Theses on the Role of Communists in the Economic Struggle of the Working Class

  • The history of all previous class societies has been driven by class struggle. But whereas all earlier rising classes in history obtained their economic and political domination through defending a certain form of property rights the working class, the proletariat, has no such property to defend. Our struggles therefore take on a different character from all previous contending classes. The working class by virtue of its labour produces all the wealth of the capitalist system. But the bulk of this wealth is daily expropriated from it by the capitalist class. This is achieved by capitalists paying workers only for their ability to work, or labour power, while appropriating output of their labour itself. This results in workers producing their wages in part of the working and working unpaid for capital for the rest of the day. The capitalist constantly attempts to reduce the price of this labour power to the minimum it can get away with whilst the workers fight to defend the value of the only commodity they can offer up – their labour power. This exploitation of working class’ labour and the constant attempt of the capitalists to reduce the value of the workers’ labour power is the motor force of the class struggle under capitalism. Now hidden, now open, the daily class struggle between capitalist and labourer is the central feature of the capitalist system. But as workers own no property they cannot ultimately win the class war “unconsciously” simply by engaging in a “guerrilla fight” (Marx) for their immediate and basic needs. The working class can only be ultimately victorious in this class war once it recognises itself as a class “for itself” and that its real needs can only be satisfied by the conscious adoption of a new mode of production. This requires the self-activity of the class and the recognition that it has to unite against all the forces which world capitalism has at its disposal. In the final analysis this also requires a programme and an anti-capitalist political organisation.
  • From the beginning of the capitalist mode of production workers have combined together to use their collective strength by withdrawing their labour to fight against attacks on their livelihoods. This led to the formation of unions in various trades, unions which were immediately deemed illegal by states where the capitalist mode of production was in the ascendant. At this point striking workers risked more than the loss of livelihood but also the loss of the little liberty they enjoyed: transportation and even the death penalty for organising amongst themselves. The class war was at its most naked at this time and unions were small and often short-lived. Money that was saved up for a strike would be used to fight and if the struggle failed so often did the union (e.g. the Durham Miners had no union between 1844 and 1871 after the failure of the 1844 strike).
  • In this period (the first half of the nineteenth century) there was no separation between the economic and political struggle of the working class, a fact most clearly emphasised by the rise of the Chartist movement. It was this which impressed Karl Marx in his early observations of the class war in capitalist society. Throughout his life his aim was to link the “union of the workers” (by which he meant more than a mere trade union) with the political movement for emancipation of the working class. He understood that unions were “defensive” organisations of the workers and their role would always be to negotiate the sale of workers’ labour power but he also hoped that unions would go beyond the economic and take on the political fight not just for the immediate but for the long-term future of the class.
  • However by the time of the formation of the First International (1864) the growing acceptance of unions by the capitalists (they were finally legalised in France in the same year the International was founded and in Britain 7 years later) the union movement was dominated by “new model unions” amongst the skilled trades. These were more like friendly societies and were generally opposed to strikes. Marx hoped that by bringing their leaders into the International they would get an education and therefore that the unions would become more political.

If the trades’ unions are required for the guerrilla fights between capital and labour, they are still more important as organised agencies for superseding the very system of wages labour and capitalist rule …Too exclusively bent upon the local and immediate struggles with capital, the trades’ unions have not yet fully understood their power of acting against the system of wage slavery itself. They therefore kept too much aloof from general social and political movements … Apart from their original purposes, they must now learn to act deliberately as organising centres of the working class in the broad interest of its complete emancipation. [Wages, Prices and Profit 1865]

