Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Cooperative Councils?

It's not very often this blog features material from Progress, but the post reproduced below from last Friday is very interesting. As readers may or may not be aware, Lambeth Council is embarking on an experiment to become Britain's first 'cooperative council'. It certainly sounds worthy but whether such an ambitious plan like this can be delivered in the context of £37m worth of cuts and an increasingly gloomy economic situation remains to be seen. In other words, if Lambeth communities are going to suffer in terms of fewer local government jobs and the decline of businesses that depend on them, you've got to question where the resources are going to come from to fund some of these mutualised schemes.

Nevertheless while socialists should approach the experiment with a critical eye, no doubt many valuable lessons are about to be learned on creating more participatory and democratic forms of local governance. '
Lambeth Launches the Cooperative Council' is by Council Leader Steve Reed.

NB: Readers interested in a critical Marxist appreciation of cooperatives would do well to consult Arthur Bough's
blog posts on the subject.


Today Lambeth council launches plans that detail how we will become Britain's first cooperative council. So why are we doing it, what difference will people see, and are there wider lessons for Labour politics?

Public services in Britain have reached a tipping point. They are under attack from a rightwing government that wants to marketise services using, where possible, the language of empowerment to mask what they are up to. But public services are also under threat from falling public confidence which, if it is not addressed, will create the space the right needs to implement large-scale privatisation. Falling confidence in services as different as the health service and the police, despite massive investment in recent years, arises from a sense of disempowerment and remoteness people feel in the face of top-down public services that owe their shape to the Beveridge-inspired postwar settlement. To give public services a sustainable future we need to combat that loss of confidence by handing more power to individuals and communities as part of a rebalanced settlement between the citizen and the state. In handing more power to the people we can expect public services to change dramatically as they shift to meet people's real needs.

That's the theory and the purpose, and we explored it in detail through Lambeth's Cooperative Council Commission. The Commission consulted with over 3,000 Lambeth residents and heard from over 50 organisations nationally that have experience in delivering services in ways that put the users rather than the providers in control. But people want to know what difference they will see, so here is some of what we plan to do.

Youth services will be run by the community using a model called ‘community-led commissioning'. That involves the council supporting communities to decide what kind of youth services will best meet their needs, then helping them buy the appropriate services from whoever is best able to provide them. Sometimes that will mean community involvement in delivering the services - such as running groups or activities. Sometimes the services will be delivered by qualified professionals or voluntary organisations, depending on the needs the community identifies.

Adults receiving care services will have more control of their own budgets, and some buildings - such as Lambeth's Disability Resource Centre - will be transferred to mutual ownership including service users. That means people who are supported by services including home helps, respite care, day centres or support for disabled people to live independently at home, will decide what help they need and where they get it from using their own personalised care budget. They will be offered professional guidance to take their decisions, but the key is that the people using the services will be in control of their own lives instead of finding themselves under the control of others.

Lambeth will encourage local schools to become cooperative trusts, forming strong bonds with the local community and other schools in the area. This gives the local community a bigger say over how the school is run, and it creates communities of schools that can share or pool resources so children at each school benefit.

We are exploring putting all our libraries into a trust owned and run by the local community. This model works well in the borough of Queens, New York, where the foundation library attracts outside investment and provides services that better meet the needs of local people. Any libraries that have to close because of government funding cuts will be offered to the community as a standalone mutual or trust.

There are a range of different models for cooperative housing, which makes up a tiny fraction of the housing market in the UK compared with other countries including Germany, Sweden and Canada. The options range from tenant-managed estates where ownership remains with the council, through to shared equity models where the housing is owned by a company in which every resident owns a share. This model allows mixed-income communities to develop where people on lower incomes can own shares in their own home without running the risk of defaulting on a mortgage if their income suddenly collapses as, in that case, they can simply reduce their monthly equity purchase rather than lose their home. Lambeth's estates will be able to choose which housing model best suits them.

Local communities will be encouraged to develop neighbourhood micro-plans and to help take decisions over how their share of the council's overall budget is spent in their area. The council will make sure that all parts of local communities are listened to so the plan isn't run in the interests of only one part of the community.

