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

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petey
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Feb 14 2007 20:30
Lazy Riser wrote:
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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.

yes that's what i'm getting at. which is ok with me, but not i'm guessing with gato.

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Lazy Riser
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Feb 14 2007 20:46

Hi

Joseph K. wrote:
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?

Ha ha. No.

Love

LR

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gatorojinegro
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Feb 14 2007 22:07

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

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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?

look, the issue is the dissolution of the power of the coordinator class. that means we don't want to concentrate the most empowering work, of expertise and planning and so on, into the hands of an elite.

rotation is not an adequate solution. if someone who has an elite job takes out the garbage occasionally, that is just slumming.

the solution has to be more far-reaching, more fundamental. it means changing the division of labor. this means that we need to re-define jobs so that all jobs involve some element of the conceptualization, decision-making, skilled work, and some element of the actual production work. this means we need to have this job-re-arranging as part of the program of a revolutionary workers movement.

t.

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Lazy Riser
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Feb 14 2007 22:15

Hi

Quote:
this means that we need to re-define jobs so that all jobs involve some element of the conceptualization, decision-making, skilled work, and some element of the actual production work. this means we need to have this job-re-arranging as part of the program of a revolutionary workers movement.

Nah. I'm not buying balanced job complexes. If a job is hard to fill, whack up the pay and / or perks I say. I mean, a lot of people might be perfectly happy with a menial job as it frees up time for their free-form Jazz experiments or whatever. The question is really one of terms and conditions, otherwise sexy people will just withhold favours until we clean their pipes out for ‘em.

Love

LR

petey
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Feb 14 2007 22:23
gatorojinegro wrote:
the solution has to be more far-reaching, more fundamental. it means changing the division of labor. this means that we need to re-define jobs so that all jobs involve some element of the conceptualization, decision-making, skilled work, and some element of the actual production work. this means we need to have this job-re-arranging as part of the program of a revolutionary workers movement.

that's as clear an answer as i've seen to the question. yet, it seems to me, alot of these jobs don't need reconceptualization, even if the distribution of labor does. and, some things require such an expertise that my unimaginative mind can't see how they'd very well be differently organized in a libertarian environment.

i do get impatient, i admit, with airy assertions like this:

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

i've seen this sort of talk often, and presuming on the unknowable desires of others isn't going to convince anyone concerned with plausibly-conceived daily application of libertarianism to get with the program.

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gatorojinegro
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Feb 14 2007 23:28

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

newyawka:

"i've seen this sort of talk often, and presuming on the unknowable desires of others isn't going to convince anyone concerned with plausibly-conceived daily application of libertarianism to get with the program."

airy talk gets an airy answer. you want a serious discussion, ask a serious question. in fact there is plenty of stuff written on this very issue, in regard to the proposal for balanced jobs. i'm not going to write someone a book on the fly here in reply to flippant statements.

t.

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Feb 14 2007 23:47

I'm pressed for time so apologies if I'm not really keeping up with this thread (or the other one Dev started)and missing the point. I just wanted to respond quickly to a few things:

Lazy seems to think that we are calling for nationalisation and state property. We are certainly not for that. We are for socialisation not nationalisation, which means a struggle led by the councils against the social relations of capital (wage labour, commodity production, and their manifestations - atomisation of the enterprise, national borders...). We are not for their codification at a national level. The danger of the state is precisely that it will tend to freeze the dynamic process of social transformation and seek to legalise and preserve the status quo. The crystallisation of state property would mean a tendency towards the counter-revolution.

Revol: I would certainly also recommend serious study of Marx's early writings on the state as an expression of the alienation of man's social powers. This shows the huge gulf between Marx and the various forms of 'state socialism' which grew up in his era. But it doesn't provide a basis for the ahistorical and idealist vision that informs anarchist 'anti-statism'. On the contrary, from the very beginning, Marx locates the state in real social relations and thus makes it clear that state forms cannot be finally laid to rest until those social relations have been overcome.

