a note on work

Jose G. Perez jgperez at SPAMfreepcmail.com
Sat Sep 4 20:51:59 MDT 1999

Michael York wrote (the first part quoting Lenin:

> In 1918, Lenin said the following (Collected Works, Vol. 27, p.259,
>1965 Moskow edition, cited in Braverman's Labor and Monopoly Capital, p.
>"[The Taylor system--i.e. the system of Frederick Taylor known as
>scientific management] like all capitalist progress, is a combination of
>the refined brutality of bourgeois exploitation and a number of the
>greatest scientific achievements in the field of analyzing mechanical
>motions during work, the elimination of superfluous and awkward motions,
>the elaboration of correct methods of work, the introduction of the best
>system of accounting and control, etc.  The Soviet republic must at all
>costs adopt all that is valuable in the achievements of science and
>technology in this field.  The possibility of building socialism depends
>exactly upon our success in combining the Soviet power and the Soviet
>organization of administration with the up-to-date achievements of
>capitalism.  We must organize in Russia the study and teaching of the
>Taylor system and systematically try it out and adapt it to our ends."
> This is  a profound misunderstanding not only of what Taylorism is but
>of what a revolutionary social transformation means (not to mention a
>misunderstanding of the already in progress commodification of science
>and technology).  We might just as well say that we should take the best
>features of the maquiladora plants in Mexico and modify them
>appropriately for socialism.  No, capitalist methods of labor control
>are exactly that, capitalist; they develop within a capitalist milieu
>and the have a thoroughly capitalist character.  There is no core of
>objective science we communists can take from them.  Instead we must
>invent new forms suitable for new human beings in a new society. Of
>course, we will be stuck with the weight of past generations and we will
>not be able to make our transformation overnight.  But we must not
>compromise with capitalism or assume that this or that aspect of its
>nature can be taken over as if this or taht aspect is somehow divorced
>from the entire capitaslit system of exploitation.  We must take what is
>and fight mightily against it and in the process struggle just as
>mightily for a radically new world.

Well, I agree with Lenin. You want to have it both ways:

On the one hand, "Capitalist methods of labor control are exactly that...
There is no core objective science we communists can take from them... We
must not compromise with capitalism.... We must take what is and fight
mightily against it...." Oh my, how r-r-r-evolutionary!

On the other, "Of course, we will be stuck with the weight of past
generations and we will not be able to make our transformation overnight."

But when you get off the level of total abstraction, you'll see that Lenin
is absolutely correct. On the morning after the victory, the ONLY thing the
workers have to work with are capitalist tools. And what did Lenin say about
these? That the workers will have to figure out what is valid in their
techniques to BEGIN building the new society. They need to be combined with,
subordinated to, Soviet power and Soviet organization, i.e., the worker's
councils that had arisen in Russia and succeeded --in alliance with the
peasantry-- in taking power.  In saying that workers can't "make our
transformation overnight" you've conceded completely Lenin's point: a)
something old is being transformed into something new. The starting point of
the transformation, at zero hour, is precisely something old. And it isn't
like making instant coffee. Just drop a spoonful of worker's pow[d]er into
hot water and it is magically transformed.

Oh, but you're so sure Lenin's a kook, you go after him, launching barrage
after barrage of abstract, empty ultrarevoluarionary phrases, never stopping
to consider that you yourself have ALREADY conceded Lenin's point.


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