The Difficult Path to the Revival of Working Class Struggle

Editorial for Revolutionary Perspectives 59

2011 has seen a dramatic leap forward in the global capitalist crisis. Not only have we witnessed the stirrings of the “Arab Spring” but we have also seen the occupation of city centres across the world. First came the indignados in Spain who found their imitators elsewhere. Now comes the “Occupy the World” movement which took place in 90 countries across the planet on October 15. At the same time there are also small signs that some workers in the advanced capitalist countries are beginning to see that they have to take back the struggle into their own hands rather than leave it to the official unions. These developments make up the core of this issue.

At the same time the crisis in Euroland shows that the global capitalist crisis is not going away. And with banks still trying to hide astronomically high debt burdens it is clear that it still has some way to go. In our view it is insoluble without the massive devaluation of capital. By this we don’t just mean a few “haircuts” or the writing off of current debts. We mean the massive physical destruction of value. This is what capitalism did in two world wars last century. The only reason that the option has not already been taken is that the international system of imperial competition is still sorting out the lines along which war will break out. Within every ruling class the struggle is going on to identify the best way forward for each state. In the meantime making the working class pay for the crisis the capitalists have inflicted on us is the number one priority. In this regard the fight against austerity should be the global theme for the revival and unity of working class struggle. If only life (and the tortuous path of the class struggle) were so simple.

The fact is that there are many obstacles on the route to a sustained class fight back. Some are dealt with in 30 November: One Off Protest of Working Class Reawakening? (as well as the article on Germany, Limits to an Expansionist Project) such as the threat of unemployment and its demoralising effect on workers. Others, though, are more immediate and more pressing.

What is Anti-Capitalism?

The first arises from the “Occupy” and other movements of this type. This is the question of what “anti-capitalism” is. Some of those camping in town squares are influenced by the “no-global” ideology of Naomi Klein, ATTAC et al. This is not anti-capitalist at all but anti-big business or anti-monopoly. It is reflected in ridiculous demands such as the call for “democratising the financial institutions”. Any serious anti-capitalism has to take as its starting point the nature of the capitalist mode of production. The key relationship here is the exploitative worker-capital one. This has to be broken as the basic premise of any anti-capitalist struggle. The fatal weakness of the “Occupy” movement is that it is an inter-class movement which is therefore not really connected to the wider working class and to strikes which are what capitalism really hates as they are material blows against the wealth of the exploiters.

The Left of Capital

The second is the plethora of organisations who claim to be the voice of the working class and which have many working class members. They are the Trotskyists and Stalinists who claim to be “socialist” but have long since severed any connection with the original Marxist vision of socialism as a movement for the emancipation of the working class. The Trotskyists in Britain still hang onto the coat tails of the Labour Party. This can be seen in the anti-cuts movement. Instead of stating clearly that the crisis, and the cuts which flow from it, are a symptom of the capitalist system which has to be destroyed, they deem that workers are too far away from this message. So they call only for a fight against the Tories. They are not so crass as to openly call for support for Labour (difficult given its recent history) but the implication is that getting the Tories out means bringing Labour in.

Worse than the Trotskyists’ reformism is the survival of Stalinism. Whilst most former Communist Parties have taken the road of support for capitalist democracy there are still those who hanker for a return to some Stalinist order. This was epitomised best by the Greek Communist Party shortly before we went to press. On October 20 they orchestrated a violent conflict with the rest of the protestors in Greece with the obvious aim of trying to pose as the real serious opposition to the PASOK (socialist as in Labour Party) government. More of this is at leftcom.org but the whole episode demonstrates how forces which claim to be on our side of the barricades have their own pro-capitalist agendas.

A Revolutionary Aim

In short, serious revolutionaries have a real battle on their hands to dismiss both the illusions of the “anti-capitalists” and the manipulations of the old Left. We need to create a movement which unites all those who can see the problems we are talking about here. This movement (or party) has to have at its head a clear vision of the society we want. We would call it a communist programme. It has to be based on the autonomous struggles of the working class as they increasingly break free from the shackles a hundred years of reaction has imposed on us. Its goal has to be that we abolish the exploitation of wage labour and money, as well as the state, standing armies and national frontiers. We have to reassert the original view of Marx that we are fighting for a society of “freely associated producers” where the principle is “from each according to his ability and to each according to his need”.

