Cornelius Castoriadis

The Hungarian Source

"... Over the coming years, all significant questionswill be condensed into one: Are you for or against the action and the program of the Hungarian workers?"(1). Perhaps I should apologize for quoting myself. Buttoday, twenty years later, I stand by these lines morefirmly and more savagely, if possible, than when Iwrote them. Nothing—not even the silence surroundingthe 1956 Hungarian Revolution in virtually all the Left, New Left and Far Left literature—has altered myattitude in the least. Indeed, it is no exaggerationto say that this silence is but one more sinisterindication of the domination of reactionary ideas inthe contemporary world. It means that the Stalinistbureaucracy continues, even if more indirectly, todictate the parameters of permissible discussion.Of course, the actual impact and influence of theHungarian Revolution cannot be gauged by the silencethat has followed. Despite ideological repression ofthe memory of the 1956 events, there has certainlybeen a continuous "working through" of their meaning.Moreover, in addition to the Revolution's probablesubterranean effects in Eastern Europe and Russia,there is little doubt that the wide diffusion of thethe idea of self-management during the last twodecades is linked to the exemplary demands of theHungarian Workers' Councils. Here again, however, itis no accident that most of the organizationsadvocating self-management (in particular, but by nomeans only, reformist parties and unions) keep silentabout Hungary and instead refer to the morerespectable (and empty) Yugoslav model. Divorced fromthe power of Worker's Councils and the destruction ofthe existing order, self-management is presented assomething which could be added, without tears, to thepresent system. Nevertheless, propagation of the ideaof self-management does serve to undermine thefoundations of bureaucratic domination, and it is byno means certain that the reformist bureaucrats willsucceed in reducing it to a mere embellishment of theestablished order.I spoke about the silence that for years hassurrounded the Hungarian Revolution. Although theliterature pertaining to these events now amounts toseveral thousand volumes, most of it has been writtenby specialists for specialists and is, therefore, muchmore a manifestation of the tremendous expansion ofacademic writing and publishing business than it is atrue recognition of the revolutionary significance of1956. To be sure, the Hungarian Revolution wasdefeated. But so was the Paris Commune of 1871, yetthis did not prevent revolutionaries from celebratingits example and discussing its lessons. That theHungarian Revolution was crushed by the Russian Armymay explain its lesser resonance among the popularstrata, but it does not account for the systematicsilence among revolutionaries and left-wingintellectuals. Or is it that the ideas ceased to bevalid once the Russian tanks rolled over them in thestreets of Budapest?But things become clearer as soon as the content, themeaning and the implications of the HungarianRevolution are considered. Then this silence can beunderstood for what it is: the direct consequence ofthe radical character of this Revolution, and theattempt to repress its significance and its memory.Modern society can be best characterized asbureaucratic capitalism. And its purest, most extremeform has been realized in Russia, China and the othercountries presently masquerading as socialist. TheHungarian Revolution of 1956 was the first and, up tonow, the only total revolution against totalbureaucratic capitalism. As such, it foreshadows thecontent and orientation of future revolutions inRussia, China and the other bureaucratic capitalistsocieties. In taking up arms, the Hungarian workersand youth put a final, practical end to the absurdscholastic debates about the social character of theregimes in Russia and other Eastern Europeancountries. Through their deeds, they demonstrated thatthe difference between workers and the workers' stateis the difference between life and death; that theywould rather die fighting against the workers' statethan continue to live as workers under it.Like the fragmented bureaucratic capitalism of theWest, the total bureaucratic capitalism of the East isfull of contradictions and torn by permanent socialconflicts which recurrently reach acute levels anddrive the system toward open crisis. Economics andPolitics are, of course the areas where thesecontradictions and conflicts manifest themselves inthe most pressing manner. The quasi-permanent economicchaos endemic to bureaucratic planning and rooted infundamental conflicts in production (2) and omnipresentpolitical repression appear as the more intolerableaspects of total bureaucratic capitalism. Obviously,these two aspects are strongly interdependent andreciprocally conditioned — and both are necessaryresults of the logic of the system. Yet, fantastic asthis may be, they are regarded as secondary blemishesor reformable defects by virtually the wholeinternational Left. Thus, reforms which would preservethe substance of the system (a new case of squaringthe circle) are welcomed by the candidate bureaucratsof the West and their open or disguised ideologues(socialists, dissident and now even orthodoxcommunists in Italy, France, etc., Trotskyists,progressive journalists, various types of intellectualfellow-travellers, from existentialist philosophers ofyesterday like Sartre and the Les Temps Modernes teamto radical economists of today like Nuti, etc.). It isno wonder that these strange bed-fellows could havebeen more or less unanimous in their support ofGomulka in 1956-57 and in their opposition to theRussian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, while inthe case of the Hungarian Revolution they resorted toshameful slanders (the communists), approved the finalRussian invasion (Sartre), frowned upon the spasmodic,elementary and spontaneous actions of the Hungarianworkers (Mandel) or retreated into silence as quicklyas they could. In 1956 Poland the people did not takeup arms. Despite their development and theireffervescence, the Workers' Councils never explicitlyquestioned the existing power structure. The CommunistParty succeeded by means of minor internal purges andsome shifts of personnel, in keeping the situationunder control throughout the critical period and thusin stifling any initiative from below. (3) Things wereeven clearer in Czechoslovakia in 1968, and the Leftprotests even louder. In this case there was virtuallyno sign of autonomous activity on the part of thegeneral population. Instead, the new leadership of theCommunist Party was attempting to incroduce somedemocratic reforms and a degree of decentralization inthe economy. It goes without saying that thepopulation could not but be in favor of thesemeasures. A reform from above, with the support of thepeople — what a golden dream for today'srevolutionaries! As Mandel would say, this would "haveallowed millions of proletarians to once againidentify with the workers' State." Of course, in thesecircumstances it is possible to blame the Russiantanks.But in Hungary, the movement of the masses was sopowerful and so radical that both the Communist partyand the whole existing state apparatus were literallypulverized in a few days. There was never even aquestion of dual power. Whatever power there wasrested with the armed youth and the Workers' Councils, whose Program (4) was totally incompatible with thepreservation of the bureaucratic social structure. Thedemands were for self-management in the enterprises,abolition of work norms, a drastic reduction in incomeinequalities, control of general planning activities,control of the composition of the Government and a neworientation of the country's foreign policy. And allthis was agreed upon and clearly formulated in thespan of a few days. In this context to remark thatcertain aspects of these demands were unclear andinadequate would be ludicrously irrelevant. Had theRevolution not been crushed by the Kremlin murderers,its development would have forced the necessaryclarifications and completions and would have shownwhether or not the Councils and the people could findin themselves the capacity and strength to establishnew power-structures and new social institutions.What was the historical and sociological meaning ofthe extraordinary proliferation of parties,organizations, etc., in the span of a few days?Precisely this: that a genuine Revolution was takingplace. This proliferation and the correspondingspectrum of ideas is, indeed, the distinctive mark ofthe Revolution. It is not despite, but because of thisunlimited manifestation of political tendencies — this"chaotic" (for bureaucrats and philistines) characterof the social explosion — that we recognize theHungarian events of 1956 as a Revolution. It is—orrather, ought to be —a commonplace that a trueRevolution is always national: all sections and strataof the nation abandon their passive conformity to theold order and strive to take an active part in itsdestruction and in the shaping of a new order. Thewhole of the heretofore oppressed society seizes theopportunity to express itself; the people stand up andspeak loudly their ideas and their demands. This iswhat happened during the French Revolution after 1789,and in the Russian Revolution after February 1917. Thehighly suspect and intolerable mess created by bothdoubtlessly would have been condemned on grounds ofimpurity, confusion, etc., by the critics of theHungarian Revolution. But Revolution is precisely thisstate of overheating and fusion of society, along withthe general mobilization of all social categories andstrata, and the destruction of all establishedbarriers. It is this unrestrained character whichaccounts for the extraordinary liberation andexpansion of society's creative potential duringrevolutionary periods, the interruption of therepetitious cycles of social life, the sudden openingof history.Despite its short life-span, the Hungarian Revolutionposited new organizational forms and social meaningswhich represent an original social-historicalcreation. The source of this creation was the activityof the Hungarian people—intellectuals, students,workers. Theoreticians and politicians as suchcontributed nothing to it; rather, they continued tooffer only deceit and mystification. Theintellectuals, however, had begun months before theoutburst to play an important, positive role bydemolishing the political, ideological and theoreticalnonsense with which the Stalinist bureaucracy hadpresented its totalitarian dictatorship as peoples'democracy and socialism. They played this role not bybringing to the people a new, ready-made truth, but bycourageously exposing the old lies for what they were.New, positive truths were created by the peoplethemselves during and by means of their autonomousactivity. I call them positive because they wereembodied in actions and organizational forms designednot only for the struggle against exploitation andoppression by the bureaucracy, but also as new formsfor the organization of collective life on the basisof new principles. These principles entailed a radicalbreak with all established social structures (East orWest) and, once made explicit, reduced to nonsense theinherited political philosophy and theory. This, inturn, overthrew the traditional relationship betwentheory and practice, as well as that betweentheoreticians and plain people. In the HungarianRevolution we find a new point of departure —a newsource—which both forces us to reflect anew on theproblems of politics in the modern world, and providesus with some of the means for doing so.Let us have a look at the contributions ofdistinguished theoreticians and politicians before orduring the 1956 events. Consider, for instance, GeorgLukacs. He certainly was one of the very few creativeMarxist theoreticians to appear after Marx. What didhe do? From about 1924 until 1956 hecovered—ideologically—Stalin and Stalinism, the MoscowTrials, the Goulag, socialist realism and developmentsin Hungary since 1945; he implemented successively,the orders of Zinoviev, Bukharin, Zadanov, Revai, etc.And he did so in full knowledge of the facts, and of"the most revolutionary conception history has everproduced:" Marxism. (5) He spent his life swearing by dieList der Vernunft—the Cunning of Reason; and madehimself into an extreme instance of die Unlist derblossen Vernunft — the blindness of sheer reason.Or consider Imre Nagy, the politician. Where did hispolitical cunning come into play against thetreacherous lies of the Russian bureaucracy? Did hefor a single moment find in himself the clarity ofmind and the resolve to speak out loudly against theRussian deception with which he was so wellacquainted? No. He muddled through, and tried to seekhelp. . .from the United Nations! History in themaking; the bloody drama of power; armored tanks andguns facing the naked hands and breasts of millions ofpeople; and Nagy the statesman, the Realpolitiker,could