Come to a day of discussion

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Alf
Come to a day of discussion
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International Communist Current

 

Come to a day of discussion

                     

 

Following the very successful meeting we had last year, the ICC invites you to another day of discussion in London, on 22 June 2013.

 

The main focus of the day will be a discussion around the theme

Capitalism is in deep trouble – why is it so hard to fight against it?

 

In this session, we will consider questions such as: is it accurate to say that capitalism is in terminal decline? What is really at stake in the struggle of the working class to defend itself? What are the main obstacles to the development of the struggle?

 

We have published a great deal about the crisis in our press but we recommend the following one to give a general overview of the situation confronting capitalism:

http://en.internationalism.org/internationalreview/201203/4744/economic-crisis-not-never-ending-story

 

Regarding the problem of responding to the crisis, we think the following article, and the discussion on our internet forum that it stimulated, provide a good starting point:

http://en.internationalism.org/worldrevolution/201211/5284/why-it-so-difficult-struggle-and-how-can-we-overcome-these-difficulties

 

http://en.internationalism.org/forum/1056/fred/5293/why-it-so-difficult-struggle-and-how-can-we-overcome-these-difficulties

 

In the afternoon we are planning to organise a discussion around a more general topic. We are looking at various possible themes but are open to further suggestions, and to offers from all directions to make the initial presentations. Last year all the discussions were presented by comrades who are not ICC members, and we would like to do the same this year. So far we have considered:

-          How do we get from capitalism to communism? What does a revolution look like? What is the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’?  How can capitalist relations of production be overturned?

-          The threat to the global environment: what do Marxists say about the causes of the problem, and its solutions?

-          The origins of the oppression of women. When did it all begin? Can revolutionaries look to the findings of anthropology to come up with any answers?

-          Marxism and science: what is their relationship? Is there a ‘proletarian’ science opposed to ‘bourgeois’ science?

 

We encourage comrades to give us their proposals about the topic they want to discuss, and to volunteer to do a presentation. We ask that they let us know their opinion by the end of April so that there is ample time for everyone to prepare. We think that there will only be time for one topic to be discussed, but whatever the final decision, this doesn’t preclude any of the remaining questions being taken up in future meetings.

 

We hope that these discussions will be of interest to comrades in or around revolutionary political organisations, to people who have been actively involved in the class struggle, and to anyone asking questions about the nature and future of present-day society – and about the feasibility of getting rid of it.  

 

If you are interested in attending, please let us know in advance, especially if you have any accommodation, transport or other problems that might make it difficult for you to come along.

 

The venue is upstairs at the Lucas Arms, 245a Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8QZ. The first session will go from 11-2 and the afternoon session from 3-6. We will arrange for food at lunch time but we are also planning to go to a nearby restaurant after the meeting.

 

Contact us by email, by post at BM Box 869, London, WC1N 3XX, or  via a PM on this forum

 

Alf
responses

3 (positive) responses so far...any suggestions about the agenda? 

commiegal
the agenda sounds pretty good

the agenda sounds pretty good so far. I'd like to hear more about international events and what your comrades are doing around the world and how this ties in to the theory of how to fight capitalism. I'd really like to hear more about Mexico as this is something that really interests me

Will you be selling pamphlets and books?

slothjabber
Alf wrote: Contact us at

Alf wrote:

Contact us at [email protected], by post at BM Box 869, London, WC1N 3XX, or  via a PM on this forum

 

I think the address should be [email protected] here Alf. Got a bounce-back from that address anyway.

Alf
books, emails

Thanks for pointing that out Sloth.

We will indeed be selling books, pamphlets and journals.

KT
3 more

I'll be there. Hopefully with 2 or 3 others. Think the four alternatives suggested so far for the pm session are choice enough - personally I'd prefer the 'how do we get from capitalism to communism' discussion but also think the 'science and marxism' debate would be excellent and has already provoked informative and well-followed discussions on this site.

Alf
so far that's....

so far (on this thread at least) that's one for communisation and the problem of the state, one for science and one for  the condition of the planet.

Interesting news today in the Guardian about the 'markets' betting on the fact that the 'world community' will not in fact honour its committment to cut greenhouse emissions and will instead go for frenzied growth based on oil, gas and coal extraction.Which is on the surface sensible of 'the markets'. But the fear is that this will produce a huge carbon bubble that will lead to even more disastrous convulsions in the world economy..... 

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/apr/19/carbon-bubble-financial-crash-crisis

 

slothjabber
Capitalism to communism

I'm certainly up for a discussion on how we get from capitalism to communism, as it's something that has been exercising my mind lately as some posters here know from other forums. I've offered to do a presentation to introduce the discussion should it go ahead on the day.

baboon
Is capitalism in terminal

Is capitalism in terminal decline? Where is the working class?

 

 

Economic Crisis

 

Decades ago the ICC talked about the economic crisis of capitalism in terms of there being no light at the end of the tunnel, no economic recovery of any material substance, no positive result from "belt-tightening" (austerity) and nothing for the working class except more misery and, overall, a descent into an even greater level of economic crisis and, from that, deeper attacks on the working class and the whole of the oppressed of society. If, from decades ago, there was a certain view of the imminent collapse of capitalism, along with an immediatism towards the proletarian revolution (shared by both the ICC and the IBRP), then there's not many left communists, with some secondary differences, who would argue against the above in general.

 

At a recent point of a nosedive in the world economic system of 2007/8, the libertarian group Aufheben, what could be described as the theoretical wing of libertarian communism, put forward the position that capitalism was on the cusp of an "upswing". There are strong tendencies within this libertarian/anarchist milieu to see capitalism as constantly able to surmount its crises and shows that the 50s/60s vision of Marcuse (which one maybe could understand at the time) persists today and this I think is reflected, despite providing analyses to the contrary, in the life that this milieu in general continue to breathe into the trade union structures of the capitalist state. There are also some who share the idea that a unified capitalism can cooperate on an economic level to solve the ecological problems that this profit-driven system has itself created and that this will provide a means to overcome its crises.

 

The text in International Review number 148, "The economic crisis is a never-ending story. It announces the end of the system and the struggle for another world" is a good point in which to situate the discussion and the opening paragraph is clear: "Capitalism is being hit by the most acute crisis in its history" and this is expressive of the complete impasse facing the bourgeoisie. We've seen concretely how the development of the economic crisis has fostered divisions within the ruling class and even if some of these expressions are tinged with a little madness - representative of a doomed class from the decomposition of its economic system - the bourgeoisie can only provide limited, ineffective solutions while, as the text says, maintaining its sacred union against the proletariat. The wearing out of debt as a spur to production, as a replacement for a real market for the sale of commodities, was shown in force in the collapse of the Asian Tigers and Dragons in 1997/8. It evidenced, in an entire geographical area of "boom", that the credit bubble was reaching its limits and the deadline had come these debts to be repaid - even if in dribs and drabs as long as something was paid off whatever devastation it caused. This is even more so today as the same situation becomes generalised to all the national economies. Will there be a sudden collapse? I don't think that the bourgeoisie will allow it and I think that this is the position of the ICC. Its various "rescue plans" have brought it little relief at great expense and its further credits, which it is increasingly unable to extend, have brought it some breathing space. Nothing has changed in that the world economy shows slow to non-existent growth in a minefield of potential financial explosions. Public debt is being cut and this necessitates massive attacks on the working class and private debt is being paid off at a minimum and this will continue to be the objective of the ruling class. The bourgeoisie cannot keep going into debt - it cannot cope with the debt it has now which it's just about managing to pay the interest on - and this is one of the reasons why negative interest rates are once again on the cards. Many serious economic commentators are pointing to the present crisis as being worse than the 1930's and we all aware of the outcome of that.

 

The text notes the relief of the bourgeoisie when, after the 2007/8 "banking crisis", the whole economic pack of cards didn't collapse in a heap. What saved the economy was a huge, unprecedented state capitalist intervention - the virtual nationalisation of every bank - that, with some differences, were effected by a certain agreement across national divides. But this "cooperation" immediately weakened over four or five years with the growing development of protectionism, competitive devaluations and the centrifugal tendency of each for themselves. Japan for example has recently thrown the kitchen sink at its persisting economic problems in a desperate $1.2 trillion gamble that it's bet on itself against all-comers. So far Britain and the United States has "invested" around $7 trillion in Quantatative Easing the vast majority of which is not going into production but into paying off debts and further speculation. In a previous IR the figure of $8 is used just to generate one dollar of "real" production. Another massive bubble. Germany for its part, can't use such mechanisms because of its relationship to the euro and the crisis is expressed in a different way - a "crisis" incidentally that French leader Hollande declared on June 9 was over and the EU was now stronger. Estimates for the Chinese economic "miracle" (note the religious term used by the economic hacks) now say that if its pollution was accounted for on its balance-books, then it would show none or very little growth. The bourgeoisie is caught in the austerity/recovery cleft, neither of which contain the least perspective for overcoming the crisis - indeed both make it worse - with its major bodies, OECD, etc., contradicting themselves from one day to the next and further exacerbating tensions between nation states. Unknown unknowns of course remain unknown regarding the economy and if the bourgeoisie thought everything was coming together after 2007/8 then events have contradicted it - notwithstanding Hollande's fantasies. But a sudden collapse, a sudden implosion like that of the Soviet Union generalised to the whole system, does not look to be the perspective for now at any rate.

 

 

Imperialist War

 

Another factor that has to be addressed by internationalists when talking about the shelf-life of capitalism is that of imperialist war. If the capitalist economy is bankrupt then another significant factor that underlines the obsolescence of its mode of production is imperialist war. Imperialism and its wars are factors in and from the insoluble economic crisis, from its inner contradictions, contradictions that end up undermining the whole of capitalism. The "imperialist imperative" as Paul Mattick described decadent capitalism's drive to war, is one of the material drives of capital that is part of the foundation of the proletarian revolution. World War One (the hundredth anniversary of which will soon be celebrated by the bourgeoisie) expressed the decay of the system, "the epoch of disintegration" as the Communist International called it in 1919, some time before the economic collapse of the 1930's. The development of global imperialism preceded the open expression of the economic crisis of capitalism but it was itself an expression of this same crisis. The same fundamental problems which triggered the first global holocaust are still very much at the root of the present crisis. And similarly, the militarisation and repression of society, the creeping, destructive irrationality of militarisation and war must become a factor in the development of the class consciousness of the proletariat.

 

The development of imperialism expresses the dead-end of capitalist society. Military rivalry between states for raw materials, influence, strategic considerations and simply feeding chaos against rivals is the ultimate in capitalist competition. Military force and war more and more becomes capitalism's answer to economic crisis. As the Gauche Comuniste Francais said of the question in 1945, the drive towards war leads to the destruction "of huge quantities of values built up over decades, centuries of social labour". The bourgeoisie can't go on destroying production and generating new cycles of accumulation with calculated and finessed warfare - that's the problem with war, the situation escapes their control. Even a limited nuclear exchange today - which is becoming more and more a possibility - could wipe out not just "enough" value but the whole of humanity. On the "conventional" level Syria today, amongst others, shows the innate tendency of capitalism to destroy itself as this irrational imperialist conflagration spreads throughout the Middle East. In its great part, across the globe, imperialist war is totally irrational and expresses the bankruptcy of the system. All the major areas and "flash-points" involved in the destruction and spread of war from World War I, remain running imperialist sores, hubs of capitalist destruction and imperialist chaos at even deeper and more barbaric levels while drawing larger areas into the orbit of capitalist barbarity - particularly where the proletariat is weakest.

Massive proportions of national economic budgets are now being spent on the forces of repression, intelligence (co-opting organisations valued by libertarians such as Google, Facebook, etc.), militarisation and war providing further drains on the economy and paid for by the working class. Presently there are new arms races across the Middle East, Asia/Pacific and every national capital from the smallest to the largest, is spending more and more on militarisation at all levels. There's also a new, wider nuclear arms race with more potentially destructive forces along with developments on delivery systems. Added to this are the developments of the major powers into "space warfare". While imperialist war is a factor in the development of class consciousness today, contrary to the 1917 revolutionary wave, it is the worsening economic crisis that is today at the forefront of the concerns of the working class.

 

The article on decadence in IR 148 fully brings the ecological destruction wrought by capitalism into the framework of the threat that capitalism and its search for profit at any cost poses to the continued existence of humanity. The idea that capitalism, which is based on rivalry and competition, can rationally co-exist and work as a whole to counter the threat of ecological disaster is fanciful to say the least.

