The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Syriza’s ultra-nationalism. The discussion was initiated by Fred.Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!
G wrote: The proletariat today has to a large extent lost its sense of class identity and its self-confidence. This situation of profound weakness can’t simply be overcome through a wave of struggles.
But if we can't overcome our loss of class identity and confidence through a wave of struggles then how will we do it? Wouldn't a wave of struggles do for starters?
If it is true what G. says that our situation of profound weakness can't be overcome by a wave of struggles - and perhaps he's right, but wouldn't a wave, or even a tidal wave of struggles be lovely just now? - then how does he propose our profound weakness should be, or might be overcome? And as I assume G to be a fully fledged ICC comrade and that his article has ICC approval, how does the organization think it might be overcome?
I suppose a sudden flowering of class consciousness out of the blue across the European continent is a possibility and would certainly be astounding and fabulous, but wouldn't it manifest itself through a renewal of struggle? Of course a sudden flowering of class consciousness wouldn't come ''out of the blue" but would be the product of the old mole ie.the subterranean develoment of consciousness. We don't hear much sbout this secretive growth these days, it's been totally subterranean for so long. But it may well be taking place and reaching almost explosive point. God knows there's enough happening on the news every day to make even the most placid and submissive worker comfortably soothed by austerity and unemployment wake up and take notice.
There's Ukraine and a threatening Russia (3rd. World War?) There's the Middle East and bourgeois internecine gang warfare (3rd. World War?) There's ISIS - beheadings, public burnings at the stake (a reminder of Bloody Mary, Queen of England, and her religious fanaticism) and the throwing of gays from rooftops and so on - and their gradual acquisition of major oil fields (3rd. World War: Clash of Civilizations?) and the rapidly deteriorating world wide weather. Viciously cold storms across the US (like the film "The Day After Tomorrow") with mid-winter Spring in parts of Europe and endless grey gloom across parts of the tropics and drought in the Brazilian jungle (3rd. World War: threats to food supply and the environment.)
if ever the time was ripe for the working class to make its revolution and take charge of society and the globe before it's too late ( if it isn't too late already) then no time can ever have been riper. The capitalist economy is satisfying no one's needs except those of a minuscule minority who now have all the money and all the power in their possession. If this was in fact the bourgeoisie's glorious but unknown aim then they've done it! But their work is done, and they have ended up with a disaster on their hands. Their economy and their rule is a disaster. It's now up to someone else - this'll be the working class for no one else can do it - to clean up the mess they've made, and create a new and more advanced society.
When the working class finally wakes up with a sudden jump to this unbelievably awful world political situation challenging the very existence of humanity itself, perhaps a "wave of struggles" won't be enough. After all we had them in the 70's and 80's and they got us no where. Perhaps they never intended to go anywhere; just get us more wages. So have we learned our lesson that reforms are no longer available, and that fighting for them is a waste of time? Lets hope so. For what we should've learned is that there is no future for us within the capitalist system anyway. We don't want wage labour anymore. Wage labour, selling our labour power is an outmoded mind crushing system that doesn't work anymore and which no longer satisfies our needs. Capitalism has nothing positive left to offer us for we have outgrown it restrictive rules and it is suffocating us.
Our goal today lies elsewhere. For the time has finally arrived now for us the proletariat to take charge of things and impose our more advanced understanding and consciousness of life on the whole planet. What we need now and quickly is a revolutionary wave of struggles. Not "a wave of struggles," but a wave of struggles with the underpinnings of revolutionary class consciousness with the stated intention to get rid of capitalism for all time.
i don't suppose necessarily that this is what G and the ICC had in mind when they wrote that a wave of struggles won't be enough. But then they didn't actually explain what they had in mind, and I for one would like to know.
Well yeah I'd like struggle too, it would be wonderful.
Not to feel physically sick with movememt at work ha. IME anyway you need focus as well as struggle i.e. opposition to the bourgoeise in concrete terms, let the mask slip, let the grease of history be found. So yeah, not just "struggle" but a certain sort of struggle.
I think you are reading too much hetrodoxy into G's statement, comrade hah :-) !
Thank you lem. Well you have to read something into G's statement otherwise it doesn't mean anything.
The point of the article is to demonstrate the danger of left-wing populism.
When the working class is tricked into struggling in favor of these ideologies, as G points out (when not taken out of context), this situation of profound weakness cannot be overcome by the movement of the working class in favor of this left-wing populism.
Comrades should also be reminded that one of the main intended functions of the theory of subterrean maturation is that it might allow us to stay "in advance" of the movements of the working class. In Greece the scope is clear–left-wing populist parties have nothing to offer the working class.