Residents will be encouraged to take part in shaping or running local services through a Lambeth Cooperative Incentive Scheme. This will take the form of credits that people can use for discounts in local shops, for local leisure or sports facilities, or as a council-tax discount. To make sure the money is spent locally, any credits will be awarded in a new local electronic currency, building on the success of the Brixton Pound that already operates in the borough and is the UK's only local currency in an urban area.

What's clear from this small sample of services is that the model operates quite differently in different services but the principles of empowerment and cooperation remain the same. Local communities and the people who use services will be in the driving seat instead of the people who deliver those services. In this way services will become more accountable to local people, and more responsive to local need. By allowing people to exercise more choice we expect both better services and higher levels of confidence in those services. This transformation offers a radical new vision of what Labour local government can become by supporting the development of cooperative communities.

There are similarities with some of the rhetoric of the ‘big society'. That is inevitable because the Tories are deliberately stealing Labour's language to mask their cuts agenda. It is imperative that Labour reclaims that language and shows what empowerment really means. A quick look at Tory councils like Barnet or Suffolk shows that while they talk about empowerment all they're really doing is privatising services and dumping unprofitable services on communities ill-equipped to manage them. The Tories want to roll back the state, while Labour's task is to change the role of the state by putting it under the control of local people. That is true empowerment. It offers us the chance to rebuild confidence in public services while making a reality of that long-held rallying cry of progressive politics: power to the people.


CharlieMcMenamin said...

A local writes.

Boffy said...


As I think I've previously written on Charlie's post, I'm very wary of the idea of Co-operative Councils as proposed by Lambeth, particularly as you say at a time when Councils are looking for Cuts. I firmly take the stand on it made by Marx and Engels and others at the time, which is that Co-operatives have to be the genuine construction of the workers themselves. Where they are the initiative of the State or the bourgeoisie - and in that I include the Local State - then the one thing that makes them Progressive is removed.

Having said that when I was working, one of the things I was involved in was trying to get Communties involved in various things. We had a problem with Playgroudns being vandalised, and one succesful project was to get a local community in a deprived area to take over control of the playground. They held meetings to decide where they wanted it, what they wanted on it, and so on. The Council built it, and the community took responsibility for opening it, policing it with parents taking it in turns, and cleaning it. Vandalism all but disappeared.

But, the question on a wider scale has to be consideringt the relationship between a Workers Co-op providing services, and a Consumer Co-op Commissioning them. There is also a question about finance that flows from this. As I Understand most of these projects, the Council will still act as the Commissioning Agent - in the same way that GP's will act as Commissioning Agent for Health Services. But, that means that the State determines the budgets within which this can be carried out. In the worst case scenario workers take on the role of a Co-operative providing services, but within the confines of a budget set by the State, which simply means the State extracting Surplus Value from them, though its Monopoly position, whilst those workers continue to pay taxes of various kinds - without reduction - to that State! If workers set up Co-ops to provide these services, then workers in that area should be able to buy them directly cutting out the State middleman, and with a consequent reduction in their taxes.

David Ellis said...

This is simply privatisation. Will the good people of Lambeth be happy to see a portion of the money they are obliged to pay out in taxes funnelled into profit share payouts, ludicrous pay awards and co-op shareholder dividends rather than on the front line services they are supposed to be funding?

Boffy said...

Surely whether it is simply privatisation or not depends upon the workers in Lambeth/London. If those workers with the support of their unions were to take the initiative and establish Worker Owned Co-ops to provide say Construction Services, or Refuse Collection then the decision on how much the pay awards would be would be determined by the Workers in that Co-op themselves. As Marx sets out in Capital, because Worker Owned Co-ops are more efficient than private Capitalist companies, they can pay higher wages, but as he also sets out there, the wages of the Managers are always a fraction of those of the Managers in private Capitalist companies.

But, you are right that there is a danger in any enterprsie that has a Monopoly, be it a private or Public Monopoly, or a Co-op utilising that to push up prices, fail to provide good quality, pay higher wages through rent seeking activity and so on. That is why it would be important to establish Commissioning Co-ops of residents who sought out the best providers of services based on competition between them.

