A Political Statement
Libertarian Socialist Collective
This statement should not be seen as a comprehensive analysis,
or as a substitute for one. It is a sketch of the most basic outlines
of our politics and their fundamental orientation, and a indication
of the basic political criteria for membership in the LSC. The discussion
regarding the nature of socialism, in particular, is only an attempt
to indicate some of the most basic pre-conditions and principles
of socialism, as we see them. They are an absolute minimum, in no
way an attempt to elaborate on the creative possibilities that will
be able to emerge in a socialist world. We see this statement as
a beginning, nothing more.
1. Women and men make history, but they do so in circumstances not
of their own choosing. Their activities, the lives they lead, shape
society, but the nature of their activities and their lives has
already been shaped by society. All societies in existence are class
societies, societies based not on freedom but on the organized unequal
distribution of power and wealth.
2. The fundamental basis of all class societies is the relations
of production: the relations people enter into to satisfy material
needs, to produce and reproduce life itself.
3. In all countries in existence the fundamental relation of production
is wage labour, the sale and purchase of labour power. This relation
presupposes and determines the relation of capital, and the existence
of two basic classes: the class which owns and controls the means
of production, and which lives from the profit it derives from that
control, and the class which to survive must sell its ability to
work and produce, its labour power: the working class.
4. Tied to that fundamental relationship is the whole network of
relationships which taken together comprise the totality of social
life: political, cultural, psychological, sexual, and so on. These
relations in turn react upon and change the relations of production.
5. The result is a class society in which the vast majority of
people have no control over the decisions that affect their lives,
over their activities at work, over the general development and
use of their productive and creative powers. Their own powers are
alienated from them, and produce results alien to them and opposed
to them. Their human powers become things, commodities that have
a value only insofar as they have a value for capital.
6. The alien power that stands opposed to them is increasingly
centralized and integrated into the framework of the state. In a
number of countries, this dynamic of capitalism to increased centralization
of power has taken the form of a state-dominated society in which
the capitalist class itself has been swept away. Whether the term
capitalism still applies to such societies is perhaps debatable.
What is not debatable is that these societies are still class societies
based on wage labour in which the fundamental relations of production
and domination typical of traditional capitalism still exist. Ironically,
some of these states were created partly through the efforts of
a working class aiming at the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism.
Their inability to carry the revolution its successful conclusion,
the creation of socialism, resulted in the most concentrated expression
of capitalist alienation: their own revolutionary efforts ended
by producing results alien to and opposed to them.
7. The tendency to an increased role and power for the state is
a world-wide phenomenon. The different forms it has taken at different
times and in different countries are all indicative of the universality
of the general trend. The experiences of different "socialist"
and "communist" countries such as the USSR, Yugoslavia,
China, etc., of social-democratic regimes, of fascism, of liberal
welfare-state capitalism, of "revolutionary" third world
regimes, make it clear that world-wide forces are involved. In underdeveloped
countries in particular a centralized authoritarian state has frequently
emerged, often under the control of regimes calling themselves "socialist"
or "revolutionary" to carry out the tasks of capital accumulation
that traditionally was seen as the role of the bourgeoisie.
8. Capitalism is a world-wide system which can only be overthrown
on a world scale. Socialism in one country or a group of countries
is impossible so long as economically or militarily significant
capitalist nations or multinational corporations remain in existence.
This is not to say, however, that significant progress toward socialism
is not possible in particular countries or areas prior to a world-wide
revolution. As even a failure such as the Popular Unity government
in Chile demonstrated, a leftist or left-social-democratic government
can be a great advantage for a working-class movement, in the way
it adds to the momentum and possibilities of a popular movement,
in the way it represents the increased strength of the movement,
in the way it creates international repercussions and an international
example. Such achievements can be the basis for moving on to further
victories, if the movement remains aware that it has to keep
moving ahead, if the movement does not come to see this step
along the road as a goal.
