Effective strike action is always illegal

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Fred
Effective strike action is always illegal
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Effective strike action is always illegal. The discussion was initiated by Fred.
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Fred
This 2 year old article makes

This 2 year old article makes a vital point which all workers should take to heart. If and when we reach the point when we are about to overthrow capitalism, from the point of view of this sickening system we will be acting ILLEGALLY. We are never going to be given the "right" to overthrow capitalism! In the same way, any strike for which we have been given the "right", or any industrial action for which we have been idiotically balloted and thus got "legal" authority to go ahead with, will prove a waste of time. For there is little or nothing that we can do legally, from the system's point of view, that will ever be to our benefit. Thus, taking any advice offered by the unions, which work for the bosses and not us, while it will be legal will never get us anywhere, and merely tighten the chains by which the bosses and their unions control us. To them, we are dogs on a leash! While leashed we are legal. When we try to escape the leash we become, immediately and treacherously from their point of view, ILLEGAL, and they quickly let us know about it.

So why do so many workers - even those like the Rank and File of the electricians, who know the reality of the unions (that they work for the bosses) - still tag along with what the unions say? Is it because, while we can't do much with them (the unions) we think we can't do anything without them? Or is it because we're reluctant to take matters into our own hands - the mass meeting outside of union control, the lightning strike, the spreading of militant action, solidarity with the unemployed, the youth and pensioners? Why do we appear timid, even in the face of outright class war waged against us by the world's ruling classes? Are we afraid of illegality? Do we still respect our "rulers" rather than despising them for their endless wars, lies and their decaying system?

The crisis is not going away any time soon, so we have time in which to grasp the situation, develop our consciousness and our confidence in our class and it's power. But at some point we are going to have to realize that bourgeois legality is a limited and finite matter, and throw it to the winds. In any case, the new communist society we embody will leave these petty limitations far behind. Let's take the plunge.

red flag
Good question from Fred and

Good question from Fred and one which has plagued Marxists for generations.  Why in the face of all evidence do workers still follow reformist leaderships be it political or Economic?  I think the question can be answered by recognising that workers have a contradictory consciousness that is generated by the capitalist mode of production itself.  It's not simply the fact that the bourgeoise is in charge of all the ideological processes it's also the fact that for most of the time workers consciousness is very much a capitalist consciousness.  This is not to say that workers consciousness does not undergo change but this change is heavily influenced by the build up of the impact of economic crisis.  When workers complete conditions deteriate while the capitalists improve then workers begin to question previously held beleifs.  This is wherethe role of revolutionary organisations comes in.  It's their task to transform the subjective into an objective force capable of changing society.

Fred
subjective and objective

red flag's post is fine for me till we get to the last sentence. I don't get the subjective/objective stuff at all. When are the workers supposed to be 'subjective", and why and in what sense are they so, and how do we see a difference in them (us!) having been rendered 'objective' by the revolutionary organization?

But actually, having posed the question in my own way, I think I begin to see what red flag means! To question taken-for-granted beliefs and assumptions like eg capitalism is here for ever, or, reform is the way forward, is to embark on the high road from subjectivity to objectivity; and, we hope, towards a massive increase in class consciousness and solidarity. Have I got this right? Perhaps red flag would care to elaborate a bit, and thus help liven up this forum. (And to become 'objective' about capitalism is to become immediately and treacherously ILLEGAL of course. From our rulers point of view that is).

But is it really the task of the revolutionary organization "to transform" the class, is it not rather their job "to help bring about a transformation" ? There is a difference isn't there, or have I had too much turkey?

Lazarus
Just thinking.....Well a lot

Just thinking.....Well a lot of workers are far from the bottom rung where survival is problematic. A lot are there.

The worker with something to lose is more likely tame.

Family, own home, the possibility of a brighter future, ideological factors of nation, race, religion all can exert a conservative pull.

On the other pole, the crisis, eating away at the material underpinnings of conservative acquiesence.

This balance of forces is a process. The battle is not just against the capitalist class but between the advanced and retarded poles of the working class.

All indications are the crisis will be decisive and the revolutionary outcome remains open, as does the bourgeois resort to imperialist war.

Fred
wishy-washy and miserable

Well Lazarus, the worker with something to lose is probably "tame" but the possibility of a brighter future gets dimmer by the minute as the cancer of crisis eats away at everything. And the "retarded" pole of the working class may seem to be weighing down the scales at the moment, but this could change cos every things a process. Quite agree.

Elsewhere, in an Editorial of Dec.2005, Como says that all revolutionaries can do now is further the necessity for the autonomy of the class, or something like that (don't know what it means exactly, or how we might do it) and that going on about the need for the Party at the present time, is nothing less than bourgeois obscurantism! (I think it's a dig at the IBRP.) However that doesn't preclude attempts towards a unification of our meagre forces I hope.

