peasants, farmers, etc. will be happy to hand over their food to us when we have nothing to offer them in return.

but if they're part of the struggle to overthrow the state (and again in peru militant road blockades are commonplace in the quechua-speaking mountain regions, as well as some of the inland jungle areas apparently), bonds will be forged which would hopefully see some collaboration. obviously if the peasantry, en-masse decided they wanted to live on subsistence agriculture, urban workers could be fucked. that said, in peru, most of the non-marginal land has been 'really subsumed' into capitalist agriculture already, so the infrastructure for surplus-calorie production exists. but peru may not be typical, so again, in the face of an obstinate peasantry who wanted nothing but traditional subsistence agriculture communal life, urban workers could have a dilemma of starve or impose their will (i.e. act as proletarian dictators). i think the best way to avoid this is to ensure that class struggle is waged in conjunction with these groups, i.e. adopting a more autonomist definition of the working class, and through common struggle, solidarity and mutual aid during the struggle against capital, insuring ourselves against peasant parochialism (which is a bit of a cliché, but nonetheless does exist, on what scale i'm unsure). i mean a lot of younger andeans in particular would quite happily 'trade' crops for technology, and wouldn't mind labour-saving technologies as well as certain comforts. that, and large quantities of chicha from the councils' stash! wink

Demogorgon303 wrote:
And we have the middle classes, the petit-bourgeoisie with their shops and small businesses, the technical specialists, etc. all of whom are used to certain privileges in society beyond that of the proletariat. These people - doctors, engineering professionals, maybe even the blasted accountants! - will be needed in the early stages of managing the economy and, again, its unlikely that they will help us for free.

i think accountants and the like are fairly proletarianised these days (my ex is technically an accountant of sorts now, and is on 13k and does fairly rote work). doctors i don't see as too much of a problem, if they want to withhold their expertise we withhold their access to the social product, ungrateful bastards wink. small business owners? fuck 'em, their property titles just became unenforceable. they could join a soviet and work in a workplace of one if they like the feeling of 'independence', or fuck off. is this all dictatorship of the proletariat? of sorts i suppose, but presumably these people, once dispossessed are (generally) welcome in the soviets, and are no more constitutive of a separate class than say, workers in a given industry that feel their particular contribution is more important/difficult than average (miners for example) - who could also e.g. strike against a council's decision and raise the question of prole-on-prole coercion.

Demogorgon303 wrote:
So we are faced with two choices: we either negotiate with these other classes or we coerce them into assisting us. Even a negotiation can only ever be a temporary peace because sooner or later, we must absorb these roles into the proletariat.

like i say, i'm presuming dispossession of the material means of production has been completed with the defeat of the bourgeoisie and the destruction of the state, so with the exception of the peasantry discussed above, these 'classes' are now based on 'immaterial' foundations - knowledge-power for professionals, shared feeling of injustice for former bourgeoisie etc. So if we include these people in the councils, you're right they cease to be purely proletarian organs, in a sense at least. but surely these 'immaterial classes' are a minority, 'dictatorship' is internal to the council system,

Demogorgon303 wrote:
The problem is how to control these organs? Now the obvious answer is okay, so lets give the Soviets (or the factory committees, etc, the precise organ isn't important here) monopoly of armed force. That will guarantee the state organs remain subservient to the proletariat, right. Well, not necessarily. Because suddenly the Soviets have now effectively become the state (and this is, incidentally, exactly what the Bolsheviks did) in all but name

i'm not convinced that's what the bolsheviks did at all, but i'd need to read more than the 2 or 3 books i have on the subject. anyway ...

states have always been the rule of a minority over a population, sovereignity is founded on the sovereign decision, a separation of rulers and ruled, and a separation of an armed body from the population at large. a federation of councils is a fundamental break with this insomuch as everyone is involved - the danger of this sliding into a state is if a body of armed specialists - a police or standing army - is created which could and likely would become the servant of a minority. without such a permanent, separate armed body, it's difficult to see how a state could emerge. [gatorojinegro has addressed this too in the time it's taken me to write my response]

Beltov wrote:
Finally, I'm suprised Joseph K. doesn't see the dialectical nature of the state in the period of transition (I thought your Hegel specs looked pretty cool - did you sit on them?)

i've only ever read about 3 or 4 pages of Hegel, though i am a fan of dialectics. are you thinking of the emo-hegel picture of revol? anyhow, i thought "an attempt by the proletariat to use the state as a tool can only result in the proletariat becoming a tool of the state" was pretty hegalian - or just sub-situ? wink

anyhow, the concept of 'immaterial classes' is something i need to think more about ...

