Written by DAVID BURNBY
Marx argued that the working class potentially have the greatest power (given that they are the means of production). The bourgeoisie are the agents of the ruling class and if anything are the least powerful as they their power is limited to that which the ruling class deign to give them in order to serve their interests. The ruling class have power as long as they own the means of production. Marx argued that the working class could seize the power anytime they wanted by effective organisation: revolution in other words. Sustaining the revolution in Russia was of course power by coercion, though this was not how it was brought about – it was the collective power of the working class which the ‘Nature of Power’ analysis doesn’t cover.
My history isn’t good enough to know whether or not Trotsky was a charismatic leader (though I suspect he probably was). He certainly didn’t hold traditional power and he had no legal authority, but I can’t believe the Russian revolution came about purely because of Trotsky’s charisma. I guess what I’m struggling to define is collective power – the power groups of people hold as a collective which is greater than that of an individual leader. Is there something of a GREEN-RED harmonic here to explain this? People love charismatic leaders. They attribute the post war stability in the Balkans to Tito, the second world war victory to Churchill, the rise of fascism to Hitler. Leadership is clearly a key component of power . But what of the kind of power that is exerted by collectives which is neither coercive nor authoritative? I guess I’m talking about anarcho-syndicalism as a wholly different kind of power not covered by “The Nature of Power” analysis. Power attributed to individual leaders can only be held in the leader’s functioning lifetime. History tells us that power by coercion is unsustainable (even if it takes two hundred years to overthrow). So ‘collective authority’ I would argue is the only sustainable type of leadership. But we’re crap at it. Is that because we’re hard wired to respond to authoritative/coercive power? Or can we learn collectivism? Discuss!