This brings me back to gato: I understand and agree with the importance of the struggle to ensure that all the most vital decisions about the direction of the social transformation are in the hands of workers' assemblies and their delegate councils. But you seem to vastly underestimate the degree to which it will indeed be a struggle, a daily as well as a historic combat to overcome all the habits of passivity, egoism, elitism and all the rest inherited from millenia of class society. This is first and foremost a struggle within the ranks of the working class itself, because even after the revolution there will be very different levels of consciousness within the class, there will be moments of retreat and hesitation, and so on.

At the same time, I note that you do seem to recognise that there will be a need for a distinct organisation of communists fighting within the councils against all the still-intact ideological and political expressions of the old world. You say that this could be either a 'political association' or a union, but it certainly can't be a union, if only because the basis for its membership would have to be a shared and coherent political programme, not the mere fact of being a worker.

To conclude, a question: do you not think that, during the transition period, some political forms and institutions will be more vulnerable to the pull of the old order, more likely to stand for expediency at the expense of the overall goal, more likely to serve as a rallying point for the full restoration of the old relations? And do you not think that the workers' assemblies and delegate councils will have to be constantly on their guard against such organs usurping their power, even if they begin life as 'creatures' of the councils, formed to carry out specific functions (such as day to day administration). Because whether or not you call these bodies a state or statist type organs, this is surely going to be a central focus for the class struggle during the transitional period.

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gatorojinegro
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Feb 15 2007 00:21

alf:

Quote:
But you seem to vastly underestimate the degree to which it will indeed be a struggle, a daily as well as a historic combat to overcome all the habits of passivity, egoism, elitism and all the rest inherited from millenia of class society. This is first and foremost a struggle within the ranks of the working class itself, because even after the revolution there will be very different levels of consciousness within the class, there will be moments of retreat and hesitation, and so on.

Just because i don't mention something doesn't mean i'm unaware of it. The working class transforms itself in the course of transforming the society. That's because humans are, as Marx said, "beings of practice," so that their activities then form their consciousness and skills. Awareness of class power and self-confidence in it develops as that collective power itself is exhibited and develops, for example.

Quote:
At the same time, I note that you do seem to recognise that there will be a need for a distinct organisation of communists fighting within the councils against all the still-intact ideological and political expressions of the old world. You say that this could be either a 'political association' or a union, but it certainly can't be a union, if only because the basis for its membership would have to be a shared and coherent political programme, not the mere fact of being a worker.

A union could have a program and could be a voluntary association of workers in struggle. in the various interviews that Ron Fraser conducted of CNT veterans of the Spanish revolution, a number of them said it was a mistake for the CNT shop steward committees to just transform themselves into the administrative council for the worker-managed plant without rebuilding the union committee. There still needs to be an organization that defends, and works to advance, worker interests as there are dangers inherent in the situation and just eliminating the capitalists and creating some formal structure of worker control doesn't end the class system, it is a more protracted process. but of course the association could be a political association or caucus of some sort rather than a union.

as to the pull of the old order, there are certainly dangers, and that's a reason i focus on the basis of the position of the coordinator class, because this is less obvious than changing titles to property, it has to do with the skills that various groups have as a result of their formation in the old system, and the advantages they have to remain in power over others.

and, as I've said, there needs to be a political consolidation of the revolution, but i see that as happening via the structure based on the assemblies, delegate congresses, and elected administrative councils accountable to the base. this is needed in order to defend worker power against the various attempts to continue the class system in one way or another.

t.

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Feb 15 2007 07:53
gatorojinegro wrote:
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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

I know it is, its an over generalisation typical of their simplified reductionist analysis. Particualarly Albert.

Quote:
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.

I don't doubt that there are middle managers and foremen but assigning such a large section of the population to them (there is not 1 co-ordinator for every five members of the workforce!) and making this idea so broad that it includes doctors and engineers is a ridiculous homogenisation of class structure.

Quote:
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.

Thing is that when it comes to actually fighting against capitalism this is just speculation and meaningless pish. When working out in your workplace which of the lower level and middle managers will be anti-workplace organisation and which won't you don't do it based on some theoretical model you do it on practical experience. Plus just because say a nurse manager of mine is against organising in the workplace today, doesn't mean i'd want to stop her carrying on as a nurse in a communist society.

