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The Working Class and Organisation - notes

Notes on the 1959 essay by Cornelius Castoriadis.

The basic lesson of the experience of the Russian revolution is therefore that it is not enough for the proletariat to destroy the governmental and economic domination of the bourgeoisie. It can only achieve the objective of its revolution if it builds up its own power in every sphere. If the direction of production, of the economy, and of the "State" again becomes the function of a particular category of individuals, inevitably the exploitation and oppression of workers will return. With these, the permanent crisis that divides contemporary society will arise again, for it owes its origin to the conflict at the point of production between directors and executants.

Socialism is not and cannot be anything other than the management of production, the economy, and society by the workers.

I'm not sure i'm a socialist by this definition. It's far better than the state capitalist approach presented to us as socialism, in which governments run what are essentially corporations. In that case the people working in the state-owned corporation have no special control, and the concentrated benefits of control versus the distributed costs and benefits to society at large mean that whatever the formal arrangement of power - dictatorship (as in China or Cuba) or representative democracy of various qualities (as in Venezuela or the U.S., with Venezuelan democracy ranking until recently as more real than the U.S.) - the incentive for the few in control to do whatever is best for them (and their social group) is too strong and the organization of those impacted too diffuse.

I agree with most of what he wrote if you swap out proletariat and put in people. I know this sounds vaguer and weaker but if you can exclude any people from decision-making because they are not workers (by some means of production or other definition) you are setting up another system based on exclusion. I can imagine all domestic workers (to say nothing of, um, mothers), temporary workers, contractors, unemployed, informal workers, etc. etc. being denied a role in the running of industry, society, and everything and having a proletarian-run society with many of the same problems of our current one.

Of course this is not a question of "mistakes" or of "betrayals" on the part of leaders. Leaders who "err" or "betray" are sooner or later removed from the organizations they lead. But the degeneration of workers' organizations has gone hand in hand with their bureaucratization, i.e., with the formation within them of a stratum of irremovable and uncontrollable leaders. Thenceforth the policy of these organizations expresses the interests and aspirations of this bureaucracy.

Definitely a key purpose of Visions Unite democratic communication (and ultimately democratic decisionmaking, which should be as direct as possible. (One approach: A chain of discussion-sized councils-- starting with 10 people gets you to more than the world's population in 8 iterations (10^9).))

bureaucratization has meant that the fundamental social relationship of modern capitalism, the relationship between directors and executants, has reproduced itself within the labor movement, and in two forms: first, within the workers' organizations, which have responded to the enlargement and multiplication of their tasks by adopting a bourgeois model of organization, instaurating a greater and greater division of labor until a new stratum of leaders has crystallized, separate from the mass of militants who from then on are reduced to the role of executants; and second, between working-class organizations and the proletariat itself.

Even without focusing on the director/worker split, this process of hierarchy and divergence of interests applies to every movement with organizations.


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