  • The experience of the Paris Commune however was another seminal event in the long march of the revolutionary working class. It convinced Marx that the only route to emancipation lay not in the gradual conquest of power within the capitalist state (“winning the battle for democracy”) but had to begin with its revolutionary overthrow. The proletariat “cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes.” [1872 preface to the German edition of the Communist Manifesto] It has to smash the state apparatus and reconstitute society anew in its own image. The Commune, despite its short life, showed that the working class itself had the capacity to do this. But whilst the members of the International had played a role in the Commune and it did fine work in promoting class organisation, including unions, it could not survive the divisions within it. Its collapse led in many ways to a step backwards with the foundation of national parties in each country who would eventually enter the much looser association of the Second International. The Second International was dominated from the outset by reformists and those who believed that the evolutionary path to socialism was entirely compatible with their own privileged position within the movement. Despite Marx and Engels frequent private criticisms the class collaborationist tendency in the Second International grew stronger. The unions that developed under the Social Democracy of the Second International were largely dominated by craft unions despite the fact this was the period which saw the growth of huge capitalist enterprises and the unionisation of hitherto non-union unskilled labour. The unions which had started off as workers self-defence organisations were becoming larger and more remote from their members and more intent on negotiating with the capitalists than using the strike weapon to fight them.
  • In response to the abject inadequacy of the social democratic parties and unions came an entirely understandable revolutionary syndicalist or anarcho-syndicalist reaction. Starting off in the least capitalistically developed states (Spain and Italy) syndicalism also spread in a major way to France, Britain and the USA. Observing the class collaborationism of “parliamentary cretinism” (Marx) of the Social Democratic and Labour parties they concluded that the way forward was direct action. Their instrument was to be the general strike to bring about the transfer of ownership of the factories, mines etc to the workers who worked in them so that they could become the self-managed production units of a stateless society. They had an enormous influence in the period just before the First World War (even influencing traditional unions like the MFGB and Transport Workers and created serious concern amongst the ranks of the ruling class.
  • But syndicalism failed the political test of the First World War. Capitalism’s slide into imperialist war revealed its total bankruptcy. A struggle to overthrow it should have been the response of the working class everywhere but on all sides from the vast majority of Social Democrats to syndicalists (like the French CGT) the big labour battalions all found excuses to stand by “their” capitalist state. This is a watershed in the history of the class war. On the one hand those who argued with Lenin that the “imperialist war” should be turned into a “civil” or class war were to be found amongst the Internationalists who would support the October Revolution and the establishment of a Third (Communist) International whilst the old Social Democratic workers movement would make its peace with capital. Although after a split in 1924 the IWW virtually collapsed in the USA syndicalism still had some echoes in Europe after the First World War. However it suffered a massive defeat when the Spanish CNT entered the bourgeois Republican government in the Spanish Civil War. This was a devastating blow to syndicalism and demonstrated that its supposed strength was its greatest weakness. “Revolutionary Industrial Unionism” had morphed into just looking at new ways to run the workplace. Circumventing the state by trying to build a new mode of production inside it does not work. There is nothing “revolutionary” about this. The notion of self-management by workers of their own productive units simply did not face up to the need to smash the bourgeois state first in order to create the foundations of a non-exploitative mode of production in which workers’ control over production would then have some sense.
  • Social Democracy’s peace with capital took the form of union no-strike agreements for the duration of the war and increasing Government control of all aspects of the economy bringing in the unions to the planning apparatus. Opposed to this though was much of the unions’ rank and file led by their shop stewards. In such bodies as the Clyde Workers Committee (which was copied across the country) resistance to the Defence of the Realm Act and the Munitions Act increased as the war became more murderous. This resistance actually demonstrated the anger of the class against both state and unions but the process of the integration of the unions into the state planning apparatus had begun. This did not proceed in straight line everywhere. It was most striking in Germany where, after the Social Democrats (SPD) aligned with the Army to murder Communists (including Liebknecht and Luxemburg) in 1919, they shaped the new capitalist framework of Germany. The SPD in power the Weimar Republic began to organise cooperation between business and their union formations. The Weimar Constitution (1919), supposedly the acme of capitalist democracy called for “Workers and employees … to collaborate with entrepreneurs on an equal basis in the regulation of working conditions and wages as well as the entire development of the productive forces”. This Social Democratic-inspired document was no isolated phenomena. The ex-social democrat Mussolini recognised its corporate sentiments. “We have incorporated all the forces of production in the state. Labour and capital have equal rights and duties”. The new state capitalism that was developing whether in Stalinist, Fascist or democratic guise was responding to the actual needs of capital in the age of imperialism. In Britain the story was more complex but after the aberration of the 1926 General Strike which the TUC ensured would fail, the TUC purged unions of all “troublemakers” (syndicalists and communists) and entered into talks with employers on how to avoid strikes (the Mond-Turner talks of 1928). This went even further when the leader of the TGWU Ernest Bevin was made Minister of Labour in Churchill’s wartime Cabinet. In the post-war boom the state increasingly saw itself as defending the “commanding heights” of each national economy even to the point of taking them over when they were no longer profitable. In this period the unions played a major role in pacifying workers and assisting in the process of rationalisation of industry which saw thousands of jobs lost. During the post-war boom the shortage of labour stimulated workers to fight for better wages so the unions’ role in the myriads of strike that took place then, contrary to popular myth at the time, was to try to contain these struggles.
