Michael Velli (Perlman)
Siezure of State Power
Without revolutionary leadership, continually changing responses to continually developing productive forces move toward chaos. Without revolutionary organization, attempts of individuals to realize their self powers to the level made possible by the productive forces move toward anarchy.
Under what conditions can revolutionary leadership and organization be introduced into popular struggles? Under what conditions does an organization capable of seizing State power rise and succeed? Under what conditions might such an organization fail to rise? If it should fail, what alternatives would be left for the organizers who devoted their lives to this historical task?
In the remarks and arguments that follow, I will attempt to find answers to these questions. In my desire to offer revolutionary leaders some humble testimony of my devotion, I have been unable to find anything which I hold so dear or esteem so highly as that knowledge of the deeds of great men which I have acquired through a long experience of modem events and a constant study of the past. With the utmost diligence I have long pondered and scrutinized the actions of the great, and now I offer the results. I have not sought to adorn my work with long phrases or high sounding words or any of those superficial attractions and ornaments with which many writers seek to embellish their material, as I desire no honor for my work but such as the novelty and gravity of this subject may justly deserve. Nor will it, I trust, be deemed presumptuous on the part of a man of humble and obscure condition to attempt to discuss revolutionary leadership; for in the same way that landscape painters station themselves in the valleys in order to draw mountains or high ground, and ascend an eminence in order to get a good view of the plains, so it is necessary to be a leader to know thoroughly the nature of the people, and one of the populace to know the nature of leaders.
The present century is a period of successful seizures of State power by revolutionary leaders. A substantial part of the world's population is experiencing the social consequences of these successes. These historical successes have created the expectation that careful imitation of the deeds of the successful leaders can lead to similar results. It must be said at the outset that this expectation may be unfounded. It may happen that careful application of similar procedures does not lead to similar results. It may happen that devoted revolutionary organizers fail to realize their goal. Aspiring revolutionary leaders may find themselves faced with a situation in which almost all of the people whose interests are served by these goals, and who should be, or even are, sympathetic to revolution, neither understand the specific tasks involved in making a revolution nor participate in achieving them.
History does not necessarily absolve all revolutionary leaders who aspire to seize State power. The fact is that the seizure of State power by a revolutionary organization may fail. In the face of the concrete possibility of failure, it becomes necessary for revolutionary leaders to rid themselves of illusions inherited from the past, and to determine with accuracy and care the real conditions for the successful seizure of State power. The assumptions of classical revolutionary theory* must be re examined in the light of contemporary practice. We must determine whether or not the conditions described by classical revolutionary theory are historically possible, whether or not they are necessary for the rise of a revolutionary organization, whether or not they suffice to assure the success of such an organization.
*The fact that revolutionary theory is 'classical' is a peculiarity of our age. But this fact is not itself more peculiar than the fact that the main proponents of revolutionary theory are rulers, or the fact that the seizure of State power is the goal of revolutionary organizations, or the fact that leaders, officials, armies and States are revolutionary.
The supreme condition for the seizure of State power by a revolutionary organization - a condition which has come to be regarded as self evident, as a sine qua non is a revolutionary situation, a revolution. According to classical revolutionary theory, such a situation is not synonymous with the rise to power of a revolutionary organization; such a situation is a precondition for the organization's rise to power. Before examining how such a situation creates the field out of which a revolutionary organization can seize power, we will examine what this situation consists of.
According to the classics, a revolution, a real, profound, a "people's" revolution, is the incredibly complicated and painful process of the death of the old and birth of the new social order, of the mode of life of tens of millions of people. It is set in motion by a mighty burst of creative enthusiasm that stems from the people themselves. The people and the people alone are the moving force, the creators of universal history. The masses are the real heroes The popular masses are endowed with unlimited creative powers. They are able to organize and direct their energy to any and all the branches of human activity. They are able to deal with the task of production over its entire expanse and down to its minutest detail. According to classical revolutionary theory, such a revolution can be successfully carried out only if the majority of the population, and primarily the majority of the working people, engage in independent creative work as makers of history, and for this reason, the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself.
This independent creative work on the part of the creators of universal history is not the goal or the outcome of a revolutionary situation; according to classical revolutionary theory, this mighty burst of creative enthusiasm is the precondition for the seizure of State power by a revolutionary organization; it is the condition without which revolutionary leaders cannot succeed. According to the classics, no matter how active a group of leaders may be, their activity will amount to nothing more than the sterile efforts of a handful of individuals if it is not related to the activity of the great masses. This is why the seizure of power by revolutionary leaders must rely upon a revolutionary upsurge of the people, upon that turning point in the history of the growing revolution when the activity of the advanced ranks of the people Is at its height, and when the vacillations In the ranks of the enemy and in the ranks of the weak, half hearted and irresolute friends of the revolution are strongest. The mighty burst of creative enthusiasm that stems from the people themselves is, according to the classics, a necessary condition for the rise and success of the revolutionary organization and not only a necessary condition, but an indestructible wall - the masses, the millions on millions of people who support the revolution with all their heart and all their thought are a wall that no force on earth can ever destroy. Before examining whether or not a revolutionary situation as depicted by classical revolutionary theory is in fact a sufficient or even a necessary condition for the rise and success of a revolutionary organization, we must first of all ask whether or not such a situation is historically possible.
A revolutionary situation, a situation in which the majority of the working people engage in independent creative activity, is a situation of crisis for the dominant social order. The powers of the ruling authorities are sprung into the air. These powers are sprung into the air, not by the consciousness of the working people, but by their social practice. People suddenly cease to behave in accordance with the prevailing rules; they become independent and creative. The revolutionary situation consists of independent, creative acts; it consists of individual gestures of rebellion. It is known that the components of a revolutionary situation are historically possible. In fact, individual gestures of rebellion are common, everyday events in any class society. Before pondering the historical possibility of a generalized crisis, a revolutionary situation, it would undoubtedly be useful to scrutinize the Individual component of such a situation.
An individual gesture of rebellion may consist of a simple refusal to submit to an abuse. For example, an individual may refuse to be penalized for skipping a day of work without medical or other excuses.
If the penalty is reasonable, if it is the normal price paid by an Individual who skips a day of work, then the individual refuses to submit to a normal consequence of modern social life. By resisting the penalty, by acting as if she (or he) had the right to skip a day of work, as if she had the right to determine her own work schedule, this Individual challenges the legitimacy of the penalizer. By refusing to give up her right to determine her own work schedule, she challenges the right of a foreman, manager or owner to determine her schedule. Since the right to determine work schedules is part of the social power vested in these authorities, the individual's gesture of rebellion challenges the legitimacy of this power. The individual's gesture challenges the legitimacy of the social relations. Since this individual did not explicitly abdicate her right to determine her own work schedule to the authorities who wield this power, her refusal puts in question the origin of their legitimacy. Her refusal exposes a social relation through which the individual's decisions are made by personages to whom the Individual never gave the power to make such decisions. The fact that she was born into a social system where the power to make such decisions is lodged in specific social personages does not establish the legitimacy of the power lodged in these personages. This merely raises the further question of why previous generations submitted to these officials. Nor does the fact that others submit to the decisions of the instituted authorities establish the legitimacy of the authorities. Their submission reproduces the power of the authorities; their submission makes it difficult for her to rebel; but their submission does not legitimize the authorities. The simple gesture of this individual even unveils the appearance that the authorities wield those decision making powers that society's individuals are unable to wield. By skipping a day of work she clearly confirms her ability to decide her own work schedule. In fact, she is unable to decide her own schedule only so long as she submits to the decisions of the authorities. The powers wielded by the authorities are not a response to the individual's powerlessness, but its cause. She is unable to decide because the authorities decide, but the authorities do not decide because is not able to. Thus, though the individual's gesture of rebellion may be ever so modest and temporary, it consists of a refusal to submit to the dominant social order; it is an independent act. This modest act simultaneously exposes the legitimacy of the dominant authorities and the complicity of the submissive individual in reproducing the power of the ruling authorities. The individual gesture of rebellion is not a consciousness or an ideology but rather a practice, a form of social behavior that undermines the dominant form. This independent act might give the individual confidence in her own decision making powers, but it would not, in and of itself, make her particularly receptive to the services which can be offered by revolutionary organizations and leaders.
An individual gesture of rebellion, even if it challenges the dominant social order in its entirety, cannot in fact move it. The gesture of an individual, no matter how 'radical' or 'revolutionary,' is not the incredibly complicated and painful process of the death of the old and birth of the new social order, of the mode of life of tens of millions of people. Furthermore, isolated individual gestures, no matter how numerous, do not constitute the mighty burst of creative enthusiasm which, according to classical revolutionary theory, is the necessary condition for the rise of a revolutionary organization.
As a matter of fact, various types of individual rebellious gestures as well as various types of revolutionary organizations coexist with the normal functioning of the dominant social order. The coexistence of rebellious gestures with revolutionary organizations, and even the coexistence of both with the dominant social order, does not create a revolutionary situation, nor a revolution, nor the seizure of power by the revolutionary organization.
Individual gestures of rebellion, independent creative acts, may become components of a revolutionary situation. Before determining whether or not they would then constitute a ladder for the rise to power of a revolutionary organization, we must determine the historical possibility of the mighty burst of creative activity which can lead to the death of the old and birth of the new.
A revolutionary situation consists of a generalization of individual gestures of rebellion. But this does not mean that every generalization of individual gestures constitutes a revolutionary situation. For example, rebellion against parental authority is relatively widespread but does not constitute a revolutionary situation. Such an act can even lead to some kind of independence for an individual, without thereby creating any kind of social crisis. If an individual leaves his parents and moves in with an uncle, he does not become independent of parental authority; he merely sub�ordinates himself to a different wielder of the same authority. But in contemporary circumstances the individual who leaves his parents will probably refrain from moving in with uncles. He will cease to be subject to parental authority. If he is a sole offspring, his act will remove the authority of his parents. He will achieve relative Independence. But he does not create a crisis. His act does not remove parental authority from society. He can nevertheless become Independent of parental authority because the powers of parents are very restricted; the authority of specific parents is limited to their own offspring. Unlike the powers of Capital and the State, the powers of the parental office cannot be wielded by interchangeable occupants of the office on interchangeable subjects.
The individual who refuses to be penalized for skipping a day of work is in a somewhat different situation. If she is joined by others, if her rebellion becomes widespread, it could lead to some kind of social disturbance. But if she remains isolated, her alternatives will be similar to those of the individual who rebels against his parents. If she continues to skip days of work, she will probably be fired. Her first alternative might be to find work in a plant where attendance regulations are not enforced. Unlike the individual who removed the authority of his parents when he left them, she would not remove the authority of the foreman in the previous plant. Like the individual who moved in with an uncle and thus ceased to be subject to the authority of his parents, she would cease to be subject to the authority of the foreman who had penalized her. She would still be subject to the authority of officials whose powers are identical to those of the official in the first plant, even though the specific wielders of these powers are more lenient in the second plant. She would still be subject to the constraint which initially gave rise to the rebellion. Her second alternative might be to leave the realm of social activity where work schedules are enforced. This is not very easy, or very common, in a society where work schedules are almost universally enforced. But it is not impossible. She might find any number of marginal activities where there are no officials to enforce work schedules. Or, if she is so disposed, she might become an entrepreneur, in which case she would determine her own work schedule as well as that of others. Like the individual who moves away from parents without moving in with uncles, she would achieve relative independence from a specific form of social constraint. But her triumph would be somewhat of a pyrrhic victory. In order to achieve this relative independence, she would have to remove herself from all the social activities in which this constraint is enforced. Her victory would not enlarge the field of social possibilities; it would not even enlarge her own field of possibilities. If we suppose that she had been aware of the other alternatives before she chose to engage her productive energy in the activity which she is now leaving, then her victory is in fact a defeat. She does not gain the right to determine her own work schedule in her chosen field of activity. She abdicates this power to the authorities who wield it. She capitulates.
But if numerous individuals resist the punitive measures of an official, we have a new situation. For example, if numerous individuals in a given workplace simply stopped performing the operations and motions expected of them, they would not necessarily all be fired. Firing would be a likely outcome if the entire group were as replaceable as the individual who refused to comply with the official work schedule. If the group possesses certain experiences or skills, or if there is a shortage of labor, or if scabs are effectively kept out of the workplace, the group would not be easily replaceable; it would be in a situation analogous to that of a sole offspring. Just as the sole offspring can remove the authority of a parent simply by moving out from under it, this group can remove the authority of the official by ceasing to work. But if the group resumes work when the foreman or manager is replaced with a more lenient one, then their action is analogous to that of the individual who moves in with an uncle. The group removes a particular authority but fails to remove the power vested in the office. They merely replace the specific occupant of the office. Their 'victory' does not change the social relations, and their action does not create a revolutionary situation.
If the individuals in a specific workplace resisted, not only a decision of an official, but the powers vested in the office, they would find themselves as frustrated as the isolated individual who tried to appropriate the power to determine her own work schedule. Ruling authorities have been known to grant a great deal when a workplace is occupied, but they have not been known to give away their decision making powers. Replaceable or not, workers who attempt to appropriate such powers are likely to find themselves in the street.
But the fact that ruling authorities have not given away their decision making powers does not guarantee their continued possession of those powers. The fact that the underlying population has until today reproduced these powers does not guarantee that the population will continue to do so. There have been occasions, albeit rare, when an underlying population removed the powers of ruling authorities without asking for permission to do so. It has happened that all the individuals of a society have ceased to perform their expected roles, not during a Sunday or holiday when some forms of play are officially allowed, but during a weekday.
It has happened that people occupied the factories, offices, schools, transportation depots, theaters, and at all these workplaces engaged in all imaginable forms of activity except the normal ones. In such cases all normal activity grinds to a halt. Such a situation constitutes a revolutionary situation as defined by classical revolutionary theory. The orders of the ruling authorities are nowhere obeyed. The authorities lose their decision making powers. The people, and the people alone become the moving force, the creators of universal history. The power of the ruling authorities is removed and nothing is put in its place. Such a situation presumably constitutes the field out of which a revolutionary organization may seize State power, since according to classical theory a revolution can be successfully carried out only if the majority of the population, and primarily the majority of Me working people, engage in independent creative work as makers of history.
Revolutionary situations consisting of a complete work stoppage have even taken place in regions where revolutionary organizations have already seized State power. Such instances do not suggest that the revolutionary situation contributes to the revolutionary organization's maintenance of State power. On the contrary, In a situation where play has replaced serious work in the factories, offices, schools and transport depots of a society, it is not immediately apparent that the officials of a ruling revolutionary organization would be spared the embarrassments of suddenly deposed capitalist officials. It seems, rather, that the embarrassment of revolutionary officials whose organization serves the working people would be somewhat greater than that of their capitalist counterparts who do not perform such a service.
For example, let us again examine the case of the foreman or manager who takes punitive measures against an individual who refuses to comply with the official work schedule. In normal times, when others continue to comply with the official work schedule, the manager is able to threaten the individual, fire him, expel him by force if necessary. But in a situation of universal work stoppage, prudence counsels the official not to attempt to wield his normal powers. The manager is likely to know that, even if he succeeded in entering the occupied workplace, and threatened to fire its occupants, he might be informed that he had lost this power. If in anger he tried to physically remove one or another of the occupants from 'his' plant, he would find himself outnumbered. The official would find himself in a situation where his powers are no greater than those of any other single individual in the occupied plant. The fact of having been the plant's manager would no longer magnify this individual's physical endowments. The manager is likely to find himself in the street. Although in normal times such a situation is likely to be unimaginable to most managers, in case it happens it can reasonably be expected that most managers will refrain from entering an occupied workplace, from threatening its occupants, or from attempting to remove them. The commands of a former official, like the commands of a deposed monarch, would not be executed in a situation where none submit to them. An observant official might consider it wise and prudent to pass himself off as merely one of the powerless millions until the return of better days.
If voluntary submission to the ruling authorities ceases to reproduce the normal activity of daily life, then the normal state of affairs might be reestablished by means of involuntary submission, namely by force. The deposed officials might spend their waking hours in strategy sessions with the heads of the police and the military.
Before examining the potential efficacy of the forces of law and order in such situations, it would be instructive to see if, prior to the last resort of calling in the armed forces, the revolutionary manager would have more advantageous alternatives than his capitalist counterpart. Let us assume that the first resort of the revolutionary manager is neither to vanish nor to turn directly to the armed forces of the Workers' State. Let us imagine that the manager whose organization officially represents the interests of the working population enters the occupied workplace in order to reason with its occupants. Let us assume that the revolutionary manager is able to enter the occupied workplace, that its occupants do not externally manifest any animosity toward this representative of the working class. We might even imagine that the exchange between the former manager and the former employees is calm and reasonable, that the occupants treat the comrade manager cordially and respectfully.
In this friendly atmosphere, the former manager might begin by reminding the group that the occupation of the plant is an act which breaks the rules and regulations of the plant. One of the occupants could respond, in an equally cordial manner, that the occupants are aware of this fact, but that the rules and regulations mysteriously disappeared on the day of the occupation; they no longer describe the ways people do things; no one's activity corresponds to the rules anymore; furthermore, comrade manager, those rules and regulations are no longer enforceable.
Becoming somewhat less cordial, the manager may try to reason with the occupants a second time. In a society where the revolutionary organization of the working class has triumphantly seized State power, he might point out, such an action is not only normal; it is perverse. These angry words need not necessarily put end to the peaceful exchange. Someone may point out, in a perfectly reasonable tone, that during a time when all the individuals society have stopped work, it is normal for this group to stop work as well; furthermore, in such a situation it would be abnormal and perverse for this group to continue working.
This statement may prove to the manager that the plant's occupants are not willing to listen to reason, and he might lose his composure. He might, for example, threaten to fire them, to deprive them of their relation to the social means of production. But if the revolutionary manager makes such a threat he will find himself on same slippery path which led his capitalist counterpart to slide out to the street. Yet even this threat need not put an end to the friendly and cordial atmosphere of the meeting. The occupants may in fact pat their former manager on the back and give him three cheers for his courage.
If the embarrassed former manager retains enough composure be able to reflect about his situation, he might conclude that the occupants refuse to listen to him because of his relatively low status the State and the Party. They would surely be more reasonable if a much higher official explained the situation to them. For example, the manager's supervisor, the minister or head of the branch of social activity of which this particular plant is a part, would certainly be able to impose his authority. The occupants would of course have no reason to object to the branch head's visit. They might even look forward to it.
The exchange between the branch head and the occupants would undoubtedly be characterized by even greater geniality than a session with the manager. The branch head might, for example, introduce himself as a courageous fighter during the revolutionary war. He will undoubtedly be applauded; he might even be given a standing ovation. He might then be allowed to give a relatively long, uninterrupted speech on the important role 'his' branch plays in the social economy. The occupants would undoubtedly listen with interest and they might applaud again. The head might then turn to a matter at hand: 'his' branch clearly cannot perform its role in the present situation; all orderly procedures have come to an end; disorder has seized the upper hand; the occupation of the work aces is synonymous with chaos and anarchy. Without showing any overt hostility or disrespect for the former branch head, an occupant might explain that since the occupation of the workplaces, people have in general observed a marked decrease in acts of violence; that relations among people do not seem to lack mutual generosity and consideration; that consequently the branch head's conception of general disorder must be based on misinformation, possibly because the branch head's information channels have ceased functioning. As for the chaos and anarchy, another occupant might calmly point out, these words have lost their former sting; if the playful, relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere which has prevailed since the beginning of the occupations constitutes chaos and anarchy, then perhaps the state of affairs depicted by those words is not as terrible as was thought in former days.
