Proletariat"The proletariat is that class in society which lives entirely from the sale of its labour power and does not draw profit from any kind of capital; whose weal and woe, whose life and death,whose sole existence depends on the demand for labour...How did the proletariat originate? "The Proletariat originated in the industrial revolution... [which was] precipitated by the discovery ofthe steam engine, various spinning machines, the mechanical loom, and awhole series of other mechanical devices. These machines, which were veryexpensive and hence could be bought only by big capitalists, altered thewhole mode of production and displaced the former workers, because themachines turned out cheaper and better commodities than the workers couldproduce with their inefficient spinning wheels and handlooms. The machinesdelivered industry wholly into the hands of the big capitalists and renderedentirely worthless the meagre property of the workers (tools, looms, etc.).The result was that the capitalists soon had everything in their handsand nothing remained to the workers...."labour was more and more divided among the individual workers sothat the worker who previously had done a complete piece of work now didonly a part of that piece. This division of labour made it possible to producethings faster and cheaper. It reduced the activity of the individual workerto simple, endlessly repeated mechanical motions which could be performednot only as well but much better by a machine. In this way, all these industriesfell, one after another, under the dominance of steam, machinery, and thefactory system, just as spinning and weaving had already done.Fredrick EngelsPrinciples of CommunismIn proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class, developed — a class of labourers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases capital. These labourers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce. Karl MarxCommunist Manfesto: Bourgeois and Proletarians The following features of Marx’s definition of the proletariat should be noted: (1) proletariat is synonymous with “modern working class”, (2) proletarians have no means of support other than selling their labour power, (3) their position makes them dependent upon capital, (4) it is the expansion of capital, as opposed to servicing the personal or administrative needs of capitalists, which is the defining role of the proletariat, (4) proletarians sell themselves as opposed to selling products like the petty-bourgeoisie and capitalists, (5) they sell themselves “piecemeal” as opposed to slaves who may be sold as a whole and become the property of someone else, (6) although the term “labourers” carries the connotation of manual labour, elsewhere Marx makes it clear that the labourer with the head is as much a proletarian as the labourer with the hand, and finally (7) the proletariat is a class.The proletariat is not a sociological category of people in such-and-such income group and such-and-such occupations, etc., but rather a real, historically developed entity, with its own self-consciousness and means of collective action. The relation between an individual proletarian and the class is not that of non-dialectical sociology, in which an individual with this or that attribute is or is not a member of the class. Rather, individuals are connected to a class by a million threads through which they participate in the general social division of labour and the struggle over the distribution of surplus value.One issue that needs to be considered in relation to the definition of Proletariat is Wage Labour. Wage labour is the archtypal form in which the proletariat engages in the labour process, that is, by the sale of a worker's labour-power according to labour-time. Firstly, Marx treats piece-work, in which the worker is paid by output rather than by time, as a form of wage-labour, not essentially different from wage-labour. Secondly, nowadays it is increasingly common that workers are obliged to sell their product as such, by means of contract labour, for example. This raises the question of what is essential in the concept of proletariat. Contract labour does undermine working-class consciousness, but at the same time, the person who lives in a capitalist society, and has no means of support but to work, is a proletarian, even if they are unable to find employment(where workers may become lumpenproletariat if their living conditions are very difficult).The other important issue in relation to the proletariat is its historical path. As Marx explains in Capital, [Chapter 32], capitalism brings about the “revolt of the working-class, a class always increasing in numbers, and disciplined, united, organised by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself”. The proletariat neither requires nor is able to exploit any other class; they are themselves the producers and capitalism has trained the proletariat in all the skills needed to rationally organise social labour for the benefit of humanity, without the aid of money, religion or any other form of inhuman mysticism.Thus, the future historical significance of the proletariat is ultimately not that it is oppressed, but rather that it is the only class which is capable of overthrowing bourgeois society and establishing a classless society. Proletarian Democracy (Socialist Democracy)Socialist democracy is not something which begins only in the promised land after the foundations of socialist economy are created; it does not come as some sort of Christmas present for the worthy people who, in the interim, have loyally supported a handful of socialist dictators. Socialist democracy begins simultaneously with the beginnings of the destruction of class rule and of the construction of socialism. It begins at the very moment of the seizure of power by the socialist party. It is the same thing as the dictatorship of the proletariat. Yes, dictatorship! But this dictatorship consists in the manner of applying democracy, not in its elimination, but in energetic, resolute attacks upon the well-entrenched rights and economic relationships of bourgeois society, without which a socialist transformation cannot be accomplished. But this dictatorship must be the work of the class