 

Where is the working class and why hasn't it responded with more urgency to the depth of the crisis and the attacks upon it?

 

While the analysis of the ICC of a tendency towards major class confrontations seems to me intact, there is nothing at all fateful, nothing inevitable about a proletarian revolution and there is at least a perspective of the "mutual ruin of contending classes". While the working class, because of its situation in production and its collective nature, remains the only force capable of taking on the bourgeoisie, establishing its dictatorship and liberating the rest of humanity towards a communist society, this massive task can't be willed into existence no matter how weak or strong its revolutionary minority - though the stronger the latter one would imagine the better. Only the mass action of the class itself can allow humanity to move forward and shake off the fetters of the past.

 

There are certainly responses from the proletariat as a global class to the attacks: strikes all over the world from South Africa to China, central and southern Europe, Asia and Latin America. Social movements, mostly involving workers as individuals have hit every continent and give the appearance of the unity of the oppressed of all ages, sex and religions and this shows, in embryo, an international response to the crisis, misery and oppression of capitalism. Whatever the weaknesses and fragmented nature of this phenomenon, these are signs of a global resistance. But it is a long road we are facing and it will definitely not be a linear stage by stage process. It demands, from the weak revolutionary forces, a theoretical effort at every level - along with what practical efforts can be made - and we should remind ourselves that the level of attacks on the working class are nowhere near the level required by the depth of the crisis and by the bourgeoisie. The attacks are only just beginning.

 

In International Review number 147, the decadence article talks about the "biological reaction to impoverishment". I don't understand what this is trying to say but the sheer scale, venom and apparent suddenness of such a dramatic turn in capitalism's crisis has been enough to intimidate the proletariat in the first instance - although it is a prerequisite to the development of a more profound struggle. Certain important parts of the bourgeoisie are, at the moment, very much aware of the stakes of the situation, much more so than the proletariat, and everything is done through its ubiquitous and relentless media campaigns to ram home the disorientation within the workers and stimulate divisions within their ranks - racism, immigration, public/private, employed./unemployed, religious differences and so on, all to reinforce the disorientation and lack of confidence within the class. In short to prevent it from seeing itself as a class in itself. But overcoming this is another function of open, self-organised proletarian struggle which is the greatest "example", the greatest teacher that the class can have.

 

The collapse of the eastern bloc, the end of the "socialist" regimes and the concomitant "victory of capitalism" still provides an enormous service to the bourgeoisie. The latter even has the luxury of admitting that the capitalist system is far from perfect, but says that we must make the best of it because it is the only system possible. While we must be open to sudden developments, the elements of struggle that we see at the moment are not at all sufficient to overcome present weaknesses and develop class consciousness and where workers do begin to organise and act as a class then this is a vehicle which carries within it the beginnings of what to replace capitalism with.

The struggle for communism is still amalgamated with Stalinism within the working class and the bourgeoisie reinforce this idea with the concept that the working class has disappeared and this itself reinforces the apoliticism and lack of confidence that exists in the proletariat. One important factor that has helped in stopping the workers reacting as a class has been the way the bourgeoisie has carefully timed and implemented its attacks here and there. But its room for manoeuvre, its ability to do this is rapidly running out.

 

One part of its political apparatus, a very important part from the bourgeoisie's point of view, has been enormously strengthened by the "collapse of communism" and the victory of democracy, and that is the trade unions. The role of the unions is much stronger and more important than the simple policing of the workplace: discipline, implementing wage and job cuts, effecting "flexibility" and so on. They have a much wider ideological and divisive function and this has been favourised by the collapse of the eastern bloc and the ideology that there is nothing else outside of capitalism. The trade unions fit perfectly into "let's get the best we can within capitalism because that's all there is". This widespread reformist ideology, particularly among the advanced powers of capital, further alienates the working class from class politics and helps to hide the class identity and mystify the latent power of the proletariat. A power that in reality remains entirely undiminished and full of revolutionary potential.

 

baboon, June 10, 2013.

Communist
I'll be there! What's the

I'll be there! What's the head count now?

Alf
heads

Not sure really - quite a few have said they will probably come so hard to give definite numbers. But I think it will be pretty well attended. 

Thanks baboon for your post - sorry you won't be able to be there in person but it will help to focus the discussion. Will try to come back to this soon soon 

baboon
Interesting discussion on

Interesting discussion on libcom giving an anarcho-communist perspective: "When will the revolution happen".

Fred
Thank you for your thoughtful

Thank you for your thoughtful testimony baboon. For me this paragraph hit the nerve.

 

Quote:
 While the analysis of the ICC of a tendency towards major class confrontations seems to me intact, there is nothing at all fateful, nothing inevitable about a proletarian revolution and there is at least a perspective of the "mutual ruin of contending classes". While the working class, because of its situation in production and its collective nature, remains the only force capable of taking on the bourgeoisie, establishing its dictatorship and liberating the rest of humanity towards a communist society, this massive task can't be willed into existence no matter how weak or strong its revolutionary minority - though the stronger the latter one would imagine the better. Only the mass action of the class itself can allow humanity to move forward and shake off the fetters of the past.

That "the massive task" of the liberation of humanity from the fetters of capitalism can only be carried our by a sufficiently conscious working class internationally, is asking an awful lot of an enslaved class that isn't always even aware of its slavery. That this massive task "can't be willed into existence", and that the role of revolutionaries and a party seem to have become such questionable difficulties in their own right, but that  the future of humanity itself can be seen, by those with eyes to see, to hang   completely on the mass action of the working class, means we are living at a time of of tremendous historical significance and also of tremendous pain.  The pain for communists can be felt frequently on this forum, and on red-marx too, and probably elsewhere where their are questioning minds looking   for a way out, and  a deliverance from what can seem like an impending disaster of "2012" proportions, without the geological cause underpinning it and without the filmed special effects to ease the horror. 

 

 

For the world's population at large, and especially the working class, their pain is the product of austerity, the endless bourgeois wars, gangsterism and mass corruption of the ruling class.  This is the pain of not consciously knowing yet that there  is a way out, that it isn't too late, and that if only the two pained and grieving groups - the workers on the one hand and the communist minorities on the other - could bring their pain, frustration and agony together, the pain could be removed, and the mutual ruin of the contending classes need not be the inevitable event it sometimes appears to be. 

 

 

I hope the forthcoming meeting will be well attended and be a great success.

 

A.Simpleton
The Heart Of The Matter ..

This thread goes to it : I can only second the resolve, determination,  hopes and the doubts of all contributors.

I remember something you posted many moons ago Fred about whether there was any ' reneguing bourgeois' factor in revolution .... ( or that's how i read it)

I heard a Conservative Republican American Twenty-Something 'Financial Analyst' on Radio Four talking about the Global Banking system recently: without prevarication he said the entire system was corrupt: all money was 'dirty money': that daily, the Market Computer Traders were trading virtual/derivative/future/ values of 160 Trillion dollars - three times the 'actual' value of the Global economy: 'insane' was his description.

Of course -propaganda-wise- 'total reform' was the only answer .... but are there perhaps more white collar wage slaves (quite good wages mind) than one imagines who have just a glimpse of the 'there is no solution' scenario ?

 

AS

 

A.Simpleton
I can only try: the key words being ...

'Virtual: derivative: futures'.

Yes he was talking about betting in the pits of Stockmarkets around the globe.

I can't go 'into depth', alas because I am out of my depth :@--

But I am in good company because all earthlings are deliberately supposed to be - bar the elite minority of conspiring MBAs, whizzkid lawyers, blind eye turning 'governments' and 'World Banks' who either invented or complicitly allow these ever more convoluted 'derivative financial instruments', which indeed many of them can't define because they are pure fabrications ...or should I say impure fabrications. 

And although they are 'third cousins twice removed' as it were from any actual 'commodity' Marx's basic analysis of the various forms of 'value' (use value, exchange value, surplus value .et al) helps us start.

He differentiated 'ordinary money' from Capital : 

The worker has but one commodity to sell: his labour-power:he sells it, gets money to buy another commodity - food for example : Marx wrote this as C-M-C.

The Capitalist on the other hand, owns the means of production, exploits the worker to accumulate surplus value - Capital - with which he can buy (in reality or speculatively)'Commodities' to sell for more money: Marx wrote this as M-C-M. : the antithesis of the worker: for the Capitalist money has no 'use' other than the accumulation of more money.

A hundred years roll by : the more desperate Capitalism becomes in decline ( very crudely put ;crisis of overproduction : impoverishment of the mass who cease 'consuming' - not to mention whole States being in debt to 'World Banks' and unable to pay even the 'interest') to keep this M-C-M process going the more fanstastical the 'tradable things' become.

So - I'm improvising here but hopefully not 'in essence' mis-stating the case

Some Capitalist or Capitalist institution offers money as an 'option' to buy a million commodities at a fixed point in the future at a fixed price which may be higher or lower than the 'market price'.

Thence -say- is derived another 'option' to buy the commodities at that same date should the first 'guy' default on his 'option'.

Thence is derived -say- a bet on whether the first guy will default if 'the market' goes down or whether he will not.

Thence a further 'option' to make good on that 'bet' should the better default ( i.e. trading a 'bet on a default option) and so on into the realms of the utterly absurd.

Now: the $160 Trillion? ..well it doesn't exist: it's not ever actually 'spent' -produced in fleets of aircraft carriers of cash: nor could it ever be . To buy such options/futures/bets/defaults etc. the huge Capitalist trading houses need only put down a 'margin'( deposit if you like).of say 10%

So to 'possess' $150,000,000's worth of Capital because you 'bet' correctly only costs $15 Million.or $10 million if the $15 million 'guy' chickens out.

Now ,as far as I can deduce and I am but a simpleton, even the alleged 'actual' worth of the world economy he quoted -60 Trillion- doesn't really exist does it ? Is this not demonstratively revealed repeatedly by events?

What happens when occasionally the shit does hit the fan and some party is required to pay up the full amount or even the full interest on the 'borrowed' Capital : like a 'run' on a bank ? Or an edict from the Central European Bank to Greece or Cyprus to 'pay up' or?

Well Banks go bankrupt: huge Insurers (AIG, RE) who insure the banks go bankrupt, Countries go 'bankrupt'..except ....er....they don't ! of course because after the dog-eat-dog brinkmanship of warring Capital ''policies' 'restructurings of debts blah blah blah are found to be 'acceptable' and these policies are of course

Further impoverishment of the Workers: ruthless austerity imposed on the Workers: violent oppression of the Workers justified, war, barbarism :

Business 'as usual' for the Bourgeoisie ..

Or is it? That is the doubting note  I wondered if I heard in that American Analyst's statements.

Apologies if I am way off the mark.

AS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alf
fiction

I think your emphasis on the largely fictional nature of the world economy is pretty close to the mark....

Fred
My favored derivative option

My favored derivative option AS is to get rid of them all as soon as possible. I believe you agree. I don't know why, but  feel tremendous relief to hear it's  all fiction, which puts the overall lunacy in perspective a bit. Or maybe the commercial idiocy is really in need of restructuring again? 

Fred
Leadership!

I was wondering whether the question of LEADERSHIP  was a good topic for talk?  This is as a result of some material posted on red-marx, where the role of the party is being discussed. Reluctant myself, till now, to think about "leadership" - was I an unknowing councilist? - resisting the idea that the party would exercise leadership (what would it be doing instead?) or that revolutionary organizations now should exercise a leadership function, I have avoided thinking about the matter. But not now. 

 

Many comrades dislike the Bolshevik model of leadership. Is this because they made terrible mistakes, or because they come across as very authoritarian?  Luxembourg said, rather mysteriously, that the question could only be posed in Russia, not answered.  But what question? The question of the party and its leadership strategies, or the question of the state?  I don't know. And she unhappily did not survive to put forward an answer to the question posed, on the basis of events in Germany. The revolutionary wave in Germany certainly suffered from a lack of leadership.  But what sort of leadership did it actually require? How did the KAPD, formed much too late, differ in its understanding of the leadership needed, from that of the Boksheviks - we have so few examples to refer to.  And what do existent revolutionary organizations today think about their leadership roles?  Not much is talked about this.  I don't really see either the ICC, or even the ICT, who talk a lot about the need for the party, actually having a leadership role at the moment. Or having exercised one over the last  c.40 years. I am not saying  that the groups have not had an enormous political impact - far in excess of their size - but when it comes to "leadership" well what is meant by leadership in communist terms?  The ICC always used to say it was "a pole of re-groupment" this doesn't necessarily imply a leadership function, does it?  