It does mean that these Commissioning Co-ops would have to be the holders of the Budgets, for those services, and act to collect the premiums for the provision of those services from all residents in its area who joined the Co-op. In other words it would mean a reduction in the Council Tax deducted by the local Capitalist State, and the transfer of that function into the hands of the workers. All in all a good thing, I'd suggest, but only if the worekrs in the area were themselves convinced of that fact, and initiated it themselves.

Anonymous said...

The word "local" occurrs in this piece TWENTY ONE times. Perhaps that indicates the breadth of thought in it? Looks like it will leave "local" people deciding which cuts to make, not the total level of service. They will be able to decide anything... within a fixed budget set by someone else. Don't go there.
Andy Ford
Socialist Party Liverpool

Chris said...

Strange but I agree with Boffy's comments here.

I think what Lambeth is doing is quite exciting actually and is better than just letting state provision deteriorate further. However we should never lose sight of the fact that these proposals are to meet a state sector shortfall in grant. And one reason this happened, apart from the economic crisis, was a drastic reduction of taxes levied on the rich. In the local authority where I worked we decided to give the local community ‘control’ of community buildings but this was because we didn’t have money to spend repairing and maintaining them, or we put them well down the priority list. Those that were not handed to the ‘community’ were closed. These community buildings provided a place for people in deprived areas to go, often the elderly or the disabled. What was reported as giving power to the community ended up being a further marginalisation of people already living at the margins.

Also in modern capitalism the pressure on families is huge. People work all day and then have to do the family chores at night. The idea that these people can then be expected to run local government is fanciful. This would require a much more fundamental change in society. Really this is tinkering with the superstructure without changing the base.

I can also see retired workers out mowing local recreation areas under these so called empowerment schemes. Work til you drop indeed.

In essence unless we challenge the power and wealth of the ruling class these experiments will be most unsatisfactory, and in many cases will fail to meet the needs of the local population.

Forget the long long road to co-operatives, take the advice of Marx and Engels, and grab the power and wealth of the exploiters.

David Ellis said...

Big Society bollox I'm afraid boffy. Socialised property is what we need. Turning over council assets, workers and public money to co-operatives is privatisation. It is the same with the NHS and Free Schools.

Boffy said...

But, Workers are "Socialised property", whereas Nationalised property is not. That's not just my view its the view of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Pannakoek and every other leading Marxist from the time of Marx!

The only time that Nationalised Property can be "Socialised" property as they make clear is when classes have been abolished. At the very least it would require the establishment of a Workers State. Now although I am all in favour of establishing a Workers State, I have to conclude from living in the real world that it is not very likely at the moment or for the foreseeable future.

Therefore, precisely because I am in favour of Socialised property, which means transferring Capitalist Property over to Workers Ownership, I am in favour of the only practical means of establishing such Workers Ownership here and now, which is as Marx and Engels and Pannakoek set out by transferring that Capitalist property into the hands of Workers Co-operatives. As Marx said in Capital, they are the transitional form of property between Capitalist property and Socialist Property.

Transferring Capitalist property into the hands of Workers cannot be privatisation, because Privatisation implies a transfer back into the hands of private capitalists. But, as marx sets out in the Grundrisse and in Capital, in a Workers Co-operative the terms Labour and Capital negate each other. The Capital owned by the workers is no longer "Capital" because the Capital-Labour relation is destroyed.

What your argument really amounts to is defence of the Capitalist Status quo, keeping the means of production in the hands of the Capitalist via their State. No thanks, the job of a Marxist is to argue against Capitalist Property not defend, to undermine the pwoer of the Capitalist State not bolster it by arguing for its extension.

Phil said...

Cheers for the comments, comrades.

I think we can be a bit more cautiously optimistic about the cooperative council. As you say Boffy, it does look like the Council will keep hold of the purse strings by virtue of its hold over the funding stream, but on the other hand cooperatised services have the potential for cohering communities of employees, service users and interested others around a particular service with some degree of decision-making. I think this could generate a pressure for greater control from below and, depending on the strength and organisation behind cooperatised services, see the commissioning role of the Council challenged.