only think of the United Nations—that sinisterGuignol theater where the bandits of Washington andMoscow, assisted by their respective second or thirdorder ruffians, make speeches against each other inpublic and combine their dirty business in thecorridors.Such was the contribution of the non-spontaneous, themost conscious, well-learned and highly skilledprofessionals of theory and politics. But thecontribution of the non-professionals was a radicalrevolution—not foreseen, not prepared, not organizedby anybody, and so spontaneous, like all revolutionsin history.The Hungarian people did not act spontaneously in thesense that a baby cries spontaneously if hurt. Rather,they acted on the basis of their social and historicalexperience, and they fashioned something new out ofit. Now, when the self-styled theoretician orrevolutionary looks contemptuously upon what he callsspontaneity, the hidden postulate in the back of hismind is: It is impossible that this rabble could everlearn anything from their lives, draw any sensibleconclusions, put two and two together—let alone bringforward new ideas and try to find their own solutionsto their own problems. The essential identity of thispostulate, over thousands of years, with the basictenets of the ruling classes concerning society andman, hardly needs to be stressed.A slight digression seems necessary here. Marxist andleftist intellectuals continue to spend their time andenergy writing interminably about the relation between"Volume One" and "Volume Three" of Das Kapital,commenting on and interpreting this or that comment onMarx by this or that interpreter of Marx, and hardlyever considering actual history, the effectivecreation of forms and meanings in and through theactivity of people. Thus, once again, history isreduced to the history of ideas, and a very narrow setof ideas at that. One of the consequences is thathistory tends to be understood less and less. Forhistory is not just the array of objective facts; whatmatters, from a revolutionary point of view, is theinterpretation of these facts, something which cannotbe left to the historians of the universityestablishment. Certainly, this interpretation is afunction of both the theoretical ideas and thepolitical project of the interpreter. But it is theorganic connection between these three elements: theproject, the ideas and the full consideration ofactual history as a source (and not as dead material),which is the distinctive trait of the revolutionaryintellectual's work and which alone marks his radicaldeparture from the traditional, dominant conception of"theoretical work." And it is this connection which isin fact broken in virtually all of today's left-wingliterature.But much more is involved here. For both the projectand the ideas have their origin in actual history,that is, in the creative activity of people in modernsociety. The revolutionary project is not a logicalinference derived from correct theory. Rather, thesuccessive theories in this field are attempts at auniversal formulation of that which masses of people,over the last two hundred years—workers at first, thenwomen, students, national minorities, etc. —haveexpressed in their struggles against establishedsocial institutions. By forgetting this fact, therevolutionary intellectual falls into a ridiculouscontradiction. He proclaims that his theory enableshim to understand and even to judge history, yet heseems to ignore that the essential source of histheory is precisely the historical activity of thepeople. In this way, the revolutionary intellectualblinds himself to this activity as it manifests itselfin the present, e.g., the Hungarian Revolution.To drive home this point, consider Marx's work. Hadthis work been merely a synthesis of classical Germanphilosophy, English political economy and FrenchUtopian socialism, it would have remained just anothertheory. The difference lies in the political ideaswhich animated Marx. But what was the source of theseideas? There is virtually nothing among them—or at anyrate, nothing retaining any contemporary relevance andvalue—which can be attributed to Marx alone. Virtuallyall of Marxism has its source in the working classmovement as it was forming itself between 1800 and1840; virtually all of it is already there, black onwhite, in the English working class literature of thistime. (6) And what "addition" was Marx able to make tohis political ideas after the Communist Manifesto}Only the idea of the destruction of the existing stateapparatus and the dictatorship of the proletariatwhich was, as he himself pointed out, the lesson ofthe Paris Commune; a lesson embodied in the activityof the Parisian workers and, first and foremost, inthe new institutional form they created : the communeitself. This creation Marx had not foreseen—despitehis theory, and despite his genius. But being Marx,and not a Marxist, he was able to recognize it afterthe event. (7) Let us revert to our main argument. What would be"non-spontaneity?" To what is spontaneity opposed? Toconsciousness? But is anybody saying that theHungarian workers, for instance, were unconscious? Inwhat sense? Sleepwalkers? Under LSD? Zombies? Or is itthat they were not conscious enough—or not in theproper way? But what is enough consciousness, or theproper way of being conscious? Mr. Mandel's, perhaps?Or Mr. Sartre's? Or would it be Absolute Knowledge?Whose? Is there anybody around repre­senting it? Andwhat is he doing with it? We do, at any rate, knowwhat Kautsky and Lenin did with their knowledge.Or is organization the opposite of spontaneity? Butthe question is precisely: what organization, andwhose organization? The spontaneous action of theHungarian people was action toward organization; andeven more, their spontaneity was exactly that, theirself-organization. And this is what the bureaucratpseudo-theoretician hates the most: the workersorganize themselves in Councils instead of waiting,with enthusiastic passivity, for him to come andorganize them. And how does he organize them if giventhe chance? Like the dominant classes have alwaysdone, for centuries, in the factories and in thearmies. Clearly, he does this if and when he takespower; but also before that—in large unions, forinstance, or in a "Bolshevik party" —where structure,form and content of relations simply reproduce therelations of capitalist society: hierarchy, thedivision between a stratum of executive leaders and amass of followers, the veil of pseudo-knowledge castover the power of a self-coopting andself-perpetuating bureaucracy. If the opposite ofspontaneity (that is, of self-activity andself-organization) is hetero-organization (that is,organization by politicians, theoreticians,professional revolutionaries, etc.), then, clearly,the opposite of spontaneity is counter-revolution, orthe conservation of the existing order.The revolution is exactly that: self-organization ofthe people. By the same token, it obviouslypresupposes having become conscious of the essentialcharacteristics and mechanisms of the establishedsystem and of the desire and the will to invent a newsolution to the problem posed by the institution of society. (8) Self-organization is here self-organizingand consciousness is becoming-conscious; both areprocesses, not states. It is not that people havefinally found the appropriate form of socialorganization, but that they realize that this form istheir activity of organizing themselves in accordancewith their understanding of the situation and the endsthey set for themselves. In this sense, the revolutioncannot but be spontaneous, both in its inception andits unfolding. For the revolution is the explicitself-institution of society. "Spontaneity" here meansnothing else than the creative socio-historicalactivity in its highest expression; that which has asits object the transformation of society itself.No historical action is spontaneous in the sense ofsurging in a vacuum, of being totally unrelated to itsconditions, its environment and its past. And everyimportant historical action is spontaneous preciselyin the pristine sense of the word: spons, source.History is creation, i.e., the emergence of that whichis not already contained in its causes, conditions,etc.; that which is not repetition, neither strictosensu nor in the sense of a variant of the alreadygiven, but the position of new forms and figures, andnew meanings—that is, self-institution. To put it in amore narrow, more pragmatic, more operational way:spontaneity is the excess of the result over the causes. (9) The Hungarian workers acted out of theirexperience, and their action was an elaboration, in anon-trivial sense, of this experience. But this actionwas neither a necessary, causally determined reactionor response to the given situation; nor was thiselaboration the result of a logical process ofdeduction, inference, etc. In half a dozen EastEuropean countries, the general conditions to whichone might try to impute the 1956 explosion werepresent, in essentially similar form, for quite a fewyears —and, for that matter, in Russia for muchlonger. That they were similar is, after all, provedby the events in East Germany in 1953, in Poland in1956 (and 1970 and 1976), in Czechoslovakia in 1968—as well as by the more limited and less well knownrevolts in Russia (e.g., Novocherkassk). However, itis only in Hungary that the activity of the peoplereached an intensity leading to a revolution.Moreover, the particularities of Hungarian history,etc., are of no help in exhaustively trying to explainwhy this particular form of revolution took place inthis particular country at this particular moment. (10) Aconcrete historical investigation can, of course,help in making intelligible ex post facto, but it isnever possible to jump from this description andpartial understanding of conditions, motivations,actions, etc., to the explanation of the result.Thus, for example, a revolution is caused byexploitation and oppression. But exploitation andoppression have been there all the time, forcenturies. Perhaps exploitation and oppression havereached an extreme point. But what is this extremepoint? And has it not been reached recurrently,without a revolution ensuing? Then again, it has tocoincide with an internal crisis of the ruling class,the crumbling of the regime. But what more crumblingcan one expect than that which obtained throughoutmost of Europe after 1918 — or after 1945? In the end,the revolution has not taken place because theconditions for a revolution were not mature. The mostimportant of these conditions is a sufficient level ofconsciousness and combativity in the masses.Sufficient for what? Well, sufficient for making arevolution. In short, a revolution has not taken placebecause a revolution has not taken place. This is thegist of "Marxist" (and any other deterministic orscientific) wisdom in the matter. (11) Things are evenclearer when one considers the revolution asself-organized activity aiming at the institution of anew order, rather than as an explosion and destructionof the old order. (The distinction is, of course, aseparating abstraction.) In other words, it is helpfulto consider the positive content of what I earliercalled an elaboration of the experience. Theintolerable old state of affairs could have been metwith an additional dose of resignation. Or by aresurgence of religiosity. Or by demands for more orless moderate reforms. Instead, the movementshort-circuited all other solutions, and peoplestarted fighting and dying for a wholesalereconstruction of society. It would be a difficulttask for a theoretician to try to prove that this wasthe only logical and-or feasible alternative to the1956 Hungarian state of affairs. The positive contentof the response —the constitution of Workers'Councils, the demands for self-management and theabolition of work norms, etc. —was not a choice of theonly other alternative, etc. Rather, it was anelaboration which transcended the given (and all thatwas implied by or contained in it), and posited thenew.That this transcendence stands in a deep, organicrelation with previous creations of the working classmovement and the content of other phases ofrevolutionary activity does not limit itsimportance—on the contrary. It emphasizes that theHungarian Revolution belongs to a long series ofstruggles aiming at a radical reconstruction ofsociety, struggles which have gone on now for almosttwo centuries. Thus, the activity of the Hungarianpeople constitutes a new moment in the unfolding ofthe revolutionary project and, at the same time,ensures that its creations possess a significancewhich is not limited to the particular moment andconditions of their birth. The forms of organizationcreated by the Hungarian workers —the Councils —arenot variations on the forms created previously andelsewhere by working class revolutions. The aims andthe demands formulated by these Councils are in linewith the aims and demands implied by the whole historyof the working class movement, even if on certainbasic points (e.g., self-management, abolition of worknorms) they are more explicit and more radical. Thus,in the modern world, there is a unity of therevolutionary project. This unity can be rendered moreintelligible by pointing to its historical inheritanceand continuity; the similarity of the conditions inwhich the working class is placed by the socialsystem, in particular of its conditions of life andwork. But, even though these factors are relevant andimportant, they can never give us the sum of necessaryand sufficient conditions for the production of thespecific content of responses in 1871, 1905, 1917,1919, 1936-37, 1956 — or, indeed, for the failure toproduce such responses in other instances. For what wehave here is not an objective unity—not a unity as inthe identity of a class of effects stemming from aclass of identical causes—but a unity in the making, aunity making itself (and, of course, not yet made), aunity of socio-historical creation.Without minimizing the importance of other aspects ofthe Hungarian Revolution, the following will focus onthe significance of the Workers' Councils. Althoughthe Hungarian Revolution lasted only a few weeks, itwas a limit situation through which new potentialitieswere revealed, nay, created. Thus, like the few weeksof the Paris Commune, for us the Hungarian events aremore important than three thousand years of Egyptianhistory because they constituted a radical break withthe inherited philosophies of politics and work, whileprefiguring a new society.The exemplary character of the Workers' Councils—whichsprang up almost everywhere in a matter of hours—doesnot stem from their proletarian composition, fromtheir origin in productive enterprises, or even fromthe Council form as such. Rather, their importancelies in (a) the establishment of direct democracy(true political equality); (b) their rootedness inexisting concrete collectivities (including, but notlimited to, the factories); and (c) their demandsconcerning self-management and the abolition of worknorms. What was implied was the abolition ofestablished social divisions and of the essentialseparation between the main spheres of collectiveactivity. What is involved here is not only thedivision between classes, but the division betweenrulers and ruled (including the division betweenrepresentatives and represented); the separation ofgovernment or a narrowly defined political sphere fromthe rest of social life—particularly work orproduction; and the division between immediate,day-to-day activities and a political universal. Thisdoes not, of course, require an undifferentiatedidentity of each and all, i.e., the establishment of ahomogeneous society. (12) Nor does it mean the occlusionof these differences by means of abstract universalslike "citizen," "proletarian," "consumer," etc.Rather, the abolition of these social antagonismsrequires that the differences between various segmentsof the community be recognized and that they be givenanother articulation.According to the Council form of organization, alldecisions have to be taken—in principle, and wheneverpossible—by the whole collective; that is, by theGeneral Assembly of the Council's constituency (be itfactory, administration, university or district). Abody of delegates ensures the implementation of thedecisions of the General Assembly and the continuityof its direction between meetings. These delegates areelected and are permanently revocable. But, neitherthis permanent revocability, nor even the election ofthe delegates are the decisive features. There couldbe other means (e.g., rotation) to achieve the sameends. The important point is that the power ofdecision rests with the General Assembly—which canreverse the decisions of the delegates — and that thepower of the delegates is residual, i.e., it exists inprinciple and only in so far as the General Assemblycannot be in permanent session.This power of the General Assemblies implies theabolition of the instituted division between rulersand ruled. In particular, it eliminates the prevalent,typically modern (not ancient) political mystificationthat democracy is equivalent to representation, bywhich, of course, is meant permanent repre­sentation.Being irrevocable (even if formally limited in time),the permanent delegation of power to representativesis a form of political alienation. Political power isappropriated by the representatives. But to decide isto decide for onself. It is not a matter of decidingwho is going to decide. Moreover, this appropriationis veiled by the juridical form of periodic elections.The well-known critique of elections under presentsocial and political systems need not be repeatedhere. What is important is to stress the generallyneglected point that political representation tends to"educate" people in the conviction that they areunable to manage the problems of society, that thereexists a particular category of men endowed with thespecific ability to govern. Permanent representationtherefore goes with profession­alized politics. Itcontributes to political apathy which in turn widensthe gap between the extent and the complexity ofsocial problems and their own ability to tackle them.Needless to say, neither the power of GeneralAssemblies, nor the revocability and accountability ofdelegates is a panacea capable of guaranteeing that adegeneration of the Revolution — bureaucratic orotherwise—is impossible. The ultimate fate of theCouncils, or any other such organization, depends onthe self-activity of the people; on what they will andwill not do; on their involvement in the life of thecollective; and on their readiness to bring their fullweight to bear within the processes of discussion,elaboration, decision, implementation and control. Itwould be contradictory to seek an institutional formcapable of ensuring such participation and coercingpeople to be autonomous. The Council form cannotguarantee the development of such autonomy, but merelyrenders it possible. In contrast, establishedpolitical forms such as representative democracy, orthe leadership of a party guarantee that such adevelopment remains impossible. What is involved hereis the de-professionalization of politics — i.e., theabolition of politics as a special and separate sphereof activity—and, conversely, the universalpoliticization of society, which means just that: thebusiness of society becomes, quite literally,everybody's business.A revolutionary phase necessarily starts with anoutburst of autonomous activity and, if it proceedsbeyond the stage of revolt or revolutionary episode,it establishes autonomous mass organization. Itdisplays a tremendous amount of activity, abnegationand self-sacrifice, an extraordinary expenditure ofenergy. Individuals become actively interested inpublic affairs, as if they were their own—which isindeed what they are. Thus, the Revolution manifestsitself to society as the unveiling of its ownrepressed truth. This goes together with almostunbelievable social, political, practical andtechnical inspiration and invention of the sortabundantly illustrated during the Hungarian Revolutionby the audacity and skill with which the Workers'Councils continued fighting Kadar more than a monthafter the second Russian invasion. The continuationand further development of the autonomous activity ofthe people depends upon the character of their powerin mass organizations and the relevance of theirdecisions for their concrete, daily existence. In thissense, the main problem of post-revolutionary societyis the creation of institutions which allow thecontinuation of this autonomous activity, but withoutrequiring heroic feats twenty-four hours a day. Themore people can see that their day-to-day existencecrucially depends on their active participation in theexercise of power, the more they will tend toparticipate. In this way, the development ofself-activity feeds upon itself. Conversely, anylimitation on the power of autonomous massorganizations, or any attempt to transfer a "part" ofits power to other institutions (e.g., Parliament,"party," etc.) can only favor the opposite movementtoward less participation, declining interest, andfinally, apathy. Bureaucratization starts when certaindecisions pertaining to common affairs are removedfrom the competence of mass organizations and, undervarious rationalizations, are entrusted to such"representative" bodies. When this is allowed tohappen, the participation of people and the activityof the mass organizations inevitably declines, and theensuing vacuum is filled increasingly by bureaucracy.Eventually, people abandon the mass organizations,where substantial decisions are no longer being made,and revert to the state of cynical indifference towardpolitics which is not only characteristic of presentbureaucratic societies, but the very condition oftheir existence. This state of affairs will thenappear, to sociologists and philosophers, to bothexplain and justify the bureaucracy (after all,somebody has to take care of public affairs). (13) Now the people's day-to-day existence depends on whatis going on at the general social and political levelas well as on what is happening in the particularcollectivity to which they belong and the specificactivities in which they are engaged. The separationof these two spheres is an essential expression ofalienation in present society. It is in this that theimportance of the Hungarian demands forself-management and for the constitution of Councilsin all sectors of the national life is to be found.Participation in general political structures whichleaves people powerless over their immediateenvironment and separated from the management of theirconcrete activities is, of course, a mystification.And so is participation or self-management whenconfined, for example, to the enterprise, thus leavinggeneral political power in the hands of a separatesocial stratum. What is entailed by the demands of theHungarian Workers' Councils is precisely theovercoming of this separation. It is the demand thatpeople be allowed to manage the concretecollectivities to which they belong—not only infactories, but in all sectors of national life; andthat they be able to participate in the exercise ofpolitical power—not abstractly, as voting citizens,etc., but directly, through the very organs of theirself-activity, i.e., the Councils. (14) Thus, theabstract formulation of the problem in terms of socialdivisions and the homogenization of society iseliminated; what we are led to is a mode ofarticulation capable of mediating between society andthe particular segments which compose it.By now, the mystification of the Yugoslav Workers'Councils and self-management of enterprises should beclearly visible. There can be no "self-management" aslong as a separate State apparatus is maintained; evenin the narrow field of the management of theenterprise, people's activities are stunted andfinally destroyed. For example, of what value isself-management when it is confined to the functioningof the factory and especially when the League ofYugoslav Communists retains total power over all otherimportant matters including, in the final analysis,what is happening in the factories themselves.Conversely, one can also see why the power of Councilsor other such organizations (e.g., Soviets in Russiaafter October 1917) rapidly becomes devoid of contentif confined to the realm of the political in thenarrow and current sense of the word. (15) For then thedivision between a political sphere in the traditionalsense, and people's concrete existence isreintroduced. If the Councils—or Soviets —are calledupon only to write laws, sanction decrees and nominateCommissars, then all they really possess is theabstract shadow of power. Thus, once they wereseparated from the interests and preoccupations ofconcrete collectivities, the Soviets were bound toappear empty. Even if they had not been dominated andmanipulated by the Bolshevik Party, the people couldnot have helped but view the Soviets as just anotherofficial institution not belonging to them, not caringabout their cares. (16) When I speak about the autonomy of the organizationsof the masses, I do so only because and in so far asthey do not accept the established institution ofsociety. This means in the first place, that they donot accept any other source of legitimate poweroutside themselves; and in the second place, that theyabolish, within themselves, the division between thosewho direct and those who execute. The first pointimplies not merely that they create a situation ofdual power, or even that they tend to assume forthemselves all power; but rather that the autonomousorganizations posit themselves as the only legitimatesource of decisions, rules, norms and laws—that is, asorgans and embodiments of a new institution ofsociety. The second point means that, through theiractivity, they abolish the antagonistic divisionbetween a sphere of politics, or government, and asphere of everyday life. The second point is, in fact,the concrete implementation of the first. For thepolitical organization