 

Are the times changing now? Is HISTORY kind of maturing?  Is it time for a more forceful - that is definitely the wrong word -  maybe more confident demonstration of leadership?  But maybe we already have it, and I'm just too silly to see it?  And this all needs more thought.  

Link
Capitalism is in deep trouble! DRAFT

 

This is my first draft for my part of the introduction this morning focusing on issues relating to the current period of crisis in capitalism

Since the 1980s there has been a period of downturn in struggle, but also an extended period of crisis which has not generated a broad or significant wc response in the heartlands of capital.  Does this mean that the concepts of the decline of capitalism and war or revolution and socialism or barbarism are wrong?  Does it mean that there needs to be new ways of organising, new activities for revolutionaries?   Does it rule out the possibility of a better society?   For me the answer must be no!  A look at history of the last century confirms their validity.  The Russian revolution and the revolutionary wave are key events, crisis of the 30s and the horror of WW2, the emergence of new political thought and class struggle in the late 60s, the evident inability of capitalism in recent years to provide for a improving standard of living for its people, indeed its ability to do only the opposite is proof enough for me that the left communist analysis of capitalism is valid.

So lets not forget that capitalism has always been in trouble.  Even when it could act as a progressive system and expand production and the class system nationally and internationally at the same time as improving living standards, as developing support services such as health and education for its population, as developing new sciences and technologies, it was at the same time destroying old cultures, killing hundreds of thousands in the process, making men women and children work for long hours in brutal working conditions, providing little or no protection from illness accidents and cyclical economic crisis,  This is so because it was always an exploitative system, a class society exercising violence, ideological and economic control to achieve its goals.

Marx;s view of historical materialism lays a fundamental framework for viewing crisis in that societies have progressive periods and period of decline.  Called by the ICC ascendancy and decadence.

This framework applies to capitalism as an exploitative class based society.  However it does not mean, as I’ve just suggested, that in one period everything is improving and in the period of decline there is only hardship.  There have also been significant technical and social change over the past 100 years.  Education and Health systems extend, communication, manufacturing and transport technologies have changed beyond all recognition, consumer goods dominate home markets.  Does this mean all change is progressive.  Absolutely not - the reforms of the last century reflecting the needs of capitalism trying to maintain itself.  Capitalism today needs reformism to keep ideological control of workers and to hold back prevent class action.

I start here because I want to get away from the idea that we should only describe the past century as a continuous process of deterioration in the economy and social conditions as society comes ever closer to revolution. 

Clearly the main point of today discussion is the state of class struggle currently So I hope my introduction now will just set a framework and a background to the discussion of today’s situation on the basis of looking at how crises have developed in 20th and 21st centuries.  I hope in doing this to stress some useful ideas and to have a go at a few notions that I think are unhelpful and outdated.  You’ll be grateful to hear then that I am not going to do this by looking a crisis in terms of economics but from a political point of view

This current period of  low class struggle does question some of the ideas that were developed post WW2 and before.  This is a difficult and unexpected period which poses many new problems for  analysis of crisis.  Its easy to see that by looking at the lively discussions on the icc website and how they have generated many problematic issues.   Some of the issues remain pose real questions for an understanding of crisis eg the size of pre-capitalist markets, role of debt, markets or production as primary issue, and I’d add population growth since 1950s as well as suggestions that we can ignore theory, ignore past events because they were too long ago, make things happen now, find better ways to organise,  speak to new militants or searchers (as they seem to have become known).    

I see nothing in the current period that questions the idea that capitalism is in terminal decline

But I do think it means some revisiting of the theories of how we understand crisis and decadence..  This extended period of crisis accompanied by a lack of struggle should give us more information with which to improve the analysis of the course of decadence.

I do get the feeling at times that for us old farts its too easy to drift back to our youth and pretend things haven’t changed.  But since 68, 45 years have elapsed and 1917 was 50 years before that.   The young comrades of today can not envisage the struggles of the 60s and 70s any better than the comrades of that period could envisage events in 1917.  The period since ww2 have been very long and we’ve only seen one wave of class struggle in that time.  

How does this elongated period affect an analysis of the current situation.?  This is I think a core question for today.

I want therefore to give an overview of crises from a political point of view

When the WW1 started, Luxemburg Lenin etc spoke of the period of imperialism, the period of revolution and appear to have thought of it as the end of capitalism.  They saw this as a short term prospect and as a period of continuous class struggle.

In 30s and 40s, revs struggled to understand the decline of that revolutionary wave and to see it in context of political changes that were taking place in society.

In the 40s and 50s comrades had to develop an understanding  of defeat of the class and identified war and revolution as opposing class responses to crisis

In the 60s and 70s, the comrades coming out of GCF and later Solidarity, WV etc had to develop an understanding of the emergence of new struggles against capitalism as it returned to open crisis out of a period of growth. Everybody at that stage however again saw the collapse of capitalism and emergence of revolutionary period as imminent if not immediate.

Since the 1980s comrades have struggled to maintain their existence in the context of a lack of class struggle and it is this context that poses the questions today. 

This is why an understanding of crisis is important to us all and I would argue that the most important task of revolutionaries is this discussion of the current situation.   So despite some of the arguments in the ICC webpages, the discussion of what Luxemburg, Bukharin and Mattick said about crises, of what Lenin said about organisation, of what went on in 1917 of Marxist ideas from the past,  of science and evolution, of subterranean consciousness, of anarchism and of environment etc etc are essential contributions  (of more or less significance) to this ultimate task.  These issues facilitate the discussion of today’s situation.  Because this is a skill that one day must enable future comrades to analyse the heat of a revolutionary situation and make decisions about whether it is time to call on the class to wait, to retreat and to attack.  So please don’t denigrate economic theory or the events of the Russian Revolution etc as old hat and not worth your time.

We would in truth not be having this discussion if there was open class struggle in Europe.  Why there isn’t,  is a problem but its also the opportunity to review and improve understanding of the past and of today.

For me the period of say 1914 to 1924 is really significant.  It proves to me beyond all doubt that a wc rev can happen and if it can happen once it can happen again.    But it was almost 100 years ago and perhaps it is all too easy to look back and say this was only a highpoint in struggle and things were easy for comrades.

Comrades had difficulties then too.   Capitalism was at its highpoint politically and economically.  Yet crises existed, but the economy was not in that bad a shape prior to WW1, national bourgeoisies saw only the example of the UK in terms of what they could achieve for themselves.  The wc suffered awful working and living conditions, streets were dirty unhealthy places where homeless adults and kids scrabbled to survive, little education or health systems were available, society was only just finding out how to provide sewers and power supplies.  Transport to work was not available, sick pay, holiday pay was non-existent.  

Common was still the belief was that women and workers had no understanding of society and politics, and were born to their station in life.  The divide between probably rich and poor was far greater than now.  Nationalism was strong because few people outside the army know what foreigners were really like.  The Church, particularly Catholicism still had a strong hold on people’s behaviour. 

Revolutionaries had no computers and no internet to communicate, letter post was still a novelty, just as was the motor car, telephones, duplicators, typewriters,  Leafleting must have been hard going!   Comrades were still organised on a national basis ( Russian SDLP members were émigrés abroad, rather than members of UK, Austrian German SDLP) .   National meetings however must have taken days to get to.  The norm must have been to organise through local indeed very local meetings.   Communication within organisation no matter how structured or well organised must have been so slow and  problematic.  What is called now centralisation was scarcely possible then.  Worse still revolutionaries had to contend in every meeting with the reality that they were members of SD or the LP alongside all the reformist and liberal tendencies and they all needed to be brought together.  How do you discuss and organise anything when in the rooms are the equivalents of modern day Tony Blairs or Tony Cliffs or Vanessa Redgrave??  Horrible idea

What’s my point?   Adverse conditions are not new!  The revolutionary wave was enormous and worldwide the evidence is there to see.

We have not yet experienced that again but from the 60s to the 80s we did see the emergence of a wave of worldwide class struggle.  Reactions at that time were similar in some ways to Marxists at the end of WW1, ie that the period of revolution is here, class conflict is growing and the end is nigh.  But it did not come and still has not. 

Economic crisis has intensified and attacks on wc living standards continue.  Capitalism tries to control the wc and society in general in ever more desperate – and maybe obvious - ways as it extends its structures and mechanisms globally and intensifies them locally.

This period can easily be understood by our schema recognising waves of struggle.  It does raise questions about some formulations however.

1 Decadence of Capitalism

Well, only to the extent that decadence is clearly not just a permanent non stop crisis or a continuous revolutionary wave .  Its not either a simple cycle of war revolution crisis war reconstruction, crisis war, revolution or even crisis, class struggle, war, reconstruction crisis.  The course of events up to the 1950s is not necessary the model for the events from 1980s onwards.   Hence it may be more appropriate to consider Decadence as a separate element to crisis theory.  Clearly the theory of saturated markets and need for pre-capitalist markets is no longer a satisfactory explanation for ongoing crises and TROPF theory  actually implies falls and rises in the rate of profit in both periods.

Previous assumptions that decadence means permanent crisis and permanent class struggle appear now obsolete..  Decadence may put revolution of the historical agenda but it does not give guarantees and it may mean intensified crisis for capitalism but it does not eliminate capitalism’s dynamics strong capacity to adapt and grow.

It is now also much harder to say that reforms are not possible than it was in the 30s or 40s. because clearly there have been economic, technical and social changes in the last 100 years,  I know that reform implies improvements for the wc not just changes but it seems  more accurate now to emphasise that it is reformism that is not possible.  Capitalism is fighting to keep control of its system and reforms/changes are used because the ruling class needs them for its own purposes even if that is keeping the working class in its place.

2 War OR revolution

As capitalism persists, localised conflicts emerge and destroy areas of the globe.  Lebanon N Ireland Afghanistan, Ruanda Palestine, Somalia and latterly Syria have all been turned into models of barbarism. Maybe not yet permanently but not easy to reverse out of either.  These local wars in peripheral countries have not however developed into global wars between major powers in the way conflicts in Poland and Serbia have done in the past.  However this does that mean it is impossible.  The start of the WW2is not the model for what is happening now, just as the revolution emerging from WW1 isn’t either.  All it should suggest is that greater clarity does not come automatically from a tendency to make more predictions!!!!!

3 Formulaic theories of the current period

The ideas that Years of Truth in the1980s has determined the remainder of history, that crisis leads directly to class struggle are inappropriate

Significant deepening of economic crisis has not led to signification wc action in Europe or America.  Were the Years of Truth decisive and the class beaten then?    There is nothing now to suggest such a negative outcome.  WW3 has not happened and the ruling class still in fear the emergence of wc struggle and organises to confront the wc in this crisis.  Rather the Years of Truth had a more significant impact on the organisation of the ruling class.

I have struggled to understand the concept of Decomposition as it seems like a justification of Years of Truth idea.  However the rather excellent description of ideological and social decomposition that appeared in 1R151, provides a valid overview of capitalism throughout decadence but holds nothing specific about the current period since 1990,

4 Socialism or Barbarism – and Decomposition

We discuss later what is socialism and how to get there but what is barbarism.  We throw this formula around very lightly but I suspect everybody means different things by it.  Fair enough, but ongoing decadence ought to inform a discussion here.  I don’t believe Marx meant the apocalypse a la Mad Max or Defiance or whatever  - even if you cant exclude that notion.   Ongoing developments in capitalism decadence imply surely a slow decline into incessant economic social and military conflicts, warlordism, a loss of  centralised social control,  loss of capitalist law and order.  There’s strong section in IR151 mentioned above seems more appropriate here.

5 Europe is where its at?

In fact, just as low tech manufacturing has been exported to developing countries in Asia where labour and resources are cheap, so has class struggle.  The mass factories and production lines which dominated in Europe at the start of the 20th century are now in Asian countries, which just like Russia at that time, are weak and under developed capitalist economies.  Levels of class struggle and the intensity of struggles have been high in China India Bangladesh, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines and recently Turkey and Brazil.  Clearly what happens in Europe America and Japan will be critical in the long term but in the short term I do wonder if eurocentrism is too dominant in today’s thinking and that more value should be given to struggles in what used to be called the 3rd world. 

How do crises in decadence affect underdeveloped and even developing countries? Is this different to the impact on what used to be called the 1st world? 

