On the tension between worker-control-of-their-own-workplaces-ism and true socialization in a socialist economy

Some thoughts inspired by reading Homage to Catalonia and also after hearing one of my comrades’ opinions on the role the anarchists and the Stalinists played in the economy of revolutionary Spain. My friend was making the point that the anarchists probably weren’t running the seized factories as productively as a more centralized and planned system would have, and that had they been more efficient, that would obviously have better helped resist the fascists.


So the anarchists (actually, more like worker-control-of-their-own-workplaces-ists, but I’ll keep saying “anarchists” because the two mindsets are very close) want to seize control of the means of production for themselves; however, this is still basically a petty-bourgeois mindset (which sees its liberation in secure private control of some specific set of means of production). What’s more, the anarchists may not truly have the whole people’s interests (including the interests of the worst-off sections of the masses) at heart–and those people (e.g., the lumpenproletariat) will inevitably not be as organized as the anarchists, and will almost certainly be given a worse deal in the “grab.” So the statist communists want to truly collectivize and plan each and every part of the economy according to a whole plan and run things for the benefit of literally everyone in a way anarchists are not interested in attempting–preferring to hope this result simply arises on its own. Obviously there’s a danger with the plan-the-whole-economy approach, because that puts more control in the hands of the party, who are ever at risk of becoming a new bourgeoisie. So it seems like that’s one line that a successful economic socialization policy has to walk–between the tendency for more anarchistic local workers to serve themselves first and the tendency for party members to serve themselves first.

Obviously this ties in to the need for ongoing cultural revolution (“bombard the headquarters” type stuff). But I didn’t understand it this clearly before, because for a long time I think I was more sympathetic to the anarchists, being much taken with direct worker control. Having become a maoist, I see there’s a greater nuance needed.

Other posts on Maoism vs. anarchism:

“A fatal criticism of the anarchist road to communism based on the necessity of the party in order for society to transform itself after the revolution”

“On the typical anarchist rejection of nuance in discussing the USSR and the PRC”