Beyond Protest

Editorial for Revolutionary Pespectives 60

Despite the hopes of many grassroots activists, last November’s public sector workers’ strike has not triggered a more determined resistance by those who are paying for this capitalist crisis: the working class as a whole. The truth is that the unions are not the organisations many workers believe them to be. So long as resistance is trapped within the union frame there is little prospect of an effective class wide fight back against the onslaught we are facing.

This point could hardly have been made clearer when, only a week or so after N30, Unilever workers took to the picket lines over exactly the same issue — i.e. the robbery of their pensions. Somehow or other the unions always manage to undermine the potential strength of real class solidarity. This is a constant process, not simply a question of the leadership ‘selling-out’ over one issue or poor organisation. It is absolutely no surprise that since November’s ‘day of action’ most of the public sector unions have simply accepted that’s the end of the battle and knuckled down to discussions over the exact terms of pension cuts. The position of those who are holding out, such as the teachers, and others who were not officially balloted for N30, such as fire fighters, is therefore that much weaker.

While our take on the unions is often more or less shared by a minority of workers, the union hold is secure so long as the majority are not ready to put up a serious fight and cannot see beyond the token actions of the unions. This is part and parcel of the generally low level of class consciousness which still pervades today but it is also the case that for the most part revolutionaries with an alternative way forward are few and far between in the workplace. It is in this context that a group of us met one night in Durham to discuss the question of how revolutionaries can organise in the workplace. (For a full account see p.26) Our starting point was not how to create alternative unions, but to create a hub of class conscious militants ready to pose a different way of struggling, above all within a revolutionary political perspective which puts the daily attacks of the bosses in the wider context of the need to overthrow capitalism.

Since the financial explosion of 2007-8 the words ‘capitalism’ and ‘crisis’ have become almost a regular part of everyday parlance. To be against capitalism is no longer the preserve of revolutionary Marxists and ‘class struggle anarchists’, that is so long as ‘capitalism’ is defined as ‘unfair’ and ‘anti-capitalism’ a matter of getting more democracy in order to reverse the growing chasm between the haves and the have-nots. This kind of ‘anti-capitalism’ is epitomised by the Occupy movement which has caught the public imagination with its telling slogan (We Are the 99%) and put itself in the limelight with its ‘tent cities’. Clearly, such a movement deserves our attention and we have already commented on it and some of our experiences with the Occupiers both here and in Italy as well as reporting on significant Occupy events in North America. The article in this issue is a Marxist overview of this disparate multi-class movement; a movement which if nothing else reflects the growing sense that there must be a better way than this…

The Economic Crisis

Of course the material basis for the widespread questioning of capitalism’s automatic right to exist, or at least to carry on as it has been doing over several decades, is the capitalist economic crisis. This crisis, which is no less than the cyclical crisis of capital recognisable by Marxists but once denied as outmoded by capitalist economists, revealed itself decades back. In 1971-73 US President Nixon announced the de-linking of the dollar from gold and then proceeded to devalue the currency which had been established at Bretton Woods as the unit of international trade. By so doing the US not only exacerbated the crisis for the whole world, it opened the way for further manipulation of the dollar to maintain its position in the world and then to a secondary struggle to maintain the dollar by virtue of its military might … in order to maintain US capitalism’s (declining) position in the world.

Aware of the lessons of two world wars (where trade wars and currency devaluations turned into full-blown military confrontations) and encouraged by the collapse of the Russian imperialist bloc the capitalists resolved to find a way to revive profit rates (because this is what the crisis is really about). Somehow or other they had to increase the rate of surplus value — or the portion of value (wealth) produced by workers’ unpaid labour (in capitalist terms, ‘productivity’). By a combination of industrial restructuring on the basis of new technology and a ruthless dismantling of industries once regarded as indispensable to national economies, all of which involved massive unemployment and were not accepted without a fight, the conditions which had held in the workplace since the war were already undermined. The era of flexible working had begun. Combine this with the farming out of more and more swathes of industry to areas of massively cheaper labour - part of the globalisation of capital - the portion of surplus value accruing to the capitalist class increased. It is now acknowledged that in the UK and the USA at any rate the share of wages in national income has been declining since 1970. For two decades or more this fact was disguised, even to workers themselves, by the effect of credit and financial speculation.

While financial capital found endless ways of multiplying the amount of (paper) profit that could be made from one original source of capital value derived from workers’ unpaid labour, the working class — especially in the USA and UK — took advantage of the cheap money policy and learned how to use their credit cards for deficit financing and employ cheap mortgage loans for their own property speculation. Looked at in this light it is easy to see how Cameron and Co have got away with the idea that ‘we are all in this together’. Yet there is no comparison between the negative equity of a working class household who finds that the nominal value of their house has dropped, or the outstanding credit card debt which is forcing hundreds of thousands to resort to pay day loans, and the trillions and trillions of dollars (for the sake of argument) of fictional capital amassed on the balance sheets and off-balance sheet accounts of banks, investment houses and the like and which is still undeclared, waiting like a ticking time bomb to bring another financial explosion.

