“Occupy the World” – Fertile Soil for Revolutionary Intervention, but No Solution to the Capitalist Crisis

First of all, let us not be naïve. Let us not think that this movement, nor the Spanish 15M movement, nor the "Arab revolts" which could be said to be the precursor for all these movements which are seeing mass assemblies in high profile locations to protest against the increasingly intolerable conditions which we face as a class the world over represent the long awaited turning of the tables and the end of capitalism with its wars, unemployment, poverty and exploitation. However, equally, let us not sneer at these significant stirrings, let us not conclude that the cacophony of slogans and stunts, the heady brew of activists and State repression, tambourines and meditation, fantastical interclass demands for reform and calls for revolution seemingly entwined in a contradictory mass do not crystallise the first steps in a process which leads to the revolutionary demise of capitalism whose crisis is now open and mainstream news.

Revolutionaries have long considered the whole process. The details may yet surprise us but underpinning it must be a rising tide of class struggle, presumably unleashed by an ever intensifying spiral of capitalist attacks in an attempt to shore up profitability, as is the actual case. This struggle will be the fertile soil for the formation of class wide bodies, workplace organisations, territorial organisations which will allow the mass of the class to participate in a process of delegation and creation of committees of struggle. These essential ingredients in themselves are no guarantee of success. Revolutionary form requires a revolutionary consciousness: i.e. a general recognition of the goal (communism) and the steps needed to overthrow capitalism. The active ingredient must be the widening of the revolutionary organisation inside the wider movement. Unless the politically advanced elements of the class, i.e. revolutionary organisations such as our own which exist in embryo today and those who will emerge to form the Proletarian International- gain a hearing and succeed in winning over the core of the working class to the communist programme, including the need for the workers’ mass organs to assume state power and get rid of all aspects of the capitalist state - the movement will be defeated. It will be up to the revolutionary minority to push for the proletarian power to expropriate the capitalist class and embark upon the transformation of society into one which serves the producers rather than oppresses and exploits them, where the product and raison d’etre of activity is the development of humanity, not the autonomous economy whose growth is satisfied by our stagnation and penury.

Obviously the "Occupy" movement is not this. It is not the product of a working class in struggle but it is the product of many activists with varying political lines whose ranks are being swelled by workers, particularly the youth who have been so hard hit by the current twists of the long running capitalist crisis.

Despite the realistic assessment that the movement will exhaust itself, will not break through the limits of capitalism if only because it is aimed primarily at reforming one aspect of capitalism, the positive aspects are not insignificant.

The fact that the "Occupy" movement kicked off in the USA, supposedly the impregnable fortress of world capitalism, the example for all others to follow for progress and social peace, the material proof of capitalism’s superiority, the victor of the cold war, the world’s greatest power and advocate of the capitalist path, is a significant blow to the reigning ideology that "it might not be perfect but it’s the best there is". In this sense October 15 was the first global response to the capitalist crisis with hundreds of thousands involved in some 90 countries.

Massive and disproportionate police aggression has not succeeded in intimidating the movement.

Already the most radical revolutionary slogans are appearing; such as "Workers of the World Unite" placards in Chicago. Our Italian comrades intervened in the Rome event of October 15, a massive protest of 100 000 plus with the banner;

AGAINST THE BOSSES
WITHOUT THE UNION
POWER TO THE PROLETARIAT!

Despite the haze, the lack of precise class vocabulary, the lack of a central message, the lack of political cohesion, the movement has successfully articulated a message against social inequality and the conditions which the working class are expected to endure as being inevitable. Its impact on wider society is hard to assess but this could be its real triumph. The working class in general is considering the movement and its (mixed) messages and under the weight of the facts on the ground, the unavoidable reality of a crisis which has massively hiked up unemployment and poverty, where wages have been at best stagnant or receded for years, where services are cut, in short, where everything is getting worse for the working class, it is hardly surprising that the impact on mass consciousness is not what the ruling class would want.

According to one poll carried out by academics at Quinnipac University 67 percent of those polled said they supported the views expressed by the protesters, while only 23 percent said they opposed them. Meanwhile, New Yorkers by an overwhelming margin of 87 percent to 10 percent support the right of the demonstrators to remain in Liberty Plaza.