Quote:
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.

Thats missing the whole point though, while the class chracter of a movement is obviously important the issue isn't simply what the theoretically correct class composition of an organisation is, its also what the model of organisation is.
The bolsheviks had a mass working class membership, yet they abjectly failed to carry through the revolution, thisd is't because they were 'middle class' or were full of 'coordinators' or some such nonsense, its because their programme wasn't democratic or communist.

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

Sorry but thats a ridiculous assumption. Also the fact is that in order to perform things like open heart surgery you need a doctor with years of advanced training in charge of the operation simple as. Theirs nothing wrong with having experts in a feild, or are we all going to be nuclear technicians or physicists?

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Feb 15 2007 08:27
revol68 wrote:
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Thats missing the whole point though, while the class chracter of a movement is obviously important the issue isn't simply what the theoretically correct class composition of an organisation is, its also what the model of organisation is.
The bolsheviks had a mass working class membership, yet they abjectly failed to carry through the revolution, thisd is't because they were 'middle class' or were full of 'coordinators' or some such nonsense, its because their programme wasn't democratic or communist.

The Bolsheviks in the run up to 1917 were overwhelmingly middle class and this was reflected in their politics.

True thinking about it, however the bolsheviks did develop rapidly in terms of their constituency and political positions in 1917 itself. Your right though its probably not the best example, given that it was 1917 aswell.

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Feb 15 2007 08:59
Revol wrote:
The Bolsheviks in the run up to 1917 were overwhelmingly middle class and this was reflected in their politics.

I don't think that this is factually true, Revol. If you claimed this about the Bolshevik leadership, you would have more of a point. The actual party though was overwhelming working class.
Devrim

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Feb 15 2007 10:09
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yes, there were alot of proletarian grunts in it but the people setting the agenda and who had set the agenda for years before hand were middle class exiles. And as the Bolsheviks were democratic centralists we all know that the leadership provides the line.

Yes, and as I said before this argument has more of a point. The party was overwhelmingly working class though, and I think that you should be clear that it was the leadership that was middle class.

The currents which broke with the Second International took all sorts of social democratic baggage with them. I believe that this was particularly strong in the RSDLP(B). The point is that as the struggle developed, I would say from around the turn of the century, and the workers threw up new forms of organisation some elements were able to begin to break with these social democratic conceptions. The break, however, was not complete, and looking back with the benefit of hindsight it would be foolish to have expected it to be. Lenin was a part of this current. Certainly there is a very clear class line between the position of the Zimmerwald left, and the social patriotism of the vast majority of the Second International parties. It is also clear that Lenin's ideas concerning the relationship between the party, and the state was one of the things that had terrible consequences for the revolution, and the ideas that were 'forced' onto the Third International on parliamentarianism, trade unionism, and national liberation had terrible consequences for the international movement. That, Lenin who at one point had stood with the working class, passes over to the side of capital is for me very clear.

I think that the anarchists at the time also had similar problems of breaking with ideas that new developments in the workers struggle had made outdated, but that is not the main point here.

Quote:
the people setting the agenda and who had set the agenda for years before hand were middle class exiles.

Yes, I would also agree that their class origin is important, and the fact that they were exiles, and not connected directly to the struggle in Russia is also partly responsible for their line. I would like to remind you though that many hard line Stalinists were also workers. Class composition alone is not enough.

Devrim

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Feb 15 2007 10:26

Hi

Alf wrote:
Lazy seems to think that we are calling for nationalisation and state property.

Hmmm. I’m not sure I’d accuse you so vulgarly. Nevertheless, if the working class directs the state, and the state directs production, it’s difficult to accept that state ownership and social ownership are really different things. It’s not as if communists advocate the atomised ownership of productive capital by individual enterprises, so without state ownership they may well be able to raise the property question, but remain unable to answer it without drifting into Marxist esoteric.