of historical societies, aswell as the nuclear organization of all other socialrelations, has for thousands of years been theinstitution of a social hierarchy. This has involvedboth the institution of a real-material sub-stratumembodied in social networks and individual posi­tions,and objectified in possessions, privileges, rights,spheres of compe­tence, tools and weapons; and animaginary social signification where­by people aredefined as superior and inferior along one or varioussocially instituted lines of order. Theinternalization of this hierarchical ordering by eachand every individual has been, and remains, acornerstone of class society. Contemporarybureaucratic capitalism tends to push the hierarchicalorganization of society to its limits and posit it asthe rational organization par excellence. (17) Thehierarchical, pyramid-like structure oforganization—omnipresent in contemporary society—israpidly replacing the traditional bifurcation ofcapitalist society. In Russia, the latter has beencompletely replaced for more than fifty years and inEastern Europe and China for the last quarter of acentury. This hierarchical structure is the dominantform of oppressive relations in the present world. (18) But the Council organization destroys the structure ofhierarchy. By vesting power in all concerned, thehierarchical structure, and the division between thosewho direct and those who execute, are overcome.Decisions are made by the people who will have toimplement them, and who are, therefore, in the bestposition to judge not only abstract options but alsothe concrete conditions of this implementationincluding, above all, its real costs: their own effortand work. Similarly, the relevance of the decisionscan thus best be judged by those most interested inminimizing the time and cost involved. In this manner,experience in both technical matters and the exerciseof direct democracy can begin building up. This isanother illustration of what I have calledarticulation.Of course, the abolition of the antagonistic divisionbetween specialists and non-specialists does not meanthe suppression of their difference. Self-managementdoes not require that competence and specializedknowledge be ignored — quite the contrary. In fact, itis under today's bureaucratic capitalist socialstructure that they most often are ignored and thatdecisions largely depend on the outcome of strifebetween bureacratic cliques, each of which uses itsspecialists for purposes of public justification andmystification. Under the Council organization,specialists are not eliminated as such, but insteadbelong to the collective and are listened to in theirspecific capacity as specialists, like everyone else.But in the last instance, it is the General Assembly,not the engineer, that must decide. Certainly theirdecisions may prove to be mistaken. But it is unlikelythat their record could be any worse than that ofbureaucratic capitalism. (19) What is involved here is much more than thetraditional separation between means and ends. Thisseparation is an abstraction with limited validityonly in fragmented and trivial domains. The point isnot that people have to decide what to do, and thentechnicians will tell them how to do it. Rather, afterlistening to the technicians, the people must decideboth what to do and how to do it. For the how is notneutral, and the what is not disembodied; neither arethey identical or external to each other. The notionof "neutral" technique is, of course, an illusion; aconveyor belt is linked to both a type of product anda type of producer. (20) The demand of the Hungarian Workers' Councils for theabolition of work norms addresses this problem in aconcrete way while, at the same time, suggesting newconceptions of work, man and their relation to eachother. If the tasks already have been decided, and ifthe various technical means are simply taken as given,then it is inevitable that work itself appears as justanother means to be used in the most rational andefficient way possible. The how of its usage appearsto fall into the province of the correspondingtechnicians, whose job it is to determine the best wayof doing the work, the time allowed, etc. Theabsurdity of the ensuing results, and the permanentstrife thereby introduced within the labor process,are well-known. But we are not concerned here with thecritique of Taylorism or the capitalist (andsocialist) rationalization of the work process. Thecrucial point is that the demand for the abolition ofwork norms is not simply a means by which workersdefend themselves against exploitation, speed-up, etc.Instead, this demand contains certain positiveelements of paramount importance; it suggests that thepeople charged with the implementation of a task arethe ones entitled to make decisions concerning workrhythm, etc. Contrary to their conception within therationalistic framework of capitalism, such decisionsaffect an essential dimension of the worker's life.Moreover, workers cannot really defend themselvesagainst exploitation without doing something positiverelative to production itself. Of course, ifexternally imposed work norms are abolished, therhythm of work will still have to be regulated owingto the collective and cooperative character of modernproduction. But under these circumstances, the onlyconceivable source of such regulation is thecollectivity of the workers themselves; groups ofworkers—whether in the shop, the department or thefactory—will have to establish their own disciplineand ensure its observance (as, indeed, they presentlydo, albeit informally and illegally). Implied here isa categorical rejection of the idea that "manendeavors to avoid work... Man is a lazy animal"(Trotsky), and that, therefore, work discipline canonly be achieved through external coercion orfinancial reward. The coercive organization of work isnot, in fact, a response to the "laziness of man;"rather, it is laziness that is a natural andunderstandable response to alienated work.The germinal character of these demands can also beseen in terms of another series of implications. Oncethe principle of effective self-deter­mination hasbeen accepted, and once the separation between meansand ends has been repudiated, then it follows that thetools and machines, etc., cannot be taken as a given.Nor can they be imposed by engineers, technicians,etc., who would design them with an interest inincreasing productive efficiency, thereby furtherpromoting the domination of the mechanical universeover human beings. A radical change in the relationsbetween workers and their work implies a radicalchange in the nature of the instruments of production,which in turn requires, first and foremost, that theperspective of the users of those instruments becomesthe dominant one in the process of their conceptionand design. A conveyor belt socialism is acontradiction in terms; machines must be adapted topeople, not people to machines. Obviously, this leadsto a repudiation of the basic character of present-daytechnology. Today's machines imply today's junk andvice versa. And both presuppose and tend to reproducea certain type of human being.Clearly, numerous and by no means trivial problemswould emerge along this road. But nothing would appearto render them insuperable — certainly no moreinsuperable than the ones created daily by the presentantagonistic organization of society. For example, ifgroups of workers set their own work rhythms, theremay be problems concerning both the equality ofrhythms between different groups —in other words,concerning justice —and the integration of thesevarious rhythms into the whole production process. Butboth of these problems exist today and have not yetbeen solved. Considerable progress will be made,however, once these problems are explicitly formulatedand discussed. In an analogous vein, the production ofmachines in the interests of those who use them willrequire constant and close cooperation betweenmachine-makers and machine-users. And more generally,a collectivistic organization of production — and ofall other social activities—will, of course, require alarge measure of social responsibility and reciprocalcontrol; the various segments of the community willhave to behave in a responsible manner and accepttheir role in the exercise of mutual control.Obviously, such social coordination will best becarried out through the networks of delegates linkedto the basic organizations and the permanent, publicdiscussion of common affairs.This is not the place to discuss the more importantand complex questions that will confront acollectivist society relative, for instance, to theorientation of the "total economy" or other socialactivities, to their mutual inter­dependence, to thegeneral orientation of society, and so on. In fact, ashas already been stressed, the crucial problem for apost-revolutionary society concerns neither themanagement of production, nor the organization of theeconomy. Rather, it concerns the political problemproper or what might be called the other side of theproblem of state power; namely, the capacity of thesociety to establish and maintain its concrete unitywithout establishing relatively autonomousinstitutions charged with this "task," i.e, the Stateapparatus. Despite appearances, this problem wasignored by classical Marxism and, indeed, by Marxhimself. The notion that the State — as a separate,quasi-autonomous apparatus—has to be destroyed, wasnot accompanied by a positive consideration of thepolitical problem. Instead, this problem was dissolved(mythically) in the conception of an explicit,material unification and homogenization of societysupposedly brought about by the development ofcapitalism. Politics, for Marx, Lenin, et al.,involved the struggle against the bourgeoisie, thealliance with other classes, etc.; in brief, theelimination of the "remnants of the ancient world."But in their view, it did not concern the positiveinstitution of the new world. According to Marx, in a100% proletarian society there would not and could notbe a political problem. Furthermore, this neglect isdeeply rooted in Marx's determinist philosophy ofhistory: either socialism or barbarism, but, if notbarbarism, then socialism. The wicked irony ofhistory, however, has been that the first victoriousrevolution took place in a country where thepopulation was anything but "united and disciplined bythe very process of capitalist production itself." Andthe task of unifying and homogenizing Russian societyhad to be accomplished by the Bolshevik party and byStalin's totalitarian terror. Fortunately, they metwith less than total success.Unfortunately, we can no longer look forward to theunity of post-revolutionary society being broughtabout through a process of homogenization, even ifsuch a process exists, which it manifestly does not.The political problem as such can never be eliminated.The unity of post-revolutionary society can only bebrought about —that is, constantly recreated —throughthe permanent, unifying activity of the collectiveorganizations. This, of course, entails thedestruction of any separate State apparatus. But italso entails the existence and continuous remodellingof political institutions (e.g., the councils andtheir networks), which are neither antagonistic to thereal society, nor directly and immediately identicalto it. And there is no magical guarantee that allpossible frictions between segments of the communitywill disappear; that a stratum will not emerge thatwill attempt to occupy permanently positions of power,thereby reinstating the division between rulers andruled, and a separate State apparatus. In conclusion,we can pose the following problem: either, theautonomous and collective organizations of the peoplewill invent a solution—or rather a process ofsolutions — to the problem of maintaining society as adifferentiated unity or, if they fail, substitutesolutions — such as the power of a revolutionary party and the reconstitution of a permanentbureaucracy—will necessarily be imposed. In thislatter instance, the old mess will ipso facto bere-established.It is not that we are ignorant of which route tofollow. Such a route simply does not yet exist, eitherin reality or in theory. If and when this route isopened to us, it will be through the autonomous andcollective activity of the people. In the mean time,however, we do know which route not to follow: namely,the route leading to totalitarian bureaucraticcapitalist society.The Hungarian Revolution never had the opportunity toface these problems. Nevertheless, in the short spanof its development, it not only destroyed the ignoblemystification of Stalinist "socialism," but also posed—and provided certain germinal answers to—some of themost important questions confronting the revolutionaryreconstruction of society. Thus, we are obliged notonly to honor the heroic struggle of the Hungarianpeople but also recognize that, in the resolve tomanage collective life, the Hungarian Revolution trulydoes constitute one of the creative sources ofcontemporary history.


