Libertarian Socialism: A Practical Outline : Chapter 2: Industrial Structure

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(1895 - 1978) ~ CNT Radical, Anarcho-Syndicalist, and Spanish Civil War Historian : He was a French anarchist during the Spanish Civil War and was the son of a French Communard. Leval, himself was a French anarcho-syndicalist militant and a participant in the foundation congress of the Red International of Labor Unions from June-August 1921. (From : Anarchy Archives.)
• "The methodical police terror, the [Bolshevik] Party's tightening grip upon the whole of social life, the systematic annihilation of all non-Bolshevik currents, the no less systematic extermination of all revolutionaries who thought along lines different from those of the new masters, and indeed the eradication of every hint of dissent within the Party all proved that we were on the road to a new despotism that was not merely political but also intellectual, mental and moral, reminiscent of the darkest days of the Middle Ages." (From : "Anarchists Behind Bars," by Gaston Leval, Summer,....)
• "...the Spanish Libertarian workers co-ordinate and rationalize production in a much more satisfactory way than Capitalism had done. And I lay special stress on the disappearance of small unhealthy and costly workshops and factories, besides the correct use of machinery for the work most suited to it." (From : "Collectives in Spain," by Gaston Leval, 1945.)
• "...the means of production remained unused in the barns of the rich, whilst the poor peasants worked the land with roman plows drawn by worn out donkeys and mules!" (From : "Collectives in Spain," by Gaston Leval, 1945.)


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Chapter 2: Industrial Structure


The Trade Unions

What means are necessary to achieve this transformation, assuming that the requisite maturity has been attained by a sufficient number of workers?

The trade unions and enterprise committees spontaneously arise in industry and transport. We cannot foresee the relative importance of these two institutions. Ideally, it is the trade unions that should direct activities, since only they can embrace and coordinate all the enterprises—small, medium and large—that exist in every industry, in every locality—to the extent that we have not gone beyond the local framework.

This coordination is absolutely necessary. It has often been the case that, without being conscious of the fact that they are doing so, the enterprise committees tend to exclusively, or almost exclusively, restrict their attention to the activity and interest of each factory or each workshop.

Thus, let us assume that in the Paris region there are two thousand factories, small and large, that produce chemicals. Some have reserves of raw materials, others do not, and if equality is not established among them within a short period of time, the egoism of each enterprise will emerge and inter-enterprise rivalries will follow as the result of the interruption of transport or shortages of supplies. The trade unions situated above this enterprise patriotism, meanwhile, can equitably distribute the elements of production and direct the latter in accordance with a general plan that is imposed in accordance with the economic needs of the whole. For we must not forget that the social transformation must revolutionize the economic organization not only by eliminating capitalism, the boss, and the exploiter, but also by organizing production in accordance with the interests of the entire society. And in this respect not only are we situated, not only must we be situated, above the particular interests of the enterprise, but also above those of the corporation, or the interests of each trade, or of each industry. Otherwise, new forms of injustice and exploitation would arise.

In order to perform this role the trade unions must from now on attempt to do what has never been done before in the history of the world: each trade union must proceed to carry out a census of the workshops, the factories, and the industrial complexes corresponding to their particular activities. Each trade union must have precise knowledge of the number of workers in all the enterprises, their specialties and, if this is possible, the volume of production, the number of machines, the technical development attained, the energy consumed, and the percentage of the management personnel and technicians amenable to cooperation with the manual workers.

If, instead of contenting themselves with strike movements that are only imitations of real action, the workers organizations had assumed this task, after a certain period of time, they would have trained their militants at every level for the task of achieving everything that they claim to stand for, and the reformist and communist deviations would not have attained their current catastrophic degree of development.

Management Committees

Naturally, all of these things can only be possible if the trade unions are revolutionary, since, taken as a whole, they have ceased to be and we must even fear that their bureaucrats, their leaders—generally bourgeoisified and turned into officials—their secretaries, and their orators, would be incapable of playing the role, should the factories ever be occupied again, that was played by Jouhaux, Dumoulin and others, in 1936, or by Arragona, in Italy, in 1920. Perhaps it will be possible to take over the local trade union centers, and seize the documentation, which would be at least in part useful, from the strictly trade union point of view, and that might yield fragmentary information about the situation of each trade and each industry. Given the current state of the trade union movement, however, it is much more likely that revolutionary action will have to be carried out in the workshops, factories and enterprises of every type.[4]

In this domain everything remains to be imagined, intellectually elaborated and practically implemented. Anyone who is familiar with the history of the factory committees in Italy in 1920, where the movement was even larger than the corresponding movement that took place in France sixteen years later, is aware of the fact that these committees displayed an almost total inability to carry out practical actions. Once the factory was occupied, no one knew what to do next.

