Letter: Workers’ Control
In the article “Workers’ Control”, in the January 1965 SOCIALIST STANDARD, you appear to me to use the term “society” rather as an abstraction. After some not unfamiliar arguments, you conclude, rather arrogantly, by asserting that the workers in industry would be incapable of running affairs. It is so ‘‘incredibly complicated” that only “society” can do the job.
But in what does society consist but men and women, mostly the workers in industry, as asserted by the people you are criticising? And who runs “society” today but the “higher” echelons of the working class?
If they are considered incapable of assuming responsibility, who will do so?
We have never said that the working class, in industry or elsewhere, are incapable of running affairs. In fact one of the central points in the Socialist case is that, under capitalism, the working class run the world from top to bottom—only they do it not in their own interests but in the interests of the class who own the means of wealth production and distribution.
Socialism is the expropriation, of this owning class and the transfer of the means of wealth production to society as a whole. In other words men and women (no longer a working class since classes will have disappeared) will run affairs in their own interests; they will produce to satisfy their needs.
Nor does the Socialist Party regard society as an abstraction. Society is made up of men and women organised in a particular way. Today, production is social; the means of wealth production are complicated in the sense that they consist of a world-wide network of mines, factories, railways and the like.
The article “Workers’ Control” said, among other things, that since production is social, and not a collection of self-sufficient units, then the administration of the means of production must also be social. We did not suggest— and we do not think—that the reason for this is that the people who operate a particular part of this social productive apparatus are incompetent. It was merely a plea to those who accept the confused idea of “workers’ control” to face the facts of social life.
After all, a mine or a factory is not self-sufficient. Finally, we should mention that the whole idea of “workers’ control” is coloured by the conditions of capitalism, that it suggests that the centre of peoples’ lives under Socialism will be the place where they happen to work under capitalism.
It ignores the fact that under Socialism men and women will no longer have to be tied to a particular job and a particular place of work, but will be able to use their various abilities in many different ways. This is what “from each according to his abilities” means.