1. "La révolution proletarienne contre labureaucratie," Soctalisme ou Barbarie, 20 (December,1956); reprinted now in La Socie'te' bureaucratique.Vol. 2 (Paris, 1973), pp. 277-278. The present textpresupposes some familiarity with the Hungarian eventsof 1956, especially concerning the constitution,activities and demands of the Workers' Councils.Numbers 20 and 21 (March, 1957) of Soctalisme ouBarbarie were largely devoted to the 1956 events inHungary and Poland, and included documents and textsby refugee participants in the Hungarian Revolution.For some bibliographical indications, see La Sociétébureaucratique, ibid., p. 265.

2. Cf. my article cited in note 1 above, especiallypp. 278-307; also, "Sur le contenu du socialisme, III:La lutte des ouvriers contre l'organisation del'entreprise capitaliste," Socialisme ou Barbarie, 23(January, 1958); reprinted now in L'Experience dumouvement ouvrier, Vol. 2 (Paris, 1974), pp. 9-88. Theextraordinary book by the Hungarian Miklos Haraszti,Salaire aux pieces: Ouvrier dans un pays socialiste(Paris, 1976), a section of which has been translatedinto English as "I Heard the Iron Cry," in New LeftReview, 91 (May-June, 1975), shows the identicalnature of the relations of production and organizationof the work process between "capitalist" factories inthe West and "socialist" factories in the East

