The June 2012 election.
It is clear that the current unrest in Europe is directly in response to the structural and fiscal crisis of capitalism. Last weekends voting in Greece hinged around what economic, social and fiscal measures are to be taken by the political and economic elites. Measures calculated in order to overcome the fundamental crisis of capital. As such these elections have relevance for all European workers. The voting pattern and the subsequent coalition government of ‘national unity‘, headed by the ‘conservative’ New Democracy Party, marks a further stage in the developing class struggle within Greece and the rest of Europe. Crucially, the close results of the election in Greece indicate a split between the more radical among the Greek population and the more cautious.
On the other hand, the votes for the ‘left’ reform party, Syriza, indicate and confirm that a large section of the population are ready to promote a radical defence of their rights. With careful tactics by the left this constituency will grow, precisely because the economic and fiscal situation in Greece remains the same. Votes, for the New Democracy Party (and those such as Pasok, in coalition with them) by the cautious, will undoubtedly fall away as this group of politicians do not have the policies to prevent further job losses and future financial collapse. For this reason a more united and direct confrontation by workers with the capitalist system as a whole will be the more probable future result. But in this regard, it has already become clear, that the forms of class struggle (demonstrations and strikes) maintained in the post-Second World War period are no longer sufficient.
Success against a ruling class with control of state power – particularly when they recognise that the system they uphold is in severe crisis – will not be solved by the existing form of politics or the existing sectional forms of class struggle. To think so and to continue to advocate such repetative and un-imaginative strategies to workers and the oppressed is to suffer from, and promote, dangerous and self-defeating illusions. Just how the opposing class forces will respond to this still developing crisis can only be predicted in very general terms, as the precise ways will be dependent upon many factors which will need to be monitored closely.
Overcoming political divisions.
Nevertheless, it is possible to understand the main outlines and the general orientation necessary for the anti-capitalist left throughout Europe and elsewhere. It is important to recognise, that in the lead up to any future revolutionary situations, large numbers of workers and others will go through various stages of understanding. There will be divisions of opinion and different levels of involvement among them. Some will move from opposition to substantial change, through pessimism and neutrality, to enthusiastic support for radical change. Some will resort to violence. Not all will move in the same direction or at the same time.
Currently, and for some time yet in the struggle, divisions will continue to occur around what political party to elect to the democratic forums of society. The dominant ideology of bourgeois societies promotes the illusion that the power in Capitalist society is exclusively focussed in the democratic arenas of Parliaments and Congresses. For this reason many, if not most workers, despite their cynicism toward politicians in general, for some time to come, will look towards a parliamentary solution to the crisis.
These political divisions, will be actively promoted and manipulated by the ruling elites and their agents in the press and elsewhere. The task of revolutionary anti-capitalists is not to exacerbate or cause these divisions themselves. Where they exist and/or develop, they should work positively to help overcome them. The tactics of genuine united fronts or solidarity committees should be the ones promoted, not for sectarian or party advantage, but for promoting the unity and solidarity of the working and oppressed sections of society.
Nor is the role of revolutionary anti-capitalists to distance themselves from reformist tendencies or condemn them out of hand. The workers and oppressed, like any other section of society, do not always learn from history or theory, but from their own direct experiences. For some, illusions in Parliamentary solutions will only be dispelled by experiencing actual events. At all stages, revolutionary anti-capitalists, should of course, explain the lessons of history to those who do not know them but at the same time be patient with those who do not immediately accept them. At each stage of the struggle, active solidarity with other workers in their various struggles should be the positively promoted aim – even if unity of purpose cannot be achieved immediately.
Lessons from previous transformative struggles.
Only when faced with extreme circumstances do the masses openly risk their lives in challenging a system which has considerable power over them. In past revolutions, only through a combination of desperateness, experience of divisions, along with betrayal by a succession of ‘leaders’, did it finally dawn on the masses, that they would have been better to trust only themselves. Such past realisations came about by the exposure of the real motives of those who abused their efforts, sacrifices and used their support to elevate themselves to power. For many in past revolutions, this realisation came to too late and the circumstances were not such as to allow them a second chance.
After the exertions, losses and injuries during past revolutionary contests, the poor and oppressed were returned to a life of toil and hardship under a new form of ruling elite. This was true of the bourgeois revolutions of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries as well as the supposedly working class revolutions of the 20th. Revolutions, involve large-scale class forces, and these large forces do not necessarily follow the advice and recommendations of political groups or organisations. Neither do revolutionary situations unfold in ways that even the most perceptive observers and participants envisage.
