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Product details

  • Paperback: 379 pages
  • Publisher: AK Press (1 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1904859070
  • ISBN-13: 978-1904859079
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 764,916 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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At long last, the collected works of the principle writer, translator and thinker of the Solidarity Group, one of the most active and influential libertarian socialist organisations of the 1960's and early 1970's. Includes writing on topics ranging from the Paris Commune to Paris 1968, via Willheim Reich, the Portuguese Revolution, the Irrational in Politics, The Belgian General Strike of 1960, the Bolsheviks and Workers' Control and of course, the work of Paul Cardan/Cornelius Castoridis. From the workplace, to the streets, to the bedroom, Brinton writes critically and honestly on the nuts and bolts of a free humanity, laying to rest the arguments against a genuinely libertarian socialism.

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Maurice Brinton was the principal writer, translator and thinker of the Solidarity Group, which was at its most active and exerted greatest influence in Britain during the 1960s and the first half of the 1970s. Read the first page
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By E N Cuentro on 30 Dec. 2006
Format: Paperback
One reason you might not want to get this book is that basically everything it contains is available for free online. If you appreciate the feel of paper and vellum (well OK, just paper) beneath your fingertips, this is essential reading for anyone wanting to explore the theoretical and historical positions of the anti-Leninist left.

Definite highlights are Brinton's diary from Paris in May '68 and the classic The Bolsheviks and Workers' Control - which is the classic libertarian socialist critique of the Leninist analysis of the period 1917-1921.

Brinton was a member of the 'council communist' group Solidarity, active in Britain in the '60s and '70s, which was heavily influenced by the French group Socialisme ou Barbarie. In many ways it's a shame that writing from some of his comrades in the councilist movement aren't available in a more comphrehensive volume - such as the histories of Hungary '56, Portugal '74-'76, and the post-WWI mutinies in the British armed forces, for example.

That's one thing that's a little frustrating - though those other texts are available online as well. If there's another problem... perhaps it's that Solidarity's totally uncompromisingly militant and libertarian program (set out in As We See It and As We Don't See It) seems a little hard to put into practice now. But perhaps that's just me.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Krul on 11 May 2009
Format: Paperback
Maurice Brinton was the pseudonym of Christopher Pallis, a neurologist of Greek descent working in London, who used the pen name to write many articles, reviews and polemics in the tradition of 'libertarian' or left-wing communism for the group "Solidarity". These have been collected under the title "For Workers' Power", which for some time was the subtitle of the Solidarity paper. His pseudonym (an earlier one was Martin Grainger) didn't help much, since the British press discovered his true identity relatively quickly in both cases; but his boss, Sir Christopher Booth, succesfully defended his right to political independence. He was also an admirable all-round man, not just competent in revolutionary politics and medicine, but also fluent in English, French, German and Greek, a very popular teacher, and one who had been on most continents of the world.

Brinton has been influenced in his work much by Wilhelm Reich as well as Cornelius Castoriadis, some of whose works he translated or helped translate into popular English editions, and as a result much of the articles he has written follow their own political trajectory. His relation to Marxism seems to go up and down - while he is always opposed to Leninism and any other form of authoritarian tendencies in Marxism, he seems to be undecided on whether to reject the whole or not. When Castoriadis did, he seems also to have done this for a while, but later to return to it. However, because the writings are not wholly ordered chronologically, it is hard to keep track of this, annoyingly enough.

Much of course can be said against left-wing communism in general and their practice, and Brinton suffers from these problems as much as anyone else in that tradition.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Left-wing Communism: A Necessary Antidote 25 Jan. 2008
By M. A. Krul - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Maurice Brinton was the pseudonym of Christopher Pallis, a neurologist of Greek descent working in London, who used the pen name to write many articles, reviews and polemics in the tradition of 'libertarian' or left-wing communism for the group "Solidarity". These have been collected under the title "For Workers' Power", which for some time was the subtitle of the Solidarity paper. His pseudonym (an earlier one was Martin Grainger) didn't help much, since the British press discovered his true identity relatively quickly in both cases; but his boss, Sir Christopher Booth, succesfully defended his right to political independence. He was also an admirable all-round man, not just competent in revolutionary politics and medicine, but also fluent in English, French, German and Greek, a very popular teacher, and one who had been on most continents of the world.