This to my mind is better than services administered by an unaccountable local bureaucracy, and more so than something simply privatised or closed.

I think socialists should approach the Lambeth experiment in terms of the political opportunities it offers, while refusing to be seduced by cuddly cooperative language and feel good illusions.

David Ellis said...

Phil: It is Cameron's version of council house sales. As for boffy he/she is one of them there Red Tories testing for reaction. Posts on Oslers site too (bit of a `decent').

Boffy said...


I agree entirely. In some ways its doing on a small scale what Chavez has been doing in Venezuela. But, that's also one of the things that worries me. Its like the Co-operatives with State Aid argued for by Lassalle, and argued against by Marx and Engels. But, its a bit like Nationalisation. Marxists should not argue for it under Capitalism - I think the quote from Trotsky sums that up perfectly and is damning of many so called Trotyists today - but if the Capitalist State decided to nationalise something we wouldn't argue that it shouldn't!

"It would of course be a disastrous error, an outright deception, to assert that the road to socialism passes, not through the proletarian revolution, but through nationalization by the bourgeois state of various branches of industry and their transfer into the hands of the workers’ organizations. But it is not a question of that. The bourgeois government has itself carried through the nationalization and has been compelled to ask participation of the workers in the management of the nationalized industry. One can of course evade the question by citing the fact that unless the proletariat takes possession of the power, participation by the trade unions in the management of the enterprises of state capitalism cannot give socialist results. However, such a negative policy from the revolutionary wing would not be understood by the masses and would strengthen the opportunist positions. For Marxists it is not a question of building socialism with the hands of the bourgeoisie, but of utilizing the situations that present themselves within state capitalism and advancing the revolutionary movement of the workers."

My fear is that in the past TU bureaucrats have sabotaged Co-ops because they see them as a direct threat to their specific social role as middlemen between Capital and Labour, and at the moment we have very weak rank and file organisation of workers. However, PR have piece on the occupation of New Cross Library. Its the kind of tactic I argued for months ago. To me, its precisely the kind of rank and action, out of which Co-ops should be born.

Phil said...

David, I actually have the pleasure of knowing Boffy in real life. He's definitely no Tory troll.

As you say Boffy, it's pregnant with potential but could also go belly up. We'll have to see.

Interesting to note though some comrades are fixated on a state owned = good, everything else = bad dichotomy.

Boffy said...


Its the same "idiocy" that leads to the dichotomy of Imperialism Bad, so obviously murdering, reactionary thug Ahmedinejad Good. Marx, Engels, lenin and Trotsky and all the people who were able to think rather than just raise slogans must be turning in their grave.

One of these people the other day on Osler's blog was even led by going down this path of denying the basic truth for any Marxist of the fact of the Capitalist State as being oppressive! Worse than that he then identified himself WITH that very State. Class analysis it aint. Independence of the working class it most certainly aint.

David Ellis said...

Apologies re: boffy but he comes across to me like some kind of Red/Tory with his mangled ideas of marxism.

Phil: would be interested to know how you think property can be socialised except through the transitional phase of state ownership and I must say I am really suprised you've fallen for the Big Society nonsense which is really just a version of Thatcher's council house selling policy. As they say, the most intelligent representatives of the ruling class try to widen the base of property owners as far as possible how ever pathetic it is. Co-ops running hospitals, schools, council services are all about giving some a stake in Cameron's welfare, job and service cutting programme.

Phil said...

David, there are two interconnected things I think socialists should govern their activities by.

1) Building the labour movement.
2) Building and cohering the working class's capacity to organise itself.

The package of measures being brought in by Lambeth Council could help preserve and extend these two properties when the simple closure and/or privatisation of services would work against them.

This isn't to say we should be dewey eyed about it - but I think it would be entirely mistaken to declare blanket opposition simply because they're not part of the state.

Boffy said...


David Ellis accuses me of "mangled Marxism". I don't know who he is, could anyone verify his identity in the way you have mine I wonder? I'd be interested to know because, in fact what he, then advocates is not Marxism, mangled or otherwise, but the very Lassalleanism and Fabianism that Marx and Engels hated with all their being!!!