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Feb 13 2007 21:06
Quote:
No, the coordinator class is an elite, about 17 percent of the population currently in the USA.

And this 17% is going to be part of your 'non-state polity or governance structure'?

Quote:
However, as all classes get dissolved into the working class, and the powers that the elite classes had before that are actually socially necessary become the possession of producers in general, power devolves to "the mass of the people" because the class system is dying off, and with it division into classes.

But as I think you realise by the word 'as' this doesn't happen on day one of the revolution.

The stuff about agrarian communities is Nigeria is just anthropological libertarian nonsense. What relevance does it have to anything?.

Devrim

gatorojinegro's picture
gatorojinegro
Offline
Joined: 21-01-07
Feb 13 2007 21:45

me: "No, the coordinator class is an elite, about 17 percent of the population currently in the USA.

Devrim:

Quote:
And this 17% is going to be part of your 'non-state polity or governance structure'?

if the initial polity is based on the workplace assemblies, and congresses of delegates from the workplace assemblies, and committees derived from these congresses, and a militia controlled by these congresses, and if only workers can be elected as delegates from these workplaces, then the initial polity is based on the power of the working class. this is true even if former bosses, former coordinators, are incorporated as worker-members in these assemblies. are you proposing that the former bosses are not going to be permitted to work?

me: "However, as all classes get dissolved into the working class, and the powers that the elite classes had before that are actually socially necessary become the possession of producers in general, power devolves to "the mass of the people" because the class system is dying off, and with it division into classes."

Devrim: "But as I think you realise by the word 'as' this doesn't happen on day one of the revolution."

Of course, I said it would be a protracted process. That is precisely why a separate workers organization, whether in the form of a union or political association, is needed, to operate as a caucus within these assemblies and congresses. I think that those syndicalists who imagined the union becoming itself the institution of workers' self-management is a mistaken idea because there will need to be ongoing an organization to fight for workers' interests, again, because the dissolution of the class system is a protracted process.

Devrim:

Quote:
The stuff about agrarian communities is Nigeria is just anthropological libertarian nonsense. What relevance does it have to anything?.

Wrong. What it shows is that state and polity are not the same.

t.

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Feb 13 2007 22:12
Quote:
if the initial polity is based on the workplace assemblies, and congresses of delegates from the workplace assemblies, and committees derived from these congresses, and a militia controlled by these congresses, and if only workers can be elected as delegates from these workplaces, then the initial polity is based on the power of the working class. this is true even if former bosses, former coordinators, are incorporated as worker-members in these assemblies. are you proposing that the former bosses are not going to be permitted to work?

Again, I basically agree with you here, but I think that there are some problems with your arguments. What about technical experts whose advice might be needed? Are we just going to order these people to work, or are we going to have to integrate some of them into the decision making process on an economic level.
Now, to look at one of my experiences of work, as a postman, I know that when the managers didn't come in because of bad snow, or whatever. We got the work finished much faster, and went home much earlier. I can also remember when a guy came in to do a time and motion study on me, the point of which was whether to charge parcels division (another part of the same company) for my work (I worked for letters) by man hours, or weight of work shifted. The sort of people who did this are completely unnecessary. On the other hand, where I work now I meet specialists who calculate safety levels on impacts on car doors. Something which I think may be important in a communist society. So, give these people a role in production, but not in the political organisation of the dictatorship

Quote:
The stuff about agrarian communities is Nigeria is just anthropological libertarian nonsense. What relevance does it have to anything?.
Wrong. What it shows is that state and polity are not the same.

The thing about Nigeria is talking about pre-capitalist organisation. These people didn't actually have a state in the way that we understand it today. It is not relevant .
Devrim

gatorojinegro's picture
gatorojinegro
Offline
Joined: 21-01-07
Feb 13 2007 22:29

To expound on this a bit further, setting up an industrial federation to run an industry, where this is based on the workplace assemblies and congresses of delegates, and administrative or coordinating committees elected from and accountable to these assemblies, creates a formal structure of worker power, but the coordinator class also has its power from a relative monopolization of expertise as well as control over positions in a hierarchy.

