What do workers control when they control the means of production?
I’ve been reading Jean-Louis Cohen’s Building a New World: Amerikanizm in Soviet Architecture, and one of the striking features of the early chapters is the enthusiastic reception of Taylorism in Russia. That Taylorism was popular among reforming liberals in the pre-revolutionary period is not surprising, as Taylorism is a feature of advanced industrialism these reformers wanted to introduce to backwards Russia. The enthusiasm of many Bolsheviks is more puzzling, though: Taylorism seems like a specifically capitalist form of industrialization, a subordination of the worker to the factory or, as Lenin initially evaluated it, “sweating in strict accordance with all the precepts of science” (quoted in Cohen, 105). Lenin later revised his opinion, however, claiming to have identified a positive side to Taylorism in which “the Taylor system – without its initiators knowing or wishing it – is preparing the time when the proletariat will take over all social production and appoint its own workers’ committees for the purpose of properly distributing and rationalising all social labour” (105). Taylorism, that is, holds out the possibility of a rational organisation of labour, and while this is currently being employed in the service of capitalism, it would find its full realisation in the truly rational organisation of labour that would be the result of replacing the anarchy of capitalism with workers’ control.Read more↴