While the branch head loosens his tie to unbutton his shirt collar, the manager might give him a "Didn't I tell you?" glance. "Comrade workers," the branch head might continue, "this act is nothing less than sabotage of social activity."
"Comrade Head," a worker might respond, "in a situation when all our fellow workers have stopped carrying on their former activities, would not our resumption of work be an act of sabotage of social activity?"
This response would convince the branch head that the bizarre description given to him by the plant manager is correct: the working people have lost their reason. If this former higher official is physically impressive, he might stand up and take a deep breath before shouting: "I am going to take immediate steps to close down this plant and to send the names of the occupants to the heads of all other branches of social activity. In that case, comrade workers, you will be forced to beg in the streets for morsels of bread."
"But Comrade Head," whispers a worker who sees no need to shout to the former official, "there's no need to take steps to close the plant. It's already closed. In fact, your whole branch is closed. And it's no longer your branch. But if you ever did close down a plant so as to punish its workers, would not that be an act of sabotage of social activity?"
This final insult convinces the branch head that only one official in the entire society possesses a stature adequate to the matter at hand. Only one official is authoritative enough to reason with these people: the President of the Republic. Consequently, after briefing the Comrade President, the one time manager and the former branch head introduce the Head of the Economy, the State and the Army to the assembled occupants of the plant. The working people are of course flattered and honored to be visited by such an important personage.
The President of the Republic goes straight to the point. He does not mince words. "Fellow workers! You are of course aware that this act is illegal. You are breaking the law."
These opening words are followed by silence. None of the occupants of the plant have ever spoken publicly or even privately to such a high official. No one had ever heard such a high official contradicted in public. Several occupants appear to be ready to speak, but their lips begin to quiver, then their knees, and they remain silent. Finally one of the occupants decides to make the attempt. "Comrade President," she says to the three officials, "we are not aware that we are breaking the law."
The President, then the Branch Head, and finally the Manager, begin to smile. They are under the impression that in the worker's words reason has at last begun to prevail.
"The law," she continues, her words traveling through a sea of absolute silence, " the law: that's not long words and sentences written on the pages of heavy books. The law is what people do, how they behave."
The smiles abruptly end.
"When you say we're breaking the law, Comrade President, you must be thinking of the old law, the law that existed before the occupations began. But that law is nothing more than old books now, Comrade President. That's not how people behave now,"
As soon as the silence is broken, it becomes evident to all that it is as possible to speak to the President of the Republic as to any other individual.
"Our action was illegal by your former laws," adds another individual, "but your authority was illegitimate."
The one time manager and the one time branch head look expectantly at the former President of the Republic, while their Supervisor looks anxiously for the nearest exit. With less assurance than the first time, in fact with a noticeable quiver, he says that by not resuming work immediately, the occupants of this plant are raising their interests above the interests of the Revolution, above the Interests of Society, " nay, above the interests of the Working Class."
"But that doesn't stand to reason, Comrade President," one of the occupants insists in a tone that seems to beg the President of the Republic to listen to reason. "How can our work stoppage be against the interests of the working class if the entire working class has stopped work? If we took your advice, Comrade President, if we went back to work, we would be acting against the interests of the working class."
At this suggestion that the former President of the Republic may be opposed to the interests of the working class, the head of all officials becomes visibly agitated. "Don't you know who I am?" he shouts at the speaker. "I am the President of the Workers' State. Do you take me for an idiot?"
The occupants of the plant are visibly embarrassed when suggestions of laughter are distinctly heard because some individuals were unable to contain themselves.
The one time President appears not to notice the laughter and continues shouting: "By following this perverse path, you are harming no one but yourselves!"
"If that's the case," someone snaps back, "why is it that the Comrade Manager, the Comrade Branch Head, and you, Comrade President, are so upset about our present activity. If we are only harming ourselves, why are you shouting, Comrade President?"
This interpretation of the former President's behavior puts an end to the peaceful exchange. The three officials take stock of their present situation. It suddenly becomes very clear to them that there are numerous working people in the society, whereas there are only a few managers, yet fewer branch heads, and only one President of the Republic. Consequently, there's only one way left to make the population respond to reason. The three authoritative personages move toward the nearest exit. But before leaving, the President of the Republic freezes the plant's occupants with his last words: "Next time I'll talk to you with words that you're going to understand - words which come out of the barrels of guns."
In short, the last resort of the revolutionary officials is similar to that of their capitalist counterparts: the police and the military. But the resort to armed force does not put an end to the matter.
First of all, during a time when the individuals of a society have stopped performing their normal tasks, it is not certain that the armed forces can be completely counted on. It does not take a great deal of imagination to suppose that the individuals who constitute the armed forces will not, in such a period, respond to commands as obediently and unquestioningly as in normal times. It may be that precisely at the moment when the authorities need them most, the forces of law and order will be least reliable.
Secondly, even though the armed forces may during normal times exert extreme violence against the enemies of the ruling authorities, it is not certain that the individuals who compose these armed forces will be as ready to torture and maim people in a situation where the enemies are not isolated individuals but the entire society. After all, neighbors, friends and relatives are now among the outlaws.
Thirdly, historical evidence does not clearly show that a modern army and police are able to subdue a population that is not passive. In a situation where political and military officials are shot at from every window of every house on every street, it is not immediately evident how the officers of the law could re-impose the deposed authorities short of bombing the city from the air. But such bombing could not yield the desired result, since the bombs would fall on the labor force as well as the productive facilities which constitute the basis of the power of the ruling authorities.
Fourthly, even if the military could temporarily establish a hegemony over the population on the basis of its superiority of arms, it is not certain how long they could maintain the superiority of arms if the plants where armaments are designed and produced are among the places occupied by the insurgent population - not to speak of the places which produce the materials needed for the production of weapons.
In short, it is not certain that there really is a last resort for a social order in which a comprehensive revolutionary situation develops.
It has been shown that the generalization of certain types of individual gestures of rebellion may create a revolutionary situation, a thoroughgoing crisis in which the dominant social order may risk complete extinction. But it has not yet been shown whether or not such a situation contains elements which might contribute to the seizure of State power by a revolutionary organization. All that has been shown so far is that, although such a revolutionary situation can easily be imagined, it cannot easily be imagined how such a situation could contribute to the power of a revolutionary organization that has already seized the State apparatus.
Undoubtedly revolutionary organizations that have already seized State power no longer need revolutionary situations. It seems obvious that such organizations can only lose their gains in case a revolutionary situation occurs after their victory. Undoubtedly a far more important question for revolutionary leaders is whether or not a revolutionary situation contributes to the seizure of State power by a revolutionary organization that has not already seized it. In order to explore this question it is necessary to classify revolutionary organizations by type and size, at least crudely, since in normal times Capitalist society contains a wide variety of revolutionary organizations, ranging in size and importance from small circles of acquaintances who meet once a month to governmental parties that command the votes of significant portions of a population.
We may begin our examination with the type of revolutionary organization which is best known because it is very influential and is officially designated as a revolutionary organization - an organization that officially represents the working class during normal times. This official representation usually takes the form of a complete monopoly of labor union offices, and frequently the form of representing the working class in the state apparatus itself, for example through possession of the portfolios of one or several ministries and through command of a significant parliamentary minority. In short, such an organization is the official representative of the Labor Movement, the official interpreter of workers' demands, and the official negotiator between the working population and the ruling authorities.
The question is: does a revolutionary situation pave the way to the seizure of State power for a revolutionary organization which has established itself as an official candidate for the offices of the State apparatus, and whose parliamentary and cabinet members have already acquired direct experience in the wielding of State power? Is it self evident that a universal stoppage of working activity of the type described earlier would pave the way for the seizure of State power by such an organization?
To explore the possibility that a universal work stoppage might end up as a victorious seizure of power by the official representatives of revolution, we might try to imagine what steps a given official of the organization might take in order to secure the organization's revolutionary victory over the striking population.
Let us imagine, for example, that the revolutionary organizer's field of activity is a plant similar in composition to the occupied plant described earlier, except that in this case the plant is located in a capitalist environment where the revolutionary organization has not yet seized State power. Let us suppose that the organizer is already inside the occupied plant; he might, in normal times, have been the union delegate of the workers in the plant.
It is of course to be expected that the plant's official union delegate will use the public address system to speak to the workers assembled in the plant. On the first day of the occupation he might, for example, read congratulatory messages to the workers from the revolutionary cabinet ministers and members of parliament. He also might, on his own initiative, hail the great victory of the working class, its triumph against its class enemy, and its unparalleled courage during the struggle. And finally, he might speak of the great sacrifices the workers of this plant made during the struggle - sacrifices which have undoubtedly exhausted them mentally and physically. Consequently, since the plant's union committee is perfectly able to hold on to the occupied factory and to take care of the necessary business, the tired workers might do well to return to their warm homes and their waiting families until the union committee announces the next general meeting.
The delegate's conclusion will undoubtedly relieve some of the plant's occupants and puzzle others. Those who are relieved may in fact look forward to returning to their homes and families; they may be glad that competent union officials have agreed to take care of the problems of the occupation. Those who are puzzled may also have homes and families, but their desire to leave the plant may not be great enough to overshadow certain suspicions about the delegate's conclusion.
Let us imagine that only one of the plant's occupants finds the words with which to express these suspicions.
"If we go home now," she might ask, "what would happen to our act? The entire population has claimed its rights over everything. If we go home now, wouldn't we be giving those rights away when we've just barely won them? And to whom to union officials?"
Another occupant might then shout toward the speakers' platform: "Some of us are determined to stay."
Somewhat dismayed, the union delegate might at this point suggest a vote, immediately calling for a show of hands: "Will all those fellow workers who wish to aid the Strike Committee in the administration and coordination of the factory occupation by remaining inside the plant 24 hours a day raise their hands?"
It is to be expected that the formulation of the proposition will create some confusion. But it is conceivable that a few of the occupants will raise their hands, followed by others, until gradually the hands of all the occupants are raised. At that point the union delegate will undoubtedly back away from the microphone to hold a brief strategy session with the other union officials on the speakers' platform, among whom there may be regional delegates as well as a national Party Secretary or a revolutionary member of parliament.
While the union officials confer, one of the plant's occupants might shout to the platform: "Since the plant was occupied by the working people, why do we have to show our identification cards every time we leave or enter the plant?"
This question may prompt the Party Secretary to take the microphone. "The fellow worker has raised a critical problem," the Secretary might explain. "This is the problem of security, the problem of defending the interests of the workers from their class enemies. This is the important function performed by the fellow Workers at the factory gates. They are charged with the task of preventing agents of management from entering the plant."
Since it is difficult to make oneself heard without the microphone, those who wish to speak from the floor are forced to shout. This is why the next question someone shouts from the floor sounds like an insult hurled at the Party Secretary: "Are they fellow Workers or Party officials?"
Just as the Party Secretary is about to ignore this insult, another individual shouts from the floor: "When did the Party get the right to decide who comes into the plant? Besides, what harm could the managers do now? They no longer even have the power to decide who comes into the plant?"
The group of people on the platform look shocked when yet another individual shouts, "We don't need the Party's police at our gates!"
The officials look at each other as if chaos had broken loose when the occupants of the plant begin to cheer.
Following a long period of enthusiastic cheering, the district delegate calls the meeting to order. She announces that "the first item on the meeting's agenda is the democratic election of a Strike Committee" - but before she is able to propose competent candidates the shouting begins again. "What on earth for?" shouts an occupant. "Whose agenda?" shouts another.
The following exchange, consisting of screeching shouts from the floor nearly drowned out by deafening shouts through the loudspeaker, may follow:
MICROPHONE: The function of the Strike Committee is to hold the fort when numbers dwindle, to protect the victories won by the working population.
FLOOR: But we're determined to stay! Unanimously!
MICROPHONE: Furthermore, the Committee has the task of coordinating the strike.
FLOOR: What's that if it's not what we're all doing already? Why should a small group of people do that?
MICROPHONE: It is impossible for all the workers of a plant to negotiate highly technical questions with the plant managers, the owners and the State.
I've got news for you! They've got nothing left to negotiate! Who do
you want to negotiate with? The managers don't manage any more, the
owners don't own, and as for State officials, they're nowhere to be
found. (The shouter is interrupted by laughter and cheering.) Are you
going to negotiate with those who are presently occupying the
government buildings and the city hall? Haven't you heard that the
people occupying those buildings are dancing, playing music and
putting on plays?
MICROPHONE: Who will draw up your list of demands?
Who can grant them?
MICROPHONE: What the working people want is� -
FLOOR: Who gave you the right to interpret what the people want?
FLOOR: Those days are gone!
FLOOR: When did union officials get a monopoly over the public address system?
It is not obvious that such a situation creates a "power vacuum" which can be filled by the official revolutionary organization. It is not evident that such a situation would contribute to the seizure of State power by the official interpreters of the population's demands. All that seems evident is that a revolutionary situation of a certain magnitude and momentum would not only remove powers of the ruling authorities, but also the powers which revolutionary organization had established in the unions and the government as official representative of the Labor Movement. At first glance it seems that the authority of the official revolutionaries would not carry much more weight in such a situation than the Authority of the deposed foremen, managers, owners, branch heads, or the deposed President of the Republic.
Independent creative activity can in fact lead to the death of the old social order. A mighty burst of creative enthusiasm, a Revolutionary situation, is a historical possibility. Classical theory assumed that such a situation was the necessary condition for the seizure of power by a revolutionary organization. We have not been able to verify this assumption. On the contrary, we have seen that in the special case of a revolutionary organization which has established positions of power and prestige within the ongoing social order, the assumption of classical revolutionary theory is false. A revolutionary situation in which the masses are the real heroes, in which they engage in independent creative work as makers of history, does not provide a fertile field for the growth of an already established revolutionary organization. In fact, the official revolutionary organization is swept away together with the rest of the old social order.
the fate of an already established revolutionary organization does
not destroy the classical assumption that a revolutionary situation
is the necessary condition for the growth of a revolutionary
organization. Despite the fact that already established revolutionary
organizations are the official representatives of revolution, despite
the fact that they are almost universally regarded as the spokesmen
of revolutionary classes, references to such organizations in
classical revolutionary literature are extremely sparse. And the few
references that can be found do not in fact treat an already
established revolutionary organization as a likely candidate for the
seizure of power in a situation where the old social order bursts. On
the contrary, such organizations are not considered really
revolutionary organizations, but part and parcel of the social order
in which they have already established power. Revolutionary leaders
who become officials under capitalism thereby cease to be
really revolutionary leaders. The functionaries of our political
organizations and trade unions are corrupted or rather
tend to be corrupted by the conditions of capitalism and
betray a tendency to become bureaucrats, i.e., privileged persons
divorced from the people and standing above the people. That is the
essence of bureaucracy. Furthermore, the positions attained by
these revolutionary leaders within the dominant social order are not
even considered real steps along the road to the seizure of power,
but rather steps away from this path: Until the capitalists have
been expropriated and the bourgeoisie overthrown,
even proletarian functionaries will be inevitably 'bureaucratized.'
Thus, despite its public importance, an already established revolutionary organization cannot validly serve as a test case for the classical assumption that a revolutionary situation is the preliminary condition for the rise of a revolutionary organization. Despite the fact that the established revolutionary organization is the official spokesman of revolution and stands ever ready to seize the bureaucratic military machine, the sparse explicit references to this type of organization in fact exclude it from the field. It is not with this aim in view that a mighty burst of creative enthusiasm stems from the people. The aim of the revolution is not, as before, to transfer the bureaucratic military machine from one hand to another, but to smash it.
A revolutionary situation as described by classical revolutionary theory smashes the dominant social order along with all of its bureaucrats. Before turning to the case of revolutionary leaders who have not become functionaries under capitalism, the case of revolutionary organizations which have not already established power within the dominant social order, we might examine more fully the classical description of the revolutionary situation, which is a preliminary condition for the seizure of power by a revolutionary organization. Such a situation is realized by the initiative of millions, who create a democracy on their own, in their own way. The old centralized government gives way to the self government of the producers. This is the product of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economical emancipation of labor. Furthermore, according to the classics, the working people know that in order to work out their own emancipation, and along with it that higher form to which present society is irresistibly tending by its own economical agencies, they will have to pass through long struggles, through a series of historic processes, transforming circumstances and men. They have no ideals to realize, but to set free the elements of the new society with which old collapsing bourgeois society itself is pregnant. In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all. - With labor emancipated, every man becomes a working man, and productive labor ceases to be a class attribute. - The political rule of the producer cannot coexist with the perpetuation of his social slavery. - What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces above all, is its own gravediggers.
The classical theory of revolution assumes that a social situation which corresponds to the description given above is the preliminary condition for the growth of a revolutionary organization. First of all the initiative of millions is a preliminary condition because all previous historical movements were movements of minorities whereas the proletarian movement is the self conscious, independent movement of the immense majority. The proletariat, the lowest stratum of present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air. Without this preliminary condition, the specific project of a revolutionary organization cannot even be considered. Is it conceivable that such an organization can be created without first abolishing, destroying the state machine created by the bourgeoisie themselves? This is not conceivable in classical revolutionary theory; the precondition of any real people's revolution is the break-up, the shattering of the ready made state machinery. Insurrection must rely upon a revolutionary upsurge of the people. Without such an upsurge on the part of the great masses, the activity of no matter how active a group of leaders would be reduced to the sterile efforts of a handful of people. As soon as such a revolutionary upsurge takes place the revolutionary leaders must take power at once�otherwise a wave of real anarchy may become stronger than we are. And it is by classical revolutionary theory that the initiative of the independent creative activity of the producers also creates the sufficient condition for the revolutionary organization to power at once, namely that an organization which seizes the time and dares to win is bound to succeed: The entire history of the revolution proves that without the leadership of the working class the revolution fails, and that it succeeds with the leadership of the working class. The leadership of the working class means that revolutionary leaders can and must take state power into their own hands.
Furthermore, classical revolutionary theory even ventures to guarantee that once revolutionary leaders have seized State power, nothing will remove them until they have taken State power over the Whole world into their own hands: Now that the class conscious workers have built up a party to systematically lay hold of this apparatus and set it in motion with the support of all the working and exploited people now that these conditions exist, no power on earth can prevent the Bolsheviks, if they do not allow themselves to be scared and if they succeed in taking power, from retaining It until the� triumph of the world socialist revolution.
From the standpoint of revolutionary leaders who today face the possibility of failure, it is critical to reexamine these key assumptions of the classical theory of revolution, because it is this theory and only this theory that educates the vanguard of the proletariat and makes it capable of assuming power and leading the whole people to socialism, of directing and organizing the new system, of being the teacher, the guide, the leader of all the working and exploited people in organizing their social life without the bourgeoisie and against the bourgeoisie.