and not of a little leading minority in the name of the class -- that is, it must proceed step by step out of the active participation of the masses; it must be under their direct influence, subjected to the control of complete public activity; it must arise out of the growing political training of the mass of the people.Rosa LuxemburgThe Russian Revolution: Democracy or Dictatorship? The first thing to do to win genuine equality and enable the working people to enjoy democracy in practice is to deprive the exploiters of all the public and sumptuous private buildings, to give to the working people leisure and to see to it that their freedom of assembly is protected by armed workers, not by heirs of the nobility or capitalist officers in command of downtrodden soldiers.Genuine freedom and equality will be embodied in the system which the Communists are building, and in which there will be no opportunity for massing wealth at the expense of others, no objective opportunities for putting the press under the direct or indirect power of money, and no impediments in the way of any workingman (or groups of workingman, in any numbers) for enjoying and practicing equal rights in the use of public printing presses and public stocks of paper.Genuine democracy, i.e., Liberty and equality, is unrealizable unless this aim is achieved. But it's practical achievement is possible only through Soviet, or proletarian, democracy, for by enlisting the mass organizations of the working people in constant and unfailing participation in the administration of the state, it immediately begins to prepare the complete withering away of any state. V.I. LeninFirst Congress of the Communist InternationalThe Proletariat and OrganisationThe organizations created by the working class for its liberation have become cogs in the system of exploitation. This is the brutal conclusion forced upon anyone who is prepared to face up to reality. One consequence is that today many are perplexed by an apparent dilemma. Can one become involved without organisation? And if one cannot, how can one organize without following the path that has made traditional organizations the fiercest enemies of the aims they originally set out to achieve? Some believe the question can be approached in a purely negative way."Experience shows,'' they say, "that all working-class organizations have degenerated; therefore, any organization is bound to degenerate.'' This is basing too much on experience-or too little. Up to now all revolutions either have been crushed or have degenerated. Are we to deduce from this that all revolutionary struggle should be abandoned? The defeat of revolutions and the degeneration of organizations are different expressions of the same phenomenon, namely, that established society is, at least provisionally, emerging victorious from its struggles with the proletariat. If one concluded that things will always be like this, one ought to be logical and give up the fight. Concern with the problem of organization has meaning only for people convinced that they can and must struggle together (hence, by organizing) and who do not, from the very beginning, assume their own defeat is inevitable.For such people the questions posed by the degeneration of working-class organisations have a real, positive meaning and demand real answers.Why have these organizations degenerated? What does this degeneration mean? What has been the role of these organizations in the temporary setback of the labor movement? Why has the proletariat supported them? And, perhaps more significantly, why has it not moved beyond them? What are the conclusions from all this for future organization and action? There is no simple answer to these questions, for they concern every aspect and task of the labor movement today. Nor is there a purely theoretical answer. The problem of revolutionary organization will only be resolved as such an organization is actually built. This in turn will depend on the development of working-class action. Nevertheless, the beginnings of a solution should be attempted right now. Revolutionaries cannot totally abstain from action and wait for working-class struggles to develop. The development of such struggles will not solve the problem of how revolutionaries should organize: They will merely bring it up at a higher level. And in the development of these struggles, organization has a role to play. No real organization will be built without the development of struggles, and there will be no lasting development of these struggles without organization building. If you do not accept this postulate, if you think that what you do or do not do is of no importance, if you are acting purely so as to be at peace with your own conscience, there is no need to read further. The beginnings of a solution cannot be empirical or just a set of negative prescriptions. A revolutionary group can only adopt positive rules for its action and work, and these rules must spring from its principles. However insignificant the organization, its work, its activity, and its way of going about its daily business must be the visible and verifiable embodiment of the aims it advocates. Responding to the problem of building a revolutionary organization demands, therefore, that we start from the whole experience of the revolutionary movement and from an analysis of the conditions in which the movement finds itself in the second half of the twentieth century. In order to do this we must make what may seem like a detour, return to first principles and reconsider revolutionary objectives and the history of the labour movement. 