The Hungarian revolution took an “almost” identical turn. Because there are no real trade unions (the institutions that were and still are called “trade unions” are nothing but pseudo-working class organizations that serve as seedbeds for the proliferation of a bureaucracy that is the compliant tool of the Communist Party and the State), enterprise committees were formed everywhere. But they lacked a precise conception of their goals and their methods, and of the complete uprooting of the old system that was required. It would have been necessary to hold, within ten days, in Budapest, a national Congress of enterprise committees, that would have assumed the role of a coordinating institution for the national industrial economy, and to create the technical bodies necessary for the management of the economy as a whole. This would have filled the vacuum left by the disappearance of the state which, for good or for ill, organized the economy; this would have also helped prevent the appearance of a multitude of parties that sowed disorder, and would have rallied a good number of doubters to the side of the revolution.

What we have just written is, to a large extent, an outline of the road that lies ahead of us. We do not know if it would be necessary to act with the same haste in establishing a new institution that would replace the government and the state, or if both would survive thanks to the support of overwhelming armed force, in the absence of which their abolition would be possible.

The conditions of the struggle cannot be foreseen, and to provide solutions in advance, even assuming the best-case scenario, would be equivalent to writing a futuristic novel. There can be no doubt, however, that it is not idle to recall what Proudhon advocated on May 4, 1848, during the revolutionary period during which—once again—the unprepared population did not know what to do.

“A provisional Committee should be established for the organization of exchange, credit and the circulation of goods among the workers.”

“This Committee should establish relations with similar Committees formed in the main cities.”

“By decision of these Committees, a representative body of the workers should be formed, imperium in imperio, to oppose the representative body of the bourgeoisie.”

“The seed of the new society must germinate in the soil of the traditional society.”

“The Charter of Labor should be immediately drafted, and the principle articles of this Charter should be defined within the shortest possible time.”

“The foundations of the republican government should be established and special powers granted, to this effect, to the representatives of the workers.”

By “republican government”, Proudhon meant something very different from the way we would understand that term today. During his time the republic represented for the revolutionaries an ideal that was more social than political. Furthermore, there were two opposed forces: on the one side, the official provisional government, and on the other, the assembly of Luxemburg where the various socialist tendencies were represented, with Louis Blanc, Pecqueur, Pierre Leroux, Vidal, etc.

The republican government could have left this assembly. That is why Proudhon engaged in a fervent polemical exchange with those who held seats in the government, because, as opposed to the statist conception of socialism that they advocated, he advocated an anti-statist federalist conception. So whenever he speaks of the “republican government”, we must understand this to mean a formation that assumes the official representation of France and organizes its affairs according to the directives issued by the assembly of committees constituted “in the principle cities”, and implements these directives or helps implement them by way of that autonomous imperium in imperio organized by the workers that will never depart from the exercise of its social power, its organizational initiatives and its original dynamism.

The existence of a working class power, organically constituted as an independent world, that would impose its existence as a new reality of history upon a government that emerges from a revolutionary situation, taking the reins of the economy or as much of the economy as possible, and would as a consequence of its power compel the state to acknowledge its existence and respect it, is a perfectly plausible hypothesis.

It is possible that this process could lead to another stage during which there will be advances and retreats. Everything depends on the respective forces of the two adversaries. And, as we pointed out above, there will have to be a favorable political situation, since such an enterprise would be doomed to failure if reactionary parties, supported by well-organized forces of repression, were to be in power. It is also necessary for the international political and economic situation not to present an obstacle. A serious revolutionary movement must have specialists devoted to the study of these problems.

Let us therefore assume that, as a result of a wave of expropriations, the workers of industry and the public services in France seize a multitude of existing enterprises, and that they are unable, for the foreseeable future, to rely on the trade unions, which will only attempt to restrain the movement.

What would be their first task?

