Published: in Solidarity, III, 9 (June 1965)
Transcribed: by Jonas Holmgren
The standard of living of workers has improved considerably during the last century. The impoverishment predicted by Marx has not taken place. But capitalism remains an inhuman system where the vast majority are bossed at work and manipulated in consumption and leisure. Increased wages are balanced by speed-up and the creation of artificial needs. Both East and West, society is still dominated by ruling classes who control the means of production, use the state in their own interests and who are prepared to risk the destruction of humanity to defend these interests.
The decay of the trade unions and of the traditional parties has gone much further than is generally admitted. They cannot be reformed. They have come to terms with the existing system, of which they are now a key part. The degeneration of working class organizations, itself the result of the failure of the revolutionary movement, has been a major factor in creating working class apathy.
The same applies to the Communist Parties. They are equally impotent and although they seek to create a superficially different kind of society (namely state capitalism on the Russian or Chinese model) their aims can hardly be called socialist.
The road to socialism - and socialism itself - means the conscious and independent action of workers. It means the end of the division between leaders and led. By their rigid, hierarchical structure most "revolutionary" organizations encourage precisely those divisions. A socialist society will be one in which decisions will be taken by workers' councils, composed of elected and revocable delegates, and where the workers themselves will manage production.
The class struggle today takes mainly "unofficial" forms. Revolutionaries should be active in these struggles rather than attempting to take over the traditional organizations. Working class resistance to the employers and the union leaders is as strong as ever. But these struggles are mainly reflex actions: their aims are inevitably limited. If the working class is to learn and generalize its experiences and if it is to struggle for socialism it must form revolutionary organizations. These must be instruments of struggle, not a general staff imposed from the outside.
The idea that socialism can be achieved by an "elite" party, however "revolutionary" acting on behalf of the working class, is both absurd and reactionary. Solidarity does not present itself as yet another "leadership" but merely as a tool of struggle.
Last updated on: 8.15.2009