The Working Class needs its own Political Organisation

On the left of the political spectrum there is no shortage of calls for the formation of “workers’ parties”, the transformation of existing parties into “real workers’ parties”, or this or that clique declaring itself to be “the party”. An endless alphabet soup of Trotskyist and Stalinist groups have dedicated their resources towards depriving this slogan of all meaning. So it’s no surprise at all that at first glance our work towards the formation of an independent and international political organisation of the working class, can come across as just more of the same.

A Party Against the Capitalist State

The fundamental difference lies in what we mean by these words as well as the political perspectives which motivate them. Unlike the left-wing of capital which masquerades as socialist, we recognise the State for what it is. Rather than some metaphysical institution, hanging over and above society just waiting to be captured by the working class, the State is a very tangible formation that arose at a specific historical period. To paraphrase Marx: the army, the police, the bureaucracy, the clergy, and the judiciary, everything that came to comprise the modern centralised capitalist State, was utilised by the capitalist class in its struggle against feudalism back in the days of absolute monarchy. As modern industry developed, that state power assumed more and more the character of a national power of capital over labour, of a public force enforcing a hierarchical division of labour.

Depending on the particular political and historical circumstances, State power may appear different in different countries. But whether the political superstructure takes the form of a “multi-party” system (like in Germany and Sweden), a “two-party” system (like in the US and in some ways the UK), or a “one-party” system (like in China and Cuba), the objective remains the same: administration of the capitalist economy in a given territory. Towards that end a mountain of institutions have been erected and thousands of different laws and regulations devised. The different political parties (where they are allowed) compete based on who can carry out the task of administration in a more efficient manner and satisfy both their electoral base and the section of the capitalist class that funds and supports their activities.

Unlike Labour

The Labour Party is only a “workers’ party” in so far as its electoral base has historically been primarily composed of the working class. This means that yes, it might want to represent workers’ interests, but only as long as these interests don’t disturb the process of capitalist accumulation (which is why, whenever in power, Labour has been no less hesitant in putting down strikes than their Tory peers). No matter how well meaning the original intentions, the left in government ends up carrying out the very same functions that it once claimed to oppose (the SPD in Germany serves as a clear example from the past, but so more recently do Syriza in Greece or the PSUV in Venezuela). This is because it is enmeshed within the State.

It Must Be International

On the other hand, what we mean by an independent and international political organisation of the working class is one that is outside and against the logic of the State – it cannot be simply an appendage of a faction within the capitalist political system (which Trotskyist and Stalinist groups reduce themselves to through Labour Party entryism or support for various rivals of US imperialism). The political organisation that we speak of is, as we always repeat, not a government in waiting, but a political compass with a clear understanding of the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate goal of the working class movement (that is, abolition of class society and the emancipation of humanity from the dictatorship of capital). It also passes on the lessons of the past, one of these being that the working class expresses its fight for freedom via mass assemblies, strike committees and workers’ councils rather than parliamentary masquerades!

In order for such an organisation to come about, we cannot wait for day X. The 2007/8 financial crisis may have sparked a wave of mass anti-austerity protests across the globe, but it did not give birth to a new political force (instead, in its absence, it breathed new life into old political formations like the Labour Party). If communists want to have any influence over events, if they want to help to guide the movements of the future towards emancipatory goals, they cannot remain isolated. There is a need for an organisation to exist prior to the outbreak of such movements, so that it can disseminate an alternative message among the class, that there is another way of organising society, that capitalism, which drives the world towards imperialist wars and ecological collapse, is not the be-all and end-all. While the existence of such a political organisation does not ensure victory, without it every revolt will surely exhaust itself within the system, just like the anti-austerity movement has done.

The above article is taken from the current edition (No. 49) of Aurora, bulletin of the Communist Workers’ Organisation.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Aurora (en)

Aurora is the broadsheet of the ICT for the interventions amongst the working class. It is published and distributed in several countries and languages. So far it has been distributed in UK, France, Italy, Canada, USA, Colombia.