Fred wrote: ...If ever the time was ripe for the working class to make its revolution and take charge of society and the globe before it's too late ( if it isn't too late already) then no time can ever have been riper.
Didn't Che Guevara also talk about the revolution being like a ripe apple that falls from a tree? This stands in contradiction with the Trotsky quote the ICC uses in it's article on the SMC:
Trotsky wrote: In reality the mere existence of privations is not enough to cause an insurrection, if it were, the masses would always be in revolt...The immediate causes of the events of a revolution are changes in the state of mind of the conflicting classes...
It isn't a matter of "privations" Jamal. It's a matter of decomposition, which Trotsky didn't face. Decomposition is now so ripe - the apple is rotting - that time is running out for a successful revolution.
One effect of decomposition seems to be the temporary stultification of the working class. Another is that, if we leave it too long, even the establishment of a Proletarian Dictatorship may have a hard if not impossible time trying to deal with the effects of global catastrophe.
Regarding Che Guevara, just because he looked a bit like Russell Brand doesn't make him anymore of a revolutionary than Russell himself. And that Che talked about ripe apples doesn't make me a Trotskyist like him.
What makes you think the G-man was talking about populist struggles when he said what he said about a wave of struggle not being sufficient to overcome weakness? This is why I keep asking what he meant. Because it is far from clear!
Are changes in the state of mind of the working class actually taking place now? Thry should be! And if not why not?
I think it's a fair question Fred poses at the beginning and probably we should have added some explanation. I think what we are talking about here is the need for politicisation, a dimension that was severely lacking in the waves of struggles' in the 70s and 80s, where the struggles were very militant but rarely went beyond the level of economic self-defence. I think Jamal is on the right track with the question of subterranean maturation; Fred is also right when he talks about the need for revolutionary class conscousness, but that's not yet on the agenda given the current difficulties facing the working class.
Thank you for your reply Alf.
Regarding the need for politicization of struggles, and how that is very much needed now and was severely lacking in the 70's and 80's.
I remember World Revolution meetings in the late 70's and how fantastic, refreshing and inspiring they were. But I also recall how, by 1979, some of us who weren't WR and ICC comrades, but contacts, began to discuss (outside of the meetings I should add) how we thought WR was mistaken in thinking, or appearing to project the view, that the revolution was just round the corner and might be taking place soon. Whereas we felt it absolutely wasn't and that all the strikes and mayhem in the UK in 1979 were of a candy floss kind, having little in the way of content other than a demand for more wages and for sympathy from the general public for hard workers like firemen. "Hoot if you support us" they requested from passing motorists. But they certainly didn't mean " if you support our movement towards overthrow of the capitalist system" unfortunately.
We, timid critics of WR, didn't speak up of course, being too scared of humiliation and of being proved wrong. Would that history had proved us wrong and WR right!
But all that was a long time ago. Times have changed a lot. I don't see the class in militant mood today behaving as they did in the 70's and 80's ever again. But I suspect and hope that next time round the class will be looking for more than a sympathy hoot for more wages, but will have more advanced ideas in mind. And more class consciousness underpinning their activity.
It will happen again - the upcoming tech crisis when the robots take over (serious) will be make or break, much more than the financial crisis (candy floss?)
When the working class is totally immersed in democratic and bourgeois ideologies, like left-wing populism and others, the "struggle" avijit and Fred seem to be alluding to is executed in favor of the bourgeoisie and the ideologies they represent. This is why I agree with G.
Let's look at the example of the Egyptian "revolution", they "struggled" quite a lot, where are they now? Comrades avijit, Fred and others are reaching for answers further about this key issue of when do "subterreanean" tendencies boil over into communist actions and how. Does anyone know?
I'm becoming increasingly skeptic of this "struggle" term. In a lot of ways, it's just a bastardization of the words class struggle. We're seeing the word "struggle" being used by bourgeoisie, leftists, and activists left and right. Even Islamists. But what kind of struggle do we mean? I'm sure the Muslim Brotherhood discusses, reflects and clarifies as well. So does Syriza. And guess what, I've heard US media call Syriza "left socialist". How long until it all gets muddled in together and we all become evil terrorists?
I think it's part of the bourgeoisie's intention that "we all become evil terrorists" - Jamal's phrase - because I suspect the bourgeoisie is much more aware of our working class threat, our potential power and the precarity of their social system and its failing economy than we are. They are placing themselves in a position where cataclysmic repression can "legitimately" be applied when next we rise up.