 

KT
Guard that Van

EDIT NOTE: POSTED IN RESPONSE TO FRED AND BEFORE LINK'S CONTRIBUTION APPEARED:

The question of leadership - of the role and responsibilities of existing revolutionaries - will certainly form a part of the presentation on the current econmomic crisis and the difficulties of the proletarian struggle at the Day of Discussion, Fred. Whether it will encompass all the aspects you raise remains to be seen because you are right: the topic is a day - a lifetime - of discussion and action itself!

For myself, I think Luxembourg was talking about the destruction of capitalism and its state on a global level (where else?): in Russia this question was posed starkly and raised many possibilities and problems which, for Rosa, could only resolved by experiences elsewhere as the revolution spread. It didn't, and those questions remain.

As for the ICC, ICT and other proletarian expressions: they have, they are, they do provide invaluable leadership IMHO, though maybe not in the sense that most use the term.

Products of their period (the revival of global class struggle in the late 1960s), largely cut off from the continuity of the previous revolutionary wave and its organisations; born amidst the upheavals of many layers of society and not just the working class, inexperienced and tending towards immediatism, the 'revolutionary milieu' has had the task of reconnecting with the lessons of the past worker' movement and adapting revolutionary theory to existing conditions. Their struggle to form and maintain organisations of the proletariat and to actively struggle, often 'against the stream', to disseminate their analyses and indicate the 'general line of march' within major social outbursts required will, effort and tenacity. Theoretical deepening, a more profound, historical understanding of what capital is and how best to fight it here and now, has been the leadership provided, if by no means solely by such organisations: the recognition that the products of such elbaoration needed to be discussed, shared, criticized amongst as many workers as possible was the raison d'etre for organisations and their 'interventions' - their 'reaching out' - to the class that gave rise to them.

Are things changing? Do they need to change? Yes, IMO. On the one hand, amongst the new generation emerging on the streets today, there is an even greater gulf with the traditions of the past: many of those in struggle against austerity and the state have never even held jobs and are unlikely to do so!!! On the other hand, compared, to the milieu of the 60s & 70s, they are less traumatised by the stigma of Stalinism, less opposed to discussion and organisation - on the contrary. The destruction of the environment, the inability of bourgeois politics, of trade unionism, of the capitalist economy to provide any meaningful or permanent solutions to the problems faced today are fertile soil for the deepening and dissemination of revolutionary ideas and actions.  And in the face of this, the crippling sectarianism that has gripped existing orgaisations must be overcome if new generations are to take up the fight fully armed. If the existing organisations have not have grown as once they might have imagined, they have nonetheless kept the flame alive and even, in certin senses, fuelled it to burn brighter. Now their task is to pass it on to a new generation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

jk1921
I don't know the exact

I don't know the exact contours of the Red Marx discussion Fred references, but the conideration of "leadership" sounds like another manifestation of the "why are there so few left communists?" question which has been discussed before.

Do the ICC/ICT exert a leadership function today? That depends on how you define "leadership" of course. If you think it means being capable of influencing wide swathes of the working class in their daily consciousness, the answer is clearly "no." But if it means forming a pole of reference for the small numbers of politicized elements, than these organizations maintain a powerful prescence. Its another version of the "depth" vs. "breadth" issue.

However much many of the emerging elements are seemingly repulsed by the ICC/ICT and their continuing difficulties, they are stilll operating in the political space opened up by these groups in the aftermath of '68.

I think KT's description of the contradictions of the new generations is right. However, I think that the events of the last several years have demonstrated that their healthy aversion to sectarianism has had the unfortunate side effect of a fear of political polarization, something that was a real hindrance to the movements they have generated since 2010. Moreover, there is always the tendency to smuggle sectarianism in through the back door (a kind of sectarianism to those they consider sectarian) as evidence by the attitude and approach to discussion that often prevails on sites like Libcom and Red Marx.

A.Simpleton
The Revolutionary 'Reuters'

A personal note:

I first fully encountered the ICC in 1979 just in time for the Polish struggles which so confirmed the 'classic' principles and positions of the 'Marxist Theory of Social Development' which had up-ended my world years before: 'classic' yet most vitally including the constant dialectic movement of forces, development, resulting balance et al. and the International perspective which the ICC upheld and took forward. This was Marx's legacy as I understood it.  

One issue of WR in 1980 during those heroic (and they were) struggles had a caricature picture of the Polish workers running out of a very dark tunnel with the word 'Stalinism' inscribed on the arch, only to run into, slice and bloody their hands on a high barbed wire fence with the sign 'Democracy' hanging from it. The spot on fundamental analysis in one picture: and further informative background clearly yet resolutely presented within. Critical by nature and contrarian to boot, even I couldn't fault the analysis: nor could I ever understand (and still can't) the vitriol hurled with accusations of 'self-aggrandisement' (some kind of substitutionist fantasy) against the group.

Marx changed his mind in view of events: Marx admitted he had been wrong: in fact he described his whole life of critical writing as a process of 'self-clarification' as well as trying to 'offer' (his exact word) the Working Class the best.

It seems to me the ICC has done and continues to do the same. 

For me, this is why when 'all else is lost' (as it were) I always know I can return to the ICC's literature for the real International News and analysis.

Their theoretical extrapolations into new positions? well .... that's a completely different kettle of fish 

LINK makes some good points about changing circumstance, 'looking always to Western Europe', the 'new breed' with new networks. 

Good food for thought and action ...

AS

 

 

 

 

Beltov
Email link fixed

slothjabber wrote:

Alf wrote:

Contact us at [email protected], by post at BM Box 869, London, WC1N 3XX, or  via a PM on this forum

 

I think the address should be [email protected] here Alf. Got a bounce-back from that address anyway.

The email link in the OP has been fixed. :) B.

Alf
presentations

Thanks Link for your draft. The idea on Saturday is that Link will present something along the lines of 'where  are we with the crisis' and KT will focus on the problems of the class struggle. I think it's Ok that Link poses the problem in terms of the overall development of decadence, and it's OK that he raises a lot of questions because that is the purpose of the day of discussion. We in the ICC would certainly frame the theory of decomposition in a different way. This is important because we have defined decomposition as the terminal phase of decadence not simply as something that was a result of what happened in the 80s, but we can try to argue for that on the day. I also think Link is underestimating some of the expressions of class struggle and social revolt that have taken place in the central countries over the past 10 years but that would be taken up in the second part of the discussion. 

Anyone else have any comments about how they think the discussion skhould go in the first session?

KT
For Discussion

Draft Notes on the Class Struggle for ICC Day of Discussion, London, June 22, 2013

Part B: Why is it so hard to Struggle?

[For the framework, see the Invitation and the texts mentioned; the contribution of Baboon on the ICC Day of Discussion thread, amongst others, and the first part of the presentation by Link, ‘Capital is in Deep Trouble’, also on the Day of Discussion thread http://en.internationalism.org/forum/1056/alf/7391/come-day-discussion  ]

 

 

The first part of this presentation by the comrade Link ably reminded us that the proletariat has always experienced real difficulties and convulsions in all epochs of its existence.

We should recall the origins of these difficulties: they lie in the fact that the modern proletariat is the first revolutionary class which is also at the same time the exploited class of society. Because of this, it cannot draw upon any economic power in the process of conquering political power. In fact, it’s the very opposite: in direct contrast to what happened in past revolutions, the seizure of political power by the proletariat necessarily precedes the period of transition during which the domination of the old relations of production is destroyed and gives way to new social relations. We’ll talk more of this Period of Transition later. We should not neglect to dissect the current ‘theory’ of “communisation” when we do so.

So, for the working class, the producer class, its struggle against its conditions of exploitation (which is a revolutionary struggle at root) relies solely on its collective nature, its capacity to organise, and its consciousness of what this organisation has to achieve. We’re talking of a global, international class living under what, in future times (we hope) will come to be seen as the wholly ‘unnatural’ situation of nation states, of divisions of humanity into different classes, of power, authority and decision-making in the hands of the few at the expense of the many, with the production of our material (and spiritual) needs subject to irrational forces. How stupid was that? future generations may ask. How stupid is that, we say today!

In short, the working class as a whole has always had great difficulty in building up a permanent base for its struggles and understanding the goal of its struggles, as Link points out and, in the last 100 years in particular, as the state has been obliged to swallow more and more of civil society, the workers’ struggles have seen their permanent mass organisations – Social Democratic Parties and Trade Unions - integrated into the survival apparatus of capitalism.

The class struggle involves two major classes

This is precisely why, even if we can at times see an underlying continuity, a sub-sea or subterranean maturation at work, workers struggles necessarily appear to us as waves, ebbing and flowing, often becalmed, sometimes random, apparently unconnected, and certainly not sequential with one wave inevitably and always following on at a higher level than the other. Marx spoke of the jagged course of workers’ struggles which appear to throw their opponent to the ground only to recoil, withdraw. And we must use judgement; have criteria, when we seek to assess the strengths and weaknesses of different moments of the class struggle. Much depends not only on the confidence of the class and the strength of its class identity, but also on the terrain over which these waves must break.

How do we compare, for example (and to illustrate this in an admittedly superficial way with specific struggles), how can we weigh the current (June 2013) spontaneous movement in Brazil which has pushed back the bourgeoisie, forced it to temporarily withdraw its attack of a public transport fare rise, with the strikes in France in 2010 against the state’s pension reform, which failed to force the ruling class to withdraw its attacks? Apart from any weaknesses on the workers’ part, didn’t the workers in France lack the element of surprise, of setting the time and the place for the struggle? Weren’t the trade unions and the state in massive collusion to head off this important moment of social unrest? Shouldn’t we also assess not just the failure of the French workers in 2010 but also understand the massive strength of the movement to progress as far and for as long as it did given the obstacles it faced?

Thus we must suggest a nuance to the previous presentation: the class struggle involves, at root, two major classes. To say the class struggle of the past period has been at a low ebb – the ICC talks of it not being up to the level required to push back the bourgeoisie - is perhaps to underplay the fact that the opposing class, the bourgeoisie, has been operating at top speed, has been struggling at an extremely high level, if you like, in order to maintain its dominance, and sod the consequences for the rest of society.

We recall from the 1970s the difficulties within the proletarian milieu – within the ICC itself – to grasp the fact that the bourgeoisie even had a consciousness, a view on how it should deal with its class enemy; a resistance to the fact that the ruling class manipulated its ‘democratic elections’, lined up its ideological troops of left and right to combat the workers struggles. [edit: or the fact that the state infiltrated small proletarian organisations!] The fact that it didn’t inevitably get the line up it desired, or that the encroaching economic crisis reduced its room for manoeuvre shouldn’t disguise this fact. Undoubtedly the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 had a profound, pre-eminent effect of smothering the combativity and consciousness of the working class, effectively curtailing the struggles which had begun in May 68 and once more ridiculing a crucial perspective –communism, the world of abundance in which each lived each according to his/her needs, each according to his/her ability.

However even before then, the ruling class had begun a counter-offensive against the working class which had taken its toll. Classically this offensive took the form of a right wing party in government, attacking workers living standards and enacting anti-proletarian laws with a left wing of social democracy and unions in opposition to sabotage workers’ response and to compound their feeling of helplessness and hopelessness.

A Period of Historic Defeat?

So when we today assess the difficulties encountered and displayed by recent workers’ movements, we should recall the distance they’ve travelled from the period of 1990 to 2005 and recognise the terrain that’s ranged against them.

And let’s also put these difficulties into a further historical context: the previous presentation takes us through the decades of the past 100 years or so – an absolutely necessary journey. When it gets to the 1940s, it talks of revolutionaries trying to understand the defeat of the previous revolutionary wave. In short, they were then, and we are here, talking of a counter-revolution, a political and physical decimation of the proletariat. And by stressing the political as well as the physical defeat, we remind ourselves that there was no absence of large scale struggles world-wide in the 1930s: it’s just that these tended more and more to be marshalled by and behind one faction of the bourgeoisie against another: behind united fronts, sacred unions, New Deals, fascist totalitarianism, Stalinist Soviet nationalism – and against rival bourgeois factions. The proletariat was in this period dragged off its class terrain. The harsh ‘lessons’ of Spain remain to be widely reappropriated. The second world war, followed by the Cold War, was the result.

Is it the same today when we discuss the difficulties of the struggle? Evidently not. The illusions - and the word is used advisedly – sown by the dominant class, from which the everyday ideas of society emanate, in an abstract ‘democracy’; the calls to ‘vote wisely’, the diminishing but still evident reliance on trades unions to organise the struggle, all of which we see today, represent not a fundamental march behind the needs of capital but the lack of awareness of the proletariat of its own identity, strength and potential. It’s not at all the same thing as a period of historic defeat.