Is it certain that a revolutionary organization that has no vested interest in the ruling system, that has not established posts in the Labor Movement or the government, and that cannot lose these established posts as a result of a major crisis, would be able to seize State power out of the revolutionary situation? Or might there be elements in the revolutionary situation which would obstruct the seizure of State power even by such an organization? Is the revolutionary situation a sufficient condition for the rise of such an organization in a case where the former ruling authorities are not restored?
Let us try to imagine militants of such an organization in a revolutionary situation as described by classical theory, a situation realized by the initiative of millions, who create a democracy on their own, in their own way. Let us try to imagine if such a situation might contain elements that prevent revolutionary leaders from laying hold of the State apparatus, from setting it in motion, and from retaining it until the triumph of the world socialist revolution.
We might follow the activities of such an organization's rank and file militants in a situation where the old regime has definitively collapsed. Streets, schools, railway stations and public buildings are filled with constant motion and with the excitement that the old order has passed and a new day is about to start. For the militants of the revolutionary organization, the revolution has begun. We might try to imagine the feelings of a long time member of the revolutionary organization as she runs toward a large group of excited people in a crowded railway station. This militant might have been a member of the organization during the dismal days when the majority of the people she spoke to, including her family and her closest non organization friends, considered her a sectarian, a true believer, even a crackpot. She had nowhere been held in high esteem, or even taken seriously, except by other members of the organization. She had been jailed for addressing crowds at public meetings; the police had raided her apartment searching for radical literature. As she runs toward the group gathered around a newly pasted wallposter, she is in a state of near euphoria as she reflects that all the 'extremist' slogans of former days have become realities.
Former slogans, like 'Let the people decide,' 'The streets belong the people,' 'Each must make the decisions that affect his or her life,' were the organization's main slogans during the pre-revolutionary period when the population did not have power independent of the ruling authorities. However, slogans which were once appropriate for the banners of the vanguard of the revolution cannot remain the revolutionary order of the day in a situation where these slogans have become facts of daily life. Such slogans cease to be definitions of tasks ahead and become mere descriptions of the status quo. In order not to fall behind the population but to remain ahead, the organization continues to write on its banners orders of the day which point to the tasks of the future. 'Let the people decide' has been replaced by 'The time has come to build the organization of the working class.'
As the militant works her way through the crowd, she listens for statements which might serve as introductions to her presentation of the revolutionary tasks appropriate to the present stage of the struggle. However, the fervor of the discussion and her unfamiliarity with the topics discussed create difficulties for her interruption, and might cause resentment, so she waits and listens and tries to get a notion of the subject at hand.
The group appears to be arguing about the pros and cons of the newly posted proposal on the wall, the subject of which might be, for example, garbage collection. One person argues in favor of collection routes determined by each neighborhood; the next person snaps back in favor of a city wide network of routes. The group appears to be evenly split. It seems that the issues involved on one side are that a routing system designed by neighborhoods would lead to unnecessarily inefficient routes, while the other side insists that a citywide network would strain presently available lines of communication. One speaker tries to find a compromise between the two sides by suggesting that each method should be tried, depending on preferences of people in each neighborhood. However, a proponent of city wide collections immediately snaps back that such a compromise is a victory for the neighborhood collections, since the city wide network could hardly be efficient if the city trucks had to skirt every neighborhood that had its own collections. The clear statement of this dilemma causes people to reflect, and the brief interval of silence is the militant's opportunity to bring the attentive and lively group out of what to her seems like a petty frame of reference.
"Comrades," she might say, "the tyrants have been struck down by the might of the working people. The people's victory has begun a new stage of human development. You are discussing garbage, comrades. All the former tyrants have been thrown into the garbage cans of history! This being the case, it is time to begin the next stage of the struggle, it is time for the working class to begin organizing its own activity. Comrades, Organization is the next order of the day. The time has come to write on our banners, 'All power to the people, All power to the Organization of the Working Class."'
The group applauds enthusiastically, and while applauding they repeat 'All Power to the People, All Power to the Organization!' As she steps away from the wallposter and works her way out of the large circle of people, some individuals pat her on the back, others smile broadly as they shake her hand. But before she has reached the outer circumference of the crowd, people have already resumed the former discussion of city�wide versus neighborhood wide garbage collections.
Although the militant of the revolutionary organization might be sympathetically received by the group in the railway station, and might even succeed in introducing to these people the slogans which express the revolutionary tasks of the next stage of struggle, from the standpoint of the organization's establishment of a power base the hypothetical scene is inconclusive. Neither the group's sympathy for the militant who in normal times was considered a dangerous extremist, nor their willingness to repeat the militant's slogans, definitively demonstrate that the ground is being laid for the organization's seizure of State power. In fact the hypothetical event suggests that, at least a group of people such as the one described in the station might revert to the problem of organizing garbage collections even after the important problem of the Organization of the Working Class has been clearly communicated to them. Such a possibility might of course result from the fact that a group of people in a railway station is not in fact a working collective. To see such an outcome would not be likely in working collectives actually engaged in productive activity, we might try to imagine the organizing efforts of a different militant of the revolutionary organization say, for example, at a construction site where building activity is actually in progress.
In this illustration we might imagine, not a militant who drops out of the blue into a crowd of strangers, but a militant whose organizing activity is persistent and continuous. He might, for example, return to the construction site every day, and on the occasion when we observe his organizing activity he might already be known by several workers on the site. Let us assume that, in a perfectly friendly spirit, a worker once nicknamed him 'Trotsky' and those who had come to be acquainted with him greet him with 'name,' although there are no grounds for assuming that the militant's organization is in fact a Trotskyist organization, or even oriented in that direction.
Let us assume that the fact that only a few of the construction Workers are personally acquainted with the militant is not the Militant's fault, but is due, for example, to the very same circumstances which might explain why the individuals at this particular Workplace might already be engaged in working activity. The militant's limited acquaintance with the individuals on the site might be due to the constantly changing composition of the working collective. Both the changing composition and the fact that productive activity is going on might be due to the peculiar role the construction site played during the height of the insurrection: when the military attacked, all construction sites became sources of materials and equipment for the construction of barricades. Since on numerous occasions the barricades had to be built on the spur of the moment, many individuals who had not been construction workers, many who had not previously even visited a construction site, were forced to learn to use the equipment and the materials in a hurry. Many of the individuals who had mastered these arts during the insurrection continued to frequent the construction sites after the insurrection, no longer to build barricades, but to build new houses, to build accommodations for travelers (the number of travelers would undoubtedly increase astronomically after a complete work stoppage and a successful popular insurrection of the nature described earlier), to build meeting places - in fact, to build all the imaginable places and structures to which individuals have a desire to devote their energies.
This peculiar condition would of course disrupt the militant's organizing efforts. Some of the individuals with whom the militant had good talks and political exchanges may have stayed on the given construction site only for the number of hours or days it took them to master a particular technique or instrument. Others may merely have been traveling through the site, engaging in this particular project merely to become familiar with this realm of social activity, and moving on to other types of activity after their curiosity was satisfied. Yet others may temporarily have joined this particular project and then dropped out of productive activity altogether, either permanently or only for the time being. In short, we have reason to suppose that, of the individuals working at the construction site at any given time, the militant might have the best attendance record.
Let us assume that the militant continues to persevere in his organizing efforts in spite of the shifting composition of the working collective he has been assigned to organize. We might, for example, observe the militant's organizing efforts on the day after a major meeting of the revolutionary organization, a meeting at which the guidelines of the current struggle were defined as moving from the February Revolution, which had established a Dual Power in society, to the October Revolution which would definitively establish the undisputed and uncontested rule of the Working Class. On this particular day, an individual operating the hoist and a person guiding a plank, both of whom are new to this site, seem at once amused and baffled by the militant's reference to February and October, but neither of them stop working.
A construction worker who has just finished putting a steel beam into place from an extremely precarious position on the scaffolding overhears the comments, warmly greets 'Trotsky,' and climbs down from the scaffolding to relax and wipe the sweat off her forehead. She may already be well acquainted with 'Trotsky' because she is one of the few people who have been working on this site continually since the early days of the insurrection; like others she had learned to use the equipment during the days of the barricades, and after the defeat of the army she and a group of others had stayed at this site to design and build an experimental music hall in place of the office building that had formerly been scheduled to go up. She shakes his hand warmly while looking up toward her beam, and immediately takes up her critique of the revolutionary organization, a critique which the militant has by now heard several times.
"Won't you ever realize, Trotsky, that the play you're acting in ended over half a century ago?"
Part of her technique in ridiculing him comes from her persistence in calling him 'Trotsky,' instead of simply 'comrade' or 'fellow worker,' the designations commonly used in discussions among the militants of the revolutionary organization.
"Can't you learn, Trotsky, that only your 'comrades' are in a play that started in February and ends in October? The rest of the population are writing a different play."
The militant is of course aware of the irony in her tone. But though he knows she is someone who has not learned to take the revolutionary organization seriously, he nevertheless refuses to abandon an opportunity to score good points.
"It's not a question of a spectacle but of the revolutionary practice of the proletariat. There can be no revolutionary practice without theory nor can there be revolutionary theory without practice. The revolutionary theory that corresponds to present conditions is expressed by the slogan: We must move from the February Revolution to the October Revolution. The practice that corresponds to present conditions is expressed by the slogan: We must form Workers' Councils in every mine, every factory, every construction site and every military regiment. These are the fundamental tasks of the actual political situation."
"Bravo!" she says. "But aren't you a few historical moments too late? Now that it's leaked out to people how many and varied their alternatives are, how will you convince them to stay in a given workplace to become a permanent Council? By telling them the old play is about to begin all over again? And how on earth will you convince people to return to military regiments so as to cast them in the familiar role of the Soldiers' Councils? Weren't you there, Trotsky, when half the army disbanded and defected to the armed population behind the barricades, into the houses, and onto the streets from which the remainder of the army was simply overpowered and defeated?"
The revolutionary militant is irritated by the fact that she first of all attributes to him a 'nickname' and then proceeds to attack him by ridiculing the military achievements of his 'nickname.' He nevertheless stands his ground and tries to trip the opponent with another approach.
"Surely you are aware, comrade, that the highly remarkable feature of our revolution is that it has brought about a dual power. Unless this is understood, we cannot advance. "
"Why, you must be referring to the power of the population and the power of the Revolutionary Organization, isn't that so Trotsky?" she asks, blinking at the hoist operator who has approached to listen. "And everyone knows, Trotsky," (she seems almost perverse in her persistent abuse of his nickname) "that since only one of the two sides understands the question of Dual Power, the conclusion of the play is already known halfway through the first act."
"Unless this question is understood, comrade, there can be no intelligent participation in the revolution, not to speak of guidance of the revolution!�
All the individuals on the construction site have stopped working. All eyes are concentrated on the revolutionary militant. This is the first time since his organizing efforts began that he has succeeded in capturing the attention of everyone on the site. He raises his fist and yells, "All Power to the Working Class. All Power to the Workers' Councils!"
The scene at the construction site is at least as inconclusive as scene in the railway station. Even if we assume that the individuals working at the site are as sympathetic to the organization's slogans as the group in the railway station, the scene does not clarify just how the organizing activity of the revolutionary militant lays the ground for the seizure of State power by the organization.
The scene's failure to clarify our question may be due, not to characteristics of the revolutionary organization, but to the assumptions we built into the situation itself. We did not actually prove, we merely assumed, that a productive activity as complex as construction might be possible in the total absence of either the dominant authorities removed from their offices by the work stoppage or a revolutionary organization's seizure of these offices. Such an assumption may of course be illegitimate, since what is assumed is by no means self evident. In other words, it has not been shown that, in the absence of either a Capitalist Organization at the head of society or a Revolutionary Organization at the head of society, an activity as complex as construction could nevertheless take place. After all, even if we could legitimately assume that individuals on a given construction site might be able to resume productive activity on their own, we cannot go on to assume that everything this implies would also resume 'on its own.' What this would imply is the resumption, in an �organizational vacuum,' not only of productive activity on an isolated construction site, but also the production and transportation of construction equipment and machinery; the production and delivery of construction materials such as steel, lumber and concrete; the mining and processing of the minerals and raw materials which go into the construction materials. In short, in order to assume the possibility of construction on an isolated site, we are in fact forced to assume the possibility of productive activity in virtually all other realms of social production. This might of course explain why our central question could not be conclusively answered by the scene at the construction site.
Instead of philosophizing abstractly about the impossibility of social activity in a situation where society's decision making authorities have been removed but not replaced, we might enrich our understanding of numerous facets of this question by imagining a revolutionary organizer in yet another social situation. We might, for example, imagine a revolutionary organizer who poses precisely these questions during her lunch break; we might even suppose that this militant takes it for granted that social activity without a decision-making organization is simply impossible (since it is this assumption that accounts for her service and devotion to the revolutionary organization).
In pre-revolutionary days the restaurant where the militant is eating was extremely expensive and catered exclusively to wealthy patrons. At the outbreak of the insurrection it was transformed into a free, self service neighborhood restaurant. After the battles at the barricades, newly built neighborhood restaurants were set up on the model of the equipment, cleanliness and quality of meals in this restaurant.
Let us assume that the revolutionary militant, who eats at this restaurant daily because of the superior quality of its meals, never before asked herself about the structure of decision making in the restaurant itself. She might simply have assumed that the restaurant had an extremely well organized staff, namely a workers' council, as well as a council committee, namely a smaller group who coordinated and organized the well defined tasks of the various staff members. Or she might have assumed that the restaurant's activity had simply continued to be supervised and directed by some of the pre-revolutionary managers and chefs. At any rate, at this particular lunch break she decides to find out which of the two alternatives is actually the case. She decides that, after the meal, she'll enter the kitchen to get a full picture of the restaurant's political structure from the manager or director.
Access to the kitchen is free to anyone. In fact, a poster next to the kitchen door specifically asks guests to visit the kitchen in order to learn one or another of the various arts of food preparation so as to be somewhat experienced when taking a turn preparing the meals. Of course the militant hadn't ever considered spending numerous valuable hours cooking, since her organizational tasks occupied all her working hours.
Even on this occasion she isn't entering the kitchen in response to the poster asking for volunteer cooks, but to acquaint herself with matters that might be of interest to the Party. She hesitates at the entrance, thinking of the embarrassment she might feel if she were asked to help, but she suppresses this fear and walks up to a man rolling dough. "Could you please tell me who the manager is?"
The man looks at her whimsically, bursts out laughing, and shouts to the others: "Here's another old timer! Can anyone tell her where the manager is?"
A woman sprinkling cheese on frijoles refritos asks the militant, "Is that right, sister? Do you really want me to tell you where the manager is?"
"I'm no old timer," the militant insists. "I'm a member of the revolutionary organization, and I've been a member since long before the revolution. I want to ask some important questions and I'd like to speak to the responsible person, the person in charge."
"Go ahead and ask," says the woman with the cheese. "We can all answer questions. If I don't know the answer someone else may know."
"That's how we do everything here," says a man who is washing dishes.
The militant's face turns crimson and for a moment she considers running out to the street. But she manages to pull herself together. "What I want to know is," she says, turning from one person to another, "I'd like to ask about the organization of this restaurant."
"What about it?" asks the woman.
"Well, for example, when was the workers' council formed, when was the Council Committee elected, how many people are on it -�
"They weren't," says the woman.
"Those things were never formed around here as far as I know," the woman answers.
"What do you mean?"
"Just that," answers a man who is stirring soup. "We've been disabused of all that."
"Do you mean," the militant asks the woman with the cheese, "that the pre revolutionary organization and staff survived in this restaurant intact?"
"I'll tell you about the pre revolutionary staff," says the man with the dishes. "They had three people who washed dishes full time and never did anything else. There were professional vegetable cleaners, a salad staff, soup specialists, two meat cutters, a full time baker, a shipping clerk with an assistant as well as a stock man, five pimps who did nothing but make arrangements, numerous professional bus boys, several staffs of waiters - meat waiters, wine waiters, as well as waiters who only bowed. None of the pre revolutionary staff have been here since. I suppose none of those people ever want to see a restaurant again."
"Then who coordinates production, who does the planning?"
"You mean what happened to the rest of the pre revolutionary staff? I can tell you that too. I used to deliver meat here in those days. And I used to peek out to look at the better half. They'd come here to eat in what they called 'their own' restaurant. First of all there was someone they called The Investor. It was said that he passed checks to the others while he ate. One of those he passed money to was a big shot. He was 'In Restaurants' and in lots else besides. A scrawny little man who probably hadn't ever touched dough was 'In Bread.' 'I'm in bread,' he'd say when he shook someone's hand. Another one was 'In Meats and Poultry' - "
"We in the revolutionary organization know about all that," protests the militant.
"No you don't," the man insists. "The one that was 'In Restaurants,' the one they called the Big Boss - he continued to come around when things started to change. The meals were free and no one raised a fuss about his eating here. He'd always sit all alone, and he'd stay at his table after everyone else had left. It seemed like he didn't want to go back out to the street. Maybe he was afraid that a crowd would start chasing him shouting 'There's that capitalist thief - shoot him!' One night when I was here baking he even came into the kitchen and asked if there might be something he could do. You don't know about all that! You don't know that the man who was 'in Restaurants,' the man who supposedly 'fed thousands of people daily,' the Big Boss as he was called - this man didn't know how to boil an egg! Apparently all he knew was how to send checks to the bank. And when the banks closed down he didn't know anything! I myself told him everyone would be happier if he didn't help in the kitchen, that no one minded his eating here. He continued coming every day when the fighting was still going on, but after the army collapsed he never came back."
The militant is visibly annoyed, and finds that these people are extremely evasive. "Frankly," she says, "I'm not at all interested in the former, capitalist organization of this restaurant. I've studied the social relations and class structure of capitalism to the point where I'm sick of it! What I want to know is how this productive enterprise is organized now - who coordinates the activity, who orders the food, who plans the meals. In other words, how is this place run if not by a Workers' Council guided by a Council Committee?"
"Sister," says the woman, "if one of us can't do it then it just doesn't get done."
"That's no answer!" snaps the militant. "I don't understand your motives for being so hostile to my question, for being so evasive. I'm not so stupid as to believe that a restaurant could function for a day without an organization. I happen to know what goes into a loaf of bread! A specific person has to decide how much bread is to be baked so as to know how much flour to order. At the flour mill, in turn, someone is in charge of coordinating the mill's requirements with the agricultural authorities who supply the grain.
"The same is true of meat and vegetables - not to speak of all the fancy equipment you've got! It all takes coordinators, organizers, planners!"
The baker turns to her and, as if quoting a philosophical text, says slowly: "At the heart of the production process itself, where the productive forces are created, the previous forms of social activity did not exhaust the possibilities of contemporary human existence."
"This is exasperating!" shouts the militant.
"Can you boil an egg?" asks the man stirring soup.
"You're all lying!" she screams. "Productive activity on such a scale simply isn't possible without regular staffs, without coordinators and organizers, without leaders. These tasks can't be left to chance! They're the proper tasks of an organization. For the sake of stability and order the development of the productive forces must be controlled."