Besides, as you say, the crisis (the destitution of the working class), is key in formulating the economic policy of the workers’ state. That is to say, communism is not simply desirable but actually necessary for survival beyond mere barbarism. Currents which approach transition without accepting some kind of deterministic decadence theory are doomed to miss the communists’ point, as if this or that structure can in itself remedy the disaster of private accumulation.

Love

LR

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Feb 15 2007 10:53
Revol wrote:
And Lenins break from the second international was tactical, the situation in Russian forced him to reject the crude determinism of the second international, but in truth he never got beyond their politics and his commitment to the Soviets was tactical through and through.

I have problems with this line that it was tactical. To me it seems to imply that Lenin was some sort of 'evil genius' who plotted to install this 'nasty authoritarian dictatorship'. I am not saying that this is what you are putting forward, but lots of anarchists do.

It was actually one of the things that caused me to make the comment that originally started this thread. I had just re-read Brinton's 'The Bolsheviks..' (actually I read another book of his at the same time, so I may be confusing the two), and it did come across to me like this very strongly.

I think that Lenin was a sincere militant. I also don't think that sincerity is enough to stop people passing over to the side of capital.

You write:

Revol wrote:
Of course it's not enough, it's about the structures of the movement, it's politics but these can't be seperated from the composition of the leadership or a movements intellectual leadership.

I agreed with this when I wrote:

Quote:
Yes, I would also agree that their class origin is important, and the fact that they were exiles, and not connected directly to the struggle in Russia is also partly responsible for their line.

When you write that it is tactical though, it implies that there was some cunning plan to take over the state, and institute a dictatorship against the working class. Now, although this may have been what eventually happened, I don't think that this Machiavellian 'bad man' version of history helps us.

I think that part of the answer is to be found in the class origins of the leadership of the social democratic movement. Part of the answer is to be found in the fact that the working class wasn't able to assert its own interests.

Workers to were forced to reject previously held ideas by the situation. This was part of how revolutionary politics develops. Lenin's commitment to the soviets was tactical in that he believed that it was part of the way that the party, which he believed represented the interests of the working class, could take control of the state. In this he was deeply wrong, and as I said before:

Devrim wrote:
It is also clear that Lenin's ideas concerning the relationship between the party, and the state was one of the things that had terrible consequences for the revolution...

That Lenin ended up attacking the working class on behalf of capital is undoubtedly true. That social democratic ideology was one of the things that led him to this is true also, as is the fact that one of the things that had a major part in the development of this ideology was the class basis of the leaders of social democracy. I think to a large extent that they couldn't even envisage a society in which the working class held power directly. It is also true though that many militant workers at the time couldn't envisage this either. With hindsight the Russian revolution teaches us much about how a revolution shouldn't be. The point is to learn the lessons of it, and not to simply align ourselves with historical factions.

Devrim

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Feb 15 2007 16:19

me: "I've explained this before. The coordinator class -- this is a technical term coined by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel"

Can't do:

"I know it is, its an over generalisation typical of their simplified reductionist analysis. Particualarly Albert."

They're not reductionist, that's what they try to avoid. Actually it is the traditional marxist bipolar labor/capital theory that is reductionist.

Quote:
Also the fact is that in order to perform things like open heart surgery you need a doctor with years of advanced training in charge of the operation simple as. Theirs nothing wrong with having experts in a feild, or are we all going to be nuclear technicians or physicists?

of course training and expertise are necessary. but if expertise is concentrated into the hands of a few, that becomes a basis of power being concentrated in social production into an elite. the idea is that expertise should be democratized, more broadly spread in the workforce.

the number of people trained as doctors in the USA is arbitrarily restricted so that the scarcity of those with the expertise of doctors drives up their money and power.

t.

alibadani
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Feb 15 2007 18:03

Quickly about the Ibo. I happen to be one. In much of Africa, the novel "Things Fall Apart" is mandatory reading in high school. It's about the collapse of Ibo society in the late 1800's as the Brits took over. Anywho, the book describes some spectacular forms of barbarism in this society: the killing of twins at birth. Not to talk of the treatment of social outcasts, slavery and the low status of women. African anarchism???

