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Workers Control Or Self-Management (1972)

Much of the literature produced for this conference [1972 Workers Control Conference in N.S.W.] contains brief references to the term self-management. One session of the conference has been devoted to "Workers Control workers participation, self-management and socialism". It would seem then that the terms Workers Control and Self-Management represent two different things. They do in fact represent two different things, these differences have been the basis for much debate in the workers control movement in other countries. The aim of this pamphlet is to explain and the reasons why we support selfmanagement. The booklet "Workers Councils - the Economics of a Self-Managed Society", available at the conference, explains, more fully than we wish to here, the concept of selfmanagement.

Real workers control can only come about when the working class collectively take all the fundamental decisions in production. Not only in the individual factories but in relation to the entire economy. It must do this directly, through institutions of its own choice with which it ran identify completely, which it can dominate completely. Such bodies are the workers councils. These councils are the historic creations of the working class, every time the question of power has been raised the workers have responded with these basic bodies. The Russian Factory Committees of 1917, the German Workers Councils of 1919, the Hungarian Councils of 1956 all express this pattern of self organization.

With regard to the economy as a whole we see these councils federating nationally. They then bear on every aspect of the economy. This means the workers are not only controlling production but they are also taking initiatives and setting directions through bodies they can completely dominate. This is workers self-management of they economy. We use this term to differentiate between workers merely supervising, inspecting or checking decisions made by others and workers collectively initiating decisions in full knowledge of the relevant facts.

We also use the term self-management to seperate our idea of real workers control from those who see workers control merely as a tactic, to be discarded as unnecessary "after the revolution." Alternatively some see workers control as the workers ratifying and applying the decisions made by the "vanguard party of the working class" when it achieves state power. These formulations of workers control can only mean one thing for us, that the real control over the means of production will lie in the hands of a few. For us production cannot be managed by any agency other than the producers themselves. To us the basis of a class society is when the producers do not dominate the means of production. The question of real workers control versus a form of workers control which is subjugated to the 'vanguard party' or the trade unions has been posed many times in recent history. A classical example is the degeneration of the Russian revolution into a state capitalist bureaucracy. For us the decay began when the Bolsheviks began to emasculate the workers councils and factory committees, that is as early as 1918. Anytime a Leninist party proposes workers control it should be viewed with great suspicion for real workers control would make their organization redundant.

In all the literature surrounding this conference we have seen none which confronts the issue of state power. Obviously any form of workers control which alters the relationships within production in a meaningful way will require the destruction of the bourgeois state. The contentious point is the method of organization which we replace it with. Self-management means that the organ of the federated workers councils (perhaps a central assembly of delegates) tale over the management of the economy as a whole.

Many of those who have failed to raise the question of the state obviously feel that the 'party' will assume these functions. The entrenchment of any group in state power can only lead to bureaucratization and the weakening of the workers councils. The issue of state power must be raised and thrashed out now as it will determine much of the future of our movement.

One result of the points outlined above is our opposition to the proposal to be put to this conference to form a National Institute for Workers Control. We feel a national institute could too easily become removed from the realities of the rank and file move ment and that it would fall under the domination of ideological groups with vested interests. It would also be subject to overdue influence by the Sydney movement. The influence given to trade unions by the proposed institute could also undermine rank and file groups who come into conflict with the union bureaucracies. The alternative proposal to establish regional Workers Control Information Centres with workers control groups affiliated to them is one more in line with the needs and realities of the situation. This proposal will be circulated during the conference.

We must determine what workers control really means. To us it means the workers are really in control. That is workers self-management.


Railway Workers Rank and File Group (Melbourne)

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