3. I discussed, at the time, developments in Poland in"La voie polonaise de la bureaucratisation,"Socialisme ou Barbarie, 21(March, 1957), reprinted nowin La Socie'te' bureaucratique, Vol. 2, op.cit., pp.339-371. Here it is worth quoting at length theinimitable E. Mandel, lest the reader think I amexaggerating for the sake of polemics: "...Socialistdemocracy will still have to engage in more battles inPoland. But the main battle which allowed millions ofproletarians to once again identify with the Worker'sState, is already won. . . The political revolutionwhich, for a month now, shakes up Hungary, has shown amore spasmodic and unequal development than thepolitical revolution in Poland. It did not, like thelatter, fly from victory to victory [sic]. . . This isbecause, contrary to the situation in Poland, theHungarian Revolution was an elementary and spontaneousexplosion. The subtle interaction [III] betweenobjective and subjective factors, between theinitiative of the masses and the building of a newleadership, between pressure from below and thecrystallization of an opposition faction above, at thesummit of the Communist Party, an interaction whichmade possible the Polish victory [?!?], has beenmissing in Hungary." From Quatriéme Internationale(December, 1956), pp. 22, 23; emphasis added. Thebureacratic essence of Trotskyism, its nature as afaction of Stalinist bureaucracy in exile, itsyearning to rejoin the Party apparatus at theslightest chance of internal struggle and some"pressure from below" has rarely been expressed withmore clarity—and in more laughable style.

