Date Added: 2008-04-01
Date Modified: 2008-12-01
Making the World Anew: Chapter 3
by Samuel R. Friedman, PhD
document 4 of 5
Making the World Anew
in a Period of Workers’ Council Rule
by Samuel R. Friedman, PhD
How, then, will it be possible to transcend the Law of Value?
We will share a number of positive resources with earlier generations of socialists and will also have additional advantages. In common with earlier movements, we will share the fact that workers and other people deeply desire to have their work be useful and, as well, to have it be “theirs” rather than the product of management decree. They will also, as a result of the revolutionary process, have understood that management control is destructive and that they, through collective action, have the power to organize and direct many activities.
Judging from the history of revolutionary movements during the last half century the revolutionary process itself will have led many groups of workers to take control of their own workplaces and to coordinate production and supply with other nearby workplaces. Compared to earlier revolutions, we will have the advantage that workers and other people have deeply internalized the fact that the “Russian road to socialism” did not work and did not remove alienation and exploitation nor resolve other problems. We will have the advantages of much more rapid communications, such as e-mail and other internet capabilities, which will let workplaces enter into contact with other workers around the globe in order to coordinate production and supply issues. This interaction will also likely increase the felt moral necessity of meeting the survival needs of people in poor countries. Finally, we are likely to be faced with the global need to confront the ecological crisis.
It is worth spending a moment on why social contact among workers in richer and poorer countries, and its resulting widespread moral pressure to alleviate global poverty and inequality, on the one hand, and the need to meet the ecological crisis, on the other, will facilitate transcending the Law of Value. This is because, by the time the revolution takes power, it will be evident to most workers that a system based on production for profit cannot resolve these issues; and, similarly, that the “command economies” of Russia, China and the like also failed to solve these problems. Thus, it will seem reasonable to try something else.
Why, though, would workers seek the solution through organizing production and distribution in terms of human need rather than through making human-need-oriented products to buy and sell? In part, this will develop out of its naturalness in a situation where the success of the revolution will have involved a degree of need-based exchanges and/or donations among workplaces and where financial systems will have collapsed. In part, though, it will depend upon the ideas and aspirations of the workers themselves. That is, it will be a question of their philosophy and their politics (in the broad sense). The prior circulation of ideas such as those in this paper are likely to be part of the process of mobilizing for revolution. These ideas, in turn, will be what workers turn to in their efforts to make sense of the confusing situation they will face.
Will it work? Not at once, and not smoothly. The underlying perspective of this paper is that there will be a host of problems and that they will lead to much experimentation, many errors, and many struggles. Beyond that, this paper assumes that workers’ democracy (in its many somewhat-contradictory incarnations in workplaces, neighborhoods, cities, regions, and globally) will provide the resources to seek for new solutions and the circumstances and contexts in which struggles can be fought out in relatively healthy ways.
But what might it look like? Let us return to “The day after the revolution.”
The Day After the Revolution: What Do We Do at Work?
What happens at work once it becomes clear that the revolution is won will flow from what went on there during the revolution. In France in 1968, as is well known, discussions about what work could become were very widespread in many localities and workplaces. The nature of these discussions, and the amount of time they involve, is likely to depend heavily on the kind of work that is done there. It should be understood, of course, that “work” also varies in the extent to which there are lots of people at a workplace as opposed to few. In many cases, both in the developed and poorer sections of the world, large proportions of workers work alone at “hustles” or in small shops. For workers in these situations, work-focused discussions might overlap with neighborhood discussions of a similar nature; or might consist of people working in similar jobs in a locality coming together to talk things over.
What might be the content of such discussions? Some of it will be over how to meet immediate circumstances. Much of it, however, might focus on issues of the job and of the place of the work that is done in meeting the needs of people. Thus, to some extent, the discussions might be held in small workgroups; but their concerns would also be part of discussions by larger bodies. Issues to discuss then might include:
1. What do we: a. like and b. hate about:
a. Our job and its products/
b. Our neighborhood (for neighborhood-based discussions). In slum situations, this may take the form of micro-producers and micro-hustlers simultaneously considering how to transform their working lives and their neighborhood interactions and services.
