"For Workers Power"; Maurice Brinton

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OliverTwister
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May 18 2008 09:04
"For Workers Power"; Maurice Brinton

Fuck, why did i wait so many years to read this?

So much of it is directly relevant to what I want to see the IWW become, but there's also a whole lot that I would have been better off reading a long time ago, though I got a lot out of it now.

Fucking amazing.

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oisleep
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May 18 2008 09:22

one of the most inspiring and well written books i've ever read, although i'd be wary of trying to squeeze the reality of live in the here and now ithrough the prism of what brinton saw

different times

ftony
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May 18 2008 15:49

yes it's a good book. i wouldn't say it was "fucking amazing" though. but enjoy nevertheless. which bits in particular are you referring to?

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May 20 2008 03:56

Wow Oliver, I just assumed you'd read it, I agree it's one of my favorite political books of all time.

vanilla.ice.baby
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May 20 2008 11:45

It's alright. His politics were shit though.

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Volin
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May 20 2008 13:46

What took you so long?! angry wink

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May 20 2008 19:00

What's wrong with the article on the UWC?

posi
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May 21 2008 07:22
vanilla.ice.baby wrote:
His politics were shit though.

why do you say that? And how can For Workers Power be alright and his politics shit, given that the book has most of his most significant political writings in it?

petey
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May 21 2008 14:19
posi wrote:
vanilla.ice.baby wrote:
His politics were shit though.

why do you say that?

i remember devrim saying something the same as vib, the last time this book was discussed here.

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Devrim
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May 21 2008 16:31
newyawka wrote:
posi wrote:
vanilla.ice.baby wrote:
His politics were shit though.

why do you say that?

i remember devrim saying something the same as vib, the last time this book was discussed here.

I think we were discussing 'Bolshevism, and workers control...'. I haven't read this one.

Yes, I think that it is a good book. As a historical resource it is excellent. I don't agree with its politics though.

Devrim

petey
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May 21 2008 17:42
Devrim wrote:
I think we were discussing 'Bolshevism, and workers control...'. I haven't read this one.

oops

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May 21 2008 20:54
Devrim wrote:
newyawka wrote:
posi wrote:
vanilla.ice.baby wrote:
His politics were shit though.

why do you say that?

i remember devrim saying something the same as vib, the last time this book was discussed here.

I think we were discussing 'Bolshevism, and workers control...'. I haven't read this one.

Yes, I think that it is a good book. As a historical resource it is excellent. I don't agree with its politics though.

Devrim

I'd agree with Devrim, Brinton politics are based on workers self-management as opposed to communism. See standard argument about workers self exploitation.

As I wrote here when I was pointing out what Bordgia got right:

Quote:
...communism is not simply the seizing of control of the factory or the capitalist enterprise by those that work in it. Communism is not transforming workplaces into democratic co-operatives, as Bordiga notes: “revolution is not a question of the form of organization.”(43) Communism is when wage labour and the enterprise is abolished and all capital is captured by the working class as a whole and put to work for the benefit of the human community, not for profit. As Bordiga writes elsewhere: “Socialism resides entirely in the revolutionary negation of the capitalist ENTERPRISE, not in granting the enterprise to the factory workers”.(44) It is precisely this insistence on the importance of the content of communism, the abolition of wage labour and the market economy with the incumbent division of labour, that makes Bordiga of any interest.
dave c
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May 21 2008 22:42
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I'd agree with Devrim, Brinton politics are based on workers self-management as opposed to communism.

Could you provide some evidence for this? Not that he advocated self-management, but that the content of the self-management he advocated is opposed to communism.

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May 22 2008 10:03
dave c wrote:
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I'd agree with Devrim, Brinton politics are based on workers self-management as opposed to communism.

Could you provide some evidence for this? Not that he advocated self-management, but that the content of the self-management he advocated is opposed to communism.

I'm in agreement with this. Nothing I read in "for workers power" is self-managementist, in fact there are several passages that are critical of self-managementism.

I think Brinton viewed self-management as the basis of communism, not its fulfillment - ie that if production has to be run during the "transition phase" (in quotes as i dont think he would have used that term), only the workers can run it in a way that leads toward communism.

I think Devrim's disagreement with him would not be about self-management, but rather about the necessity of the Party. Is that right?

I imagine V.I.B. sees Brinton as an "ultra-leftist" on the other hand.

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May 23 2008 03:04

I'm with Oliver on his overall stance. I can agree that some of his writings got the particulars wrong, his piece on Kropotkin is a travesty. I also kind of disgaree with what seems to be a reliance of sponteneity, I think I've commented on this before but Maximoff writes about the same time period and programmatically is much more useful to me.