9. The basis of capitalist society (including the so-called "socialist"
countries) is wage labour. People who sell their labour power, and
who have no significant control over the work they do, whether or
not they produce surplus value, whether their collars are blue,
white or pink, together comprise the working class. The working
class has a central role to play in the struggle for the overthrow
of the society based on capital, because it is in direct daily contact
with the exploitative core of that society, and because its numbers
and collective strength give it a unique position of power at the
controlling centres of society.
10. In the revolutionary overthrow of the social system based on
wage labour, the working class plays a crucial role but the participation
of many other sectors of the population is vital as well. Housewives,
children, pensioners and non-working-class people such as farmers,
students, professionals and other members of the petty-bourgeoisie
have important roles to play as well. Revolution must be the work
of all oppressed people, not the working class alone. This is especially
true in countries where the working class does not comprise the
majority of the population.
11. The aim of the revolutionary overthrow of existing society is
socialism. However, to call oneself a socialist today is meaningless
unless one specifies what one means by socialism. We define ourselves
as libertarian socialists. The socialist perspective, as we see
it, implies a total critique of human society as it is presently
constituted. Socialism means a total transformation of life and
social institutions - a project of collective self-transformation.
It means a thorough critique of authoritarianism, hierarchy, and
bureaucracy, of capitalist technique, forms of organization, and
technology, of the orientation to the environment that attempts
to dominate and manipulate it rather than living in ecological harmony
with it. Socialism means recognition of the centrality of creativity,
play, art, and sexuality. It involves awareness of all forms of
social life, struggle against all forms of oppression and repression,
work on developing alternatives in the process of the struggle itself.
Libertarian socialism implies the following:
12. The idea that socialism is first and foremost about freedom,
and therefore about overcoming domination, repression and alienation
that block the free flow of human creativity, thought and action.
We do not equate socialism with planning, state control, or nationalization
of industry although we understand that in a socialist society (not
'under' socialism) economic activity will be collectively controlled,
managed, planned and owned. Similarly, we believe that socialism
will involve equality, but we do not think that socialism is
equality, for it is possible to conceive of a society where everyone
is equally oppressed. We think that socialism is incompatible with
one-party states, with constraints on freedom of speech, with an
elite exercising power 'on behalf of' the people, with leader cults,
with any of the other devices through which the dying society seeks
to portray itself as the new society.
13. Libertarian politics concerns itself with the liberation of
the individual because it is collective, and with the collective
liberation because it is individualistic.
14. An approach to socialism that incorporates cultural revolution,
women's and children's liberation, and the critique and transformation
of daily life, as well as the more traditional concerns of socialist
politics. A politics that is completely revolutionary because it
seeks to transform all of reality. We do not think that capturing
the economy or the state lead automatically to the transformation
of the rest of the social being, nor do we equate liberation with
changing our lifestyles and our heads. Capitalism is a total
system that invades all areas of life: socialism must be
the overcoming of capitalist reality in its entirety, or
it is nothing.
15. Being a socialist is not only an intellectual thing, a matter
of having the right ideas or to the right intellectual approach.
It is also a matter of the way you lead your life.
16. A politics that is revolutionary because, in
the words of Marx and Engels, "revolution is necessary not
only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in other
way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only
in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages
and become fitted to found society anew."
17. Because revolution is a collective process of self-liberation,
because people and society are transformed through struggle, not
by decree, therefore "the emancipation of the working class
can only be achieved by the working classes themselves", not
by a Leninist vanguard, a socialist state or any other agent acting
on their behalf.
18. A conception of the left not as separate from society, but
as part of it. We of the left are people who are subjected to social
oppression like everyone else, who struggle for socialism because
our liberation is possible only when all society is liberated. We
seek to bring others to our socialist project not to do them a favour,
but because we need their help to achieve our own liberation. Cohn-Bendit's
comment that "It is for yourself that you make the revolution"
is not an individualistic position but the key to a truly collective
politics based on joy and the promise of life, instead of on the
self-sacrifice that is often the radical's version of the white
19. We of the left see ourselves as equal participants in the struggle,
not as the anointed leaders of it. We put forward our socialist
vision as part of our contribution, but we do not think that our
belief in socialism means that we have all the answers. We deal
with people honestly, as equals, not presuming the right to dictate
what they shall think or do, nor presuming that we have nothing
to learn from them. We have enough faith in our politics that we
do not seek to manipulate people to our conclusion.