2. What good and what harm does our job (or neighborhood) do to:
a. The world or its subdivisions
b. Us and our co-workers
3. Who depends on its products?
a. What harms accrue to them due to additives?
b. If those who depend on us are not individuals but producers, which of them are useful? Harmful?
4. Who suffers from our job? Its products?
5. Given that “we” are now in control, how might we (both “we” in the job or neighborhood AND the larger “we’s” of the world working class that now runs things) start to make things less harmful and more helpful and healthful and enjoyable for all concerned? For those who work in the micro-production and micro-hustling environments of many slums, this will involve discussing how to incorporate their activities and politics into a world situation that is likely to be amenable to providing circumstances and resources through which they can escape destitution without having to go through the pains of low-wage proletarianization.
6. To what extent can we do this on our own? To what extent do we need to coordinate this with those who depend on our products and with those who provide supplies of various kinds? To what extent do we and they need to discuss and coordinate these plans with local and higher-level workers’ councils and neighborhood councils?
7. In holding these discussions, how can we learnt to speak (and mean) in terms of meeting human needs rather than in terms of earning money to keep going?
Some work involves production or distribution that is directly and immediately relevant to health and survival. This includes harvesting food, making sure that homes in cold regions receive heat, and hospital care. At workplaces such as this, the work needs to continue—but workplace discussions and meetings will also be needed in order to meet the crises that the revolution itself presents (and the empowered desires and needs of the workers themselves). The immediate business of such discussions and meetings will probably focus on how the workers can re-organize it to make it more pleasant and less dangerous for themselves and, also, to meet the needs of other people better. Questions of assuring that needed supplies can be maintained, and that products get delivered to where they are needed, will be immediate and urgent. Discussions will also undoubtedly include issues of what skills they need to learn to function in the new world, and how they can obtain these skills. They might also discuss how to re-organize the work process so as to make wide-ranging discussions and democratically inclusive decision-making more feasible.
Other workplaces will be equally important but less urgent. These might include some farms where the harvest is not yet due, equipment suppliers for hospitals and farms, the production and distribution of needed clothing, and parts of many other industries. Their issues will be the same, but less urgent.
Still other workplaces are socially useful ones, but are also places where a few months’ attention to discussing how to re-organize will not do any immediate harm. A classic case in point is most universities, where spending time discussing reorganization and, even more, discussing what kinds of education and research are needed for the new society, would clearly be very useful. In most circumstances, furthermore, neither postponing the immediate output of new graduates nor delaying research for a few months is likely to do any great harm to individuals or humanity. There will be exceptions, of course—but I fully trust that these can be determined and dealt with early in the process.
Still others provide essential services in the current system, but services that are likely to be organized in radically different ways under the new system. An example is offices in charge of sending out welfare checks to the poor. As any welfare recipient in the USA can tell you, this is not a good system of meeting needs, but it needs to continue until alternative ways of meeting these needs can be created. Here, in addition to continuing to function (in “business as usual”), the workers and the clients need to engage in discussions (along with many other people) to work out other ways of meeting needs. In many cases, this will be done by finding meaningful work for those currently excluded from the workforce.
A related occupation is the cutting of checks for payrolls. Here, too, moving away from a value-based-exchange system will mean changes. This is likely to take more time, but is crucial. The long-term goal is to let people take what they need and to have them do what work they can (and to have this work be fun and satisfying insofar as possible)—but it will take time to get there. In the meantime, it is likely that some (and a decreasing part over time) of workers’ consumption will be based on some form of pay and purchase system. However, in a world run by workers, we can expect a variety of experiments in how to re-shape pay scales and reward systems while the system as a whole moves ever more items and services into a free-for-the-taking system (like public libraries or parks are now—or, in many countries, medical care.)
A great many workplaces perform work that might be socially needed under capitalism but will not be needed under the new system. This includes many financial service occupations, the advertising industry, and (we hope) the arms industry (Baran and Sweezy ; Kidron & Gluckstein,). At these workplaces, the task will be to discover new uses for their talents and their organization. It is likely that many of them will have some personnel lured away to other fields while these discussions go on.