So, you need to work to democratize the relevant forms of knowledge, and to train workers so that they have the abilities to do the planning and conceptualization and organization of their work...tasks that get concentrated into the coordinator class within capitalism. There needs to be an organized approach to this process. This means that the organizations that are striving to create working class power need to work to set up these kinds of programs. To ensure commitment to this process, it's necessary to have some sort of mass organization rooted in the workplaces that is committed to this process. That this development of the skills and abilities of the working class is something that takes time is why working class empowerment is not an overnite occurrence. It has to pass from formal (structural) power to real power. But the formal structure cannot persist the class system or the process will be cut off, it will not deepen.

This is another reason why the idea of a party holding state power is the wrong approach. That's because, who tends to dominate in parties? People from the professional and boss classes have developed skills at running and controlling organizations. This gives them a step up. What's needed is that the initial control structures for the society exclude control by these party structures, but are rooted in the direct democracy of the workers movement.

My experience of open assemblies in neighborhoods within capitalist society is that the landlords, homeowners, business owners, and professionals in these neighborhoods will enter into them and use their expert knowledge and skills from their formal education and their experience at managing things to try to dominate. And this is true even within neighborhoods where the working class is the majority.

However, it is possible that, in a revolutionary period, radical organizations, and the worker organizations rooted in these neighborhoods, might be able to come to the fore and push aside the more elite classes in neighborhood assemblies, in working class neighborhoods.

Another possibility is to think of the regional congress, the potential polity for that region, as made up not only of delegates from workplaces, but also of other mass organizations in the social struggle, of tenant organizations, women's organizations, etc. The total system of oppression isn't just based on class.

Ezekiel Adamovsky has an interesting article on this
subject:

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=41&ItemID=10231

t.

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Feb 13 2007 22:42
Quote:
So, you need to work to democratize the relevant forms of knowledge, and to train workers so that they have the abilities to do the planning and conceptualization and organization of their work...tasks that get concentrated into the coordinator class within capitalism. There needs to be an organized approach to this process. This means that the organizations that are striving to create working class power need to work to set up these kinds of programs. To ensure commitment to this process, it's necessary to have some sort of mass organization rooted in the workplaces that is committed to this process. That this development of the skills and abilities of the working class is something that takes time is why working class empowerment is not an overnite occurrence. It has to pass from formal (structural) power to real power. But the formal structure cannot persist the class system or the process will be cut off, it will not deepen.

So what happens in the meantime, when workers don't have these skills. I for one would rather have a dictatorship that let these specialists run society.

Quote:
This is another reason why the idea of a party holding state power is the wrong approach. That's because, who tends to dominate in parties? People from the professional and boss classes have developed skills at running and controlling organizations. This gives them a step up. What's needed is that the initial control structures for the society exclude control by these party structures, but are rooted in the direct democracy of the workers movement.

But nobody, not us (EKS), or the ICC have argued for a party running the state. In fact we argue against this very clearly. I think you are aiming your argument at the wrong target. We are saying that a dictatorship of the working class is necessary to stop these tendencies.

Quote:
My experience of open assemblies in neighborhoods within capitalist society is that the landlords, homeowners, business owners, and professionals in these neighborhoods will enter into them and use their expert knowledge and skills from their formal education and their experience at managing things to try to dominate. And this is true even within neighborhoods where the working class is the majority.

However, it is possible that, in a revolutionary period, radical organizations, and the worker organizations rooted in these neighborhoods, might be able to come to the fore and push aside the more elite classes in neighborhood assemblies, in working class neighborhoods.

Yes, but I would rather there was a workers' dictatorship to safeguard against these people coming forward, and dominating.

Quote:
Another possibility is to think of the regional congress, the potential polity for that region, as made up not only of delegates from workplaces, but also of other mass organizations in the social struggle, of tenant organizations, women's organizations, etc. The total system of oppression isn't just based on class

.

To put it as politely as I can I think this is a load of old bollocks.

Devrim

gatorojinegro's picture
gatorojinegro
Offline
Joined: 21-01-07
Feb 13 2007 22:47

Yes, people with useful knowledge and skills are to be retained, but you can also start training other people in their knowledge, so they incorporate this into their ability to participate in the larger decisions about production. But to learn the skills people need to do the work. That's why it is necessary to not retain but break down the division of labor.