4. I am referring to the points I consider mostimportant as they were already formulated by the 28thand 29th of October, 1956. Unbelievable as it mayappear, the demands formulated by the Councils afterNovember 11 (i.e., after the full occupation of thecountry by the Russian Army and the murder ofthousands of people) were even more radical,comprising the constitution of an armed workers'militia and the establishment of Councils in allbranches of activity, including Governmentadministrations

5. I am not talking about the persons as such, butabout the significance of their behavior. The personaltragedy of Lukacs (or of Nagy, etc.) is, in thiscontext, irrelevant. For Lukacs in particular, theHegelian Marxist, to weep about his "subjective drama"would only add insult to injury.

6. The material contained in E.P. Thompson, TheMaking of the English Working Class(Gollancz, 1963; revised Penguin edition, 1968)abundantly illustrates this point.

7. It is all the more striking to note that,despite this precedent, and Marx's recognition of thefundamental importance of the Commune's form, Lenin'sinitial reaction to the spontaneousemergence of the Soviets in Russia during the 1905Revolution was negative and hostile. Peoplewere doing things contrary to what he, Lenin, haddecided on the basis of his theory that theyought to be doing.

8. It is clear, for instance, that the understandingpossessed by the Hungarian workers intheir activity of the social character of thebureaucracy as an exploitative and oppressive class,and of the conditions for its existence, was from atheoretical viewpoint infinitely superior to all thepseudo-theoretical analyses contained in thirty yearsof Trotskyist literature and in most of the otherleft Marxist writings.

9. The postulate of "identity" underlying all inheritedphilosophical and scientific thought isequivalent to the assertion that such an excess, ifand when it exists, is always only "a measure ofour ignorance." The presumption which goes with it isthat this measure can, de jure, be reducedto zero. The shortest answer to this is: Hie Rhodus,hie salta. We can confidently sit back andrelax waiting for the day when the difference betweenTristan und Isolde and the sum total of its causes andconditions (the bourgeois society of the 1850s, theevolution of instruments and orchestra, Wagner'sunconscious, etc.) will be reduced to zero.

10. Though one can, of course, explain why this type ofrevolution did not take place in 1956in Egypt, Iran, or Java.

11. Another illustration of this type of argument: Itis correct that one of the main differences between Poland and Hungary in 1956 is thatthe Polish Communist Party was able toadapt itself to the events, while the HungarianCommunist Party was not. But why did the PolishCommunist Party succeed where the Hungarian onefailed? Precisely because in Poland the movement didnot go far enough. This allowed the Polish CommunistParty to continue to exist, and to play its role,while in Hungary the violence and the radicalcharacter of the movement rapidly reduced itsCommunist Party to nothing. And this also explains, upto a point, the different attitude of the Kremlin inthe two cases. As long as a bureaucratic partyremained alive and more or less in command in Poland,the Moscow bureaucracy believed — and rightly so —that it could spare itself an armed intervention andmaneuver instead toward a gradual restoration of thebureaucratic dictatorship of the sort which eventuallytook place. Such maneuvering seemed impossible in thecase of Hungary, where the Communist Party had beendestroyed and the Workers' Councils were showing theirintention to demand and exercise power.

12. This dichotomy — either society isantagonistically divided, or there is totalhomogeneity — is one of the hidden postulates ofinherited political thought. Moreover, it is apostulate shared by Marx himself, for whom theelimination of the social divisions of society, statepower, politics, etc., will result from thehomogeniration of society brought about by capitalism.

13. On a reduced scale, this spiral of bureaucraticdegeneration and apathy is visible in the life ofcontemporary political organizations and trade unions.

14. It is true that in Hungary there were demands forfree elections to designate a new Parliament, and itseems that they had the support of the Councils. Butthis was an under­standable reaction to the previousstate of affairs and the bureaucratic dictatorship.Had the Revolution been allowed to develop, thequestion of the respective roles of Parliament and theCouncils would, of course, have remained open. In myview, the uninterrupted development of the power andactivities of the Councils would have brought abouteither a gradual atrophy of the Parliament, or a clashbetween the two.

15. This was the line Lenin was advocating, on paper,when speaking about Soviet power. Inactuality, of course, he was striving to centralizeall power in the hands of the Bolshevik party.

16. Cf. my article "Socialisme ou barbarie," inSocialisme ou Barbarie, No. 1 (March, 1949);reprinted now in La Société bureaucratique, Vol. 1, inparticular pp. 164-173. Also, "Le role del'ideologie bolchevique dans la naissance de labureaucratie," in Socialisme ou Barbarie, No.35,(January 1964); reprinted in L'Expirience du mouvement ouvrier, Vol. 2, pp. 384-416.Unbelievable as it may sound, Lenin and Trotskyconsidered the organization of work, the managementof production, etc., as purely technical questions,having nothing to do with the"nature of the politicalpower" which remained "proletarian," since it wasexercised by "the Party of the proletariat." Thisabsurd position corresponded to their equallyrediculous enthusiasm for the capitalist"rationalization" of production, Taylorism, piecework, etc. In the second of the articles mentionedabove, and in many other texts, I have tried to showthat this attitude corresponds to one of the deepestlayers of Marx's own thought.

