Posts Tagged ‘David Miller’

The Success of Workers’ Industrial Management in the Spanish Civil War

December 27, 2018

I found this passage about how the anarchist workers in Catalonia were able to manage their firms and industries successfully during the Spanish Civil War in David Miller’s Anarchism (London: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1984).

The problems of collectivization in the cities were in many respects greater than those encountered in the countryside. Collectivization followed one of two paths, depending on whether the previous owner of the factory or workshop in question stayed put or fled. If he stayed, the C.N.T. encouraged him to continue with his management functions, while installing a ‘control committee’ of its own members to supervise the general running of the enterprise. If he left, the union quickly developed its own management structure, promoting technicians and skilled workers in positions of responsibility. These measures appear to have struck a sensible balance between industrial democracy and the requirements of efficient production, and eye-witness accounts (such as Borkenau’s) testify to their success. After visiting the workshops of the Barcelona b8us company, he wrote that, ‘It is an extraordinary achievement for a group of workers to take over a factory, under however favourable conditions, and within a few days to make it run with complete regularity. It bears brilliant witness to the general standard of efficiency of the Catalan worker and to the organizing capacities of the Barcelona trade unions. For one must not forget that this firm has lost its whole managing staff. In addition, whole branches of industry were reorganized. Contrary to what one might have expected, this took the form of combining small workshops and businesses into larger establishments. For instance in Barcelona the number of plants in the tanning industry was reduced from seventy-one to forty, and in glass-making from one hundred to thirty; over nine hundred barber’s shops and beauty parlours were consolidated into some two hundred large shops.

Barcelona was the main scene of urban collectivization, though a number of other cities (such as Alcoy) also witnessed developments of a similar kind. In the Catalonian capital it embraced all forms of transport, the major utilities, the telephone service, the textile and metal industries, much of the food industry, and many thousands of smaller enterprises. Orwell has left us a memorable picture of life in a city ;where the working class was in the saddle’. As a demonstration of the creative capacities of that class, it is surely impressive. (pp. 164-5).

However, Miller goes on to say that it was less successful as a vindication of anarcho-communist theory, because of the problems of coordinating the various stages of the process of production and the collapse of the banking industry, with the result many firms were unable to obtain the raw materials they needed and had to work part time. The other problem was the difference in wealth between the workers taking over the factories and workshops. Some were comparatively well off, while others were in serious debt, and this disparity continued after collectivization.

The Russian experiment in workers’ control after the October Revolution collapsed because the workers’ didn’t have the skills and education to manage industry. It was also crushed by the rapidly increasing grip and monolithic control of the Bolshevik party and bureaucracy, so that the Left Communists, who still advocated it, were crushed for supporting ‘anarcho-syndicalist deviation’. However, the Yugoslavian communist made workers’ control part of their ‘self-management’ system. In Argentina after the last recession earlier in this century, many of the failing firms were handed over to the workers to run by their management, and they were largely successful in turning the fortunes of these companies around as Naomi Wolf observed in one of her videos. They’ve since been handed back to their former management after the economy recovered. However, the Mondragon cooperatives founded in the Basque region of Spain are a continuing success.

As the defenders of capital and the rights of owners and management, the Tories will do everything to discredit organized labour. One of their favourite weapons against the trade unions has been making sure that the public remembers the 1970s as a period of strikes and industrial disruption, and constantly playing up the ‘Winter of Discontent’ in 1979. The results of this has been that worker’s rights have been continually eroded as the power of the unions has been curtailed. Millions of people are now trapped in insecure jobs in the gig economy, with no set hours of work or rights to sick pay, holidays, maternity leave and so on. This should be ended now.

I’m not advocating anything as radical as the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of an anarchist utopia. But the example of the Catalan experiment in workers’ control shows that worker managers can conduct industry responsibly, efficiently and with proper care for their workers. There should thus be absolutely no objection to putting employees on the boards of the companies they work for.

Advertisements

Lobster on a Report into BICOM, and Bias at the Beeb

September 27, 2016

BICOM

Lobster 66 also carried news of the publication of a report into one of the most important parts of the Israel lobby, BICOM in Robin Ramsay’s ‘View from the Bridge Column’. He wrote

The Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre: Giving peace a chance? by Tom Mills, David Miller, Tom Griffin and Hilary Aked is a study of BICOM, its creation and influence in British politics. Among its chapters are ‘The second intifada and the establishment of BICOM’, ‘BICOM and British Zionism’, ‘BICOM strategy, elite networks and the media’ and ‘The Fox-Werritty scandal and the decline of democracy’. If you are only going to read one chapter, make it chapter five, ‘BICOM strategy, elite networks and the media’, which describes in great detail BICOM’s (largely successful) campaigns to get the British media to follow a pro-Israel line. This 96 page report can be downloaded as a PDF file.

Ramsay notes that the report is available online at: http://www.dropbox.com/s/rgb5yn4vjt2q74r/Giving%20Peace%20a%20Chance%3F-Spinwatch-2013.pdf

Aunty’s In a Bind

Further on in the column, Ramsay discusses two reports into political bias at the Beeb. One of them, The Today Programme and the Banking Crisis, concluded that the coverage given to economic issues by Radio 4’s current affairs programme, Today, was dominated by spokesmen from the City, and they were the only commenters, whose views were taken seriously. Ramsay notes that a copy of the study itself cost $25 (sic – perhaps he means pounds). However, Nick Shaxson had put a detailed summary of it, ‘Is the BBC Afraid of the City of London’, on his blog at

Ramsay also reports that a study of the BBC’s bias in reporting the privatisation of the NHS had also been published. This stated

In the two years building up to the government’s NHS reform bill, the BBC appears to have categorically failed to uphold its remit of impartiality, parroting government spin as uncontested fact, whilst reporting only a narrow,
shallow view of opposition to the bill. In addition, key news appears to have been censored.

This study was at http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/oliver-huitson/how-bbcbetrayed-
nhs-exclusive-report-on-two-years-of-censorship-anddistorti.

The BBC’s refusal to cover or criticise the government’s privatisation of the NHS is one of the issues Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis criticise in their back, NHS-SOS, which discusses how a whole series of British institutions, which claim to provide a check on government, like the press, and the medical profession itself, failed to protect it and instead were cowed by government pressure.