Socialism reaffirmed - Maurice Brinton

Some basic principles put together by Maurice Brinton in 1960 aimed at being ones around which revolutionary socialists - as distinct from bureaucratic state socialists - could regroup.

Submitted by Steven. on December 11, 2013

We here outline certain ideas which might form a basis for a
regroupment of revolutionary socialists.

None of the traditional working class organizations express the
interests of the class. Their degeneration and bureaucratization have been
accompanied by a profound decay of socialist theory, of concepts of struggle and
organization and even of fundamental notions concerning the nature of socialism.
Agreement must be reached on what socialism is, if revolutionary practice is
genuinely to assist the working class and is not to result in further confusion
and demoralization. The following points are, in our opinion, quite basic:

(1) "The proletarian movement is the self-conscious,
movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense
majority". Some of the "revolutionary" tendencies pay lip-service to this idea.
None take it seriously, or even seem to understand its implications.
"Self-conscious" implies that the class itself must understand the full
significance of its actions. 'Independent' implies that the class itself must
decide the objectives and methods of its struggle.

(2) "The emancipation of the working class is the task of the
workers themselves". The working class cannot entrust its historical task to
anyone else. No "saviours from on high" will free it. The class will never
achieve power, its power, if it entrusts the revolutionary struggle to
others. Mass socialist consciousness and mass participation are essential. The
revolutionary organization must assist in their development and must ruthlessly
expose all illusions that the problem can be solved in any other way.

Moreover the working class will never hold power unless it
is prepared consciously and permanently to mobilize itself to this end.
All previous attempts by the working class to delegate power to specific groups,
in the hope that such groups would exert power "on its behalf" have resulted in
the formation of bureaucracies and in the economic and political expropriation
of the working class. Socialism, unlike all previous forms of social
organization, requires the constant, conscious and permanent participation of
the great majority.

(3) The fundamental aspect of all class society is that a
specific social group assumes a dominant position in the relations of
production. In this position it firstly "disposes of the conditions of
production" (i.e. organizes and manages production) and secondly determines the
distribution of the total social product. Individual ownership of the means of
production is but one of several possible ways in which a ruling class can
legitimize its domination.

Every ruling class strives to perpetuate its privileged status in
society through its control of the instruments of coercion, i.e. the State
machine. No ruling class in history has ever surrendered its dominant position
in the economy and its control of the State without ferocious struggle.

(4) The fundamental contradiction of contemporary society is its
division into those who own, manage, decide and direct, and the majority who,
because they are deprived of access to the means of production, have to toil and
are forced to comply with decisions they have not themselves taken. This
contradiction is the basis of alienation, of the class struggle and of the deep
going crises which affect both bourgeois and bureaucratic societies.

The objective of the class struggle is to ensure, through the
revolutionary accession to power of the working class, the abolition of all
antagonistic divisions within society and of all the limitations these divisions
impose upon men's lives.

(5) By its everyday struggle in capitalist society, the working
class develops a consciousness which has an essentially socialist content. The
class struggle is not only a struggle for surplus value (as "vulgar" Marxists
would have us believe). It is also a struggle for completely different
conditions of existence. This struggle takes place at the point of production,
where it challenges both bourgeois and bureaucratic prerogatives of management.

It is in the factory and the workshop that the workers
counterpoise their wishes and aspirations to the bureaucratic decisions of the
bosses, and attempt to assert their own forms of organization against those
imposed upon them from above. This aspect of the class struggle has the most
profoundly revolutionary implications, for who manages production manages, in
the last analysis, society itself. The revolutionary organization must stress,
in its agitation and propaganda, this particular aspect of the working class
struggle and underline its fundamentally socialist content.

(6) The working class has repeatedly attempted to solve the basic
question of its status as an exploited class. It is untrue that workers are only
capable of achieving "trade union consciousness". The Paris Commune of 1871, the
revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the Spanish Revolution of 1936-38 and the
Hungarian Workers' Councils of 1956, all prove that the working class is
capable of rising to the greatest heights of revolutionary consciousness, and of
challenging the very basis of all exploiting regimes.

(7) Between its great revolutionary upsurges, the working class
has attempted to create political and trade union organizations to fight for
both its immediate and long-term interests. These organizations have all
degenerated and now express non-proletarian social interests. This degeneration
has an objective basis, in the changing structure of capitalist society, and a
subjective basis in the imposition of capitalist methods of thinking and
organization into the ranks of the labour movement. Both facts therefore reflect
the persistence of capitalism.

The struggle of the working class for its social emancipation is
not just a simple, day-by-day struggle against capitalist exploitation. It also
takes place within the working class itself, against the constant rebirth of
capitalist ideas and reformist illusions. The fight of the revolutionary
organization against all forms of ideological mystification - and against those
who disseminate them - is both essential and inevitable.

(8) Socialism means workers' management, both at the level of the
factory and of society as a whole. If the working class does not hold economic
power firmly in its own hands, its political power will at best be insecure. As
long as the working class holds economic power, its political power cannot
degenerate. Factory committees and workers' councils are the probable forms
through which the working class will exert its rule.

"Nationalization" and "planning" can only have a socialist
content if associated with workers' management of production and working class
political power. In and of themselves, they can solve nothing. If the workers do
not themselves manage society, "nationalization" and "planning" can become
ruthless instruments of exploitation.

(9) The class needs a revolutionary organization, not as its
self-appointed leadership but as an instrument of its struggle. The organization
should assist workers in dispute, help through its press to generalize working
class experience, provide a framework for linking up autonomous organs of
working class struggle and constantly stress the ideas and revolutionary
potentialities of independent mass action.

The structure of the organization should reflect the highest
achievements of working class struggle (i.e. workers' councils) rather than
imitate capitalist types of organization. It should anticipate the socialist
future of society rather than mirror its capitalist past. In practice this

that local organs have the fullest autonomy, in relation
to their own activities, that is in keeping with the general purpose and outlook
of the organization;

that direct democracy (i.e. the collective decision of
all those concerned) is resorted to wherever materially possible;

that all central bodies having power of decision involving
others should be constituted by delegates, these being elected by
those they represent and revocable by them, at any time.