"But did you hear of anyone who starved," the woman with the cheese shouts back, "either during the insurrection or after? Did you hear that the food stopped growing because it had lost its managers? Did you hear that all the trucks stopped running until the coming of the organizers? Did you hear that food stopped being distributed because the coordinators hadn't arrived? Did you hear we were all so stupid that we didn't know how to get flour from the mill to the bakery?"
"If all those things are running," shouts the militant, "then it merely proves that there must be Councils and Committees coordinating and directing it."
"And if they aren't," snaps the woman, "we've got to go hungry until the day they do!"
In response to this, the militant storms out of the kitchen. At the street entrance to the restaurant, she turns toward the people who are still at the tables talking. She raises her fist and shouts, angrily, "All Power to the Workers' Councils. All Power to the Council Committees!" No one turns to look at her. People simply continue their conversations.
The scene in the restaurant still fails to clarify how a revolutionary situation lays the ground for the seizure of power by a revolutionary organization. In fact, the militant of an organization which was not an established part of the previous social or fares almost as badly as the authorities of the former social or. This may, once again, be due to the assumptions built into the scene, and thus need not alarm aspiring revolutionary leaders. The militants of all the previous scenes were presented as outsiders to the productive activity of the people they were assigned to organize. This assumption of course creates unnecessary obstacles to the successful establishment of power by the organization. If we drop this assumption, if we imagine a militant who is himself involved in the activity of his constituency, might there still be obstacles to the rise of a revolutionary organization capable of seizing power?
We might, for example, imagine an organizer who became personally involved in the productive activity of a printing plant. He might have been assigned to the plant in order to print the organization's newspaper. Such an assignment would have been an extremely important one in the days of chaos and disorganization which immediately followed the success of the insurrection. After the fall of the old order, the revolutionary organization would undoubtedly consider it of capital importance to use all the media of communication to implant in the population the slogan 'All Power to a Organization of the Working Class.'
Of course those early days of 'spontaneous' activity and revolutionary euphoria would not be the best time for the organization to find an individual ready to assume such a responsibility. Undoubtedly a large number of members would have been lost to the organization during the insurrection - individuals who took an active part in one or another 'spontaneous' activity and then simply stayed with the group of people with whom they had fought and worked. Let us imagine that the given militant was ready to assume the assignment because, unlike those who ran to take part in one or another 'spontaneous' struggle, he did not abandon himself to the anarchic activities taking place in his immediate vicinity. He waited until the organization developed a clear line, a coherent strategy - and as soon as the line was formulated after the fighting ended, he was not lost in an anarchic project like so many other former members. He was ready to respond to the organization's call, to assume his responsibilities.
The period immediately after a successful insurrection would also not be the best time for an organizer to assume this particular assignment. This is due to the fact that printing plants, like construction sites and eating places, would have played a specific role during the insurrection itself. A large and once smooth running printing plant might well be in a state of total disarray as a result of a revolution. The organization member might find that there is no responsible person to whom he can give the newspaper articles. Furthermore there is no staff with a clearly defined division of labor to carry out the various steps necessary for printing the paper. The militant cannot easily learn on his own because there are no institutionalized teachers. Even if all the individuals in the plant on a given day considered it extremely important to print the organization's newspaper, there are no established procedures for determining priorities. There aren't even procedures for assigning work. This situation is a direct result of the activity which developed in the printing plant at the time of the barricades. As soon as productive activity ceased to be a source of income, almost all the former wage workers left the plant in mass and never returned. Those who replaced them had in most cases never before seen printing equipment. Since in most cases the newcomers had to disseminate information about an immediate threat, they were forced to learn on their own and in a great hurry. Some learned by leafing through manuals, some buttonholed a onetime printer to show them the essentials, and others were satisfied with barely readable results. Although hardly any of the plant's onetime printers returned after the insurrection, most of the individuals who learned to print during the insurrection returned after the victory with less hurried and more craftsmanly projects, and usually with an intense desire to master the equipment so as to experiment with its numerous possibilities. Although the equipment was probably used to a fuller extent after the insurrection than ever before, the efficiency, order and discipline of the former work force, and also the well defined division of labor, did not return. This situation created nearly insurmountable obstacles for the militant assigned to print the organization's paper.
Thus in addition to having to print the organization's paper, the militant is saddled with the task of having to organize everyone else's activity as well. When the time comes to organize Workers' Councils in every mine, construction site and printing plant, the militant finds himself in a bizarre predicament. He is unable to gather the individuals in the plant on any given day to a meeting. This predicament is largely due to the fact that, although he is in the plant more regularly than anyone else, the unstructured nature of the teaching has prevented him from mastering any of the techniques and arts of printing. This of course affects the general appearance and readability of the organization's newspaper. It also makes it hard for this individual to talk to others about the indispensability of meeting to organize the plant into a Workers' Council. It's not that people oppose such a Council. Only a few respond with comments like, "We don't need that around here." Most individuals simply tell the militant they're too deeply involved in their work and urge him to hold the meeting without them. Since the response of others is generally, "I'll meet whenever the rest meet," the militant is left in the predicament of meeting by himself. To make matters worse, the militant suspects that several individuals think him a poor craftsman with sloppy habits and consider him an obstacle to the activities in the plant.
The first chance to organize a Workers' Council presents itself when a group of people who did not learn to print during the insurrection come to use the plant's equipment. Since the militant is the only one in the plant who regularly receives and welcomes visitors, the new people ask the militant to help them deal with the technical problems. This gives him a pretext for calling the more experienced individuals to a meeting. "There are people here who want to consult you about using this equipment." Thus he succeeds in creating a meeting with the people in the plant on that particular day. The new people also give him a pretext for raising the question of organizing a Workers' Council. "The problems raised by the new comrades cannot be dealt with in the framework of the organizational forms that currently dominate this plant. If this plant is to serve the needs of these comrades and of all the revolutionary peoples, we must all take part in sharing the responsibilities. Only a Workers' Council provides a structure adequate to such a task."
An individual who has printed multi color posters since the days of the barricades announces to the new people, "I think no one here has ever turned away anyone who genuinely wanted to observe and learn." After this announcement, she begins to leave the room.
The militant fears he may have let his single chance slip away. "Is anyone opposed to a Workers' Council? Would those opposed raise their hands?"
No one's hand is raised.
"Unanimously approved," says the individual who spoke earlier, leaving the room, visibly annoyed. Others get up and return to their interrupted projects; some pause to ask the new people what specific technique they wanted to learn. Even the new people leave the room and join people engaged in one or another stage of the printing process. The militant is left alone. He succeeded. He puts a large sign outside the main entrance to the plant: "Council of Printing Workers."
The successful formation of the Workers' Council does not in practice improve the militant's situation. In spite of the sign on the door, the membership of the Council varies daily and the Council never meets. The militant continues to print the organization's newspaper all by himself, and since the quality of other people's projects improves as they become increasingly familiar with the techniques and equipment, their attitude to his habits and standards becomes increasingly hostile. Although no one comments on the newspaper's contents, the militant overhears numerous references to its appearance; people seem to consider it a stack of trash paper and an enormous waste of materials. Consequently when the time comes for all productive Workers' Councils to elect delegates to Council Committees, the militant is in a worse predicament than before. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of his success in forming the Workers' Council, he designs a new strategy. He recruits two members of the organization to join him in the plant. Actually numerous organization members wanted to join him when he made a moving speech at the Organization's weekly meeting emphasizing the need to organize at the point of production, describing the low level of consciousness and apolitical behavior that results from a failure to do this, and calling for people who would represent a revolutionary force in this particular plant. Although he would have liked to return to the plant the following day with numerous comrades, it was decided that all but two of the volunteers should begin similar organizing activity at the point of production in other unorganized plants.
After a critique and self critique of the earlier meeting at which the Workers' Council was formed, the three militants decide not to call for a general meeting to elect the Council Committee. Instead, they take the opportunity of joining a group of individuals who are taking a break and eating. The three militants present the case in favor of electing a Council Committee. No one seems to have a case against such an election. However, one of the individuals eating lunch, a regular user of the printing equipment and an outstanding photographer, says that since most people don't know what such a Committee member is supposed to do, and since he's sure most people wouldn't be willing to devote time and energy to such a Committee, why don't the three proponents of such a Committee simply elect themselves? That wouldn't be democratic, objects one of the militants. Don't worry about that, says the individual; you won't find anyone in the plant who objects to such a procedure. And sure enough, after consulting other individuals who are using one or another instrument that day, the militants find no one opposed to this scheme and consider themselves unanimously elected to the Council Committee.
The three militants become the first regular staff in the plant since pre revolutionary days. They receive guests, collaborate on the layout and printing of the organization's paper (the quality of which improves somewhat), and they begin to enforce certain minimal regulations, like no smoking rules. Their enforcement of rules is successful only among newcomers, and then only temporarily; when the newcomers join more experienced persons and learn to execute technical processes on their own, they also learn to disregard even the most minimal rules. However, even the Council Committee doesn't last. The three member Committee decides that, to acquire the skills needed to teach newcomers and to raise the quality of the newspaper yet higher, the two new militants are to join more experienced persons to learn halftone techniques and process color printing. In a matter of days both organization members become so involved in the processes of discovery and experimentation that each decides to remain with the work group to which she and he attached themselves. And to make matters worse for the initial militant, both become visibly hostile toward their mentor.
Our militant is again alone, and physically as well as psychologically he can no longer support his assignment. At organization meetings he regularly asks to be replaced, and on several occasions he suggests that the organization print the newspaper in another plant. He even threatens to resign from the organization. However, his resignation is undesirable in view of his service to the organization, and a public admission of his failure is undesirable because it would not serve the organization's image. Consequently, he is promoted. In the light of his earlier election to the Council Committee, namely in the light of his proven popularity among his fellow workers, he is assigned by the organization's leaders to present himself as the plant's candidate for the position of delegate to the Regional Workers' Council.
On this occasion the militant does not attempt to gather even a few individuals in a meeting. He makes it a point to talk to every individual in the plant on a particular day. He is surprised to find that people become very friendly as soon as he mentions that he intends to leave in order to become the plant's delegate to the Regional Council. He takes their friendliness as a sign of approval, namely as a vote. Each individual nods politely as he describes the virtues of the Regional Council: it will determine priorities, coordinate all the activities of the region, allocate resources in the interests of the third world and enforce regional decisions.
Before leaving, the militant prints the slogan 'All Power to the Regional Workers' Council' and posts it on various walls in the plant. A few days after his departure most of these signs are covered by other posters; of the rest all but one are torn down, and on the remaining sign the militant's slogan is scratched out and above it is written a slogan which corresponds to an earlier stage of the organization's struggle: 'All Power to the Workers!'
The events in the printing plant are not very probable. Events with similarities to this sequence have occurred, but they've been rare events, unlikely exceptions. Yet if we grant that such events are possible at all, we are forced to draw at least one conclusion. The mere possibility of such a sequence suggests at least one consequence. The conclusion we are forced to draw is that, even in the absence of a restoration of the old order, a revolutionary situation is not a sufficient condition for the development of a revolutionary organization capable of seizing State power.
This conclusion will undoubtedly be a letdown for aspiring revolutionary leaders. But there is no reason why this conclusion should prevent prospective leaders from continuing to try. Our conclusion does not prove that failure is certain, but only that it is possible. Furthermore, the circumstances underlying the imaginary scenes we have drawn suggest that the possibility of failure is very small. First of all a revolutionary situation of the type described is a historical rarity. And secondly, the resumption of productive activity on the part of the population is an even greater rarity: in the light of all previous human history such an event has extremely low probability. Only one tentative conclusion really emerges from the scenes, namely that if such extremely unusual events are possible at all, then a revolutionary organization's seizure of State power will not be the necessary outcome of an extended revolutionary situation.
This conclusion, however limited in scope, makes our central question problematic - namely, just how does a revolutionary situation lay the ground for the seizure of State power by a revolutionary organization? If such a situation does not necessarily lead to such an outcome, then it becomes pointless to ask how it does so. It seems that we've been asking: how does one milk a bull? - Or more to the point, how can we get milk out of a beer barrel? Clearly, turning the tap one way or another or even drilling holes of a certain diameter will not yield milk; the only way we'll get milk out of a beer barrel is if we first transform it into a milk barrel. Or, with respect to our question, we should not ask how a revolutionary situation paves the path for a revolutionary organization; perhaps what we should be asking is: how must a revolutionary organization transform a revolutionary situation in order to seize power out of it. The reformulation of the question makes it clear that in the scenes drawn so far we have been trying to milk a bull.
Once it is clear that it is not the revolutionary situation, namely the population engaged in self organized productive activity, that lays the ground for the seizure of State power, but that the revolutionary organization must lay this ground, we might proceed to study yet another possibility: are there elements in the revolutionary situation which might prevent the organization from laying this ground? To determine the possibility of such elements, we might imagine that a meeting of the Regional Workers' Council already took place, that this Regional Council consisted of delegates from various Council Committees of printing plants, construction sites, eating places and other productive plants. Due to electoral procedures described earlier, the Regional Council would consist of all the regional members of the revolutionary organization, since the majority of the organization would be there as delegates from plants and the rest as observers. After this meeting the revolutionary organization would no longer be a mere political sect but would represent the population of an entire region; furthermore the organization's members, unlike the militants depicted in the earlier scenes, would no longer be mere individuals with less social authority than that of the smallest customs official at a national frontier. Let us try to determine if an official delegate of such a body might fail to establish the power of the organization among the population.
Let us suppose that a food truck arrives at a garage which was transformed into a neighborhood food distribution center already during the days of the barricades. People from nearby houses gather at the garage and begin unloading baskets and boxes with fruits and vegetables. On this particular day, when the unloading has barely begun, an authoritative voice shouts: "Halt! Stop unloading the truck!"
"Who's that dude?" asks a short, heavy man, pointing to a person dressed in a suit and an attach� case.
"Damned if I know," answers the truck driver.
People stop unloading the truck and are hypnotized by the man in the suit, who sets his case on the tailgate of the truck, opens it, and removes a pencil and a clipboard.
"Some kind of survey?" asks the truck driver, a tall woman with a mild voice who glances over the man's shoulder at the clipboard while speaking.
"I am the Regional Delegate for this neighborhood," answers the man in the suit.
"Delegate for what?" asks a woman who is still holding the basket she was unloading.
"Food distribution," answers the delegate.
"You're what?" shouts a man who was passing boxes from the truck.
"I am here to coordinate the distribution of food," says the delegate.
"What's wrong with the way it's being distributed?" asks the truck driver.
"It's in a state of absolute chaos�, answers the delegate.
"There's no coordination. There are no central records of resources and users. The newly constituted Regional Planning Commission lacks the very data with which to begin bookkeeping."
"But everyone's being fed!" shouts the man on the truck.
"Resources are being irrationally allocated," insists the delegate. "There are constant shortages -"
"You know, that's true," interrupts the woman with the basket. "Last week I wanted strawberries but they were gone by the time I got here."
There is a brief silence. People are apparently thinking of other shortages.
The short heavy man breaks the silence. "Are you and your clipboard going to prevent shortages?"
"The Regional Planning Commission will from now on determine the output and assortment of agricultural production," answers the delegate, who is trying to read the label on one of the unloaded boxes.
"The people I just got this food from didn't mention any such outfit," says the truck driver, reaching for the box handed to her by the man on the truck.
"I thought the farms were already growing enough to feed the entire population," says the man on the truck, who is reaching for another box.
"There's no plan!" shouts the delegate.
mean the plan's going to grow exactly what we want? And no
shortages?" asks the short heavy man.
"Your demand in one period will be taken into consideration when the plan for the next period is drafted," explains the regional delegate. He then asks for the size and contents of the first unloaded box, information which he registers on the clipboard when a woman near the box answers. The woman then goes on to ask, "You mean if no one asks for something in the first plan period, then it won't be available in the next period?"
"The plan does not exclude innovation!" shouts the regional delegate, apparently annoyed by a question he considers naive.
"That's very decent," says the man on the truck, with audible sarcasm. "Our alternatives will once again depend on the imaginations of bureaucrats."
The woman holding the basket appears to take a serious interest in the regional delegate. "How would we know what the planners innovated, say for today's meals?" she asks.
delegate smiles for the first time. "A newsletter will describe
the nature and use of new products, and the new items will appear on
your weekly order forms."
"Of course!" shouts the sarcastic skeptic on the truck, putting his index finger on his temple.
"What if I don't pick up your newsletter?" asks the short heavy man.
"It will be regularly included with your weekly allotment of food," explains the delegate.
"What else will this newsletter describe?" asks the skeptic.
"It will deal with general political, educational and cultural questions, and it will list politically relevant events, speakers and meetings."
"Wow!� shouts the skeptic. "Now what happens if, for example, I develop some kind of persecution complex; if the notion grows on me that I'm being brainwashed; and if I refuse to have your political propaganda in the same bag with my food?"
"Neighbor, if you don't want the newsletter," explains the woman with the basket, who had missed out on strawberries last week, "if you don't want the newsletter, I guess you won't get the food."
There is general amusement, but people stop laughing when they see the woman with the basket is not smiling. The regional delegate continues to grin.
"Is that right?" shouts the skeptic on the truck to the woman with the basket. "If I don't want the political line I don't eat?"
There is general uneasiness. The short heavy man tries to find a universally satisfactory solution: "Perhaps the newsletter needn't be put into the bags. It could just as well be left on a table, and only those who like it would take a copy."
There seems to be general agreement with this suggestion, and people begin to relax again. But the calm is definitively broken by the mild voice of the truck driver.
"Have we all gone crazy?" she asks. "We've just recently rid ourselves of an incredibly powerful class of rulers. We've just recently started to learn to make our own decisions. And are we already deciding we're going to take orders from the first person who tells us he's our new king?"
The people gather around the truck driver and seem to wake up from a dream. They move toward the back of the truck, form the usual relay line and resume the process of passing boxes and baskets from the truck to the tables.
The regional delegate's grin is gone. He hurriedly packs the clipboard and pen in the attach� case and, waving the case in the air, he shouts, "In the name of the Regional Workers' Council, I order you to stop!"
"Get out of the way, Mac; save your rap for later," says a large man who bumps the delegate with a box.
"Do you have a regional police to enforce your orders?" asks the skeptic.
People continue unloading. The delegate attempts to block the relay line. He begins to shout, "In the name of all the victories scored by the workers' revolution -"
He is interrupted by two hefty fellows who lift him into the air and begin carrying him on their shoulders.
"All Power to the Workers!'' taunts the skeptic, raising his fist.
"All Power to the Workers!'' shout several of the people unloading the truck.
"You're all counter revolutionaries!" shouts the delegate, turning his head toward the people on the relay line. "You'll pay for this!'' he threatens, while his carriers increase the distance between the delegate and the garage. "Next time you won't get a mere delegate from a Regional Council," the delegate continues, by now shouting at passers by in the street, who probably interpret the event as an instance of street theater, or perhaps as a political demonstration. "The next delegate will be appointed directly by the Central Committee of the Council of All Workers' Councils. He'll teach you a lesson in revolutionary discipline!" he shouts to a woman pushing a baby carriage across the street. "Behind the next delegate will stand the might of the armed population!" he shouts to a group of young people picnicking on a lawn. "I'll return to see if you'll scoff into the guns of the People's Army!" He continues shouting threats to all passers by, frequently raising his fist and repeating, "All Power to the Central Committee of the Council of All Workers' Councils"- until his bearers reach their destination, the seat of the new government, the steps of the National Theater.