  • The process of integration of unions into the state especially in the leading capitalist countries in the epoch of imperialism means that unions can no longer be seen as independent class organisations despite the fact that they encompass millions of workers. The concept of the unions as training grounds for socialism or as transmission belts for revolutionary politics which was at the heart of the Third International’s strategy has never really functioned. Unions have never been revolutionary and their development has been one of acquiescing in the system of exploitation. Today we cannot turn the clock back and try to revive institutions which function to maintain the system as it is. However, this does not establish a principle that communists must boycott being members of unions (however reactionary as bodies). The only principle is that communists are with the working class. Union membership may be necessary to be in touch with other workers when a struggle breaks out even though our aim is always to put forward an anti-capitalist and therefore anti-union line. This is a question of tactical evaluation and does not comprise “working in the unions” by trying to gain elective office in them or joining the process of climbing the greasy pole of the union hierarchy. This is why our members refuse the frequent requests by fellow workers to become stewards or take on any representative function based in unions.
  • The Stalinist-Trotskyist myth that the unions can be transformed by having the “right leaders” is disproved by the entire history of their evolution. In practice radical sounding leaders are chosen by workers then tamed by the role they are forced to perform inside the system. It means too that they have to control and discipline their members to retain their position in the system. In fact they become part of the capitalist institutional framework. This is not simply a question of individual weakness but stems from the fact that any permanent economic organisation of the class has, even with the best intentions, sooner or later to enter into negotiations with the capitalists and their system. This is why “rank and file” (or base) unionism has yielded such disappointing results since in the long term their permanent existence means they also have to begin to operate like the unions they originally split away from. Nowhere is this clearer than in Italy where rank and file unionism has fragmented into myriad “base unions” since the 1970s. However despite starting off with promising intentions and acting like struggle organisations, in every case these COBAS have ended up aping the practices of the unions that they were set up to undermine. This means they increasingly comply with the law, use the same methods of only letting the union representatives have a voice and enter into negotiations without the involvement of the mass of the members.
  • Today the economic struggle is immensely more complex than it was at the dawn of capitalism but Communists cannot shy away from it or sit with folded hands to await a better time. It makes no sense for an organisation defining itself as communist to regard action among the workers as an activity to be carried out only in certain historical periods or a future circumstance of greater numerical strength. Being involved in the daily struggle of the working class is an integral part of revolutionary work. As Onorato Damen insisted: "To put forward revolutionary demands on the ground, however small, in the current insecure and feeble conditions of workers' struggle, to engage in an active political militancy not just restricted to a typewriter and theorising which is an individual activity that is always debatable in intention as well as results." Today it is not the union which is the school of socialism but the class struggle itself.
  • In global terms, for revolutionaries the “union problem” has not gone away despite the fact that unions have declined with the onset of the capitalist crisis. After 30 years of retreat there are signs that class resistance to the attacks of capital is on the increase. In these circumstances the left wing of capital are once again asserting that “we need unions” or advocate that we put our trust in them. To workers who have suffered declining real wages for decades this is a plausible option but it is a myth. The strength or weakness of the unions in fact only reflects the ups and downs of the class in the capitalist economic cycle. When labour is short and workers are militant the unions act as if they are defending the class and recruit members. In fact they are recuperating the struggle on to ground that is entirely compatible with capital. When there is a deeper crisis of capitalist profitability leading to unemployment the unions negotiate the management of redundancies. Indeed in many industries in the advanced capitalist countries they appear as just one more layer of management. They even produce their own blacklists of militants (which have included our own members) alongside those of the bosses. On the global level we also need to recognise that not all unions, or attempts to form them, are integrated into the capitalist state. In parts of Asia and Latin America the situation looks like a more murderous repeat of the early days of capital where the workers try to band together to defend themselves from the most brutal forms of exploitation. In these situations their leaders or organisers are not just outside the