Consider a bus system. There are service planners who use various relatively simple mathematical techniques, looking at loadings and travel volumes, to work out a schedule for the bus operation. There is no reason that bus drivers cannot be trained to do this. Right now transit systems in the USA tend to hire these people out of college. There is no reason to retain this separation. You can define a new type of job, where a person drives a bus for part of the time, and then does the service planning work for a certain period of their work time. It's like a person does some of the coordination work part of the time, and then drives a bus or cleans a bus part of the time. It's important for the transit workers to take over this kind of work because it part of being able to plan and self-management their work as a whole. Also, driving a bus is an extremely stressful job, and it will better equalize the total burden of work stress in society to enable the drivers to do it only part of the time, and do something less stressful for other parts of their work time.

But this sort of transition will take time. And the people who had these relatively privileged positions are likely to want to retain the existing division of labor, so, yes, we don't want them as key delegates in congresses or on coordinating committees or whatever. I'm sure there might be exceptions where certain people from the professional class have a revolutionary commitment and are trusted. This should depend on their commitment to the real dissolution of the class system.

Devrim:"The thing about Nigeria is talking about pre-capitalist organisation. These people didn't actually have a state in the way that we understand it today. It is not relevant."

yes, they didn't have a state. but they had a governance system for their society. Therefore it LOGICALLY FOLLOWS that a governance system is not the same thing as a state.
Obviously the type of governance system we are proposing for a post-capitalist future is very different. The technical and social characteristics of the society today are very different. But the point is that the governance structure need not be a state. And the difference between a governance structure that isn't a state and one that is a state has to do with the existence of a hierarchy that separates the real political power from the mass of the people, just as Engels pointed out.

t.

gatorojinegro's picture
gatorojinegro
Offline
Joined: 21-01-07
Feb 13 2007 23:04
Quote:
So what happens in the meantime, when workers don't have these skills. I for one would rather have a dictatorship that let these specialists run society.

You mean, a "workers dictatorship" that presides over a corporate-style hierarchies in which workers are subordinate to a professional/managerial hierrarchy, it seems. Well, as Marx said, people can't be socially enslaved and politically free, and Bakunin said similar things, and they both were right.

Consider the factory takeovers in Argentina. They did it without the coordinator class. Workers had to learn new skills, things like bookkeeping and so on. In Spain they put the former bosses and engineers on special technical advisory councils. I think in fact they went too far in that direction because they often didn't begin the process of training workers to do that kind of work. In other cases workers did have to learn new things. So neither the Argentine nor the Spanish examples of worker takeovers of industry did what you suggest (tho in Spain they went a bit closer with the TAS Councils), yet they were successful in running the industries they took over.

me: "However, it is possible that, in a revolutionary period, radical organizations, and the worker organizations rooted in these neighborhoods, might be able to come to the fore and push aside the more elite classes in neighborhood assemblies, in working class neighborhoods."

Devrim: "Yes, but I would rather there was a workers' dictatorship to safeguard against these people coming forward, and dominating."

And what does that mean? it could mean that the neighborhood assemblies have only a limited scope of authority in the context of a regional social structure in which, at least initially, the worker organizations dominate.

But it will be necessary to develop the neighborhood assemblies because they are needed as an input channel for proposals for social production by the population, for things that people want for social goods and their consumption. You can't have an effective economy for people otherwise, if the aim is to replace the market.

me: "Another possibility is to think of the regional congress, the potential polity for that region, as made up not only of delegates from workplaces, but also of other mass organizations in the social struggle, of tenant organizations, women's organizations, etc. The total system of oppression isn't just based on class."

Devrim: "To put it as politely as I can I think this is a load of old bollocks."

That's not an argument, Devrim.

t.

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Feb 13 2007 23:11

The Ibo example is interesting, just as Marx and Engels were interested in the 'councils' of the Iroquois or other American tribes studied by Morgan. But these social formations can't be seen in a static manner. They were expressions of a process which had already moved quite far from the communism of early hunter gatherer society, already sowed the seeds of private property and social hierarchy; this process would eventually result in the formation of a class-divided system organised through a state power. This may not have happened in every tribal society but it expressed a general movement which took various forms in different areas of the globe. In other words, as Engels argues, the state is not a power imposed on society from outside but an emanation of class divisions once they reached a certain point (we've recently put online an article from our communism series dealing with Marx and Engels' views on primitive society and the emergence of class divisions, here: http://en.internationalism.org/ir/081_commy_11.html) .