Brinton has been influenced in his work much by Wilhelm Reich as well as Cornelius Castoriadis, some of whose works he translated or helped translate into popular English editions, and as a result much of the articles he has written follow their own political trajectory. His relation to Marxism seems to go up and down - while he is always opposed to Leninism and any other form of authoritarian tendencies in Marxism, he seems to be undecided on whether to reject the whole or not. When Castoriadis did, he seems also to have done this for a while, but later to return to it. However, because the writings are not wholly ordered chronologically, it is hard to keep track of this, annoyingly enough.

Much of course can be said against left-wing communism in general and their practice, and Brinton suffers from these problems as much as anyone else in that tradition. There is the strict sectarianism, easily as bad as any Leninist group, there is the rejection of any kind of socialist endeavour that does not adhere to the very high demands of Solidarity, there is the refusal to understand how state capitalism could be an advance over 'regular' capitalism still, even if it is not socialism per se, and so on. Brinton has a sort of Luxemburgist attitude to the workers' movement(s), that is, that they will achieve their goals on their own and not need any leadership or imposition of ideas from outside, but at the same time he spends a lot of time vigorously polemicizing against the Leninist mass parties - not at any time engaging the question of how he can reconcile their apparent popularity, at least in 'higher' politics, with his idea that they are opposed to the workers' real struggle.

That said though, there is much to learn and much useful in Brinton's works. From Reich as well as his medical background, he takes up the important struggle against sexual puritanism and moralism, both within and without the socialist movement. At times the Freudianism goes overboard, but later on he seems to have realized this, and in any case his analysis and criticism of moralistic attitudes among workers and Communist leaders is excellent. In general, Brinton's strong emphasis on the need to combat authoritarianism and hierarchy not just in the production process, but everywhere, and his strong and forceful analyses of the various ways that bourgeois and authoritarian ideology is disseminated precisely outside the traditional loci of workers' struggles is highly useful and interesting. He correctly criticizes the Leninists (at least the leaders of the various parties) for their wholesale adoption, until very recently, of bourgeois moralisms and bourgeois cultural ideas, and at the same time equally correctly criticizes the anarchists for their refusal to engage in thorough analysis of society, and their simplistic views of the state and of power. I don't agree with Brinton's wholesale rejection of everything Leninist-style socialism has done, but I think his strongly worded critiques are an important antidote to the tendency to elevate the "production now, socialism later" approach to communism to a higher level of desirability than it deserves.

In my personal opinion, much of this comes from the enormous harm and confusion caused by Stalin's decision to make the state capitalism of the USSR, intended to enhance the productivity and living standards to a degree that would make actual socialist movement possible, equivalent with socialism itself. Since then, a lot of fighting has been done between the authoritarian, productivist forms of Marxism that see the basic Leninist economic approach as what socialism is or should be, and on the other hand the more 'libertarian' critics that dismiss all of that because it didn't lead to greater worker power over industry. Much could be gained if the socialist movement could reject this silly dichotomy, and instead realize that socialism is the movement for human freedom in societies that have developed that people can liberate themselves from the domination of the machine and the fetishism of the commodity, but that at the same time state capitalism, led or inspired by political socialists, is the requirement for underdeveloped countries to reach this prerequisite in the first place: so not to confuse the movement with the creation of the conditions for its success. Brinton's works are an important part of the left weight on these scales.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Workers of the World Unite 22 Nov. 2006
By Doug Brunell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I received this book as part of the Friends of AK Press membership (something anyone into these kinds of books should look into), and it was well worth it. Brinton's main strength as a writer is his keen sense of observation, his clarity and his willingness to destroy the party line. He's not afraid to call things as he sees them, which I'm sure bothers Communists and Socialists to no end.

One of the most compelling parts of the book his reports on Paris, 1968. It's almost like you are there with him as the crowds take to the streets. It's well worth buying just for that alone, because even if you know the history behind that May event, you've never read it like this.