There has been some analogous work done by radical movements in recent years, including efforts by peace-oriented groups to find alternative products for local arms industries or efforts by shop stewards and community leaders to find alternative activities for firms threatened by closures. Unlike those endeavors, however, the efforts after the revolution will involve everybody in the industry taking part in group discussions and in consultation with local and global workers’ councils and other groups. Since these workplaces often include a mixture of highly skilled workers and, as a matter of course, many highly intelligent and creative workers in a range of skill levels, and since many human needs have gone unmet under capitalism, they are likely to find ways to be useful. One example might be planning, making equipment for, or engaging in efforts to clean the environment or to help eliminate starvation from the world. Where this is not true, then their staffs (like other unemployed people) will enter into the newly-developing mechanisms to help people find useful roles to play while also maintaining their health and morale.
Of course, there is likely to be considerable disagreement about which workplaces fall into which groups. Such disagreements are likely to include both disagreements among those who work at a given workplace over how useful it is and also disagreements among those in the local community and elsewhere. In general, I do not expect that these disagreements will be easy to resolve, but I think that the mechanisms and struggles discussed throughout this paper provide some guidelines to how they will work themselves out. For example, as discussed in the first section on “the day after the revolution,” we will face conflicts and inconsistencies when the plans made by workplace councils either assume the availability of resources that are needed more elsewhere or fail to provide resources that others are counting on. Such problems are both “economic” and “political.” They will lead to conflicts and mediations both at the workplaces and in higher-level councils. The resulting conflicts will provide some of the content to the dialectic among “universal, particular, and individual” that were discussed above.
Finally, there are the “excluded” members of the working class, such as the unemployed. They, too, will want to meet to discuss how they can contribute to the new society, how their needs can best be met, and how to organize to make sure that they have a full place in the new society.
I should add that the lack of work is not likely to be a problem. In terms of human needs, there is plenty of work to go around. Human time and effort are needed to repair the ecological mess, to find ways to reduce social and material inequalities and oppressions (including those of subordinated race, gender and religion), to tend to each others’ needs for social affirmation, and much else. Working out how to do all this, on the other hand, will not be easy, and is likely to involve some social dislocation and, as a result, considerable struggle. Such struggle, as I have argued, will be the driving form for deepening democracy and moving the revolution forward.
Moving Forward in Time
I could stop the paper here (other than sections on “Other crucial tasks and issues” and on “Final thoughts”), but I think it might be useful to try to think a little further ahead. I do this both because I think it sheds substantive light on the actual processes through which we can transcend the Law of Value and also because it demonstrates my methods of using Hegel’s Logic directly to help me in my speculating about how we can make the world anew. These thoughts developed from my reading his section on The Judgment (which is the second of the three sections in his section on the Subjective Notion). This section, then, consists of speculations about what might be the contradictions and processes that develop after the processes discussed in the earlier parts of this paper have been resolved.
Hegel discusses four forms of Judgment as successive forms that approach more closely to the overall thrust of the Notion (Findlay; Hegel) or, in other words, “successively more adequate ways of restoring the unity of the concept (Inwood).
In our terms, this represents a period of development in which the working class moves forward from struggling within itself about how to meet its immediate local needs towards creating a world in which these are more organically reconciled with the more general needs of humanity. The Qualitative Judgment, which is the first part of this process, takes the form of “the individual is a particular” (that is, the positing of the immediate needs of a local group of workers) but implicit in this is a negative judgment, that the particular issues raised do not get at the underlying difficulties faced by these workers. This suggests, as does much of history, that early efforts by workers soon after taking power will focus on pay, hours, increasing their safety and comfort at work, and equitable supervision as well as on maintaining supplies for their workplace and assuring the distribution of its products (probably, if all works out, with some attention to meeting human need insofar as they have come to understand it)—all of which leave the basic wage form.
Similarly, working class neighborhoods will seek improvements in their schools or clean-ups of the most threatening toxic waste dumps, but will not yet move to address the nature of education or the re-organizing of humanity’s relationship to nature. Nonetheless, these general issues will be discussed, both locally and in workers’ councils at various levels. Indeed, resolutions will undoubtedly be passed at both the local and the global level stating that these general issues are the concern of the entire working class and also of all of its local parts, and recommending that action be taken on them. However (and this is what Hegel refers to as the Identical and Infinite Judgments), it will not yet be possible to phrase them, much less operationalize them, as issues for immediate local action, because the working class and humanity will not yet have organized itself in ways adequate for these tasks.
