12 March 2005


I am sad to report the death of Chris Pallis, otherwise known as Maurice Brinton, the leading figure of the libertarian socialist group Solidarity in the 1960s and 1970s.

He was a complex and inspiring man: the only British leftist to write a decent account of Paris 1968; a pioneer in debunking the Leninist account of the Bolshevik revolution; the translator into English of Cornelius Castoriadis (the leading light of Socialisme ou Barbarie in France).

Most importantly, he was the inspiration and guiding force of Solidarity, which was an an extraordinarily influential (though small) group and magazine in British left politics in the 1960s and 1970s. I was a member of the group at the very end of its existence – in fact, I never resigned.

Here's the Brinton line, from Solidarity's 1967 platform As We See It:

During the past century the living standards of working people have improved. But neither these improved living standards, nor the nationalisation of the means of production, nor the coming to power of parties claiming to represent the working class have basically altered the status of the worker as worker . . . Nor have they given the bulk of mankind much freedom outside of production. East and west, capitalism remains an inhuman type of society where the vast majority are bossed at work and manipulated in consumption and leisure. Propaganda and policemen, prisons and schools, traditional values and traditional morality all serve to reinforce the power of the few and to convince or coerce the many into acceptance of a brutal, degrading and irrational system. The ‘communist’ world is not communist and the ‘free’ world is not free . . .
A socialist society can therefore only be built from below. Decisions concerning production and work will be taken by workers' councils composed of elected and revocable delegates. Decisions in other areas will be taken on the basis of the widest possible discussion and consultation among the people as a whole. This democratisation of society down to its very roots is what we mean by ‘workers power'.
OK, workers' councils aren't exactly on the agenda today -- but the idea of socialism as "democratisation of society down to its very roots" remains as pertinent as ever.

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