user preferences

The Bureaucratic Ruling Class vs. Democratic Self-Management

category international | the left | opinion / analysis author Tuesday May 23, 2006 02:18author by Wayne Price - NEFACauthor email drwdprice at aol dot com Report this post to the editors

Part 2 of The Nature of Stalinist Societies

This part goes over the theories that Communist Party-ruled societies are neither pro-socialist nor capitalist but are a new kind of class society. These theories are correct in believing that the collective bureaucracy is a new ruling class but wrong in denying that these societies are a variety of capitalism. They raised questions about the nature of Fascism. Such theories bring out the need for participatory democracy and workers’ self-management.

Part 1, What Do We Mean By Anti-Capitalism? can be found at

Bakunin and Marx

If any one person could be called the founder of the international anarchist movement, it was Michael Bakunin. While agreeing with much of Marx’s analysis, he criticized Marx’s program, because Bakunin feared that it would lead to the rise of a new ruling class. This class would be created out of the better-off workers and middle class intellectuals. They would claim to represent the workers and oppressed, but would become new rulers.

He warned that “...the upper layer, the aristocracy of labor...this semibourgeois layer of workers would, if the Marxists had their way, constitute their fourth governing class....Former workers, who, as soon as they become the rulers of the representatives of the people, will cease to be workers and will look down at the plain working masses from the governing heights of the state.” (Bakunin, 1980, pp. 294 & 331) Referring to Marx’s claim to “scientific socialism,” Bakunin also opposed the domination of scientific-minded intellectuals, “...the rule of the new society by socialist savants--is the worst of all despotic governments.” (ibid, p. 295)

The Marxist David Fernbach admits that Bakunin had a point. “Bakunin’s...warning of the dangers involved in the proletarian seizure of political power raise questions that Marx did not solve altogether satisfactorily....Bakunin, for all his errors, was conscious in advance of the revolution...that there is a real problem of bureaucracy in the post-revolutionary period....” (Fernbach, 1974, pp. 51-52)

Karl Marx did not foresee the danger of a new, bureaucratic, ruling class. However , contrary to the theorists of “Parecon” (Albert, 2006), he did predict the increase of bureaucratic middle layers under capitalism. He expected the decline of independent professionals and small businesspeople, but he predicted the rise of a wide range of middle level officials in business and the state. This was part of his prediction of the increased concentration and centralization of capital, an important aspect of his theory. (He predicted the semi-monopoly capitalism of today’s imperialist-globalized epoch.) These officials, he claimed, combine useful labor such as scientific and technical work, as well as the necessary work of coordination, with the coercive domination required for capitalist exploitation.

Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto said of the workers, “As privates of the industrial army, they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants.”
(Marx, 1974, p. 74) In Capital, Marx noted that the industrial capitalist, “...can easily shift this burden [of management] to the shoulders of a superintendent....Stock companies in general... have a tendency to separate this labor of management as a function more and more from the ownership of capital....” (Vol. III, quoted in Shachtman, 1962, p. 49) Throughout his writings there are references to the need of the capitalists for managers, overseers, and salaried professionals to run their factories, keep the workers in line, and deal with various other aspects of business. (See “The Alleged Theory of the Disappearance of the Middle Classes” in Draper, 1978, pp. 613-627.) Politically, Marx and Engels often wrote about the rise of the semiautonomous state, especially the executive branch, with its hordes of officials (they called this “Bonapartism”).

The Theory of Bureaucratic Collectivism

In the 1930s, a number of theories were developed about Stalin’s Soviet Union as a new class society. These were mostly worked out by dissident Trotskyists. They rejected Trotsky’s concept that the Soviet Union was still a “workers’ state,” even if badly degenerated, supposedly because it maintained a nationalized economy. The most important was the theory of “bureaucratic collectivism” as thought out by Max Shachtman and the group around him, such as Joseph Carter and Hal Draper (the “Shachtmanites”).

Shachtman wrote: “Where the bourgeoisie is no longer capable of maintaining (or, as in the case of Russia, of restoring) its social order, and the proletariat is not yet able to inaugurate its own, a social interregnum is established by a new ruling class which buries the moribund capitalism and crushes the unborn socialism in the egg. The new ruling class is the Stalinist bureaucracy. Its social order, hostile both to capitalism and socialism, is bureaucratic or totalitarian collectivism. The bourgeoisie is wiped out altogether and the working classes are reduced to state slaves.” (1962, p. 29)

This new order was not capitalist, he argued, because there was no bourgeoisie, that is, no class owning stocks and bonds, also no internal market and no labor market. The capitalists hated the Soviet Union and correctly saw it as their class enemy. (These arguments will be refuted in Part 3, on the theory of state capitalism.) However, he agreed, “Stalinism,” as an exploitative class society, was closer to capitalism than to socialism. Faced with the “danger” of a workers’ revolution, the Communist Parties would always bloc with the capitalists against the workers. This is what they have done throughout Western Europe.

The system was not socialist, nor tending toward socialism, nor a “workers’ state.” It was true that the state owned the economy, Shachtman said. But who “owned” the state? That is, what class controlled the state and thereby had the use and benefits of its economy? In terms of “property forms” (legality), everyone was equal because no one owned the means of production. But in terms of “property relations” (reality) the various social sections related differently to the state, to industry, and to each other. One grouping, the bureaucracy, ruled and the others obeyed. One group got most of the benefits of the economy while others were exploited. The top officials lived enormously better than the poor workers and peasants at the bottom. It is true that the rulers could not give property to their children, but their children “inherited” places in the officialdom through education, training, and family contacts.

Shachtman and his comrades declared that the proletariat cannot rule indirectly, through some other social grouping. As I have already pointed out, the bourgeoisie enriches itself through the market, through its ownership of property. This continues whether the state is a bourgeois democracy, a monarchy, a military dictatorship, or fascism. But the modern working class is propertyless; it has no stocks, no slaves, no parcels of land. It rules collectively, and democratically, or not at all. While collectivized property forms (nationalization, to Shachtman) were necessary for socialism, they were not sufficient. To move towards socialism, it is necessary for the workers and oppressed to make a revolution, smash the state, seize power, and (I would say) establish a self-managed society. (Price, 2006)

To the end of his days, Trotsky had believed that the Soviet Union’s bureaucracy was very temporary and brittle. Unless overthrown by a workers’ revolution, he expected it to soon reinstate (private) capitalism. He was sure this would happen by the end of World War II, at the latest. Shachtman said that Trotsky never understood the nature of the collective bureaucracy. It did not wish to give up its rule to a bourgeoisie. It was quite capable of strengthening its power and increasing its wealth by expanding nationalized industry.

Contrary to Trotsky’s predictions, in 1929 Stalin led the bureaucracy in a war against the peasants, forcibly collectivizing millions. He abandoned the free market program of the NEP in favor of a massive state industrialization campaign, includng slave labor camps. After World War II, he expanded the statified totalitarian system into a third of Europe. The nationalized economic system lasted for about 60 years. Finally it did break up, and the bureaucracy did transform the system into a traditional capitalism. This leads to a criticism of Shachtman’s theory of bureaucratic collectivism (he did not expect this to happen) but it does not support Trotsky’s expectations.

Was Fascism a New Class Society?

Some thinkers believed that bureaucratic collectivism existed not only in the Soviet Union but also in Nazi Germany and perhaps even (incipiently) in the U.S. New Deal. This was argued by Dwight Macdonald, a member of Shachtman’s party who was to eventually become an anarchist. To Shachtman, this ignored the key difference between the nationalized-collectivized economy of Stalinist Russia and all societies which maintained capitalist private property. It was based on a comparison of Nazi Germany with a (mostly mythical) image of free-market, democratic, capitalism instead of on a class analysis of what was actually happening under fascism. (Also, the fascists used anti-capitalist rhetoric when campaigning for power--Nazi being short for National Socialism, and Italian Fascism claiming to be for “corporatism.” But this should not be taken seriously as anyone’s practical program--as the Italian and German capitalists knew when they backed their fascists.)

Fascism... was called to power deliberately by the big bourgeoisie in order to preserve its social rule, the system of private property....The system of private ownership of socially-operated property remains basically intact. After being in power in Italy for over 18 years, and in Germany for almost 8, Fascism has yet to nationalize property, to say nothing of expropriating the bourgeoisie....It controls, it restricts, it regulates, it plunders--but with all that it maintains, and even strengthens, the capitalist profit system, leaves the bourgeoisie intact as the class owning property. It assures the profits of the owning class....” (Shachtman, 1962, pp. 53-54)

Of course the German bourgeoisie paid a price in buying up Hitler’s gangsters, giving them bribes and seats on their boards of directors. The rich paid taxes to maintain the police state (to hold down the workers for bigger profits) and the military apparatus (to wage imperialist war in the interests of big business). The proof came after World War II. When the Nazi bureaucracy was removed, German capitalism appeared alive and healthy and ready to go on doing business.