20. As socialists, we form organizations with other people who
share our ideas. This is necessary and valid, but it represents
a situation that we should try continually to overcome, not one
that we should accept and even institutionalize in the Leninist
mode. Socialism implies not only the withering away of the state,
but also the withering away of the left and its organizations
as separate entities. Power in a socialist society must be exercised
in ways allowing the participation of everyone, not only those belonging
to a given organization. This must be prefigured in the political
forms and movements that emerge before the revolution. The
ultimate goal of the left and its organizations must not be to rule
society, but to abolish themselves.
21. The most important component of socialist consciousness is
critical thought. We must learn to think about everything
critically, to take nothing for granted, nothing as given. Consequently
we do not want people to accept socialist ideas in the way they
now accept, partially or completely, bourgeois ideas. We want to
destroy all uncritical acceptance and belief. We think that
a critical examination of society leads to socialist conclusions,
but what is important is not simply the conclusions but equally
and even more so the method of arriving at them.
22. We base ourselves on the heritage of marxism. This does not
mean that we accept all the ideas of Marx, let alone of those who
claim to be his followers. Marxism is a point of departure for us,
not our predetermined destination. We accept Marx's dictum that
our criticism must fear nothing including its own results. Our debt
to Marxism will be no less if we find that we have to go beyond
23. Nothing could be more foreign to us than the "traditional
Marxist" idea that all important questions have been answered.
On the contrary we have yet to formulate many of the important questions.
24. We have to try to maintain a balance of theory and practice
which seeks to integrate them, and which recognizes that we must
engage in both at all times.
25. The centre of gravity of our politics has to be where we are,
not in the vicarious identification with struggles elsewhere. Solidarity
work is important, but it cannot be the main focus of a socialist
26. We don't know if we'll win: history is made by human beings,
and where human beings are concerned, nothing is inevitable. But
because people do make history, we know that it is possible
to build a new world, and we strive to realize that possibility.
"There is only one reason to be a revolutionary - because it
is the best way to live."
Socialism and Socialist Strategy
27. We have much to learn from previous revolutionary efforts, from
their successes or failures, but none of these efforts have been
ultimately successful. There are no socialist countries or "workers'
states" (deformed, degenerated, or otherwise) in existence
today. All social, political, and economic systems in existence
are oppressive and exploitative, and must be overturned. All states
must be overthrown, including those that now call themselves socialist,
such as the USSR, and its bloc, Yugoslavia, Cuba, China, Albania,
Mozambique, etc. There are significant social and economic differences
between countries, but these are differences within the oppressive
system built on wage labour.
Nevertheless, the differences between countries and types of social
structures are important, and our political attitudes will take
them into account. For example, liberal democracy or social democracy
are preferable to fascism or military dictatorship. A regime promoting
literacy, modern health care, and economic development is more progressive
than one offering nothing except corruption and social decay. Internationally,
we support the efforts of nations to gain independence and resist
imperialist domination, even though we do not support the regimes
of these nations or the programmes of the national liberation movements.
In other words, our opposition to all existing regimes and social
structures does not mean abstention from all political choices prior
to their overthrow. The fact of their sameness does not blind us
to their differences.
28. We reject social democracy and social democratic organizations,
but we may support reforms of various kinds. However, we never see
them as ends in themselves, but always as part of a process leading
29. We oppose a parliamentary or reformist strategy for bringing
about socialism, but at times it may be tactically correct to participate
in elections, or parliaments, as part of an overall strategy.
30. In cases where socialists are elected, they must be strictly
subordinated to the program and decisions of the organization as
a whole. The normal freedom to disagree belonging to members of
an organization is severely restricted in their case, because they
are public spokespeople for the organization. Elected representatives
who do not follow the decisions and policies of the organization
must be recalled and/or expelled. The same holds true for people
holding posts in other political or labour bodies after being elected
as members of the group. The group must be consulted before any
member runs for a political position.