protection of the law but are prey to the para-military forces of the state in the form of death squads. At the other end of the scale we also find unions which take their sectionalism to the limit as their main reason for existence is to keep most workers out of their privileged trade. These can also be seen throughout Latin America (and to some extent North America) as well as parts of Asia where a virtual mafia exists in many countries like Argentina where the unions are linked to the Peronist party. We need to be aware that the use of the blanket term “union” can mean different things at different times in their development. What can begin as authentic struggle organisations will inevitably evolve over time. Either they will be destroyed by the capitalist reaction, or the very fact of their permanent existence demands their integration in to the state’s procedures, and the acceptance of their permanent role as negotiators of wage labour (a process which always favours the capitalists in the long term). In these circumstances they will become “unions” in both word and function just like all the other unions under modern capitalist domination.
  • For communists, involvement in the day-to-day life of the class also means to immerse ourselves in reality, not just to make propaganda for communism but also to gain understanding and experience. In recent decades – but not only then – the most significant moments of struggle have been directly carried out by workers and not the unions. The union machinery has then intervened, with the aim of controlling them and in the end has succeeded in calming the situation. There have been several examples of combat-based organisations and agitation committees. France in May '68; assemblies took place in Italy during the Autumn of 1969, where unions were often bypassed; assemblies in Poland in August of 1980, capable of organising mass strikes, without the trade unions (Solidarity, heavily dominated by a Catholic Church financed by the US then killed the struggle and opened a space for state intervention, before morphing into an organism which was completely bourgeois in every respect), and the bitter struggle of the British miners in the '80s, the dockers' strike in Denmark and Belgium, the assemblies and committees of struggle during the uprising in Argentina (piqueteros’ committees), the protest against the CPE law in France in 2006, likewise recent protests against French pension reform, were animated not by unions but by the rank and file in assemblies and agitation committees. And more; the "wildcat strikes" of the transport workers in Italy (2003-2004), the struggle of workers at Fiat Melfi (2004: also in this case, the FIOM was dragged in by the workers and performed its usual task of moderator of struggle), picketing workers at Pomigliano held daily assemblies outside the factory (2008), the struggles fought in China in recent years, etc. etc. etc. The situations may be different, but what they all increasingly share is a process tending towards greater self-organisation of struggle. One of our tasks is to support and advocate any measure and any organisational form which extends this capacity for self-organisation and the confidence which comes from it.
  • It is sometimes asserted that in the post-Fordist world of fragmented and smaller factories, in an era where there no longer is the prospect of a job for life, where subcontracting and individual contracts such as zero-hour contracts are increasingly to be found, that there can no longer be a collective class response and that therefore workplace struggle is no longer the only place for class resistance. Some go further to insist that the class has disappeared. In the first place this picture of a precariat is not universal. The lives of less than 5% of workers in advanced capitalist countries are governed by such contracts. This is not to deny that the impact of such employment conditions has a negative effect on the whole workforce. Those who still have a halfway decent wage in a factory where there is still a promise of a pension are themselves disciplined by the thought of descending into the precariat. But again this is not entirely new in capitalist history. Marx wrote Capital when the majority of workers still worked in relatively small units (not too different from today) and many were forced to return to the countryside or went into domestic service (i.e. virtual slavery) to survive at bad times. As for sub-contracted labour French workers in May 1848 stormed the Paris town hall demanding an end to subcontracting. Moreover the notion that workers in subcontracted jobs are too fragmented in their work place and its practices to fight back was knocked on the head by the 2015 Spanish telecoms workers strike – a strike in which the official unions pulled out all the stops to defeat but did not succeed. In the second place with the increasing proletarianisation of many occupations which were previously considered “professions”, such as doctors, the notion of the working class has also changed. The original Marxist observation that the development of capitalism more and more divides society into two great camps of property owners and propertyless is still valid today. The reality is that the working class across the world faces a variety of forms of exploitation but increasingly the only way to fight that exploitation is not via permanent economic organisations which negotiate with the system but with ad hoc rank and file movements which spring up and die down with every struggle. These are in themselves only a beginning and their action has to spread not just from one sector to another but also to the streets and communities in order to return to the kind of unity of economic, social and political aims that characterised the early workers’ movement.
  • For this reason communists must have serious reservations about those who insist (like the operaisti) that the daily economic struggle today is more important than the political struggle for the future. They do however at least have a perspective for the future. Organisations like the IWW, the IWA or Angry Workers of the World might do good work in giving confidence to workers who have been ignored by the mainstream unions but steps like that of the IWW to be recognised as a legal union or the IWA’s reduction of their appeal to just dealing with “trouble at work” demonstrate that the quest to build a permanent economic organisation today means downplaying the longer term political fight for communism. Similarly the notion that the workplace is everything and the rest of society nothing excludes from the movement the social and political forces which are developing in resistance to the attacks of the system.