Rule of the Middle Classes

Marxist-Leninism (“Stalinism”) became a worldwide movement. In a number of countries its leaders came to power and established imitations of the Soviet Union: Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, Indochina, and Cuba. Shachtman wrote, “The elements of the new ruling class are created under capitalism. They are part of that vast social melange we know as the middle classes...intellectuals, skilled, semiskilled, and unskilled; individuals from the liberal professions; officials and employees of all sorts, including those from the swollen but impoverished governmental apparatus; and above all else, labor bureaucrats....” (1962, pp. 29-30)

Under the right conditions, such “middle class” forces can be assimilated into a revolutionary working class movement. Under other conditions they can be part of a fascist movement. But they have an organic attraction toward Soviet Union-type systems. Intellectuals are easily attracted to the vision of a society in which “brains” rule (what Bakunin had called the despotism of “socialist savants”). The workers and peasants are seen by them as potential weapons in their hands to overthrow the current rulers. “In Stalinism they find a movement able to appeal to the masses for the struggle against capitalism, but yet one which does not demand of them--as the socialist movement does--the abandonment of the ideology which is common to all oppressor classes, namely: command is the privilege of superiors, obedience the lot of inferiors, and the mass must be ruled by kindly masters for its own good.” (Shachtman, 1962, p. 30) This is the main theme of Hal Draper’s essay on The Two Souls of Socialism: “socialism-from-above” versus “socialism-from-below.” (1992, pp. 2-33; Price, 2002)

Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel, authors of the program of “Parecon” (“participatory economics”) have also developed their own new-class, third-system, theory of Soviet Union-type societies (Albert, 2003, 2006; Albert & Hahnel,1991). Besides the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, they correctly say, capitalism generates a layer of managers, engineers, planners, lawyers, and other professionals, which they label the “coordinator class.” This class is capable of replacing the bourgeoisie as a new ruling class, using either markets or central planning to manage the economy. They call this “coordinatorism.” This theory has virtues (discussed below) but also has a weakness in its lack of consideration of earlier bureaucratic collectivist and state capitalist theories.

Such authoritarian middle layer tendencies also lead to liberalism, social democratic reformism, and even elitist varieties of anarchism. But many middle class radicals today are still attracted by modern Stalinisms, such as Castroism, Nepalese Maoism, and/or the Colombian FARC, as well as by statist-reformist nationalism, such as that of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Political Implications of the Theory

To the Shachtmanites, the main political implication of their theory was the importance of democratic revolution, the complete merger of radical democracy and working class socialism. Shachtman wrote, “...the all-around and aggressive championing of the struggle for democracy is the only safeguard against the encroaching social decay and the only road to socialism.” (1962, p. 27). In an essay on free speech, Draper wrote from the point of view of those “...who are fighting for a socialist democracy. Our aim, by its very nature, requires the mobilization of conscious masses. Without such conscious masses, our goal is impossible. Therefore we need the fullest democracy....We, because of the nature of our goals, have no fear of the unlimited unleashing of democratic initiatives and drives....Revolutionary socialists...want to push to the limit all the presuppositions and practices of the fullest democratic involvement of the greatest mass of people. To the limit: that is, all the way.” (1992, pp. 170 & 172)

Shachtman and Draper continued to support the Russian October revolution (as I do, from an anarchist perspective). But they came to criticize Lenin and Trotsky for establishing a one-party state. They believed that the Leninists should have permitted opposition socialist parties to compete for power in democratic soviets. “The Bolsheviks...gave no sign of realizing that a legal monopoly for one political party was incompatible with democratic rights (the right of choice in the first place) for the people or even for the working class...and that the denial of democratic rights to those outside the party could be enforced only by the denial, sooner or later, of the same rights to the members of that very party itself.” (Shachtman, 1965, p. 3)

No doubt, Draper wrote, there had to be repression and violations of democratic standards in the course of a bitter civil war and resistance to foreign invasions. Even so, the error of the Leninists, he believed, was to turn these apparently-necessary exceptions into the norm (a point which was argued by Rosa Luxemburg at the time). In any case, by 1921 Lenin and Trotsky had established a police state, which outlawed all other parties, opposition caucuses within the one legal party, and independent labor unions. They had created the juridical framework for totalitarianism. There is no socialism without democracy.

This is an excellent insight. Some anarchists say they oppose “democracy,” often because of the term’s use to rationalize capitalist rule, and sometimes out of fear of a tyranny of the majority. But I have argued that socialist-anarchism is best thought of as the most extreme, most radical, participatory, form of democracy. (Price, 2000) This is the view of many anarchists, such as Chomsky, Goodman, and Bookchin; most anarchists who oppose the term “democracy” advocate “self-management,” which is the same thing.

A Limited View of Democracy

But the Shachtmanites’ conception of democracy was limited due to their Trotskyist (and Leninist and Marxist) heritage. Consistent with their tradition, they conceived of socialism as a centralized, state-owned, economy, managed through a central plan. They insisted that a socialist economy must be mainly run by elected representatives at the top. They also believed in local organizing, labor unions with the right to strike, opposition parties and caucuses, a free press, etc. But they had no conception of the importance of decentralization and direct democracy. Draper wrote, “The great problem of our age is the achievement of democratic control from below over the vast powers of modern social authority. Anarchism...rejects this goal.” (1992, p. 13) True enough; anarchism aims to break up those “vast powers” and to overthrow “modern social authority.”

This may be contrasted with the views of Cornelius Castoriadis, of Socialisme ou Barbarie, which developed from dissident Trotskyism to libertarian socialism. He described the Soviet Union as “bureaucratic capitalism,” which really was a new-class, third-system, theory. From his analysis of the bureaucratic ruling class of the Soviet Union, he drew more radical conclusions than Shachtman. It was not enough to have a democratic representative system. It was necessary, he said, to completely destroy the distinction between the order-givers and order-takers (what Marx refers to as the division between mental and manual labor)--in production as well as in every other aspect of daily life . This includes, not a democratic state, but the end of the state.

...A socialist revolution cannot stop at barring the bosses and ‘private’ property from the means of production; it also has to get rid of the has to abolish the division between directors and executants....This is nothing other than workers’ management of production, namely the complete exercise of power over production and over the entirety of social activities by autonomous organs of workers’ collectives....Self-management... implies...quite particularly the abolition of a State apparatus separated from society....” (Castoriadis, 1988, p. 10)

Similarly, Albert and Hahnel believe that the rise of the “coordinator class” to power can be avoided. They advocate an economy planned from the bottom up through rounds of negotiations among democratic workers’ and consumers’ councils (“participatory economics”). They propose to reorganize and redesign existing jobs into “balanced job complexes.” In these, the more tedious and physically demanding aspects of labor will be integrated with more satisfying and self-determining aspects. The distinction between directors and order-takers will be abolished. “ anarchist economics....” (Albert, 2006, p. 178)

The implication for todays’ movements was drawn by Tom Wetzel, “This means that a movement run by and for workers, that is characterized by the properties of internal self-management espoused by participatory economics, will be essential in the revolutionary process and the emergence of such a movement will prefigure and foreshadow that change. The only way that we can ensure that a society which is self-managing if the main movements that are working for change have a self-managing character and practice, so that people have developed the equalitarian and democratic practices and habits required for society itself to be self-managed.” ( 2003)

Weaknesses of the Theory

Third-system theories (such as those of Shachtman or Albert and Hahnel) are correct in presenting the collectivized bureaucracy (or whatever they want to call it) as a new ruling class, distinct from the stock-owning bourgeoisie. But I believe that they are wrong to hold that these societies are a brand new, noncapitalist, system.

The problem is that they start from an essentially sociological analysis of the ruling bureaucracy instead of analyzing the relations between the classes in the process of production. Had they done so, they would have had to demonstrate that the workers in the Soviet Union related differently to their bosses than do the workers in the U.S. and other obviously capitalist countries--which would be difficult to do. Also, they take too seriously the claim that these Communist Party-ruled nations were run through central planning. Instead they should have analyzed how these economies really ran. (These points will be discussed further in Part 3.)