The embarrassing predicament of the Regional Delegate, perhaps possible but hardly plausible in any presently known historical circumstances, nevertheless points toward two tentative conclusions: a revolutionary situation such as the one described is not necessarily the most fertile field for the development of revolutionary leadership, and such a situation may contain elements which might prevent a revolutionary organization from transforming the situation into one suitable for the seizure of State power. It not only appears that the situation fails to thrust power on the organization's leaders, but also that it prevents leaders from taking power. However, before regarding these conclusions as final, we might pause to examine yet another possibility. Perhaps the circumstances underlying all the hypothetical scenes presented until now unduly exaggerate the elements unfavorable to revolutionary leadership, while at the same time placing members of the revolutionary organization at particularly poor vantage points from which to realize their goal. After all, every one of the scenes depicts militants who are completely divorced from the new productive activities as well as the experimental social relations developed by the self organized population, militants who are not only pathetically behind the times but also alien to the liberating spirit of the new social activities, militants who are almost, in a sense, reactionaries. The prominence of such circumstances in the hypothetical scenes would of course exaggerate the likelihood that a revolutionary militant might not succeed. Since such circumstances bias all the earlier scenes, we cannot as yet draw the conclusion that there is nothing at all about self organized and independent activity that lays the ground for the success of a revolutionary organization. Nor can we as yet conclude that as soon as self-organized activity takes root among a population it will prevent the successful seizure of power by a revolutionary organization.
Therefore, before concluding that self organized and independent creative activity is not a sufficient condition for a revolutionary organization's success but rather for its failure, we would do well to push our question yet further. We would do well to construct a hypothetical scene which, unlike the earlier scenes, contains elements which from the very beginning of the insurrection provide a fertile field for the success of the revolutionary organization. We could start by building numerous circumstances favorable to the revolutionary organization and its members into the very structure of the scene.
We might structure the scene around a large electronics plant which, from the standpoint of the revolutionary organization, was in the vanguard of the struggle from the earliest days of the insurrection. Let us suppose that on the first day of the general strike the assembled workers of this plant took decisions which corresponded, down to the last letter, to the organization's definition of the most urgent tasks of the day. For example, after deciding to put the plant's technology at the service of all striking workers, the assembled electronics workers formed a Workers' Council and democratically elected a Council Committee as well as a President of the Council Committee. Let us further suppose that the President of the Council Committee, unlike the militants described in earlier scenes, is not a professional organizer unfamiliar with the technical processes of the plant; on the contrary, she is a worker who had been employed in the electronics plant and had been a member of the revolutionary organization long before the popular uprising. And let us furthermore suppose that the general elections of the Council Committee as well as the election of the President lived up to all the criteria of fully democratic elections. First of all, everyone in the plant voted. And secondly, the criteria on the basis of which candidates were proposed were identical to criteria which are used to select a specific group of people to execute a particular task; for example, when the general assembly selected a team of researchers to develop a communications technology appropriate to the needs of the workers assembled in the plant, the individuals were selected on the basis of their knowledge and experience in this particular area. The same criteria were applied in the election of the Council Committee and the President; the fact is that members of the revolutionary organization were the only individuals among the assembled workers who had both the knowledge and the experience required for performing the roles of President and Council Committee member.
Under the leadership of its revolutionary Council Committee, and guided by its President, the electronics plant put its entire labor force and all its technology at the service of the revolutionary struggle on the barricades and in the streets. Two way walkie-talkies were freely distributed to the population; these devices helped coordinate the struggles at different barricades, and enabled reinforcements to come to the rescue of isolated neighborhoods. All the plant's workers personally participated in various struggles, and most of them returned to the plant in order to design and produce two-way radio sets, barricade television sets, and other electronic devices particularly suitable to the conditions of the popular insurrection. Furthermore, the Committee, and the plant's President as well, encouraged people who had not previously worked in the plant to participate directly in the production of devices which responded to their own or their neighbors' specific needs.
The social relations which developed in the plant during the insurrection, with the encouragement and support of the plant's revolutionary leadership, continued to develop after the downfall of the old order. Individuals inside the plant continued to participate personally in the 'outside' projects for which they designed and built electronic devices, and people engaged primarily in 'outside' projects continued to participate in the parts of their projects which took place inside the electronics plant. Thus the plant's workers themselves took part in activities related to food distribution, production and delivery of raw materials, and even motion pictures, while individuals engaged in any number of productive activities were continually attracted by the possibilities of the technology available in the electronics plant, and continually came to the plant to design and build experimental devices. The plant's boundaries, the line between the plant's 'labor force' and the 'outside world,' became unclear.
However, the electronics plant which was in the vanguard during the insurrection not only because of the establishment of progressive relations inside the plant itself, but also because of the spread of these revolutionary relations to the entire society, begins to run into some problems. When the time comes for all Workers' Councils to elect delegates to the Regional Workers' Council, the plant's President finds herself in a peculiar dilemma. The Workers' Council which had so creatively responded to the needs of the population during the height of the struggle has not actually met since the general assembly meeting where it was formed. The individuals who now compose the plant's work groups are not the ones who composed the plant's labor force when the Council was formed. Matters which require decision, administration and coordination are not determined by the Council Committee but are informally arranged by the work groups through personal relations between suppliers, producers and users. What's worse, due to their engagement in outside projects, none of the Council Committee members except the President even have a regular attendance in the plant, and as a result the Committee never meets and does not, strictly speaking, function.
Even the Council's President devotes more time and energy to experimentation and discovery than to the political tasks of the day. However, it is not because of this that, during the middle of a workday, she is summoned to appear immediately before the organization's leaders. It is not because of the organization of the plant's Council, but rather because of the nature of the plant's productive activity, that the President is summoned to appear before an extraordinary session of the Central Committee of the revolutionary organization. Because she is a worker and also President of an enormous productive enterprise, the organization's leaders treat her with a deference she has frequently found annoying; on numerous occasions she found that excessive cordiality kept them from communicating with her straightforwardly, and she was forced to guess what it was that they actually wanted from her. However, on this occasion the urgent nature of the extraordinary session is immediately explained to her. The organization's political economist opens the session with a profound analysis of the state of communications technology since the insurrection. Only brief excerpts from his speech can be cited here:
"...- precisely at the historical moment when the revolutionary organization of the working class has successfully seized all the central communications networks -
" - precisely at the historical moment when the primary task of the revolutionary organization is to inform the population of the tasks ahead, to define the needs of the day, to lead and guide the march forward to ever higher forms of working class organization -
" - precisely at the historical moment when the revolutionary organization of the working class most urgently needs the one way communications media inherited by the working class from the defunct capitalist ruling class -
" - Comrades I - and this is the capital point - it is at this precise historical moment that the masses are abandoning one way communications media -
" - It is at this precise historical moment that the masses are beginning to use two way, three way and many way electronic devices.
"Comrades! - and this is the point of the analysis - these new devices do not only block the air waves and the television channels!
" - What is far more serious is that the new devices distract and mislead the working population; they prevent the clear communication of the slogans and directives regularly broadcast over the central networks.
"The consequences of this chaos breeding technology are extremely far reaching. The continuing development of such productive forces becomes a fetter to the revolutionary social relations. This development obstructs the consolidation and concentration of power by the organization of the working class. The working class is no longer informed of the decisions made by the organization of the working class. People are uninformed of the decisions and resolutions passed by the Regional Councils. Even Party members have difficulty keeping up with the organization's political line, with the Party's definition of the tasks of the day. . .
"Comrades, this precise historical moment is a moment of crisis. It is a historical situation which can only be described as a state of total chaos characterized by an alarmingly low level of production, constant shortages� - in short, economic stagnation!"
When the political economist finishes his moving speech, the Leader of the organization introduces the President of the electronics plant. �Comrades, in view of this lamentable state of affairs on the eve of the general and universal election of the Central Committee of the Council of All Workers' Councils, we have invited to our session the Comrade President of the electronics enterprise which became justly famous during our glorious revolution for its distribution of walkie talkies to the struggling workers, an enterprise which was in the vanguard of the revolutionary struggle, which provided a model of revolutionary organization to the entire working class. The Comrade will deepen our understanding of the present lamentable state of affairs, and in particular the Comrade will describe the measures which this important enterprise is taking to combat this state of affairs. Comrade President."
The President sweats and is extremely nervous. She starts to speak in a faltering voice. "The general state of affairs described by our scholarly comrade is indeed lamentable." She is somewhat reassured when numerous Central Committee members nod in agreement. "He has presented an extremely well documented analysis of the general state of affairs." The members nod again. "I am not familiar with the general state of affairs," she continues. "I can only speak of the specific situation in the electronics plant. The scholarly comrade spoke of a low level of production and of constant shortages in general. However, at the specific level which is familiar to me, namely at the electronics plant, these general shortages have not specifically manifested themselves. This is not at all a contradiction of the comrade's analysis. I am speaking at an altogether different level of abstraction. My analysis is conditioned by my relation to the productive forces in question. The scholarly comrade's analysis is not subject to such limitations. The further an individual's activity is moved from the productive forces, the less the individual's analysis is conditioned by the development of the productive forces. It is at the level of the superstructure described by the comrade that the state of affairs is indeed lamentable. However, this general condition has not manifested itself at the base. The quantity and variety of the products created in the plant is today several times higher than it was during any of the pre revolutionary record breaking periods, Shortages have not manifested themselves either among the inputs or among the outputs. In terms of the outputs: people have either succeeded in designing and producing precisely the products they required, or they found workers in the plant who were willing and ready to design and produce the products. As for inputs: the informal nature of the social relations among productive sectors since the revolution has made possible the establishment of direct contacts among suppliers, producers and users. Nowadays workers themselves contact suppliers of materials, and frequently the workers take part in the production of the specific materials required for a particular project. These direct contacts are often characterized by personality clashes and various forms of acrimony. However, such direct relations do prevent the production and transportation of totally inappropriate materials, which was the rule before the revolution. At the level of abstraction at which I am speaking, namely at the level of the productive activity itself, a low level of production and constant shortages characterized an earlier historical situation - a revolution in which the low production and the shortages were not due to the establishment of direct social relations among the producers, but to the absence of such relations. In this earlier historical situation, shortages resulted from the fact that initiative and decision making were limited to a small number of planners and party officials who were in general totally divorced from the production process. Comrades, interrupt me if I am wrong. My understanding has always been that the purpose of the Organization is not to stifle the initiative and self organization of the working population, but rather to nurse it, to help it grow strong and self confident, to create the conditions for working people to become the masters of technology and not its slaves."
She pauses. No one nods. There is an icy silence.
"As for the current stage of the struggle," she continues, faltering again, "I can only assure the Comrades that I will do all that is in my power to impress my fellow workers with the importance of the coming elections of the Central Committee. I will see to it that they participate in this critical event."
The Leader of the revolutionary organization deferentially thanks the President of the working collective of the electronics enterprise, "-an enterprise which once marched in the forefront of the working class by supporting and implementing the decisions of the organization of the working class."
The President rushes back to the group with whom she is engaged in a particularly intriguing experiment in communications technology. She is annoyed by the openly exhibited distrust of several individuals who know she has just returned from an important Party meeting. She has frequently in the past been annoyed by individuals who became nervous whenever she began talking about the organizational tasks of the day. On this particular afternoon the relevant slogan - All Power to the Central Committee of the Council of All Workers' Councils - sticks in her throat. She is unable to speak it. The tasks of the current phase of the struggle can no longer be served by her proclamation of the slogan of the day. Perhaps those tasks cannot be realized at the only 'level of abstraction' with which she is familiar, namely at the point of production. Perhaps, she reflects, the realization of those tasks may have to wait until the day when the organization establishes its own State, with an efficient administration, and an army strong enough to enforce the requirements of the day. As for the remainder of this particular afternoon she abandons herself to the excitement of discovering another new form of multiple source communications media.
We are forced to conclude that, even under very favorable circumstances, self organized activity does not provide a fertile field for the growth and success of a revolutionary organization. Independent, self�-organized social activity is not, in and of itself, a sufficient condition for the successful seizure of State power by a revolutionary organization. In fact, independent activity seems to hamper the development of such an organization. Consequently, at this point it becomes hard to imagine just what such an organization would have to do in order to seize State power out of such a situation. We can nevertheless try to visualize the organization's attempt to do this.
For example, we might try to imagine the occasion on which the delegates of the working population are to elect the Central Committee of the Council of All Workers' Councils. Such an event might be staged at the National Theater. This setting might be particularly appropriate for numerous reasons. For example, already during the days of the street fighting and the barricades, the National Theater might have been transformed into a continuing public forum. The semi circular arrangement of the seats, and rows of benches placed on the stage itself, made this auditorium an ideal place for any and all individuals to address themselves to the entire audience. The doors of the theater were open, and the auditorium was crowded, at all hours of the day and night. All schools of philosophical, political, ecological and religious thought could be heard defended by proponents or downgraded by critics. Some individuals read prepared lectures; others spoke off the cuff.
On this occasion, as usual, the auditorium is crowded. An even larger crowd gathers outside the theater. The reason for this extremely large gathering is that organization members, as well as numerous people who have come for the election, add their numbers to the large evening audience which regularly takes part in the open forum. Most organization members are of course impressed by the size of the gathering, especially those who are visiting the forum for the first time, since they assume that all these people have come to observe the scheduled event, the election of the Central Committee. The fact is that most of these people do not know there is a scheduled event. Their ignorance of the event is not due to lack of preparation or inadequate publicity on the part of the revolutionary organization. On the contrary, the coming election was broadcast hourly over the central radio and television networks and the articles in the organization's newspaper spoke of nothing else. However, the majority of the population has become attracted to new communications devices, and as a result very few people have actually heard the hourly announcements. As for newspapers - they remain on the stands despite the fact that they are now free. No one seems to read them any more; people seem more interested in artistic or technical subjects, and descriptions of unfamiliar or new branches of social activity seem to have replaced the popular magazines and mass circulation newspapers of former days. Even the organization's members did not learn of the event from the mass media of communications; they were personally informed by other members.
The presence of this unexpectedly large crowd creates certain strategic problems for the organizers of the event. Since the public forum is a continuing 24 hour event, the auditorium is already full when the voters arrive. In view of the size of the crowd it would not be practical to ask everyone to leave. The leaders of the organization devise a strategy which, under the circumstances, appears to be the best available alternative. All of the organization's regular People's Marshals are given armbands with the word "Guardian" clearly printed on them, and other hefty members who are not regular Marshals are also given armbands. Some of the Guardians individually approach the people who are sitting on the benches on stage; the marshals explain that a special event is scheduled, and would these people please try to find seats in the auditorium. No one objects; some people find new seats, others leave the theater. The vacated places are then occupied by the arm banded Marshals. Although the Guardians find themselves continually looked at by individuals in the auditorium, no one raises a fuss. Other Guardians place themselves at the entrances to the theater, two per door. They allow only individuals with membership cards to enter the theater, explaining to others that the theater is overcrowded and that only people's delegates who are taking part in the special event are being permitted to enter. Before long, all those who came to attend the important session of the Council of All Workers' Councils are seated in the auditorium.
The next problem is what to do about the large gathering outside the theater. The idea of dispersing this crowd does not appeal to the organization's leaders because a concerted attempt to do this might lead to a riot. This in turn would create bad publicity for the organization. In addition, there is no need to disperse this crowd; it would be much better to give them the opportunity to listen to the deliberations of the Council. Consequently, loudspeakers are placed on the outside walls of the theater.
The stage is now set. The leaders of the revolutionary organization file on to the stage, while the Marshals who had reserved their seats march off. The audience ceases to pay attention to an individual reading a lecture on the fertility of soils in glacial valleys, and all eyes turn to the stage.
The leader of the revolutionary organization walks with dignity to the center of the stage. "Comrades, we are assembled here as the first conference of the proletarian party, in conditions of revolution and a developing world revolution as well. "
The delegates from the Workers' Councils and Council Committees stand. They are scattered in all parts of the auditorium. They applaud. Others remain seated, and do not applaud.
"I shall begin by referring to a speech which impressed me most. I heard a coal miner deliver a remarkable speech, without using a single bookish word, he told us how they had made the revolution. Those miners were not concerned with the question as to whether or not they should have a president. They seized the mine, and the important question to them was how to keep the cables intact so that production might not be interrupted. Then came the question of bread, which was scarce, and the miners also agreed on the method of obtaining it. Now that is a real program of the revolution, not derived from books. That is what I call really winning power LOCALLY. We are all agreed that power must be wielded by the Councils of Workers' Deputies. But what can and should they do if power passes to them, i.e., if power is in the hands of the proletarians and semi proletarians? This is an involved and difficult question. Speaking of the transfer of power, there is a danger one that played a big part in previous revolutions too namely, the danger that the revolutionary class will not know what to do with state power when it has won it. The history of revolutions gives us examples of revolutions that failed for this very reason. . . "
An individual in the auditorium cuts the leader short. "If those revolutions failed, it is because the workers' responses were still conditioned by the social relations. People like you convinced them that what they wanted was State power. And then of course they didn't know what to do with it, because there's nothing at all they can do with it. That's reserved for people like you. Workers who control production don't need State power."
"I can understand the uneducated mass of workers and soldiers naively and unconsciously believing in control," the leader explains. "You only have to think about the fundamental aspects of control, however, to realize that such a belief is a departure from the basic principles of the class struggle. What is control? To control, you must have power." (Numerous organization members applaud. The leader continues.) "The Conference resolves that in order to ensure all the state power passing into the hands of the Councils of Workers' Deputies or other bodies directly expressing the will of the people, prolonged work is necessary to develop proletarian class consciousness and to unite the urban and rural proletarians against the vacillations of the petit bourgeoisie, for only work of this nature can guarantee real advance on the part of the whole revolutionary people. This calls for many sided activity within the Councils of Workers' Deputies, for work aimed at increasing the number of these Councils, consolidating their power, and welding together our Party's proletarian Internationalist groups in the Councils. "
"Those Party groups aren't as efficient as you make them out to be," shouts someone in the gallery. "Their lack of empathy with other people leads to a profound inability to understand our revolutionary democracy. This inability leads them to dream up policies and measures which are completely out of touch with the social situation."
"This is the sum and substance of our policy," says the leader. "The whole petit bourgeoisie is now wavering and trying to conceal this wavering behind the empty phrase about revolutionary democracy. "
The individual in the gallery interrupts again. "Next thing you'll be telling us is that you volunteer to be our new ruler. You ideological officials are subject to acute mental disorders!"
"They all agree," the leader says, "that the Organization will either never dare take over full state power alone, or, if they do dare, and do take power, they will not be able to retain it even for the shortest while. If anybody asserts that the question of the Organization alone taking over full state power is a totally unfeasible political question, that only a swelled headed 'fanatic' of the worst kind can regard it as feasible, we refute this assertion "
"Buddy, to do that you'll need an army," shouts the disrupter in the gallery, "and your army'll need an arms industry - and no one I know is about to give you what you need!"