  • However at least the organisations mentioned above still recognise the central role of the working class in the overthrow of capitalism. They have not been seduced by post-modernist capitalist propaganda that the working class has disappeared and we need to look elsewhere for an agent of historical change. The working class may have been in retreat for decades. It may have been so heavily restructured that it is no longer recognisable as the same class that was previously organised in massive production units, but as we pointed out above, it still is the one class that produces the wealth on which the system relies. It has no special moral kudos but it is the material antagonist of capital. And yet there are many who now try to deny this. Latest amongst these defeatists are the communisateurs. In place of the class struggle they tell us there will be an automatic socialisation of capitalism into communism without the working class actually fighting for it. How this is supposed to come about remains a mystery hidden behind a wall of verbiage about “new modes of production” appearing inside the capitalist system. It is simply a new form of idealism born of despair. According to the supporters of communisation neither political organisation nor class consciousness appear to be necessary but as Pannekoek pointed out these are the weapons the working class needs to forge its own emancipation.
  • It is a historically proven fact from the dawn of capitalism that the class creates its own organs to fight for its demands, even without the presence of the revolutionaries. However the same historical experience also shows the dominant ideological forms which might emerge from such spontaneous movements can be recuperated by capitalism. This explains why communists must be inside the struggle to give out propaganda, proposals, be an active part in the organs of self-organised struggle: the workers' assemblies, agitation and strike committees and on the picket line. In doing so they must always try to provide a communist political framework at the same time as supporting every initiative which tends to the development of the self-activity of those involved. There is no magical formula in the demand struggles of the working class that can open the way to greater class consciousness as the Trotskyists for example claim. It is not the task of communists to raise demands but to support those demands that extend the struggle and criticise those that don’t. Every opportunity, starting from the concrete for intervention must be used to stimulate the workers towards greater consciousness, to increase their understanding of the nature of capitalism, and demonstrating the need to overthrow the system. In the short term a fight can be won or lost but real progress lies in the development of the anti-capitalist class movement, particularly among the more conscious elements.
  • Communists are not only militants at political meetings, protests, demonstrations etc. Wherever practicable in their own workplace they will make efforts to form internationalist groups, both factory (or workplace in general,) and territorial groups. These – unlike the organisations of struggle, which the class sets up itself – are offshoots of the communist organisation and a tool of political organisation in the wider working class. These groups are thus composed of militants and sympathisers of the organisation in a geographical location/place/area of ​​work. Starting from the specifics of the work or community situation they consciously seek opportunities for communist agitation and propaganda. In these communists must hold an anti-state, anti-capitalist and anti-union line in favour of the self-organisation of the proletariat.
  • There can be no pretence that any of this will be easy. The world working class has suffered twice over from the failure of the Russian Revolution. The first was that it led to the long counter-revolution which led to the Stalinist state capitalist monstrosity being identified with “communism”. The second was when this monstrosity finally collapsed giving the capitalist class of the West the propaganda victory that would have us believe that whatever its faults capitalism is the only alternative. Many in the workers’ movement first identified with the USSR as “socialism” and thus abandoned the class terrain and many more took the social democratic road to accommodation with capitalism and demanded only that exploitation became “fair” (whatever that can mean). But capitalist contradictions never go away (as the collapse of the speculative bubble in 2007-8 showed). And neither does the working class which remains historically the same class of gravediggers of capitalism brought into being by the system itself. And just as the working class cannot disappear, neither can its struggle. Communist consciousness is the inevitable reflection of the class struggle of the working class. It does not arise directly from that struggle but is based on the reflections of a minority of the class on the lessons of that struggle. It therefore has an historical dimension. At certain points in capitalist history this has given rise to a revolutionary organisation or party which expresses the long term goal of the working class in the form of a communist programme. The communist programme contains nothing less than all the acquisitions of the revolutionary working class in its history such as mandated delegation rather than representative democracy, the need to smash the state and workers’ councils as the solution to the problem of mass participation. Revolutionaries have fought, and are fighting and will fight for this programme within the wider working class and its struggles as long as capitalism exists. And when that struggle becomes more general, more international communists have to be ready to act on it. Today, whatever the situation, our task is to prepare by acting within the class struggle at all levels as a political reference point for workers questioning the system.

