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March 14, 2012 at 1:11 am #86510alanjjohnstoneKeymaster
Old Grey – Socialist consciousness comes from life experience, but then that automatically implies that every worker should achieve it, that it should have happened by now. I also see another problem. It leads to a belief of the old “historical inevitability” of socialism, that inevitably people will come around to becoming socialists. That would indeed leave no role for a Socialist Party. We can join a Party and then watch revolution unfold before our eyes. However many have not accepted this inevitability and wonder what exactly is our role? Where do we “intervene” to raise consciousness and how do we intervene? What practical measures can we take as a Party? We ask why are not more people achieving this consciousness?We do not minimise the importance of the worker keeping up the struggle to maintain the wage-scale, resisting cuts, etc. After all, a working class that can’t defend itself is also a working class that is incapable of making a revolution. Communists will not bring consciousness to the working class from the outside but it will be developed in its struggles to defend itself against the inevitable intensification of the attacks against it. The economic crisis (like war, etc.) can provide a stimulus for class struggle, but this is not always the case. The liberation of our class will only come about we, the class ourselves for ourselves do the hard work of organising, which needs we class conscious workers doing the equally hard work of convincing our fellow workers. Marx said “Philosophers have only tried to understand the world. The point is to change it.” The IWW wrote “Don’t moan, Organise!” There’s nothing inevitable about this and if the working class cannot rise to the occasion overall it will be defeated. And usully it has been. For decades self-proclaimed “marxists” (usually Trotskyists but previously those like the CP and ILP in the 30s) fetishised the word “crisis”, and describe every economic downturn and political turn of events as the “crisis of capitalism”, prophesising the “inevitable” end of capitalism – the more shit happens – the closer we are to revolution. Some welcome the economic crisis of capitalism and claim there is no perspective of revolution without it. It is argued that crises opens up the possibility of revolution, it doesn’t guarantee it. But without crisis there is no possibility whatsoever. The worse conditions become – the more politicised and inclined to take direct action the populace become. They argue that crises make people angry and more susceptible to revolutionary ideas. This is an over optimistic (utopian?) wish fulfilment mixed with crude determinism. The track records of crises are such that they have not produced a lasting positive effect on any attempts to eclipse the current method of organising society. It may be recessions just lead to despair, fatalism, acceptance of misery and cynicism to things getting better. Upturns in the economy make revolution more likely because it is the human condition never to be satisfied and when you’ve got the job, house, wages, car and all the mod cons then you want more – security, control over your own life which can only be got by workers ownership and control of our own work, residents ownership of their own homes and individuals control over our lives, all of which can only be got by anarchist communism (or whatever you wanna call it) by way of social revolution.What will happen is the working class will be beat down more than it already has been in the last 30 years or so. The working class is mostly under the sway of bourgeois ideology, is not organised even into class fighting organizations, and therefore will not be able to even hint at threatening the bourgeoisie’s power. After all, the Great Depression produced no revolutionary upsurge and the appalling conditions of workers in the 3rd world haven’t automatically led to revolution either. But most of the communist left seems to be hold the vague hope that the working class will engage in some kind of spontaneous communist revolution. Yet what we can actually expect to see reactionary ideology make a resurgence, even amongst the working class, in the midst of a crisis. If the working class is not already prepared, it will just get beaten up more badly than it has been for the last 30 years. In some circumstances it can demoralise the class or, even if the class struggles it can be dragged onto bourgeois terrain like the strikers in France in the 30s who supported leftist governments and marched under the national flag. Despite the considerable militancy, the class struggle was contained. The very fact that the bourgeoisie were able to go to war demonstrated their success in that endeavor. Economic crisis and increasing misery for the working class doesn’t necessarily and inevitably lead to revolution. Relying upon the effects of the crisis seems to be the lazy way to try and approach social change, scrap all the groundwork and hope the crisis does it for you. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That is our basic function – to develop alternatives, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable. The best we can hope for is to use this as an opportunity to re-group, in order to get the working class in a stronger position to start from when the boom returns.But the end of the day however, as pro-revolutionaries, it is not in our interest to try and save capitalism but rather to destroy it. Unlike some in the Occupy Movement who denounce finance capitalism as the main enemy is to side with industrial capital in the struggle between the two over how much each is to get of the wealth produced by the worker class.As revolutionaries being such a small minority, we can’t do much more than keep on arguing that the only way-out is to replace capitalism by a system based on common ownership (instead of class ownership) and production solely for use (instead of production for profit) and to keep on urging workers to self-organise themselves democratically to bring this social revolution about. We have to make available the right ideas, in sufficent depth and breadth, so that they can be picked up and used. But until that time comes it is just like pissing against the wind. Not a very morale raising prospect.I don’t want it seem that i am anti-Occupy Movement. I do find many things positive about it. Struggles should be aimed towards achieving real gains for the sake of those gains and about delivering an increased confidence, autonomy, initiative, participation, solidarity, egalitarian tendencies and self-activity. Workers benefit from their struggles in terms of learning how to organise, discovering their collective power, etc. The generalisation of struggle by elements of th Occupy Movement will make that harder for governments and capitalists to off-load gains made by one sector of workers onto other sectors of workers and can potentially push back the austerity measures accross a wider front at least on a temporary basis. The current Occupy struggles develop on an independent, self-organised and extend accross national boundaries may well give rise to an escalation of the class struggle, but only in the context that it starts to challenge capitalism as a whole from a position of some class strength. Only the self-organisation of the whole proletariat and that necessarily requires the trade unions contains the potential to defend its own interests both in the short-term economic and the longer term political.Marx said in the Holy Family:”Not in vain does it go through the stern but steeling school of labour. It is not a question of what this or that proletarian, or even the whole proletariat, at the moment regards as its aim. It is a question of what the proletariat is, and what, in accordance with this being, it will historically be compelled to do. Its aim and historical action is visibly and irrevocably foreshadowed in its own life situation as well as in the whole organization of bourgeois society today.” – Consciousness is something that workers has to acquire, even if it does not want to.And apologies Stuart for the length. Constructing replies helps me to clarify my own perspectives. Selfish, i know!March 14, 2012 at 2:38 am #86511March 14, 2012 at 9:09 am #86512robbo203Participant
As far as the Occupy Movement is concerned, well, here in Spain we have the Democracy Now movement – or 15M (15th of May 2011) Movement which preceded the OM and sparked similar protests in other parts of Europe. I attended several of the encampment meetings and also went on two or three of the marches last year in my local city of Granada. I posted some observations on the WSM forum at the time.I was quite frankly amazed by the sheer size of the turnout and the heterogeneity of the participants – not just your usual student activists. There might well have been one or two veterans from the Spanish Civil war there as well . All this in a relatively small and conservative city such as GranadaThe protests were particularly directed against the banking fraternity and corrupt politicians and, of course, here in Spain, which has been particularly badly affected by the crisis – unemployment is around 21% and higher in Andalucia where I live – almost every day we see on the news cases of protests against banks repossessing homes. My partner, Ana, who is Spanish and a native of Granada, told me that apparently up until quite recently even if your home was repossessed you were still liable to make mortgage repayments which is absolutely outrageous when you think about it. So if you default on a small mortgage these bastards not only took possession of an asset that could be worth several times the mortgage but continued to milk the unfortunate ex owner. Its only recently that the law has been changed and you now have the option of “volunteering” to hand over your property to these rip off merchants and thus washing your hands of the debt. . You can kinda understand the anger people feel. Anyway I digress. The thing is about the 15M movement which incidentally made its presence felt throughout Spain and of course particularly in Barcelona and Madrid (and even in little pueblos like Orgiva in the Alpujarras where I used to