I'm enjoying the thread. I foresee a revolution that will be quasi-global almost from the start. It is hard to imagine an isolated proletarian bastion like Russia in '17. That would eliminate some of the problems right there. Also I'm not quite convinced with the ICC/Dev line. I don't see a dispossessed bourgeoisie as much of a threat at all. I also don't think there will be that much antagonism between the workers and the peasants. As for technicians et al, If they don't help us won't they starve?

I'm more worried about disagreements between proles.

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Feb 15 2007 18:22

I don't think Sam Mbah and I.E. Igariwey, who live in Enugu, Nigeria, intended to romanticize the medieval way of life
among the ibo. I think they mentioned the low status of women. Mbah and Igariwey argue for a resolutely internationalist point of view. They didn't use the term "African anarchism" to describe the past, but their proposal for the future. They used the term "communalism" to describe the earlier way of life. I'd advise reading their book to make up your mind about what they were saying. From the fact there was no state or class stratification in earlier traditional socities, it doesn't follow that they didn't have problems.

t.

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Feb 15 2007 18:45

One more point: Mbah and Igariwey are members of the Awareness League, which is a libertarian socialist organization, the Nigerian affiliate of the International Workers Association. They have an internationalist, anarcho-syndicalist strategy, that is, of developing mass union organizations as a means of worker revolution. As of the late '90s, they had groups throughout all of southern Nigeria and several of the states in norrthern Nigeria.

t.

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Feb 15 2007 18:54

Hi

Quote:
But you seem to vastly underestimate the degree to which it will indeed be a struggle, a daily as well as a historic combat to overcome all the habits of passivity, egoism, elitism and all the rest inherited from millenia of class society.

Passivity, egoism and elitism are not in themselves sins. Presumably, you’re against them because their inevitable consequence is economic disaster rather than because they’re “evil”. I’d be interested to know how you currently sate your habitual egoism. Be as graphic as you like.

Love

LR

petey
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Feb 15 2007 21:12
gatorojinegro wrote:
you want a serious discussion, ask a serious question.

that's simply pathetic.
so, one more name to the long list of names of evaders.

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Feb 15 2007 21:49

me: "you want a serious discussion, ask a serious question."

Newyawka:

"that's simply pathetic.
so, one more name to the long list of names of evaders."

Bullshit. I've written a great deal in this thread and in other threads concerning the coordinator class. if you have a specific point, then make that point.

t.

petey
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Feb 15 2007 21:53

the coordinator class? ah - so you've ...

EDIT: i've taken out the nasty bit and will try to engage. my comment was:

i wrote:
i do get impatient, i admit, with airy assertions like this:

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

i've seen this sort of talk often, and presuming on the unknowable desires of others isn't going to convince anyone concerned with plausibly-conceived daily application of libertarianism to get with the program.

the question isn't one of classes, coordinator or otherwise. the question is one of presuming on the internal experience of others, and this has nothing to do with class. making an assertion about a thing that is unknowable and unpredictable, and using that as part of one's analysis, is a predicate for an eternally self-referential trip, which may display internal consistency, but will intersect with lived experience only at points. i think it's a reductionist approach.

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Feb 15 2007 22:28

it would be helpful if you were to explain what it is you want to talk about. i'll go over it again.

advanced capitalism isn't just divided into the owners of capital, and the working class, who are subordinated in social production and do not control the labor of others.

beginning in the period 1890 to 1920 in the more developed capitalist countries, large capitalist enterprises, which had now the resources to systematically study and reorganize jobs and production to a degree not previously, developed methods of breaking down tasks, especially of skilled craft workers, and began re-arraning work in such a way that conceptualization of work, defining of jobs, the possession of the technology (the know-how), and supervision was systematically concentrated in a hierarchy of people other than the workers. the work was re-arranged in such a way that the conceptualization and decision-making activity was increasingly concentrated into an elite. This was a period when there was huge growth in the numbes of managers and professionals.

