the workers’ self-management alternative

by Chris Kane

Discussions about workers’ control and self-management which were once at the heart of the labour movement are now once again on the agenda, both among British activists and internationally. The network of communists who produce The Commune are the most determined advocates of self-management among the English and Welsh radical left, and have generally found a positive response.  However there remains a lot of confusion about self-management, with antagonism even from some people who regard themselves as socialists and Marxists.  Part of the explanation of these attitudes can be found in misconceptions of both what capitalism is and of the communist alternative. Continue reading “the workers’ self-management alternative”

why we need a new human emancipatory communism

by Allan Armstrong


How many people today, even on what remains of the Left, publicly and confidently declare their support for ‘Communism’? Take just three British organisations, which claim to be key parts of the revolutionary Left – the Socialist Workers Party, the Socialist Party and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. Nowhere in their What We Stand For columns is there any mention of communism. If these comrades are communists they are ‘closet communists’.

Looking tentatively out from their closets, with doors slightly ajar, they might whisper to those within hearing distance, that ‘Communism’ is nothing to get het-up about really. ‘Communism’ can be safely relegated to a distant future. The real task is “to build socialism”. If they make any reference at all to communism, it is confined to in-house events or theoretical journals and has about as much purchase on their everyday politics as ‘Clause 4 Socialism’ had for the reformist Left who led the old British Labour Party. If Marx hadn’t called himself a communist for most of his life and hadn’t entitled his best-known work, The Communist Manifesto, most of the British revolutionary Left would probably prefer to jettison the term altogether. Continue reading “why we need a new human emancipatory communism”

marković on social preconditions of self-management

intro by Chris Kane

The Commune is pleased to publish below an article by comrade Goran Marković, one of the editors of the magazine Novi Plamen (The New Flame) with whom we have fraternal relations.  This is a democratic socialist publication aimed at audiences across the territory of the former Yugoslavia.   Novi Plamen has been pro-active in developing discussion on the questions of workers’ self-management which has a long tradition in the labour movement in the Balkans.  This article was also published by comrades in Hungary in the journal Eszmelet (Consciousness) in a special issue dedicated to self-government and direct democracy. Continue reading “marković on social preconditions of self-management”

reminder: january 19th reading group on self-organisation and communism from below

Our series of reading groups kicks off at 6:30pm on Monday January 19th with a discussion on the subject of working class self-organisation and “communism from below”.  Email to find out more info on the central London venue. The texts for this first meeting are:

The Communist Manifesto (click here)

Arguing against different conceptions of “socialism” prevalent at the time, such as paternalistic “utopian” projects, Marx and Engels’ 1848 Manifesto argues that it is the working class must take power in order to revolutionise society. Tracing the development of Western society through the ages, Marx argues that we must get rid of capitalist ownership and the repressive social order and create a new, free and collectively organised system based on the development achieved by humanity thus far.

The Civil War in France – Engels’ 1891 introduction (click here) and chapter five (click here)

Marx’s thundering eulogy to the Communards – the Parisian workers who seized power in 1871 in the midst of France’s defeat in a war against Prussia – and the new order they established, casting aside the state bureaucracy and standing army and taking control with their democratic working-class “commune”. Introduction by Engels traces French history in the intervening decades and summarises the work.

Communism and Society (click here)

This section of British communist William Paul’s 1922 work argues against conceptions of introducting socialism through Parliament, and like Marx in The Civil War in France denies that the working class can take over the existing state machinery. Paul’s piece focuses on the self-organisation of the class and the manner in which the organisation of struggles against capitalism prefigures the society which will replace it.

Socialism and self-management (click here)

Yugoslav Marxist Mihailo Markovic’s piece looks at different aspects of workers’ self-management, with particular reference to post-war Yugoslavia where organs expressing elements of workers’ democracy were in conflict with the state bureaucracy under Marshal Tito. He argues that the state and party should be replaced by organs of workers’ self management whereby the mass of the population make economic, political and social decisions for themselves.

the communist revolution and the necessity of workers’ self-management

by Chris Kane

If co-operative production is not to remain a sham and a snare; if it is to supersede the capitalist system; if united co-operative societies are to regulate national production upon a common plan, thus taking it under their own control, and putting an end to the constant anarchy and periodical convulsions which are the fatality of capitalist production – what else, gentlemen, would it be but communism, “possible” communism?

Karl Marx, The Civil War in France

The communist revolution is fundamentally different from the process imagined by those who see the capturing of Parliament or a coup d’état by an elitist party as an end in itself.  Marx, as is now well known, emphasised the self-emancipation of the working class: in 1871, amongst the conclusions he drew from the experience of the Paris Commune, he said that:  1. we cannot lay hold of the existing state machinery, 2. the commune was the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economical emancipation of the working class.  Alongside the Paris Commune we now have extensive historical experience of similar forms of workers’ self organisation by which to address its relationship to the communist society latent already in the class struggles within capitalism, whose potential has almost been realised in past efforts to reach the first phase of communism. Continue reading “the communist revolution and the necessity of workers’ self-management”

the communal system of government – by mészáros

The following essay, “The Communal System and the Principle of Self-Critique,” by the esteemed Marxist scholar István Mészáros was published in the Hungarian journal Eszmélet (‘Consciousness, No. 79, Autumn 2008) with whom The Commune has fraternal relations.   Eds.

The Communal System and the Principle of Self-Critique
by István Mészáros

The Necessity of Self-Critique

The conscious adoption and successful maintenance of the orienting principle of self-critique is an absolutely fundamental requirement of the historically sustainable hegemonic alternative to capital’s social metabolic order as an organic system.

Since it cannot be allowed to conflict in any way with the necessarily open-ended historical determinations of labor’s alternative reproductive order—on the contrary, it must be a vital guarantee against all temptations to relapse into a self-complacent closure, and thereby into the reproduction of vitiating vested interests, corresponding to the traditional pattern of the past—the envisaged and knowingly pursued faithfulness to the theoretical as well as practical operative methodological principle of self-critique needs to be embraced as a permanent feature of the new, positively enduring, social formation. For precisely through the genuine and continuing exercise of that orienting principle it becomes possible to correct in good time the tendencies that might otherwise not only appear but, worse than that, also consolidate themselves in favor of the ossification of a given stage of the present, undermining thereby the prospects of a sustainable future. Continue reading “the communal system of government – by mészáros”