To Marx (and I accept his view), the working class (proletariat) under capitalism is defined by its part in the conflictual capital/labor relationship, which is what drives the whole system. If there is no capital in these countries, then the working class is not a proletariat. Shachtman meant to be quite literal, in the first passage I quote from him above, when he called these workers “state slaves.” Yet these workers have struggled using typically proletarian methods: strikes, go-slows, mass organizing, independent unions, and revolutionary workers’ councils. A theorist of state capitalism points out, “...Any relationship of exploitation requires two specific classes. A propertyless class that sells its labor power can only be exploited by a class that buys that labor power, a class of capitalists--those who embody capital.” (Daum, 1990, p. 18)

What would be the internal dynamic of alleged noncapitalist economies? There is supposedly no capital/labor relationship, no internal market, no law of value...presumably the only internal drive is the desire of the ruling class for increased personal consumption. The only source of economic dynamics would seem to be external pressure, mostly military--just as under feudalism. Stalin’s Russia should have stagnated from the very beginning, instead of building an industrial society through rapid accumulation (even granted its eventual stagnation).

If this system lacks an internal dynamic, then we should expect it to last much longer than capitalism (which turned out not to be true). Unlike capitalism, presumably it does not have an internal contradiction which would lead to its overthrow by the proletariat. And it requires a monolithic dictatorship, totalitarianism, due to the collectivism within its ruling class. Once the prison door is shut on the workers, it is shut for good. Capitalism, at least, is able to have a limited (bourgeois) democracy and limited freedoms. Therefore, logically, bureaucratic collectivism (or coordinatorism, or whatever) should be regarded as worse, more reactionary, than capitalism. Revolutions run the risk of replacing “democratic” capitalism with such a reactionary post-capitalist system. Therefore, reasonably, it would be better to avoid revolution altogether.

Over time, this is what Shachtman concluded. Eventually he and his followers became out and out supporters of Western imperialism, supporting the U.S. invasion of Cuba and the war in Vietnam. (Drucker, 1999) His emphasis on the importance of democracy became support for capitalist democracy, an excuse to abandon socialism in practice. Hal Draper broke with Shachtman to the left, but still followed a left-reformist practice. His tendency, in the U.S., ended up as today’s centrist (semi-reformist) International Socialist Organization and Solidarity. Similarly, of the Parecon theorists, Robin Hahnel has advocated a reformist program. (Hahnel, 2005; Price, 2005) Michael Albert (2006) advocates “non-reformist reforms,” but does not advocate an eventual revolution. I do not say that advocates of a new bureaucratic ruling class theory must, inevitably, become reformists or worse. There is no such one-to-one correspondence between this theory and people’s political programs. But I think that this theory gives a shove in that direction. This set of views, then, provides significant insights but contains significant weaknesses.

[The concluding Part 3, next month, will discuss the theory of State Capitalism, as it applies to Soviet Union-type regimes and the modern world.]


Albert, Michael (2003). Parecon; Life After Capitalism. New York: Verso.

Albert, Michael (2006). Realizing Hope; Life Beyond Capitalism. London/New York: Zed Books.

Albert, Michael, & Hahnel, Robin (1991). Looking Forward; Participatory Economics for the Twenty First Century. Boston: South End Press.

Bakunin, Michael (1980). Bakunin on Anarchism. (Sam Dolgoff, Ed. & Trans.). Montreal: Black Rose Books.

Castoriadis, Cornelius (1988). Political and Social Writings, Vol. 1, 1946-1955. (David Ames Curtis, Ed. & Trans.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Daum, Walter (1990). The Life and Death of Stalinism; A Resurrection of Marxist Theory. New York: Socialist Voice Publishing Co.

Draper, Hal (1978). Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution; Vol. II The Politics of Social Classes. New York: Monthly Review.

Draper, Hal (1992). Socialism from Below. (E. Haberkern, Ed.). NJ: Humanities Press.

Drucker, Peter (1999). Max Shachtman and His Left. New York: Humanity Books.

Fernbach, David (1974). Introduction. Karl Marx, Political Writings, Vol. III; The First International and After. (Pp. 9-72). New York: Vintage Books/Random House.

Hahnel, Robin (2005). Economic Justice and Democracy; From Competition to Cooperation. New York: Routledge.

Marx, Karl (1974). Political Writings, Vol. I; The Revolutions of 1848. (David Ferbach, Ed.). New York: Vintage Books/Random House.

Price, Wayne (2000, Aug.) Anarchism as Extreme Democracy. The Utopian. Vol. 1.

Price, Wayne (2002, Nov.), Socialism from Above or Below: "The Two Souls of Socialism" Revisited. The Utopian. Vol. 3.

Price, Wayne (2005). Parecon and the Nature of Reformism.

Price, Wayne (2006). Confronting the Question of Power.

Shachtman, Max (1962). The Bureaucratic Revolution; The Rise of the Stalinist State. New York: Donald Press.

Shachtman, Max (1965). Introduction to the 1965 Edition. The New Course by Leon Trotsky and The Struggle for the New Course by Max Shachtman. (Pp. 1--6). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Wetzel, Tom (2003). Participatory Economics and the Self-Emancipation of the Working Class.

Written for

Part 1, What Do We Mean By Anti-Capitalism? can be found at

author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Tue Jun 20, 2006 14:04Report this post to the editors

Wayne says that the defect of the theory of
the coordinator class is that it isn't defined by its role in social production. This is incorrect. That class IS defined by its role in social production. In systems of large-scale industrial production, there arose, first in capitalism, a class characterized by a relative monopolization of conditions that give power over workers within the process of production, not based on ownership. This arose in capitalism due to the inability of the owning elite to manage such large-scale operations and bring to bear all the needed types of management-related expertise. The roles of this class include, but is not limited to, the management positions (levers of decision-making), as well as the design functions that control the labor of others (by designing jobs, processes, etc.), and other empowering roles. Moreover, it is NOT an implication of the theory that it should be more long-lasting than capitalism. Just the opposite. Precisely because the coordinator class cannot easily pass on their class position to their children, and have a weaker form of power than that of a property-owning ruling class, there will be a tendency for coordinatorist ruling elites to try to find a way to convert their power to a property ownership system, as this will cement their power to a greater degree in social production. And this tendency explains why both the Russian and Chinese forms of coordinatorism tended to evolve into capitalism.

author by Waynepublication date Wed Jun 21, 2006 04:11Report this post to the editors

Tom describes the role in production of the managerial bureaucracy ("coordinators") as a class which came into existence to help the bourgeoisie run its businesses. I agree. That is its relationship to the bourgeoisie. But what the bureaucracy helps the big capitalists do is to exploit the workers through the capitalist-labor process. That is, this middle layer serves as an agent of capitalist exploitation, that is, of capital. It is not distinct from the capitalist process.

Whenever it is able to take power for itself, as in the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, etc., it continues this role. It serves as an agent of capital. It exploits the working class in a capitalist manner: the workers sell their labor-power to it, it pays them money-wages, they work part of the time to recreate the value of their wages, they work more time to create a surplus value beyond the value of their wages, they go out and buy commodities which they produced. This is called capitalism and the bureaucracy is a state capitalist class.

There have been various theories which analzed this bureaucracy as a new class ruling a new system. None predicted that it would evolved into traditional capitalism. Now that this has happened, the pareconists "predict" that it will. But which makes more sense: to say that the Soviet Union evolved from one social system into a totally different system, or to say that it evolved from one version of capitalism into another version of capitalism?

These points will be discussed further in my next, and last, part of this series, on the theory of state capitalism.

author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Thu Jun 22, 2006 04:27Report this post to the editors

Wayne is incorrect in saying that the coordinators are mere "agents" of the capitalists. That is not the case. They have their own class interests, and this is shown in conflicts they occasionally have with the owners. The fact that capitalist ventures had grown too large, and too much in need of state support, enabled the emerging coordinator class to force the capitaliists to concede a large area of power to the coordinator class. The coordinator class, in virtue of its power in production, participates also in the exploitation of the working class under capitalism. This is reflected both in their power in production as well as their high salaries, stock options, etc.

