Home » Blog » Bernie Sanders and Workers Control

Class, Economics, Politics

Bernie Sanders and Workers Control

Views: 769 The idea of “workers’ control” or “industrial democracy” is now being  discussed in American political circles. Even some of the more far-sighted employers now support …

by Alan Johnstone

Published:

Updated:

2 min read

"Bernie Sanders" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The idea of “workers’ control” or “industrial democracy” is now being  discussed in American political circles. Even some of the more far-sighted employers now support the idea of “workers’ participation” or “worker directors”. Bernie Sanders, the progressive presidential hopeful, is set to introduces plan that encourage employee-owner businesses and would require corporations to reserve a seat at the boardroom table for employees to extend work-place democracy ensure that the work-place have a say in decisions that affect their day-to-day lives. Of course this is not a particularly new proposal. The highly conservative British Civil Service incorporated employee consultation as far back as 1919 when it introduce what is called the Whitley system of management.

It is not the job of socialists to protect the profit advantage of any individual company but to support improvements in the conditions of the workers as a whole and to bring an end to the private profit system altogether. 

Workers control is only meaningful in terms of a socialist economy democratically determined and administered by not just work-places but local communities and larger society otherwise workers’ control means workers are deprived of all effective social control. This entails that ownership of industry cannot remain in the hands of the capitalists. Only common ownership would guarantee workers’ management and workers’ control in the individual plants. If by “workers’ control” it is meant control of the ownership and distribution of the wealth the workers produce, it obviously cannot be under capitalism. Capitalism is a system based on private ownership; so long as capitalists own, they control.

However, Bernie Sanders is engaged in the re-invention of the wheel, resurrecting ideas from the history of the labour movement and presenting those past ideas as something new. If Sanders wishes to be seen as a genuine socialist he should not be supporting capitalism regardless on how a nice a face has been put on it but rather he should be calling for the abolition of capitalism. Worker-owned enterprises and cooperatives are perfectly compatible with capitalism and operate  like any other business or institution which extracts surplus value and produces for exchange. As nice as Sanders make it sound at the end of the day they remain capitalist enterprises, and as socialists it is vital that we recognize this fact, because if we don’t go after the heart of capitalist production then all we end up with is a capitalism-without-capitalists. Operating in a competitive market economy, workers have to exploit themselves as if they were exploited by capitalists. While this may be more palatable, it does change the fact of their subordination to economic processes beyond their control. Profit production and capital accumulation control behaviour and perpetuate the misery and insecurity bound up with it. While there cannot be socialism without workers’ control, neither can there be real workers’ control without socialism. 

To assert that gradual increase of workers’ control in capitalism is an actual possibility merely plays into the hands of the ruling class to disguise their class-rule by false social reforms.

ALJO

This article originally appeared on the Socialism or Your Money Back blog.

Tags: Alan Johnstone, Bernie Sanders, Left-Wing Reformism, Workers Control

Related Articles

media, News, Politics

Against Police Violence and Racism

The United States is in the midst of a massive social movement against police violence and racism. As socialists we support this movement wholeheartedly and without reservation.

3 min read

Capitalism, Class

Piling up Manure: The Psychology of Wealth Accumulation

"Money is like manure. If you spread it around, it does a lot of good, but if you pile it up in one place, it stinks like hell." Who said that?

3 min read

Capitalism, Economics, healthcare, Science

A Cure for COVID-19: A Profit-making Strategy

Interim results of trials of the drug Remdesivir on Covid-19 patients are very encouraging. But could the drug be reaching those who desperately need it more quickly?

5 min read

Capitalism, Class, Work

Is Employment a Form of Slavery?

Socialists like to talk about 'wage slavery' and 'wage slaves.' But surely it is unreasonable to treat employment for a wage or salary as a form of slavery?

5 min read
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
This site uses User Verification plugin to reduce spam. See how your comment data is processed.
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share to...