First of all, to elect enterprise management committees in every city that will, with the necessary authority, assume responsibility for the preservation of the equipment and machinery and the continuity of the labor process. These committees will assume an infinite variety of forms, depending on the size and structural characteristics of each enterprise. The enterprise committee in a workshop that employs fifteen workers will not be comparable to that of an enterprise like Renault, which in 1959 employed sixty-two thousand workers. In an enterprise like Renault, each Section will have to elect a delegate who is chosen on the basis of his competence and his sense of responsibility. These Section delegates, or delegates from specialized workshops, will in turn constitute a General Management Committee that will also be joined by the high level technicians who are reliable.

In smaller enterprises the principle of the enterprise committees will be the same. We mentioned the Sections or workshops of Renault because they concentrate different specialized labor processes. There are also such specialized labor processes—forge workers, rolling mill workers, boiler workers, lathe operators, pipefitters, etc.—in a medium-sized metal factory.

All these special labor processes together participate in the manufacture of machines, instruments, and products. All of them must be represented so that no aspect of the production process is overlooked, and in order to assure that the institution of which they are parts coordinates the labor process and ensures the necessary quality and quantity of production.

As for enterprise committees as they currently exist, they can be quite justifiably criticized to some extent because they often, although unconsciously, enmesh the workers delegates in the game of the employers interests, at the same time that they perform a major service by accustoming the workers to the management of the enterprise and the responsibilities of labor. Under such circumstances, it is possible—experience shows us that this happens in only a minority of cases—for some delegates to forget about the interests of their comrades. The majority do not forget them, and in a revolution something will happen that often takes place with numerous state employes and officials, and sometimes military officers or men who belong to non-revolutionary categories: the momentum of the events drags them along, and turns them into valuable auxiliaries.

Industrial Federations

It is indispensable, however, for the seizure of the capitalist enterprises, the means of transportation and the public services, to immediately acquire the requisite organic and institutional character for ensuring the collective life of society.

In order to achieve this goal it will be necessary, as soon as possible, to coordinate these committees.

How to proceed? We can imagine two ways: one, technical; the other, political-technical. Allow me to explain.

Technical: i.e., by industry. Each industry must, from the very first moment, organically constitute itself as a coordinated whole. The means to obtain this result will consist in electing delegates representing the various enterprises, who will be convened, first of all, in the local assemblies of industry. Let us assume that the following procedure is established for such representation: one delegate for each enterprise employing between five and twenty workers; two delegates for each enterprise employing between twenty and one hundred workers; three delegates for each enterprise with between 100 and 200 employes; and one delegate for every one hundred additional employes. Different percentages could be established for major factories like Renault, Citroën, Peugeot, Berliet, etc.

An arrangement could also be made to group together all the small enterprises to prevent them, because such enterprises are so numerous, from dominating, with the mass of their delegates, the directive organs of industry, when they only represent a minor part of production. These questions will have to be resolved in the future. We are interested above all in suggesting some broad outlines for possible courses of action.

The delegates will convene by industry, in local general assemblies, at which the directives of the labor process will be determined and a Management Commission will be elected, in which the committed militants must be represented in at least equal proportions to the technicians, in order to guarantee the social character of the revolutionary management, unless the technicians are also revolutionaries.

From this point on, the coordinating body will be formed on the living basis of the enterprise committees and, by way of their mediation, of the enterprises themselves. As soon as possible, the factories and workshops must be assigned with the necessary instructions concerning the volume and type of production that each one must guarantee or continue to guarantee. The directives will have to come from the general coordinating body.

This body will create as many commissions as are rendered necessary by the number of major projects that it plans to implement. It will be necessary to obtain, as soon as possible, that which the trade union did not acquire, which we enumerated above: statistics concerning the average volume of production of each enterprise, the size of the labor force, the total number and characteristics of the technical personnel, reserves of raw materials, the usual markets for the enterprises’ manufactured products (consuming regions, exports, local consumption).

All of this information, collected and duly organized, as an instrument of labor, will allow for the accurate management of production, taking into account new needs and the collective interest. For example, in the printing industry, it will no longer be necessary to publish all the newspapers that currently circulate and which respond to the interests of political parties and capitalist enterprises. It would be better to provide for the needs of the workers displaced from these jobs at these newspapers rather than to waste energy and raw materials that are often so hard to obtain.

