Maurice Brinton

A Question of Power


Published: in Solidarity Leaflet, July 1969
Transcribed: by Jonas Holmgren
Proofed: by George Poulados


Few of us run our own lives. This is because we have no control over the main decisions that affect us. These decisions are made by small self-perpetuating minorities. This situation cannot be "democratically" changed. What our rulers call "democracy" is a system which operates for their own protection. As long as their "democracy" is not seriously challenged, their dominating position in society is secure.

Their threatened use of violence is intended to frustrate any challenge. It is implicit in the large police force, the courts, and the armed forces which they control. The limited freedom that their "democracy" allows us is further restricted or curtailed altogether whenever they think their power is seriously threatened.

They hold the power to maintain their power. This is key to their security. They determine the kind of education provided, and the ways and means of providing it. By controlling what and how people are taught, those who rule us seek to preserve the structure of existing society. Children are educated first through the family - i.e. through the already-conditioned parents. Then the education factories (schools and universities) take over. Their aim is to produce people conditioned to fit into this rat-race society.

Workers created trade unions and political parties to change all this. But gradually adopting similar patterns of organization to those of their oppressors, and by concentrating the struggle almost solely on improving working conditions and living standards, the original revolutionary intentions have been bypassed. Working people have gained considerable material advantages but they have lost control of their own organizations. Today the hierarchies are in control. They can neither be removed nor brought back to the initial aim of freeing people.

Those who dominate production dominate society. So long as they have their kind of industrial stability, control will remain in their hands. This control enables them to continue deciding what is to be produced, who is to produce it, where, when how, and in what quantities. All this conflicts with the interests of the real producers - the workers. Those who run our lives continually seek ways of blurring the conflict and of manipulating workers into accepting that management alone is capable of making these decisions.

The union hierarchy assists them in this fraud. While acting as middlemen in the labour market, the union bosses do all they can to frustrate any awareness in workers of their own ability to run industry. In fact, so-called working class organizations are today an essential part of the set up. The formation of new unions or parties would not solve the problem. In today's conditions, they would suffer the same fate as the old ones.

But the system is contested. There is a constant struggle in which the objective is self-management. In a large majority of disputes, workers have taken real democratic decisions to act without the consent of the union bureaucrats (so-called unofficial strikes). This is one of the signs that our rulers' "industrial stability" is under strain. The strain is also visible in the education factories, where students are increasingly demanding the right to take decisions on fundamental issues. There are many other signs of the crisis that is affecting every aspect of this society.

Solidarity participates in the struggle wherever possible. We try to expose the true situation. We seek to strengthen the confidence of working people in their own ability to manage their own lives - at work and outside of it. People's reliance on others to do things for them has led to defeat after defeat. It is time for victories! Victories depend on people consciously taking action themselves. To help in the development of this consciousness is the only reason for the existence of Solidarity.


Last updated on: 10.4.2009