More Attacks to Come

But the biggest con trick of all is the idea that somehow, if workers make sacrifices and tighten their belts, the ‘national’ debt for which we are all supposedly responsible, can be reduced or made ‘sustainable’. In other words, not only must workers pay off their own personal debts from their wages, they must accept lower wages, lower pensions, longer working lives and cuts in every possible welfare service and work harder to produce a higher profits for the sake of paying off capitalism’s debts — a debt mountain which is so large that few financial commentators are ready to face the fact that it is impossible to pay off. Only a massive write-off and devaluation of capital, a write-off of unprecedented historical proportions, could really revive capitalist ‘productivity'. In other words capitalism is facing an existential crisis, the crisis of its existence as a mode of production. This is not to say that ways will not be found to prolong its life. In fact capital’s major way of prolonging its own existence at the moment is to find ever more ways of cheapening the cost of labour power. (Vietnam, where, according to the Financial Times, 2012-02-10)

unskilled workers are typically paid a half to a third of the $300 a month their counterparts might receive in the manufacturing clusters of southern China...

is becoming a very popular focus for capitalist outsourcing.) The inexorable logic of this, of course, is that workers elsewhere must accept more sacrifices and become ‘more competitive’.

In this context the TUC’s call for government spending cuts to be introduced gradually in order not to damage the recovery, Labour’s theme of getting back to ‘responsible capitalism’, the Occupiers focus on parasitic financiers, Osborne’s talk of a ‘John Lewis economy’, Cameron’s stripping of Fred Goodwin’s knighthood (which has only provoked others to say why not take away the honours given to Alan Greenspan or Mervyn King, both of whom presided over the loose money policy prior to the financial crash): all this adds up to futile posturing. The reality is that capital will continue to try and get itself out of crisis in the only way it knows: by attacking the working class at the same time as trying to maintain the fiction that ‘we are all in this together’.

Every day in the UK there is news of more axing of benefits and services yet so far only 6% of the government’s planned public services cuts have been implemented. The Bank of England’s latest bout of ‘quantitative easing’ has staved off an immediate liquidity crisis for the banks but it means that another million people approaching retirement face a further cut in their pensions. Essentially workers everywhere are under attack. From Greece to Italy and Romania, from Nigeria to South Africa, from China to Vietnam the working class are obliged to resist. It can hardly be otherwise. In the words of Onorato Damen,

The proletariat would return to the ranks of mere plebeians if it lost its class character as the antagonist of capitalism.

This issue charts some of their struggles and the obstacles and illusions which prevent a definite push towards the only meaningful anti-capitalist struggle, the struggle for a new kind of society based on direct democracy and the rational allocation of production to fulfil real social need. The biggest obstacle of all, of course, is the absence — as yet — of a revolutionary political leadership to point the way to such a course. As Damen pointed out, the means to overcome this obstacle can only be found inside the struggles themselves. This is not an argument for simple spontaneity but a recognition that the class struggle is a permanent state of affairs within which revolutionaries themselves have to play their part.

Meanwhile, it is worth noting that capitalism may be facing systemic decline but it remains a system of competing imperialist interests. The old cold war blocs no longer exist and a relatively weaker US is preparing to regroup and defend the hegemony of the dollar against all. The ‘international community’ has been unable to halt the present bloodbath in Syria because in reality it is a network of competing imperialisms. There is no such thing as an ‘international community’ only strong powers and weaker powers, useful alignments and dispensable agreements. The British and Argentine governments may be posturing over the Falklands but it is a reminder, however, of how easily capitalist governments facing serious economic problems at home can turn to nationalism and war in the hope of ‘uniting the nation’ behind them. All the more reason for revolutionaries in the present period to redouble their efforts to reach the wider working class.


Related....I am seeking clarification.....when we intevene, is there anything more to say than the system is going from bad to worse, join us in the fight for a communist party?

It seems that the issue boils down to that. Demands etc may be put forward by workers to kick off disputes, but we have no demands outside of abolition of capitalism.

There is not even a link between being in dispute and acceptance of the communist perspective, but it seems logical to think that workers already showing sns of resistance may be more likely to take on board the revolutionary critique.

I don't think we can say anything other than the fight has to become conscious and political. What we must refine is the nature of the communist party that the working class will have to produce. It will be different in character to almost everything that has gone before (but take the best elements from them).

Your comments are interesting Cleish in what they don't actually say but only hint! How will the new communist party be different to almost everything that's gone before? And then there's that "almost". What's gone before that can show us a bit what this new "refined" party will look like? Maybe it won't be called a Party, but called The International or something. Maybe it won't be strictly centralized, but more a loose federation of revolutionary groups. Isn't tbe ICT more of a loose federation itself? Unlike the highly centralized ICC of which you seem critical.