If we ever rise up again that is. Everybody talks about "struggle" as Jamal says, but he says its all struggle on bourgeois terrain. I suppose he's right. Even the apparently mighty struggles of the late 70's and 80's were, in the end, struggles mainly on bourgeois terrain, because they were only about more wages. Maybe the class did produce workers' councils in Poland but these were recouped by the Unions and the Catholic Church.
What was wrong in those days was that there was an absence of political content in these struggles because there was not sufficient political class consciousness underpinning the activities of the class. The class thought more money would be enough. It didn't understand that it's problems, its misery, its enslavement, was the product of an exploitative political system called capitalism. It didn't understand that it lived under a repressive dictatorship and that this was the root of all its problems, not lack of money. What needed to be done was to raise questions about the legitimacy of the bourgeois dictatorship, realise its shortcomings and the historical need to get rid of it in favor of social progress, and then go on the offensive with a defined aim in view and the intention to remove the bourgeoisie from power.
If we ever rise up again it'll have to be quite a different kind of uprising. It'll have to be a politically aware one else it'll fail again. We need to know what we're doing.
As Amos writes in an article currently on this site about Proletarian Politics
Quote: What the working class lacks, above all, is a perspective, a sense not only of what it is today but of what it can become. And this perspective can only be a political one, because it is centred round the question of who will hold power - a minority of exploiters, or the majority made up of the exploited and the oppressed – and what they will do with power – defend their privileges even at the expense of the destruction of society and the natural environment, or create a new society based on solidarity and the satisfaction of human need.
Of course this is easily said. But the question is: how exactly will the working class attain this essential perspective and grasp the significance of who it is and what it can become? In short, appreciate finally its historical revolutionary mission. (Does anyone know?).
This comes down to the matter of who will hold power in a very uncertain future. Who will be in power as the planet and humanity faces the possibility of its demise? Will it be the class that brought us to this awful moment through greed and selfishness? Or will it be the class with new ideas? Time ticks on.
Yes. G got it more or less right. Our situation as workers under austerity can't be overcome by a wave of struggles pure and simple. But only by A WAVE OF POLITICALLY MOTIVATED STRUGGLES.
Who in Greece, Egypt, or anywhere else in the world is fighting for "the programme, theory, traditions, methods of the proletariat"? The discussion, I thought, was about the trap of leftist populism, Syriza, and the "waves of struggle" in Greece that are NOT revolutionary.
I don't think G intended to write an article about how the working class can gain a clear perspective. G's intention is to point out the entrapment of these situations like in Greece and Spain and elsewhere, the ones where workers fight not for communism but bourgeois ideologies. G spends the whole article carefully putting forth a left communist perspective on what's happening in Greece. But because of two or three akwardly worded sentences taken out of context we've been splitting hairs instead of focusing on the fact that the proletariat in Greece, like almost everywhere else today, don't fight for communism. They fight for "democracy". And like Fred points out it will take a "struggle" of special political content to overcome this. I agree with the quote avijit has cited but it doesn't mention the effect of "democratic" bourgeois identity politics on the development of working class communist class consciousness.
How has the working class come to be involved in situations where there has been special political content in the past? Communist struggle?
Good question Jamal. "How has the working class come to be involved in situations where there has been special political content in the past." I have been thinking along those lines myself. How do we get from struggle for reforms - which incidentally we don't seem to have anymore - to political struggle? I suppose struggle for reforms supposedly leads eventually, or could lead eventually. to the political struggle. But it didn't in the UK in the seventies and eighties, nor in Poland either. So how did the masses in Russia, in 1917, and Germany too, get into a political struggle? Didn't it all arise from the 1st. World War? And the Bolsheviks were there in Russia too.
But there is no war proper war and we don't want one. And if the class has realized, in Europe and maybe America too, that there isn't any real point in fighting for reforms anymore, because they're just not available, there's no money for them, the bourgeoisie is bankrupt as far as helping out the working class today is concerned, then how is the next wave of struggle going to be initiated?
G says we don't actually want one and implies we want something else, but doesn't suggest what it might be.
And Alf says the working class no longer knows who it is.