 

It’s the (political) economy...

 

The first part of the presentation affirmed that it’s not just a question of expecting the crisis to deepen still further in order to see a proletarian reaction, particularly in Europe and America. In fact we can see that a sudden deepening of the crisis can, in the first instance, paralyse a proletarian response just as much as a drip-feed of attacks spread out through time can induce a kind of soporific effect on the struggle. For instance, in Great Britain, “...the Institute for Fiscal Studies says workers have suffered unprecedented pay cuts of 6% in real terms over the last five years....This suggests that people are more than 15% worse off than they would have been if the pre-crisis wage trends had continued...” The IFS says: ‘The falls in nominal wages that workers have experienced during this recession are unprecedented, and seem to provide at least a partial explanation for why unemployment has risen less ...To the extent that it is better for individuals to stay in work, albeit with lower wages, than to become unemployed’...” The Guardian, June 12, 2013. So fear is a factor paralysing the struggle.

Yet this partial passivity does not prevent the attacks escalating: on the contrary. And while we necessarily refuse and refute a reductionist ‘crisis deepens/workers struggle increases’ narrative, the fact is that the heart of Western Europe has so far been spared the kind of attacks witnessed in Greece, Portugal, Ireland or even the youth unemployment levels of Spain. This cannot last. The worst is ahead of us. All of us – China, India, the US, Japan, South America, all of Europe... The crisis is progressively reducing the bourgeoisie’s capacity to push the worst of its effects onto the ‘peripheral nations’.

What level of crisis engenders a generalised response? We cannot say. As we’ve argued above, it doesn’t necessarily work that way. But if you do want to ponder what level of deterioration it took in the past to push the working class into revolutionary action, consider that it required 3 years of absolute hell, mayhem and mass murder at the front combined with increasing deprivation at home to give rise to the first revolutionary wave in 1917... Mankind doesn’t jettison a tool until it has absolutely proved its worthlessness, says Marx. How much proof do you need? That’s the question...

The situation is not static: The economic crisis today is indisputably deeper than four or five years ago. All the job cuts, wage reductions, all the zero hour contracts and reduction in subsistence payments to the aged and the jobless, and the long-term sick (in short, the unravelling ‘social safety net’, the dismantling ‘welfare state’ where it existed in the first place); the almost zero interest rates and all the bail-outs have solved absolutely nothing. The problem underlying the crisis of 2007-2008 was debt - a debt originating almost 70 years ago immediately after WW2 when capitalist production did not re-ignite according to ‘market laws’ but required, over a period of 20 years, the world’s richest nation, the USA, to turn itself into the world’s most indebted nation, in order to bankroll world recovery.

Yet today, to try to escape this historically-determined debt-mess: “Japan, for example, has recently thrown the kitchen sink at its persisting economic problems in a desperate $1.2 trillion gamble that it's bet on itself against all-comers. So far Britain and the United States has "invested" around $7 trillion in Quantitative Easing the vast majority of which is not going into production but into paying off debts and further speculation. In a previous IR [International Review, ICC theoretical journal] the figure of $8 is used just to generate one dollar of "real" production.” (Baboon, post 12, ICC Day of Discussion thread, cited above). In short, the answer to the debt crisis has so far been ... more debt!

The difference between 2007/2008 and 2013 is not any ‘recovery’ in the economic crisis: on the contrary. It’s in the temporary and fragile ‘recovery’ of the bourgeoisie’s political grasp of the situation, the ruling class’s ephemeral ability to present the illusion that it is in control of the situation, has re-established mastery over the world. It is all smoke and mirrors, sorcery, black magic of the first order. No-one says it doesn’t work ... for a while. What all this ‘sacrifice’ and fictional cash has bought the bourgeoisie is a little ‘time’.

Let’s recall Lenin’s simple truism: a revolutionary situation arises when the rulers can no longer rule as before, and the ruled can no longer be governed as before. In 2007/2008, a crack appeared in the bourgeoisie’s matrix, in its version of reality: the queues outside the banks started to form; people, ‘ordinary’ people, talked about ‘the economy’ ‘the crisis’, its implications for the future, for them and their children, for the old generation, for the next generation – a social space was opened ... and quickly closed. It was re-opened in Tunisia, in Greece, in Egypt the US and, above all in Spain, with the ‘public assemblies’ and open meetings of the Indignados movement. All this will happen again. And again. In different places, with different forms, sparked by different issues, as with fare rises in Brazil, or threats to public spaces in Istanbul - superficial sparks which ignite profound underlying issues. This much we can say is “inevitable” as night follows day.

Moreover, these struggles, as in May 68, will not ‘merely’ focus on ‘economic’ questions: already, the struggles in China and Bangladesh call into question inhuman working conditions; in Turkey and China (not to mention the recent flooding of central Europe), the question of the environment and its destruction is central; in India, the position of women following abhorrent rape cases is a cause of mass mobilisation... these are not ‘secondary’ or ‘non-class’ issues: they are central to our survival as a species. They are issues to which only the working class has the key, even if the vast majority of society is pressing on the door...

The social revolts of the last few years – from ‘food riots’ and reactions to increasingly brutal state repression - show that the vast majority of this world seek, require, are striving for, a liberation from capital’s crises, wars, and degradation of every fundamental of human existence. Clean air and water. Unadulterated food. Access to the latest medical and technological advances. An abolition of sexual and other forms of slavery. All this has been made possible by the development of the productive forces, even under the disfiguring cloak of capital’s profit drive.

Instead, the majority of humanity faces war and austerity. It witnesses what happens in Libya, in Syria, when a social movement against this or that regime is co-opted in to a fight for this or that ruling faction. This is the ‘alternative’: the decomposition of bourgeois society which threatens the “ruin of the contending classes”, which offers barbarism as a counterpoint to the possibility and necessity of a social future.

The question is: will the revolutionary class, the proletariat, the class which holds the future in its hands, emerge from this mess as an increasingly distinct, organised and conscious social force to give form and theory to the strivings of the immense majority? Can it distinguish itself from them, in order to impose its vision, its intrinsic, collective organisations of discussion and decision-making which prefigure the future transitional organisations of humanity? Can it equip itself with the mechanisms that, in previous times, it employed to fight against capital and its wars and austerity – the factory committees, the workers’ councils, the councils of the unemployed? Because these are the stakes.

Why is it so hard to struggle? Perhaps an outdated question these days. Why is it so hard to struggle effectively? What are the methods and the goals of the struggle? These are the practical problems posed now.  KT

 

“We develop new principles for the world out of the world’s own principles. We do not say to the world: ‘Cease your struggles, they are foolish; we will give you the true slogan of struggle.’ We merely show the world what it is really fighting for, and consciousness is something that it has to acquire, even if it does not want to.” Marx, Letter from the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher to Ruge (1843)

slothjabber
Some notes on the state in the period of transition

A contribution to the ICC Day of Discussion, London, June 22, 2013

The State in the period of Transition

Capitalism and Communism

In The Critique of the Gotha Programme, Part IV Marx writes:

“Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.”

So, for Marx, the DotP is a 'political transition period' which corresponds to a transition in ‘society’, which I take it here means the economy.

In a letter to J Weydemeyer in 1852, Marx writes:

“... And now as to myself, no credit is due to me for discovering the existence of classes in modern society or the struggle between them... What I did that was new was to prove: (1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production, (2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat, (3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.”

Marx then saw his contribution as being to elucidate the transformation from capitalist society to communist society as being conditional on the proletariat establishing its revolutionary dictatorship.

Subsequent events – particularly the Paris Commune and the Revolution in Russia - have allowed some attempts to establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat to made and this in turn has provoked some debate about the forms the DotP might take, and the problems it may face. This is however still very much a work in progress; obviously, no ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ has ever been established which has acted as the ‘bridge’ from capitalist society to communist society; the attempts at proletarian power that have been made have, fairly rapidly, been recuperated back into capitalism, if indeed it can be argued that they ever left it.

State Capitalism and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat

If we think of the DotP as being a period of transition, then it stands to reason that at its beginning, the economic form that prevails is capitalism. It cannot be otherwise; if the proletariat is re-organising society (and as a fundamental part of that re-organisation, the economy) the re-organisation must begin in capitalism and be a process of capitalism being transformed into something else. If anything else were possible, the DotP would not be necessary – if it were possible for capitalism to spontaneously transform itself into new forms, especially at a local level, then socialist society doesn’t have to be global and doesn’t have to be established by the working class. But these things are not possible; capitalism must be abolished by the working class, and it must be abolished globally. Until it has done so, the proletarian dictatorship still retains the capitalist mode of production - because socialism cannot exist in one country, there is no alternative to an increasing attenuated capitalism. As the world revolution spreads, and more of the economy comes under the proletariat’s control, measures can be taken that anticipate ‘socialism’ but if socialist society is in itself classless and propertyless and stateless then it cannot exist, anywhere, until all property is in the hands of the proletariat, everyone has been integrated into production (thus ending ‘classes’), and production itself has been restructured to fulfil real human needs not profit – or the need to go towards fighting the bourgeoisie.

But as socialism in one country is not possible, the DotP can only be a period of political transition corresponding to an economic transition if the world revolution succeeds. If there is no possibility of the transition to socialism - because of the defeat of the world revolution - then what becomes of the DotP? It's a political form that doesn't correspond to any kind of material reality, a 'political transition period' that doesn't correspond with an economic transition period. All that the dictatorship can do, isolated in one revolutionary territory, is seek to organise capitalism (not transform it) in order to defend any 'gains' of the revolution, though of course, as we have seen in the 20th century, it is at the same time dying on its feet as it is deprived of any material basis other than the continued existence of capitalism. A revolutionary political form cannot survive in a non-revolutionary period, because the basis of the revolutionary political form is the suppression of capitalism; and by the early 1920s the revolution was in retreat and the capitalist powers once more on the attack. The existing conditions did not allow the revolution to extend and thus what came out of the defeat of the revolution was a 'deformed' version of the DotP, which had not begun the transition to socialist society because it had been prevented from doing so, by the failure of the world revolution.

So, what is the concrete difference between the dictatorship of the proletariat and an economy run by a state-capitalist class? Both entail control over the economy; but the crucial factor is the direction of the revolution. In a period of revolutionary advance the proletarian power will be taking over functions of control of society. If the revolution is in retreat the likelihood is that the functions of the state will begin to separate themselves from control by the working class. Even in time of revolutionary advance this may happen, but we have few examples to draw on. In Russia, in the years immediately following the revolution, we see a process of the Bolshevik Party substituting itself for the working class. The Bolsheviks in 1917 were not a new class of state-capitalist bureaucrats; on the contrary, they were at that point the best representatives of the international proletariat, but as the world revolution faltered and the Bolsheviks more and more saw themselves as guardians of the new ‘soviet republic’ in Russia, they identified with and fused themselves with the state. It seems that the fundamental process of the state-capitalist class coming into being was that of the deprivation of the working class of political power, the disintegration of worker's democracy, which happened in the late teens and early ‘20s. I would argue that this disintegration of proletarian power is not in fact a consequence of the Bolsheviks coming to power, but a cause. I would see the checking of the revolution at the borders of the Russian state as being the cause of this failure.

As Rosa said in 1918, “Let the German Government Socialists cry that the rule of the Bolsheviks in Russia is a distorted expression of the dictatorship of the proletariat. If it was or is such, that is only because it is a product of the behavior of the German proletariat, in itself a distorted expression of the socialist class struggle. All of us are subject to the laws of history, and it is only internationally that the socialist order of society can be realized. The Bolsheviks have shown that they are capable of everything that a genuine revolutionary party can contribute within the limits of historical possibilities. They are not supposed to perform miracles. For a model and faultless proletarian revolution in an isolated land, exhausted by world war, strangled by imperialism, betrayed by the international proletariat, would be a miracle.” (Russian Revolution, Ch 8)

State and semi-state

Lenin used the expression ‘semi-state’ to describe the DotP in ‘State and Revolution’ (Ch. 1 Pt. 4):

According to Engels, the bourgeois state does not “wither away", but is “abolished” by the proletariat in the course of the revolution. What withers away after this revolution is the proletarian state or semi-state”.

This semi-state, in the conception of the ICC, is a power that is not identical with the workers’ councils.

“ while the new state is not identical to those that preceded it in history, it still retains characteristics that constitute an obstacle to the development of the revolution; which is why, as Engels had already pointed out and as Lenin had made clear in State and Revolution, the proletariat must on the very day of the revolution begin the process of eliminating the new state.

