For Workers' Power
For Workers' Power: the selected writings of Maurice Brinton
Edited by David Goodwin, AK Press
The name of Maurice Brinton is largely unknown to Americans, yet he was an important socialist writer, activist, and champion of the work of Cornelius Castoriadis on the British left from the early 1960s onwards. AK Press's recent collection of Brinton's writings FOR WORKERS' POWER may serve to extend the circle of those familiar with him beyond the limited number of those in the U.S. who were exposed to the editions published by Fredy Perlman's Black & Red editions in the 1970s.
Brinton, who passed away in 2005, left Trotskyism in the early 1960s to contribute towards building a non-vanguardist and libertarian socialist movement based on the self-activity of workers, all the while maintaining a career as a neurosurgeon. He became a leading member of the group Solidarity and a translator and proponent of the writings of Paul Cardan, a pseudonym used at the time by Castoriadis.
Much of the material Solidarity published was Brinton's translations of Cardan's work, and FOR WORKERS' POWER contains many of Brinton's introductions to these pieces, along with fascinating journalistic accounts of revolutionary upsurges in France and Portugal.
The bulk of the book is Brinton's two long works, THE IRRATIONAL IN POLITICS, a popularization of the revolutionary period of psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, and THE BOLSHEVIKS AND WORKERS' CONTROL, a closely detailed account of the deterioration of workers' self-management in Russian factories from the revolution to the year 1921. Brinton's position on the Russian experience is basically that of left communism, which, though containing much relevant criticism of Lenin's centralizing tendencies, is debilitated by its utter disinterest in Lenin's philosophic reorganization of 1914, an effort towards the renewal of the Hegelian heritage of Marx that still demands study today.
This aspect of Brinton and Castoriadis is what limits the relevance of their work today. Their writings on self-management and the dangers of bureaucratization made great strides toward salvaging an authentic revolutionary position, but their lack of interest in the importance of the Hegelian philosophical current of Marx's thought led toward their abandonment of Marx entirely. Brinton endorsed Castoriadis' identification of Marx's work with positivistic and productivist attitudes of the nineteenth century and claimed that he had to free himself from Marx to remain a revolutionary.
Brinton's work made an indisputable contribution to the movement for social revolution, but the path forward today lies in a direction other than the one he and Castoriadis traveled.
Published by News and Letters Committees