The leader is not disturbed or even annoyed by the continued interruptions, although numerous people in the auditorium are visibly annoyed. "We are concerned now not with the 'day' or 'moment' of insurrection in the narrow sense of the word. That will be only decided by the common voice of those who are in contact with the workers, with the masses. The point is that now, at the Democratic Conference, our party has virtually its own congress, and this congress (whether it wishes to or not) must decide the fate of the revolution� "
"So we're to return to that familiar history of princes and kings, pretenders and impostors," shouts the disrupter.
"Having appealed for decisions and not talk, for action and not resolution writing, we must dispatch our entire group to the factories and the barracks. Their place is there, the pulse of life is there, there is the source of salvation for our revolution. There is no middle course. Delay is impossible. The revolution is dying. By putting the question in this way, by concentrating our entire group in the factories and barracks, we shall be able to determine the right moment to start the insurrection."
"By enriching the power of the State with the power in the factories, you'll be able to determine the right moment to start anything," shouts the heckler in the gallery. And this time numerous other individuals stand up and shout, "Are you serious?" "What is this?"
'Of course," explains the leader, "this is an by way of example, only to illustrate the fact that at the present moment it is impossible to remain loyal to Marxism, to remain loyal to the revolution unless insurrection is treated as an art."
"Dictator!" shouts the heckler. "The times when The Leader can lay hold of people's lives are gone!"
"The plea that the proletariat will not be able technically to lay hold of the state apparatus is, perhaps, the most common and most frequent,� explains the leader. "The state apparatus is primarily the standing army, the police and the bureaucracy. By saying that the proletariat will not be able technically to lay hold of this apparatus, the critics reveal their utter ignorance and their reluctance to take into account either facts or the arguments long ago cited in Bolshevik literature."
The leader suddenly stops and looks up toward the gallery. Soon the eyes of the entire audience are turned toward the gallery. Four sturdy People's Marshals with 'Guardian' armbands have entered the gallery and move toward the heckler. Two Guardians seize the heckler's arms, two seize his legs; they raise the heckler out of his seat and carry him past stunned onlookers. While the Guardians begin to carry the heckler out of the auditorium, the leader continues speaking.
"In addition to the chiefly 'oppressive' apparatus the standing army, the police and the bureaucracy the modern state possesses an apparatus which has extremely close connections with the banks and unions, an apparatus which performs an enormous amount of accounting and registration work, if it may be expressed this way. This apparatus must not, and should not, be smashed. It must be expanded, made more comprehensive, and nation wide. And this can be done by utilizing the achievements already made by large scale capitalism, in the same way as the proletarian revolution can, in general, reach its goal only by utilizing these achievements.
While speaking, the leader is constantly interrupted by shouts from the heckler as he is carried out of the auditorium. "Fanatic! You're fifty years too late! We haven't gained our own powers in order to give them up to you!" The shouting stops when the Guardians exit from the auditorium, close the door, and apparently carry the heckler outside the theater. There is widespread uneasiness in the audience; numerous individuals turn their heads in all directions, as if looking for an explanation. However, the leader remains perfectly calm, and continues his opening speech as if the incident that just took place had been an expected and pre planned part of the evening's proceedings.
"The big banks are the 'state apparatus' which we need to bring about socialism, and which we take ready made from capitalism; our task here is merely to lop off what capitalistically mutilates this excellent apparatus, to make it EVEN BIGGER, even more democratic, even more comprehensive. Quantity will be transformed into quality. A single State Bank, the biggest of the big, with branches in every rural district, in every factory, will constitute as much as nine tenths of the socialist apparatus. This will be countrywide book keeping, country wide accounting of the production and distribution of goods, this will be, so to speak, something in the nature of the skeleton of socialist society. "
The leader is interrupted again, this time from the ground floor. A large individual with unruly hair and a beard raises his hands high above his head. In a deep voice and pronouncing each word with deliberate care, he appears to be pleading with the audience. "Comrades, do you know what you have done? You, who have rid yourselves of the police, have allowed four self appointed Guardians to remove a crank, a nuisance, a disrupter. Comrades, you have restored the power of the police, but have you considered who this police will relieve you from next? Perhaps another crank, another disrupter. Perhaps an anarchist. It so happens that I have been an anarchist since "
While he is speaking, the four Guardians who have surrounded him seize his arms and legs.
As soon as the anarchist is silent, the leader continues his opening speech. "The Councils will introduce work books for the whole population. "
"Mark my words!" shouts the anarchist as he is raised out of his seat.
"Every week, or other definite fixed period," continues the leader, "they will have to get from the union a certificate to the effect that they are performing their work conscientiously; without this they will not be able to receive bread ration cards or provisions in general. "
"The entire old order will be restored in the name of socialism!" shouts the anarchist as he is carried toward the exit.
The leader continues, "The proletarian state will say: we need good organizers of banking and the amalgamation of enterprises in this matter the capitalists have more experience, and it is easier to work with experienced people and we need far, far more engineers, agronomists, technicians and scientifically trained specialists of every kind than were needed before. We shall give all these specialists work to which they are accustomed and which they can cope with; in all probability we shall introduce complete wage equality only gradually and shall pay these specialists higher salaries during the transition period. We shall place them under comprehensive workers' control and we shall achieve the complete and absolute operation of the rule 'He who does not work, neither shall he eat'. We shall not invent the organizational form of the work, but take it ready made from capitalism - we shall take over the banks, unions, the best factories, experimental stations, academies and so forth; all that we shall have to do is to borrow the best models -"
At this point at least half the audience have risen from their seats. Another individual on the ground floor begins to speak. "Fellow workers! I am not drunk. I am not a heckler. I am not an anarchist. I am a member of the Revolutionary Organization. I have been a member since long before the revolution. I am here as a Committee delegate to take part in the deliberations of the Council of All Workers' Councils, and in the election of the Central Committee. But I cannot be a party to the proceedings that have just occurred. Such behavior is unprecedented in the practice of our organization. Today we all know where such procedures will lead. The anarchist comrade's warning is not to be dismissed. This terrorism is initially unleashed on reactionaries. Then it is unleashed on disrupters. All anarchists are disrupters. And who comes next? After the anarchists are removed -"
Numerous Guardians have started to move toward the member of the organization. However, the arm banded Marshals are unable to reach their destination. Each Guardian is surrounded by a large group of people, who seize the Guardian's arms, then his legs. The individual who was speaking begins to smile, then laugh. "All Power to the People!" she shouts. "All Power to the People" resounds throughout the crowded auditorium. Hundreds of people move toward the exits.
The leader, still calm, appears not to notice that his entire audience is leaving. He concludes the opening speech: "The line we have marked out is correct, and in the future we shall make every effort to achieve an organization in which there will be no Committee men to disobey the Central Committee. We are growing, and that is as it should be with a real party.�
The auditorium is absolutely empty. At this point the organization's Central Committee members rise from their seats and begin to file off stage. While they exit, all the Guardians enter at the ground floor and place themselves in military formation in front of the leader, who terminates his opening speech:
I declare the All Council Conference open. Please nominate your candidates for election to the Presiding Committee. "
As the leader speaks, a deafening 'All Power to the People' is heard from the outside. This is apparently the crowd's response to the last group of people who exited from the theater. The Guardians had forgotten to turn off the loudspeakers when the proceedings became irregular, and as a result the entire sequence had been broadcast to an immense crowd that had gathered outside the theater.
In response to the leader's opening speech of the Conference, the Guardians click their heels, raise their fists above their heads as if with one motion, and shout perfectly in unison: "All Power to the Leader!"
We have tried to visualize the revolutionary situation as described in the classical revolutionary literature, a situation where the majority of the working population engage in independent creative work as makers of history, a situation where the old centralized government gives way to the self government of the producers. We have seen numerous confirmations of the classical insight that, in such a situation, the working people know that in order to work out their own emancipation they have no ideals to realize, but to set free the elements of the new society with which the old collapsing bourgeois society itself is pregnant. We have seen that the precondition of any real people's revolution is the break up, the shattering of the ready made state machinery.
However, we have not seen that when the whole superincumbent strata of official society are sprung into the air the ground is prepared for the seizure of State power by any type of revolutionary organization. On the contrary, the situation we have examined suggests precisely the opposite conclusion, namely that once the majority of the population itself suppresses its oppressors, a 'special force' for suppression is no longer necessary. Instead of creating the possibility for the seizure of State power, the revolutionary situation destroys this possibility. In fact, the revolutionary situation exposes the absurdity of combining the words 'freedom' and 'state.' So long as the state exists there is no freedom. When there is freedom there is no state. Furthermore, the classical revolutionary situation does not even lay the ground for transitional or new forms of State power since, if labor is emancipated and productive labor ceases to be a class attribute, and consequently if the proletariat and the revolutionary democrats do not in fact need a new state apparatus, then the Workers' Councils lose their raison d'etre, lose their right to existence. In short, as soon as it becomes possible to speak of freedom the state as such ceases to exist and it becomes impossible to speak of the seizure of State power.
The revolutionary situation as described by the classical revolutionary theory does not create the necessary conditions for the seizure of State power by revolutionary leaders; on the contrary, we have seen that such a situation destroys the necessary conditions. This conclusion is drastic, but it should not cause undue alarm in the ranks of revolutionary leaders. The conclusion does not say that the project of revolutionary leaders is unrealizable, it merely says that the conditions described by classical revolutionary theory are not in fact the conditions for the realization of this project. It cannot in fact be stated that the project of revolutionary organizations is not historically realizable since such an assertion would fly in the face of hard historical evidence. The seizure of State power by revolutionary leaders is a proved historical possibility. The event which was classically considered to be the necessary condition for this seizure of power is also a historical possibility. All that has been shown so far is that the two events are not related to each other in the way described by classical revolutionary theory.
Our conclusion suggests that classical revolutionary theory saddles revolutionary organizers with a non sequitur, that it misinforms them about the nature of the causal relation between two events. It is extremely important for revolutionary leaders to rid themselves of this erroneous assumption about the relation between two key events, since otherwise they will misconceive the very nature of their project and as a result will almost certainly fail. To understand the magnitude of the misconception, we must try to clarify the nature of the classical assumption and to pinpoint the precise nature of the error.
Classical revolutionary theory maintains that the historical possibility of a revolutionary upsurge, the historical possibility of universal engagement in independent creative activity, is produced by the development of modern industry which cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products, and that therefore what the bourgeoisie produces is its own gravediggers. Classical revolutionary theory simultaneously maintains that it is historically possible for the leaders of a revolutionary organization to take state power into their own hands - and if they succeed in taking power, no power on earth can prevent them from retaining it. The historical possibility of the revolutionary upsurge as well as the historical possibility of the seizure of power are confirmed by social practice. However, classical revolutionary theory does not only maintain that these two events are historically possible, but that they are connected - and not merely connected in the sense that any two events in human society are connected - but that they are causally connected, that one is the necessary condition for the other, that they are two parts of one relation. It is this last proposition that is erroneous. Historical evidence confirms the possibility of revolutionary upsurges of independent creative activity; historical evidence confirms the possibility of seizures of State power; but historical evidence does not confirm the assumed causal connection between the upsurges and the seizures. In fact, the only historically confirmed connection between independent creative activity and the seizure of State power is that references to independent activity, references to the self government of the producers, frequently appear on the banners of revolutionary organizations that seize State power. But the slogans on the banners are not the precondition for the seizure of power. In fact, we have seen that a real situation which corresponds to the situation described by the slogans does not lay the basis for the seizure of State power but destroys it. The slogans on the banners of revolutionary organizations reflect a misconception, an erroneous assumption, a serious mistake.
We have determined that the classical definition of the conditions for the seizure of State power is erroneous. Our next task is to determine the real conditions for the success of a revolutionary organization. Since the successful seizure of State power by revolutionary organizations is a historical fact, historical conditions for such an event obviously exist. We have not yet determined what those conditions are; so far we have only determined that they are not the classically assumed conditions. However, despite the fact that the real conditions were not explicitly treated by classical revolutionary theory, we can assume that they are implicit in that theory. We can even assume that revolutionary leaders who successfully took State power into their own hands profoundly understood the necessary conditions for their success, even if they did not enrich the classical revolutionary theory with their insights. We can assume that the real conditions for the seizure of power are in fact much more widespread and common than the conditions erroneously defined by the classical theory, if for no other reason than because the seizure of State power by revolutionary organizations has until today been a relatively frequent event, whereas situations of independent creative activity have been extremely rare. In fact, revolutionary organizations have so far succeeded in taking State power over a substantial proportion of the world's population, and no power on earth has prevented them from retaining it. The seizure of State power has become a synonym of 'revolution.' On the other hand, the supposed condition for the seizure of power, independent creative activity by a whole population, has been such a rarity that most of the world's population regards such a situation, not as a historical possibility, but as a slogan on the banners of successful revolutionary organizations - banners which proclaim independence, creativity, and the reappropriation of the self powers of all by all.
Consequently, if the bourgeoisie cuts its foundation from under its feet by producing its own gravediggers, the bourgeoisie also produces the necessary conditions for the seizure of State power by revolutionary leaders. It also produces the seed of the historically realized forms of Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Our next task is to locate these seeds, to determine the precise nature of the necessary conditions for the seizure of State power.
The real conditions for the seizure of power by revolutionary organizations have been covered up by a mirage. The mirage is composed of images created by classical revolutionary theory - images of a mighty burst of creative enthusiasm that stems from the people themselves, images of the people as the moving force, the creator of universal history, the real heroes, images of the unlimited creative power of working people engaged in independent creative work as makers of history; images of the initiative of millions creating democracy on their own, in their own way - with no ideals to realize but to set free the elements of the new society, - images of the self-government of the producers, of an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.
When we try to approach the mirage, it moves further away, and while moving towards it we continue traversing endless stretches of desert sand. Yet the real conditions for the rise of revolutionary organizations do not reside in the mirage, but precisely in the desert sands from which the mirage diverts our attention. The fact is that working people engaged in independent creative activity as makers of history do not create the field for the rise of revolutionary organizations. The fact is that when working people even begin to engage in independent creative activity as makers of history, it is the seizure of State power that becomes a mirage. The fact is that the conditions for the seizure of State power reside in the sands of capitalist daily life, the sands which constitute the normal fabric of bourgeois society, and not in the mighty burst which transforms desert sands to soil and trees. The fact is that the seizure of State power precedes the mighty burst of independent creative activity because once such activity begins the conditions for the success of revolutionary organizations no longer exist.
Independent creative activity may indeed carry the seed of revolutionary organization, just as capitalism carries the seed of its overthrow - but that seed is not itself independence. Independent creative activity on the part of the working population cannot make its historical appearance without the whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air. It is this fact that creates the illusion that it is the independent activity that lays the ground for the seizure of State power. Yet even a superficial glance at the real situation would expose this illusion. If the revolutionary situation is realized by the initiative of millions creating democracy on their own, in their own way, if the revolutionary situation is the historical moment when the working population become makers of universal history, then where in the world is the variegated society where millions of imaginations daily create what is original, unexpected and new; where in the world are the populations who create the conditions of life on their own and in their own way? Did they renounce their independence the moment revolutionary organizations seized State power? But in this case it would not be the independence, but rather its renunciation, that paved the way to the seizure of State power. Or did the seizure of State power in fact take place before the entire working population began engaging in independent creative activity as makers of history? But in this case it could not be the independent creative activity that paved the way to the seizure of State power - since it had not yet begun.
If the conditions for the seizure of power exist only during the brief moment after the old order has been sprung Into the air but before the working population sets free the elements of the new society, then serious revolutionary leaders had better be wary of the slogans on their banners. A re examination of passages in which the classical revolutionary theory explicitly refers to the direct conditions for the seizure of power in fact reveals that all such passages refer to the moment before the population begins to engage in independent creative activity. Furthermore, such passages insist that the conditions for the restoration of the old order and the conditions for the seizure of State power exist only during this brief moment; they suggest that the next moment, the moment when independent activity becomes generalized to the whole population, will be too late for the seizure of State power: The Bolsheviks must take power at once otherwise a wave of real anarchy may become stronger than we are. The seizure must take place before a mighty burst of creative enthusiasm stems from the people themselves, before the population gains confidence in its unlimited creative powers, before the moment when a wave of real anarchy sweeps away the conditions necessary for the restoration of the old order, the conditions necessary for the seizure of State power.
The moment which contains the conditions for the seizure of State power, the moment on which revolutionary leaders must rely and during which they must act if they are to succeed, is not the moment when the population gains confidence in its own self powers, in its creative capacities. On the contrary, the insurrection must rely upon that turning point in the history of the growing revolution - when the vacillations in the ranks of the weak, half hearted and irresolute friends of the revolution are strongest. This is not a moment of self confidence; it is the moment when the people are close to desperation, the moment when that most painful thing on earth, vacillation, has worn the people out.
The moment for the seizure of power is not a moment of independence, but of anxiety in the face of independence. It is the moment when people are on the verge of independence, when they reach the frontier between the known and the unknown, between the familiar and the new - and temporarily recoil. It is the moment when all the official authorities have been sprung into the air, but when society's individuals have not yet actively appropriated the powers they had vested in the deposed authorities. It is the moment when only one part of the dominant social relation has been sprung into the air - the superincumbent strata; but when the other part of the same social relation, the subordination, the dependence, the helplessness - has not yet been sprung. It is the moment when the frontier between dependence and independence - precisely because it has not yet been crossed - appears to be an unbridgeable chasm. And it is precisely at this frontier, alongside the human beings who are about to cross it, alongside the true agents of the revolution, that the revolutionary frontier officials, the leaders, take their positions. In every revolution there intrude, alongside its true agents, men of a different stamp; some of them survivors of and devotees to past revolutions, without insight into the present movement, but preserving popular influence by their known honesty and courage, or by sheer force of tradition; others mere brawlers, who, by dint of repeating year after year the same set of stereotyped declarations against the government of the day, have sneaked into the reputation of revolutionists of the first water. As far as their power goes, they hamper the real action of the working class, exactly as men of that sort have hampered the full development of every previous revolution. But while hampering the real action of the working class, they pave their own way to the seizure of State power. The successful seizure of power by revolutionary leaders is assured only during the moment before the working class appropriates its powers; it is possible only because the population has not yet become independent: Our victory is assured because the people are close to desperation. It is only during the moment before confidence sets in that the leaders of a revolutionary organization have the exceptional advantage of a situation in which only our victory in the insurrection can put an end to that most painful thing on earth, vacillation, which has worn the people out.
If revolutionary leaders are to seize the moment when a breach in the social order creates the conditions for their success, they must recognize the error of classical revolutionary theory, they must free themselves of the illusion that their rise coincides with the rise of independent creative activity. If they cling to this illusion and postpone their decisive blow until the moment when independent activity begins, they may well pass up their last chance to take State power into their own hands. The moment which contains the conditions for their success is very brief, whereas the following moment a wave of real anarchy may become stronger than they are - and this wave of real anarchy may well be the beginning of a process as irreversible as the transition from hunting to agriculture. If a dependent population crossed the frontier to independence, it would remove the conditions for the restoration of the old order, it would no longer need subordination, control or managers, it would destroy the conditions for the seizure of State power by revolutionary leaders.