The organization of production must acquire a national scope as soon as possible. Each industry must organize on the basis of the entire national territory, because, over the passage of time, the distribution of labor has often adjusted, although slowly, to the needs of consumption as well as geological, geographical, demographic and other imperatives, which cannot be ignored. The role played by the transport network in facilitating long-distance distribution has favored this process of adaptation.[5]

It would therefore seem to be logical for each Local Committee of the Federation of Enterprises to elect, in proportion to the number of workers it represents, a small delegation (let us assume, one delegate for every one thousand workers, three for every ten thousand, etc.). All the delegates thus chosen will meet at a National Congress of Metal Workers that will be held in the geographic center of the industry (Paris, Lille, Nancy, etc.).

At this Congress, where more serious business will be conducted than the mere chatter of parliamentarians, the technicians will outline a general plan of labor in accordance with the usual needs that must be satisfied, on the one hand, and, on the other, the technical means, the labor force, the locations of extraction, the raw materials and the energy sources available.

Let us suppose that, broadly speaking—the statistics that will have been compiled will help, at first, to make more precise forecasts—that, in the Paris region, forty thousand farm tractors are produced each year, thirty thousand in the North, twenty-five thousand in the East, the same number in the cities of the Center and five thousand more in the cities of the Southwest.

Let us furthermore assume that this data includes the production figures from three hundred cities and metal working factories. We can foresee meetings in which the delegates of all these production units convene to establish the means to coordinate and synchronize their efforts. These meetings will be able to address, in addition, all the agricultural aspects involving their final product.

We may also consider the problem from another angle: First, regional congresses where all the problems concerning the manufacture of these machines will be examined. The regional congresses will then elect qualified and reliable technicians to serve as delegates to the National Congress, which will thus be streamlined as a result of hosting fewer participants.

These delegates will decide upon the modifications that should be incorporated into the allocation and process of labor, economizing in the use of labor and rationalizing the employment of raw materials and energy.

Today in France approximately thirty different brands of tractors are manufactured, because, in the capitalist regime, it is enough for a man to possess the financial means to build, and hire the technical and manual workers to operate, an enterprise that launches any kind of article onto the market whose sale will bring profits, if, as is generally the case, the initiative is commercially viable. Each enterprise offers its products that possess—or do not possess—their own special characteristics, depending on the degree of inventiveness of their designers or technicians. But we can eliminate three-quarters of the existing brands of tractors and only produce a limited number of models, responding to the terrain for which they are intended, cultural standards, etc.

Instead, then, of manufacturing machines that are too fragile or hard to maintain, the manufacturers will eliminate everything pertaining to the product that was merely commercial advertising, all that serves only to deceive and exploit the peasants, and improve the selected models as much as possible, and all the workshops will specialize in the manufacture, geographically distributed, of the types of tractors that are appropriate for the requirements of each region’s agriculture.

The same approach is valid for all industries. Some, such as the chemical industry, will require extremely precise coordination. From sulfuric acid and coal to petrochemicals, and from petroleum to plastics, its products are of such variety, and play such an important role in the entire industrial and agricultural economy, that a meticulous and comprehensive organization must be created as soon as possible.

The production of textiles, the manufacture of cement, of electrical equipment, furniture, etc., must all be organized or reorganized from the bottom up, from the management or enterprise committees to the national industrial federations. The construction industry alone will require a national plan for urban renewal, addressing the needs of the population, and intensifying work where it is most necessary by way of the rapid distribution of labor power and raw materials.

Organization of Industry on a National Scale

This leads us to extend the range of our constructive and organizational considerations. Anyone who has even the slightest acquaintance with the economic activities of a modern society, knows that none of them are independent, just as no particular locality can survive on its own resources, and one would only display the crassest ignorance by conceiving a new society organized on the basis of the self-sufficient “free commune”, as has been suggested by certain people who view the problem in a simplistic way, in accordance with the degree of their intelligence or how well-informed they are.

All industries rely on other industries. There would be no pipefitters without the miners who extract the iron ore, without the foundry workers to manufacture the different kinds of iron and steel, or without the indispensable casting, without the rolling mill workers, without the forge workers, etc. But these activities that are carried out as steps in a process would be impossible without other activities that make them possible. The miner works with machines (drills, jackhammers, pneumatic jacks, conveyor belts) which are supplied by metal working enterprises; these enterprises, in turn, function thanks to the energy provided by the electric power plants. These electric power plants produce electric current because other miners extracted from the bowels of the earth the coal that is transformed into electricity, or because dams are built, sometimes far away, on rivers and in the mountains, by construction workers, with cement, iron, wood, and diverse construction materials, which all come from different parts of the country, or even from other nations.