The book Five Dollar Day, for example, shows that the aims of the owners of Ford Motor Company were not achieved in terms of increased profit, during the period of transition to the new highly stratified system of prouducion between 1910 and 1914, because the huge growth of the new strata of engineers, time study experts and managers were more concerned with consolidating their own power in production. The resulting disaffection and sabotage ("withdrawal of efficienty") by the workers -- that is the class struggle between workers and coordinators -- undermined the profit-making aims of the firm. Very often the changes that empower coordinators do not lead to more efficient methods of production and thus they do not in fact maximize profit. This cannot be explained on Wayne's theory that the coordinators are mere "agents" of the capitalists. Why, after all, should these people who don't own the means of production identify so commpletely in practice with the people who employ them? In fact they have their own ideology -- meritocracy -- which is inconsistent with the capitalist ideology that says the profits should go to the investors. Meritocracy says that power should go to those with the most knowledge and expertise and credentials. This is the ideology of the coordinator class. As David Noble shows in "Forces of Production", very often the technical decisions made in production do NOT maximize efficiency because the engineers and managers want to maximize control over workers. That is the reason that the "playback" system for automating metal working machines was not implemented but was defeated by numerial control. Numerical control was more costly to develop but promised a more far-reaching defeat of the skilled machinists, through pre-cooked coding for management of metal-working machines, and tapes that could be moved anywhere in the world, diminishing the power of skilled metal workers and their unions. Power is what the coordinators aim at, that is where their class power lies. This is not the same as aiming at profit, that is, accumulation of capital.

The fact that there are three main classes, not two, also explains why there were three sides, not two, in the Spanish revolution & civil war of the 1930s. The Communists did not represent capitalist class interests, but interests of an incipient coordinator ruling class. This is reflected in their efforts to build a hierarchical army and police, and in their organizing of the middle strata of society in Catalonia -- managers, laywers, officials, small property owners, shopkeepers, etc. -- into GEPCI. This strategy makes sense as a way to recruit and develop the cadres for a coordinatorist regime.

author by Waynepublication date Thu Jun 22, 2006 08:29Report this post to the editors

Tom needs to answer the question: What is the relation between the "coordinator class" and the working class? Is it essentially the same as that between the bourgeoisie and the workers or is it fundamentally different? If it is essentially the same, then this is a capitalist relationship and the Soviet Union was a form of capitalism. If different, then how was it different? He does not prove anything by showing that the professional managers worked to weaken the power of the workers, to maximize control over the workers, and to increase their exploitation. Of course. What else would an agency of capital do? This is what the bourgeoisie wants done.

If the "coordinators" are not agents of the capitalist class, then why does the capitalist class hire them anyway? Of course there may be conflicts. There are plenty of conflicts within the bourgeoisie also. This does not prove that the managers are not part of the capitalist system. It is a conflictful, competitive, system. Anyway, my main point was not that the managers serve the capitalists, but that they serve capital--the capital-labor relationship. They work to weaken the workers (as Tom says) and to accumulate capital.

Tom has a new interpretation of the Spanish civil war/revolution. He denies our usual far-left interpretation that the Stalinists worked to maintain traditional capitalism in Loyalist Spain. This is an interesting argument. In Spain Betrayed, Ronald Radosh makes a similar argument that the Stalinists' aim was to establish a CP-run dictatorship, a "Peoples Democracy." However, I doubt this, since (1) the Soviet Union wanted to pursuade Britain and France that it would be a good, pro-bourgeois, partner in the upcoming world war, and (2) the Stalinists have always been afraid of making a Stalinst revolution when there was an active, mobilized, working class. They have only taken power when backed by Soviet Union's army or by a peasant-based, non-working class, army. In any case, this does not prove that "coordinator" rule is not state capitalist.

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Fri Jun 23, 2006 04:54Report this post to the editors

Wayne needs to go back and re-read what i've written before since it answers some of his questions. First, the capitalists were forced to hire the coordinators because their ventures had grown to large. The separation between capital and the coordinators was already implicit in earlier capitalism in the distinct roles played by the early capitalists but this didn't get articulated into separate classes, with separate bases of class power, and separate ideologies, until concentrations of capital had reached a certain stage. A second aspect to the emergence of the coordinator class was their role as mediators between capital and popular opposition, and as regulators of the system, through the massive growth of the state, and eventually the emergence of a union cadre hierarchy separate from effective working class control, and related hierarchies in the non-profit corporations in more recent times. These are all areas of coordinator class power. I've already explained what the role of the coordinator class is in relation to the working class. This group's class position is based on a relative monopolization over empowering conditions in social production, apart from ownership, just as the capitalists' position is based on a different structure, of relative monopolization over ownership of production assets. Since the power of the coordinator class is not based on ownership, we should NOT see them working exclusively to maximize profits. And in fact they don't. As Nobel and others have pointed out, technical decisions concerning production methods often are NOT the most efficient, and thus do not necessarily maximize profits, because the interest of the coordinator class is in their own structural position, monopolizing the coordination and decision-making and key areas of expertise.

In regard to the Spanish revolution, if he thinks that defense of traditional capitalism was the true aim of the Spanish Communists, he has to tell us why their trajectory was towards nationalization of industry. Moreover, it is NOT the case that coordinator class power presupposes a system of central planning. It is perfectly consistent with a market economy -- market coordinatorism is what existed in Yugoslavia in the '70s. Market coordinatorism is what the Mondragon coops in the Basque country are. The Spanish Communist party defended the property of small land owners, farmers, and shop keepers because it was a political base being mobilized against the working class, and these people could be recruited into coordinator class positions, as for example happened with the CPE's control over the army and police hierarchy. If Franco's forces had been defeated, there would have been a clash between the mobilized working class forces in the anarcho-syndicalist/Left Socialist alliance, and the CPE and its middle strata (coordinator, small business) allies. It's extremely unlikely that a CPE victory would not have been consolidated in a coordinator class regime. That regime could very easily have accommodated a residual small business class as a subordinate element in a coordinator class dominated regime, which could have used the market as its main system of allocation, consistent with coordinator class power. At least for awhile. In the long run, any coordinator class regime tends to evolve back towards capitalism, as the Russian and Chinese experiences show. But it is not a very useful analysis to simply slide over the distinction between coordinatorism and capitaIism in the way that Wayne does. It failes to see a salient aspect of social reality, and, in particular, it fails to heed the dangers posed by any alliance with the middle classes (small business & coordinators).

author by javierpublication date Fri Jun 23, 2006 12:30Report this post to the editors

why do you think that they maximized control (despite lower profits)?

It may be because without control workers would simply stop working as hard, as fast, as long, and as good (especially while they work for the benefits -and under the orders of- others). Maybe they are not maximizing profits to you, but they may be securing them. As you said, the capitalists created the bueaucracy to manage the system, recluiting them form the petit burgeoise. But why did they need them? Be more explicit.

I will try to clarify things a bit as i understand them:

Tom considers that coordinators are a different class from both workers and capitalists, that the beliefs engendered from their social role are their class ideology, and that in the soviet union (amongst other places) they had the power and that their rule was something different form state capitalism

Wayne on the other hand does not share that point of view. I beleive that he shares the usual class analysis, that coordinators are the petty burgeoise, in between capitalists and workers, and that they will break in two in revolutionary times, joining the lines of one of the two classes clashing,

More important, he probably thinks their ideology is capitalist ideology or a variant of it, that is because the workers-coordinators relation is analogous to the wokers-capitalists relation. At least with part of the coordinators.

The system of economic exploitation that you called coordinatorism is capitalism. There is surplus value (to call it someway), and those who are at the top, who have the levers of (centralized) power under their grip, and who use it for their own benefit (how else would they use it?). It is however state capitalism, the state becomes the owner, and those who rule the state are the bosses (wich is a wider and clearer concept to me than capitalist, becuase autoritharina opression and capitalist exploitation cannot exist in isolation, they are as thr two sides of the same coin).

I at least think that way. I do not know if i have misinterpreted wayne but we will see in his next essay (by the way, great work!)

author by Waynepublication date Sun Jun 25, 2006 01:05Report this post to the editors

Javier has it right in explaining my views. However, I do see the bureaucracy ("coordinators") as a new ruling class in the Soviet Union, in that it distributed the surplus value among its members in a different way than the bourgeoisie does. But within traditional capitalism it is not a separate class, I would say, but a distinct layer which mostly serves the interests of its bosses, the bourgeoisie (although with internal conflicts, of course, as there are throughout this contradictory, competitive system).

Tom still has not answered my question about the exploitative relationship between the working class and the "coordinator" bosses in the Soviet Union. Basically same or different from traditional capitalism? I will not repeat my definition of how the capitalists relate to the workers.

