texts for 13th april reading group

The next of The Commune’s London reading group series on ‘communism from below’ is to take place on Monday 13th April. The subject of the discussion, taking place from 6:30pm at the Old Red Lion, near Angel tube, is “workers’ self-government vs. state socialism”.

We will be looking at the questions
– To what extent is it possible to use the existing state’s structures to force ‘socialist’ reforms?
– Should we refuse to make any demands on bourgeois governments?
– What arguments could be made for and against the slogan “nationalisation under workers’ control”?
– Does William Paul’s “industrial executive committee” reflect our idea of working-class power?
– How can self-managed workplaces relate to the needs of society as a whole?
– Does the idea of a “workers’ party” imply an elite counterposed to grassroots activism and workplace democracy, and does it really allow a broader programme of social revolution?

The suggested reading material is:

– William Paul – The State: Its Origins and Function, Chapter 11
– Marx – Critique of the Gotha Programme
– Hal Draper – The Two Souls of Socialism

All are welcome to come and take part in the discussion. Email uncaptiveminds@gmail.com for more info.

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”

local energy and workers’ control

by Brian Rylance

Bio-diesel has presented an unusual opportunity over recent years as various local workers coops have taken a relatively simple technology to make a mostly carbon neutral diesel from local used cooking oil. Food and energy are the most important goods to any community and they are subject both to fluctuations in the global economy and fickle state control. The opportunity to take local worker control of any portion of the energy they consume, however little and however briefly, is important on a scale beyond the actual goods they produce as it trains co-operators in the knowledge of fuel making and fuel makers in the practicalities of cooperating.  Such local control has allowed genuinely ethical decisions to be taken for the community benefit rather than for purely economic reasons; all the coops associated with the Goodfuels Coop have freely chosen to use only waste cooking oil for feedstock rather than any unused food oils including dubious soy or environmentally damaging palm. Driven by profit alone it would have been far better for the balance sheets to import large amounts of palm oil from plantations that have been grown on slashed and burned rainforests. Continue reading “local energy and workers’ control”

tom d’s report of workers’ control meeting

Tom D has written this report of our ‘uncaptive minds‘ forum on ‘the debates on workers’ control’ held on Monday 29th September.

What does it mean for workers to control the institutions that determine the content of their lives? What does it mean for us to control organisations of struggle, factories, workplaces, production, consumption – and, ultimately, all society? This question matters, because it is posed ever more intensely, the higher the pitch of the class struggle, until it becomes the final question of politics. The answer is the difference between victory and defeat, communism and bureaucracy. Continue reading “tom d’s report of workers’ control meeting”

andrew fisher’s report on last night’s meeting

Andrew Fisher from the Left Economics Advisory Panel spoke at our ‘uncaptive minds’ forum on ‘The Debates on Workers’ Control’ last night, and has posted the following report on the LEAP website:

Last night, I spoke at a discussion forum organised by the Commune entitled ‘The Debates on Workers’ Control’. The debate is part of a series of discussion forums on class struggles in the 1970s.

The debate was wide-ranging, considering different models of workers’ control – from participation on boards to co-operative control under nationalisation, the role and limitations of trade unions, and the old chestnut of reformism vs. revolution. Around 20 people attended the debate.

You can download a copy of the presentation I gave, and please give any feedback in the comments section. It is a much extended version of the preface to the new LEAP pamphlet, Building the new Common Sense – social ownership for the 21st century.

You can buy Building the new common sense online for just £3 or by sending a cheque payable to ‘Another World is Possible’ to LEAP, PO Box 2378, London, E5 9QU.

new pamphlet: ‘nationalisation or workers’ management?’

We have produced a pamphlet on the subject of workers’ control and management, counterposing working-class power exercised from below to nationalisations by the bourgeois state.

The pamphlet, costing £1, includes the following articles:

Review of the LEAP pamphlet on social ownership for the 21st century

The struggle for self-management (by Solidarity)

An exchange between Solidarity and the Institute for Workers’ Control

The ambiguities of workers’ control (by Solidarity)

The Harrogate debates: the 1977 debate between the then secretary of state for energy Tony Benn and Arthur Scargill and Peter Heathfield from the NUM on workers’ control. Includes summaries of contributions from the floor.

As indicated above, we have posted some of the contents on this website already, but we have not yet uploaded the Harrogate debates piece, which represents about half the pamphlet’s length.

If you would like a copy of the 26 page pamphlet, email uncaptiveminds@googlemail.com or write to us at The Commune, 2nd Floor, 145-157 St John Street, London EC1V 4PY.

cover of pamphlet on nationalisation and workers' management

social ownership for the 21st century

Building the new common sense: Social ownership for the 21st century, Ed. Andrew Fisher

Reviewed by Chris Kane

The publication of Social ownership for the 21st century by the Labour Representation Committee on behalf of the Left Economics Advisory Panel is a significant development.  For the first time in nearly three decades an important section of the labour movement is at last developing a discussion on the questions of forms of social ownership, workers’ control and workers’ self-management.  The Tragedy of the historical moment is that at a time when the inadequacy of capitalist society is so glaringly apparent, there is a lack of confidence in the viability of an alternative society fit for humanity.  Amidst all the declarations that ‘another world is possible’ the traditional left has failed to conceptualise what that other world means.  Without developing an idea of what we want to replace capitalism with, the struggle of the labour movement is trapped in a spiral of fighting to ameliorate the conditions of life within capitalism.   In that regard this series of seven articles is a breath of fresh air in the arid plains of English socialism. Continue reading “social ownership for the 21st century”