The Judgment of Reflection sees an increasing “interconnection [of the local shopfloor and neighborhood] with an other thing—with an external world” (Hegel, 1975). Workers will experience themselves increasingly not just as their own local group, but also as part of a more universal working class. Thus, it suggests that the local workers will establish social relationships and communications with other localities (as well as with higher-level workers’ councils), so that processes of economic coordination occur through informal organization as well as through informally knowing the problems and capacities of other workplaces, industries, and neighborhoods.
Given the powers of the internet and, in all probability, its future extensions (such as improvements in translation and video capacities to enable speakers of different languages to talk with or write to one another), this will take the form of intercontinental friendships developing among workers employed in related production and distribution processes, and among workers whose neighborhoods face related problems. Even under capitalism, unusual circumstances let similar things happen. For example, in efforts to confront and deal with the AIDS epidemic, “front-line workers” such as the staff of syringe exchange programs or hospices get to know each other through list-serves and, to a lesser degree, at conferences.
Under capitalism, however, they lack the power to re-shape their own work tasks or relationships based on these experiences, much less those in the society as a whole. Nevertheless, their ideas and knowledge and commitments do become less constrained and their concerns become more global through these interactions. At its best, this may provide some preview of what will become possible once workers take power.
In time, then, these processes will break down many forms of parochial and localistic thought and help in the evolution of new conceptions of, and social relationships of, human (or at least, worker) universality and of social and economic production and needs (or “allness,” Hegel 1975). This will be reflected in workplace decision-making that will increasingly take into account the needs of other workplaces—and also will see ways in which these other workplaces can provide assistance. In the process, the relationship between the individual workplace or neighborhood and the global working class and production process as a whole will become more integrated. Informal coordination will begin to replace formal market relationships and contracts.
The Judgment of Necessity deals with the “identity of the content in its difference” (Hegel). Increasingly, over time, the re-organization of production will move our capacity to cooperate forwards. Workers (including scientists) around the world will develop an increasing understanding of how local environmental problems fit together, and of how local production processes might be re-shaped so as to mitigate the problems. Similarly, as market mechanisms and all their alienations become increasingly rare, and decision-making by political debate and, at a lower level, informal coordination among workplaces, industries, occupations, training and educational institutions, and localities become normal, workers will develop an increasing understanding of the “economy.” The term “economy” is in quotation marks because increasingly it will cease to be a separate compartment of human life. The decline of alienation and reification just discussed, and its associated incorporation of changes in production and distribution as matters either of conscious politics or informal coordination, represents the re-capture of “economy” by human sociality. If environmental problems and technological development allow it, this might well take the form of establishing regular and lengthy working visits wherein people from one workplace or neighborhood would form exchange programs in which they would live and work in a different but related workplace and neighborhood on another continent. Racial divisions and remaining inequalities will also be challenged by these social processes. My reading of what is implicit in Hegel’s phrase “identity of the content in its difference” is that it suggests that this will occur with full respect for each others’ cultures (with some struggle over this, to be sure), but that every culture will learn from the process and grow through it.
In Hegel’s terms, then, this judgment of necessity phase is a “self-surrender and self-alienation” in which “the universal is the genus which is self-identical in its mutually exclusive individualities.” This suggests to me that workplaces and localities will put forward their efforts (and surrender parochial interests) in ways that help others, and do so happily because they will have developed a social world that includes these others as part of their “neighborhood” or “imagined family.” Implicit in the fact that many issues will be decided through informal coordination among workplaces and neighborhoods that have established social relationships is the first whisper of the “withering away of the workers’ councils,” since it means that some economic coordination will become the action of the working class as a whole rather than the action of its political-economic organs.
The Judgment of the Notion is the final phase of the Judgment period. Here, the issue becomes the relationship of the class to the overall Notion (Hegel 1989/)—that is, at this stage, the overall unity of the working class with itself in daily practice, as expressed in growing informal relationships among workplaces and localities and as also expressed in the norms and values that are emerging, themselves become issues for public discussion and debate.