We cannot be certain of the exact way in which a 'transitional state' will emanate from the still class-divided society after the revolution, but we are kidding ourselves if we think that state-type organs won't emerge, and we are disarming ourselves if we are not prepared to distinguish them from the authentic expressions of the proletariat. The anarchist approach seems to be to wish them away, rather than recognising their inevitability and preparing to ensure that the working class will be able to control these organs precisely because it does not identify itself with them.

The idea of a 'coordinator class' is in itself not very helpful. But what we will have to deal with is the danger of a 'bureaucracy' arising from administrative bodies that will be necessary but extremely vulnerable to the most conservative pressures in society - pressures to preserve the status quo rather than constantly overturn it. It is from such bodies that, in the event of a downturn in the revolution, or even a temporary set-back, a new bureaucratic stratum could emerge, the nucleus of a new state bourgeoisie. The same danger will exist within the apparatus of coercion, judicial bodies, military organs - there may be a need for them but the last thing we want to do is give them a revolutionary veneer by dubbing them proletarian and identifying them with the workers' assemblies and councils. And what about all the other non-exploiting classes who have not yet been integrated into the proletariat? They will need to be able to participate in the running of the new power but it would be dangerous to pretend that assemblies or soviets dominated by these strata will have the same revolutionary dynamic as those that emerge directly from the proletariat.

As I say, we can't work out the precise forms of the organisation of a transitional society and it is not always easy to identify this "revolutionary dynamic". For example, while workplace assemblies would certainly play a key role in any revolutionary process, we have already seen in the recent struggles in Vigo that the steelworkers, who were dispersed in small workplaces, organised 'public' assemblies in the town square which, in our view, certainly continued to express and even take forward the proletarian impetus of the movement. By contrast, the original class movement in Oaxaca was drowned out through the formation of the inter-classist Popular Assembly which was dominated by the bourgeois left.

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Feb 13 2007 23:20
Quote:
Devrim: "To put it as politely as I can I think this is a load of old bollocks."

That's not an argument, Devrim.

No you are right it is not.

Neither is this:

Quote:
You mean, a "workers dictatorship" that presides over a corporate-style hierarchies in which workers are subordinate to a professional/managerial hierrarchy, it seems.

I don't know who you are arguing against here, but it is certainly not against anything that I have put forward.

Quote:
Consider the factory takeovers in Argentina. They did it without the coordinator class. Workers had to learn new skills, things like bookkeeping and so on. In Spain they put the former bosses and engineers on special technical advisory councils. I think in fact they went too far in that direction because they often didn't begin the process of training workers to do that kind of work. In other cases workers did have to learn new things. So neither the Argentine nor the Spanish examples of worker takeovers of industry did what you suggest (tho in Spain they went a bit closer with the TAS Councils), yet they were successful in running the industries they took over.

So, as I said there will be a need to use bourgeois specialists. I think that you have another misunderstanding of our position if you think that we are saying that workers can't learn to run production. We believe not only that they can, but also that this is the only way to build socialism. If bourgeois specialists are initially allowed to take their part in the production process, as you seem to be agreeing, surely there must be a power exercised by the working class over this production process.

Neither of us know exactly what forms will run a post revolutionary society, but I hope that it will be the working class, and not these people who you refer to as a co-ordinator class.

By the way, I think you replied while I was editing my post to bold the line: The total system of oppression isn't just based on class. That is what I thought was bollocks.

