problems of workers power
ccc6639 at vip.cybercity.dk
Sat Jun 22 21:30:25 MDT 1996
At 15:04 21-06-96 +0000, Raymond Hickman wrote:
>Anyway the two problems I'm trying to get at
>are I think these. Firstly, from your 'socialism = workers power'
>perspective what is the role of the revolutionary party after the
>revolution? Secondly, and don't take this the wrong way, but just
>how rapid will the world revoltuion you envisage need to be?
No, it is not rubbish - but serious questions. And as I wrote in my
first mail: Many aspects of these question will have to be answered by
history only. These questions are on the border line of what we can
know about and what we think, guess, or hope will become reality. So
your point about -
>If this is the way you see socialist revolution happening - not
>just the way you would like it to happen
- is well taken. I accept that. (Though I think that it is not day
dream - I hope I can make that clear below :-) ). But before I get too
long winding about that, let me re-phrase the questions/problems a little.
First, I think your two questions are really not so close connected. I
think they were too close linked in my first letter - and that this
has confused me maybe more than you.
One question is about the role of a revolutionary party after the
The role of stalinist parties in power - and sometimes even without -
has obscured this question in the minds of many people. Obscured in
the way that - OK, the revolutionaries may be good fighters against
capitalism, but when they get power won't we get the same old story
with new actors?
So, let us get it clear that a revolutionary party will only be able
to lead the working class to socialism, if they lead in the same way
after the revolution as before. That is by convincing workers - and
others - how to best fight and organize.
But lets get closer: After the revolution real power will lay in the
workers' councils - not in the party. It is they who are the socialist
state - not the party. So today the embryonic form of workers power is
not the party but the real strength that workers have in their
struggles. The power which means that the capitalists can't just do
what they want at will.
How does this power exist - today? In the minds and actions of living
people. Through low level organization on the floor through to trade
unions, community organization etc. - if we think of it in
organizational terms. At higher levels of struggle these "embryonic
forms" can develop quite rapidly - and they develop not only in
quantity, but also in quality. At the highest level of struggle, the
struggle for power, where it is decided which power is to rule society
here and now and in the future - at that time workers' real power has
to be organized and centralized to the extreme.
This means that the minds of workers - the majority, not only the
avantgarde - has to be won so much for the revolution that they think
it is worth risking their lives for. It will not be the
revolutionaries which in the end convince them about this, it will be
reality itself. The role of revolutionaries is to connect this to the
possibility of *changing* this reality.
In a pre-revolutionary period the centre stage for the work of
revolutionaries will still be the shop floor - but in terms of actions
the workers councils will become more and more central. When workers
organize to sell their labour power the highest forms of organization
are the trade unions. When workers organize to take power and run
society the highest forms is the workers councils.
This part of it has been confirmed so many times that we can take it
for a fact. Forms change slightly, but there are so many common
feautures - developed in different degrees - from the russian soviets,
the iranian shoras, the chilean cordones, the italian workers
councils, the MKS in Gdansk, and even embryonic in today's strike
commitees. They are built from below, they are highly democratic, they
"overcome" - by making them open and debatable - a whole range of the
divisions which exist inside the working class today. Finally they
centralize workers power.
It is the political direction of these workers' council which decide
the real strength of the working class - and thus whether the workers
shall win or lose. The party can not substitute for that power. Nor
can they after the revolution. And then we are back to questions which
only history can tell. Nobody can promise you, me or anybody else what
will happen then. But I doubt workers will let anybody rule them, if
they have just once tried not to be ruled over. And - contrary to now
- in the workers councils they have a tool to decide. They may be
*beaten* but that's another story - they won't *give* power away.
Remember, they were *beaten* in Russia by Stalin. It took a lot of
blood for him to win. We owe those who fought against never to forget that.
If we have come this far, I think for now there is only one more thing
to say about the role of the party: It will wither away with class
society and the state - probably as the first one of these. It will be
thrown in the dustbin of history.
Your second question I will only say this about now: Yes, world
revolution may become a little more uneven than I suggested in the
first mail. But I think two factors point in the direction that it may
not be that uneven after all:
1. Capitalism today is so international, that it is hard to imagine
how it should be possible to win decisely in one part of the world
only. There may be a longer, protracted crisis which will form the
frames around a revolutionary period, but the character of this crisis
will be international, and so will the solution to it. When the crisis
is over so is the open question of who is in power - on a world scale.
2. The working class today is also very international. When workers
fight in South Africa, this immediately affects the way we think in
the US and Europe - and even more so the other way round. Of course
the working class is also a numerically much stronger class than ever
Enough for now. Hope not too much day-dreaming?
> what is the role of the
>revolutionary party in a post-revolutionary situation where - as
>the collective of the advanced elements of the working class -
>it is defending the revolution and its gains against internal and
Again: Russia showed us that in the end only the workers themselves
can do that.
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