Working class struggle is the only anti-capitalism

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The range of issues raised at each 'anti-capitalist' demonstration is wide. The state of the environment, climate change, free trade, the role of big corporations, privatisation, Third World debt, economic policies of the G8, the role of the World Trade Organisation, the structural adjustment programmes of the IMF and the World Bank - these are all targets of the leftists, anarchists, greens, religious groups and non-governmental organisations that turn out for the 'anti-globalisation' protests.

If you take any item from the 'anti-globalisers' agenda you'll find something where neither diagnoses nor solution call capitalism into question. A currently popular example is the fact that, of the top 100 economic entities in the world, 49 are big corporations and 51 are national economies. What's implied is that if the big companies were not so big then we could all enjoy exclusive exploitation by an array of oppressive nation states. Many even say that poverty is caused by privatisation, while ignoring the reality of state-enforced austerity programmes. When workers struggle they take no account of the formal status of their employer - workers in Poland in 1980-81 staged massive strikes against a whole range of state-run enterprises, the miners in Britain in 1984-85 fought against the nationalised Coal Board, and today, when postal workers across the country fight, it's not against a private boss, but against the conditions enforced by the state-run Post Office.

The campaign against the big corporations is typical - and behind every other issue is raised the question of the nature of capitalism, its crises, competition and inability to satisfy the needs of humanity. While there are those who are beginning to make connections between the various aspects of capitalist society, the 'anti-globalisation movement' reduces all concerns to campaigns for changes within capitalism.

The perspective of revolution

In protests such as those at Genoa and Gothenburg, the religious groups, the charities and non-governmental organisations don't pretend to be anti-capitalist. Their actions are intended to put pressure on the ruling class to make its system of exploitation work for the benefit of its victims. Any 'concessions' made to such groups will be for propaganda purposes.

However, the description of 'anti-capitalist' doesn't apply to the leftists and most of the anarchists either. Trotskyists (and the remnants of Stalinism) are defenders of state capitalism. With anarchists there are many varieties of ideology (some indistinguishable from leftism) but what they have in common is a commitment to protest in itself. They have no perspective, and certainly no recognition of the conscious working class as the only force capable of overthrowing the dictatorship of capital. At the London May Day 2001 protests there was a banner reading "Overthrow capitalism and replace it with something nicer". Another popular motto is "Our world is not for sale" - which is plainly untrue, as everything in the world, in particular labour power, has become a commodity with a price, and the world is clearly not 'ours', as it is dominated by the ruling capitalist class. In Genoa one of the major catchphrases was "a different world is possible". Against the vague whimsy of such useless slogans marxism has always had a clear critique rooted in material reality.

Take the concept of 'globalisation'. Time magazine, on July 23, before the Genoa protest, approvingly quoted from the Communist Manifesto of 1848: "Modern industry has established the world market. All old-established national industries have been destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries whose products are consumed in every corner of the globe. In place of the old wants, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes ... All fixed, fast-frozen relations are swept away; all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air." The Time writer implies that this describes the vibrant nature of capitalism over the last 150 years. In fact Marx and Engels saw the bourgeoisie's sweeping away of feudal and other pre-capitalist modes of production, and the establishment of a global economy, as being the historic task of capitalism. With this achieved the international revolution of the working class became a possibility. But, in the absence of workers' revolution, with capitalism having penetrated every corner of the globe for roughly the last hundred years, the bourgeois economy has not been a dynamic system that merely trades commodities. On the contrary, capitalism has long been an obstacle to the real development of the productive forces, which is the fundamental material cause of all the wars and catastrophes that have been plaguing humanity since the early 20th century. The global capitalist economy was a step on from pre-capitalist production, because it created the bases for an international workers' revolution and the creation of a communist society; but if this possibility is not realised, capitalism's continuation can only spell disaster for humanity.

A class for communism

One of the leading advocates of 'anti-globalisation', George Monbiot, has said that it is "in numerical terms, the biggest protest movement in the history of the world" (Guardian 24/7/1). He comes to this conclusion by affirming that "almost everyone agrees that the world would be a better place" without the activities of the big corporations, and that "most people would be .. happy to see the headquarters of Balfour Beatty or Monsanto dismantled by non-violent action". The 'protest movement' in Monbiot's mind is only 'big' because it includes just about anyone who's unhappy about an aspect of modern life. It includes everyone from people who are a bit worried about 'global warming', to those that donate to Oxfam or Christian Aid, to the leftists who want the role of the state in capitalism to be further strengthened, but also it includes those who are beginning to sense that the only real 'anti-capitalism' is one that involves the mobilisation of millions against the rule of the bourgeois state.

Better candidates for 'biggest protest movement' come from the history of the working class struggle. Every workers' struggle is a protest against the conditions of proletarian existence. Between 1917 and 23, for example, the working class took power in Russia, staged mass insurrections in Germany, shook Italy, Hungary and Austria to their foundations, and engaged in bitter struggles in Britain, Spain, the US, Argentina and Brazil. Or, more recently, between 1983 and 1989 there were significant, often massive struggles in Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, the US, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Holland, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Brazil, South Africa, South Korea, India, Tunisia, Morocco, Columbia, Bolivia, Greece, Israel, Rumania, Russia, Bulgaria, Poland, Yugoslavia, Japan, and the Dominican Republic, to cite only the main examples. Not only far bigger 'numerically' than Monbiot's 'protest movement', the actual significance of international waves of workers' struggle is greater because the working class, at the heart of the capitalist economy, has the capacity to destroy capitalism and build a society based on relations of solidarity. The struggle of the working class has the ultimate perspective of the establishment of a world human community. Because organisation and consciousness are the only weapons the working class has, the struggles and discussions of today are already important steps in making that perspective a reality. Barrow 30/8/1