But all is not lost because "the crisis will be decisive" and "the revolutionary outcome remains open" says Lazarus. That's assuming of course that we ever reach the point when we can actually make the revolution, and that the bourgeoisie doesn't beat us to the winning post with a glorious war. Sometimes everything seems very wishy-washy, and generally miserable.

When will we start to really fight back, as the IBRP's Italian comrades ask occasionally?

Lazarus
I fight back every day. Not

I fight back every day.

Not going to spell out any legally sensitive issues.
But keeping up some sort of contribution to the revolutionary movement is the solution.

I enjoy it. It must be revolutionary.....

red flag
How can workers make the

How can workers make the transition from regarding capitalism as being the only way to organise society to one which sees communism as the only alternative to capitalism.  The change from seeing the necessity of communism is both a subjective change displacing the existing set of capitalist ideas to a communist perspective and enabling millions of workers to see the need for communism and willing to be active conscious participants of the revolution which becomes an objective change.  

Of course only the working class as a class can achieve this qualatative change and this can only come through some sort of organisation made up of class conscious militants.  It's the continual arguments between the militants and the rest of the class which creates the subjective change.  Without some sort of organisation then workers will remain trapped within bourgeoise mystification as history appears to show.  The point is that there will be no abstract organisation rather it will be made up of workers who have been won to a Marxist perspective and will be involved in a dynamic relationship with the rest of the working class.

  

jk1921
Doesn't history also show

Doesn't history also show that even with a revolutionary organization workers can "remain trapped within bourgeoise mystificaton"? What examples do we have of the revolutionary organization being the key to the development of a communist perspective? It is a long standing idea (myth?) in the communist left that if ony there was a more effective organization during the German Revolution, history would have taken a different path. But is this true? Isn't there a dialectical relationship between the srtength of the party and consciousness of the broader class? It seems we are stuck in a conundrum here. The revolution can't succeed without an effective organization, but an effective organization can't exist without a developing consciousness in the class. Does this leave us without any tangible explanation for how the revolutionary process develops? What is the solution to this problem?

red flag
Thats exactly the problem

Thats exactly the problem facing revolutionaries jk1921 which has only really been solved by the Bollsheviks, although saying this there is evidence that if it wasn't for the clearsightedness of Lenin then maybe we would have been talking of an aborted Russian revolution.  There is no easy answer to this problem.  Seems that we have to recognise the responsibilites that Marxists have in the current crisis and try to reach out to as many workers as possible and be involved in their struggels.

jk1921
You're right Red Flag, that

You're right Red Flag, that is the main dilemna of Marxism itself. But did the Bolsheviks really solve the problem? Why did the revolution degenerate so quickly. Its easy to blame the failure of the world revolution, but then why did the world revolution fail? Because there was no Bolshevik party in Western Europe? Its seems we are locked in a bit of a tautology there.

red flag
As you say on reflection we

As you say on reflection we are caught in a tautology.  However at the time the main problem I think was that in Germany there was no attemp to build an independent Marxist organisation that could set itself the task of winning workers away from the political leadership of the reformists.  To build an alternative pole of attraction that could have helped to coalesce all the oppositional ideas which existed iin an organisational framework.  In Britain the nearest organisation was the SLP which unfortunately had its own weaknesses.

The main problem is to facilitate an oppositional perspective which workers can identify as their own perspective in opposition to bourgeoise ideology.  To do this is to combine theory and practice in opposition to reformist currents.  It should be easier today due to the lack of reforms available to the bourgeoise.  However the working class has missed the revolutionary opportunity in the past and could still do so today.  Now that is scary.

Fred
When did the class miss a

When did the class miss a revolutionary opportunity red flag? If you mean during the great thirties depression, well the class was already recently defeated and so from it's point of view there was no opportunity. And jk's point, the years 1917-21 were hardly the choicest time for a revolution to succeed; after an appalling war, in often starvation circumstances, and with many of the class already slaughtered. Looking back, and learning from this, as we are privileged to do, so much was taking place of a clarificatory nature for the class at this time - the developing realization that the unions were on the other side, that parliamentary democracy no longer had anything to offer the proletariat, that the party taking power was not the best thing to do, that having no party at all, as in Germany and to have a quick scramble round to find one late in the day, was also not the best thing to do - that for all those involved, just trying to keep up with and make sense of all that was happening (the huge explosion of class consciousness) must have been mind blowing, to put it mildly. I think history has shown us something jk, and we stand to benefit a great deal from the showing. In a way, this first revolutionary wave was doomed from the start. Didn't Rosa L. suspect that too? Just as the Paris Commune was doomed from the start, as Marx well knew. He hailed it's achievements nevertheless. We should hail the achievements of the first revolutionary wave, AND LEARN ALL WE CAN from it's fumblings in the dark. Yes jk, the Bolsheviks did solve the problem they faced about the role of the party, but they solved it for us, not for themselves.