At the moment there are many groups and individuals around the world who recognise this but we are either too scattered, or too divided, to take a lead in forming such a united movement. Some object to it on principle declaring that the spontaneous movement will take care of itself. We wish we could share their confidence. We think responsible revolutionaries should re-examine their differences, asking ourselves if the things that we thought divided us now do so in the light of this new period in working class struggle. We should emphasise not the little we disagree on but the much that we agree on. We should seek to work together in common struggles not simply to recruit this or that individual to our own organisation, but to widen the consciousness of what a real working class struggle means. In the face of the obstacles we have outlined above it would be suicidal not to.

Comments

PERSISTENT WORK

Persistent work is required for success, according to Bertrand Russell (but I don't have a precise reference to that, sorry.). Each new generation wonders how on earth the older ones allowed the planet to get into such a terrible state. There is an enormous amount of political work to be done, but rather than being overwhelmed by the extent of it, just definitely doing one thing or more is better than doing nothing and just reading about it all. Having spent years weighing up a lot of the many lines of allegedly Marxist thought on what needs best to be done, it's with admiration now for those stalwarts who have been steadily working away for the needs of the working class and planet, and time for this one person to actually start doing one or two things advised by the CWO. The children deserve a bright future. Until they can take over, it's up to us to do what we can while we can. Time flies.

This is a timely and sobering article. I like it, agree with it, and respect it's down-to-earth analysis. The closing paragraph is what matters of course. Revolutionaries should examine their differences in a responsible way. Totally agree. All revolutionaries should come together to aid the working class in developing it's consciousness of itself and of what has to be done at this crucial time. Totally agree. After all, we may not get another chance!

While reading the closing paragraph for the first time, I wondered whether the ICT was being serious! Sorry about that, but I am a bit conditioned by the past. Second reading disbelief was suspended, then rejected by the words " it would be suicide not to" ie for revolutionaries not to join up - despite minor differences - to work for the conscious development of the class with regard to the revolution. The class especially now needs all the help it can get: these are particularly confusing and frightening times. Who knows what a very desperate bourgeoisie may do? As dktz says "the children deserve a bright future". Without a successful proletarian revolution our children will be lucky to have any future at all! We must all unite. Time flies.

Any developments re:revolutionaries examining their differences; or revs. coming together? or do we just go on being scattered and divided as usual? Have we started emphasizing what we agree on and working together on common struggles? Or are we opting for suicide? Just thought I'd ask.

Why all comments between Cleishbothm ( ICT) and Steve ( Klasbatalo) were erased on the forum of the ICT ? Strange...

Things do sometimes mysteriously disappear on this site. Sometimes they come back! Maybe some back-room boy is exercising "discrimination" about what he/she thinks is appropriate for the site? I agree wirh Charlie's post above, on Dec. 19. As the article says: revolutionaries have a responsibility to examine the bases for their differences, not just to perpetuate them. Klasbatalo's all right isn't it?

.

I can't even read all of it, sound like a bunch of bullshit to me.

Can you be more specific, Sandman!

I mean I look at their site and they republish articles that are written here claiming they are in total agreement, meanwhile there is some silly sectarian disgareement so they cant link up but they pretty much have the same opinions and stances. So I start reading about it trying to figure out the disagreement and can't even finish because it sounded like a bunch of bullshit. Obviously I agree with this article, there are not too many "left communists" in the world so the few that exist should federate and communicate and these guys think the same thing yet can't even come together and they are both "left-communist". Meanwhile all these "maoist" or "trotskyist" groups that consider themselves "communist" seem so absolutely confused and perverted in the mess of bourgeois nationalism that I don't feel like I have anything in common with them. No point to even open a dialogue with them they are capitalist or worse as far as I am concerned. Often times I feel like I have more in common with anarchists but there are the problems with them that have been raised on other parts of this site. So this call sounds like a great idea, you and me have the eagerness do it, but honestly I don't really see how to do it if we cant even honestly federate with people who we are basically in total agreement. This is something which has plagued communism and the left forever: sectarianism.

