In Part 1, I showed that the AWL had attempted to portray Marx as some kind of Economistic, Reformist by misrepresenting his views about the possibility of workers simply being able to improve their wages and conditions by militant Trade Union struggle.
Yet, it is precisely, this position of Marx, that Martin Thomas, seeks to misrepresent in the second point.
“Two: that the working class must aim for the expropriation of the capitalists and public ownership of the means of production. (The Proudhonists traditionally looked instead to the growth of a network of workers' cooperatives linked by "fair exchange" and crowding out capitalist production rather than expropriating the capitalists. Bakunin sided with Marx on this).”
This is if anything an even greater misrepresentation. Of course, Marx was in favour of the expropriation of the means of production, though he did also write that, in England, it might be possible for the sake of a quick and peaceful resolution, to simply buy out the Capitalists. But, to read the comment here you would conclude that this revolutionary seizure of the means of production was Marx's only strategy, and that he counterposed it to the idea of establishing Co-operatives. But, it is clear from reading even these sources above that this is far from true.
So, for example, in the last quote from Marx from “Value, Price and Profit” he sets out his vision.
“They ought to understand that, with all the miseries it imposes upon them, the present system simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economical reconstruction of society.”
And, in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, he declares openly what those social forms are – they are precisely the Worker Co-operatives! He writes,
“If the material conditions of production are the co-operative property of the workers themselves, then there likewise results a distribution of the means of consumption different from the present one.”
And elsewhere in the Critique, he makes clear just why the establishment of these Co-operatives is the means by which the revolutionary transformation of the productive relations is carried through. He writes,
“That the workers desire to establish the conditions for co-operative production on a social scale, and first of all on a national scale, in their own country, only means that they are working to revolutionize the present conditions of production, and it has nothing in common with the foundation of co-operative societies with state aid. But as far as the present co-operative societies are concerned, they are of value only insofar as they are the independent creations of the workers and not protégés either of the governments or of the bourgeois.”
In contrast to the claims, by Martin Thomas, that what distinguishes Marx's position from that of the Anarchists, such as Proudhon, is an opposition to Co-operatives and a belief in “Public Ownership” - a term which has no meaning for a Marxist because the “Public” is in fact comprised of classes, and here and now that can only mean that “Public Ownership” means ownership by the dominant class, within that Public, i.e. ownership by the Capitalist Class via its State – Marx's position is defined, on the contrary by a disdain for the involvement of the State, even in the form of “state aid”!
He writes, criticising Lassalle's statist approach of the State setting up Co-operatives under democratic control - that is essentially the policy put forward by the AWL of "Public Ownership" under Workers Control,
“Instead of arising from the revolutionary process of transformation of society, the "socialist organization of the total labour" "arises" from the "state aid" that the state gives to the producers' co-operative societies and which the state, not the workers, "calls into being". It is worthy of Lassalle's imagination that with state loans one can build a new society just as well as a new railway!
From the remnants of a sense of shame, "state aid" has been put -- under the democratic control of the "toiling people".”
And the last sentence here tells us just what Marx would have thought of the AWL's attempt to cover its shame, by cloaking its calls for the expansion of the role of the Capitalist State, in meaningless, revolutionary verbiage about “Workers Control.”
One of the AWL's heroes is the US socialist, Hal Draper, but Draper, in his The Two Souls Of Socialism demolishes this idea, put forward by Martin, that Marx was opposed to the establishment of Co-operatives, and that he counterposed the Lassallean/Fabian notion of Public Ownership – i.e. State Capitalism to them.
But, the AWL want us also to believe that they are in the tradition of Trotsky, albeit, as Third Campists, anti-Trotsky Trotskyists. But, Trotsky himself set out clearly what is wrong with the reformist ideas put forward by the AWL in relation to this Fabian strategy of promoting Public Ownership. He wrote, in Nationalized Industry and Workers’ Management,
“It would of course be a disastrous error, an outright deception, to assert that the road to socialism passes, not through the proletarian revolution, but through nationalization by the bourgeois state of various branches of industry and their transfer into the hands of the workers’ organizations.”
The AWL, of course,, like the Lassalleans, attempt to “cover their shame”, as Marx put it, for raising this demand, by adding in the demand for “Workers Control” - or at least they used to do, in relation to the NHS, for instance, they do not even raise that demand now, or even “democratic control” - but Trotsky, like Marx sets out why this demand is ridiculous.Workers Control Of Production,
“If the participation of the workers in the management of production is to be lasting, stable, “normal,” it must rest upon class collaboration, and not upon class struggle. Such a class collaboration can be realized only through the upper strata of the trade unions and the capitalist associations.
The closer it is to production, to the factory, to the shop, the less possible such a regime is, for here it is a matter of the immediate, vital interests of the workers, and the whole process unfolds under their very eyes. workers’ control through factory councils is conceivable only on the basis of sharp class struggle, not collaboration. But this really means dual power in the enterprises, in the trusts, in all the branches of industry, in the whole economy.
What state regime corresponds to workers’ control of production? It is obvious that the power is not yet in the hands of the proletariat, otherwise we would have not workers’ control of production but the control of production by the workers’ state as an introduction to a regime of state production on the foundations of nationalization. What we are talking about is workers’ control under the capitalist regime, under the power of the bourgeoisie. However, a bourgeoisie that feels it is firmly in the saddle will never tolerate dual power in its enterprises. Workers’ control consequently, can be carried out only under the condition of an abrupt change in the relationship of forces unfavorable to the bourgeoisie and its state. Control can be imposed only by force upon the bourgeoisie, by a proletariat on the road to the moment of taking power from them, and then also ownership of the means of production. Thus the regime of workers’ control, a provisional transitional regime by its very essence, can correspond only to the period of the convulsing of the bourgeois state, the proletarian offensive, and the failing back of the bourgeoisie, that is, to the period of the proletarian revolution in the fullest sense of the word.”
In other words, for Trotsky, neither Nationalisation nor Workers Control can be a strategy for advancing towards the revolution, they are only appropriate measures after, or at the most during the revolution!!
In The Transitional Programme, Trotsky sets this out,
“Is the creation of such a government by the traditional workers’ organizations possible? Past experience shows, as has already been stated, that this is, to say the least, highly improbable.
In other words, the demand for a Workers Government, like the demand for Nationalisation under Workers Control, and all the other Transitional Demands, are only revolutionary, can only act as a bridge from the workers existing consciousness to a revolutionary consciousness, in very limited circumstances i.e. in a revolutionary situation. Outside that, they are simply reformist demands, which can only act, as Trotsky says above, as an “an outright deception,”, and which can only lead to “class collaboration” not class struggle. But, the AWL do use these Transitional Demands willy-nilly under current conditions, and therefore, as nothing other than reformist demands.
In part 3 I will show how it was precisely the idea of building Co-operatives, and of Workers Self Government, which Marx posited as an alternative to the kind of Fabian/Lassallean State Capitalism propagated by the AWL, which acted as his strategy for revolutionising productive relations, and workers consciousness, and acted therefore, as the necessary bridge between the Minimum and Maximum Programmes.
Back To Part 1
Forward To Part 3