The preliminary conditions for the seizure of State power are not in fact conditions for the overthrow of the dominant social order, as classical revolutionary theory would have us believe, but conditions for the restoration of the dominant social order. The moment before independent creative activity begins contains the necessary conditions for both the seizure of State power and the restoration of the old order, and these conditions are in fact the same. These conditions are created by a situation in which the authorities, managers, officials and guards are already gone, but the desperation, vacillation, anxiety and fear are still there. These conditions exist only during the brief moment after the objective relations of dependence are removed, but before the subjective consequences of these relations are removed. These facts have been admitted by successful revolutionary leaders if they had not known them they could not have succeeded. Insurrection must rely upon the vacillations in the ranks of the weak, half hearted and irresolute. But this insight has not replaced the mighty burst of creative enthusiasm, the unlimited creative powers of the real heroes, which are carried on the banners of revolutionary organizations to this day. If the project of revolutionary organizations is to remain viable, revolutionary leaders must erase the illusions of the classics from the banners and replace them with a slogan that describes the real conditions for the successful seizure of State power: We want the socialist revolution with people as they are now, with people who cannot dispense with subordination, control and managers.
People who cannot dispense with managers after the managers have been sprung into the air are people who carry their managers within themselves, people who have internalized the officials. People who cannot dispense with control after the physical and intellectual police forces have been sprung into the air are people who have dried up their imaginations, stunted their own self powers, people who, lacking the possibility, lost the ability to decide and move on their own. People who cannot dispense with subordination after the whole superincumbent strata of official society have been sprung into the air are human beings who do not consider themselves full human beings, who see themselves through the eyes of their 'superiors' as inferior, as subordinates, as slaves. For people as they are now, the absence of subordination, control and managers creates fear, anxiety, despair and desperation, it creates that most painful thing on earth, vacillation - and these are precisely the real conditions for the successful seizure of State power, for it is precisely when the people are close to desperation that Our victory is assured.
The preliminary condition for the rise of revolutionary leaders is not the independence which dispenses with the need for subordination, control and managers, but the dependence which cannot dispense with them.
The precondition for the seizure of State power is the mass psychology of dependence. The need for revolutionary organizations and leadership arises, not from self confidence created by independent activity, but from adaptation to dependence. This need arises when an individual internalizes the superincumbent strata of official society, when an individual adapts to socially created conditions of material scarcity, when an individual submits to social relations of subordination. And the need for leadership is the greater the more the individual derives positive enjoyment from the internalizations, the adaptations, the submission. The conditions for the success of revolutionary organizations exist only during the brief moment after the population has expropriated the ruling classes, but when the population has not yet actively appropriated the productive forces, when the active appropriation of the productive forces has not yet conquered the mass psychology of dependence, the anxiety, the fear, the desperation which is the sign for the leader's battle-cry: Our victory is assured!
The mass psychology of dependence - people who cannot dispense with subordination, control and managers - this is the real condition for the seizure of power by a revolutionary organization. Although this condition results from the various ways people adapt to the dominant social order, in normal times it cannot easily be distinguished from the routines of daily life. The mass psychology of dependence becomes visible when an extraordinary event suspends or disrupts its normal reproduction, because at such moments it gives rise to fear, anxiety and desperation.
When the guards suddenly disappear, but when people have not exercised their freedom, what strikes fear into their hearts? What drives them to the point of desperation? What causes that most painful thing on earth, vacillation, which wears the people out?
During the course of normal times, one had to rise at a given hour, to be at a given place at a given time, in order to survive. And on then survival was not assured. Even people who did as they were told were constantly being removed, excluded, deprived. One lost all desires except one: not to be deprived. One lost all projects except one: to rise at the given hour so as to be at the given place, at the given time. This project had become one's entire habit structure, one's personality. And one day when one is there, at the given place, the given hour - and the guard doesn't come, and continues not to come - is it the end? Fear grips one's heart; the daily anxiety one had learned to accept as a normal part of life gives way to desperation; one cannot dispense with the subordination, the control -
If one could not suppress all of one's desires, if one wanted more than the common lot, where could one get more if not from the others? One had to learn the fears of this one, the weaknesses of another; one had to learn ways to protect the weak, ways to alleviate fears - and to charge for one's services. One even had to create obstacles and hardships so as to be paid for alleviating them. One was called a cheat, a thief, an impostor - but what did it matter? One's lot was incomparably better, one's meals incomparably richer. One who was a cheat or a thief was better off; the designations became titles. Can all this suddenly end? Wouldn't this sudden collapse put one's whole being in question? If one can no longer have more, how can one be more than the common lot? No one wants people as they are now.
One had no self. One had a given place in the line, and that was all. Yet how one longed to be someone, how one longed to be recognized as someone, as more than a place in a line! And how could one earn this recognition, how could one become someone, except by submitting to tasks no one else submitted to? One was called a traitor, a scab by whom? By selfless nobodies, by those who were nothing more than places in the line. One became indifferent to their tags, their insults. What mattered was how one was seen by those outside, how one was rewarded by the Authorities. What mattered was that one had become someone; one had gained recognition and self esteem. What mattered was that one had become an extension of the Authorities, one had become superior to the others, the inferiors; one was no longer a self less shadow; one's self glowed in the light reflected by the Authorities; one learned to appreciate one's self through the eyes of the Authorities. All this was absolutely necessary: how could one have survived without recognition, without some affirmation of one's importance? One couldn't; one's adaptation was, after all, only human. And after one has effaced oneself so successfully, after one has internalized the Authorities so thoroughly that nothing else remains inside one, how can one believe even for an instant that the authorities have disappeared? One cannot stomach such a possibility. Could it mean that one has ceased to be what one is, that one has disappeared? Are the others suddenly one's equals - and has one, after all, been nothing more than a scab? It is not vacillation that wears one out. It is hysteria. No, one cannot dispense with subordination.
Of course one was always free to make one's own decisions, any decisions, at any time of day or night. One merely had to think them. One could decide to look into the sun or away from it, to shut one's eyes or to open them. Every decision was permitted, so long as one rose at the given hour, so long as one was at the given place at the given time. The field for decision making was boundless. Why should one also have wanted to decide what one had no power to decide? How could one have learned to make decisions that one never made? When to rise, where to go, what to do, how, why, with whom - these matters were never within one's reach, one never had the ability to make such decisions. Yet one day the official decision-makers are sprung into the air. When is one to rise, where should one go, what should one do, how, why, with whom? No, one cannot dispense with managers.
One lugged stones uphill, under orders. One lugged them back down, under orders. One engaged with others in any number of projects, under orders. The projects were not created, invented; they were the normal daily routine; they were the official projects which were performed before one arrived and continued to be performed after one left. When one was not under orders, one did not engage in projects with others, one could not even conceive of projects which were not carried out under orders. Could one have imagined unofficial projects as anything other than an extension of the daily routine into one's free hours? Could they have meant anything more than a useless waste of time and energy? When one was not engaged in official activity one did nothing. And is it the official project, the daily routine, the working day, the job, that suddenly explodes? Does one suddenly have to initiate a project with others so as not to miss a meal? Does one suddenly have to invent the content of every single minute of the living day? How is one to begin, and with whom? What is one to experience if not fear, desperation? No, one cannot dispense with managers.
Dehumanization, degradation, self negation - these were mere words. One was not put ill at ease when these words were spoken. Why should one have been disturbed? Was it one's fault? Had one chosen to be here? Really? Had one seen everything 'outside' - and then chosen to come in here, so as to degrade and dehumanize oneself? What did such words mean? After all, one did not choose to come here. One was born here. And one became whatever it was possible for one to become here. One who had never been 'outside', who had never been 'humanized', could not have become 'dehumanized.' How could one compare oneself to what one could have been 'outside, when one could not even imagine an 'outside'? One's imagination remained 'inside' - it couldn't be stretched any further. One was what one was, and that was all one could imagine oneself to be. And if everything one was is suddenly sprung into the air, is one really expected to run - where? Outside? What kind of 'outside'? An �outside' no one believes is there, an 'outside' that one cannot even imagine? Why should one run? What can one expect 'outside' other than subordination, control, managers, and men as they are 'inside'?
Nothing was really unbearable, really unsupportable. Everything was arranged quite efficiently, everything functioned fairly well, everything was planned intelligently enough. One was in fact able to enjoy numerous moments of peace and quiet, to sleep in relative calm without being disturbed. All in all one was able to enjoy a certain comfort. In exchange for the peace, the quiet and the comfort, much was not really demanded of one. Of course one had to abide by the prevailing rules and regulations, one had to obey the laws. But one did not consider this an encroachment, an imposition; after all, everyone else abided by the same rules. This was merely normal, conventional behavior. And for this, one was rewarded with conventional recognition, conventional comforts - and above all with peace and quiet. Yet suddenly, without warning, without explanation, one is robbed of this merely average comfort. Suddenly nothing is arranged, nothing is planned. Suddenly the intelligence that had taken everything in hand explodes. Suddenly there are neither rules nor regulations nor conventional rewards - but one cannot dispense with these if one only wants to find peace and quiet, if one wants to sleep without being disturbed. No, one cannot dispense with them -
And it should be mentioned that one was able to do more than obey the laws passively. One could, if one desired, enforce the laws. In fact the authorities actively encouraged one to do this. And one's prerogatives were nearly unlimited - not in dispensing the rewards, but in dispensing the punishments. This did not make the situation merely bearable; it made it positively enjoyable. One did not only derive joy from one's position, one's prestige, one's power; one derived it most of all from inflicting the punishments. And it should be pointed out that the main punishments were not physical. It was extremely difficult to break an individual's will by physical means. The main instruments were mental; the greatest pain was inflicted by defining, grading, and comparing the victim; by making others see the victim as an object, a thing - until at last the victim broke and became a thing to itself. So what if the whole situation suddenly explodes? Should one fear the revenge of all one's past victims? Only if one has not been successful in breaking their will permanently. Should one fear for oneself? Perhaps, but the moment can hardly be expected to last. The new leaders will certainly not dispense with the various everything was planned intelligently enough. One was in fact able to of law enforcers ready to serve them: how else could they expect people to abide by their rules and regulations? No, the new leaders will not dispense with experienced police officers; they will need more of them; how else will they enforce their revolutionary program?
lest it be thought that the whole experience consisted of a constant
waiting, an endless boredom, it should be pointed out that
opportunities for adventure, for risky and romantic undertakings,
were not lacking. Furthermore, such undertakings were highly esteemed
by the Authorities, and one was sumptuously rewarded. Such
undertakings required the talents of a performer, the flexibility, of
an acrobat and the knowledge of a philosopher. One had to in�gratiate
oneself with a circle of schemers, pass oneself off as one of them,
push their own scheme further and further -
until the authori�ties decided to cut the scheme short by
liquidating the schemers. Philistines
called the practitioners of this vocation 'informers,' although
'information experts' would have been more appropriate for conveying
the talents, the flexibility and the knowledge required for this
discipline. In any case, the Philistines were quickly removed. As for
this bursting into air, this explosion: it can affect only the top
officials; has there ever been a revolution that dispensed with
information experts? Not only one's activities and habits, but also
one's morality was based on subordination and control. After all, one
was not an animal, one could not simply allow oneself to be harnessed
to the cart and whipped to run. One had to justify the submission.
One did not obey for the sake of obeying. Obedience was not merely
necessary or prudent. Obedience was Good. Furthermore the moral were
re�warded, the immoral punished. If an individual who had not
dis�obeyed the laws was nevertheless punished, the punishment
itself proved that the individual was bad, morally depraved. If that
were not the case, if the Authorities acted arbitrarily and punished
individuals according to unpredictable whims, the situation would
have been unbearable. One would have lived in constant fear. One
could not dispense with morality. One had to assume that the
Authorities punished only the bad - and
for one's peace of mind one had to see to it that the Authorities
punished anyone who visibly broke a law, no matter how modestly. Only
thus could the moral rest assured that they would only be rewarded.
The assurance that they, the moral, would not be unjustly punished,
demanded that the immoral be justly punished. Those who refused to
carry out their conventional assignments had to be the ones who were
materially deprived. Those who rebelled against the Authorities had
to be the ones who were ostracised, excluded. Those who broke the
laws had to be subjected to physical pain and incarceration. Those
who tried to rise up against the Authorities had to be starved,
killed, removed. How else could the law abiding be assured that
the moral would not be deprived, ostracised, tortured, jailed, or put
to death? And if this' ever happened if the moral were tortured,
jailed or killed one had to find a scapegoat, one had to point
one's finger at a criminal whose evil presence was what made the
Authorities punish the innocent. Official society may well be sprung
into the air in one moment. But what of morality? That will not
spring into the air until the social practice on which it is based
gives way to an altogether different practice. In the meantime, one
cannot dispense with the Authorities, the criminals, or the
The ultimate justification for submission and self negation had been the function of the morality of ulterior aims and higher purposes. Ultimately, one never submitted, one never bowed or crawled, for the sake of the rewards. Ultimately one's self negation was a noble act of sacrifice and suffering; one degraded oneself for the sake of the family, for the sake of the children - so that they, too, might degrade themselves, suffer and sacrifice themselves for the sake of the Good and the Right. One cannot dispense with suffering and sacrifice, for how else can one be exalted? In the absence of a morality of ulterior aims and higher purposes, where would Law, Order and Civilization derive their justifications? Clearly, one cannot dispense with suffering and sacrifice, with submission and self-negation, with subordination, control and managers. No, we want the socialist revolution with people as they are now-
The preliminary condition for the seizure of State power by a revolutionary organization is not independent creative activity; it is fear, anxiety and desperation in the face of independent creative activity; it is the mass psychology of dependence. The moment for a seizure of State power is the moment before independent activity begins. The moment when the old order springs into the air, people do not immediately engage their unlimited creative powers, they do not immediately become the makers of history, because this requires complete break with all the muck of ages, with all past history. They are gripped by anxiety - an anxiety that could only be conquered by independent creative activity, by social practice. But the anxiety itself keeps them from acquiring the experience that could conquer the anxiety. A modest illustration might clarify this dilemma. Let us imagine the case of an individual who grew up under strict supervision, perhaps because a parent was overly protective, or, perhaps as part of a psychologist's experiment. Let us suppose that the supervisor suddenly leaves, or dies. The individual will probably panic - the first moment. Dependence on the supervisor has become part of the individual's very being, and the sudden absence of the supervisor drives the individual to the point of desperation. If the individual began to decide on her, or his, own, the hysteria would gradually subside; if the individual began to move independently, the anxiety would gradually disappear. However, the Doctor takes the Individual under his wing when the anxiety is at its highest point, when it is at the point of desperation and hysteria. The Doctor cures the anxiety by providing the individual with the supervision the individual could not dispense with. The revolutionary leader plays the same historical role as the Doctor in this example. The illustration clarifies a point whose importance for revolutionary leaders cannot be exaggerated. If the Doctor had arrived only a brief moment later, the individual would no longer have responded to the cure; the individual would have started to gain confidence in self-powers - desire, ability, imagination that the individual did not know were available, because he or she had never exercised them. This is why it is so critical for the revolutionary organization to seize power precisely at the right moment. The fact is that the following moment, the moment of independence, the moment when it is already too late to administer the revolutionary cure - this second moment is never very far off. The fact is that the conquest of fear and anxiety through independent practice is a very commonplace event. The fact is that almost every child in contemporary society grows up under relatively strict supervision, and most of these individuals leave their supervisors at one or another point in their lives. If they panic, if the absence of the supervisor drives them to the point of desperation, the fact is that this anxiety only lasts for a moment - the first moment. As soon as they begin to decide on their own, to move independently, the anxiety disappears. Even entire communities are known to have panicked when important supervisors - Chiefs or Priests on whose presence the well-being of the community depended - suddenly disappeared, and the fact is that such communities are not known to have missed even one meal because of the absence of the indispensable personage. The moment is very brief.
If through social practice each individual became confident in his or her own self powers, there would no longer be a field in which revolutionary leaders could grow and succeed. If social activity were allowed to become what each individual independently and creatively makes it, then each of society's individuals would define the aims and purposes of social life and these aims and purposes could not be the program of a revolutionary organization. If social tasks were defined by the desires and imaginations of each, and if they were realized by the self powers of each, then the Party could not define social tasks nor the State realize them. If society's individuals appropriated their self powers from the officials who represent these powers, if they snatched their decision making powers from the personifications who embody and wield these powers in their name, then revolutionary leaders, i.e., the representatives of revolutionary proletarian internationalism, could not embody in their policy the idea that is motivating countless working people all over the world. - All this is elementary. All this is simple and clear. Why replace this by some rigmarole? If we seize power today, we seize it not in opposition to the Councils but on their behalf. If we seize power tomorrow, we might have to seize it on our own behalf, in opposition to the entire working population.
The independent practice that would put an end to the mass psychology of dependence cannot take place once the organization seizes power. The seizure of power by the revolutionary organization puts an end to the anxiety and desperation which gripped the population when dependence relations were disrupted. The seizure and restoration of the State saves people from having to discover and invent the power of community after thousands of years of alienated community, of law and order, of Civilization. Fear in the face of the unfamiliar, anxiety in the face of the unknown, hysteria in the face of the inexperienced, subside in the reassuring warmth of familiar, known, experienced social relations. Aims are restored to the aimless, direction to the directionless, order to the disarrayed. The shepherd returns to sheep gone astray. People who could not dispense with subordination, control and managers are given subordination, control and managers. Conditions of scarcity are re established for those whose whole being had been shaped in response to such conditions, together with rewards for conformity and punishments for independence. A morality of ulterior aims and higher purposes-the family, the children, and the Nation-justifies the submission required by the struggle for survival. Above all, individuals with Good Politics are assured that the authorities are just, that they punish only individuals with Bad Politics. To give assurance to the Good, scapegoats are provided by the authorities. Who are our friends and who our enemies? This is a question of fundamental importance to the revolution. The void is eliminated. Anxiety ends. The people are no longer close to desperation because we are showing the entire population a sure way out, we demonstrate to the entire population the value of our leadership. Only our victory can put an end to that most painful thing on earth, vacillation, which has worn the people out. The people can now relax. The desires and imaginations of the people need no longer be exerted to invent relations, tasks, projects, since their self powers have no field where they can be exercised. The goal has been realized. State power has passed into the hands of the organ of the Council of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies the Revolutionary Military Committee, which heads the proletariat and the garrison.
The seizure of State power by the revolutionary organization responds to the needs of people who cannot dispense with subordination, control and managers. At the same time, the revolutionary organization itself needs people as they are now, people who cannot dispense with subordination. The mass psychology of dependence is the condition to which the seizure of State power responds, and also the condition which it requires.