This newly emergent class is characterized by its relative monopolization of conditions that give power within the social production not based on ownership, including not just the management positions but concentration of certain kinds of expertise. This class is what I call the coordinator class.

The coordinator class tends to have a meritocratic ideology which emphasizes their credentials, their formal education, as a justification for the claim that they should be making the decisions.

Just getting rid of the capitalist class, and changing the titles on all the property will not get rid of the subordination of the working class to the coordinator class in social production. As long as the control is concentrated into an elite, you will still have a class system.

The coordinator class was the ruling class in the Soviet Union and the other "Communist" countries.

the intermediate strata between the major investors and the working class includes not only the coordinator class, but the small business class and a boundary group of lower-level professionals who share some of the traits of both the coordinator and working classes, such as school teachers, writers, application programmers, commercial artists.

dissolving the power of the coordinator class over the working class would require expanding the education/training, in tandem with control in production, of workers so as to acquire more elements of expertise, so that workers have the knowledge/information, to be able to participate effectively in the planning and decision-making for industries. the old division of labor from class society needs to be broken down. it's not a question of "eliminating expertise" -- expertise is useful -- but of spreading it around, democratizing knowledge with democratization of control.

So that's a nutshell summary.

t.

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Feb 15 2007 22:30

newyawka:

Quote:
the question isn't one of classes, coordinator or otherwise. the question is one of presuming on the internal experience of others, and this has nothing to do with class. making an assertion about a thing that is unknowable and unpredictable, and using that as part of one's analysis, is a predicate for an eternally self-referential trip, which may display internal consistency, but will intersect with lived experience only at points, and then by coincidence. you don't have to be a marxist to have a reductionist approach.

i have no idea what you're talking about.

t.

petey
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Feb 15 2007 22:34

ok then. we really are talking past each other. i appreciate the time you expended on your very clear statment, but it kinda confirms what i have in mind.

Anarcho
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Feb 16 2007 10:30
Quote:
"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."

It depends what you mean. All the Bolshevik oppositions, bar the Workers Group, assumed a leading role for the party within the Soviets. As one Left-Communist put it in 1918 the only true bastion of the interests of the proletariat was the party which "is in every case and everywhere superior to the soviets . . . The soviets represent labouring democracy in general; and its interest, and in particular the interests of the petty bourgeois peasantry, do not always coincide with the interests of the proletariat." [quoted by Richard Sakwa, Soviet Communists in Power, p. 182] They did support economic democracy, unlike the mainstream Bolshevik position, but this must be placed within a general context of party power.

Much the same can be said of the "Workers Opposition" of 1920/1, which favoured economic democracy but did not oppose party dictatorship. As one historian notes

"The arguments of Kollontai were . . . strictly limited in their appeal to the communist party . . . Nor did they in any form criticise the domination of the communist minority over the majority of the proletariat. The fundamental weakness of the case of the Workers' Opposition was that, while demanding more freedom of initiative for the workers, it was quite content to leave untouched the state of affairs in which a few hundred thousand imposed their will on many millions. 'And since when have we [the Workers' Opposition] been enemies of komitetchina [manipulation and control by communist party committees], I should like to know?' Shlyapnikov asked at the Tenth Party Congress. He went on to explain that the trade union congress in which, as he and his followers proposed, all control of industry should be vested would 'of course' be composed of delegates nominated and elected 'through the party cells, as we always do.' But he argued that the local trade union cells would ensure the election of men qualified by experience and ability in pace of those who are 'imposed on us at present' by the centre. Kollontai and her supporters had no wish to disturb the communist party's monopoly of political power." [Leonard Schapiro, The Origin of the Communist Autocracy, p. 294]

Only the "Workers' Group", associated with the old worker Bolshevik G. T. Miasnikov, recognised that working class self-rule had to be political, economic and social. That group was hounded out the party (Trotsky did not defend them, of course, and his Opposition was based on party dictatorship).