Tom feels that I have not read him carefully enough. This time he says: " the capitalists were forced to hire the coordinators because their ventures had grown too large." And he gives other ways the coordinators served the capitalists: "mediators...regulated the system", controlled the unions. Exactly! All these functions were done to serve the capitalists! All these served the function of overall capital accumulation. Overall accumulation does not mean that each and every decision is directed to maximizing IMMEDIATE profit. Someone has to look after the interests of the system as a whole, so it can keep on exploiting the workers and maintain overall accumulation of profit. The workers must be kept down. Surplus value must be pumped out of them. The coordinators coordinate...what? They coordinate the capitalist exploitation of the workers. And when and if they can replace the bourgeoisie as a new ruling class, they continue to coordinate the capitalist exploitation of the workers.

author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Sun Jun 25, 2006 11:12Report this post to the editors

Wayne ignores the various ways that coordinators are in conflict with capitalists, as I pointed out. For example, their direction of technical development does NOT maximize profits. The state is often in conflict with individual capitalist profit-making aims. How does Wayne explain the more recent tendencies to shrink the state in the USA? If the role of the coordinators is as mere agents of capital, why would this happen? The welfare state was a concession created only in response to worker & popular struggle and upheavals that threatened the continued existence of capitalism. This provided an entry for the empowerment of coordinators in the state and the top union hierarchies. But it does NOT follow that their interests are identical to the capitalists. They have their own class interests.

As to the Soviet Union, their exploitation of the working class lies in their accumulation of power over the working class, the relative monopolization of exterise and levers of decision-making relative to the economy. This is a form of accumulation specific to the coordinator class. This form of power is not sufficiently entrenched to enable them to accumulate the kind of private wealth that capitalists can. This leads eventually to efforts of the coordinator elite in coordinatorist societies like Russia and China to find a way to evolve towards capitalism, privatizing the formerly "public" assets.

The fact that coordinators in the USSR got power and income and privileges beyond what their work effort & sacrifice should earn is a measure of their exploitation of the working class. They had the cushy jobs, and got incomes 3 or 4 times that of the average worker. But their exploitation did not take the capitalist form of accumulation of wealth. Moreover, the dynamics of a coordinatorist society are very different than those of capitalism. The Soviet Union tended to generate a labor shortage, not structural unemployment. The labor shortage was hidden for a long time due to increased labor force participation of women and mechanization of agricultrue. Ultimately it could not be hidden. The Soviet Union was a centrally planned economy. The fact that plans were only imperfectly realized does not show it was not centrally planned, contrary to Wayne's claims. Central planning is about allocation of labor and other resources. Wayne says the USSR was "centrally administered" but he fails to explain how this differs from central planning. Of course, coordinatorism doesn't require central planning. It can also exist under a "market socialist" regime as well, as in Yugoslavia.

Left coordinatorism only becomes an historical option when there is a popular, working class opposition with sufficient strength that it threatens capitalism. Coordinatorism then becomes the last option for defense of the class system.

author by javierpublication date Tue Jul 04, 2006 11:14Report this post to the editors

tom, you say:
"For example, their direction of technical development does NOT maximize profits."
However, if you read carefully, you will realize that we are not only saying that it maximizes them (or tries to) but that it ensures them. The same could be said of capitalists, so coordinators do share interests with capitalists (altough their role is subordinated, once the capitalists are out, it is only a matter of time for the bosses -coordinators for you- to try to reestablish capitalism and try to become private capitalists -thus raising the rate of exploitation, while of course retaining control of the state apparatus, just like the capitalists nowadays).
"But it does NOT follow that their interests are identical to the capitalists. They have their own class interests."
When they take power, they become state capitalists, but capitalists nonetheless. They exploit and opress the workers, they rule and dispose of the fruits of labour in their own benefit.
I beleive that there are no differences between what you say and what we say except that we prefer to stress the similarities between capitalism and party dictatorships (as Arshinov and most libertarian communists did in the twenties) and you prefer to focus on a class analysis of what you call coordinators.

author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Tue Jul 04, 2006 12:13Report this post to the editors


I don't think the danger lies only with Leninism or dictatorship. Social-democracy is also a form of what I'd call left coordinatorism, that is, it empowers the coordinator class.

A theory that says there is only labor and capital will tend to encourage people in the belief that merely change of ownership will liberate the working class. But we know it won't.

Libertarian communism was weak as far as its solution for dissolving the power of the coordinator class over workers. Failing to have a theory of that class, I believe, is part of the reason.

I don't care what terminology people use for the coordinator class. I think various members of my organization, WSA, prefer terms like "managerial class." That is, WSA has always agreed with the three-class analysis but is neutral in the disagreement between libertarian communism and parecon (because supporters of both viewpoint are in WSA). That is, some people in WSA prefer not using a terminology closely identified with Albert & Hahnel. But that is merely a question of the words we use. The important point is to recognize the existence of this class, and the need for a program to dissolve its power over the working class.

Finally, the coordinator class is a huge cost to the capitalist class. In fact it does reduce their profits, due to the fact it has its own interests and aims, even within capitalism.

author by javierpublication date Wed Jul 05, 2006 09:57Report this post to the editors

"Libertarian communism was weak as far as its solution for dissolving the power of the coordinator class over workers. Failing to have a theory of that class, I believe, is part of the reason."

I do not know what you refer to by "Libertarian Communism", so i will ask: who? when? where? how?

For example, as i see it, anarchists have had a very hard time convincing workers to fight in times when the State tended to their needs and ensured them more or less a comfortable life if they just obeyed (while rebels are prosecuted). However all that stuff means lower profits for capitalists who will pressure for more exploitation. If they cannot get it, the economy will slow down and enter into reccession as they try to put their money in more profitable business by cutting jobs and moving their assets towards other countries. Also, local enterprises will find it harder to compete in the international maket and will see their market share shrink (because they have less money to invest and a smaller incentive to invest there, they take their money away or speculate). All this lead to a rise in working class consciousness because the government will side with the burgeoise (as it seems to me is happening in Europe form a long time ago, with the elite pushing counter-reform as far as it can without people taking the streets en masse, the same could be said of the Soviet Union long before). This will raise exploitation by cutting back social expenditure and reducing salaries, extending the working day, reducing benefits, worsening the conditions of work (safety measures, quality of life, etc).

Workers become revolutionary when the class struggle, exploitation and opression intensify, when they are under attack. And they need time to organise, to grow in experience and in number of activists. As anarchists (and workers) we have to be right by their side and, as the saying goes, Agitate! Educate! Organise!

I beleive it is not a matter of the right ideas, the capitalists have a margin to negotiate with the workers, that makes it much harder to organize them to fight, however they compete between themselves and will try to use that margin to figt each other instead of keeping the working class down.

You also say that "Finally, the coordinator class is a huge cost to the capitalist class. In fact it does reduce their profits, due to the fact it has its own interests and aims, even within capitalism.", i have heard you say that many times already adn i think i have asked you before, could you give us an example that contradicts what we said, that is, that bosses (and not just owners) try to maximize and ENSURE profits?

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Thu Jul 06, 2006 01:54Report this post to the editors

Actually, Javier, I've pointed to several examples. David Noble has written a history of the origin of automatic machining tools, the book is titled "The Forces of Production." In that book Noble points out that there were two early solutions to automation of machine tools, a system called playback, and a system called numerical control. Playback was cheaper. It was a system that created a machine-readible record of a machinist's moves in creating a part. The tape could then be used in other machines to replicate the part automatically. But it depended on the skill of the machinist who ran the initial machine. The other system, numerical control, involves creation of a coding language for creating the tape from scratch, based on an engineering blueprint or specification. This system was preferred by management because it could make them independent of the machinists. It was a more fundamental attack on the control & presence of skilled metal workers in production. But the development of numerical control was extremely expensive. It was largely subsidized by the US government through an air force program (for its use in making airfoils for aircraft). The greater expense of nuerical control, the longer development time for it, meant that it lowered total profitability. State subsidies were needed to make up for this. So, a more profitable, equally efficient solution was not adopted because it didn't serve as well the power-seeking aims of the managers and engineers, that is, their desire to gain the advantage in terms of control over production. The author of the book Five Dollar Day, which discusses the introduction of assembly lines and other taylorist methods at Ford Motor Co. during WWI, points out that the system proved not to be as efficient as the "efficiency experts" predicted, and caused a lot of problems because of the huge resistance and sabotage of workers. It failed to help with profitability to the degree advertised because it also required the creation of a huge bureaucracy of engineers, supervisors and time-study experts. Michael Albert mentions another example, from a discussion he had with an entrepreneur who makes movies. Because his enterprise is too big for him to manage directly, the entrepreneur must hire various vice presidents, to hire the actors, cinematographers and so on. He told Albert that they add greatly to his overhead because they slow down production. They slow down production because they want to spent a lot of time schmoozing with the directors, producers, writers, actors, etc. to develop personal relationships that are important to their future careers. This is an example of how the coordinator class adds an area of inefficiency and added cost. The capitalists can't get rid of them because the ventures are too big but they often struggle to control the coordinators, who tend to take over control and do not necessarily maximize shareholder value. This has been also a motivation for various shareholder uprisings in American corporations, where particular activist shareholders organize them to oust a management that is looking out for its own game, and is not maximizing profit to the owners' liking.

author by Wayne - NEFACpublication date Thu Jul 06, 2006 11:30Report this post to the editors

Javier has been doing a good job of responding to Tom's peculiar logic. I agree with everything he's written. But I can't resist... Tom says,
""This system was preferred by management because it could make them independent of the machinists. It was a more fundamental attack on the control & presence of skilled metal workers in production." Yes and that is why the capitalist management carried it out. You see, Tom, the capitalists wish to hold down and weaken the workers. Even if it costs more money in the short run. Just like the capitalists spend money on union-busting specialists or on time-and-motion specialists. In the long run the bosses make more money (profits) if the workers are weaker. Is this some surprise?