I think (and perhaps I speak for Cleish, he can say) that the nature of the communist party we are creating is essentially different because it does not seek to become a ruling organ and its objective is not an elite formation but that of generalising revolutionary consciousness. The past communists bequeathed many great theoretical jewels and errors, hopefully we are now equipped to actually realise the communist revolution and not another defeat.

The ICT is in my understanding an organisation in the process of formation and centralisation, it is too small to be a fully centralised global organisation, its main task is actually finding those groups and individuals who will engage in the process of centralisation - in other words disputing any theoretical and practical contradictions to arrive at homogenity. However, centralisation meaning non-contradiction is the goal. Arriving at that goal is not however a process of amputating dissent but of airing views and arguing the matter. Again, that's a personal take.

The ICC on the other hand seems to be cloning its strongest sections rather than the messy but genuine process of fighting out varying perspectives. However, this could be an over simplification.

I think maybe the word 'political' is a little problematic, but I know what Cleish is saying - it has to become a fundamental challenge for power, a total struggle for a new society, as such it is not separating any aspect of the problem from the total situation.

The word politics often relates to the running of the State and that is what is at stake. Not simply a new team at the helm of the present state but a new power consisteing of workers' councils.This is often referred to as a semi-state as it's objective its own erradication. However, it remains a state in the Marxist definition, a machine for the suppression of one class by another.

All of this is the basic message which we need to formulate in our propaganda. The fact that it is repetitive and familiar does not mean that it is redundant, that it has to be replaced by thousands of other formulations responding to every concrete instance of discontent, though weaving such details into propaganda is a useful bridge between the worker and the conscious revolutionary. However, the essence does not really need to vary, and the material situation of capitalist crisis is the incentive that wil apply ever more pressure on the class to look for solutions to their dilemma.

Perhaps I am going 'off the wall' and the matter at hand, but,

We have to break away from that view of communism which is really a variant of capitalism whereby a monolithic authority crushes all deviation and

''All monotheisms are vengeful, aggressive, expansionist, intolerant.''

And of course say they aren't.

Is this the ICC?

It's any of us if we simply fall in line and echo and copy.

Fuck the big boss, s/he's always the enemy.

I hve no idea if Dr Tim Leary has anything to contribute to our quest for mass revolutionary consciousness, having only superficial acquaintance with his work, but it seems his critique of dominant ideology led him to profound conclusions, erroneous or otherwise.

In a way we have to guard against substituting one orthodoxy for another, but retaining cohesion.

Off the wall?

Off the wall? It sometimes seems like that. Agree that we have to break away from the view that communism is just a variant of capitalism. But I thought we had long ago. Certainly the ICC have. ( I only mention them because you seem unable to stop scratching at them, like an itchy spot.) Agree we shouldn't substitute one orthodoxy for another. But who is? Do you have that inclination? And Dr. Leary was the acid king in the sixties. Under acid everything seems profound. Or so I'm told. So what are you on about! (I was unable to access which might have answered this question.) Agree too that we shouldn't fall in line and echo and obey - I prefer obey

to copy - but where does this take us? What exactly is the nature of the new and refined party that Cleish has

intimations about? Steve you didn't really answer that: merely drew lessons from the mistakes the Bosheviks made.

So yes, we know what not to do. But that's only a part of the answer.

Firstly I'll re-emphasise I'm going off on a tangent and I have only superficial acquaintance with the field of psychology. However the theme of Generalised Revolutionary Consciousness is of the essence.

Now Dr Leary, labelled 'The most dangerous man in the world'' by Nixon was no casual drug user. His work is yet to be verified or refuted. He was put through 25 jails.

The link you couldn't open......


Monotheism is the primitive religion which centers human consciousness on Hive Authority. There is One God and His Name is (substitute Hive-Label). If there is only One God then there is no choice, no option, no selection of reality. There is only Submission or Heresy. The word Islam means "submission." The basic posture of Christianity is kneeling. Thy will be done. Monotheism therefore does no harm to hive-oriented terrestrials (Stages 10, 11 and 12) who eagerly seek to lay-off responsibility on some Big Boss. Monotheism does profound mischief to those who are evolving to post-hive stages of reality. Advanced mutants (Stages 13 to 18) do make the discovery that "All is One," as the realization dawns that "My Brain creates all the realities that I experience." The discovery of Self is frightening because the novitiate possessor of the Automobile Body and the Automobile Brain must accept all the power that the hive religions attributed to the jealous Jehovah. The First Commandment of all monotheisms is: I am the Lord, thy God: Thou shalt have no other Gods before me. All monotheisms are vengeful, aggressive, expansionist, intolerant.