And not just them. Here is what Trotsky says about the pimping of the Capitalist State by people like Mr. Ellis, as being somehow progressive.

"It would of course be a disastrous error, an outright deception, to assert that the road to socialism passes, not through the proletarian revolution, but through nationalization by the bourgeois state of various branches of industry and their transfer into the hands of the workers’ organizations.”

Mr. Ellis asks how property can be socialised without going through the ownership of the State first. Of course, as a good Fabian he completely avoids discussion of the class nature of the State he wants to have possession of this property. And no wonder because thereby he avoids the reality of the fact that he is advocating giving ownership of it to the Capitalist Class in a Monopoly via their State! As Trotsky says, “an outright deception”!!! But let's ask Marx and the marxists if they would like to answer Mr. Ellis's question.

“(a) We acknowledge the co-operative movement as one of the transforming forces of the present society based upon class antagonism. Its great merit is to practically show, that the present pauperising, and despotic system of the subordination of labour to capital can be superseded by the republican and beneficent system of the association of free and equal producers.

(c)We recommend to the working men to embark in co-operative production rather than in co-operative stores. The latter touch but the surface of the present economical system, the former attacks its groundwork.”

That's what Marx wrote in the Programme of the First International.

“The capitalist stock companies, as much as the co-operative factories, should be considered as transitional forms from the capitalist mode of production to the associated one, with the only distinction that the antagonism is resolved negatively in the one and positively in the other.”

That is what Marx wrote in Vol.III of Capital, edited by Engels.

“But there was in store a still greater victory of the political economy of labour over the political economy of property. We speak of the co-operative movement, especially the co-operative factories raised by the unassisted efforts of a few bold “hands”. The value of these great social experiments cannot be overrated.”

That is what Marx said in his Inaugural Address to the first International.


Boffy said...

“Thus, if you were to say: The German workers' party strives to abolish wage labour and hence class distinctions by introducing co-operative production into industry and agriculture, and on a national scale; it is in favour of any measure calculated to attain that end! -- then no Lassallean could possibly object.”

That is what Engels said in a Letter to Bebel, decrying the kind of belief in the Capitalist State that Mr. Ellis wishes to impose on the working class as an “outright deception”.

“And Marx and I never doubted that in the transition to the full communist economy we will have to use the cooperative system as an intermediate stage on a large scale.”

That is what Engels said in a further letter to Bebel.

“It seems that the most advanced workers in Germany are demanding the emancipation of the workers from the capitalists by the transfer of state capital to associations of workers, so that production can be organised, without capitalists, for general account;”

That is what Engels had to say on the matter in his excellent pamphlet on Military Policy and the German Workers Party.

“It is quite clear that there are two main lines of policy here: one—the line of proletarian class struggle, recognition of the value of the co-operative societies as a weapon in this struggle..”

That is what Lenin had to say at the Copenhagen Conference of Social Democrats.

“We went too far when we reintroduced NEP, but not because we attached too much importance to the principal of free enterprise and trade — we want too far because we lost sight of the cooperatives, because we now underrate cooperatives, because we are already beginning to forget the vast importance of the cooperatives from the above two points of view.”

That is what Lenin had to say in 1924, when he realised too late the way in which State ownership had led to the rise of a powerful bureaucracy that was to turn itself into the abortion that was Stalinism.

But, hey, David Ellis whoever he is no doubt thinks Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky too were closet Tories.

Chris said...

Before you ask Boffy, Ellis is not me!

Personally having been shafted by the capitalist state I can tell comrades that if working in the public sector is some mid point to socialism then I recommend turning round and going back the other way! So I am very open to co-op councils, even if they have been handed down. All the capitalist state is handed down, so what have you lost? As Boffy says we must put a left vision for co-ops to workers.

But Boffy has distorted Marx and Engels. They believed in storming the Bastille and workers taking over the state and then using that state to further the interests of workers. Just like capitalists use the state to further their interests now.