Undoubtedly, there will have been some such discussion throughout the preceding years, and in fact I expect that schools and research institutes (which will be very different in form and subject matter from those today) will have had whole departments that focus on these issues. At this stage, however, the growing unity of the working class, and the development of production, distribution, communication, and the like, will have progressed to the point where the discussion can become more concrete. It may well be that at this juncture there will emerge serious contradictions between the emerging norms, values and informal practices, on the one hand, and the practices, structures, and norms of the workers’ councils on the other. As such, the period of the Judgment of the Notion will point to the need for more and more overt discussion about the role and loci of decision-making. Hegel phrases this in terms of “the subject and predicate ... are each the whole Notion. The unity of the Notion as the determinateness that relates them, is at the same timedistinct from them. What this suggests is that the role of the workers’ councils will become a major issue for struggle and resolution.
Other Crucial Tasks and Issues
There are, of course, other crucial tasks and issues that will need to be resolved but that space and time do not allow me to take up in detail in this paper. They will be themes in future papers that I am planning. I invite others to work on these topics so I do not need to, and so that thinking about the world to come in terms of its contradictions and phases can become a part of the broader movement. These topics include:
a. Changes in the nature of “labor: Labor, of course, is a central category both in life and in the thinking of Adam Smith, Marx, Engels, Hegel, and even Durkheim and Parsons. Smith, Durkheim and Parsons correctly argue that an increasing division of labor has been a central part of the development of capitalist economy and society. Hegel, followed by Marx and Engels, analyzed the capitalist labor process itself, showing it to be a process of alienation and (for the Marxists) exploitation.
One of the crucial tasks of the working class and humanity in the new social situation will be to re-shape the socioeconomic processes and relationships of the division of labor so as to end alienation and exploitation. To a large extent, this is the question discussed above of reorganizing the production of physical and mental goods. However, there are other elements to it as well. As I see it, the capitalist division of labor has separated out four elements of time and life that pretty much everyone has some involvement in. These are “economic” production of goods and services; “family” production and maintenance of human beings to do the work of society (and maybe even to enjoy it); neighborhood socializing to provide a context for families and some kinds of work; and time for the individual to ponder, process feelings, and learn.
In capitalist guise, each of these exists in twisted forms, with the primary responsibility for “work” having been vested in men, and that for “family” and “neighborhood” in women. Of course, in recent decades, women have increasingly become part of the paid labor force, and more and more of family, neighborhood, and “self” work have been commodified through labor-saving products, fast-food and take-out restaurants, obedience-instilling educational systems, bureaucratized social work and community organizing, and professional individual and family psychological services.
After we take power, however, this will be challenged. Neighborhood councils will be formed in working class neighborhoods which include many areas now thought of as middle class suburbs, given the expanded definition of working class that I have argued will be operative during the struggle for power. These councils and their projects will require time to take care of their necessary tasks; since many of those who want to be involved in these will have jobs and perhaps responsibilities in workplace councils, arrangements will have to be made for all of this socially-necessary labor to get done.
Similarly, capitalism has forced workers to treat family time as of secondary importance; but many workers have always resented this. These workers will push within both workplace and neighborhood councils for changes that allow more time with families—almost certainly with some overlap between these efforts and those of women and men seeking changes in the oppression of women and other changes in the gender order. In addition, creative ways to merge family time, work time, and neighborhood time will undoubtedly be developed, particularly to the extent that other changes make each of these domains more pleasant.
Furthermore, the capitalist social order is one that deprives most working people of any time to themselves, if only because they are constantly struggling to meet the demands or needs of their employers, their families, or their neighborhoods (Schor). I suspect that people will recognize this and the damage it does, and start trying to find ways to rectify it.
Of course, in the short run there are many problems in trying to make all these changes. One of these is obvious—conflicts over the use of peoples’ time. Others may be less obvious, such as long-term changes in the architecture of residences and neighborhoods so that they can help contribute to the enjoyment of everybody and to the pleasant carrying out of family and neighborhood responsibilities while also allowing people to have time and space to themselves and allow for ecologically responsible commuting patterns.