Tom points out that Soviet Russia had a labor shortage. Therefore, he actually argues, it was not capitalist! And when the US goes through periods of labor shortages, is it temporarily noncapitalist? Did the labor shortages prevent the USSR's workers from having to sell their labor power and the bosses from buying it from them? (This is the capital- labor relationship, see.) Actually the bureaucrats used totalitarian repression to hold down wages despite the labor shortage, but the workers still sold their labor power as a commodity to the capitalist bureaucrats. (Tom just won't say whether he thinks that this defines capitalism or does not.)

Tom actually asks about the state, why does it do things which seem to contradict the profits of the capitalists? The capitalist state serves the overall interests of the ruling class. Including at times being willing to buy off obstreperous sections of the working class. Including doing things which contradict the interests of this or that section of the capitalist class or every individual capitalist. That is a major purpose of the state. To not understand this....

author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Thu Jul 06, 2006 12:22Report this post to the editors

To begin with, the growth of physical production -- more machines, tanks, etc -- in the USSR economy does not show that this existed as capital. Similarly, the fact that exhange notes (rubles) were in use does not show that the economy was dominated by money-capital.

Capitalism has a structural tendency to generate a reserve army of the unemployed, as Marx correctly pointed out. If the demand for labor by employers expands to the point that workers have greater bargaining leverage and wages rise (as they did for example in the USA in the late '90s boom), this cuts into profits and provides a rationale for a decline in investment. The need to maintain "labor discipline" tends to generate inevitably a pool of boom with higher worker leverage is anything but short lived. The Soviet economy had a very different tendency. Managers were under the gun, and were judged by, their ability to fulfill the targets of the plan. To ensure that they would easily be able to do this, there was a systematic tendency for managers to hide from the Gosplan higher-ups the resources they actually had available, and to keep on hand more labor than actually needed to meet their targets. There was no motivation to constantly cut labor costs as there is under capitalism. Firms are constantly seeking for innovations and ways to cut costs, because lower costs enables them, for a time at least, to gain a superprofit since prices don't drop just because their costs do. Or else, lower costs enables them to aggressively undercut their competitors and expand their market share. This type of dynamic is very central to capitalism and is discussed at length by Marx in Vol. I of Capital. But this type of dynamic did not exist in the soviet economy. That's because allocation of resources to the production firms wasn't determined directly by sales, but was mediated by a more complex, political planning process, through the state structure. The control over allocation through the central planning apparatus is precisely what drove the labor shortage and made it endemic in the USSR. No such dynamic exists in capitalism.

In capitalism when a firm sells a commodity this adds immediately to the money-capital of the firm. But a monetary vehicle is not automatically money-capital. It requires a certain context of social relations. In the USSR there was a rigid separation of the money flow associated with wages and consumptiojn, on the one hand, and the allocation of resources to production organizations, on the other hand. That is NOT how capitaliism works. Sale of commodities in capitalism immediately augments the money-capital of the firm, and thus its ability to acquire labor and other resources through the market.

In regard to the coordinators under capitalism, the power that they accumulate -- this is a secondary form of accumulation, apart from accumulation of capital in advanced capitalism -- does not necessarily and automatically lead to higher profits. If that were so, why would there be the various stockholder uprisings against entrenched managements that aren't doing enough to increase profit for the owners? And it's hard to see how the power wielded by those VPs in that movie making company somehow assists the entrepreneur in making a higher rate of profit, other than the fact that he has little choice but to hire them since he can't do everything. Bertrand Russell pointed out that
power is a separate human drive from acquisitiveness.

The state's function is the preservation and flourishing of the existing system of oppression, the existing social order. This doesn't just include the interests of the dominant class. Why isn't the state run by women? It's not run by women because that would be inconsistent with the relatively subordinate role that women play in society. This isn't about class per se. In other words, the state defends the structure of gender inequality, which is not reducible to the class system. From the fact that the dominant class interests defended by the state are those of the capitalists, it doesn't follow that the state acts only in the interests of the capitalists. The state isn't just a reflexive expression of the capitalists. The state must also be able to govern, it must be concerned about maintaining the legitimacy of its rule and of the social order that it exists to defend. This being the case, the state responds to popular protests, especially when they are severe, by arranging concessions. The "social wage" is an effect of this. The cadres of the coordinator class run the various parts of the state -- the army, the regulatory agencies, the postal system, the educational system, etc. This class does not have an identity of interest with the capitalists.

author by javierpublication date Thu Jul 06, 2006 12:32Report this post to the editors

Thanks for the exmple, i did not see them at first. But I still agree with wayne.

You said "The author of the book Five Dollar Day, which discusses the introduction of assembly lines and other taylorist methods at Ford Motor Co. during WWI, points out that the system proved not to be as efficient as the "efficiency experts" predicted, and caused a lot of problems because of the huge resistance and sabotage of workers. It failed to help with profitability to the degree advertised because it also required the creation of a huge bureaucracy of engineers, supervisors and time-study experts."

I add that it did not rise efficiency as much as advertised as it alwas happens with advertising ;)
But it did raise productivity A LOT, Ford´s business was really successfull and this success allowed him to give incentives to workers for behaving and thinking as he liked (while growing at a maddening pace into the huge corporate monster that it is now). Its model was copied all over the world because of its success, not because management or coordinators had more power than owners and saw it in their best interest to implement that model. There is quite a difference.

Your last example could be summed up "people are not cogs in machinery, they have their own interests", and you are right, they do (workers too, as all individuals, not just bosses and coordinators). But it does not imply that there is something fundamentally wrong with classic class analysis (or historical insight, as you like).

Some workers are in management and direction positions that put them above the majority, they usually give orders and have higher salaries. This puts them closer to the bosses than to the majority of workers, and indeed during all revolutions that come to mind the majority of them sided with the bosses.

Leninists, have considered that order and organization are only possible by coercion and authority. They have historically opposed the self-organization of workers (specially in a coordinated manner, both industry-wide and territorially from the bottom up) and have imposed burgeoise technicians and party comissaries with armed soldiers to enforce their decissions in case of opposition. Their emphasis on centrallization, hierarchy and the enlightened minority´s rule are a political choice. They beleive that it is the only way of wining the class war (state capitalism, that is no-revolution).

They are wrong, but we have not defeated capitalism not because of the lack of a good understanding of things (well, a bit of that is true, it takes time to build organizations with enough experience to organize and fight effectively, and even more to build a popular revolutionary movement) but because of many historical factors (history is non-linear, hugely complex, it is not just having the right ideas). Some factors with a strong weight world-wide were the soviet union´s survival as the only "successfull" revolution, the rise of fascisim and widespread political repression, the post world war 2 welfare state as a way of eliminating popular support for revolutionaries, and many many more.

For example, in Spain i have no doubt that many anarchists saw the danger of allying with republicans. They did it not because of blind trust, but because they tought they had to ally with them to win the war. They beleived that they could not risk fighting at two fronts. I think that they were wrong and that the war could not be won without making the revolution, but i don´t think that what failed was a class analysis of marxism.

author by javierpublication date Thu Jul 06, 2006 12:49Report this post to the editors

I just saw your answer, and i have two questions:
You say: "No such dynamic exists in capitalism", may i ask, does that dynamic exist to the interior of big firms in capitalism?

The second one is needed because i am confused to the point that i do not understand what are we discussing. I found myself nodding to most of what you say (other things i do not know or i have more or less minor differences with) and i just don´t get it, in what do you differ with what most anarchists have said on the matter?

Maybe we are not understanding each other:

"This class does not have an identity of interest with the capitalists."

I think we do agree that the ruling minority is not the capitalist class (altough it usually comes from the capitalist class and sectors aligned with it, what you call coordinators or managers), that it has its own interests (retaining power) while sharing a fundamental interest with the capitalist class (the survival of capitalism, exploitation and opression, the source of their privilege). Do you agree with this affirmation? Did you think we disagree with that?

