Europe

Workers’ Control in the UK

Within the ‘first industrial nation’, which also established the first industrial proletariat, we might trace the workers’ control tradition back to Luddite resistance to mechanisation and de-skilling of established trades around the turn of the 19th century.  Formally demands for workers’ control, both for control within and over the means of production, were raised from the early twentieth century. These initially came with the influence of syndicalist ideas in the emergence of ‘new unionism’ and came to a head with the ‘shop stewards movement’ amongst skilled engineering and shipbuilding workers around the end of wartime production.  A rather more reformist version of workers’ control, ‘guild socialism’ remained significant politically into the 1920s, builders co-operatives or ‘guilds’ being involved in the post-war house-building boom.  read more »

The Forgotten Workers’ Control Movement of Prague Spring

At the time of the [August 1968] Soviet invasion [of Czechoslovakia], two months after the first workers’ councils were formed, there were perhaps fewer than two dozen of them, although these were concentrated in the largest enterprises and therefore represented a large number of employees. But the movement took off, and by January 1969 there were councils in about 120 enterprises, representing more than 800,000 employees, or about one-sixth of the country’s workers. This occurred despite a new mood of discouragement from the government from October 1968.

The workers’ self-management alternative

Discussions about workers’ control and self-management which were once at the heart of the labour movement are now once again on the agenda, both among British activists and internationally. The network of communists who produce The Commune are the most determined advocates of self-management among the English and Welsh radical left, and have generally found a positive response.  read more »

Council Communism & The Critique of Bolshevism

"Suppose the central leadership is able to distribute all of what has been produced in a righteous way. Even then the fact remains, that the producers don't have at their disposal the machinery of production. This machinery is not theirs, it is one used to dispose of them. The inevitable consequence is that those groups that oppose the existent leadership will be oppressed with force. The central economic power is in the hands of those who, at the same time, exercise the political power.

The Lucas Plan: What can it tell us about democratising technology today?

It was in January 1976 that workers at Lucas Aerospace published an Alternative Plan for the future of their corporation. It was a novel response to management announcements that thousands of manufacturing jobs were to be cut in the face of industrial restructuring, international competition, and technological change. Instead of redundancy, workers argued their right to socially useful production. read more »

Who is opposed to self-management and why?

The venture of the self-managed VIOME in Greece has come face to face not only with the enemies of self-management “by nature and by stance”, i.e. the ruling class and the state, but also with the communist and anti-capitalist forces of the left, including the anarchist movement. Despite their differences, these forces seem to agree to the fact that within capitalism, self-management can be nothing more than a kind of workers’ “self-exploitation”, a form of a “collective capitalism”. From this perspective, not only has self-management nothing to offer in the direction of social emancipation,  but –even worse– it “absolves” capitalism of its obligation to create jobs and guarantee the welfare of all workers. read more »

Towards a radical cooperativism against the crisis of imagination: Speech at the Athens Biennale 2015-2017

This session explored four institutions of human economy – alternative currencies, cooperativism, urban welfare and commons – and reflected on how these forms can become permanent and sustainable alternatives. read more »

The leading Greek newspaper that is run by its workers

At the Journalists’ Newspaper in Athens, everyone is paid the same, from the receptionist to the senior reporters, except the editor-in-chief. He works for free and lives off his pension. They don’t argue about salaries because they are also the owners of the paper, which is run as a co-operative, so everyone knows how tight finances are. In return, they get to thrash out front page stories, editorial positions and headlines without even the shadow of interference by a media baron chasing political or financial interest. read more »

Cooperatives and workers’ control in 20th century Greece

The ensuing excursus in the history of farmers’ cooperativism and workers’ participation brings into visibility a variety of partly non-capitalist processes of collective self-activity in Greece. These have operated alongside and intertwined with a state-dominated market economy involving a multitude of small business, an under-industrialised production and a large service sector (commerce, tourism, finance, etc.). Taking our cues from the constructive critique of ‘capitalo-centrism’ put forward by Gibson-Graham, we adumbrate here the historical contours of a heterogeneous economy which is not fully captured by any single logic, global force or sovereign structure. read more »

Spectrum, Trajectory and the Role of the State in Workers’ Self-Management

Workers’ self-management and related forms of workers’ control over production is associated with periods of societal transformation. In its most advanced form it presents a challenge to capitalist property relations as part of a revolutionary process. Workers’ Councils, as a form of self-management, have occurred under capitalism but also in Communist command economy states. The relationship between the practice of self-management and the class nature of the state is not, however, straightforward.  read more »