31. Because revolution must take place in all spheres of life,
revolutionary activity must also take place of all fronts: economic,
political, social, cultural, ecological, etc. Socialist activity
is not merely a matter of political or workplace organizing. Forms
of 'extra-parliamentary' action such as community and workplace
organizing are necessary forms of socialist activity although they
are not of themselves revolutionary.
32. The process of advancing to socialism involves many people
in many different activities, and for that reason alone cannot be
primarily a matter of elections or preparing for elections. But
it is possible that in a country such as Canada, a liberal democracy,
at a certain point in the process, socialist candidates will win
a electoral victory. This would be an occasion for working people
to implement the socialist program - i.e., continuing the struggle
both outside and inside parliament. It is extremely likely that
in such a situation the forces of reaction would discard bourgeois
legalities and attempt to destroy the socialist forces by any means
available. Such an attack will be resisted by whatever means necessary
that are consistent with socialist principles. In principle, however,
the possibility of a relatively peaceful transition to socialism
cannot be absolutely ruled out. It depends largely on the actions
of the bourgeoisie.
33. Socialism is not state ownership of the means of production.
It is not the extension of the role of the state. While society
will not be stateless immediately after a socialist conquest of
power - although the bourgeois state must be immediately dismantled
and destroyed - the nature and activities of the transitional state
apparatus will be radically different.
34. The first task of the transitional administration is to co-ordinate
the defeat and repression of the bourgeoisie and its allies and
agents, internal and external. It is not the primary agent
of the reconstruction of society on socialist lines - this can only
be the work of the people as a whole, working directly through the
organizational and social forms they find appropriate.
35. The second task of the transitional state is to participate
in its own dismantling as social, political, and economic life is
organized on a radically different basis.
36. While there cannot be blueprints for the socialist future,
it is possible to talk about certain basic pre-conditions and principles.
Foremost among these must be direct popular control of social life:
workers' control and management of the workplaces, community control
of the community, students' and staff control of the schools, etc.
37. At the same time, because none of these things exist in isolation,
there must also be found ways of making sure activities and institutions
are accountable to society as a whole - e.g. a workplace must also
be responsible to the community in which it is situated and its
environmental, economic and social needs, and to the needs of the
economy as a whole.
38. Therefore representative institutions deriving their mandate
from and answerable at every point to, the different constituencies
e.g. workplace, community - will also come into existence.
39. Organizations such as workers' councils will have key roles
to play, but theirs will not be the sole role. Not everyone works,
so other organizations will also be important to give everyone a
say on the different levels of societal organization.
40. Socialism implies no fetish of centralization. In some things
there will be a great deal more co-ordination and planning, but
in many cases decentralization is often more efficient and/or suited
to peoples' needs. In many areas of life, there is presently too
much control and intervention. In many cases therefore, the advent
of socialism will mean less control and interference, and the expansion
of individual freedom and the increase of group activity outside
any official or state control.
41. The creation of socialism implies the broadest political and
individual freedom and democracy. This includes freedom of the press
and other forms of communication, and the freedom to form various
political parties and groups - a socialist pluralism. It will be
necessary to ban only the parties of the extreme right and those
actively working to restore bourgeois society. And even this ban
can be progressively eased and finally removed as the socialist
42. Canada's position in the world capitalist system is largely
defined by its relation to the United States. Canada is largely
dominated by the United States, and this creates various economic,
cultural, and other ramifications in this country. We therefore
oppose the U.S. imperialist domination of Canada, and see the opposition
to it as a component of the struggle for socialism. At the same
time, we recognize that in some areas, such as the Caribbean, the
Canadian state and Canadian capital themselves play an imperialistic
role and we oppose this in the same way as we oppose imperialist
penetration of Canada. We also recognize that the same processes
of capitalism have also produced serious distortions and exploitative
relations in Canada itself, for example in relation to Quebec or
the Maritimes. The struggle against these inequalities is also a
component of the struggle for socialism in Canada.
