Review of book about the CNT’s integration into the State

May 2024 Forums Events and announcements Review of book about the CNT’s integration into the State

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  • #243729
    ZJW
    Participant

    “Not that there’s anything to disagree with”

    If the blurb is accurate, there’s plenty to disagree with.

    “… as people engage in activity, they simultaneously change the world and themselves… the means that revolutionaries propose to achieve social change have to involve forms of activity which transform people into individuals who are capable of, and driven to, both overthrow capitalism and the state and build a free society.”

    This hasn’t worked in the past, it isn’t working now and there’s no reason to suppose that it will be more successful in the future.

    ALB here https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/forum/topic/a-comrade-of-may-1968/#post-206377 framed the matter basically as revolution preceding ideas vs ideas preceding revolution. I.e. the SPGB notion of majority-socialist-consciousness necessary *before* revolution can occur, *not* something that comes about through/during class struggle and/or the act of revolution itself.

    Amusingly, the Western Socialist in 1948 published an article by Pannekoek in which he says: ‘The strikers themselves may not be aware of it — neither are most socialists– they may have no intention to be revolutionary, but they are. And gradually consciousness will come up of what they are doing intuitively, out of necessity; and it will make the actions more direct and more efficient.’

    https://www.marxists.org/archive/pannekoe/1948/strikes.htm

    #243730
    ZJW
    Participant

    […] why don’t you tell the SPGB what it is doing wrong? […]

    Excellent point!

    Lizzie:

    1) How would you ‘fix’ or change the SPGB?

    2) Better yet, what ostensibly socialist/communist group (either marx- or anarchist- based) do you find yourself in agreement with?

    How are these post-anarchist/post-marxists? https://swiderstand.blackblogs.org/ueber-uns

    • This reply was modified 12 months ago by ZJW.
    #243747
    Lizzie45
    Participant

    Lizzie:

    1) How would you ‘fix’ or change the SPGB?

    2) Better yet, what ostensibly socialist/communist group (either marx- or anarchist- based) do you find yourself in agreement with?

    ZJW:

    1) I’ve already given my answer in #243575

    2) I’m not associated with any party or group: I have some ‘sympathy’ with the SPGB’s position although I think the global ‘working class’ is extremely unlikely to emancipate itself.

    There is far greater certainty that the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies will eventually collide.

    #243751
    ALB
    Keymaster

    I think that’s scheduled for sone 50 billion years, isn’t it? You can’t really think that capitalism can last that long. Given that world socialism is the only way forward beyond capitalism, I would have thought that we can be fairly certain that socialism will have been established — on other planets besides Earth — tens of billions of years before that.

    #243754
    Lizzie45
    Participant

    I think that’s scheduled for sone 50 billion years, isn’t it?

    Well no, considering that Andromeda is approaching us (Milky Way) at an estimated velocity of 110 kilometres a second, much sooner than that.

    But you’re missing the point. I was attempting to use a rhetorical flourish to contrast the genuine science of astrophysics with the pseudoscience of historical materialism.

    In any case other events may well intervene (nuclear annihilation, climate catastrophe) long before the proles get around to liberating themselves.

    …on other planets besides Earth…

    Which ones did you specifically have in mind?

    #243756
    ALB
    Keymaster

    If all you were trying to say was that accurate predictions in physics and astrophysics are easier than in fields which involve human action then you are not saying anything new. But if historical materialism is “unscientific” on that account, then so are a lot of other theories, including the view that capitalism will be the only game in town for ever or at least for the next million years.

    The “collision” between those two galaxies is more certain than the other two futures to socialism that you mention (nuclear annihilation, climate catastrophe — you forgot to mention, an asteroid hitting earth or, the latest, a super-intelligent robot killing off the human race). Does that mean they have to be discounted as “unscientific”?

    Anyway, none of these would invalidate historical materialism even if they made socialism impossible. It would still be the case that the basis of any human society would be how its members are organised to survive and the means at their disposal to do so, and that societies change as this does, especially technology.