17. Elsewhere, I have tried to show that this "rational" organization is, in fact, inherentlyirrational and full of contradictions. Cf. "Sur lecontenu du socialisme, II" Socialisme ouBarbarie, No. 22, (July 1957); "Sur le contenu dusocialisme, III" quoted in Footnote 2 above;and "Le mouvement rtvolutionnaire sous le capitalismemoderne, II" Socialisme ou Barbarie No. 32, (April1961). In modern conditions (as opposed, e.g. to"Chinese mandarin" conditions) there can be norational basis for organization alonghierarchical-bureaucratic lines. Knowledge, skill andexpertise should , but cannot be the criteria forappointment. For solutions to the problems facing theorganization are determined by the constant powerstruggle between rival bureaucratic groups, or ratherclans. This is not an accidental or anecdotalphenomena, but is, instead, central to the workings ofthe bureaucratic mechanism. The idea of atechnostructure as such is a mystification: it is whatthe bureaucracy would like people to believe. The topsare tops not as experts in a technical field, but asexperts in the art of climbing the bureaucraticladder. As it expands the bureaucratic apparatus isforced to reproduce within itself the division oflabor which it imposes increasingly on the whole ofsociety; thus, it becomes estranged from itself, andfrom the factual substance of the problems. Thus, any"rational" synthesis becomes impossible.But some synthesis must take place. In the end,decisions must be made. And they are —in theOval Office (or the corresponding Kremlin Bulb),between Nixons, Ehrlichmans, Haldemans,and other petty delinquents of sub-normalintelligence. This is the apotheosis oftechnostructure, scientific management, etc., just as the Lockheed bribes are the apotheosis of perfect competition, optimizationthrough free market mechnaisms, etc.

18. This is a fact which today's "Marxists" are unableto see, as they go on talking about"commodity production" in the West and "socialism" —however "degenerate," "deformed"etc. —in the East.

19. Consider the recent example of Pan AmericanAirways, where management, with theexpert advice of hundreds of technicians, statisticians, computer experts, econometricians,transport economists, etc., extrapolated the demandcurve for air transport in the 1960s into the future(something a moderately intelligent first-yearundergraduate would not have done) and almost wentinto bankruptcy, from which they had to be rescued bythe American government.

20. The idea that technique is neutral, as well as theidea that capitalist rationalization is rational, is central, even if more or less hidden, in Marx's thought.

Our remarks…

According to Henri Simon, a former comrade of Castoriadis, he (Castoriadis) left the terrain of Marxism in the 60’s, and during the 70’s he participated in the spreading of anti-Marxist ideology. Some day it would be worthy of writing about the relationships between Marxism and the communist struggle. Now we only add some remarks to the quite interesting article of the already „anti-Marxist” (if we accept the characterization made by Henri Simon) Castoriadis.

Nowadays we often write, discuss, talk with each other about the proletarian uprising of 1956 in Hungary. We would like to call the attention of those comrades to this important event who don’t know the general characteristics of the Eastern European proletarian revolutions, of those struggles, whose experiences we must take into account in order to go beyond the idiotism of history lections and centralize our forces. In the last time we have discussed with several ouvrierist groups which always divide praxis and theory, but this behaviour led them to the „forgetting” and direct throwing-out of the past experiences, and only focusing to the present. Of course, this leads to a completely false and undialectical activity (to the rejection of the communist program), which ends in a self-justifying behaviour and exhibicionist actionism and – by worshipping the physical wage-workers – in the fetishism of the working class… Some of these mistakes were also made in the past by several Hungarian comrades. We talk here first of all about the comrades in the workers’ councils who ignored the unsoluted dilemmas of the council movement, and continued at the same point where their direct predecessors got stuck during the revolutionary wave of 1917-1923 and the Spanish revolution. Because this article is related to other texts about 1956 written or commented by us, we won’t dwell on the treatment of this problem, since we tried to perform this task in those texts.

Castoriadis does the same as 20 years before: in this article, he lifts out of the events again the idea of self-management, but he makes mention of the importance of destroying the existing social system, and rejects the parallel dualistic power which would be wielded on the one hald by the „new bolsheviks” and on the other hand by the working class. In such a way, he clearly points to the puppet-role of Imre Nagy who chases after the masses and licks its boots if necessary. Imre Nagy was a mini-Lenin, who – being a smaller stratege as the old „boss” – find himself quicklier on the rubbish heap. The piercing look of Castoriadis also perceives that the left-wing cannot do anything with the revolution – today it is even more valid than in those times. Today the self-justifying bourgeois forces qualify the events as a general popular uprising (yesterday they said it had been a counter-revolution), and push its real proletarian content into the background. The author overestimates the ’56 revolution in his article, and calls it the only total revolution, the struggle against the total bureaucratic capitalism. We know the basis of his statement – but his starting-point is false. If the revolution is not world-wide it will be necessarily defeated. By reason of the class forces, the struggle of the insurgents in 1956 was sentenced to failure – even if the walls of capitalism after the second world war cracked in many places. The events in Hungary also showed that the capitalists become strong and solidary if their interests are the same. In his essay, Castoriadis attacks the left-wing ideologists and shows that they are animals trained to the power, the servants of capital – Ernest Mandel and other Trotskyists are good examples for that. The biggest virtue of his text is, that it draws the attention of the reader to the process of the proletariat’s self-organization. But because of his false bureaucracy-theory, he separates the intellectuals from the proletariat, and puts them into a special box. Doing so, he rows to the water of the new left, and reduces our struggles to sociological clichés. His terminology fits to this, so he writes about the self-organizing of the people – instead of class-organization (the concept of the people for him means the exploited class, but why does he mistify, maybe his bureaucracy-theory captured him once more?). His new-leftism and ouvrierist ideals lead him to deadlock. He and other serious authors scarcely make mention of the struggle of street groups. (These struggles were absolutely no more unorganized than the workers councils. Their weakness was the same as that of the councils: decentralism. We would like to stress the internationalism of the fighters from the Tuzolto street, the internationalism of those, who hoisted also the red flag – contrary to their comrades from other groups, who knocked down the red stars, for example.) Castoriadis demonstrates well, that the origins of the Eastern European class struggles are identical (of course, this is true in general, but in different levels of deepness). The characteristic of this area (until 1990) was – and in this aspect, it differs from other places – that here the proletariat had to recognize that the bolshevik party (which expropriated the working-class movement) is nothing else than a „red bourgeoisie”, the bottom pillar of the capitalist class. The result of the 1956 revolution is not enough, if we would like to judge, to what extent the proletariat in Hungary was counscious or spontaneous. They had a democratic behaviour, they had recognized only a part of their class enemies, they attacked Stalinism but didn’t destroy the bolshevized capitalist system, they often negotiated with its representatives and let themselves influenced by them. The numerical superiority suppressed the revolution, and the white terror put down even the smallest buds of self-organization. But the red cocks continues to crow…

Barricade Collective

June 2005