Devrim

gatorojinegro's picture
gatorojinegro
Offline
Joined: 21-01-07
Feb 13 2007 23:43

Alf:

Quote:
We cannot be certain of the exact way in which a 'transitional state' will emanate from the still class-divided society after the revolution, but we are kidding ourselves if we think that state-type organs won't emerge, and we are disarming ourselves if we are not prepared to distinguish them from the authentic expressions of the proletariat. The anarchist approach seems to be to wish them away, rather than recognising their inevitability and preparing to ensure that the working class will be able to control these organs precisely because it does not identify itself with them.

if the society is in transition to a state of affairs where there is no longer a class division, then setting up a state only derails that process and ensures that it will lead to a new ruling class. for the process of dissolution of the class system to be successful, it does require that there be consolidated a new polity, a new structure to perform the essential political functions of the society -- deciding on the rules/laws, deciding on the new social arrangements, enforcing these new rules, and doing so in ways that do not lead to a new elite class consolidating its hold.

a formal managerial structure, a top-down hierarchy, is not needed in order to have a political governance structure. the congresses of delegates from the base assemblies can provide the rule-making function, and a workers militia can provide the defense of the new social arrangement, and people's courts can be set up to ensure the adjudication function.

terms like "state bourgeoisie" (sort of a contradiction in terms) and "bureaucracy" are unclear and unhelpful. there are "bureaucracies" in all sorts of organizations, the American Association of Retired People, the unions, etc. "bureaucracy" doesn't delineate a class because it says nothing about its role in social production.

It's necessary to understand what the basis of the subordination and exploitation of the working class is, if we're to have a program to get rid of it. Apart from the working class, there are a number of other strata.

There is the class whose position is based on relative monopolization of conditions that give power, other than ownership, in social production, such as management positions, professional expertise. This is the "coordinator class." This class was the ruling class in the USSR. Within capitalism, it is a class that dominates and participates in the exploitation of the working class, but is subordinate to the capitalists.
I would say that state socialism, in both its social-democratic and Leninist forms, is Left coordinatorist in that its programmatic and strategic orientations tend to empower the coordinator class.

In the USA there is also a small business class, but this is only 6% of the population. The big investor class is usually estimated at about 2%. Then there is a large stratum of low-level professionals who seem to me to share some characteristics in common with both the working class and the coordinator class. They have more of a worker-like situation but college degrees, more autonomy often, etc. I'm thinking here of teachers, social workers, application programmers, commercial artists (other than celebrities), writers, etc. This group in the USA is, i suspect, around 15% of the population.

Michael Zweig's "The Working Class Majority" estimates the working class proper in the USA at 62% of the population. he leaves out the stratum that i call the "lower-level professionals." in Eric Olin Wright's terminology, the lower-level professionals seem to be in a "contradictory class location." their situation suggests they are potential allies of the working class.

t.

gatorojinegro's picture
gatorojinegro
Offline
Joined: 21-01-07
Feb 13 2007 23:53

Devrim: "So, as I said there will be a need to use bourgeois specialists. I think that you have another misunderstanding of our position if you think that we are saying that workers can't learn to run production. We believe not only that they can, but also that this is the only way to build socialism. If bourgeois specialists are initially allowed to take their part in the production process, as you seem to be agreeing, surely there must be a power exercised by the working class over this production process."

Yes. I suggested a couple types of possible such organizations. In the Spanish revoluiton there was the formal power of the worker assembly. I don't think that is sufficient, tho it is part of the story. As I said, i think there need to be worker organizations whose aim it is to defend workers interests, to propel things forward, and are active within the assemblies and congresses. This was why I said that it was advisable for the union or worker political association to be separate from the formal structures of self-management.

Not sure what this power is you propose to be exercized by the working class over the former members of the coordinator class who are continued, if it's something other than the worker democracy. if it's not a top-down hierarchy then it isn't a state. and if it is a top-down hierarchy then it won't be a way to empower workers.

t.

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Feb 14 2007 08:08
Quote:
Not sure what this power is you propose to be exercized by the working class over the former members of the coordinator class who are continued, if it's something other than the worker democracy.

I am not sure if you follow my arguments. Where have I suggested that the dictatorship is exercised by anybody except the working class organised through mass assemblies, and councils, or as you put it worker democracy?

I am not sure what the problem is Cat. Maybe you see something 'Marxist', and decide that it must be 'statist'. I think that anarchists have a bit of a problem on this, but don't answer it here. I am going to start a new thread on it: http://libcom.org/forums/thought/anarchist-buzz-words-and-trotskyism

gatorojinegro wrote:
if it's not a top-down hierarchy then it isn't a state. and if it is a top-down hierarchy then it won't be a way to empower workers.

I don't like semantic arguments. If you don't want to call it a state, we won't. The sentence above does seem to me like a bit of tortuous anarchist circular logic though.