After taking power, the main obstacle that the soviets would run into in Russia was the newly emerged state, which “despite the appearance of its greater material power [...] was a thousand times more vulnerable to the enemy than other working class organs. Indeed, the state owes its greater physical power to objective factors which correspond perfectly with the interests of the exploiting classes but can have no association with the revolutionary role of the proletariat”; “The terrible threat of a return to capitalism will come mainly in the state sector. This, all the more so as capitalism is found here in its impersonal, so to speak, ethereal form. Statification can help to conceal a long-term process opposed to socialism.”

(ICC: What are the workers' councils? (Part 5) 1917-1921: The soviets and the question of the state)

However, I'm a little confused by the way the ICC poses the problem, I must admit. My assumption is that the militia, the factories, distribution networks - everything will be under the control of the workers' councils. This is the ‘proletarian state’ (in so far as there can be such a thing).

Are the worker's councils, workplace or neighbourhood committees and general assemblies, and the organs of armed coercion, together the 'semi-state'? If the means of decision making, operating production/distribution/consumption of goods and services, and the means of exercising coercive force against other classes and strata are merged, is it counter-revolutionary?

From the recent exchanges on this question between the ICC and OpOp:

[the position of the ICC exhibits] “an accommodation to a vision influenced by anarchism that identifies the Commune-State with the bureaucratic (bourgeois) state”. [This puts] “the proletariat outside of the post-revolutionary state while actually creating a dichotomy that, itself, is the germ of a new caste reproducing itself in the administrative body separated organically from the workers’ councils”.

I certainly wouldn’t go so far as OpOp here, if the ICC is wrong, there is no basis for the new ‘caste’ and there is no problem to solve; on the other hand if the ICC is right then the working class needs to be aware of ‘its own’ state turning into a conservative force, of escaping its control.

Can this happen as the revolution is advancing? We have so little knowledge it is difficult to speculate. Only one revolution in recent history has come close to success, and that nearness to success was short-lived. It is possible that even in times of advance, the ‘revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat’ may be in danger of escaping from the control of the working class –with different parts of the administrative machinery becoming alternative centres of power. But, in times of revolutionary retreat it seems inevitable that the state will act as a conservative force.

The state exists while there are different groups in society with opposed interests. Once classes have been abolished through the abolition of property, then there is no social basis for a state. Even before this, the fact that the state is under the control (if not identical with) the proletariat means that it is unlike any previously existing state, the state of a majority of the population. The state in a sense 'withers' at the same time as the condition of being a worker is generalised. When all are workers, no-one is 'working class' (ie, a separate category of workers in society); when all administer the state, the state ceases to be an entity separate from the population. Incidentally, this may be the first time in history that the term ‘democracy’ would be appropriate, when ‘all the people of earth’ are involved in ‘ruling’.

Administration of society - that is, in the revolutionary period, state functions of organisation of production and monopoly of violence - is the task of the workers' councils (the organs of the working class organised at the point of production). Do these 'state functions' actually imply a 'state'? In a sense yes - if it looks like a state and acts like a state it's functionally a state. But it is a (pre-para-semi-)state (of a different type), because it is the state of a majority, for the first time in history. But whatever its type the state itself is not identical to the working class; it may be under its control but the two aren't the same thing.

But when the revolution is actually 'complete'? When all the territories are under the control of the working class and all property is collectivised and the entire productive and distributive apparatus is under the control of the working class, when all other classes have been integrated into production? There is no 'state' then, just a classless communal society. But to get there... what other option is there but for the working class to administer a 'state' that controls a part only of the world economy? Until the 'parts' are unified into socialised production, these parts must necessarily I think be capitalist. The 'withering away' comes precisely because those capitalist parts are wedded together to produce a socialised whole. The three things - taking over the whole economy, generalising the condition of the working class by integrating the other classes into production, and the withering away of the state - are the same phenomenon seen from different angles.

This is the task of the dictatorship of the proletariat – the abolition of property and integration of the whole of humanity into the productive process, the complete re-organisation of society to facilitate production for need not profit, and the consequent abolition of itself as a class. In this process it seems likely that it will need to be vigilant that the structures it sets up to help in this process do not escape its control and become a conservative or indeed retrograde force.

commiegal
I will be going to this and

I will be going to this and I've also promoted it on my blog

http://disillusionedmarxist.wordpress.com/

See you all tomorrow I hope?

 

Alf
thanks

Thanks for that commie gal, and also to KT and Slothjabber for the excellent introductions. See you all tomorrow!

commiegal
http://disillusionedmarxist.w
jk1921
A lot of good stuff in the

A lot of good stuff in the various presentations posted. I hope they lead to a very fruitful discussion tomorrow.

Just a couple of point that struck me (forgive grammatical/spelling errors, this keyboard sucks):

1.) I am intrigued by Link's statement that the idea that captialism cannot grant reforms is obsolete. What are the implications of this? Moreover, what does it mean for "reformism" to be obsolete, but not reforms? Can we credibly and honestly claim that capitalism only grants reforms in order to hide the fact of its mortal crisis? If it is able to grant reforms, can it really be in mortal crisis? It seems that in order for decadence theory to hold, whatever reforms capital grants must be made up for elsewhere, i.e. Obamacare's extension of Medicaid will be paid for by higher taxation elsewhere. Or is it the idea that captialism is in mortal crisis that is obsolete? Can capitaism be in terminal decline but not mortal crisis?

All of this raises for me the issue, once again, of time scale. Yes, it may be inevitable that capitalism will suffer soem kind of mortal or fatal crisis, but on what time scale and how does that time scale correlate with the ability of workers to become conscious of this crisis? Do workers rebel against "decadence" itself, i.e. the fact that captialism can no longer pose any long term perspective for an increase in living standards, or do they rebe against more local circumstaces related to concrete attacks?

3.) I was also struck by KT's invocation of "class identity" as a measure of proletarian consciousness. Part of our discussion of subterreanean maturation seemed to suggest a rejection of using class identity as a metric to judge consciousness--seeing it tied up with trade unionism, etc. What are the implications here?

4.) On the state in the period of transition: There is much that could be said here. One basic question that should be discussed is if the idea of a "semi-state" even works? On another level, I was struck by Slothjabber's attempt to situate the state on its material basis in the mode of production. But if the transitional society remains mostly capitalist, what is the nature of the state in this period? Must it also, then, be capitalist? But isn't what the Marxist theory of revolution suggests is that in the period of transition--politics dominates economics, such that the state does not correspond to the economic base? This is why the revolution must be global. Only at this level is it possible for the proletariat to politically deconstruct the capitalist economy.

What are some of the broader implications of this? Didn't the bourgeoisie also come to power through a period of transition that lasted hundreds of years? So, what was the nature of the state in that period? Can we even talk about a pure bourgeois state? What does this say about the nature of the state itself? Does is always retain a level of autonomy from the economic base (and if so, the state of the transition period is not so unique)? If the state can be autonomous, what does this do for our conception of the period of transition?

LBird
Further reading suggestion

jk1921 wrote:
What are some of the broader implications of this?

jk, it might be fruitful for you to read:

Arif Dirlik's book Revolution and History: The Origins of Marxist Historiography in China, 1919-1937, especially one of the concluding chapters, 7, 'Revolution, Marxism, and Chinese history'.

The whole book, though, is very thought-provoking on the relationship between shorter term political goals, and longer term theoretical explanations.

http://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=119920870&searchurl=isbn%3D9780520035416

lem_
i would have like to

i would have like to attended, but i don't travel well. if you ever meet in Oxford...

 

JK "mortal crisis" what is this theory that you mention? what is the difference between a crisis and accelerating decline?

commiegal
it was really great to meet

it was really great to meet all of you. please let me know about future stuff i hope i didn't go on too much!!

 

:)

Link
Response to jk1921 re reforms and reformism

 

Thanks for the response.  The basis of my argument is that it would have not been possible in the 1930s or 1940s  to argue that workers were better off than before WW1 but it is hard to argue that regarding today in relation to 100 years ago?

Im not arguing that capitalism is not in decline but its more complex than saying decline means increasing hardship and deprivation for everybody  all the time.

I agree advantages gained that often come with costs as you say but you still are agreeing therefore that benefits were obtained.  Are eastern bloc workers not better of for the collapse of the Russian bloc in the sense that they have more freedom to travel and obtain consumer goods although they have lost social benefits such as access to crèche benefits, job protection through westernised policies on trade employment etc?   Are EU workers not better off for legislation allowing freedom of movement and employment in other EU countries – yet employers clearly aim to gain benefits from this too?  Are workers in the UK not better off for say Health and Safety legislation that has been introduced in recent decades?   I do believe death and injuries have declined significantly in dangerous industry like building, yet employers clearly gain from this reform of practice too.  The same can be said about legislation such as equal opportunities too.   Maybe a last example – living standards.  Are they higher now than 100 years ago?  Food costs  in Europe represents about 10% of income nowadays but in the 1950s I believe this was over 30%. 

I don’t think Capitalism means absolute  impoverisation for all workers as yet but that is not to say that capitalism is not now in crisis.  All workers are clearly paying for this crisis with increasing exploitation and hardship.  I think I am here saying we need to trying to make realistic explanations on what we are experiencing.  My point is that to accept that some reforms ie changes that give improvements for some workers and in certain periods  are possible is not to say that the working class movement should follow reformist policies in this period.

The fact that capitalism is in decadence means reformism is not an acceptable policy for the worker class movement in periods of both  open crisis and periods of reconstruction

I hope Ive explained what I meant clearly but im not sure what you mean about mortal crisis

Alf
thanks

thanks for your own contributions comrades!

jk1921
RE: "Mortal Crisis"

By "mortal crisis," I suppose I mean the last crisis of capitalism. In other words, there will no more sustained periods of growth or prosperity--even ones that are "fake," predicated on debt that won't be repaid, etc. I suppose "terminal decline" is a more nuanced approach that would suggest a longer term prospect of decline that may be punctuated by further periods of state captialist contrived growth in this or that part of the system.

I agree that the terms are imprecise and imperfect. The ICC goes back and forth between them with little consistencey and, I fear, little thought as to what they imply. The consensus seems to be that the system is fucked and it is only a matter of time before a mortal crisis is reach, so it is not really that important what we call it. But I think that the question of time scale really is the main question today. I don't think it is something that we can continue to fudge with imprecise language. If we mean "terminal decline," we should stop saying "mortal crisis" and vice versa.

Personally, I think "terminal decline" is more likely to be accurate. "Mortal crisis" has a catastrophist and millenarian ring to it that is likely to disappoint. (Although the Tea Party in the U.S. has been trying its best to make it happen). I think that while capitalism may be decadent, that Link may be right that there can be certain instances in which "reforms" appear to happen for certain groups of workers. There is something like a "neo-liberal" social arrangement being constructed today, which is a result of the crisis, but this does not mean that everyone (not even all workers) get poorer (although they be more thouroughly exploited). Link is right that decadence does not mean an absolute impoverishment for everyone all the time. Although it is true that many workers are suffering a dramatic attack on their living conditions today, not all are. There is a cultural effect of this reality that weighs on consciousness, I think. In the U.S., a lot of workers got "rich" during the housing boom. While this wealth evaporated for most, some were able to negotiate the shoals of the downturn and come out the other end intact. The lesson for consciousness is, 'If they can do it, so can you, if you try hard enough." Something which forms a pretty good summary of the neo-liberal ethic (a liberal form of Stakhanovism, in which we are all judged by the standard luckiest among us).

If it was a question of mass impoverishment for everyone all the time, captialism would have been overthrown long ago. It hasn't worked out that way. We need to understand this phenomena better. This doesn't have to necessitate rejecting decadence or thinking, along with Aufheben, that captialism is on the verge of a new upswing.

baboon
mortal decline

I think that "mortal crisis" and "terminal decline" are two ways of describing the fact that based on its own internal contradictions capitalism has not only outlived its purpose but now poses a major threat to the whole of humanity. "Mortal crisis" may seem to be a somewhat catastrophic conclusion but catastrophic was exactly what World War One was where, intoxicated by nationalism, millions of workers were led into wiping each other out. Similar, if not greater, catastrophe came with the Second World War and today capitalism develops the totalitarian-repressive state more and more and gives over greater resources to the means of destruction, as well as utilising the latter on larger scales. We also tend, in the light of the bourgeoisie's propaganda, to underestimate the mortal and terminal threat that capitalism poses to humanity through its ecological destruction.