We, the proletariat, are fated to be defeated till we actually win. Circumstances now are very different from those of 1917-23. With a bit of luck, the next and probably last revolutionary wave - if there's to be one - will not emerge out of a terrible war, but from the ruins of capitalism in a state of cataclysmic collapse. The signs are to be seen already. We may even have an Internationally organized party, ready in advance! So, let's screw our courage to the sticking place, and make our necessary preparations. We have a world to win, and really nothing to lose.

Lazarus
I'm not quite sure the

I'm not quite sure the Bolsheviks solved the problem of the role of the party.

The three main currents are alive and kicking and a point of division.

1 Party rules.
2. Party is bad.
3. Party partcipates in councils.
Possibly 4. Party educates but does not participate in any power structures. A variant on this is the situationist Guy Debord's thesis.
**************
Some points cannot be worked out outside of the process. How exactly do a small minority raise their perspective to the point it is generally accepted?

'' The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth - i.e. the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking that is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question.''

The point is you do something about it.

Fred
I think the Bosheviks solved

I think the Bosheviks solved the problem of the party in so far as they understood what the problem was. They substituted themselves for the class and took power. It was a mistake. We can learn from that. So your (1) and (2) Lazarus, as presented above, are out. Your (3) and (4) sound a bit the same to me. Yes the party is present in the councils, and yes it can have an" educative effect" - in so far as it has specialized knowledge and can act as a change agent and catalyst. The councils are of course power structures: it's hard to imagine the party achieving anything at all if it remains out side all power structures. With regard to Guy Debord, I don't know what his thesis is and wished you had written it out rather than presenting a row of asterisks. An example of the non- reality of thinking perhaps. (Joke!)

The point is to change the world, not just talk about it. Quite agree. And, as you hint Lazarus, contributing to the revolutionary process is "legally sensitive" ie illegal. It's unlikely the working class can achieve anything worthwhile now, while remaining legal, which is what this strand of the forum is all about.

May I confess to an unease however, with the idea that the party " educates" the presumably "uneducated" masses of workers - those whom Lazarus referred to with the unhappy word "retarded". After all who educates tbe educator? Are we not really - the working class I mean - in this all together; learning from each other; developing our solidarity; and nurturing our consciousness of ourselves as a class with a task to accomplish? Our learning (or education) is connected to and stems from our ability for self- organization as a class. The more we learn about how to organize ourselves, the more we learn! The more we progress in this area, of class autonomy, the sooner we will arrive at the revolutionary moment. It isn't a question of how a small minority raises their perspective so that it is acceptable to all, but of how soon the majority of the class finally grasps that what a small minority has been saying for many years - that we need to overthrow tbe bourgeoisie and start to build communism - is the only and final answer to the problems of both an exploited class and tbe whole of humanity.

Lazarus
I see the sensitivity around

I see the sensitivity around the term 'retarded' which is bradished as an insult, but I was not describing impaired cognitive ability, only the fact that generalisation of revolutionary consciousness will be a process where sections of the class arrive before others.

Quite possibly economic variations, educational advantage and individualist aspiration will be a factor in upholding conservatism amongst the working class rather than any lack of intellectual capacity. Thus I only meant it in the sense of delay or hold back, not that workers do not have the cognitive faculties to become the ruling class.

As for the view that the generalisation of consciousness is not a simple transmission rather a complex dialectical process, I agree, but would emphasise, without the Party, such generalisation will not occur.

Lazarus
Guy Debord Society of the

Guy Debord Society of the Spectacle Chapter 4

119
A revolutionary organization that exists before the establishment of the power of workers councils will discover its own appropriate form through struggle; but all these historical experiences have already made it clear that it cannot claim to representthe working class. Its task, rather, is to embody a radical separation from the world of separation.

120
Revolutionary organization is the coherent expression of the theory of praxis entering into two-way communication with practical struggles, in the process of becoming practical theory. Its own practice is to foster the communication and coherence of these struggles. At the revolutionary moment when social separations are dissolved, the organization must dissolve itself as a separate organization.

121
A revolutionary organization must constitute an integral critique of society, that is, it must make a comprehensive critique of all aspects of alienated social life while refusing to compromise with any form of separate power anywhere in the world. In the organization’s struggle with class society, the combattants themselvesare the fundamental weapons: a revolutionary organization must thus see to it that the dominant society’s conditions of separation and hierarchy are not reproduced within itself. It must constantly struggle against its deformation by the ruling spectacle. The only limit to participation in its total democracy is that each of its members must have recognized and appropriated the coherence of the organization’s critique — a coherence that must be demonstrated both in the critical theory as such and in the relation between that theory and practical activity.