Do you agree that the working class must establish its control over society politically as well as over the productive process?

Devrim

cantdocartwheels's picture
cantdocartwheels
Offline
Joined: 15-03-04
Feb 14 2007 08:58

The soft-bolsheiks on this thread such as derim and the ICC seem to be argueing for a transitional state wth the kind of loose approach to terminology that would make even 'communist saturdays' Lenin blush. Pretending that anarchists hae a fetish against the state rather than attempting any real analysis of the bolsheviks party structures and their relation to the capitalist model of the state is only a few steps away from claiming that left communism is an infantile disorder.

gatorojinegro wrote:
No, the coordinator class is an elite, about 17 percent of the population currently in the USA.

Eh? So 40 million people are 'co-ordinators'. Whwere exactly did you draw this arbitrary line?

And how exactly would the working class need to 'learn their skills'? I don't want to learn the skills of a doctor, i hae no desire to perfrom open heart surgery theres no way i would want to handle that level of stress on a daily basis.

Seems to me like the usual gibberish that accompanies three class analysis.

Lazy Riser's picture
Lazy Riser
Offline
Joined: 6-05-05
Feb 14 2007 10:06

Hi

Alf wrote:
As I say, we can't work out the precise forms of the organisation of a transitional society

“Precision” aside, the left communist position looks like a classist version of multi-party social democracy predicated on state controlled industrial production and the abolition of individual private property. Indeed, “the question of property”, the ideological philosophy of the workers is much more important than the structures used to express it.

Love

LR

gatorojinegro's picture
gatorojinegro
Offline
Joined: 21-01-07
Feb 14 2007 17:42
Quote:
I am not sure if you follow my arguments. Where have I suggested that the dictatorship is exercised by anybody except the working class organised through mass assemblies, and councils, or as you put it worker democracy?

Okay, then where is your disagreement with what I have said? You blab as if there is a disagreement.

Quote:
I don't like semantic arguments. If you don't want to call it a state, we won't. The sentence above does seem to me like a bit of tortuous anarchist circular logic though.

The argument isn't merely semantic. if control in society is exercized through worker assemblies and congresses of delegates from these assemblies, and coordinating councils of delegates accountable to the base, then it's not a coordinatorist hierarchy and you don't have a state. Calling it a "state" is misleading.

revol:

Quote:
I mean I don't see how the working class can assert itself politically on society through anything other than it's councils, soviets, committees and communes, which means that the working class is not so much establishing itself politically as asserting itself by abolishing the specialised sphere of "politics".

No, politics doesn't get "abolished". That's because politics deals with the big issues of how society is arranged and the basic rules in the society, protecting people against anti-social behavior like murder and rape, and protecting the social order itself against those (e.g. former capitalists) who would try to overthrow it. The functions of legislation, adjudication and social self-defense don't go away. But they can be performed by the sorts of organizations that you refer to, so that the working class controls things directly. We get rid of the special hierarchies of professionals of power, of rule, who make up actual states. so there is still a structure of political governance, of self-governance, it's just not a state.

can't do:

Quote:
Eh? So 40 million people are 'co-ordinators'. Whwere exactly did you draw this arbitrary line?

And how exactly would the working class need to 'learn their skills'? I don't want to learn the skills of a doctor, i hae no desire to perfrom open heart surgery theres no way i would want to handle that level of stress on a daily basis.

I've explained this before. The coordinator class -- this is a technical term coined by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel during the debate over the "professional/managerial class" in the USA Left in the '70s -- has a position defined by a relative monopolization of empowering conditions not based on ownership. This includes managerial positions in a power hierarchy, it includes concentrations of forms of expertise directly relevant to running enterprises and government entities. The power is exercized within social production over the working class. This class emerged in the period 1890 to 1920 after capitals had grown large enough, and state intervention had grown, so that the capitalists themselves could not directly manage production, and had to cede a realm of power to this class. You have engineers designing jobs, equipment and software to help control workers, you have corporate lawyers breaking unions and in general defending the legal interests of the firm, you have accountants working as finance officers and consultants to assist the management of firms, and so on.