As to the expressions of its economic crisis, I don't think that anyone is putting forward an argument that workers everywhere are in absolute pauperisation or that capitalism is not continuing to accumulate capital, or that a worker here or there isn't going to be a penny or two better off tomorrow than today. But the elasticity of using debt to substitute for markets has now  - as important sections of the ruling class are very aware -  reached its limits and cannot be continued. It seems to me that this process has involved a vast destructrion of capital. And reforms, that is a general improvement in the lot of the working class from an expanding capitalist system, are no longer on the agenda and this is true for the vast majority of workers and their families - even if one can find exceptions here and there.

A little while ago jk, you wondered about the stock markets rising; they were doing so on the back of the provision of all the funny money and economic chicanery that has been intensified  since 2007/8. This cannot continue as borrowing is also accompanied by deadlines and deadlines are becoming due. This doesn't mean a collapse of the whole system - the bourgeoisie will keep going by extracting what surplus value it  can just to keep its system going. Countries may experience an economic collapse - Japan has put itself in the frame for one - but the bourgeoisie will not allow its system to suddenly collapse. This doesn't mean that capitalism isn't suffering from a mortal and terminal crisis but is an expression of the bourgeoisie's ultimately doomed attempt to deal with it.

jk1921
To illustrate my point, I

To illustrate my point, I wonder if, in the end, the ultimate import of the NSA spying story will be the message that even a high school drop out and former security guard can earn a six figure salary if only he has the "right skills." There is money to be made under neo-liberalism, even for some workers and even if there is a more general attack on the overall living condition of the class as a whole. But for this latter fact to mean anything, doesn't the working class have to recognize itself as a class rather than as a collection of individuals who can train their way to prosperity? What level of economic deprivation is necessary to break through these illusions? KT raised the issue of the slaughter of WW1. Why did the working class put up with this for so long (or WWII for that matter)? Was it simply that the catastrophe wasn't serious enough or was it that they were "betrayed," "misled" by Social Democracy?

Once again, I think the time scale is the key issue here. Not very many people are capable of taking the long view of deep historical time into consideration when evaluating their life circumstances--they might be capable of looking at their own lifespan, perhaps the lifespan of their children, but not much further beyond that. Most people aren't even capable of this level of foresight, maybe 10 years in the future is the farthest they can look. So this brings me back to an earlier question, must the working class be convinced the mortality of capitalism before it will struggle or do struggles have a more immediate, local origin?

The bourgeoisie will not allow its system to suddenly collapse? Perhaps not, but this raises deeper questions about just how we conceive the future. Link raised the issue of barbarism in his presentation. When does captialism become barbarism, etc.?

I think Baboon is right to raise the spectre of an ecological catastrophe. There is also the possibility of political catastrophes that really could cause economic chaos (i.e. the failure of the increasingly fractured and irrational American bourgeoisie to raise its debt ceiling, etc.) These aren't strictly speaking "economic" factors integral to accumulation, but they seem no less of a product of the overall capitalist system.

jk1921
I want to explore Baboon's

I want to explore Baboon's provacative claim that the "bourgeoise will not allow its system to suddenly collapse." What are some of the implications of this? Is state capitalism so strong that it can manage to bring any situation of economic turbulence to a "soft landing?" What about political chaos that impacts back on the economy?

For example, what if the crack-pot Republicans in Congress refused to allow the debt ceiling to be raised or if Germany refused to bail out Greece again raising the spectre of the collapse of the Euro? How far would the main factions of the bourgeoisie go in "not allowing its system to suddenly collapse"? Or would these events not really provoke a sudden collapse of the system--no money from ATMS, massive inflation, social security checks not sent out, U.S. renegging on its foreign debt, Euro collapsing, etc.?

Would the main factions of the U.S. bourgeoisie simply ignore Congress? Raise the debt ceiling unilaterally and provoke a constiutional crisis of the state? There were hints of this happening last time there was an impasse. So, is the democratic structure of the state perhaps not quite as secure as we have tended to argue in response to fears of "fascism around the corner"?

Alf
commiegal's blog

I think this is a very interesting impression of the meeting from commiegal:

http://disillusionedmarxist.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/icc-meeting-on-why-is-it-so-hard-to-struggle-against-capitalism/

Fred
I read commiegal's blog, and

I read commiegal's blog, and liked it, and noticed that somebody posted in response that they'd never heard of left communism.  This quite took me by surprise: what! Never heard of Lenin's denunciation of the Infantile Disorder and never heard of Pannekoek and Gorter!  What are things coming too these days, and what do they teach in our schools if not the after effects of the Russian Revolution?  

 

But to return to commiegal.  She wrote that to be a left communist would require you to have a sense of humor. Now I have spent some considerable time this morning anguishing over what commiegal might have meant by this.  I got nowhere. However, I did conclude the exact opposite: that if you weren't a left communist then you would without doubt need a sense of humour, or massive doses of anti-depressants,  to go on living in this ugly society at all. 

 

Left communism, as far as I know, is the only thing around today, that actually explains how we got here - in decadent capitalism - why things are the way they are (endless war and austerity) and how to get out of it (make a proletarian revolution; get rid of the  bourgeoisie and set about building the new society of communism).  This insight has such clarity and intelligence built into it that it's something you can actually think about without tongue in cheek, without cynicism or having to flavour it with humor.  It's beautiful to contemplate!  Rather like very clever mathematicians are said to savor the delights of marvelously worked out theoretical formulae, so we can enjoy the exquisite consciousness of understanding the motor force of history. 

commiegal
Well until last year I'd

Well until last year I'd never heard of left communism either and ive been involved in politics for quite a long time. I think I've finally got the right thread. But yeah, reckon most people havent heard of it, even people active on the left ! 

baboon
Sense of humour

Fred I think that a sense of humour is an absolute necessity in order to help face up to the reality and tensions of living in this decaying system. Lenin recognised its advantages in revolutionaries along with patience.

What just struck me as quite amusing was the number of ICC links that there are at present on the libcom website given all the detective work that the administration put in in order to expose the ICC's "infiltration". These links have been generally well-received and commented on making the situation a little more humourous.

radicalchains
Talking of reflections...

Here's an interesting reflection of a recent leftist meeting. (http://leftunity.org/the-peoples-assembly-the-fight-back-begins/)

CRITIQUE OF THE PEOPLE’S ASSEMBLY AND THE FORMATION OF A NEW PARTY:

I’m sick of hearing about “there is an alternative” from movements like the People’s Assembly. I did not attend the PA conference on 22 June, but through youtube clips and reading online, I can see that there were some great speakers at that event. But don’t tell me there’s an alternative AND THEN FAIL TO TELL ME WHAT THE ALTERNATIVE IS?! Was there a Q&A at this event and did anyone ask Mark Steel or Francesca Martinez what that alternative looks like in their view? I’m genuinely asking – the question is not rhetorical.

So now, the PA is calling for protest at the Tory conference on Sep 29 and civil disobedience on Nov 5. All well and good – but this is just reactionary. We are being asked to do little more than beg the Con-Dem government to change ways, beg them to please end austerity or plead with Labour to come back and do the work for us, despite Milliband clearly outlining that Labour’s economic policy will be little different from that of the Con-Dem government. More of the same drudgery, misery, and everlasting helplessness.

What are we so afraid of? These anti-austerity meetings are a waste of time unless they are being held for the purposes of organizing a mass party. I’m sick of being lectured to in an attempt to “inspire” me, give me “hope” or make me realize that there is “an alternative”. Surely by now, we don’t need to gather in the thousands to hear the same story reeled out by speaker after speaker. We need clear direction, we need strong leaders, open ears and innovative ideas about how WE can take control of the mess and organize. Unless meetings are being held to discuss how to politically organize – what is the point??

Instead we are being asked to beg our politicians to make the changes for us – the same ones – Conservative or Labour – who put us here in the first place. PA are planning events and initiatives until spring 2014. Do you know how many people will have been bankrupted, suicidal, helpless and defeated by spring 2014? I refuse to enter into a protest of begging. I am however open to talking about clear political strategies and a party we build from scratch. We need to organize NOW and stop being reactionary. If these people think they can reform “capitalism” they are misguided. If they are trying to sell me more capitalism – they are cheating me. For it is this same capitalism that they uphold that has brought us to our knees. Bankers work as a part of the capitalism system but it is capitalism, and its system of winners and losers that has afforded for this crises in the first place.

So offer me something I don’t know or help me clarify my ideas and give me a direction to pursue. If you can’t – let me tell you what I propose, instead of continuing to lecture me as I have been lectured to all my life by bankers, politicians, experts, economists, historians, professors, theorists etc. I am sick of being told as a worker that my ideas are not valid or that I lack theory and understanding. If anything, PA is a clear-cut example of FALSE CONSCIOUSNESS – they want to continue to work within the matrix of capitalism and the current system we have instead of proposing a whole new modus operandi.

This however doesn’t mean we need a political campaign that is purely “anti-capitalist” – in fact I don’t even think we need to discuss the fall of capitalism and being anti-capitalist as a part of our party’s strategy. Because for most people, including most people attending PA, anti-capitalism = fear. People lack the education and understanding of how capitalism operates and why capitalism is the root of EVERYTHING we bemoan on this forum and in these articles. Let us not make the mistake of trying to shove our ideas down people’s throats and it is here I agree with the “issue by issue” basis way of moving forward. If we run a campaign that is anti-capitalist we will get nowhere. If we run a campaign that is centred around a set of issues and is just clearly left wing – we will triumph.

Right now, our aim is not to educate people about theory or about the necessary demise of capitalism. Call me populist, but our aim is just simply to have a party by the people for the people and get into power – this in itself will be the greatest achievement ever established on the left in contemporary British history. Then we can start to enact the policies we want and really start to dismantle the system we hate and work towards a new political paradigm. In fact we need not be anti-capitalist, but rather pro-whatcomesaftercapitalism. Everything evolves, changes, improves including political theory. We cannot keep using the iPhone 5 forever yet that is exactly what we are being asked to do, despite knowing that it has a limited battery life, the screen is rubbish, the storage could be greater etc. So let’s stop talking about being anti anything and start talking about being pro whatever the new solution is.

More importantly the move from, say capitalism into communism, as Marx stated is not to be achieved overnight and we must [1] seize the right time [2] definitively move from capitalism into communism at the will and desire of the people. Such actions cannot be forced and this is why there has never been a communist state to date, only authoritarianism regimes or those with communist ideals. As much as I would love a party that “educated” the masses on what Marxism is, and why they have an extremely misinformed view of communism, what we need right now is just a mass part by the people for the people. Capitalism must fall, but this doesn’t mean we need to explicitly discuss this with the masses. Each individual must have his/her/hir /their own enlightenment when it comes to how capitalism is eating them alive and openly robbing and raping them of their right to the means of production. I do not use these adjectives lightly; I have literally been raped by this system of my right to the means of production living my life as a slave to wage labour.

Furthermore, I want to hear from people who have some political grasp and understanding of Marxism, socialism, fascism, reactionary ideas, propaganda etc who can offer us clear explanations and solutions that are politically driven – not comedians, celebrities and waste of space public figures. They need to be able to talk about the good and the bad. They need to be able to learn from the victories and the losses, the rights and wrongs of former leaders and regimes from Hitler to Lenin, Stalin to Mussolini, Thatcher to Blair. We need people providing analysis who understand the intricacies of the workings of politics who are leading. That doesn’t mean I want to sit back helplessly, that doesn’t mean I am stupid or lazy, that doesn’t mean I see myself as inadequate. It’s called finding the right individual(s) for the job, as long as they are from the PROLETARIAT and are rightfully elected. By my admitting that I am not the one of that job and that this role needs to be filled, I am helping and not hindering this movement. Just please stop giving me “career politicians” and just give me real people who can represent me.