    Other planets? Mars would be the obvious one in our solar system but I was thinking more of some of the planets in other solar systems that astrophysicists are always identifying. After all, you were talking of something that will happen in billions of years. Humans haven’t existed even for a half a million years. I imagine that even in a million years it should be possible for humans to visit some of those planets (don’t ask me how). In fact, they might even find that socialism already exists in some of them. So obvious is it that the absence of private property over productive resources and cooperative production and allocation of wealth directly to meet the needs of society’s members is the best way for a technologically-advanced society to survive

    #243759
    Lizzie45
    Participant

    If all you were trying to say was that accurate predictions in physics and astrophysics are easier than in fields which involve human action then you are not saying anything new. But if historical materialism is “unscientific” on that account, then so are a lot of other theories, including the view that capitalism will be the only game in town for ever or at least for the next million years

    It’s not a question of whether predictions in some fields are easier than in others but rather a case of whether they are falsifiable or not. For any hypothesis to have credence, it must be inherently disprovable before it can become accepted as a scientific hypothesis or theory.

    I don’t recall saying that capitalism will be the only game in town for ever but on the evidence thus far it should be fairly apparent that it’s still going to be around for a very long time.

    And it’s time the human race probably doesn’t have due to any of the potential reasons both of us have enumerated.

    #243761
    Lew
    Participant

    It’s not a question of whether predictions in some fields are easier than in others but rather a case of whether they are falsifiable or not. For any hypothesis to have credence, it must be inherently disprovable before it can become accepted as a scientific hypothesis or theory.

    For a critique of this view see “Popper” in An A-Z of Marxism:

    An A to Z of Marxism

    #243762
    ALB
    Keymaster

    I see you are a partisan of the theory of science from someone who came from your part of the world, Karl Popper. I imagine that that’s what they teach people studying the “natural sciences”: that a proposition is not even a hypothesis (but “unscientific”) unless it can be falsified; in fact that all scientific theories are hypotheses that are either being confirmed or falsified.

    That makes sense for the “natural sciences” but is more problematic for the “social sciences”. Even so, socialist propositions are falsifiable in Popper’s sense. For example, the proposition that capitalism cannot be made to work in the interest of the working class. This is falsifiable even though in fact it is being continually confirmed.

    The proposition that only socialism can solve the problems facing the working class is also falsifiable in principle, though it could only be tested once socialism is established. If socialism did not solve the housing problem or the poverty problem or war, etc, etc then it would be falsified. So it is at least a scientific hypothesis even if not yet a confirmed theory.

    #243783
    pgb
    Participant

    ALB says: “…the proposition that capitalism cannot be made to work in the interest of the working class…is falsifiable even though it is being continually confirmed.”
    ——————————————————————————————————-
    It is only being “continually confirmed” if you accept the SPGB conception of “working class interest” which is what the SPGB believes the working class interest ought to be (its “true interest”) rather than what it is in reality (as expressed by workers themselves). Your proposition is true only in a logical or analytic sense given your concept of working class interest, which in your eyes is a single interest in the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of socialism. The recent local elections in the UK, where the SPGB candidate in Folkestone and Hythe received 0.12% of the overall vote, could suggest that whatever the SPGB thinks, the working class, by voting to support capitalism, does believe that capitalism can be made to work in the interest of the working class, and that your proposition, though falsifiable, is false.

    #243784
    ALB
    Keymaster

    You don’t need to tell us that most workers (who vote) currently vote for candidates who support capitalism but I don’t know where you get that figure of 0.12 percent from.

    As you can see from the results in the two wards that we contested, in the one 1471 people voted (45 of whom used one of their two votes to vote for us) and in the other 2501 voted (81 of whom used one of their three votes to for us). I make that 3 percent and 3.2 percent respectively.

    Put differently, that’s 1 in every 33 voters. Not as bad as your figure of 1 in a 1000.

    https://www.folkestone-hythe.gov.uk/downloads/file/4461/declaration-of-results-folkestone-harbour-folkestone-hythe-district-council-

    https://www.folkestone-hythe.gov.uk/downloads/file/4463/declaration-of-results-folkestone-central-folkestone-hythe-district-council-

    #243787
    pgb
    Participant

    Yes. My mistake. I Googled Folkestone and Hythe and misread the figures which were for the 2019 general election. I have just re-entered 2023 F & H council election results. The figures I get are different to yours however. In Folkstone Central the SPGB candidate received 81 votes out of a total of 6,883 votes cast, which gives a figure of 1.2% for the SPGB. In Folkestone Harbour the SPGB candidate received 45 votes out of a total of 2,788 votes cast, which gives a figure of 1.6% for the SPGB. I have no direct experience of UK Council elections so maybe I am missing something here.