Why, then, does classical revolutionary theory describe precisely the opposite as the condition for the seizure of State power? If the condition is dependence, why does classical theory point to independence? This seems like a paradox only if it is thought that the classical revolutionary theory is a single, unitary theory of revolution. The paradox disappears as soon as it is understood that the classical theory contains two separate and distinct theories of revolution. One is a theory of the class structure of capitalism and the conditions for its overthrow, the other is a theory of revolutionary organization and the conditions for its seizure of power. The two events are distinct; their necessary conditions are distinct. Paradox and confusion have been created by the historical treatment of one event as if it were the other, and by the treatment of the necessary conditions for one event as if they were necessary conditions for the other. Classical revolutionary theory does in fact contain a very precise description of the necessary conditions for the seizure of State power, a description which pinpoints the mass psychology of dependence as the necessary condition. But this description is couched in the language of the other theory, in the language of independence, and as a result the true import and content of this description have been obscured.
The theory of the class structure of capitalist society is not a theory of revolutionary organization. It is a theory which defines social classes, not in terms of their relation to a revolutionary organization, but in terms of their relation to society's means of production. One class is characterized by its subordination to the other, a subordination which takes the form of alienation of all decision making powers. The other class is characterized by its control over the first, a control which takes the form of direction and management of all of society's activities. It is only in the frame of reference of this theory that the destruction of the dependence relation itself is the preliminary condition for revolution. A revolution can be successfully carried out only if the majority of the working population engage in independent creative activity as makers of history. Independent creative activity by the majority of the working population is the necessary as well as the sufficient condition for the overthrow of the class structure of capitalism because the proletariat, the lowest stratum of our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air.
On the other hand, the theory of revolutionary organization is not a theory of class structure. In the frame of reference of this theory, the destruction of dependence relations is not a condition for the seizure of State power by the revolutionary organization. We have already shown that the seizure of State power cannot be successfully carried out if the majority of the working population engage in independent creative activity as makers of history. We have also shown that the seizure of State power can be successfully carried out only if the majority of the working population do not engage in independent creative activity as makers of history, only if dependence relations subordination, control and, management remain intact. We will now show that the classical revolutionary theory contains a very precise description of the conditions for the successful seizure of power by revolutionary organizations, and that the identification of these conditions with independent creative activity is historically unfounded.
The classical theory which defines the real conditions for the revolutionary organization's seizure of power is not the theory of class structure but the theory of class consciousness. This is a theory which defines the revolutionary class, not in terms of its relation to society's means of production, but in terms of its relation to the revolutionary organization. According to the theory of class consciousness, individuals or social classes are revolutionary if they adhere to revolutionary ideas, to revolutionary thought, to revolutionary ideology, to the program of the revolutionary organization.
The theory of class consciousness and the theory of class structure do not have the same frame of reference. This is obscured by the fact that one theory borrows language from the other, and thus refers linguistically to the same frame of reference. But except for terminological similarities, the two theories have nothing in common. Both theories refer to the working class, the proletariat, as the revolutionary class - but the same terms do not in reality refer to the same subjects in the two theories. Those who are revolutionary according to one theory are not necessarily proletarians according to the other, and those who are proletarians according to the second theory are not necessarily revolutionary according to the first.
According to the theory of class consciousness, individuals can be considered class conscious revolutionaries even if they would not be classified as proletarians by the theory of class structure, namely in terms of their relation to society's means of production. In fact, the most class conscious of revolutionaries, the leaders of the revolutionary organization, the representatives of revolutionary proletarian internationalism who have embodied in their policy the idea that is motivating countless working people all over the world, would not be defined as proletarians by the theory of class structure. These class conscious revolutionaries have been educated representatives of the propertied classes, intellectuals; by their social status they belonged to the bourgeois intelligentsia. Furthermore, the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop. . . nothing more nor less than consciousness in an embryonic form. In other words, according to the theory of class consciousness, those who are conscious revolutionaries are not only themselves not members of the working class, but the working class itself cannot become fully conscious. In fact, in the theory of class consciousness, the relation of individuals to the means of production is completely irrelevant. With the theory of consciousness it is possible to characterize the proletariat as actually becoming more and more bourgeois, as prisoners of bourgeois ideology, and even as having deserted to the bourgeoisie. Such characterizations would be meaningless in the theory of class structure, since in the frame of reference of this theory a proletariat that had deserted to the bourgeoisie could only have done so by appropriating the means of production, an event that cannot take place without the whole superincumbent strata being sprung into the air.
According to the theory of consciousness, whether or not an individual or a class is revolutionary depends on the presence or absence of revolutionary consciousness in that individual or class. At first glance this appears to be a form of idealism. However, this appearance is only another result of the confusion between the theory of class structure and the theory of consciousness. It is only in appearance that the theory of consciousness maintains that revolution grows out of ideas in people's heads. This appearance is created by using the word 'revolution' in the place of 'seizure of State power,' and the appearance is magnified into a hallucination by an intentional association of the word 'revolution' with the independent creative activity described by the other theory. It is only because of this intentional confusion that a bizarre sequence of non sequiturs parades as a set of axioms ideally suited for slogans, viz. that the thoughts of the organization's leader in people's heads make them revolutionary, therefore also independent and creative, and that as the level of these thoughts rises, the dominant social order falls. These propositions are axioms for people who are willing and able to believe them, and belief in these propositions is in fact a sign that the believer possesses a relatively high level of consciousness. However, the theory of class consciousness has been primarily an instrument for the seizure of State power by revolutionary leaders, and only secondarily a set of articles of faith. It is the primary function of the theory that concerns us here. The primary function of the theory of consciousness has been to define for aspiring leaders the real conditions for the seizure of State power, and in defining these real conditions the theory of class consciousness has been idealistic only in appearance.
As an analysis of the conditions for the seizure of power by revolutionary leaders, the theory of class consciousness is no more idealistic than the theory of class structure. Both theories are equally materialistic. Both theories are equally about social relations. But they are not about the same social relations. The theory of class structure is about the relations between capitalists and laborers, about the conditions for the overthrow of these relations. The theory of class consciousness is about the relations between an organization and a mass, about the conditions for the organization's seizure of power over the mass.
The theory of class consciousness defines people in terms of their thoughts instead of their practice, in terms of their ideology instead of their social relations, only in appearance. It does not define them in terms of the social relations described by the theory of class structure. But it defines them in terms of social relations nevertheless. To define social classes in terms of their ideas would require reading the minds of countless individuals; mind reading is not in fact the method by which the class conscious are defined. In reality, the presence or absence of class consciousness is determined by the practice of an individual or a class; it is determined by the presence or absence of specific social relations. The level of an individual's consciousness is measurable, not by the number of correct revolutionary thoughts which show on the individual's forehead, but by the extent to which the individual is a follower of the organization, by the real, concrete activity of attending meetings and demonstrations, carrying out assignments, obeying orders. The more regularly the individual attends organization meetings and events, the more unflinchingly the individual carries out assignments, the more unquestioningly the individual obeys orders, the higher the individual's level of consciousness. The level of consciousness of a social class is measurable, not by the number of revolutionary thoughts protruding from heads, but by the number of individuals of the class who are Party members, by the extent to which the members of a class adhere to the revolutionary organization.
Class consciousness may be an attribute of an individual or a social class. It refers to the presence or absence of ideas. But its presence or absence can only be determined by the social practice of the individual or class, by the presence or absence of concrete social relations. These social relations are specific relations between an individual and a revolutionary organization, and between a class and a revolutionary organization. The individuals who have the highest level of consciousness, the representatives of proletarian internationalism, the leaders, are not themselves members of the revolutionary class but are educated representatives of the propertied classes. The class itself is able to develop nothing more than consciousness in an embryonic form. The class depends on the leaders for its level of consciousness, its revolutionary essence, which in practice means that the revolutionary essence of the working class depends on the extent to which workers submit to the will of leaders.
The social relations behind class consciousness are social relations between leaders and followers, social relations of subordination and control. They are dependence relations. What is meant by class conscious masses is people who submit to the will of a revolutionary leader, people who cannot dispense with subordination, control and managers. Class consciousness is a euphemism for the mass psychology of dependence.
The theory of class consciousness is a theory of social relations which describes the real conditions for the seizure of State power by a revolutionary organization. It describes as necessary conditions precisely those conditions which correspond to the mass psychology of dependence. In spite of its linguistic obscurities, the theory is a very precise instrument for locating the conditions for the seizure of power, for identifying followers of the revolutionary organization, for distinguishing the revolutionary leader's friends from the leader's enemies which is the question of fundamental importance to the revolution.
We have seen that the theory of class consciousness explicitly defines followership, submission, the mass psychology of dependence, and not independent creative activity, as the preliminary condition for the growth of the revolutionary organization. Once this is clear, it can also be seen that the theory of class consciousness explicitly excludes independent creative activity as a condition for the rise of revolutionary organization and leadership. It must be remembered that the theory has been of service to countless leaders who successfully seized State power, and that this service could not have been performed by a theory which systematically misguided them. The rejection of independent creative activity is so thoroughly couched in the language of the theory of class structure that it is nearly incomprehensible to the layman, but it has nevertheless been clear and explicit to astute revolutionary leaders who seriously aspired to seize power.
The rejection of the independent creative activity of the majority of the working people in a language which affirms the independent creative activity of the majority of the working people required a complete overhaul of words and concepts, an overhaul which involved nothing less than the transformation of the meanings of words and concepts into their opposites. The theory of class consciousness borrows the entire vocabulary with which the theory of class structure had characterized the bourgeoisie, the proletariat and the revolution and it applies this entire encyclopedia of words and concepts to the field of leaders and followers, the field of revolutionary organization and revolutionary masses. It is this shift of fields that requires a complete shift of meanings. In the theory of class consciousness, bourgeoisie and proletariat are not described in terms of their relation to means of production; they are defined in terms of their relation to the revolutionary organization.
The theory of class consciousness defines the working class, the proletariat, as the revolutionary class. The words are borrowed from the analysis of class structure, but they are infused with new meanings. The theory proceeds by defining class conscious workers as revolutionary. However, since the working class itself, exclusively by its own effort, cannot become fully conscious, and therefore cannot become fully revolutionary, there is a stratum which is more conscious and more revolutionary, the vanguard of the working class, the representatives of the revolutionary proletariat. And it is also said that the representatives of the proletariat are not themselves proletarians; they are bourgeois intellectuals. At first glance the purpose of this logic is hard to understand, since it leads to the bizarre conclusion that the only truly revolutionary proletarians are educated representatives of the propertied classes, intellectuals. The same transformation of meanings takes place when the working class itself is characterized. First of all there are two types of workers, two types of proletarians, Workers who adhere to the organization, attend meetings and carry out orders, are a class conscious revolutionary mass base, and are therefore by implication independent, creative and courageous. However, workers who act on their own, creatively, independently of the initiative, guidance or direction of the revolutionary organization, are said to act spontaneously. This 'spontaneous element' in essence represents nothing more nor less than consciousness in an embryonic form. In other words, their consciousness is not yet born. If such workers remain independent, if they are not taken under the wing of the revolutionary organization, they will be encircled on every side with a petty bourgeois atmosphere, which permeates and corrupts the proletariat and causes constant relapses among the proletariat into petty bourgeois spinelessness, disunity, Individualism, and alternate moods of exaltation and dejection. Such workers may become more and more bourgeois until finally they become prisoners of bourgeois ideology and desert to the bourgeoisie. The working class, as defined by the theory of class structure, has been the majority of the population in highly developed industrial regions. However, since in these regions revolutionary organizations have not seized power, this working population has not been a class conscious revolutionary mass base; it has therefore been bourgeois, a prisoner of bourgeois ideology, and a deserter to the bourgeoisie. At first glance this logic is as bizarre as the first, and we are left with the paradoxical conclusion that the only truly revolutionary proletarians are bourgeois intellectuals, and that the proletarians themselves are by and large bourgeois.
The logic of the theory of consciousness is meaningless only if it is understood within the framework of the theory of class structure. But the logic does not lack significance. Its significance is military. The theory of consciousness does not describe relations between the social classes of capitalist society, but relations between soldiers and their commanders, relations between armies and general staffs. Although the language refers to dialectical logic, social classes, and socialist revolution, the frame of reference has nothing in common with the subject matter of German philosophy, English political economy or French socialism. It is a much older frame of reference. It is a theory of leaders and followers, friends and enemies. The language borrowed from the theory of class structure serves a moral function: its purpose in the theory of consciousness is to inspire loyalty toward the friends and hatred toward the enemies; the terms are retained solely because of their emotional suggestiveness.
Paradox and confusion disappear as soon as it becomes clear that the theory of consciousness is a theory of military relations. It is a theory of military relations among the individuals and social classes of capitalist society which were described by the theory of class structure, but the attributes of these individuals and classes have a purely military significance, since the entire purpose of the theory is to define the path toward the seizure of power by the military general staff. The revolutionary working class, the proletariat, is the army. The virtues of the revolutionary proletariat are exclusively military virtues. Its virtues are not the characteristics which the theory of class structure attributed to emancipated labor but the characteristics of a proletariat that cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, precisely the characteristics of the proletariat under capitalism. In the theory of class consciousness, the sole virtue of the revolutionary proletariat is iron discipline while at work with unquestioning obedience to the will of a single person, the leader. These proletarians are independent and creative to the extent that soldiers are. They are also courageous: their courage is indispensable, since its purpose is to establish strict, iron discipline backed up by the state power of the armed workers over the whole of society. To the extent that workers refuse to join this army voluntarily and resist being recruited, they are guilty of petty bourgeois spinelessness, disunity, individualism, and alternate moods of exaltation and dejection. They are deserters to the bourgeoisie, deserters to the enemy camp.
Just as the characteristics of the revolutionary army - discipline and obedience - are precisely the characteristics which workers already possess under capitalism, the characteristics of the leaders are precisely the characteristics of leaders in capitalist society. But the leaders of capitalism are the bourgeoisie, the enemy. This difficulty is resolved by means of a sado masochistic reasoning which aspiring leaders must learn to apply adeptly if they are at all serious. The reasoning begins with the observable fact that, under capitalism, the sole characteristics of the proletariat are discipline and obedience, the characteristics of the soldiers of an army, whereas the bourgeoisie are the planners, coordinators, strategists, in short the decision makers. Since the characteristics of the vanguard of the proletariat are the ability to plan, coordinate, strategize, in short to make decisions, this vanguard cannot consist of proletarians and must consist of representatives of the propertied classes, bourgeois intellectuals. This self conception of the leaders is degrading, since they see themselves as bedfellows of the hated enemy, the bourgeoisie. But the pain which the leaders thus inflict on themselves is alleviated by the gratifying fact that, by assuming the enemy's attributes they also assume the enemy's powers, the power to order, decree, legislate, and decide, the power to manage and control the subordinates whose sole attribute is their desire to obey. We must consolidate what we ourselves have won, what we ourselves have decreed, made law, discussed, planned consolidate all this in stable forms of everyday labor discipline. This is the most difficult, but the most gratifying task.
Although the reasoning itself is solidly grounded in capitalist reality, the empirical basis for its propositions is not actually very solid. The characterization of the revolutionary leaders, the vanguard of the proletariat, as representatives of the propertied classes, as bourgeois intellectuals, requires something like a leap of the imagination. In terms of their relation to social means of production, very few of the historical revolutionary leaders have been representatives of the propertied classes, namely bourgeois. Most of them have in fact been unemployed writers and political hacks who lived on the margins of capitalist society. In terms of their relation to social wealth and property they can only be characterized as having been miserable, if not in their own revolutionary eyes, certainly in the eyes of their neighbors. In terms of their relation to productive activity they have been largely unqualified, a characteristic which they undoubtedly shared with the ruling bourgeoisie. But unlike the bourgeoisie, these marginal writers and full time hacks did not manage or control the production process, even though they aspired to do so after the seizure of State power. Consequently their self-promotion to the status of bourgeois intellectuals already under capitalism had to disregard empirical evidence which embarrassingly pointed to their being no more than marginal workers, sub-proletarians. However, the empirical evidence is ultimately irrelevant, since the theory of class consciousness is not empirical but dialectical; its purpose is to communicate the propositions: bourgeois intellectuals are class conscious proletarians, proletarians are bourgeois, dependence is independence, submission is courage, iron discipline is emancipation, unquestioning obedience is freedom, and the seizure of State power by the vanguard of the proletariat is socialist revolution.
The working people who engage in independent creative activity as makers of history remain on the banners of revolutionary organizations. We have shown that independent creative activity is not in fact a sufficient or even a necessary condition for the rise to power of a revolutionary organization. We have also shown that the classical theory of revolutionary organization, the theory of class consciousness, does not regard independent creative activity of the working people as a condition, but rather as an obstacle to the seizure of State power. Why, then, does independent creative activity remain on the banners of revolutionary organizations? If such activity is not a means to the seizure of State power, is it the goal? If the social relations described on the banners of revolutionary organizations are not conditions for the success of revolutionary organizations, are such relations the expected outcome of the success?
Threescore years after the first successful seizure of State power by a revolutionary organization, the goal of the revolutionary organization ceases to be an enigma proclaimed by slogans on banners. The purpose of revolutionary organizations becomes concrete at the historical moment when the first successful revolutionary leader proclaims that State power has passed into the hands of the organ of the Council of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies�the Revolutionary Military Committee, which heads the proletariat and the garrison. Real, concrete historical practice makes the goal elementary, simple and clear. The historical accomplishment defines the way in which the slogans on the banners are realized. History resolves the contradiction between the independent creative activity of the working people and the seizure of State power by the leaders of a revolutionary organization. There is no longer a contradiction between two propositions, but between a proposition and a historical fact. And a proposition cannot contradict a historical fact; from the moment when State power has passed into the hands of the organ, propositions, resolutions and programs become nothing more than a verbal rigmarole. From the moment when the historical purpose of a revolutionary organization is defined by hard facts, by historical events, revolutionary organizers can let hard facts speak. It is history that speaks. It is to history that they are responsible. It is by history that they are elected. It is history that defines their goal. It is no longer an individual's imaginings, insights or proofs that argue what is to be done, and by whom. It is history itself that makes it elementary, simple and clear that classes are led by political parties,' that political parties are directed by more or less stable groups composed of the most authoritative, influential and experienced members, who are elected to the most responsible positions and are called leaders. All this is elementary. All this is simple and clear. Why replace this by some rigmarole? Furthermore, after threescore years of successful seizures of State power, this is something everyone knows.
The historical goal of revolutionary leaders is not some rigmarole, some slogans in a manifesto, some utopia which has never existed. The historically realized goal of the revolutionary organization is not independent creative activity by the population as agents of history. It is decision making by the leader as head of State. It is to consolidate what we ourselves have won, what we ourselves have decreed, made law, discussed, planned consolidate all this in stable forms of everyday labor discipline. This is the most difficult, but the most gratifying task. The goal and the most gratifying task of the revolutionary leader is to wield State power.
The wielding of State power requires the same preliminary condition as the seizure of State power. The wielding of the estranged power of community requires the renunciation, the estrangement of this power by the individuals who compose the community. The consolidation of State power requires everyday labor discipline, it requires a population under the iron sway of the mass psychology of dependence. The most gratifying task of the revolutionary leader requires a population characterized by iron discipline while at work, a working population distinguished by unquestioning obedience to the will of a single person, the leader, while at work.