1. Socialism: Management of Society by the WorkersOne fact, because of its direct and indirect consequences, has dominated human history in the twentieth century: The working class carried through a revolution in Russia in 1917. Far from leading to socialism, however, the revolution finally resulted in the coming to power of a new exploiting class: the bureaucracy. Why, and how did this happen? In 1917 the Russian proletariat mobilized itself to destroy the power of the czar and of the capitalists and to put an end to exploitation. It took up arms and organized itself in factory committees and soviets to conduct this struggle. But when, after a long civil war, the remnants of the old regime had been cleared away, economic and political power were once more found to be concentrated in be hands of a new group of leaders, centered around the Bolshevik party. The proletariat did not take over the management of the new society-which is another way of saying that the working class did not itself become the ruling class. From that moment on, it could only once again resume its position as an exploited class. The degeneration of the Russian revolution was nothing other than the return to a position of supremacy of a specific and restricted social stratum. The various factors that led to this degeneration all have, when it comes down to it, the same underlying significance. The proletariat did not take on the direction of the revolution and of the society that emerged from it. From the very beginning, it was the Bolshevik party that strove to wield complete power over the country and very quickly it succeeded in doing so. The Party constituted itself based on the idea that it provided a natural leadership for the proletariat and was the expression of its historical interests. But the ideas and attitudes of the Bolshevik party could never have prevailed had not the working class itself, in its great majority, shared them and had it not tended to see the party as a necessary organ of its power. And so the organs that ought to have expressed the political supremacy of the toiling masses, the soviets, were rapidly transformed into appendages of Bolshevik power. And yet, even if this development had not occurred in the political sphere, nothing fundamental would have changed, for the revolution did not bring about any profound change in the real relations of production.With the private owners expropriated or exiled, the Bolshevik state entrusted the running of enterprises to managers nominated by itself, and it fought the few attempts made by workers to seize control of the management of production. But those who are masters of production are, in the last analysis, masters of policy and society. A new group of industrial and economic leaders rapidly developed, which, fusing with the leadership of the Party and of the State, constituted a new ruling class The basic lesson of the experience of the Russian revolution is therefore that it is not enough for the proletariat to destroy the governmental and economic domination of the bourgeoisie. It can only achieve the objective of its revolution if it builds up its own power in every sphere.If the direction of production, of the economy, and of the "state'' again becomes the function of a particular category of individuals inevitably the exploitation and oppression of workers will return. With these, the permanent crisis that divides contemporary society will arise again, for it owes its origin to the conflict at the point of production between directors and executants. Socialism is not and cannot be anything other than the management of production, the economy, and society by the workers. This idea has from the very beginning constituted the central thesis of Socialisme ou Barbarie. The Hungarian revolution has since provided a striking confirmation of it. The Autonomy of the ProletariatThe idea of workers' management of production and society implies that power in postrevolutionary society will be solely and directly in the hands of the workers' mass organs (the councils). There can be no question of special organs of any sort -for example, political parties-taking on the functions of governance and the exercise of power. But this idea is not a simple "constitutional'' proposition. It necessitates a reconsideration of all the theoretical and practical problems facing the revolutionary movement. It would indeed be nonsense to talk of workers' management if workers were incapable of it and thereby incapable of generating new principles for the organization and orientation of social life. Revolution and, even more, the construction of a socialist society presuppose that the organized mass of workers have become capable of managing the whole of society's activities without intermediaries-and therefore that they have become capable of directing themselves in all respects and in a permanent fashion. Socialist revolution can only be the out- come of Autonomous activity on the part of the proletariat, "autonomous'' signifies "self-directing" and "responsible only to itself". This question must not be confused with the question of the technical capac- it of the proletariat to manage production,'' The proletariat consists of all exploited wage earners and salaried employees. It is the collective producer. Techical knowledge has long ceased to be the monopoly of a few individuals. Today it is diffused among a mass of office and lab workers who are daily submitted to a greater and greater division of labor and who receive salaries only slightly higher than those of manual workers. Technician-bosses are just as superfluous as foremen in production. They are not great irreplaceable engineers but bureaucrats who direct and "organize'' (i.e., disorganize) the work of the mass of salaried technicians. Together the exploited workers in factories and offices possess in themselves all the technical skills known to humanity today. For the proletariat in power, the question of the "technical'' orientation of production will therefore not be a technical question at all, but rather a political question of the unity of workers on the shop floor and in offices, of cooperation between them, and of collective management of production. And, in the same way, the proletariat will be faced with political questions in every sphere,including the problems of its own organization, of the proper balance between centralization and decentralization, of the general orientation of production and society, of relations with other social groups (the peasantry, the petty bourgeoisie), of international relations, etc. Socialism, therefore, presupposes a high degree of social and political consciousness among the proletariat. It cannot arise out of a mere revolt against exploitation but only from the capacity of the proletariat to extract from itself positive answers to the immense problems involved in the