Sunday, 17 November 2013
Power and hierarchy
In my view power creates hierarchy and hierarchy creates power the two are very inter changeable and are negative ideas in my opinion on the workers movement. I don’t think creating power or hierarchy even if with the best intentions should be our aim. We don’t want to create a movement in the image of the e existing one we should be looking to replace it with non hierarchical structures if possible. Take the NUS the National Union of Students in the UK for example. The National Union of Students (NUS) is designed to filter, control, pacify and compromise the student movement. It is a way of disempowering students trying to fight together for radical social change and for defending and extending the right to knowledge and education for all. Within the union, energy has been directed at struggling against right-wing bureaucrats for control of the union, instead of organising as students to fight the battles we need to win. The union’s hierarchical structures divide and alienate us, thereby stopping us from being an effective force for change. What happens when you run for an election? Either you win, and are set apart from your comrades, have your time wasted in pointless meetings, and through your position of authority inevitably become an obstacle for students to overcome, or you lose and continue to have no voice. The union’s democratic centralist structure means that we spend more time trying to make something ‘policy’ than actually organising around our real experiences and needs. The recent governance review proposals, and their unwavering support from the NUS elite, are an unsurprising attack on the ‘democracy’ of NUS [see http://resource.nusonline.co.uk/media/resource/NUS_New_Governance.pdf for details]. These illustrate the extent to which the union is controlled by those who do not see its role as being to facilitate a militant collective student movement. However, the problem is deeper than just the control of the union by careerist right-wingers. These latest changes are not particularly significant in themselves, but they simply offer us an opportunity to draw attention to the inherent problems with the structures of the union. Indeed, if the union was controlled by the radical left it would still be a structure to organise the student struggle from outside of the actual experiences and struggles of us as students and, as in increasingly the case, simultaneously as workers. The very existence of the union is fundamentally in opposition to a real collective mass movement based on our real needs. Within NUS, left-wingers have attempted to push the union to fight for some of our needs as students/workers. For example, Education Not for Sale, a left-wing faction, has argued for NUS to resume its commitment to free education and grants for all funded by taxation of the rich. They have not been very successful due to the current stronghold of the right in NUS. However, even if they had been/will be successful on this issue, as long as the power and organisation continues to takes place in the hierarchies, conference halls and offices of the union it will not actually be based on our real needs and we will not have power in deciding our own course of action. Hierarchy is a systematic, organised division of people in a ranked way, so that they are divided into superiors and subordinates. These are INSTITUTIONAL ROLES, where it is the job of some to give orders, and of others to take they (whilst perhaps giving them to others further down the chain). There is a hierarchy between bosses and workers, because bosses give the orders, and workers take them. It’s just the same as the state, there is a hierarchy between the state and its subjects, because the government makes the laws, and the subjects obey them. If you want to stay within the area of the workplace, you have to take orders from above. If you want to stay within the area of the state, you have to do the same. Now, compare this to a democratic workplace assembly. Sure, sometimes a minority get outvoted on an issue, and have to decide between quitting, striking or going along with the majority. Other times it will be a different minority. But they all have an equal say. There is no institutional division between order givers and takers, managers and executants etc. Now, you are right in one sense of the word to say that there is always hierarchy, in that there is always some people who don't get there way, and may have to do something they don't like, or else face some sanction, even if just non-cooperation (which can be just as coercive in its effects). But when classical anarchists talk about hierarchy, they talk about an institutional structures which I think is spot on in my experience you see it in all political parties and trade unions today and reflected in society as a result. Now, it doesn't take a genius to tell the difference between hierarchical and horizontal social structures. HIERARCHICAL STRUCTURE: Organised in a pyramid. It is the institutional role and exclusive right of those at the top to give orders to those lower down Boss | V Upper Management | V Lower management | V Manual Workers (The | and V is supposed to look like an arrow) Those further down the chain take orders from those higher up, and have no institutional influence on the decisions of those further up. Now compare this to a workplace ran by a democratic assembly of all who work there (lets not get into side issues of feasibility or efficiency right now). Everyone has a say, everyone has a vote, no one has any more power, and there is no systematic division into those whose job it is to command and those whose job it is to obey. For me hierarchy and power are tied up within the capitalist system and its order of things to remove capitalism we must look to bring about the end of power and all forms f hierarchy in my opinion. They are both corrupting influences and not beneficial to anti capitalists who wish to change society. We do not lead to be lead all the time we can and should act and think for ourselves in conclusion.