live) is that the immediate impression one got was one of raw anger being expressed against the system. There wasn’t much in the way of a clearly formulated list of demands to begin with – that came later. There was also a clear determination of keep the movement out of the hands of political parties of all stripes and there was a scrupulous and very open commitment to democratic procedures which I witnessed myself at the big encampment meetings in the town hall square. That, on its own, made the whole thing a quite positive experience. But there was one other thing which I reported on the WSM forum which was perhaps quite significant. At one of these meetings – and we are talking about many hundreds, if not thousands, of people participating – there was an extended discussion about the concept of a society without money . Yes,thats right – you read it right in the first place! A society without money. Bit different from the money crank schemes being discussed at Occupy London, eh? I did not unfortunately attend this particular meeting – I think I was still working at the time – but Ana went and told me about it, afterwards. To say I was gobsmacked would be an understatement. Indeed the following day we met a young woman handing out leaflets in the streets with whom we had a long and fruitful discussion about the previous day’s proceedings. Understandably, this has coloured my perception of the movement and it has certainly convinced me that the potential exists in movements like Democracy Now or Occupy to move in a revolutionary direction. Inevitably though the list of reformist demands came to the fore. The government must do this , the government must do that etc etc. Which is all very well but when the government does not do this or that but ,on the contrary , with the crisis deepening, cuts back on spending even more as a way of getting out of the crisis, what then?This is what is so damnably frustrating about it all. I personally don’t think just being there and saying that “reformism is not the answer” and that “only the revolutionary transformation of society will do”, is enough. This is the kind of glass ceiling approach of the Party. Its right in one way but is wrong in another. People may be come to accept the abstract or theoretical argument but remain unconvinced and utterly incredulous. Its all very well in the long run but what solution does it offer to our immediate problems in the here and now?Frankly, I’m becoming more and more convinced that the way out of this particular impasse lies in certain forms of direct action that get round the problem of reformism and its ultimately futile cap-in-hand approach to governments. I am not suggesting that this is something the SPGB should get involved in in a practical sense – this is something for only individual socialists to get involved in, not socialist parties – but as with other things, its a question of political stance or attitude. I vaguely recall an old issue of the Socialist Standard (from the bad old says of 70s?) severely attacking forms of direct action such as the squatters movement in the most trenchant terms. In retrospect, such attitudes have no place in a revolutionary socialist party. None at all. I hope and trust things are different today The attitude of a revolutionary socialist party towards something like the squatters movement should be precisely the same as its attitude towards trades unions – they are a good thing and they are necessary. Here in Spain there are nearly 4 millions empty homes . It is an absolutely disgusting state of affairs that this should be the case while thousands of families are being booted out of their own homes by the banks. Instead of asking or pleading with governments to enact measures to regulate the activities of the banker barons we should go straight for the jugular. Take possession of the homes they have repossessed. Make the costs of protecting these financial criminals too excessive for the state to bear and radically change the climate of opinion in which they are allowed to carry out their criminal acts with relative impunity A squatters movement won’t bring about a revolutionary change of society – of course – but it does address something which a revolutionary socialist party is unable by its very nature to address – which is what to do in the “here and now”. And it does do it . moreover on terms that do not draw it into the quicksand of reformism., I really think the time for a reassessment ands reappraisal of the tactics of direct actions is long overdue within WSM circles….March 14, 2012 at 9:54 am #86513DJPParticipantBrian wrote:All formulations are mechanistic by default.
I thought you where going to say “comes from” implies “can only be one way”. In Roslyn Bologh’s text it says “grounded in” this is probably less open to misinterpretation but a bit more accedemic in style.So, ALL formulations are mechanistic? I don’t think this can be the case, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to say anything at all without it being mechanistic.March 14, 2012 at 9:56 am #86514AnonymousInactiverobbo203 wrote:This is the kind of glass ceiling approach of the Party.