122 As capitalism’s ever-intensifying imposition of alienation at all levels makes it increasingly hard for workers to recognize and name their own impoverishment, putting them in the position of having to reject that impoverishment in its totality or not at all, revolutionary organization has had to learn that it can no longer combat alienation by means of alienated forms of struggle.

123
Proletarian revolution depends entirely on the condition that, for the first time, theory as understanding of human practice be recognized and lived by the masses. It requires that workers become dialecticians and put their thought into practice. It thus demands of its “people without qualities” more than the bourgeois revolution demanded of the qualified individuals it delegated to carry out its tasks (because the partial ideological consciousness developed by a segment of the bourgeois class was based on the economy, that central partof social life in which that class was already in power). The development of class society to the stage of the spectacular organization of nonlife is thus leading the revolutionary project to become visiblywhat it has always been in essence.

124
Revolutionary theory is now the enemy of all revolutionary ideology, and it knows it

red flag
On the question of which

On the question of which period was a working class revolution possible I think there have been two periods the first resulted from the first revolutionary wave 1917-mid 1920's while second was during the late 1920's to the end of the 1930's.  On the point that Fred makes regarding the political defeat of the working class during the 1930's I would agree that while the working class as a class had not developed both an adequate organisational as well as theoretical independence then it became difficult for the working class to lead a succesful revolution this still does not negate the fact that during this period a revolution was necessary if the capitaist counter revolution was going to be defeated.  To say that the working class had been defeated during the 1930's is to be to desparing after all during the post Russian 1917 wave the working class still gave political allegiance to reformist currents/parties but this did not stop revolutionary minorities from working to break this allegiance and to assist in rupturing the support by workers for pro capitalist parties.  This situation of breaking workers from pro capitalist organisations still remains the task of revolutionary minorites. 

red flag
On the question of which

On the question of which period was a working class revolution possible I think there have been two periods the first resulted from the first revolutionary wave 1917-mid 1920's while second was during the late 1920's to the end of the 1930's.  On the point that Fred makes regarding the political defeat of the working class during the 1930's I would agree that while the working class as a class had not developed both an adequate organisational as well as theoretical independence then it became difficult for the working class to lead a succesful revolution this still does not negate the fact that during this period a revolution was necessary if the capitaist counter revolution was going to be defeated.  To say that the working class had been defeated during the 1930's is to be to desparing after all during the post Russian 1917 wave the working class still gave political allegiance to reformist currents/parties but this did not stop revolutionary minorities from working to break this allegiance and to assist in rupturing the support by workers for pro capitalist parties.  This situation of breaking workers from pro capitalist organisations still remains the task of revolutionary minorites. 

Fred
"This situation of breaking

"This situation of breaking workers from pro capitalist organisations still remains the task of revolutionary minorites" says red flag. But it's only one part of the task. Another, perhaps more important part of the job, consists in pointing out to the class that there is an alternative to capitalism, and that this is communism. And that soviet Russia never was communist - despite the revolution there - anymore than Cuba or N. Korea are, or that Obama, Chavez or Milliband are (lol) just because they get accused from time to time, of being socialists. It's the task of our class to build communism, so a reminder of what exactly it is, and of the dangers of reformism, and the futility of bourgeois democratism in all it's forms, is also required. Our class has largely forgotten what communism is, and how wonderful it will be if we can get it! At the very least it may stop humanity from self-destructing - which at present seems increasingly on the cards,courtesy of the bourgeoisie - and at it's fulfilling best it will give us all the sort of existence we can hardly even imagine anymore; so downtrodden and repressed have we become at the hands of a bourgeoisie, longing for war, and wringing every penny it can from those still privileged to be in a state of paid exploitation.

By tbe 1930's the class had been defeated and was ready to be slaughtered in the next war. Are we still in a condition of defeat? It seems unlikely. Our young people in particular, are looking for the real possibilities of life. When they finally realize what communism is, and that it answers all their questions, then we may be on tbe way. This then is a major task for our revolutionary minorities: to restore a consciousness to the class of what communism is. And how bourgeois legality is merely a block on the way to a far better world.

red flag
What may make the task of

What may make the task of winning the working class to communism easier is that the capitalist class has much less room for maneouver and the leftists will also fail in offering their alternative to the working class.  It's this failure by the leftists that will create the space for communist ideas to have resonance and to win the class to a clear working class perspective.

Of course this task will not be an easy one and will entail much suffering from workers as the material conditions will surely deteriate as all the post war reforms are dismantled and replaced with a system that puts profit first rather than human need.