Like the smashing of windows and spray painting and destruction of police cars etc which seem to accompany any major concentration of protestors these days, the "spectacular" aspects of single day events, crowds in plazas, are not going to stop our rulers from pursuing the economics of austerity, the constant attacks and cuts, the layoffs and insecurity, the condemnation of a generation to rot. The ruling class has no option. It has to pursue an anti-working class line, no matter what its details may be. The Occupy movement will neither bring the crisis to an end nor does it represent the way for doing so. But if it serves to put the issues of capitalist economic reality firmly on the agenda, if it serves to allow masses of workers to consider that there might be an alternative to their own sacrifice on the altar of saving capitalism, then it will not have been in vain. But all of that will only have meaning if it results in the strengthening and advancing of the revolutionary cause which at the moment is stuck at a very low ebb at a time when the material reality of capitalist crisis demands a class response on the industrial terrain, the terrain of production where the working class can really maintain an effective veto on the politics of inequality and start to build another society.

Ant

Comments

Like this article very very much. Like it's clear analysis of what's going on, and it's ability to see both the good and the not so good in the Occupy movements. Like the explanation for the need to work towards the creation of the party, and the description of what the Proletarian International will need to do. But I'm not so sure these will embrace this: " including the need for the workers’ mass organs to assume state power and get rid of all aspects of the capitalist state...". Assume state power? Didn't the Bolsheviks make that mistake? Surely the mass organs of the proletariat constitute the Dictatorship of the Proletariat which exercises it's control over what's left of the state after the revolution? If the Proletarian Dictatorship identifies itself with the state, then how can the state ever wither away? (One answer might be that as classes disappear, so both the proletariat and the state will disappear too. But now I'm arguing against myself and so will stop!) However, it's too easy to say the the class assumes state power. This needs considerable thought. It was a disaster for the Bosheviks. Look what happened at Kronstadt.

Put schematically the mistake the Bolsheviks made was to carry on the social democratic tradition of the Mensheviks and SRs (who were in the Provisional Government) and form a cabinet (Sovnarkom) outside of and above the organs of workers' power (this in itself did not cause the counter-revolution which was due to international isolation) but marked the character of that counter-revolution. The Executive Committee of the Soviets (Vtsik) elected by the Second Soviet Congress should have been the executive. At first Sovnarkom did report to the Vtsik but not for long and in conditions of civil war the Sovnarkom became the government and subsequently the party became the state. The soviets/councils are the historically discovered bodies of the proletarian semi-state, the dictatorship of the proletariat. They carry out statist tasks and supervise all specialist bodies doing them until they become unnecessary and then morph into administrators of the global economy with the abolition of classes etc. I think (I hope!) we agree on this even if the shorthand terms used in the article raise legitimate questions.

Cleishbotham, a question - did not the Soviets from about 1918 onwards only meet intermittedly or have a got this wrong?

It depends what you mean by "the soviets". There were still Congresses of Soviets throughout (meeting quarterly as I recall but I need to look back at my notes) and they did annul decrees of Sovnarkom in 1918. In October 1919 they condemned the setting up of revolutionary committees independent of the local soviets according to Carr. After that though they become more like window dressing. As early as July 1918 in Petrograd there were rigged elections by the Bolsheviks. Arthur Ransome says local soviets still functioned in 1919 but revisiting them in 1920 found them empty shells. No-one can claim that that this was the ideal proletarian system but their failure is part of our experience and learning from it is part of our platform. The events of the civil war materially contributed to their even more rapid demise.

TV on OCCUPY SITES

Maybe you've seen some of the English-language Russian TV pictures of 'Occupy' sites in USA and UK on Freeview 85 ?

Revolutionary Perspectives

Journal of the Communist Workers’ Organisation -- Why not subscribe to get the articles whilst they are still current and help the struggle for a society free from exploitation, war and misery? Joint subscriptions to Revolutionary Perspectives (3 issues) and Aurora (our agitational bulletin - 4 issues) are £15 in the UK, €24 in Europe and $30 in the rest of the World.

Revolutionary Perspectives #59

Revolutionary Perspectives 59 (Autumn 2011) is now out!

It contains the following articles:

  • The Difficult Path to the Revival of Working Class Struggle
  • 30 November: One off Protest or Working Class Reawakening?
  • Occupy the World: Fertile Soil for Intervention but No Solution to the Capitalist Crisis
  • On the October 15 Riots in Rome
  • The Housing Question: An Eternal Riddle for Capitalism
  • Two Contributions from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty: Economic Crisis and the Working Class
  • The Work Programme
  • Euro Crisis: Capitalism in the Quagmire of Debt
  • German Capital and the Eurocrisis: Limits to An Expansionist Project
  • The Predictable Course of the Egyptian ‘Revolution’
  • Imperialist Manoeuvres in the Wake of the Arab Spring

Each copy £3 from BM CWO, London WC1N 3XX