Stage 10: Islam-Catholicism

Stage 11: Protestant Evangelism

Stage 12: Communist-Dulles Imperialism

It is the duty of a monotheist to destroy any competitive heresy. Concepts such as devil, hell, guilt, eternal damnation, sin, evil are fabrications by the hive to insure loyalty to Hive Central. All these doctrines are precisely designed to intimidate and crush Individualism. The process of mutating into Self-hood plunges the mutant into this cross fire of neurogenetic moral flak. Most of the freak-outs, bad trips and hellish experiences are caused by Monotheistic Morality. Again, it must be emphasized, that Monotheism is a necessary stage. Monotheism is a technology, a tool, to bring pre-civilized tribespeople and caste-segregated primitives into the collectives necessary to develop the post-hive, post-terrestrial technologies.

I hate followers!


I have been away for a few days due to a death in the family. I think it is a bit rich of you to say that we have an itch about the ICC when you yourself made the (correct) initial comment about our differences on the manner of formation of a genuine communist international.

The ICT already rejects the notion of the party as the future government. For us it is a revolutionary organisation which has no governmental role (in fact any such role would hamper its main task - the promotion of world revolution.

We also reject the social democratic idea of a mass party. The party will remain a minority of the class - to make the party a mass party can only be done by watering down its principles and its role as the bearer of the historically discovered class programme.

We also reject the idea of a party of professional revolutionaries.We are a party of cadres but these are volunteers who remain linked to the class in every sense. (It would take an essay to explain the historical experience on which this is based).

What we do recognise is that the real strength of Bolshevism as a class product was not its discipline and cohesion (the Stalinist and to some extent Trotskyist myth) but its diversity and vitality and the capacity of its individual members to act on the ground in accord with proletarian interests).

The future international needs to incorporate all these elements and more. A real party/movement/ pink elephant (or whatever you like to call the organisation of the working class minority who already espouse communism) will be made up of many strands voicing different ideas about the way forward. Perhaps some will choose to remain in different organisatiosn but our aim here must be to recognise their different agendas and work with them as long as they share a genuine revolutionary perspective.

My personal view (which is not that of the ICT as a whole since we have not yet discussed it) is that projects like (for example) Controverses or the Marxist Humanist Initiative are not in the least hostile to the interests of the working class even if their projects are different to our own. We can not only have an adult debate with them but hopefully even cooperative activity.

This forum lets us express ourselves. It has no cost, the reader has nothing to lose.

Negatively, it is a vehicle for easy, frivolous thoughts, it's not subject to rigorous vetting and there is a risk that quick formulations are taken to be ICT positions.

So bearing that in mind.........The revolutionary organisation ( I have no problem with the PARTY label) will act, evolve, become according to circumstance, according to a myriad of influences, the energy, input, enthusiasm, idiosyncracy of its members and the global situation.

Ithink Charlie is asking for something like a lesson plan. Let me say I have taught Spanish for a couple of decades (Jebus, the time flies) and did not use lesson plans, schemes of work etc. I produced utterly fictitious ones to please inspectors etc. As Lenin says, if you are being robbed by armed men, compromise is advisable!

We have important documents and these provide a framework, but we are like water, we are shaped by a vessel we do not choose.

We are not omniscient prophetly going through the pre-conceived masterplan, we have no guarantees.

Charlie, the answer is you!

I know, I'm deliberately going off the wall, but maybe this is the way to get the message across. How are a bunch of revolutionaries shackled like anyone else going to come together and make an impact? By the attempt. Learn by doing. That's how I became a Spanish teacher, and a good one. OFSTED may have a different perspective......

Thanks for your response Cleishbottom, and sorry to hear of your bereavement. I liked this bit. The party or Pink Elephant..."or whatever you like to call the organisation of the working class minority who already espouse communism) will be made up of many strands voicing different ideas about the way forward. Perhaps some will choose to remain in different organisatiosn but our aim here must be to recognise their different agendas and work with them as long as they share a genuine revolutionary perspective." That is good and clearly stated. I am glad to hear that Stevein77 is a good Spanish teacher. But Charlie isn't realky asking him for "a lesson plan" and as Steve doesn't use them anyway what would be the point? But thanks again Cleish.

Regarding bereavement.

One day, given humanity survives, I believe what today seems impossible will be normal. I think history verifies that. A simple calculator not to mention an airplane or a crane or a bus would have seemed like the work of the almighty to men 5/6/7/8 hundred years ago.

I believe the vision of communism is that it is far more likely a seemingly impossible feat be accomplished than not.

Our destiny is to populate the universe, we will eradicate disease, even death.

Today's conditions will be incomprehensible to the eventual future humanity. Perhaps the few historians able to decipher the remnants will have some idea of what was the brief, brutal, battle which was prehistoric pre-revolutionary man's lot.

"We are a people of destiny, we are masters of time''

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