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What happens after storming parliament?

This article is over 13 years, 9 months old
In the second part of our series Kieran Allen looks at how we could begin to change society
Issue 2214

Someone recently asked me, what do you do after you storm parliament?

We live in a world where the markets dictate our lives.

Raiding parliament won’t solve that. So to make a successful socialist revolution, what else do we need to do?

We have to encourage working people to get organised, take over their workplaces, and advance their solutions to the crisis in society.

This means serious struggle that breaks the division between economics and politics.

Every large working class movement has to create new organisations, workers’ councils, to escalate the struggle and get at the power of capital.

This lays the basis for organising a different kind of society.

In capitalist democracies, the level of involvement in conventional politics is declining.

Why? Because when you elect someone you can’t be sure they will do what you want.

Socialist democracy would be very different.

We can bring in the right to recall elected representatives. We can have annual elections.

Elected representatives must be on the average wage so they don’t get above themselves.

The political structures that lay the basis for socialism arise from struggle, and are profoundly democratic. They go beyond the limits of capitalist democracy.

If those structures are in place, that starts the transition to a socialist society.

The first measure in a new society will be public ownership of major corporations.

This doesn’t simply mean nationalisation as we know it today. It means workers having democratic control.

Today there are ten major pharmaceutical companies in the world—with around 140 people sitting as directors.

Along with senior management teams, let’s say 300 people control most pharmaceutical production in the world.

What have they done? One report found that between 1975 and 1997, out of 1,393 new drug products, just 16 were for tropical illnesses.

These 300 people decided they don’t care about people in Africa. The first thing we should do is give them redundancy notices.

We also have to clean out the people who run the BBC, the police force, the army, health and education services, and put in place ordinary people instead.

And we have to break up capitalist control of the media.

Workers’ control would eliminate the vast waste of marketing and advertising.

It would guarantee high quality goods. Thousands of people in Britain die each year because of trans fats.

Why would we use them if the people owned the food industry?

Finally, workers’ control would remove a key problem of capitalism—externalities, or offloading costs onto society.

If I own a chemical factory, I don’t care about the impact on planet or people. I just want to make money. Public ownership removes this problem.

The second element of transition is self‑management. It is inconceivable that we’re going to accept management at work as before.

Capitalism has various management styles.

Some try to get you to identify with the company brand. The old-style Taylorist management tells workers exactly what to say and do. And others obsess about output indicators and other drivel.

Under socialism we don’t need this nonsense.

Ordinary people will decide what self‑management will look like. Socialism is messy. It’s not made by prim and proper intellectuals. It’s made by real people in real situations.

There will probably be assemblies of workers, rather than managers, running workplaces.

They may elect managers or at least make them totally accountable to the assemblies. They may rename managers as co-ordinators or even rotate the position.

There aren’t some people who should spend all the time thinking and talking while others are forced to clean the toilets.

Eventually, we might arrive at a situation where you could do some physical work and some admin work.

The idea that some people think and others carry out orders is deeply ingrained. We can’t overcome it immediately.

But a socialist society will need a strategy, involving things like access to education, to consign that division to history.

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