In toto, these changes amount to a profound negation of the capitalist division of labor, and such a change needs to take place without disrupting the three key tasks listed above (healing the divisions of humanity, remaking production and distribution, and healing the world and local ecologies). Thus, these processes too will be part of the struggles that form the overall post-revolutionary dialectic. Similarly, as we make the world anew, new opportunities and new challenges will transform the way workers and subsistence and other small farmers in rural areas work and spend their lives.
b. The problem of leadership, bureaucratization, and “disciples” has been a key issue for Hegel (Nohl ), Lenin , Luxemburg, Weber, and Michels . I have previously discussed it in the context of labor struggles under capitalism (Friedman, 1982, 1985). Like all of the other issues discussed in this paper, the problem of leadership, decision-making, and possible creation of power structures that develop enough independence to become alien powers and perhaps even dictatorial structures is interconnected with the others. If the other tasks prove to be relatively soluble, such that visible progress is made in reducing inequalities, healing the ecology, and re-shaping economic processes in ways that avoid privation, then maintaining and deepening democracy should be relatively straightforward.
A working class that has taken power through its own democratic institutions is not easy to re-enslave. On the other hand, looking at these issues in less ultimatistic terms, the problem of leadership and bureaucracy is also the problem of how to organize decision-making structures.
c. Law, legality, and individual human rights: As the world now knows, revolutions made by, or in the name of, the working class can end up trampling human rights into the increasingly-polluted dust. Farber has analyzed this in some detail for the Russian Revolution. He recognizes that “objective conditions” played a part in this, including the small proportion of the population who were workers; the devastation, disorganization and dissolution of the working class that took place during the years of civil war that followed the revolution; the economic and political isolation Russia faced after the civil war; and the brutalization of individuals and of social relations implicit in (a) the Czarist authoritarianism that existed prior to World War I; (b) the War itself, where workers and peasants in uniform were subjected to harsh authority and where mass killings, starvation, and death due to disease were part of the war itself; (c) and the waging of the civil war. Farber correctly argues that although these conditions gave a powerful (and probably sufficient) impetus towards tyranny, the ambiguities of the politics of the Bolshevik Party weakened efforts to avoid it. In particular, Lenin and other Bolshevik leaders failed to understand that workers’ democracy is the soul of socialism. The result was the bureaucratization of decision-making discussed above, the abrogation of individual rights, and decades of fear and gulags. Though, again, these might have been unavoidable given the failure of the revolution to spread to economically more industrialized countries.
This paper is predicated on a belief that none of this is inevitable, nor even likely, in future revolutionary transformations of the sort discussed here. This is so for several reasons. First, the dialectic of capital has itself moved on. In Russia in 1913, 80% of the population earned their livelihood from agriculture, and only 10% from industry, mining and transportation; and the population was overwhelmingly rural and uneducated (Cliff). Today, illiteracy rates for large poor countries are: Brazil 15% illiterate, India 43%, Indonesia 13%, Nigeria 36%, China 16%; and their percents urban are Brazil 81%, India 28%, Indonesia 41%, Nigeria 44%, and China 36% (United Nations Development Programme 2002).
Second, the dialectic of history and struggle has moved on. Unlike the bourgeoisie, the working class learns how to make successful revolutions only through failed attempts (Marx, 1963). Workers and others throughout the world have learned from the 20th Century that democracy and human rights are key parts of any successful revolution. This is the (partial) corrective to the Bolshevik failure of political understanding on this issue that Farber pointed to—and this belief in the need for democracy and human rights is a serious force since it is held by billions of people.
That said, there are no guarantees. As we make the world anew, we will face many struggles. To some extent, these will be attempts by remnants of the once-capitalist class (now dispossessed of economic power) and/or their supporters to re-establish their power. These efforts are real threats, and can become rhetorical fodder to suppress other, working-class based, challenges to the policies of workers councils or to those who lead them. This, however, is not the focus of this paper, which looks at the struggles “among ourselves,” i.e., among the working class and others who are trying to create a just, ecologically sustainable, and fulfilling world. For, as we do this, we will often struggle with each other. In many cases, these struggles will be struggles for authority and for legitimacy among all levels of decision-making (such as between workplace and neighborhood councils on the one hand and national or global workers’ councils on the other) in how to resolve environmental or other life-threatening crises. Others will be conflicts between local morality and global perspectives on human rights—which could also be between local perspectives on human rights and an emergent global morality. Sometimes these struggles will require, or seem to require, violent or nonviolent direct action. In their totality, these struggles will be part of the necessary developmental process of making the world anew.
