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April 26, 2005


Christopher Day

The Zanon workers are heroes fighting now for the better world we all want and therefore deserve our support.

But their present situation also illustrates some central problems with the ideology of horizontalism and the incomplete conception of dual power that has grown up around these occupations.

The Zanon workers are confronting the simple fact that dual power doesn't last forever. Sooner or later the precarious balance of forces will tip and either the workers or the capitalist state will go the offensive against the other and establish which class will run society.

The significance of a situation of dual power is not just that it represents the appearance of the new society in the shell of the old but that it also contains the potential to take things further, to decisively smash the capitalist state and begin the reorganization of the whole society on a new and more just basis.

But this potential raises new questions that the ideology of horizontalism isn't really prepared to answer.

The first question is what it will take to smash the capitalist state. History is clear that without some sort of political and military organization able to call on broad support among the people and to maneuver skillfully through complex and rapidly changing conditions even the weakest of states will hold on to power. Even when morale is rotten in the ranks of their army and police forces there needs to be a force able to direct effective blows against them.

The second question is on what basis will society be reorganized once the old state has been smashed? Here the real difficulties with horizontalism arise. Practical questions will need to be answered on a society-wide level that involve genuine conflicts of interest. Taking Argentina as an example, when machines break and needed parts aren't available for all the different factories which ones will be prioritized? Which ones will be closed so that others can operate? This is not a decision that can be made at the individual factory level and it is the kind of decision that will need to go forward even when there isn't consensus -- that is to say over the objections of affected workers who oppose a particular course of action.

Even more serious are the problems of how to deal not just with contradictions among the revolutionary workers but with other classes and forces that to one degree or another oppose the revolution, yearn for a restoration of the old order and are cooperating consciously or unconsciously in varying degrees with hostile foreign forces . Some of these folks can be won over after patient and protracted struggle (often involving a mix of coercion and persuasion) while others will prove intractable. But the important point is that the seizure of workplaces and the smashing of the capitalist state does not mark the end of the struggle with the old order, but really its beginning, the momemnt from which the oppressed actually have the power in their hands to remake their world. The problem from the horizontalist perspective is that this power will have to sometimes be exercised coercively against a variety of groups and individuals and will require some degree of centralization (to adjudicate differences between localities, to effectively coordinate military defense, to plan economic development to meet peoples needs) -- in other words it will require some sort of transitional STATE.

Of course this raises a whole other set of problems that have never been successfully overcome. But the critical point to understand here is that if the Argentinian workers are going to hold onto their factories, let alone remake their society, they will need to organize themselves not just to takeover and run their factories but to smash the capitalist state and to replace it with one of their own. This isn't a choice like the choice one makes between desserts in a cafeteria -- "hmmm, lets see do I want state power or not?". It is a neccesity in the sense that eating is neccesary to survive. The revolution can not survive if it is not prepared to take the neccesary measures to defend itself, to defeat it enemies, and to carry forward on its promises of a better world.

dan massy

does anyone know a good article that follows the occupied factories up until today? Have all the factories that were occupied produced goods? Do they have an exchange system that bypasses the capitalist market? Have there been any new occupations since it started, or is it the same bunch at Brukman and Zanon? I saw Naomi Klein's movie The Take. Very inspiring, but I also didn't entirely trust it. She seemed to be making a point more than being a journalist. That's okay, I just want the journalism and can't find it.

Jed Brandt

The Take is a pretty good start. It's very hard to get information about the factory occupations as the capitalist press has ignored it, the communist press has ignored it and their own press, from what I've been able to see, mostly issues broad statements. Marina Sitrin is the American writer who has spent the most time covering it. She is compiling an oral history of what's happening, but like Klein is largely interested in the point that workers revolution is bad/impossible and "autonomy" under capitalism is good.

If anyone else knows of some good reports, please link them.

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