Communist Workers’ Organisation

The above draft theses were amended and adopted by the Annual General Meeting of the CWO in Sheffield in September 2015.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Comments

These theses are very clearly written, not too long, and easy to read if you put your mind to it. They are thus helpful in clarifying matters, though I felt a tiny bit queasy in the sections on the Unions, but then the Unions are enough to make anyone sick!

But these lines caught my attention.

Communist consciousness is the inevitable reflection of the class struggle of the working class.

I wondered about 'inevitable'. And also about 'reflection'. Isn't communist consciousness a 'product' by the class of a consideration of its non-stop exploitation and enslavement? And of how its struggles for more wages never solve the underpinning political issue of class rule? I don't see much that is inevitable about any of this and 'reflection' sounds too passive.

But: to continue with 'communist consciousness'.

It does not arise directly from that struggle but is based on the reflections of a minority of the class on the lessons of that struggle. It therefore has an historical dimension. At certain points in capitalist history this has given rise to a revolutionary organisation or party.

But if there was no struggle then the revolutionary minority of the class would have nothing to reflect on, nothing to consider and to draw the lessons from. The Paris Commune is a case in point. The conclusions of Marx and others on what happened in the Commune arose directly from it. And could not have been reached without it. Similarly, wasn't it the struggle of the Silesian weavers that first triggered serious down-to-earth ideas about communism and the proletariat; leading Marx and others to start thinking about the class and its historic role and even a Communist Manifesto?

Really I think these important lines in your theses could have benefitted from more elaboration. After all communist consciousness and the party are the two most vital issues facing all workers and humanity today.

I hope you don't mind my making these observations on your excellent theses?