Thanks for that Sandman, I totally agree with what you say and the way you said it. And then of course there's the long-running saga of the ICT and the ICC who have both been around for almost 40 years, but still can't get anything together so it seems, although - to an outsider - they appear to have just about everything in common. I also share your sentiments about some anarchists, some internationalist anarchist militants, who also support the proletarian cause and deserve at least consideration as being part of the working class milieu. Those who want the revolution should seek to work together, not to exaggerate and inflame differences.

Greetings comrades,

Sandman, here's a quick - yet late - comment and addition to your comment :

By way of an introduction, we are a group that formed as a result of difficulties encontered while working within the IWG, at the time of the IBRP. (Before the establishment of the ICT).

First of all, we are a young group and which had to start somewhere, studying the platforms of the ICT and the ICC in order to position ourselves politically.

Second, we’re testing the waters, trying to find a role as a minority group within the whole political programmatic legacy of the historical Communist Left.

In doing so, we as well as the IWG, have made political mistakes, and have taken wrong directions, but have always tried to remain faithful to the proletariat by intervening with the clearest genuine programmatic revolutionary positions, as possible. That's why our proposal was referred to the IWG so that our two groups, the IWG as well as Klasbatalo, could review our mistakes, misunderstandings, and political disagreements ; that the IWG would also respond politically to our critiques and that if they consider them incorrect, they should politically and publicly refute them rather than remaining silent, while at the same time accusing us of conducting smear campaigns agains them; because political criticism is not political denunciation : critiques that can be hard but should always be fraternal.

In our case, we went back as far as possible in analysing our errors, mistakes, criticising our own positions..

Recently, we have taken up for most part the IFCLs position that the ICT is a pole of regroupment. Ipso Facto, we offered our help and support to the IWG, but it was swept aside out of hand. We then approached American member of the IWG for feedback but he told us, simply, to leave him out of this. We asked the ICT to intervene but they’ve remained silent and answered us only through the leftcom forum, as Cleishbotham.

We do not want to have a separate political existence from the ICT as a result of prejudice or disagreement on political particularities, we’re separate because the IWG, and the ICT in this case, refuse all common work with us..Compounded by a lie being spread that there’s an infiltrator amongst us.

Currently, our priority is to intervene as often as possible in the many student and proletarian demonstrations which are happening presently in the Canadian province of Quebec, as well as in the autonomous popular assemblies which have formed here and there in a number of districts.

Fraternally,

Klasbatalo

Sandman

Your first instinct re Klasbatalo was correct. They have spent most of their existence doing little else but denigrating the ICT (notice they now say that currently they are engaged in intervening in the student movement in Quebec - this is a response to the criticism we have just made). They are not credible. Even in this message above they say they were "within" the IWG - not true they were sympathisers who were never members. We believe they have even posted material anonymously on Indymedia in Canada in an attempt to discredit us. Their proposal to discuss and work with us is playing to the internet gallery. In reality we were discussing with some of them already but this did not suit their all of them so they have publicly proposed this new course in an attempt to regain the initiative. If they were really serious they would talk directly to us as we do to many groups around the world (Charlie would be glad to know that progress is being made) but not engage in posturing on the world wide web. It was when I realised that I was being sucked into their game on our website that I decided to delete the exchanges above (approved by our english-speaking comrades). I have replied to the ones in French and Italian but should have deleted them as well. They can play their games on their own website and we reserve the right to protect ours.

I agree with the thrust of the article that like-minded revolutionaries should develop a shared programme based on the political principles of proletarian internationalism. A historical moment is near when this will be imminently relevent because of the increasing inability of capitalist social relations to deliver the necessities of life to the proletariat of advanced capitalist countries. In this context it is important for revolutionaries to coordinate but it is equally important to prevent the corruption of the movement by reformism and opportunism. We need well coordinated, and necessarily (at first) small groups of revolutionaries who will not compromise their theoretical content to bourgeois opportunism in the misplaced hope to 'attract the masses'. It seems that we are far from even this task, not to mention the much more difficult task of dispelling bourgeois ideology and mystifications in the mind of the wider class.

Revolutionary Perspectives

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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