But while the state is in the hands of the capitalists then it is a hostile force to workers, which is why they need to grab all that power!!! Boffy plays down the importance of getting all that power, presumably because of the failure of the Soviet Union? Marx and Engels would no doubt have looked to learn the lessons of that failure but would they have reached the same conclusions as Boffy?

Boffy has re-written history and selectively picked out quotes to support his view. But even then it doesn’t support his view. So co-ops are great experiments that cannot be overrated, so what? That doesn’t preclude overthrowing the bourgeois state!

To give some balance to the quotes Boffy provides, here is a passage from a letter by Engels to Bebel in 1891 shows his vision of the path to socialism is not the long road of building co-ops that you claim it is:

“In order to take possession of and set in motion the means of production, we need people with technical training, and masses of them. These we have not got, and up till now we have even been rather glad that we have been largely spared the "educated" people. Now things are different. Now we are strong enough to stand any quantity of educated Quarcks and to digest them, and I foresee that in the next eight or ten years we shall recruit enough young technicians, doctors, lawyers and schoolmasters to enable us to have the factories and big estates administered on behalf of the nation by Party comrades. Then, therefore, our entry into power will be quite natural and will be settled up quickly – relatively, if, on the other hand, a war brings us to power prematurely, the technicians will be our chief enemies; they will deceive and betray us wherever they can and we shall have to use terror against them but shall get cheated all the same. It is what always happened, on a small scale, to the French revolutionaries; even in the ordinary administration they had to leave the subordinate posts, where real work is done, in the possession of old reactionaries who obstructed and paralysed everything. Therefore I hope and desire that our splendid and secure development, which is advancing with the calm and inevitability of a process of nature, may remain on its natural lines.”

the link is here:

And there are many many more examples to choose from.

PS Still waiting for your military article, though events in Egypt no doubt have put that project back.

Boffy said...

I've got no intention of responding to the troll Chris who has miraculously now decided he's opposed to the very State Capitalism he's been defending until now!

I would just invite comrades to read Lenin's "The State And Revolution", to see what he says about the Kautskyite idea that workers can "take over" the State as opposed to the need to smash it.

I'd also invite comrades to read my current blogs on Egypt, and how to conduct revolutionary strategy in relation to the seizure of power. I'd also ask comrades to read carefully the comment by Engels above, which I have previously cited to see what it actually says about having to take power before you are ready to do so!

Chris said...

Cheers for the reply Boffy!

Boffy has this incredible ability not to understand an argument. I think he is a bad listener personally. Though he does see his mission in life as educating the workers so I guess listening was never going to be a strongpoint. Anyway, I have never defended public service from the position of saying no change is needed or that there are not problems with it. Anyone can read my comments to see this is the case. What I have said is that we cannot allow our analysis to be distorted by the wildly inaccurate view of public services that Boffy provides. We need concrete analysis of what the public sector delivers and how they deliver it. Boffy provides distortion and lies.

So I have never said leave the capitalist state how it is. On the contrary I have said a crucial task for workers is to take over the capitalist state, whereas Boffy wants the long long road to co-operatives. Why? Because he believes capitalism came into being alongside Feudalism and was simply judged the better system. Well to an extent, yes, but that tale ignores some pretty huge events, like civil wars and revolutions. On smashing the state, I think Engels had arguments with the anarchists about this very topic. Engels said you cannot smash the state, as you may need it to put down your enemies. For me, the lessons of the Soviet Union don't necessarily make all that junk.

P.S. I now see boffy is claiming the cuts to local government are front loaded! Something I have been telling him for months and he has constantly denied! And he accuses me of miraculously changing opinion. I mean throw me a frickin bone here guys!

I also said well in advance that the cuts would be around 25% and guess what they are! Whereas Boffy was playing down the extent of the cuts, quoting Costas Lapavitsas no less!

Boffy said...

I should have made clear the quotes from Lenin for comrades benefit. Here are some that demonstrate the difference between the Marxist view on smashing the bourgeois State, and the reformist Kautskyite view of being able to capture it. The importance of that is being seen in Egypt today. It is clear that any attempt to “capture” the bourgeois State will lead to disaster for the workers. It is that very State whose purpose is to ensure the continued oppression and exploitation of the working-class.

