International Communist Party The Union Question

Italian Socialist Party

Communist Abstentionist Fraction

Take Over the Factory or Take Over Power ?

from Il Soviet, vol. III, no. 7, February 22nd, 1920

In the labor unrest of the last few days in Liguria a phenomenon occurred, which has repeated itself with some frequency for some time now and which deserves to be noted as a symptom of a special state of mind of the working masses.

The workers. instead of quitting their jobs. have, so to say, taken over the factories and have tried to run them on their own account or rather without the presence of the main managers. This means first of all that the workers realize that the strike is a weapon that no longer corresponds to the needs of the struggle in the current conditions.

The economic strike, through the immediate harm to the worker himself, exerts its useful defensive action for the worker because of the harm that stopping work does to the capitalist by the fact that it diminishes the product of the work that belongs to him.

This is the case when the capitalist economy is functioning normally, when competition with the corresponding fall in prices compels a continuous increase in production itself. Today the industrial sharks, especially metallurgical industries, are coming out of an exceptional period, during which they made enormous profits with the least hassle. During the war the State supplied them with raw materials and coal and was at the same time the only and safe buyer; the State itself with the militarization of factories provided for the strict discipline of the working masses. Could there be better conditions for smooth functioning of the economy? These people are now no longer willing to face all the difficulties coming from the scarcity of coal and materials, of the instability of the market, of the restlessness of the working masses, and they’re especially unwilling to be content with modest profits, as those they routinely got before the war, perhaps even less.

So they aren’t too worried about strikes, indeed they’re perfectly happy about them even if they protest in words against the excessive unsatiability and absurd demands of the workers.

The workers have understood this and by their action of taking over the factory and continuing to work instead of going on strike they want to signify that it’s not that they don’t want to work, but they don’t want to work as the bosses say. They don’t want to work for them anymore, they don’t want to be exploited anymore, they want to work for their own sake, i.e., in the interest of the workforce only.

This mindset that’s becoming more and more precise must be taken into the utmost account, but we don’t want it to be misled by false assessments. It’s been said that where factory councils existed, they functioned by taking over the management of the factories and keeping the work going.

We don’t want the working masses to believe that by developing the establishment of councils it’s possible to take over the factories without fail and eliminate the capitalists. This is the most dangerous possible illusion. The factory will be conquered by the working class – and not only by the respective workforce, which would be too minimal a thing and not communist – only after the working class as a whole has seized political power. Without this conquest to dispel all illusions will be taken care of by the royal guards, the carabinieri, etc., that is, the mechanism of force and oppression at the disposal of the bourgeoisie, its political apparatus of power.

These vain continual thrusts of the working masses that are being exhausted daily in small efforts must be channeled, fused, organized into a great united general effort aimed directly at striking the enemy bourgeoisie in the heart.

This function can and must be exercised only by a communist party, which has and must have no other task at this hour than to turn all its activities to making the working masses increasingly aware of the necessity of this great political action, which is the only path by which they’ll come to a much more direct possession of that factory which in vain they’ll strive to conquer by other means.