More generally, however, they point to the need for a legal system and adjudicating bodies of some sort. In a world of billions of people, when all economic, political, and ecological relationships need to be re-shaped, and are actually being re-shaped as a consequence of revolutionary transformation, the power to make decisions will be in the hands of many councils or other bodies. Given their roots in revolutionary democracy, most of these councils will be democratic, but with different and contested responsibilities, jurisdictions and social constituencies. Furthermore, the basis of membership in these councils is likely, at least at first, to be relatively informal; and thus, over time, to lead to disputes of their own. (Farber, ). Thus, conflicts will be frequent, and, in most cases, relatively easily resolved. Furthermore, millions of cases will arise where an individual will transgress the rules of one body while acting in accordance with the will and/or the permission of another. Again, in most cases, no one will seek mass action, protest, or severe punishment; but, again, we will need to create mechanisms to resolve such disputes.
Creating such a “legal system” will not be a simple matter of negating the old system, although the actual courts and laws of the current system may well have been mostly or entirely abolished either at the beginning of the revolution or in its early years. These courts and laws grew out of centuries of capitalist experience, and thus embody both centuries of earnest human endeavor and centuries of exploitation and injustice. Much of this needs simply to be done away with. As Hegel put it in discussing feudal law and institutions,
But ‘it would exceed its competence and its truth if this meant that it was necessary to justify for the present a law that had truth only in the past. On the contrary, the historical understanding of a law which had its ground in past customs and a now defunct life alone shows precisely that it lacks all meaning and all sense in the living present. (Hegel 1923, p. 408f, as quoted in Lukacs 1975)
Yet as Lukacs also says, “Hegel’s specific form of dialectics can now be seen in his approach to history. All of his comments on history at this period show that he has remained true to his conception of dialectics, to the idea that historical continuity is a union of continuity and discontinuity.”
In the case of legal systems, all the political systems on which they are based will have been swept away; the property rights of capital over workers and tenants will have been abolished, and relationships of production, distribution, and control will be being changed and fought over as they are re-made and as inter-workplace exchange relationships develop over time in new ways; and neighborhood councils will replace the authority of police and social workers with local action and support insofar as possible. Nonetheless, custom will remain strong, as will perhaps various expectations based on one or another form of case law.
This will set the stage for much initial change and contestation over the content and meaning of laws and the shape of adjudication and mediation systems. Custom may be particularly powerful, and struggles of this kind particularly intense, in those rural (or urban) areas in which populations were less involved in the struggles to overthrow capitalism. In these areas, members of previously-subordinated classes such as workers or peasants, and those in subordinated categories such as women and members of oppressed racial/ethnic groups, will not have had the opportunity to change themselves through the processes of the struggle to take power, and thus will lack both the organizational strength and the learning processes and self-confidence based on these struggles that both motivate and allow them to re-shape customs to fit their needs in the new society.
What will such mechanisms look like? This is hard to predict, and impossible to decree in advance. I strongly suspect, and think I advocate, experimentation, and of course, development and change as the world develops through time and struggle. Such experimentation will probably include systems of courts, and perhaps equivalents of Constitutional or Supreme Courts to make final binding decisions (subject to overturn by a higher-level Council, referendum, or other democratic process). It will include systems of negotiation among councils and individuals, and of mediation.
As time goes on and the world is re-shaped, it is likely to include more discussion and normative pressure, and less force. Some degree of demonstrations, strikes, and other direct action will also be involved in important cases of conflict and beliefs—perhaps particularly so when the system comes to major stage-changes in the dialectical processes described below.
It may seem to some readers that, instead of a vision of hope, this paper offers what an imperialist leader once called “blood, toil, tears and sweat” (Churchill). To some extent, this is true. Marx’s vision, after all, was one of building a good world through struggle. But what a great struggle it will be in spite of its agonies! This struggle will not be strangled by the imperatives or troops of capitalism. This struggle will deliver axe-blows to inequalities and oppression of nations, races, and genders. This struggle will involve overcoming ecological devastation and building a world where a prosperous humanity will be a well-behaved part of nature. This struggle will end work as an externally-ordered burden and make it (to the extent possible) a place of varying tasks of varying creativity, socialization and fun. This struggle, finally, will create a human race.