reconstruction of modern society. No one -no individual, group, or party-can be delegated this consciousness "on behalf of'' the proletarian class or in its stead. It is not only that a substitution of this sort would inevitably lead to the formation of a new group of rulers and would rapidly return society to "all the old rubbish.'' It is because it is impossible for a particular group to take on such tasks, since these tasks are on a scale that humanity and humanity alone is capable of dealing with. Within a system of exploitation, such problems can be solved by a minority of leaders (or rather they could in the past be solved that way). The crisis of modern regimes shows that the direction of society is a task that is henceforth beyond the capacity of any particular category. This is infinitely more true for the problems that the socialist reconstruction of society will pose and that cannot be solved or even be correctly posed without the deployment of the creative activity of the immense majority of individuals. For the real meaning of this reconstruction is, strictly speaking that everything must be re-examined and refashioned: machines factories, articles of consumption, houses, educational systems, political institutions, museums, ideas, and science itself -according to the needs of the workers and according to their view of things. Only they can be the judges of what these needs are and of the means of satisfying them. For even if on a particular point the experts have a "better'' idea, such an idea will be worthless so long as those it should interest do not see the correctness or necessity of it. Any attempt to impose upon people solutions to the problems of their own lives, solutions they do not themselves approve of, automatically and immediately makes these solutions monstrously false ones.The Development of the Proletariat toward SocialismIs socialism, conceived in this way, a historically reasonable prospect?Is it a possibility that exists within modern society? Or is it just a dream? Is the proletariat just something to be exploited, a modern class of industrial slaves that periodically breaks out in fruitless revolts? Or do the conditions of its existence and struggle against capitalism lead it to develop a consciousness-i.e., an attitude, a mentality, ideas and ways of acting- whose content tends toward socialism? The answers to these questions are to be found in the analysis of the real history of the proletariat, its life in production, its political movements, and its activity during periods of revolution. And this analysis in turn leads to the overthrow of traditional ideas about socialism, labour demands, and forms of organization. First, the proletariat's struggle against capitalism is neither solely one of "making demands'' nor solely "political''; it begins at the point of production. It does not simply concern the redistribution of the social product or, at the other end of the scale, the general organization of society. From the outset, it opposes the fundamental reality of capitalism, the relations of production within the enterprise. The so-called rationalization of capitalist production is nothing but a web of contradictions. It consists in organizing work without the involvement of the workers, abolishing their human role-which is inherently absurd even from the point of view of productive efficiency. It aims untiringly at in- creasing their exploitation - which-forces them to oppose-it nonstop. Far from being concerned only with wages, the workers' struggle against this method of organization dominates every aspect and every moment of the life of the firm. First of all, the conflict between workers and management over wages cannot but have an immediate impact on every aspect- of the Organization of work.In the next place, the workers, whatever their wage level, are led inevitably to oppose methods of production that lead to their daily ever more intolerable dehumanization. This struggle does not and cannot remain purely negative, its aim is not simply to limit exploitation. Production must take place whatever happens, and the workers, at the same time as they are struggling against the norms and the coercive bureaucratic apparatus, maintain a work discipline and instaurate a system of cooperation opposed in spirit as well as it practice to the rules of organization of the factory. They thus take over certain aspects of the management of production at the same time as they establish it what they do new principles for the ordering of human relations in production they oppose the capitalist morality of maximum individual gain and tend to replace it with a new morality of solidarity and equality. This struggle is not accidental, nor is it connected with a particular form of organization of capitalist production. Every time capitalism makes major changes in the techniques and methods of production in order to ward off this struggle, it rises up again. The workers' tendencies toward self-management that this struggle brings out is universal both in range and depth. It exists in Russia as well as in the United States and in England as well as in France. Although the proletariat's struggle inside production remains "hiddenn'' for it allows neither formal organization nor a formulated program nor overt action, its' content can be found in the activity of the masses each time a revolutionary crisis shakes capitalist society. In every factory in the world workers fight nonstop against work norms; the abolition of norms was one of the most important demands of the Hungarian workers' councils in 1956. Like the commune and the soviets, workers' councils were constituted on the principle that the elected delegates were liable to recall. Shop stewards in English factories are always liable to recall by the workers who elected theme and they must give these workers regular accounts of their activities. The socialist conception of society, born in the obscurity of the day-to-day lives of producers, bursts into broad daylight during the working-class revolutions that have marked the history of capitalism. Far from rising up simply against poverty and exploitation, in the course of these events the proletariat poses the problem of how to organize the whole of