January 05, 2013

Michels on the party as a fighting party The modern party is a fighting organization in the political sense of the term, and must as such conform to the laws of tactics. Now the first article of these laws is facility of mobilization. Ferdinand Lassalle, the founder of a revolutionary labor party, recognized this long ago, contending that the dictatorship which existed in fact in the society over which he presided was as thoroughly justified in theory as it was indispensable in practice. The rank and file, he said, must follow their chief blindly, and the whole organization must be like a hammer in the hands of its president. This view of the matter was in correspondence with political necessity, especially in Lassalle's day, when the labor movement was in its infancy, and when it was only by a rigorous discipline that this movement could hope to obtain respect and consideration from the bourgeois parties. Centralization guaranteed, and always guarantees, the rapid formation of resolutions. An extensive organization is per se a heavy piece of mechanism, and one difficult to put in operation. When we have to do with a mass distributed over a considerable area, to consult the rank and file upon every question would involve an enormous loss of time, and the opinion thus obtained would moreover be summary and vague. But the problems of the hour need a speedydecision, and this is why democracy can no longer function in its primitive and genuine form, unless the policy pursued is to be temporizing, involving the loss...
From Capitalist Crisis to Proletarian Slavery: An Introduction to Class Struggle in the US, 1973-1998 | libcom.org the decomposition of work. The attack on the waged working class in the large factories, mills and mines did not end with eliminating its capacity to formally stop work and strike. Workers can refuse work (in order to demand higher wages, less work-time, and a reduction in the intensity of work) within the factory, on the "shop floor," often more effectively than by formally striking. By the 1960s, for example, assembly line workers had developed very sophisticated techniques of slowing down the line to protest management practices and to take control of their working conditions. This quiet insurrection within the plant (called "counter-planning from the shop floor") was more terrifying to the capitalist than the picket lines outside it. For strikes are open declarations of war operating by fixed rules, but this organized insubordination within the plant was more open-ended in its threat to the sovereignty of capital. What could be done about it? Again the first step was instinctual to capital: increase mechanization and surveillance. As Marx wrote in Capital, machines are weapons of war against the power of workers, and the immediate response to any increase of workers' power is to introduce machines to replace workers, to reduce the skill necessary to do the work, or to subvert workers' capacity to refuse work on the job.6 The machines and techniques have varied with the period, from the Arkwright's "mule" and the steam engine of the 19th century, to electrification and the internal combustion engine of the early 20th...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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