Council Communism and the Socialization Dilemma
Forthcoming in James Muldoon (ed.) Council Democracy: Theorising Boundaries Between the Political and Economic. (London: Routledge)
20 Pages Posted: 2 Jan 2018
Date Written: December 27, 2017
Suppose you propose to retrieve the means of production from the capitalist mode of production, turning them from alien forces conspiring against freedom into an expression of freedom. How might you do that? The question gives rise to a socialisation dilemma. The first horn of the dilemma, statism, associates socialisation with exclusive state ownership and control of the means of production. The second horn of the dilemma, syndicalism, associates socialisation with exclusive worker ownership and control. In this paper, I first show that the socialisation dilemma pervades the writings of 20th century socialist thought. I then discuss a prominent way out of the dilemma, proposed by Karl Kautsky. After illustrating the Kautskian programme’s seminal contribution to the socialisation debate – from Karl Korsch, Max Adler, and Otto Bauer, to Nicos Poulantzas and David Schweickart – I argue that the programme’s principles are incongruous with its strategies. This incongruity issues from the subordinate role that Kautsky assigns to the workers’ councils. I then conclude by proposing a Madisonian solution to the socialisation dilemma, based on the idea of a workers’ parliament.
Keywords: workers councils, German revolution, workplace democracy, self-management
JEL Classification: B14, B51, P30, P32, L00
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