We reject the idea that Canada is a colony, and we reject the idea
that U.S. imperialist domination is the 'primary contradiction'
(a valueless concept at any rate) or that it is necessary to form
a 'national liberation' movement in Canada. The effort to make Canada
independent is a subordinate part of the overall struggle for socialism.
Our international perspective is not that of nation against nation,
but of class against class.
43. We recognize that Quebec is a distinct national entity within
the Canadian state, and we thus support Quebec's right to self-determination.
At the same time, we do not pre-suppose that Quebec ought
to separate from Canada. We see no necessary reason why Quebec's
national aspirations cannot be meet within the framework of Canada,
should the people of Quebec choose that option. In Quebec, as in
Canada, we are opposed to any form of nationalism, such as that
of the Parti Quebecois, which claims to supersede class questions.
44. We support unions and the organization of unions insofar as
they defend the interest of workers. At the same time, we recognize
that unions have a dual role: they also increasingly function to
discipline workers and integrate them into capitalist production
in exchange for recognition and certain economic gains. We therefore
recognize that in many ways unions do not serve the interests of
workers, and we reject the view of unions as actual or potential
vehicles of revolutionary organization. The struggle of workers
is increasingly directed against unions as well as against management.
We do not see a workplace strategy as being directed at capturing
union office, or at bringing about changes in unions. The problems
of unions are structural - a product of their role, and that of
the contract, in guaranteeing consistent production - and are thus
not solvable by changing leaders or by bringing about greater democracy.
We do not rule out the possibility, in specific circumstances where
the union has become an issue in a given workplace, that socialists
will participate in organizing elections or will even run for office
on the local level. But we see this as an exceptional circumstance,
not a general or long-term strategy for workplace organizing.
45. We support the self-organization of people into unions, co-operatives,
community and tenants' groups, women's liberation group, etc. At
the same time, these organizations often tend to be partial and
inclined to reformism. We support and participate in their activities,
but we always strive to connect their activities to the concept
and activities of a larger movement toward socialism.
46. When participating in larger organizations, common fronts,
etc., we put forward our ideas. We do not seek to hide our affiliation
or beliefs, or to manipulate or seize control of groups. If we participate
in the running of such groups we do so on the basis of having been
chosen by people who know our politics. We loyally work to support
the activities decided upon even if we favoured other options, unless
they are clearly reactionary. We do not seek to substitute ourselves
for reactionary leaders, but to democratize the organizations to
the fullest possible extent, to involve as many as possible directly.
In a strike, or any action, our objective is to facilitate its development,
not to bring it under our control or to get it to adopt our 'line'.
47. We think that revolutionary organization is necessary. We see
the role of such organizations as being largely to educate, to provide
a common focus, theme, and analysis for the movement, a pool of
resources, a means of co-ordinating activity which can be useful
at certain points in the struggle. We do not see the organization
as playing the dominant role in a revolutionary movement or crisis,
or in the post revolutionary period. Historical experience has shown
that working people create their own institutions and forms at such
times, institutions that transcend party lines: the Paris Commune,
the soviets thrown up by the mass strike movement in Russia, the
factory councils, the workers' councils of the post-World War I
period and of Hungary in 1956, the collectives of revolutionary
in Spain, the worker/student action committees of France in 1968,
the drive to create non-party forms in Portugal in the 1970s. Historically,
the role of parties has usually been to retard the revolutionary
process in moments of crisis because they attempt to take it over,
"lead" it, and determine its pace. If a revolutionary
organization is to assist the revolutionary process, it must place
itself at the disposal of broader movements, especially in times
of crisis, rather than attempt to place the movement at the disposal
of its strategy.
48. We reject the idea that consciousness develops through a progression
of pre-determined stages ("trade, union, political" etc.)
and the idea that socialist consciousness must or can be brought
to the working class from the outside.