But still, I don't think you can have any meaningful communism without self management. I mean that quote on Bordiga is all fine and good but I don't see how it is opposed to self management, especially as Brinton writes about it in Bolsheviks and workers control. I think the thing I find most amazing about Oliver having only read this now is that all along I thought he was some sort fanatical follower of Brinton.

posi
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May 23 2008 14:03

While I'd still like to see a serious criticism of Brinton's politics (VIB? Devrim?) I also have no idea how his writing could possibly, except in the broadest possible sense, inform anything to do with the IWW - Oliver?!

vanilla.ice.baby
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May 27 2008 18:09
posi wrote:
While I'd still like to see a serious criticism of Brinton's politics (VIB? Devrim?) I also have no idea how his writing could possibly, except in the broadest possible sense, inform anything to do with the IWW - Oliver?!

He was a talented writer who covered some interesting events in the book. However he was basically a bit of a liberal (especially socially), and not too hot on the need for a coherent and strategic political organisation.

knightrose
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May 27 2008 19:25

I knew him - he says name dropping - when challenged on the issue of self-management he said (in the late 70s), that self management was the structure he advocated. He also agreed that abolition of the wages system was essential.

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May 28 2008 04:42
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a bit of a liberal (especially socially), and not too hot on the need for a coherent and strategic political organisation.

I have no idea what you mean by liberal - you mean he advocated sexual revolution but saw the limits of that under capitalism, or what?

Also solidarity seems like maybe it wasn't the most coherently structured organization but I've never seen anything anti-organizationalist from him, quite the opposite.

Anarcho
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May 28 2008 07:44
georgestapleton wrote:
I'd agree with Devrim, Brinton politics are based on workers self-management as opposed to communism. See standard argument about workers self exploitation.

The notion of "workers self-exploitation" makes absolutely no sense, particularly from a Marxist position. Yes, market competition can result in workers making decisions which they would prefer not to make (i.e., work longer and harder, invest more in means of production than consume) but this is not "self-exploitation." The whole concept of "self-exploitation" is confused -- what it is trying to describe exists, but it is best called something else.

Oh, and the notion that self-management within a market economy if just "self-managed capitalism" is just as confused. To quote Marx:

Quote:
"Let us suppose the workers are themselves in possession of their respective means of production and exchange their commodities with one another. These commodities would not be products of capital." [Capital, vol. 3, p. 276]

And Brinton was well aware that self-management was not enough, but it was the necessary starting point.

georgestapleton wrote:
I was pointing out what Bordgia got right:

Quoting Bordgia is hardly convincing, particularly when it is clear he does not know what he is talking about. As Brinton repeatedly stressed, how the hell can you have communism without self-management? While self-management can exist without communism, I find it hard to imagine how communism could exist without it. Brinton discusses this in his preface to a book on the Portugal revolution (contained in For Workers Power).

Equally, how the hell can any economy work unless the individual units have autonomy? Engels was wrong. Without autonomy, industry will collapse. As such, workplace self-management is essential for communism to work. Anyone who suggests otherwise really should get out more.

Finally, I've done a lengthly review of Brinton's book. It was published in Anarcho-Syndicalist Review and is available here:

For Workers' Power

It is an excellent book, one which every revolutionary should read. Although, as someone pointed out, his comments on Kropotkin were simply nonsense.

posi
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May 28 2008 10:25
vanilla.ice.baby wrote:
not too hot on the need for a coherent and strategic political organisation.

'cause they've always been so useful, like.

Brinton wrote:
We do not see ourselves as yet another leadership, but merely as an instrument of working class action. The function of SOLIDARITY is to help all those who are in conflict with the present authoritarian social structure, both in industry and in society at large, to generalise their experience, to make a total critique of their condition and of its causes, and to develop the mass revolutionary consciousness necessary if society is to be totally transformed. [etc. etc. see also section 10 in As We Don't See It]

Anyway, what more d'y want?

knightrose wrote:
when challenged on the issue of self-management he said (in the late 70s), that self management was the structure he advocated

Yeah, but what is 'the structure' of self management? Was he saying explicitly that he supported a market of cooperatives - surely not?

EDIT: also, I agree with Oliver that the accusation of him being a liberal in any way (let alone "especially socially") is fairly confusing. But Oliver - what on earth did you mean about Brinton being inspiring regards the IWW? Do you mean you want the IWW to be like Solidarity? Surely Brinton's perspective would tend to support roughly the perspective on the IWW advocated here by the "left communists" i.e. that unitary class organisations of revolutionary form and content are founded in the midst of struggle, not set up in advance by politicos...

knightrose
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May 28 2008 11:01

When I joined Solidarity (as part of Social Revolution), we amended both As We See It and As We Don't See It. It was a long time ago and memories aren't always accurate, but I'm pretty sure that Chris Pallas was one of those who did the rewrite, certainly he was one of the main advocates of the merger.

This is waht the new version said:

Quote:
5. Socialism is not just the common ownership and control of the means of production and distribution. It means equality, real freedom, the end of oppression based on restrictive male/female social roles, reciprocal recognition and a radical transformation in all human relationships. It is people's understanding of their environment and of themselves, their domination over their work and over such social institutions as they may need to create. These are not secondary aspects, which will automatically follow the expropriation of the old ruling class. On the contrary they are essential parts of the whole process of social transformation, for without them no genuine social transformation will have taken place.