The same is true of the timber industry, whose products are often indispensable for supporting the galleries of the coal seams in the mines, and forest management is one link in the chain of complementary labors that will culminate in the manufacture of a bicycle, a frying pan, a bottle of perfume or a wristwatch. Inversely, the timber industry requires the help of the metal industry that supplies the axes, the chainsaws, the skidders, the trucks and the tractors to transport the logs to the sawmills that will cut them. Everything is interconnected, everything is linked, we cannot repeat this often enough, and unless we want to return to the economy of the primitive tribal group, which would be impossible anyway due to the density of the population, we have to consider the creation of a vast confederation of industrial production.

There are relatively independent activities which, besides the supply of raw materials that some people or enterprises may obtain locally, need not be directed in accordance with a general plan. However, the energy industry which, in addition to coal, supplies electricity, petroleum and natural or manufactured gas, together with the chemical industry, are auxiliary to all the other industries. Without energy—and this is a platitude—all industries would be paralyzed and the only kind of production that would be possible would be basic artisanal production that would be insufficient for ensuring a modern standard of living.

We must also mention the role played by transport. In 1957, the French railroads alone carried two hundred seventeen million tons of commodities, including fifty-four million six hundred thousand tons of coal, thirty-six million eight hundred thousand tons of minerals and more than twenty-six million tons of metallurgical products. More than sixty-six million tons of diverse products were shipped on the inland waterway network of rivers and canals, including petroleum products and construction materials. In 1958, truck transport, constantly expanding, was responsible for the shipment of two hundred fifteen million tons, most of it on “short-haul”, that is, short distances, while the rail network is used for “long-haul”, or long distance shipping. And of course, all the products destined for the cities, the grains, the meat, the milk, the oils, the fabrics, the clothing, the hundreds of thousands of articles required by the populations of every locality do not arrive at their destination except by way of these means of transport that constitute the vascular system of the great body of society.

Just like the energy producing industries upon which they rely, unless we want to return to the times of the horse and wagon, they are indispensable for the economic life of the population.

We may conclude from this circumstance that all industries and all means of transport must be coordinated within the framework of this totality of general productive activities and that all of them, from the very first moment, must examine the practical means for unifying, ordering, and harmonizing their efforts. The Power Generation Federation must receive from all the other industries their respective demands with regard to the necessary total number (necessarily an approximation, and reserves will also have to be calculated to provide a margin for error) of Kilowatts, of tons of coal and oil and gasoline, and of millions of cubic meters of gas. These four essential aspects of energy and lighting must constitute a totality, whereas in capitalist society they are often opposed to one another, in an absurd rivalry.[6] All of these factors will oblige the coal miners, the gas workers and the electric power plant workers to unite in one vast organization, with its corresponding regional and local sections. Once again we see that certain traditional structures will be disrupted. The miners who extract the iron ore and those who extract the coal do not have to be members of the same industrial organization just because they work underground. The former will have to be members of the Federation of the Metal Industry, while the latter will be members of the Power and Light Federation.

All these Federations, furthermore, whose directive committees will function side by side, will coordinate their complementary activities with regard to means and ends, thanks to a higher coordinating body that will to a certain extent constitute the functional directive center of the national economy. The Industrial Confederation will at its highest levels unite the technicians-delegates elected by the congresses of the various Industrial Federations in order to constitute the Confederal Inter-Industrial Committee.

The very close links thus established will allow for the resolution, as they arise, of the problems posed by the maintenance of relations between these diverse activities.

Thus, we shall have:

At the base, the specialized enterprises and their councils.

Above them, the local industrial committees.

Above the local industrial committees, the regional industrial federations, with the coordination committees elected by the regional assembly of delegates.

Above these bodies, the National Federation of each industry, which will have its own periodic congresses, attended by the regional delegates, led by the Committee of Technicians elected at these congresses, which will be responsible, in accordance with the directives issued, for coordinating general activity on the national plane.

And finally, the national inter-industrial committee.

(Chart 1—Depiction of the Federal Industrial Organization.)(Chart omitted)

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November 30, 1958 :
Chapter 2: Industrial Structure -- Publication.

July 13, 2019 17:57:09 :
Chapter 2: Industrial Structure -- Added to


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