49. The crisis of the working class movement is not a crisis of
leadership, but a crisis of the self-consciousness of the working
50. Leadership is not a institutionalized function in a movement,
but a practical reality that can change from one day or one hour
to the next, and almost certainly will change in many mass movement
or dynamic situation. The attempt to institutionalize leadership
in a particular organization can only result in putting a brake
on the development of the revolutionary process.
51. The concept of a vanguard and its supposed monopoly of "revolutionary
consciousness" is fundamentally false. It indicates a narrowly
intellectual stress on formal ideas which fails to understand that
consciousness is reflected and worked out in all aspects of life.
Consciousness can and does differ in even the same person from time
to time and from issue to issue. The left has no monopoly on consciousness:
while the left understands the necessity for revolution, it does
not necessarily completely understand what this entails and how
it is to be brought about.
52. We reject terrorism everywhere since it is a dead end. We particularly
condemn random terror (e.g. hijacking) which does not even discriminate
between enemies and ordinary people. Terrorism stems from the belief
that revolution is an impossible ideal, whereas we believe it is
possible if the majority of people believe it to be a practical
53. We support civil liberties and oppose the erosion of liberal
democratic forms in the direction of greater authoritarianism. We
oppose bourgeois democracy, but we do so because it is not truly
democratic, not because we propose to replace it with dictatorship.
We seek to establish a society which is far more democratic than
any existing now. In a socialist society rights such a freedom of
speech, of association, of assembly, of the press, of religion,
freedom to form political parties and associations, will be guaranteed.
Their exercise will be protected against not only legal but economic
sanction. Rights such as freedom of the press, for those who criticize
the status quo as well as those who favour it, will be actively
supported in ways making it possible and not merely legally permissible
to exercise them.
54. We seek the replacement of liberal electoral "democracy"
by forms of participatory, direct, and representative democracy
that extend political power to everyone. We seek the extension of
direct popular control to all parts of the economy and all social
Internal Organization and Membership
55. To be a member of the Libertarian Socialist Collective (LSC)
it is necessary to accept the program and principles of the group.
Disagreement with specific programmatic points is acceptable as
long as the group feels sufficient basic agreement exists, and as
long as the member is willing to abide by the points in question
in doing political work with the group. In addition to this "Political
Statement", prospective members should be in basic agreement
with the political direction and approach of the group, as exemplified
by The Red Menace and the practice of the LSC. If differences
are felt to be unbridgeable, a member may be removed from membership
by majority vote upon notice of at least one meeting being given.
56. The fundamental organizational principles of a socialist organization
must always be the greatest degree of democracy, meaning active
control by the membership, and the greatest degree of openness compatible
with the legal confines it is working under.
57. The organizational principles of the group include the greatest
possible degree of autonomy for members and local groups in undertaking
activities, so long as these are compatible with the basic principles
and program of the organization, and as long as actions decided
on by the organization as a whole are carried out.
58. Since the activities and membership of the organization encompass
more than one locality, the membership may propose and set up such
central and co-ordinating bodies as are necessary. Such bodies are
subject to the complete control of the membership.
59. Programmatic minorities have the right to exist and organize
within the organization, as long as they remain within the basic
principles of the organization, and as long as their factional organization
does not interfere with their political work as members.
60. Minority viewpoints may not be presented, explicitly or implicitly,
as the viewpoint of the organization.
61. Political differences within the organization are not secret
- political debate with the organization is public.
62. Members of the organization are expected to participate in
the activities of the group and are expected to attend meetings
63. Members may not belong to any other political party or league,
or to any organization exercising centralist discipline over its
Published in Volume 3, Number 1, Winter 1979 issue of The Red Menace.
También disponible en español: Un enunciado político de los Socialistas Libertario.
Aussi disponible en français: Une déclaration politique du collectif des socialistes libertaires.
Red Menace home page
Canadian Nationalism -
Canadian Politics -
Left, The -
Libertarian Politics -
Libertarian Socialism -
Libertarian Socialist Collective -
Political Alternatives -
Political Programs -
Radical Political Theory -
Revolutionary Politics -
Strategies for Social Change