6. A socialist society can therefore only be built from below. Decisions concerning production and work will be taken by workers' councils composed of elected and revocable delegates. Decisions in other areas will be taken on the basis of the widest possible discussion and consultation among the people as a whole. This democratisation of society down to its very roots is what we mean by ‘workers' power’.

Self-managed institutions and collectivities will be the living framework of a free society. There can be no socialism without self-management. Yet a society made up of individual self-managed units is not, of itself, socialist. Such societies could remain oppressive, unequal and unjust. They could be sexist or racist, could restrict access to knowledge or adopt uncritical attitudes towards 'expertise'. We can imagine the individual units of such a society - of whatever size or complexity (from chicken farms to continents) - competing as 'collective capitalists'. Such competition could only perpetuate alienation and create new inequalities based on new divisions of labour.

Genuine freedom will only be possible when our lives are no longer the object of economic, cultural and political forces which we experience as external to ourselves, and which constantly tend to regenerate capitalist or authoritarian social relations. A socialist society would therefore abolish not only social classes, hierarchies and other structures of domination, but also wage-labour and production for the purpose of sale or exchange on the market. Th fulfil their needs and desires, people would live and work in free co-operation. The national frontiers of armed states would be replaced by a democratic human community, on a world scale. The elimination of competition (and the decay of competitive attitudes) would have profound social effects which we can hardly imagine today.

It deals with issues of markets and competing units. There's more on http://www.af-north.org/solidarity/awdsirevised.html#awsirevised which also contains the revisions to As We Don't see It.

posi
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May 28 2008 11:39

That seems to answer georgestapleton's claim quite convincingly...

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May 28 2008 15:38
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Surely Brinton's perspective would tend to support roughly the perspective on the IWW advocated here by the "left communists" i.e. that unitary class organisations of revolutionary form and content are founded in the midst of struggle, not set up in advance by politicos...

I don't think of the IWW as a unitary class organization, "but merely as an instrument of working class action." In fact I think it's function should be "to help all those who are in conflict with the present authoritarian social structure, both in industry and in society at large, to generalise their experience, to make a total critique of their condition and of its causes, and to develop the mass revolutionary consciousness necessary if society is to be totally transformed."

Most modern syndicalists, including the CNT in Spain, recognize that revolutionary action will not be carried out by pre-existing revolutionary unions which slowly grow until they have enough critical mass to call a general strike, but rather by organizations built in the midst of struggle (regardless of whether these are called unions or workers councils, it is the content that matters). The function and perspective of the syndicalist organization is or should be very close to what I quoted from Brinton above.

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May 28 2008 16:48
posi wrote:
That seems to answer georgestapleton's claim quite convincingly...

Yeah i think it does.

embarrassed

vanilla.ice.baby
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May 28 2008 17:25
posi wrote:
'cause they've always been so useful, like.

They would be, certainly anarchists could use one...

Brinton wrote:
We do not see ourselves as yet another leadership, but merely as an instrument of working class action. The function of SOLIDARITY is to help all those who are in conflict with the present authoritarian social structure, both in industry and in society at large, to generalise their experience, to make a total critique of their condition and of its causes, and to develop the mass revolutionary consciousness necessary if society is to be totally transformed. [etc. etc. see also section 10 in As We Don't See It]
Quote:
Anyway, what more d'y want?

An organisation of libertarian, class struggle revolutionaries organised on the basis of theoretical and tactical unity that can make collective decisssions to carry out collective action, and intervene in and intiate active social movements and use the space created to spread anarchist ideas.

Quote:
EDIT: also, I agree with Oliver that the accusation of him being a liberal in any way (let alone "especially socially") is fairly confusing.

The nonsense he wrote in For Worker's Power about sex and gender was patronising, middle class rubbish from begining to end.

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May 29 2008 01:41
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The nonsense he wrote in For Worker's Power about sex and gender was patronising, middle class rubbish from begining to end.

Aha. Care to say why? Perhaps offer a quote that you object to?

I don't agree with everything he wrote but there was a context (ie it had just become OK to publically discuss sex and gender) and I think the spirit of what he said was correct, not "patronising, middle class rubbish".

What I really want to know is, are you trying to say that he was a prude, or that workers have no interest in things like sex and gender?

nastyned
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May 29 2008 10:47

I've got an orgone accumulator and it makes me feel greater.

posi
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May 29 2008 11:18
OliverTwister wrote:
Aha. Care to say why? Perhaps offer a quote that you object to?

yeah VIB, it's hard to follow your leadership of ideas when I don't even know what you're saying... wink

Randy
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May 29 2008 14:27

Does Worker's Power include much useful content beyond Bolshi's & Worker's Control and The Irrational in Politics? I've read those two.

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May 29 2008 16:13

It has his diaries from the 1960 Belgian general strike, the 1968 occupations in paris, and portugal in 1975. All of which I really liked.

Some of the other stuff is useful too, but for the most part its a lot of small pieces.