Political junkies, anarchists, Socialists and Communists need to buy this and then ready themselves to get educated.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The Irrational in (Orthodox) Marxism 18 Feb. 2007
By S. Shukaitis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book that does a quite good job at bringing together some very interesting and important writing to come out of libertarian socialist currents in the UK during the 1960s and 70s. Brinton's writing is fascinating in that not only did it include a strong focus on the autonomous capacities for self-organization and struggle by the working class (in much same vein as other figures such as CLR James and the Italian autonomists who also write from a heterodox tradition of radical thought that both employs Marxist categories and is critical of them), but also connects with concerns around sexuality, culture, and other areas of life that until that point were generally considered "superstructural" in Marxist thought. The writing and organizing of Solidarity, which Brinton was a part of, served as an important connection between various currents of radical political thought (for instance introducing the ideas of Cornelius Castoriadis from Socialism ou Barbarie into the UK). This collection serves as a great way to get an overview of this current of thought and collects together some well thought arguments about the liberation of labor that avoid falling into the narrowly workerist framework that unfortunately often characterizes Marxist thought.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Clear-headed about worker's liberation 26 Jan. 2005
By disidente - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book brings together various political statements Brinton

wrote for the London libertarian socialist group Solidarity with

his main booklets. The most important and influential of Brinton's writings is his booklet "The Bolsheviks and Workers

Control" which is reprinted here. This booklet differs from the

other material in the anthology in being a very concrete,

well-researched historical work. It's worth the price of the book in itself. It explodes the myth of the Bolshevik Party building "proletarian power" in the Russian revolution. Brinton is clear that workers cannot be free as long as they are subjugated in production. Workers cannot have power in society without having complete management power over production, Brinton argues.

However, Brinton's analysis of what emerged from the Russian

revolution is a bit weak. The class that gained power Brinton

calls "the bureaucracy." But there are "bureaucracies" in all

kinds of organizations, but a class has a particular role in

social production. Despite the limitations of Brinton's

analysis (the reason for the four stars), an

advantage of all of Brinton's writing is

his clear and direct prose style which makes this an easy book

to read.
3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Maurce Brinton: Oxymoron 22 Oct. 2005
By Robert A. Williams - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book commerates the political achievements and ideas of the late Indian-born British neurologist Christopher Agamemnon Pallis, who lived from December 1923 to March 2005 and wrote anarcho-socialist tracts under the pseudonym of Maurice Brinton in support of the British Solidarity Group. Gathered between the covers of this volume are 43 of Brinton's essays.

All socialists are not alike and Brinton was not only different, but a contrarian. He graduated from Oxford University and eventually became a medical doctor. In the 1960s, he began to inquire deeply about the failures of Marxism in Communist countries such as the Soviet Union. News of mass slaughters conducted by Communist states stunned Marxists in Western countries. Much of Brinton's work critically examined the state of European socialism and questioned classical Marxist theories. Subsequently, he discovered the work of French theorist Cornelius Castorides (also known as Paul Cardan) and his humanistic "rejection of Marxism as a whole". This was socialist theory without the hard edge of economic and historical analysis.

This is a book written for anarcho-socialists and other Marxists; it is not written for libertarians. Libertarianism means free minds and free markets; to Brinton and his Solidarity Group it meant anarcho-socialism. Goodway wrote in his introduction that Brinton was only comfortable with the label of "libertarian socialist". Yet Brinton himself cautioned that "in politics one should not accept people at their own self-assessment, but seek objectively to evaluate their ideas and actions".

To libertarians, a "libertarian socialist" is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. This is not to say that "libertarian" libertarians cannot be found in the United Kingdom. The Libertarian Alliance, including Dr Nigel Ashford of Staffordshire University and Dr Stephen Davies of Manchester Metropolitan University, was active when I was teaching in England from 1995 to 2000. And it is interesting to note that Brinton and Goodway are unknown in libertarian circles there.

Although Brinton considered "Marxism inadequate, not only as a system of ideas capable of leading to libertarian revolutionary action, but also as a method", he believed in a Marxist-inspired view of class struggle. He remained faithfully wedded to the Marxist notion that the "path to freedom lies through the socialist revolution" achieved "from those who, like him, seek radically to transform society" and recognized that he would be "labelled 'anarcho-Marxist' by those who like ready-made tabs for their ideological wares.

In short, a valuable historical chronicle of British socialism during the '60s, '70s and '80s written by a critical participant with a keen eye for observation.
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