[Marxism] Re.: Marx was right?

Ken Ranney kranney at rogers.com
Sat Feb 14 16:33:12 MST 2004

At 09:02 PM 2/11/2004 -0800, Chris Brady wrote:
>OK, I had dinner.
>“The main difficulty is to get a political party to propose worker
>as a platform.”  There are several parties that propose worker ownership
>as a platform, but worker ownership of the state, not as associates in a
>profit-driven enterprise.
>Once you introduce political affairs, you must entertain affairs of
>state.  Then, it seems to me, your idea seems to bounce backwards.  You
>leave labor at the site of production to enter politics, then return to
>labor in its same old environment, just with a different seating
>arrangement.  Why not just keep on keeping on and drive on through to
>the other side?  To create or interest an activist organization, a
>polity, with your ideas of worker interest, why not take it to its
>logical conclusion?  Why interrupt the momentum?  I suspect it is
>because you believe if you spill the beans, your workers will see red
>and shy off.

“Why not just keep on keeping on and drive on through to the other side?” I 
take a different analogy which has the opposite viewpoint.  I see a river. 
Socialism is on the other side.  The river is too big to get across in one 
leap. So I see a stepping stone, which of course is worker ownership of the 
corporations.  This will take us part of the way, and we hope that freeing 
up of the truth through worker ownership of the news media combined with 
political organizing which then would have much more hope than now can 
provide the next step(s).
The problem with driving on through to the other side is that, with the 
media firmly in the hands of the capitalists, we can’t get the car started 
to begin driving.

>Maybe you’re right.  Maybe your way is a means to introduce an
>acceptable scheme for workers to take power (that way is still obscure
>to me) without the taint of socialism, communism, Marxism, and all those
>Red-is-dead shibboleths.  After they accept the reality of their
>powerful position, then you can take it to the next level.

Your assessment is correct.  In the process of “introduc[ing] an acceptable 
scheme for workers to take power” I suggest that we could use some of the 
‘good’ words used to support capitalism, such as turning the workers into 
‘entrepreneurs’. The slogans “The people who do the work should own the 
company” ought to appeal to the workers, and is quite consistent with that 
noble ideal–the protestant work ethic. Successful worker-owned companies, 
secrets well kept by the media, could be publicized.

>But still,
>the proposal cycles from “plain and simple” labor back through politics.

There will have to be a party to carry this through. In the US, a new party 
must emerge. In Canada, we have the New Democratic Party, which at its 
birth in 1933 as CCF the (Co-operative Commonwealth Federation) produced a 
manifesto which declared its intention to eradicate capitalism.  The name 
was later changed during the Cold War, as many thought CCF stood for 
Canadian Communist Federation.  The party is now middle-of-the-road, but 
may be induced to accept worker ownership of the corporations. I cannot see 
the scheme working unless it begins in the US, but I think that publicizing 
it here will cause the idea to spread.  As you can tell, I am an optimist.

>However, I am lately beginning to think that there may be several roads
>to socialist revolution, and that mine may not necessarily be the right
>one for you.  We may operate at different speeds, with different
>circumstances, but if we can agree on our rendezvous (I call it
>revolution, because that is what will happen), then we will have a
>chance through our conjoined efforts to force the changes that will
>usher in a new age (I call it socialism, because those will be its
>characteristics).  I hope you are not heading down a detour to a big
>I also realize that you have some intellectual capital invested in your
>idea that is soon to appear in bookstores, be debated in a Canadian
>AutoWorkers local, and be derided by Tories as well as whatever Grits
>are left in the province, and you will have to defend yourself, I mean,
>your idea, and I have a sooty snowball’s chance in Hell in arguing my
>case with you in any convincing respect.  So, as they say next door to
>the east, bon chance, eh?

I regret that my notes have not been clear, and that I have misled 
you.  The idea in the book is on democracy, not on worker ownership. My 
chapter in (Cohen, Ruth ed. Alien Invasion: How the Harris Tories 
Mismanaged Ontario)  is called BASIC Democracy. Rather than leave you 
hanging, I include an excerpt:
“BASIC democracy would be a pyramidal system with direct democracy at the 
bottom and delegated democracy at every level above that. Thus one would 
start with direct democracy at the neighbourhood level - actual 
face-to-face discussion and decision by consensus or majority, and election 
of a council who would make up the next level... The delegates would have 
to be sufficiently instructed by, and accountable to, those who elected 
them, to make the decisions at the council level reasonably democratic. So 
it would go on up to the top level, which would be a national council for 
matters of national concern, and local and regional councils for matters of 
less than national concern...I think it is the best we can do. What is 
needed, to make the system democratic, is that the decision-makers and 
issue-formulators elected from below be held responsible to those below by 
being subject to re-election or even recall.
         What is proposed consists of small groups electing, with no 
expenses, delegates to higher levels of small groups who in turn elect 
delegates to still higher groups. In 5 steps with a group size of 10 there 
would be about 188 people to advise and lobby the government of Canada. (If 
groups were to be 50 in size, there would be just 3 steps.) Before reaching 
the highest levels, there could be split-off’s to local consensus groups, 
and to municipal and provincial governments. The system is based only on 
people, not on states, so it can go on  to include the US. In just 6 steps 
with a group size of 10 there would be about 159 people to set the agendas 
for the governments of Canada and the US. In 8 steps, 35 people could 
represent the whole world.”

If you would like the complete essay I will mail it to you by post. It is 
written in WordPerfect, but may go by email as an attachment. It does not 
convert well to Word.

What I should emphasize is that I am obsessed with the capitalist ruling 
class as an evil force in the world.  It was in the hope of eliminating 
this class that I got the idea of worker ownership of the corporations.  If 
I am wrong about the capitalist ruling class, then the scheme may be invalid.
Best wishes
Ken Ranney

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