An appendix of An Anarchist FAQ (www.anarchistfaq.org) goes into this:

http://www.infoshop.org/faq/append45.html

To be honest, most of the oppositions to mainstream Bolshevism were pretty limited in their scope. This is unsurprising, given their assumptions on the role of the party and the need for a state (and so party government). Any genuinely revolutionary opposition was outside the party (or was placed outside the party, in the case of Miasnikov's group).

Beltov
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Feb 16 2007 13:15
revol68 wrote:
Quote:
I would like to remind you though that many hard line Stalinists were also workers. Class composition alone is not enough

Devrim do you think your speaking to some wee paper seller? Of course it's not enough, it's about the structures of the movement, it's politics but these can't be seperated from the composition of the leadership or a movements intellectual leadership. Afterall loyalism and republicanism have huge working class bases...

I can understand Revol's position on Lenin and the Second International, but if you follow this logic then where do you stop? What about Marx and Engels, should they be written off too? Also, the ICC would disagree with Devrim that Lenin betrayed the working class, but that's something we'll have to take up another time.

What I'm interested to find out is what role - if any - do people think that those from other non-exploiting classes can play in the development of the class struggle? Do you have to be a worker to be a communist? Anarchist, libertarian, left or otherwise?

Surely when the class struggle develops, and non-proletarians can see that there is something positive in the perspective being offered by the working class for the rest of society, then their support shouldn't be rejected just because they're not sociologically from the working class?

This problem of workerism is quite serious, and this kind of logic was used subtlely by Stalin when he got rid of the 'middle class' leadership of the CP in the mid 20's and replaced it with a truely 'proletarian' leadership.

B.

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Lazy Riser
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Feb 16 2007 14:20

Hi

Quote:
What I'm interested to find out is what role - if any - do people think that those from other non-exploiting classes can play in the development of the class struggle?

There are no other relevant non-exploiting classes. Those that do exist are in far off countries, so are only important if one intends to paralyse progress using orthodox internationalism.

Even if there were, as per Malcolm X's alleged comment, the best thing they can do is stay out of the way.

Quote:
Do you have to be a worker to be a communist? Anarchist, libertarian, left or otherwise?

I don't know about the "otherwise", but for the rest of those ideologies being petit-bourgeois is practically compulsory. So, I’d say no.

Quote:
their support shouldn't be rejected just because they're not sociologically from the working class?

They can shove their “support”, they either make use of themselves or share a cell with other criminal miscreants. There, they can peddle electricity generators or something.

Love

LR

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gatorojinegro
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Feb 16 2007 18:51
Quote:
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.

This misstates what I said. I was talking about the tradition of Russian Marxism *up to 1917*, not after. It was Sam Farber -- an American Marxist (member of the Solidarity group) -- who made this point in his book "Before Stalinism." The Workers Truth group may or may not have been formed, in some sense, in 1922, but that would be just a new name for a group that had been around, as Farber pointed out, since 1908 when it was a syndicalist tendency in the Bolshevik party.

I also agree with Anarcho that the Bolshevik Party oppositions were very thin in terms of their degree of disagreement with the Leninist leadership. At the time of the fight at the party congress in March 1921, Schliapnykov went out of his way to say he wasn't opposing the existence of a hierarchy of professionals and managers over the workers. He was proposing only a very formalistic solution of election of the management boards of industries by the unions, and election of the national planning board, and some decisions about plans, through a national producers congress. this would have left the professional/managerial or coordinator class still in control of actual conduct of production, which would have undermined the ability of workers to effectively control the economy.

This was very different than the proposal of regional and national congresses of factory committees in the fall of 1917, as defended by the syndicalists and maximalists at the first All-Russian Trade Union Congress in Jan. 1918.

t.

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Joseph Kay
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Feb 19 2007 15:32
Alf wrote:
Dauvé, 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 ... there is a transition of perhaps several generations to go through first.

i've been thinking some more about this, isn't it a case of the temporal gap, to paraphrase marx, between formal communisation (seizure of the means of production) and real communisation (reconfiguration of society along communist lines)? so by communisation we can be talking of different things, though the former must precede the latter. i don't see why formal communisation can't be 'immediate', give or take.