All classes within capitalism are internally hierarchical -- this is true of the capitalist class itself, and also of the working class, and there are fuzzy boundary lines between classes. There is a large fuzzy boundary line between the coordinator class and the working class because of the efforts of capital to redefine work and jobs to gain control over areas of autonomy in work that remain, such as professional autonomy, so that groups like RNs or school teachers get pushed down into the working class by this. But much of the lower-level professional worker population has a contradictory position because they share elements of the coordinator class position and elements of a worker-like position.

But if we don't concern ourselves with dissolution of the coordinator class power over the working class, then this class is likely to be empowered in an anti-capitalist revolution. This class has become the ruling class in all the "Communist" revolutions. State-socialism has a programmatic orientation that tends to empower the coordinator class. Not having a theory that recognizes this class gets in the way of working class liberation. The working class can't be liberated from the class system if power is concentrated into the hands of an elite of 20% of the population.

In regard to doctors, it doesn't matter if YOU don't want to do that kind of work. Others would.

t.

Lazy Riser's picture
Lazy Riser
Offline
Joined: 6-05-05
Feb 14 2007 18:48

Hi

Apart from the occasional moralising against “oppression”, gatorojinegro, we’re very close in theory. There’s a couple of points in particular that I’d like to develop with you, if that’s OK.

Quote:
if control in society is exercized through worker assemblies and congresses of delegates from these assemblies, and coordinating councils of delegates accountable to the base, then it's not a coordinatorist hierarchy and you don't have a state.

Political power should belong to neighbourhood assemblies, let enterprises manage themselves. In any case, the emergence of political parties is inevitable. It is doubtful, as you say, that the property question will occupy a greater meaning than the Jesus question.

Quote:
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.

Indeed. We are currently documenting their business processes and removing activities that don’t add value at the client face. Hoisted by their own petards as predicted. What’s left over is child’s play to be honest, but the consequences of demand estimate-risk have confused them and made it look more complicated than it needs to be. This is not an argument for an especially planned economy though, the opposite in fact.

Also, assuming we’re not issuing ration tickets, please explain the way your proposed economy’s money supply operates, including the laws regarding income.

Love

LR

gatorojinegro's picture
gatorojinegro
Offline
Joined: 21-01-07
Feb 14 2007 18:49

okay, revol,it seems you're just using a different terminology than me. in this case the difference does seem merely semantic.

t.

petey
Offline
Joined: 13-10-05
Feb 14 2007 19:27
gatorojinegro wrote:
In regard to doctors, it doesn't matter if YOU don't want to do that kind of work. Others would.

sure, but how about sewer cleaners? can we assume that anyone would want to do that kind of work? would a class of social-maintenance (let's call it) tasks be rotated amongst everyone? the motivation must come from the ideology, if we're really serious about a libertarian culture. is the ideology so superior that everyone would buy into it?

Lazy Riser's picture
Lazy Riser
Offline
Joined: 6-05-05
Feb 14 2007 19:43

Hi

Quote:
can we assume that anyone would want to do that kind of work? would a class of social-maintenance (let's call it) tasks be rotated amongst everyone?

Everyone has their price. Many will happily do it full time in return for cocaine Jacuzzi parties with hotties.

Love

LR

Devrim's picture
Devrim
Offline
Joined: 15-07-06
Feb 14 2007 20:01
gatorojinegro wrote:
Quote:
I don't like semantic arguments. If you don't want to call it a state, we won't. The sentence above does seem to me like a bit of tortuous anarchist circular logic though.

The argument isn't merely semantic. if control in society is exercized through worker assemblies and congresses of delegates from these assemblies, and coordinating councils of delegates accountable to the base, then it's not a coordinatorist hierarchy and you don't have a state. Calling it a "state" is misleading.

It is torturous circular logic though. My dictionary doesn't define a state as a 'coordinatorist hierarchy', and neither did Marx by the way. In fact you did yourself. To then say that if you don't have a 'coordinatorist hierarchy', you don't have a state is classic circular logic.

Devrim

Joseph Kay's picture
Joseph Kay
Offline
Joined: 14-03-06
Feb 14 2007 20:24

i think communists are going to have to do better than dictionary definitions:

Quote:
Com·mu·nist (kŏm'yə-nĭst) pronunciation
n.

1. i. A member of a Marxist-Leninist party.
ii. A supporter of such a party or movement.
2. A Communard.
3. often communist; A radical viewed as a subversive or revolutionary.

there's a bit more to it than that, no?