Charlie

Thanks for your comment. We don't go in much for the "Theses" form of writing and your comments make me understand why. The concern here is the relationship between the daily class struggle and the revolutionary struggle of the working class and the lines about consciousness and political organisation are very schematic (the longer version is in our pamphlet "Class Consciousness and Political Organisation"). As it happens I think the first quote answers the point you are making about the second quote. You are right (and putting the two quotes up together shows it) that we use "reflection" to mean "product" in the first quote and the second use of reflection is about actually analysing what is going on in the movement - something which does not get done at the time or by the participants but comes afterwards and then enters the revolutionary discussion (and programme) for the next round of the contest. It was not the Communards who drew the lesson about the fact that that the proletariat cannot lay hold of "the ready-made state machinery" but have to smash it but if it had not been for the Commune Marx would not have ditched the reformist and state capitalist measures that were originally put forward at the end of the Communist Manifesto some 23 years earlier. This dialectical interaction can work the other way round too. When the first Soviet was formed in 1905 it was not a theoretical product but the result of a "practical movement" (Marx) from a practical need to unite all the strikes (which were already "political") in Petrograd at the time. At first the Mensheviks were more enthusiastic about them than the Bolsheviks. The latter at first thought the Soviet would take the struggle back to the economic level. It was only as the work of the Soviet in coordinating workers resistance became clearer that it was seen as a new historically-discovered form which immediately posed the question of a new social order and a new way to solve the problem of running a mass society (and without a state). And when in 1917 a new revolutionary situation (on both a Russian and an international scale) appeared it is not surprising that the political parties all worked for its re-establishment as a focus of workers' power. Of course that was not enough as the first Soviet Congress was dominated by SRs and Mensheviks who insisted on class collaboration with the bourgeoisie to continue the war. It required the creation during the course of 1917 of a revolutionary political organisation which reflected (that word again!) the real aims of the working class before the revolution moved on to its proletarian stage. The Bolsheviks opposition to the war from August 1914 and their refusal to accept a compromise with any bourgeois forces made them the vehicle which the proletariat forged as an instrument of their own emancipation (whatever the subsequent course of history and the disaster which awaited the entire proletariat down the line). In short there is a constant process of interaction between the highpoints of the "practical movement" (which is not about the daily economic struggle per se although without the latter the class would disappear) and the revolutionary programme which is a reflection (done it again!) on those high points.

On the Silesian weavers this was Marx's first grasp of the "practical movement"as he moved from Hegelian idealism to a historical materialist understanding (when working on the NRZ) but you can alos add to that the impact of Engels' "Condition of the Working Class ..." and his contact in Paris with those who had more experience of the workers' movement. Without Marx it would have taken longer for the articulation of a modern communist programme but as the examples above show there was plenty Marx still had to learn from the real movement. But the constant antithesis between capital and labour made the emergence of a proletarian consciousness of the possibility of a better world "inevitable". Even in the darkest and most passive moments in the history of class struggle (now?) there have always been nuclei of communists produced by the continuing (and worsening) contradictions of capitalism. The working class may be battered, disorganised and restructured along the lines capital dictates but it never goes away, and neither are we ...

Thank you Cleishbottom for your thorough going and detailed reply to my post, and taking the trouble to do it.

The working class may be battered, disorganised and restructures along the lines capital dictates BUT IT NEVER GOES AWAY, AND NEITHER ARE WE...

... GOING AWAY! Just realised the grammar did not quite fit! Thanks Charlie.

On facebook, Jeremy Corbyn;True socialism (sadly we make history in circumstances we don't necessarily choose...) Stephen Sutton Sutton We need some real class struggle. Marching from a to B is not cutting it. We need strikes. Hit them where it hurts, at the point of production. Not 1 or 2 day affairs where the unions don't have to pay strike money, where everyone knows they are going back to work. We need indefinite strikes. We need to escalate to other sectors, getting as many out at once as we can. We need to take over our own struggle. We need to break through sectionalism and isolation. No repeats of the miners strike.

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