Indeed the PA may be taking a top down approach, it certainly seems that way. However can I please make the point that we can have a bottom-up movement in its entirety that has some top-down elements to it – such as the actual formation of the movement or the founding or an organization. Can we please not confuse top-down approaches with strong leadership and the possibility for a bottom-up approach that utilizes leadership and structure. I want to be led by a strong group of people, who are dedicating their time and effort to resolving these issues. May I remind you that I have a job to go to and children to raise. I can campaign, I can protest, but my desire for strong leadership and the fruition of a relationship with leaders who are my mentors more than leaders, and those willing to sacrifice their lives on behalf of the causes we discuss, IS NOT authoritarianism or top-down approaches. If you want to learn more about Mentor-Disciple relationships please read Daisaku Ikeda from who I have learnt a lot. We live in a society where everybody is obsessed with power and ego and less concerned with finding the beauty in leadership where my leaders and my politicians are from my own ranks and who I can turn to, who can guide me and support me and who work on my behalf. I am by no means an anarchist. I don’t want leaders, I need leaders to work for me, on my behalf and represent my interests. Who and how WE have employed individuals (working as a collective) to mentor us, lead us, guide us, is the question. We need clear cut structure, leadership etc in order to succeed. The democracy here comes in the ‘Demos’ being in charge; in charge of and appointing that determining the structure – leaders who come from OUR ranks and who are under our control. The most humbling thing is to step back and allow somebody to lead. We must stop fighting selfishly for individual recognition and outing ego first and be willing to recognize talented individuals who can drive the movement forward. All successful political drives MUST have a strong and valid leader/group of leaders who are supported by the people. We cannot all lead, but we can all be in charge simply by our ability to vote on issues. That’s the difference in understanding and implementing structure and organization.

Thus, I think we may get further if we actually set up the party first, and then mould it and shape it as we go along. I am sick of hearing about how we need to reach consensus on exactly how the party should look, feel, smell, taste etc. This is not an interior decorating challenge – we are talking here about the formation of something organic, which grows and changes in time and which WILL NOT BE PERFECT from the outset and will probably never be perfect – which is why is will be a thing in CONTSTANT REVOLUTION. So let’s get realistic and stop trying to achieve something that panders to and tries to please everybody. There are some basic things we all agree on so we could start a party tomorrow based on the following tenants: unity, equality, anti-racism, anti-prejudice, pro LGBTQ, anti-austerity, rights to the means of production, supporting the 99% of working people and financially crushing the 1% of rich elites. The rest we can fill in once we actually have a damn organization. We don’t even need to be a “political party” right now but we need to be out on the road, speaking, uniting, sharing, talking about what we stand for and trying to increase membership every single day.

Back to the PA – I’m sorry but who is Owen Jones and on what platform does he speak? Why are we continuing to be offered “expert” opinions by individuals who claim to be speaking up for the poor and working class just because they have written a book or two, hosted a show or three or appeared on Question Time.

This event seems to have offered forward the usual “leftist” candidates and I say that as a woman in her 20s who is not affiliated with any left-wing cause. I’m only on this forum and following these events because I am so desperate, and thus, it is my responsibility as an educated woman in her twenties to become the change I want to see. To look for the political alternatives or create them if they don’t exist because I am struggling to survive.
This event even has Labour MPs present and speaking – surely this is a joke?! If they think Labour is the way forward I won’t even entertain their solutions. Call me extremist but I have friends who are single mothers who are being strangled by this system, gay and lesbian friends who are in dire straits, disabled people facing extreme benefit cuts. We face discrimination, hate, prejudice, poverty. We are living in fear of growing fascism, the EDL and attacks on our mosques in our communities. We worry about the education our children are receiving, our medical care and losing our jobs. We are scared about what kind of a future will be left for our children when we are gone. Neither Labour, Conservative or Lib Dem have offered me any different and therefore if my demands and my open rejection of the main parties (my demands for peace, prosperity equality and enough money to just get by, pay rent, pay bills, take my child on one holiday a year, have a job I love and that does not control me) are extreme, than I must be an extremist. As has been previously stated, if indeed Ken Roach was not given a prime spot to speak at the PA because of his anti-labour stance – we need to rethink supporting a movement that seems to me like a Labour supported, Labour led initiative to get more votes for 2015. Not on my time and not with my money. To many of you this may sound trivial but I cannot afford the £10 or the lower rate of £4 to go to the PA. You want more money from me when I have none. Look at the videos – nice podiums, microphones, fancy websites. If you want to really engage with the poor about issues affecting the poor come hold a meeting for 4000 people in my local Asda car park where I can actually afford to attend and where we actually are. Don’t try and sell me a ticket to an event where you are helping me decide my own future and make my own fate.

If you want to hear about budgeting, how we are being affected by cuts and a sob story built on hopes and dreams I can find you a black, impoverished single mother right now to speak to. I can also organize a mass meeting of poor people in my area right now who can offer up bemoaning about how we are suffering. What makes us strong is not that we moan all the time, because I am tired of people thinking we are benefit seekers, and all we do is moan and seek pity. We are actively seeking a solution. So we won’t be attending any event that acts as a pity arenas and points fingers at the Con-Dem government WITHOUT SOLUTIONS.

Maybe for some of these hard hit white men speaking at PA, or white men who enjoy theorizing at such events, this is the first time they are engaging in such debate. Maybe they don’t get to air such views openly very often and they need a platform on which to do so. But where I live and amongst my friends and neighbours we are always getting together, always discussing, debating and sharing our struggles. It’s called community. But we are sick and tired of being sick and tired. I don’t need to pay a ticket to a conference to do the same thing I can do on my doorstep.

What I can’t find you are many black single mothers who are impoverished and have laid out a political manifesto as to where we should go next and how we should form a party. Give me that – and I will come to any conference or any meeting. We all will. Let US speak for ourselves not about hope and dreams but about what a true political alternative looks like instead of expecting us to protest and beg when we have no clear cut agenda. If we live in a “democracy” and voting is the key component to change, surely we should be focusing on what happens at the ballot box. Surely we should be finding a way to win an election when it seems that the majority agrees with our stand on a whole range of issues. Many of you will say: why are you not organizing then? Why are you not being the change you want to see by setting up the party? Well the reason my friends, neighbours and I are not is because right now we want to contribute to a movement that already exists; Left Unity. However a few months down the line, if this doesn’t come into fruition and we have no clear way to move forward out of poverty and desperation, we will have no choice but to look to forming a party and just trying to get as many people as possible to join because at least then we will have an actual organization. However, right now it’s not about that, it’s about trying to work with as many people as possible within the movement we already have in place, instead of trying to splinter off and fight for power or control. We want to work with you, we want to contribute and we want to be a part of the change we ALL want to see. What we don’t want to do is stand outside a TORY CONFERENCE ON SEPT 29 and beg Mr Cameron, or run riot on Nov 5. The PA is trying to mobilize the poor once again to do the dirty work by an organization that is being run and organized by Labour MPs. How can i not feel like I am being asked to do the dirty work of Labour, with MPs Katy Clark, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell at the helm. How can we not feel like we are being used by Labour and Labour supporters to do their work by boycotting and protesting essentially for them on Sep 29. Because they also probably see us as the rich mans bait and its us they want to throw to the dogs. Because on Nov 5, when they call for civil disobedience, its US who are going to be arrested, detained and persecuted by the state police and NOT Owen Jones. It’s us that will face the same wrath that has been unleashed on protestors in Brazil and Turkey. And what protection will I have then? Where will MP Katy Clark be then to defend me and my rights? Who will speak up for me then or bail me out of jail? Who is going to look after my child? Who is going to go to my job? And what will I turn around and say my political agenda is when I have a flashlight in my face or I’m behind bars for the night which is could very well come to. I will be simply be labelled a rioter, a looter, a social monster by the government, receive a police warning and be written about in The Sun. So, if you think I am going to do that just on the back of anti-austerity and for the sake of begging Mr Cameron to please stop torturing me – think again. I will only engage in civil disobedience when it stands for something I believe in and it represents my aims and interests because we are FIGHTING FOR SOMETHING TANGIBLE and not the whimsical ideal of “anti-austerity.” So I am excited to see Owen Jones, MP Katy Clark and MP Jeremy Corbyn and the rest of these speakers on Sep 29 and Nov 5, because I will be looking to see their faces in the crowd.

Jasmin Al-Hadaq

commiegal
Thanks so much for linking to

Thanks so much for linking to my blog btw comrades :) 

radicalchains
Free Communism

http://freecommunism.org/

Looks promising, anyone know who is behind it? Is it the much vaunted by rarely seen 'joint work'?

slothjabber
The usual suspects?

I don't know what you mean by 'joint work', I'm afraid. Between the ICC and ICT? No; just between sympathisers/contacts of the ICC and sympathisers/contacts of the CWO (sometimes, we're even the same people).

A guy from Sheffield, contacted me recently through LibCom and asked about coming to a Midlands Discussion Forum in Leicester. He's an Anarchist-Communist, and a long-term contact of the CWO, who puts out the 'Free Communist' bulletin.

At the last MDF, in June, we decided to hold a joint meeting in Sheffield in September; really, we decided to hold a MDF meeting in Sheffield, and I later persuaded him that if it was billed as 'MDF & Free Communist' he might manage to persuade some of the people that are reluctant to come to the MDF as they regard it as an ICC front.

So, maybe part of the process of clarification and decantation; and we certainly hope that both the ICC and the CWO will be able to attend; but nothing more earth-shattering than that I'm afraid.

Tiny, tiny steps is all.

radicalchains
I could probably understand

I could probably understand if the discussion group was run or consisted of many SWP members it might be seen as a front (to recruit or influence something). But as I understand it the ICC do not actively recruit members in the same way leftists do and they certainly wouldn't be trying to influence some bourgeois campaign. Also, of the much appreciated recordings I've heard when they turn up in various places on the internet they sound like very amicable and comradely discussions without ulterior motives.

Don't forget to sign the check this time Paris Center!

Theft
Not a anarchist

slothjabber wrote:

I don't know what you mean by 'joint work', I'm afraid. Between the ICC and ICT? No; just between sympathisers/contacts of the ICC and sympathisers/contacts of the CWO (sometimes, we're even the same people).

A guy from Sheffield, contacted me recently through LibCom and asked about coming to a Midlands Discussion Forum in Leicester. He's an Anarchist-Communist, and a long-term contact of the CWO, who puts out the 'Free Communist' bulletin.

At the last MDF, in June, we decided to hold a joint meeting in Sheffield in September; really, we decided to hold a MDF meeting in Sheffield, and I later persuaded him that if it was billed as 'MDF & Free Communist' he might manage to persuade some of the people that are reluctant to come to the MDF as they regard it as an ICC front.

So, maybe part of the process of clarification and decantation; and we certainly hope that both the ICC and the CWO will be able to attend; but nothing more earth-shattering than that I'm afraid.

Tiny, tiny steps is all.

 

While i was a member of ACF in the 90's and again for a couple of years till early 2013 a member of AF, I have not considered myself a anarchist for a good few years. Otherwise slothjabber is correct :)

radicalchains
I will ask the obvious but

I will ask the obvious but puzzling question...

How come you were in Anarchist Federation until this year if you weren't an anarchist?

Theft
Good question. Afed has often

Good question. Afed has often had people within the organisation that have seen themselves more within the tradition of council/left communism, as membership is based on the A&P's. For example at time of the name change, there were people that wanted to drop anarchist from the name instead of dropping communist which happened.

slothjabber
Faces and names...

radicalchains wrote:

I could probably understand if the discussion group was run or consisted of many SWP members it might be seen as a front (to recruit or influence something). But as I understand it the ICC do not actively recruit members in the same way leftists do and they certainly wouldn't be trying to influence some bourgeois campaign. Also, of the much appreciated recordings I've heard when they turn up in various places on the internet they sound like very amicable and comradely discussions without ulterior motives.

Don't forget to sign the check this time Paris Center!

 

It is true that the ICC is one of the most 'unrecruity' organisations I've ever come across. But maybe some people don't know that. I don't think it's exagerating to say though that the ICC has a very bad image in some quarters, even among some people with broadly similar politics. Several times the idea that the MDF is an ICC organisation or front has come up over the years.

 

Not sure what that has to do with not 'trying to influence some bourgeois campaign'. Don't know what you're referring to there.

 

The other bit I've been trying to post is:

Theft wrote:

While i was a member of ACF in the 90's and again for a couple of years till early 2013 a member of AF, I have not considered myself a anarchist for a good few years. Otherwise slothjabber is correct :)

 

Sorry to ascribe a label to you that you don't agree with!

 

 

 

Theft
Audio from the discussion can
Alf
Sheffield

Just to be clear, Theft is talking about the meeting organised by the Midlands Discussion Forum/ Free Communism in Sheffield to which we were unfortunately not able to go. http://www.libcom.org/forums/announcements/midlands-discussion-forum-free-communist-meeting-sheffield-7th-september-29#new

I look forward to listening to the audio. We should soon be publishing material from our meeting in June and an audio of one of the sessions.