society in a new way and provides positive answers. The Commune of 1871, the soviets of 1905 and 1917, the factory committees in Russia in 1917-18, the factory councils in Germany in 1919-20, and the workers' councils in Hungary in 1956 were organizations formed to combat the ruling class and its state and at the same time new forms of human organization based on principles radically opposed to those of bourgeois society. These creations of the proletariat were a practical refutation of the ideas that have dominated man's political organization for centuries. They have shown the possibility of a centralized social organization that, instead of politically expropriating the population for the benefit of its "representatives'' on the contrary places these representatives under the permanent control of their electors and for the first time in modern history achieves democracy on the scale of society as a whole. In the same way, workers' management of production, sought by the Russian factory committees in 1917, was achieved by the Spanish workers in 1936-37 and proclaimed by the Hungarian workers' councils in 1956 as one of their basic objectives. But the development of the proletariat toward socialism shows itself not only in factory life or during revolutions. From the beginning of its history, the proletariat has struggled against capitalism in an explicit way, that is to say, by forming political organizations. The tendency of the working class or of broad strata of workers to organize themselves in order to struggle in an overt and permanent fashion is a theme running. through the whole of modern history. If this is not recognized, one is doomed to understand as little about the proletariat and socialism as if the commune or the councils were never known. For it shows that the proletariat has the need and at the same time the ability to argue the question of social organization as such not simply during a revolutionary explosion, but systematically and permanently; to go beyond the territory of its economic defence and to oppose bourgeois ideology with its own conception of society; to leave the confines of the workshop, the firm and even the nation and argue the question of power on an international scale. It is in fact entirely false to say that the working class has created only economic and occupational associations (trade unions). In certain countries, such as Germany, the workers began by building a political movement, and the trade unions emanated from this. In the majority of other cases, as in the Latin countries and even in England, the trade unions themselves originally were by no means purely trade unions; their proclaimed aim was the abolition of the wages system. It is just as false to claim that the workers' political organizations were the exclusive creation of intellectuals, as has been said, sometimes approvingly and sometimes disapprovingly. Even where intellectuals played a predominant role in their formations these organisations could never have acquired any sort of reality if workers had not belonged to them in great numbers, sustained them with their experience, their activity, and often their blood, and if a large majority of the working class had not seen their interests expressed in the programs of these organizations. The Contradictory Character of the Proletariat's DevelopmentThere is, therefore, an autonomous development of the proletariat toward socialism that originates in the workers' struggle against the capitalist organisation of production, finds expression in the formation of political organizations, and culminates in revolution. But this development is not the mechanical, automatic result of the objective conditions in which the proletariat lives, nor is it a biological evolution, an inevitable process of maturation that provides for its own development. It is a historical process and essentially a process-of struggle. Workers are not born socialists, nor are they miraculously transformed into such merely by entering into a factory. They become, or more exactly they make themselves socialists in the course of and out of their struggle against capitalism. Nevertheless, we must see exactly what this struggle is, where it is fought, and what the true enemy is. The proletariat is not only fighting capitalism as a force outside itself. If it were just a question of the physical power of the exploiters, their State and their army, exploitative society would have been abolished long ago, for it possesses no power of its' own beyond the work of those it exploits It survives only insofar as it succeeds in making them accept their position. It's most formidable weapons are not those it uses intentionally, but those it is automatically provided with by the objective condition of the exploited class by the way things are set up in present society, and by the way social relations are organized so as to perpetually recreate its own bases. The proletariat is not only systematically indoctrinated by the bourgeoisie and the bureaucracy. More generally, it is severely deprived of culture. It is robbed of its own past, since it can know only what the ruling classes decide to let it see of its history and its past struggles. It is robbed of awareness of itself as a universal class as a result of the local, occupational, and national factors of isolation engendered by the present social structure-and of its present condition, since all the information , media are under the control of the ruling classes. In spite of its position as an exploited class, the proletariat struggles against these factors and makes up for them. It develops a systematic distrust of bourgeois indoctrination and undertakes a critique of its contents. It tends to absorb the culture from which it is cut off in a thousand ways at the same time as it creates the beginnings of a new culture. From a book-learned point of view, it is unaware of its own past, but it finds before it its essential results in the form of the conditions for its present action. But by far the greatest obstacle in the way of the development of the proletariat is the perpetual rebirth of the spirit and reality of capitalism within the proletariat itself. The workers are not strangers to capitalism; they are born i