Quote: It follows from this loss of identity that the programme, theory, traditions, methods of the proletariat, are not recognised as their own by the immense majority of workers. The language, forms of action, even the symbols which appear in the Indignants movement derive from other sources. This is a dangerous weakness that must be patiently combated to bring about a critical re-appropriation of the theoretical heritage, experience, traditions, that the workers’ movement has accumulated over the past two centuries."-c.mir 23.9.11(Movement of the Indignants in Spain,Greece and Israel:From Indignation to the preparation of Class Struggles,Submitted by International Review,28.9.11
I suppose we would all agree "this is a dangerous weakness that must be patiently combated..." But who will patiently combat it and how? It's easy to desire "a critical re-appropriation" of past lessons learned over two centuries of proletarian battles against exploitation but how do you do it, who will fo it, and how will it ever happen? Do we just wait? Do we hope and pray for the fruits of the subterranean maturation of consciousness to show themselves? It's so easy to ask questions! Does no one have any anawers? Will the breakaway Turkish comrades come up with anything new? And I
Without going into all the details of it Fred I think that the text on the 21st RI congress is pretty good in this respect.``
Obviously, as history as shown, waves of struggle do not automatically lead to a recovery of consciousness. But surely the fundamental question here is whether or not "waves of struggle" are a necessary condition for the recovery of class consciousness or whether said consciousness can develop without them, especially in the absence of class identity. Moreover, can a class that has no awareness of itself as a class develop an understanding of its material interests as opposed to those of the other strata in society?
Moreover, can a class that has no awareness of itself as a class develop an understanding of its material interests as opposed to those of the other strata in society?
Moreover, can a class that has no awareness of itself as a class develop an understanding of its material interests as opposed to those of the other strata in society?
Sticking my neck out I would hazard the answer "NO".
I notice that no one has replied to your post Oliver Owen, which is a kind of reply, but I am about to do so.
Sure Syriza is leftist populism as you say and therefore of no use to the working class, but of enormous use to the bourgeoisie in its efforts to keep the class mystified and thus incapable of achieving consciousness of its real situation. If Syriza gets its way the class will remain suppressed; exploited and in the shit up to its eyes till doomsday comes.
Yes I hope we are looking forward to a Dictatorship of the Proletariat in Greece and elsewhere one day, but it isn't going to be next week. However that is no excuse for suddenly throwing in the towel and our lot with the interests of the ruling class. That would be foolhardy madness and a betrayal of the revolutionary class. This is the class that holds the future of humanity and the planet in its hands if it did but know it. (And that it doesn't appear to know it at the moment is no reason for supposing it never will or is incapable of such thought.)
That Syriza pretend an interest in the condition of the working class is because it furthers the bourgeois political interests of Syriza, but it doesn't further that of the class in which Syriza has no interest at all other than as an electoral and political ploy. On the contrary, what scheming leftists like Syriza do only works to confuse workers, which is their intent. Why would any communist wish to aid in the confusion of the revolutionary class on the futile pretext of trying to help the out-of-work, the poor and needy and the exploited who are all the product of a political system long past its sell-by date and which it is our historical task to get rid of?
You have fallen for bourgeois lies Oliver Owen. Or worse! Like your namesake Oliver Twist you go cup in hand asking for more. Like him you'll get nothing but a beating. And, as you say, it'll get the class nowhere.
You are correct to state that class consciousness doesn't spring forth overnight but that doesn't mean it isn't being inexorably developed in starving bodies and brains constantly frustrated by the capitalist system which is no longer capable of any positive acts.
But you are right and honest to point out finally that nothing of import about historical working class struggle for emancipation has ever lodged in your mind. What a triumphant announcement! If you were a communist comrade this would be a shameful admission, and your recognition of an obsession for handsome red flags doesn't make up for it at all.
Oliver, your post has been caught in the spam filter, sorry. It's been published now.
By way of quick reply, I think is where the problem lies in your position: "But how does a worker's organisation go about winning advantages for the people (or at least stopping some of the worst attacks on the workers) and thereby gain credibilty (ok not the best terminology) in this period of decadence?"
A workers' organisation (if you mean political organisation) cannot win advantages for workers or stop the attacks. Only the movement of the workers themselves can do this and to do this they need to form their own struggle organisations to manage the struggle. In the past, unions served this function but today any attempt to form a permanent struggle organisation gets sucked into the bourgeois framework. The only organs that really serve the workers are the ones they create spontaenously - they usually die at the end of the struggle that birthed them or become new unions i.e. against the workers. Only when we enter into a revolutionary period can permanent struggle organisations grow.
As far as political organs are concerned, their terrain isn't to defend workers in a material sense, but to defend the working class perspective. In periods of social peace they try to keep that perspective alive and deepen it - in periods of struggle they are the section of workers who argue for that perspective in the midst of those struggles.
When the class is quiescent, there's not much a revolutionary can do in the sense of defending workers. We're part of the class but we can't act for it.When it's in struggle, we join in like all other workers. But if you really want help the class, start joining in the discussions on working class politics here and elsewhere.