Any careful study of the transformative revolutions of the past, the English, the French, the American and the Russian, will confirm that these epoch-changing revolutions did not follow a general pattern, nor were the high-profile participants always in control of events or aware of how things were unfolding. Indeed, even where there were acknowledged ’leaders’ these individuals were more often than not swept along and were following events rather than leading them. [See for example ‘The Revolutionary Party; Help or Hindrance’] Indeed, such ‘leaders’ were only allowed to fulfil such popular roles as long as they fulfilled the expectations of the dominant active forces. And yet all too frequently one periods ’revolutionary leaders’ became the next periods dictators – Cromwell, Robespierre, Lenin, Stalin, Mao. [See Marxism versus Marx‘]
Present and future tasks.
The intellectual and theoretical tasks of revolutionary anti-capitalists are to communicate the lessons of past struggles to the new generations of workers and oppressed. The practical tasks are to work with these class forces to promote solidarity for their various struggles, and where relevant and possible, achieve unity in purpose. However, the impossibility of achieving a unity of purpose during one period should not preclude immediate comradely solidarity and thus leave the door open to future unity of action. Only sectarians would demand a singleness of ideas and purposes, corresponding to their own viewpoint, in order to be involved in, or express, solidarity with other struggling workers.
Despite recent attempts to challenge sectarianism and dogma, both are still prevalent characteristics among the anti-capitalist ranks. This milieu, comprising of many competing sects, has in the main adopted arrogant assumptions about its own groups abilities and importance. Each such sect still seem to think it has the capability to understand and lead workers in struggle up to and including the revolutionary transformation of capitalism into a post-capitalist society. So confident are some in their ideological ‘correctness’ that they will stand aside from the real struggles of workers if the workers choose not to follow their lead. [See ‘Sectarianism and the General Strike’.]
In contrast, the non-sectarian type of orientation can be stated in the following very general terms. Any group of people (even a large group) being targeted for attack would be foolish to engage a much larger hostile group, while millions of their potential supporters, had not yet prepared themselves or were engaged in other actions. Nor would a sensible group alienate groups of potential supporters simply because at a certain moment in time these potential supporters did not see the situation in an identical way. Indeed, in such circumstances, all manner of friendly interactions should be pursued which kept open the present and/or future possibilities of defensive collaboration, including support for their struggles, even when these are viewed as less important.
Grass roots forms of self-organisation.
The generalised principle above can be translated into the specifics of Greece, any other European country, in the Middle East, North Africa or elsewhere in the Capitalist world. For revolutionary anti-capitalists in Greece, it currently translates into adopting appropriate forms of solidarity with those workers currently voting for left reformist policies, whilst reminding (not haranguing or berating) them of the dangers this poses and the need for creating their own forms of organisation and solidarity. These forms will be necessary because the real power of the capitalist class, is in the economic and financial spheres of society, backed up by the bourgeois legal system and the armed military power of the state.
Any success, in gaining Parliamentary type control by a party or parties seriously dedicated to a radical or anti-capitalist position, will be met not only with Machiavellian intrigues and physical opposition, but also with the force of the real power of the capitalist class and its state. So, as already noted, a task for revolutionary anti-capitalists is to advocate and actively support the formation of appropriate forms of grass-roots organisational solidarity and unity wherever possible. [See ‘Form and Essence’ in the Anti-capitalist Struggle’] Our task also involves exposing the machinations of the economic, financial and political elite. In addition it means being receptive to innovative forms of struggle by workers and others. And finally it involves suggesting such non-sectarian and non-dogmatic practices to those anti-capitalists who are currently trapped in their historically determined sectarian habits.
For there is something incredibly bizarre in the outpourings of the divided, dogmatic and sectarian anti-capitalist left offering their often conflicting advice to workers in struggle, when they cannot seriously address their own shortcomings. Their inherited vanguardist ambitions and elitist traditions too often result in the elevation of their sectarian ideas over the needs and the actual course of the class struggle. This invariably means they measure reality of the class struggle by how much it adheres to their ideas, rather than evaluating their ideas by how much they adhere to the complex needs of solidarity and the unfolding reality of class struggle.
The 19th century motto of internationalism was;
‘Workers (now white collar and blue) of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains’
If this is still relevant, and I suggest it is, then revolutionary anti-capitalists should continue to promote it and add to it another;
‘Anti-capitalist sectarians of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your dogma and irrelevance.’
Roy Ratcliffe (June 2012)