    #243789
    ALB
    Keymaster

    You are missing that in these local elections voters have more than one vote (two in one of the wards and three in the other). The number of ballot papers returned, representing the number of individual voters, was 1471 in one the case and 2501 in the other. This is the figure to be used to calculate how many voters cast one for their votes for the socialist party candidate.

    #243791
    ALB
    Keymaster

    To return to the your point, just because those who vote for parties that support capitalism doesn’t mean that they therefore consider capitalism to be in their interest.

    They could (and some will) just be accepting that capitalism is the only game in town and voting for one or other of the capitalist parties in the hope of getting a slightly better deal under capitalism; making the best of a bad deal. I would hazard a guess that up to as much as 20 percent think that the profit system is not in their best interest. It’s only a guess but I don’t think that those who vote for a non-socialist candidate can all be said to think that the present system is in their interest.

    And then there are those who don’t vote — 70 percent in local elections as in Folkestone, some 1 in 3 in national elections. They have come to realise that “changing governments changes nothing”. How can they be counted as people who consider the profit system to be in their interest?

    When I said that capitalism cannot be made to work in the interest of the working class, I was using “interest” to mean their interest is solving the problems they face — as over wages, pensions, benefits, housing, health care, transport, education, etc, etc — and which the vote-catching politicians are always promising to solve; that capitalism cannot satisfy their material needs properly. I was not talking about their interest in getting rid of capitalism as it’s a system based on their exploitation for profit and replacing it by socialism and production directly for use not profit.

    I would say that our view that capitalism cannot be reformed so as to work for the benefit of the wage-working majority was the strongest and most irrefutable part of our case. It’s been confirmed time and time again as even reformist government have been forced by the economic laws of capitalism to put profits first, to the detriment of the majority of wage workers and their dependents.

    Capitalism is a system that runs in profits; which is why making profits always comes first, before meeting people’s needs properly. It is the cause of the problem wage workers face that the politicians try in vain to solve.

    #243826
    pgb
    Participant

    The problem with the word “interest’ is that it carries many different meanings. Does it relate to needs, wants, desires, intentions etc? What interests are objective, and what are subjective? I used the word to mean revealed preferences, so that all aims actually pursued by a person can be regarded as “in their interest”. This was only to highlight the way in which socialists often refer to “working class interests as their “real” or “true” interest and ignore what workers actually say or reveal as to what their interests are. Using “real interest” in this sense can often carry implications which can be seen as paternalistic (or in some contexts, sinister). However, you have made clear that you are using “interest” to mean “an interest in solving problems (workers) face. ”

    The question raised here is an empirical one: Does capitalism satisfy workers’ material needs and solve their problems? You list wages, pensions, benefits, housing, health care, transport, education etc. etc. With the arguable exception of education, these are material interests. The pursuit of material interests in capitalist societies is closely related to the relative prosperity of capitalist economies. I don’t think capitalism has to meet your high standards of “meeting people’s needs properly (?)” for it to be accepted by workers (even if they say it is not in their “interest”). It appears to me that the working class in advanced capitalist societies has nothing against capitalism so long as it is relatively prosperous, and it has been sufficiently prosperous thus far to ensure there is no great demand for socialism.

    Many, certainly most socialists, would rightly deny this by pointing to the very uneven spread of general prosperity leaving some people to live insecure and impoverished lives. This is true. But in terms of providing pressure for socialism, these groups are negligible. For most workers, the solution to these problems is not socialism, as you insist, but more welfare state capitalism. Prosperity, at least in advanced capitalist states, has been sufficient to meet the material needs of workers. And being sufficient is enough to allow capitalism to survive.

    Fairly clearly, I must disagree with your statement that “capitalism cannot be reformed so as to work for the benefit of the wage-working majority.” In the eyes of the majority of workers, this is not so. You are giving a meaning to “benefit’ that most people don’t share and therefore they would be right to reject your claim that your statement is “the strongest and most irrefutable part of (the SPGB) case”.

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