The main argument is still in my previous reply. I don´t think that it was a lack of class analysis what failed in russia, spain and many other revolutions.

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Thu Jul 06, 2006 14:50Report this post to the editors

To answer Javier,

"You say: "No such dynamic exists in capitalism", may i ask, does that dynamic exist to the interior of big firms in capitalism?"

Internal to each capitalist firm there is a sort of central planning machine. But the external controls on the firm are what give the system a different dynamic than coordinatorism, because the coordinators in a capitalist firm are subject to the control of the owners and the competition between capitals in a market-governed context.

J. says:
"I think we do agree that the ruling minority is not the capitalist class (altough it usually comes from the capitalist class and sectors aligned with it, what you call coordinators or managers), that it has its own interests (retaining power) while sharing a fundamental interest with the capitalist class (the survival of capitalism, exploitation and opression, the source of their privilege). Do you agree with this affirmation? Did you think we disagree with that?"

I'm not sure what you mean by the "ruling minority." The dominant class at present IS the capitalist class, or, rather, the big capitalists. Do you mean the cadres in the management of the state? They are still controlled by the capitalists at present, tho not so directly as in the old slogan "the state is the executive committee of the ruling class." Being subject to the capitalists doesn't mean the state bosses do not have distinct class interests (as Bakunin pointed out).

I think that Russian Marxism clearly failed to see the danger of a new class emerging that would dominate the working class. In that sense, I do think the limited class analysis of Marxism was a contributing factor there.

author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Thu Jul 06, 2006 15:08Report this post to the editors

I believe we should think about class in an anarchist way, not a marxist way. This means we should take seriously the idea that a class stratification is caused by a structural, hierarhical power over social production, that is, over workers. Ownership is one such structure but not the only one. Managers and top professionals (lawyers, some engineers, lawyers and accountants) have positions of control over workers. It's not just the hierarchical organization but also the fact that they do certain kinds of work day to day and learn things that are key to the overall operation. The conditions that empower people in production are relatively monopolized in their hands. If you don't see this as a class division, if these people are "just workers," that disarms the working class from developing a program needed to ensure it will be empowered and in control after a revolution. If a person just runs a machine 40 hours a week or sweeps the floor or bakes bread or whatever, that person doesn't have the opportunity to learn certain skills, certain kinds of knowledge and expertise, that are important to making the big decisions about how things are run. You can have general assemblies but that formalistic scheme can coexist with the subordination of the workers and an elite in charge -- that's the way it is in the Mondragon coops, and that's the way it was in Yugoslav self-management. The profesional/managerial types dominated. That is a class system whether you see it or not. It's a class system because ordinary workers are still subordinate.

Ford Motor Co. was very successful. The business about the five dollar day, tho, was a scam. Only some workers got that, and they had to submit to humilitating, intrusive controls over their personal life. And even then it only lasted til the other companies adopted assembly lines. Then Ford no longer had to offer better pay to keep people, because the old craft systems had been destroyed in the auto assembly industry. By the early '20s when Ford's prices had dropped enormously, pay at Ford was low. Productivity had increased, but now there was also a very entrenched and gigantic managerial/engineering hierarchy that hadn't existed before. Ford succeeded because it was not less inefficient than its competitors. But there were huge costs and inefficiencies associated with the new coordinatorist hierarchies. The capitalists couldn't avoid them, but they didn't just serve capital. They also served their own interests.

author by javierpublication date Thu Jul 06, 2006 23:23Report this post to the editors

"if these people are "just workers", that disarms the working class"

Stop misinterpreting what I say. I think I have been very clear about this, I said:

"Some workers are in management and direction positions that put them above the majority, they usually give orders and have higher salaries. This puts them closer to the bosses than to the majority of workers, and indeed during all revolutions that come to mind the majority of them sided with the bosses."

I call them workers to differentiate them from owners, but that does not mean that I ignore the role they play and the tendencies it gives them, nor do i think that opression and exploitation can go separated, they are (as i said before) two sides of the same coin.

Ask workers what happens when some of the rank and file get into hierarchical positions, it is no news that those positions mean bureaucratization and any attempt at self-amangement has to organize with great care to avoid hierarchie between workers. That is exactly what is done at FASINPAT (recovered ceramics factory, ex Zanon, with more than three hundred workers), there are general assemblies ans section assemblies, they give general guidelines to comissions and coordinators wich have to obey that mandate and are revocable and highly rotative. That is what we can do now, if we had control of the Education we could do much more by generalizing education and making it permanent.

"I think that Russian Marxism clearly failed to see the danger of a new class emerging that would dominate the working class. In that sense, I do think the limited class analysis of Marxism was a contributing factor there."

Yeah, so? anarchists denounced that and fought against it. Was there something wrong with their class analysis? That is the explanaition of their failure?

Thanks for the info about Ford, i didn´t know most of what you said, if you can give wikipedia´s article a look and make that information more visible.

author by Tom Wetzel - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Fri Jul 07, 2006 02:20Report this post to the editors

But do you see managers as another class?

A solution to avoiding the consolidation of a coordinatorist or managerialist elite is to redesign or redefine how job tasks are arranged into jobs. The idea is to ensure that everyone gets to do some of the skilled or conceptual or decision-making activity, the work that helps them to develop as someone who can participate effectively in the running the industry. This is the concept of "balanced jobs." I don't think electing managers is sufficient as a solution.

author by javierpublication date Sun Jul 09, 2006 10:44Report this post to the editors

Well, I do not give them the relevance in class analysis that i give workers or capitalists. But I beleive you can see by now that i do think that the role the play in production affects their way of seeing things, that most of them would side with the capitalists, and that organizational positions are to be rotative, recallable, mandated, and watched over with great care so that the people in those positions follow the guidelines given to them and do not grow into a bureaucracy.

I also beleive that all workers are equal, that is a fundamental tenet of not only anarchism but classism in general.

By the way, luckily a new translation of the platform has been published in this site, what do you think of the following?:

"There will be no bosses, neither entrepreneur, proprietor nor proprietor-State (as one finds today in the Bolshevik State). In the new system of production, the functions of organization will devolve upon specially-created agencies, purpose-built by the working masses: workers' councils, workplace committees or workers' administrations of factories and plants. These agencies, liaising with one another at the level of municipality, province and then country, will make up the municipal, provincial and thereafter general (federal) institutions for the management and administration of production. Appointed by the masses and continually subject to their supervision and control, these bodies are to be constantly renewed, thereby achieving the idea of genuine self-management of the masses."

Organizational Platform of the General Union of Anarchists (Draft) by the Delo truda group, 20 June1926

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Sun Jul 09, 2006 16:25Report this post to the editors

All of the things you mention are not sufficient because they are only a purely formal democratic structure. This is the classic anarchist answer and it is not enough. Consider the case of the Mondragon cooperatives. They have annual general assemblies. Nominally the workers in charge. In reality this is a sham. There are people who work all year running machine tools in a factory making stoves. There is the janitor who works all year doing the cleaning, and so on. When do they ever have the opportunity to learn about the kinds of considerations that will come into play in making engineering decisions about new products or about the overall business plan or direction for production? Meanwhile, there are professionals who work all year doing financial analysis, or engineering design work, and managers who do businelss analysis and who have information about the big picture. So, they all come to this annual general meeting, and the professionals and managers present their plan. Will the workers have the knowledge to be able to intelligently analyse and criticize and challenge the professionals and managers? How could they? When would they ever have the time to learn? In fact this is a class system. It is so despite the existence of the formal democratic power of the workers in the assemblies. What you are missing is the need to re-design the jobs, so that no one just does the manual work of production and no one just does the anlaytical and conceptual work, the big picture planning. Do you get what I am saying? Capitalism creates this sort of professional/managerial hierarchy. It is not an accidental feature of a class society. It implements a class division.

author by javierpublication date Wed Jul 19, 2006 03:29Report this post to the editors

"making engineering decisions about new products or about the overall business plan or direction for production?"

this is the power of managers to you?

