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For Workers' Power [Paperback]

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Item description for For Workers' Power by Maurice Brinton & David Goodway...

Maurice Brinton was the most influential member of the British Solidarity Group (19611992), which sought to inspire a mass movement infused with libertarian socialist politics. Disavowing the political orthodoxy of the times, Brinton sought to use the past as a guide, but not an anchor, in his visionary writings. Solidarity's influence on the '60s New Left, and today's libertarian Global Justice Movement is a testament to their salience. Tactfully edited by David Goodway, For Workers' Power includes articles, essays and pamphlets as well as Brinton's classic works The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control, Paris: May '68 and The Irrational in Politics.

Maurice Brinton lives in London with his wife. Editor David Goodway is a professor of social history in Leeds.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   378
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 6" Height: 9"
Weight:   1.1 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 1, 2004
Publisher   AK Press
ISBN  1904859070  
ISBN13  9781904859079  

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2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Politics > General

Reviews - What do customers think about For Workers' Power?

Left-wing Communism: A Necessary Antidote  Jan 25, 2008
Maurice Brinton was the pseudonym of Christopher Pallis, a neurologist of Greek descent working in London, who used the pen name to write many articles, reviews and polemics in the tradition of 'libertarian' or left-wing communism for the group "Solidarity". These have been collected under the title "For Workers' Power", which for some time was the subtitle of the Solidarity paper. His pseudonym (an earlier one was Martin Grainger) didn't help much, since the British press discovered his true identity relatively quickly in both cases; but his boss, Sir Christopher Booth, succesfully defended his right to political independence. He was also an admirable all-round man, not just competent in revolutionary politics and medicine, but also fluent in English, French, German and Greek, a very popular teacher, and one who had been on most continents of the world.

Brinton has been influenced in his work much by Wilhelm Reich as well as Cornelius Castoriadis, some of whose works he translated or helped translate into popular English editions, and as a result much of the articles he has written follow their own political trajectory. His relation to Marxism seems to go up and down - while he is always opposed to Leninism and any other form of authoritarian tendencies in Marxism, he seems to be undecided on whether to reject the whole or not. When Castoriadis did, he seems also to have done this for a while, but later to return to it. However, because the writings are not wholly ordered chronologically, it is hard to keep track of this, annoyingly enough.

Much of course can be said against left-wing communism in general and their practice, and Brinton suffers from these problems as much as anyone else in that tradition. There is the strict sectarianism, easily as bad as any Leninist group, there is the rejection of any kind of socialist endeavour that does not adhere to the very high demands of Solidarity, there is the refusal to understand how state capitalism could be an advance over 'regular' capitalism still, even if it is not socialism per se, and so on. Brinton has a sort of Luxemburgist attitude to the workers' movement(s), that is, that they will achieve their goals on their own and not need any leadership or imposition of ideas from outside, but at the same time he spends a lot of time vigorously polemicizing against the Leninist mass parties - not at any time engaging the question of how he can reconcile their apparent popularity, at least in 'higher' politics, with his idea that they are opposed to the workers' real struggle.

That said though, there is much to learn and much useful in Brinton's works. From Reich as well as his medical background, he takes up the important struggle against sexual puritanism and moralism, both within and without the socialist movement. At times the Freudianism goes overboard, but later on he seems to have realized this, and in any case his analysis and criticism of moralistic attitudes among workers and Communist leaders is excellent. In general, Brinton's strong emphasis on the need to combat authoritarianism and hierarchy not just in the production process, but everywhere, and his strong and forceful analyses of the various ways that bourgeois and authoritarian ideology is disseminated precisely outside the traditional loci of workers' struggles is highly useful and interesting. He correctly criticizes the Leninists (at least the leaders of the various parties) for their wholesale adoption, until very recently, of bourgeois moralisms and bourgeois cultural ideas, and at the same time equally correctly criticizes the anarchists for their refusal to engage in thorough analysis of society, and their simplistic views of the state and of power. I don't agree with Brinton's wholesale rejection of everything Leninist-style socialism has done, but I think his strongly worded critiques are an important antidote to the tendency to elevate the "production now, socialism later" approach to communism to a higher level of desirability than it deserves.