“In this connection Bernstein dwells particularly on Marx’ s The Civil War in France, and tries, quite unsuccessfully, as we have seen, to identify Marx’ s views on the lessons of the Commune with those of Proudhon. Bernstein pays particular attention to the conclusion which Marx emphasized in his 1872 preface to the Communist Manifesto, namely, that “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes"...

As we have seen, Marx meant that the working-class must smash, break, shatter (sprengung, explosion—the expression used by Engels) the whole state machine. But according to Bernstein it would appear as though Marx in these words warned the working class against excessive revolutionary zeal when seizing power.
A cruder more hideous distortion of Marx’ s idea cannot be imagined...
Kautsky did not say a word about the fact that Bernstein attributed to Marx the very opposite of Marx’ s real idea, that since 1852 Marx had formulated the task of the proletarian revolution as being to “smash” the state machine...
Throughout the pamphlet the author speaks of the winning of state power—and no more; that is, he has chosen a formula which makes a concession to the opportunists, inasmuch as it admits the possibility of seizing power without destroying the state machine. The very thing which Marx in 1872 declared to be “obsolete” in the programme of the Communist Manifesto, is revived by Kautsky in 1902...
The point is not at all whether the “ministries” will remain, or whether “committees of specialists” or some other bodies will be set up; that is quite immaterial. The point is whether the old state machine (bound by thousands of threads to the bourgeoisie and permeated through and through with routine and inertia) shall remain, or be destroyed and replaced by a new one. Revolution consists not in the new class commanding, governing with the aid of the old state machine, but in this class smashing this machine and commanding, governing with the aid of a new machine. Kautsky slurs over this basic idea of Marxism, or he does not understand it at all..."


Boffy said...

"In his preface to the third edition of The Civil War in France (this preface is dated March 18, 1891, and was originally published in Neue Zeit), Engels, in addition to some interesting incidental remarks on questions concerning the attitude towards the state, gave a remarkably vivid summary of the lessons of the Commune.[6] This summary, made more profound by the entire experience of the 20 years that separated the author from the Commune, and directed expressly against the "superstitious belief in the state" so widespread in Germany, may justly be called the last word of Marxism on the question under consideration...

Engels emphasized once again that not only under a monarchy, but also under a democratic republic the state remains a state, i.e., it retains its fundamental distinguishing feature of transforming the officials, the 'servants of society", its organs, into the masters of society...

The words, "to smash the bureaucratic-military machine", briefly express the principal lesson of Marxism regarding the tasks of the proletariat during a revolution in relation to the state. And this is the lesson that has been not only completely ignored, but positively distorted by the prevailing, Kautskyite, “interpretation” of Marxism!..

Marx agreed with Proudhon in that they both stood for the “smashing” of the modern state machine. Neither the opportunists nor the Kautskyites wish to see the similarity of views on this point between Marxism and anarchism (both Proudhon and Bakunin) because this is where they have departed from Marxism.

Marx disagreed both with Proudhon and Bakunin precisely on the question of federalism (not to mention the dictatorship of the proletariat). Federalism as a principle follows logically from the petty-bourgeois views of anarchism. Marx was a centralist. There is no departure whatever from centralism in his observations just quoted. Only those who are imbued with the philistine "superstitious belief" in the state can mistake the destruction of the bourgeois state machine for the destruction of centralism!”

Chris said...

Clearly what we are seeing here is a terminological argument.

I don’t think Kautsky or anyone else is saying that workers take over the state and then leave all the judges in place! Or all the generals. If getting rid of them is smashing then so be it. I would call it slicing off the head personally. The point is that you don’t think the workers should even bother with this state, you reject the revolution because you think it so far fetched. Though Egypt has shown that what can be far fetched one day can be a reality the next. Your long long road of co-ops gradually slowly replacing capitalist property and your rejecting workers using state property and taking control of the state (dictatorship of the proletariat) has been questioned by events in Egypt. The idea that Marx and Engels shared your vision of the road to socialism is pure fantasy.

Boffy said...


Anonymous said...

Doesnt look good for lambeth's coop implementation so far - see