A summary of the morning session
The key feature running throughout the discussion related to an analysis of the current wave of struggles across the world rather than just the lack of struggles in the UK or Europe
One aspect was the objective of struggles. In the recent wave of struggles, the main concerns are partial issues or consumption struggles rather than economic factory-based struggles. This reflects the limitations of economic struggles, the transfer of manufacturing and jobs to low wage countries, and a recognition that pensions, prices, benefits, rents although more concerned with consumption than production can be seen as much closer to the living conditions of the broad working class. Even issues related to environmentalism, freedoms, feminism, housing are coming to the fore. Used to be called partial struggles but are maybe coming to the fore as capitalism imposes more austerity on us all. A question posed at present is what is the potential for development in these struggles?
It was also noted that the term ‘partial struggles’ relates to struggles in the Middle East, southern Europe/Mediterranean countries and lately Brazil whereas struggles in China and the far east have been more factory based and there is still passivity in rest of Europe and America. Also related here is the impact of globalisation during the past decades. The structure of capitalism has changed significantly with smaller concentration of workers in heartlands of capitalism and massive scales of production shifted to low wage countries. This product of globalisation has itself an impact on struggle and how class consciousness develops in that it again supports the ideological attack that class struggle is not worth it.
The issue of the impact of the collapse of USSR in 1989 was raised with some discussion on how much it has changed the nature of the current wave of struggle, and lack of struggle in Europe, through the idea that communism does not work. It was however pointed out that there has been a massive increase in workers in China and India and this won’t affect them. Youth involvement was also identified as a key feature and often youth appear be taking a lead in the demonstrations. Youth unemployment is an important issue here
The proletarian movement may not be in control, may be a minority tendency in these struggles but is nevertheless a clear and significant presence.
Internationalism was noted as a sign of the strength of such struggles and a feature of the content. But it was also stressed that we need to make an international analysis of the struggles first and foremost. Capitalism is now a world market The international context sets the framework in which struggles are appearing rather than the national features.
Another theme running through the discussion was the idea of class identity and the development of class consciousness. Whilst not the focus of discussion these topics were seen as significant to an understanding of the evolution of struggle and the context they created for future struggles. Differences were also drawn between the experience of the class in the far east and in Europe, impacting on the ideologies that the bourgeoisie can use to attack struggles eg in China less experience of TUs. The same lack of experience of Trade Unions and wages struggles was evident in Europe in 60s and 70s. It was pointed out that the spark for revolutionary struggle can however be apparently trivial events such as in 1905.