Antonio Gramsci 1891-1937

Antonio Gramsci 1921

Worker´ Control


Unsigned, L'Ordine Nuovo, 10 February 1921

Text from Antonio Gramsci "Selections from political writings (1921-1926)", translated and edited by Quintin Hoare (Lawrence and Wishart, London 1978), transcribed to the www with the kind permission of Quintin Hoare.


Before we examine the configuration of the draft bill presented by Hon. Giolitti to the Chamber of Deputies, or the possibilities which it opens up, it is essential to establish the viewpoint from which the communists approach discussion of the problem.

For the communists, tackling the problem of control means tackling the greatest problem of the present historical period; it means tackling the problem of workers' power over the means of production, and hence that of conquering State power. From this point of view, the presentation of a draft bill, its approval, and its execution within the framework of the bourgeois State, are events of secondary importance. Workers' power has, and can only have, its raison d´être and its source within the working class itself; in the political capacity of the working class; in the real power that the working class possesses, as an indispensable and irreplaceable factor of production and as an organization of political and military force. Any law in this respect which emanates from bourgeois power has just one significance and just one value: it means that in reality, and not just in words, the terrain of the class struggle has changed. And insofar as the bourgeoisie is compelled to make concessions and create new juridical institutions on the new terrain, it has the real value of demonstrating an organic weakness of the ruling class [classe dominante].

To admit that entrepreneurial power in industry can be subjected to limitations, and that industrial autocracy can become "democracy" even of a formal kind, means to admit that the bourgeoisie has now effectively fallen from its historical position as the leading class [classe dirigente] and is effectively incapable of guaranteeing the popular masses their conditions of existence and development. In order to shed at least a part of its responsibilities and to create an alibi for itself, the bourgeoisie allows itself to be "controlled" and pretends to let itself be placed under supervision. It would 'certainly be very useful, for the purposes of bourgeois self-preservation, if a guarantor like the proletariat were to take upon itself to testify before the great mass of the population that nobody should be held responsible for the present economic ruin, but that everyone's duty is to suffer patiently and work tenaciously, while waiting for the present cracks to be repaired and for a new edifice to be built upon the present ruins.

The field of control is thus the field upon which bourgeoisie and proletariat struggle for class leadership over the great mass of the population. The field of control is thus the basis upon which the working class, when it has won the trust and consent of the great mass of the population, can construct its State, organize its governmental institutions with the participation of all the oppressed and exploited classes, and initiate the positive work of organizing the new economic and social system. Through the fight for control - which does not take place in Parliament, but is a revolutionary mass struggle and a propaganda and organizational activity of the historic party of the working class, the Communist Party - the working class must acquire, both spiritually and as an organization, awareness of its autonomy and historic personality. This is why the first phase of the struggle will present itself as the fight for a specific form of organization. This form of organization can only be the Factory Council, and the nationally centralized system of Factory Councils. The outcome of the struggle must be the constitution of a National Council of the working class, to be elected at all levels - from the Factory Councils to the City Councils and the National Council - by methods and according to a procedure determined by the working class itself, and not by the national Parliament or by bourgeois power. This struggle must be waged in such a way as to show the great mass of the population that all the existential problems of the present historical period - the problems of bread, housing, light, clothes - can be resolved only when all. economic power, and hence all political power, has passed into the hands of the working class. In other words, it must be waged in such a way as to organize all the popular forces in revolt against the capitalist régime around the working class, so that the latter really becomes the leading class and guides all the productive forces to emancipate themselves by realizing the communist programme. This struggle must equip the working class to select the most able and energetic elements from its own ranks and make them into its new industrial leaders, its new guides in the work of economic reconstruction.

From this point of view, the draft bill presented to the Chamber of Deputies by Hon. Giolitti represents merely a means for agitation and propaganda. It must be studied by the communists in this light; for them, not only is it not a final goal, it is not even a point of departure or a launching-pad.