Resistance against the present social order is spreading, from the huge social revolts in Tunisia and Egypt to the movement of the ‘indignant’ in Spain, to the general strikes and street assemblies in Greece, the demonstrations around housing and poverty in Israel, and the ‘Occupy’ movements across the USA, now echoed on a smaller scale in the UK. Awareness that this is a global movement is becoming sharper and more widespread.
In Britain, on 9 November, students will again be demonstrating against the government’s education policies, and on 30th November up to three million public sector workers will be on strike against attacks on their pensions. For weeks now electricians have been holding noisy demos at building sites in defence of their jobs and conditions and will also be out in force on 9 November.
Not yet a revolution, not yet the 99%
The word ‘revolution’ is once again in their air, and ‘capitalism’ is once again being widely identified as the source of poverty, wars and ecological disasters.
This is all to the good. But as the exploited and oppressed majority in Egypt are being made painfully aware, getting rid of a figurehead or a government is not yet a revolution. The military regime that took over from Mubarak continues to imprison, torture and kill those who dare to express their dissatisfaction with the new status quo.
Even the popular slogan of the Occupy movement, ‘we are the 99%’, is not yet a reality. Despite widespread public sympathy, the Occupy protests have not yet gained the active support of a significant proportion of the ‘99%’. Millions feel anxious about the uncertain future offered by capitalism, but this very uncertainty also creates an understandable hesitation to take the risks involved in strikes, occupations and demonstrations.
We are only just glimpsing the potential for a real mass movement against capitalism, and it is dangerous to mistake the infant for the fully-grown adult.
But those who have already entered the struggle can also be held back by their own illusions, which the propagandists of the system are only too eager to reinforce.
Illusions such as:
‘It’s all the fault of the bankers and/or neoliberalism’.
Capitalism is not just the banks, or a ‘deregulated’ market. Capitalism is a social relation based on the wage system, on the production of commodities for profit, and it functions only on a world wide scale. The economic crisis of capitalism is a result of the fact that this social relation has become obsolete, a blockage on all future advance.
Regulating the banks, bringing in a ‘Robin Hood Tax’ or extending state control does not uproot the essential capitalist social relation between the exploited and their exploiters, and gives us a false goal to fight for. The unions’ call for ‘growth’ is no better: under capitalism this can only mean the growth of exploitation and environmental destruction, and in any case, today it can only be based on the racking up of huge debts, which has now become a major factor in the deepening of the economic crisis.
‘Right wing politicians are our main enemies’.
Just as the bankers are the mere agents of capital, so politicians from right to left are instruments of the capitalist state, whose only role is to preserve the capitalist system. Cameron’s Tories begin where Labour left off, and Obama, despite all the hype about the ‘hope’ he represented, continues the Bush administration’s imperialist wars and assaults on living standards.
‘We need to make parliamentary democracy work better’
If the state is our enemy, demands for its reform are also a diversion. In Spain ‘Real Democracy Now’ tried to get people to fight for an improved parliamentary list, more control over the selection of MPs etc. But a more radical tendency opposed this, recognising that the general assemblies which were everywhere the organising form of the protests could themselves be the nucleus of a new way of organising social life.
So how can the struggle advance? By recognising and putting into practice certain basics:
That the struggle against capitalism is a struggle between classes: on the one hand the bourgeoisie and its state, which controls the majority of social wealth, and on the other hand the working class, the proletariat – those of us who have nothing to sell but our labour power.
The struggle must therefore spread to those parts of the working class where it is strongest, where it masses in the largest numbers: factories, hospitals, schools, universities, offices, ports, building sites, post offices. The examples are already there: in the strike wave that broke out in Egypt, when ‘Tahrir Square came to the factories’, and they were forced to dump Mubarak. In Oakland in California where the ‘Occupiers’ called for a general strike, went to the ports and got the active support of dockers and truckers.
To spread the struggle, we need new organisations: the practice of forming assemblies with elected and mandated delegates is reappearing everywhere because the old organisations are bankrupt: not only parliament and local government, but also the trade unions, which serve only to keep workers divided and to ensure that the class struggle never exceeds the legal limit. To overcome union divisions and keep struggles under the control of the workers, we need assemblies and elected committees in the workplaces as well as on the streets.
To get rid of capitalism, we need revolution: The ruling class maintains its power not only through lies, but also through repression. Class struggle is never ‘non-violent’. We have to be prepared right now to defend ourselves from the inevitable violence of the cops, and in the future, to overthrow the state machine by a combination of mass self-organisation and physical force.
The only alternative to capitalism is communism: Not state-controlled exploitation like under the Stalinist regimes, not a return to isolated communes exchanging their goods, but a worldwide association of the producers: no wages, no money, no borders, no state!