Revolution or barbarism

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More and more people are becoming convinced that the world in which we live in is sliding towards barbarism.

War, terrorism, economic crisis, pollution, famine, disease, crime, drug addiction - the horsemen of the apocalypse seem to have gone forth and multiplied.

The bourgeoisie, its media and above all its politicians, still prattle on about peace and economic recovery and reforms. Their promises are less and less credible.

The problem for most people is not in understanding that this world is sick, even mortally ill. The problem is seeing the cause of the illness and its cure.

This is hardly surprising. There are so many false explanations. No hope in false explanations

Faced with a world that is rapidly descending into chaos, millions have turned to religion - to Islam, Christianity, the numerous New Age cults - to provide some hope. Many see the catastrophic state of the world as the fulfilment of ancient prophecies about the Last Days. But this flight into archaic mythologies is itself the expression of a decaying social system. And all the apocalyptic ideologies have one major feature in common: they reduce mankind to a passive plaything of divine forces, and are thus opposed to any rational understanding of the present mess, and thus to any solution based on conscious human action.

Many blame the problems of the world on individual leaders. The massive demonstrations against Bush's visit to Britain were largely animated by intense hostility to the particular individuals in the White House and at 10 Downing Street and the small cliques around them, as though some other leader or clique would follow a fundamentally different strategy for US or British imperialism. This is just the mirror image of blaming bin Laden or Saddam for all the terrorism and insecurity in the world.

But perhaps the most false of all false explanations is the current vogue for 'anti-capitalism', 'anti-globalisation' and 'alternative worldism', as typified by the huge European Social Form recently held in France. A strange 'anti-capitalism' this, which accepts enormous funds from the state (for example, over 2 million Euros were given to the Forum by the local governments of Paris and surrounding regions); which preaches, not the end of trade but 'fair trade'; which doesn't want nation states to be abolished but to be strengthened against the 'globalising power of the multinationals'; which declares that the 'alternative world' will be set up not by what Marx called the gravedigger of capitalism, the international working class, but by an amorphous mass of 'citizens' reclaiming their 'democratic rights'.

Every one of these explanations serves the interests of the existing social system, because every one of them diverts and obstructs any genuine search for the underlying cause of the sickness of present-day civilisation. The class which rules over this system, the bourgeoisie, will do everything in its power to hide this truth: that the current form of social organisation, the capitalist order that dominates the entire planet, has become not only an obstacle to further social, economic and cultural development, but a threat to the very survival of humanity. For workers' revolution

These false ideologies not only block any understanding of the cause, they also stand in the way of the cure: the revolution of the working class, a class that has the capacity to destroy lethal capitalism and establish a new society based on relations of solidarity. Capitalism is divided into a chaotic mess of national units defending their particular interests with every military means - the revolution of the international working class provides the basis for a single world community. Capitalism is an inherently crisis-ridden economy devoted to production for the profit of the bourgeoisie - the working class can establish an organisation of production undertaken for humanity's needs. Capitalism devotes its energies to the refinement and strengthening of its repressive state machine, whereas the overthrow of capitalism opens up the possibility of man "organising his political forces as social forces", as Marx put it.

Since the present organisation of society is utterly against the real interests of the vast majority of humanity and benefits only the tiny minority of exploiters who run it, it can't be reformed out of existence. It can only be replaced by a revolution which takes on the same programme in all countries: destruction of the capitalist state; establishment of the political power of the workers' councils; abolition of private property and of production for sale and profit.

What makes this so difficult is that it requires a break with all the habits, ethics, assumptions, and ideologies which are daily pumped into us by the existing order. It demands the theoretical clarity to see the bankruptcy of the existing social relations, and the political confidence of hundreds of millions of anonymous workers to take complete charge of the running of society.

Opponents of revolution from right to left denounce this as, at best, utopian and unrealistic, at worst, the bearer of new and even more terrible forms of chaos or tyranny.

But it is not a utopia - that is an abstract scheme coming from nowhere, the mere dream of isolated intellectuals. It is the logical culmination of the struggle of a very real force - the working class - against exploitation. And in spite of all the proclamations to the contrary, despite all its real difficulties, that struggle is more and more raising its head today.

At the end of the 1960s, the international class war returned after being prematurely dismissed during the post-war economic boom. There followed twenty years of waves of workers' struggles. Then, again, since the end of the 1980s there has been a demoralising propaganda barrage about the 'end of the class struggle'. And yet the recent outbreak of wide-scale movements against attacks on the social wage in Europe, the return of spontaneous strikes in Britain and other countries, confirm once again that the working class continues to react to the crisis of the system, of which it is the principal victim. However limited they may seem, today's defensive struggles contain the potential for the development of more massive, more conscious and more political struggles where the perspective of revolution is no longer seen as a utopia, but as the only realistic response of the working class to capitalism's drive to war and barbarism.

WR 6/12/03