Caribbean situationist Joseph Edwards on radical democracy & workers’ self-management

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Joseph Edwards (born George Myers), also known as the “Caribbean Situationist”, was a Jamaican manual worker and labor organizer from West Kingston. In the 1960s and 1970s, he played major role in organizing wildcat strikes and independent workers’ councils.

Edwards was a profound critic of electoral party politics and trade union bureaucracy, advocating instead for direct democracy beyond statecraft and capitalism. His articles and pamphlets survey self-organized workers struggles in the Carbibean. His unique writing is animated by a Rastafarian-influenced philosophy of history and direct democratic politics that emphasize the role of workers’ and village councils in Caribbean class struggle. But despite his significant practical and theoretical contributions to the grassroots movements of Jamaica and the wider Caribbean region, he remains largely unknown for international audience.

Below we offer some excerpts from the first published book, collection of writings, by Joseph Edwards, entitled Workers’ Self-Management in the Caribbean (edited by Matthew Quest):

We have the middle class state bureaucrats on the one hand and the various Marxist-Leninist parties and movements on the other, all talking about workers’ control and self-management. And as if not to be outdone, the union bureaucrats, too, have begun to call for workers’ control and self-management. All three of these forces are as different from each other as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. What keeps them apart is their power struggle, which results from their common desire to be in control of the state machinery. What makes them one is their equally common desire to continue the oppression and exploitation of the masses of people under the hierarchical organization of work for their commodity production – with themselves as professional specialists in charge of the factories and state institutions…

Matthew Quest, “Workers’ Self-Management in the Caribbean: The Writings of Joseph Edwards”, On Our Own Authority! Publishing, Atlanta: 2014.

The masses could never seize state power, because the state is a hierarchical form of social organization and could only be seized in the name of the masses by somebody else…

We have no intention of becoming only better-fed slaves…

Self-management is what the revolution is all about. The struggle being waged by the masses of people to gain direct control over all areas of social life […] the concept of self-management, to be meaningful, could never relate to only the place of work or any other separate part of social existence. Because of the interdependence of all areas of our social life, and because humanity demands total social liberty, then meaningful and real self-management must embrace life in its totality.

All those who preach the virtues of hierarchical authority will accuse us of being opposed to organization. Ironically, in our struggle to establish a society of self-management, where decisions are made by those whom they affect, it is precisely our organization (or lack of it) which will determine our success (or failure). They confuse bureaucracy and its hierarchical authority for organization.

It becomes more absurd than ironic when one realizes that direct democracy, especially in today’s world, requires an amount and quality of organization that is as yet to appear in any society. On the other hand, their organizational form, with the vast masses being directed by the few, is an absolute minimum of organization, and anything less would be no organization at all…

An organization is either democratic or it is no. In content, this means that there can be no other power of decision outside the general assembly itself, and the execution of decisions must not be done in any way that the body carrying out decisions becomes a separate power…

Humanity will never be free until the last bureaucrat is hanged by the guts of the last capitalist…

ΒΛ. ΣΧΕΤΙΚΑ το πρόσφατο βιβλίο των εκδόσεων Αυτολεξεί:

Χειραφέτηση, δημοκρατία & αποαποικιοποίηση – 2 συζητήσεις για το έργο του CLR James με τον Matthew Quest

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