I don't think so. Managers hire and fire workers, they give orders, orders that have to be obeyed or else they penalize people, they make a plan above the workers and they enforce it. That is opression, us not knowing the same things nor doing the same stuff is not opression, its diversity. Some people design bridges, some build them. If the building of a bridge is decided or approved by the population of that area, the will look for engineers, ask for proposals, probably elect a comission to decide wich one to implement, organize a crew of workers and build it. Education is today a privilege, but the solution lies in more Education, not in (here I fin myself thinking, what exactly do you propose, that the Engineer works in the construction too? That is possible and I like that! If we arent in a total lack of engineers that is, if it is more valuable doing other stuff I prefer him or her doing that suff, That the construction worker works at engineering too? Without Education, he can't, I have helped build a house, and most of us do not have a clue about even how to read a blueprint. However, we can learn, that is Education, that is what I want. That construction workers are the ones in coordinating positions, mandated, rotative, revocable? I have said it many times already! I simply do not understand what you propose)

The problems of Mondragon are the problems of the social revolution to you?

I have been reading about the spanish revolution lately and i do not find even the slightest hint of what you are saying. Yes, there were people with technical expertise, but they worked along the general guidelines given to them by a plan elaborated by the people. Knowledge alone does not generate a class divission. Don't know how people work at Mondragon, but I bet that they do not elect workers in coordination positions, nor mandate them, nor rotate in those positions nor are able to recall them if they do not follow the guidelines given to them.

Workers are capable to coordinate production without creating an elite that enforces decissions upon and over the people.

author by Waynepublication date Wed Jul 19, 2006 09:04Report this post to the editors

Javier is right to a degree: the rule of the working class over all production, including over the work of the managers and specialists, is the beginning--in principle--of the end of the division between ruled and rulers, order-givers and order-takers. But if it continues indefinitely it will recreate the old divisions. A self-managed society cannot exist indefinitely while some take orders and others give them, even if the order-takers are supposedly in charge of the order-givers. As fast as possible after a revolution, we will have to work to undermine the old division of labor and create integrated jobs, "balanced job complexes." This is consistent with the ideas of Kropotkin, Marx, Castoriadis, Goodman, Bookchin, and other libertarian socialists.

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Wed Jul 19, 2006 10:32Report this post to the editors

There were in various places a tendency towards coordinatorism in the Spanish revolution. The CNT tended to concentrate a lot of authority into the TAS councils with ex-bosses, engineers etc on them. Often the former owners or their sons were elected as managers or delegaates. This is dangerous for the long-term evolution of the society.

If a person is just being a janitor all year or working on a machine 40 hours a week or whatever, when do they have the time to learn about the big conceptual issues and planning and design questions? To participate effectively in these decisions requires learning various things. It is not sufficient to have merely a formal power of control in assemblies. That is a classic anarchist fallacy.

It's necessary to change the jobs, and create a huge system of education, so that people can learn what they need to know to participate more effectively in the management of the industry. If they don't, others will control things. And before you know it, we're back to a class system. But this also means that workers have to have the time off from the regular work to learn. And they can learn, but people learn from doing, so they have to do a broader mix of work, that takes in more of the conceptual & decision-making work.

It seems that Wayne and I are in agreement. It's just that he wants to place more emphasis on the early inklings of the job balancing idea in the writings of people like Kropotkin and Pannekoek.

author by javierpublication date Wed Jul 19, 2006 12:16Report this post to the editors

"A self-managed society cannot exist indefinitely while some take orders and others give them, even if the order-takers are supposedly in charge of the order-givers."

I beleive that most coordination work can be done by the workers right now. I do not see why people usually need more expertise or knowledge that the one they need for their usual work, maybe some accountant skills, but not much more. I am thinking of the Spanish revolution and of todays self-management at Zanon (now FASINPAT, a ceramics factory, with 400 hundred workers and 400000 square metres of production every month), coordination bodies have a very fast rotation by parts, so newcomers are shown the ropes of the job by those that have had some time doing the work.

But some jobs are more intellectual than others. The person that designs the mixture for the ceramic is a Chemical Engineer, education is needed for that work. A revolution needs to give education to the masses at an incredible scale by todays standards, for equality's sake (dull jobs have to be shared, all people should be able to learn and work doing what they like, and I beleive most people want stimulating creative jobs, the same as they want to work less hours and to live in general under better conditions). But it won't happen overnight, we won't find ourselves with dozens of chemical engineers per plant a few years after the revolution, until then, we are certainly limited in the changes we can implement in that field. However, there is A LOT we can do with no need to wait for that, that is what anarchists have always proposed and i have said many times already. And i do not think that is the greatest danger a revolution will face, and once counter-revolution is overcome (violent, from authoritarians of all kinds), i can only see the revolution radicalizing even more, shaking the building of society to its very foundations.

author by javierpublication date Wed Jul 19, 2006 12:45Report this post to the editors

What does TAS stand for?, i read in spanish most of the time and can't find out its meaning.

"This is dangerous for the long-term evolution of the society."

I agree, but the solution is not an easy one, it will take years for those changes to be possible, and before that there are a lot of problems much more dangerous to me. If a revolution can survive them, i beleive that it can overcome (as you propose, we agree on that too) the problems you talk about.

"If a person is just being a janitor all year or working on a machine 40 hours a week or whatever, when do they have the time to learn about the big conceptual issues and planning and design questions?"

This is the suff that confuses me, what do you mean by "big conceptual issues and planning and design questions". The first part is easy, people must be able to decide if the economy will favour automoviles or public transport (altough I think that only some will work and deal with all the details and provide a clear picture to the rest so that they can take an informed decission, just like a doctor would with a patient). But the second part sounds more vague to me.

As anarchists, we have to be able to show alternatives using today's experiences as examples of how a libertarian-communist society can solve our problems and make life better for all of us. This implies being clear and concise and giving all this hard questions a lot of tought. I thank all the militants that have dedicated part of their time to providing a programme for the revolution, but I think that i (at least) am a long way from having a clear idea of how it should be.

author by Tom Wetzelpublication date Wed Jul 19, 2006 23:50Report this post to the editors

Javier, "TAS Council" stands for "technical, administrative and statistical council". i think the "S" would be an "E" in a Spanish acronymn. During the course of the civil war, they gave increasing power to the TAS councils. These councils included many engineers and former managers and accountants, the people who would man the hierarchy in a corporation. The assemblies of the workers became less frequent. Also, a number of veterans of that experience say that it was a mistake not to re-create the union organization. In other words, typically the shop stewards committee (comite de delegados) became the workplace administrative commitee when the industrial self-management was created. But they usually failed to elect a new union committee. But in fact if the workplace administrative committee was getting out of touch with the workers, it would have been good to have a union committee to press for a more respsonsive structure and to press for the workers' concerns. Issues of finance will inevitably affect what is done in an industry or workplace. People who spend a lot of time doing financial analysis will be better equiped to understand this. Someone who has no training is going to be in the position of just taking the word of the experts. But the experts will look out for their own interests.

Number of comments per page
This page can be viewed in
English Italiano Deutsch
Employees at the Zarfati Garage in Mishur Adumim vote to strike on July 22, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Ma’an workers union)

Front page

Reseña del libro de José Luis Carretero Miramar “Eduardo Barriobero: Las Luchas de un Jabalí” (Queimada Ediciones, 2017)

Análise da crise política do início da queda do governo Temer

Dès maintenant, passons de la défiance à la résistance sociale !

17 maggio, giornata internazionale contro l’omofobia.

Los Mártires de Chicago: historia de un crimen de clase en la tierra de la “democracia y la libertad”

Strike in Cachoeirinha

(Bielorrusia) ¡Libertad inmediata a nuestro compañero Mikola Dziadok!

DAF’ın Referandum Üzerine Birinci Bildirisi:

Cajamarca, Tolima: consulta popular y disputa por el territorio

Statement on the Schmidt Case and Proposed Commission of Inquiry

Aodhan Ó Ríordáin: Playing The Big Man in America

Nós anarquistas saudamos o 8 de março: dia internacional de luta e resistência das mulheres!

Özgürlüğümüz Mücadelemizdedir

IWD 2017: Celebrating a new revolution

Solidarité avec Théo et toutes les victimes des violences policières ! Non à la loi « Sécurité Publique » !

Solidaridad y Defensa de las Comunidades Frente al Avance del Paramilitarismo en el Cauca

A Conservative Threat Offers New Opportunities for Working Class Feminism

De las colectivizaciones al 15M: 80 años de lucha por la autogestión en España

False hope, broken promises: Obama’s belligerent legacy

Primer encuentro feminista Solidaridad – Federación Comunista Libertaria

Devrimci Anarşist Tutsak Umut Fırat Süvarioğulları Açlık Grevinin 39 Gününde

The Fall of Aleppo

Italia - Ricostruire opposizione sociale organizzata dal basso. Costruire un progetto collettivo per l’alternativa libertaria.

Recordando a César Roa, luchador de la caña

© 2005-2017 Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by [ Disclaimer | Privacy ]