In my personal opinion, much of this comes from the enormous harm and confusion caused by Stalin's decision to make the state capitalism of the USSR, intended to enhance the productivity and living standards to a degree that would make actual socialist movement possible, equivalent with socialism itself. Since then, a lot of fighting has been done between the authoritarian, productivist forms of Marxism that see the basic Leninist economic approach as what socialism is or should be, and on the other hand the more 'libertarian' critics that dismiss all of that because it didn't lead to greater worker power over industry. Much could be gained if the socialist movement could reject this silly dichotomy, and instead realize that socialism is the movement for human freedom in societies that have developed that people can liberate themselves from the domination of the machine and the fetishism of the commodity, but that at the same time state capitalism, led or inspired by political socialists, is the requirement for underdeveloped countries to reach this prerequisite in the first place: so not to confuse the movement with the creation of the conditions for its success. Brinton's works are an important part of the left weight on these scales.
The Irrational in (Orthodox) Marxism  Feb 18, 2007
This is an excellent book that does a quite good job at bringing together some very interesting and important writing to come out of libertarian socialist currents in the UK during the 1960s and 70s. Brinton's writing is fascinating in that not only did it include a strong focus on the autonomous capacities for self-organization and struggle by the working class (in much same vein as other figures such as CLR James and the Italian autonomists who also write from a heterodox tradition of radical thought that both employs Marxist categories and is critical of them), but also connects with concerns around sexuality, culture, and other areas of life that until that point were generally considered "superstructural" in Marxist thought. The writing and organizing of Solidarity, which Brinton was a part of, served as an important connection between various currents of radical political thought (for instance introducing the ideas of Cornelius Castoriadis from Socialism ou Barbarie into the UK). This collection serves as a great way to get an overview of this current of thought and collects together some well thought arguments about the liberation of labor that avoid falling into the narrowly workerist framework that unfortunately often characterizes Marxist thought.
Workers of the World Unite  Nov 22, 2006
I received this book as part of the Friends of AK Press membership (something anyone into these kinds of books should look into), and it was well worth it. Brinton's main strength as a writer is his keen sense of observation, his clarity and his willingness to destroy the party line. He's not afraid to call things as he sees them, which I'm sure bothers Communists and Socialists to no end.

One of the most compelling parts of the book his reports on Paris, 1968. It's almost like you are there with him as the crowds take to the streets. It's well worth buying just for that alone, because even if you know the history behind that May event, you've never read it like this.

Political junkies, anarchists, Socialists and Communists need to buy this and then ready themselves to get educated.
Maurce Brinton: Oxymoron  Oct 22, 2005
This book commerates the political achievements and ideas of the late Indian-born British neurologist Christopher Agamemnon Pallis, who lived from December 1923 to March 2005 and wrote anarcho-socialist tracts under the pseudonym of Maurice Brinton in support of the British Solidarity Group. Gathered between the covers of this volume are 43 of Brinton's essays.

All socialists are not alike and Brinton was not only different, but a contrarian. He graduated from Oxford University and eventually became a medical doctor. In the 1960s, he began to inquire deeply about the failures of Marxism in Communist countries such as the Soviet Union. News of mass slaughters conducted by Communist states stunned Marxists in Western countries. Much of Brinton's work critically examined the state of European socialism and questioned classical Marxist theories. Subsequently, he discovered the work of French theorist Cornelius Castorides (also known as Paul Cardan) and his humanistic "rejection of Marxism as a whole". This was socialist theory without the hard edge of economic and historical analysis.

This is a book written for anarcho-socialists and other Marxists; it is not written for libertarians. Libertarianism means free minds and free markets; to Brinton and his Solidarity Group it meant anarcho-socialism. Goodway wrote in his introduction that Brinton was only comfortable with the label of "libertarian socialist". Yet Brinton himself cautioned that "in politics one should not accept people at their own self-assessment, but seek objectively to evaluate their ideas and actions".

To libertarians, a "libertarian socialist" is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. This is not to say that "libertarian" libertarians cannot be found in the United Kingdom. The Libertarian Alliance, including Dr Nigel Ashford of Staffordshire University and Dr Stephen Davies of Manchester Metropolitan University, was active when I was teaching in England from 1995 to 2000. And it is interesting to note that Brinton and Goodway are unknown in libertarian circles there.

Although Brinton considered "Marxism inadequate, not only as a system of ideas capable of leading to libertarian revolutionary action, but also as a method", he believed in a Marxist-inspired view of class struggle. He remained faithfully wedded to the Marxist notion that the "path to freedom lies through the socialist revolution" achieved "from those who, like him, seek radically to transform society" and recognized that he would be "labelled 'anarcho-Marxist' by those who like ready-made tabs for their ideological wares.

In short, a valuable historical chronicle of British socialism during the '60s, '70s and '80s written by a critical participant with a keen eye for observation.
Clear-headed about worker's liberation  Jan 26, 2005
This book brings together various political statements Brinton
wrote for the London libertarian socialist group Solidarity with
his main booklets. The most important and influential of Brinton's writings is his booklet "The Bolsheviks and Workers
Control" which is reprinted here. This booklet differs from the
other material in the anthology in being a very concrete,
well-researched historical work. It's worth the price of the book in itself. It explodes the myth of the Bolshevik Party building "proletarian power" in the Russian revolution. Brinton is clear that workers cannot be free as long as they are subjugated in production. Workers cannot have power in society without having complete management power over production, Brinton argues.
However, Brinton's analysis of what emerged from the Russian
revolution is a bit weak. The class that gained power Brinton
calls "the bureaucracy." But there are "bureaucracies" in all
kinds of organizations, but a class has a particular role in
social production. Despite the limitations of Brinton's
analysis (the reason for the four stars), an
advantage of all of Brinton's writing is
his clear and direct prose style which makes this an easy book
to read.

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