Speaking of which………….this coming Sunday (March 18th)”Beyond the Glass Ceiling”http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/event/beyond-glass-ceiling-londonhttps://london.indymedia.org.uk/events/11875March 14, 2012 at 10:01 am #86515AnonymousInactive
Alanin reply to your first paragraph . It is the power of the media that is preventing class consiousness. The fact is workers have NOT heard the socialist case and the bits and pieces of the case that they have heard has been countered and stamped on by the capitalist media. As I said earlier – all the information is there the capitalists can’t hide that . If the working class enmasse heard the socialist case there would be a Gestalt shift in their perception of capitalism. It is not about determinism and free will . Capitalism creates its own grave diggers (determinism?) but at the moment they are being kept in the dark by their class enemies (free will?)March 14, 2012 at 10:02 am #86516ALBKeymasterrobbo203 wrote:I vaguely recall an old issue of the Socialist Standard (from the bad old says of 70s?) severely attacking forms of direct action such as the squatters movement in the most trenchant terms. In retrospect, such attitudes have no place in a revolutionary socialist party. None at all. I hope and trust things are different today
Actually, Robin, your memory (or rather folk myths about the Party in the past) has got it the wrong way round. The article you are referring to appeared in the April 1969 Socialist Standard entitled “Squatters and the Housing Problem” actually said:Quote:The Socialist Party supports the efforts of workers to improve their housing conditions under capitalism — even by squatting. But socialists also point out that there is no solution`to the housing problem inside capitalism, and even if the agitation of those who support the squatters suceeds for the families they are now trying to help, future generations will still face the same misery and hardship of homelessness. Only in a society in which production is carried on solely to satisfy human wants, without anyone having to worry about where next week’s rent or next month’s mortgage repayment is coming from, will the housing problem find a solution.(my italics)
You are right to the extent that some EC and Party members complained about this, but the statement stood.So, it was not a case of the Party saying that socialists did not support squatting and those members who weren’t against it complaining, but of the Party saying it did and those members who were against it (or at least against saying that the Party did) complaining.On the anectodal level, I remember one party member and his partner who were squatting, but not for any revolutionary end, just to save up money to pay for a mortgage. Later on, there were actually a couple of Party squats (well, squats composed of Party members) in London. I wasn’t one of them but the current Party Treasurer was. The mid-60s to the mid-70s were in fact the good old days !March 14, 2012 at 10:25 am #86517AnonymousInactive
And the difference between squatters attempting to prevent homelessness and Occupy to prevent cuts in health and social security is………March 14, 2012 at 1:17 pm #86518March 14, 2012 at 1:31 pm #86519AnonymousInactiveTheOldGreyWhistle wrote:And the difference between squatters attempting to prevent homelessness and Occupy to prevent cuts in health and social security is………
Well, for one thing, I don’t recall anyone getting particularly excited about the squatters movement and saying it was the beginning of a social revolution.March 14, 2012 at 3:10 pm #86520AnonymousInactivegnome wrote:TheOldGreyWhistle wrote:And the difference between squatters attempting to prevent homelessness and Occupy to prevent cuts in health and social security is………
Well, for one thing, I don’t recall anyone getting particularly excited about the squatters movement and saying it was the beginning of a social revolution.
I mean as far as SPGB support goesMarch 14, 2012 at 4:29 pm #86521AnonymousInactiveTheOldGreyWhistle wrote:I mean as far as SPGB support goes
What do we mean by “support”? Is this active or passive support? Are we talking about socialists as individuals or The Socialist Party as an organisation? We have to adopt an anti-reformist approach (which is not the same as an anti-this-or-that reform) as a “general line” otherwise we are on the slippery slope towards becoming yet another leftist capitalist party. This means that we have to clearly understand what reformism entails i.e. political activity via the state to modify the economic behaviour of capitalism.We face a genuine dilemma here – if we go down the road of actively supporting these reformist-type organisations where will this lead? Somewhere, somehow, a line has to be drawn. Reformism signifies the abandonment of the revolutionary goal. It is the antithesis of revolutionary intent.It would be better, therefore, to avoid the use of the word “support” altogether. It inevitably leads to confusion and who really cares, in those organisations to which there have been references, whether The Socialist Party offers its “support” or not?March 14, 2012 at 5:04 pm #86522AnonymousInactive
“It inevitably leads to confusion and who really cares, in those organisations to which there have been references, whether The Socialist Party offers its “support” or not?”I think it matters. During the 1984 miners strike I was putting the case for socialism on the picket line and it would not help if the Standard tells them that socialists dont support you and your ‘leader’ is a con man etc etc. It is important that the SPGB doesnt appear to be the enemy of the working classDJP says above “reform or revolution does not mean that we should oppose all reforms (as the other SPGB seem to think) but that we should oppose reformism, the illusion that you can get to socialism by gradually stacking reforms one on top of the other.”Is there a difference between not opposing a reform and supporting it? What is the official party position? Is it the party position that we do not oppose ALL reforms. Did we support or oppose democracy in Poland or did we just not oppose it?I am not nit picking here. I think it is very importantMarch 14, 2012 at 5:09 pm #86523AnonymousInactive
As you can see I still havent mastered the quote thingyMarch 14, 2012 at 8:02 pm #86524DJPParticipantTheOldGreyWhistle wrote:Is there a difference between not opposing a reform and supporting it?
I would have thought supporting something would require something more pro-active than ‘not-opposing’ it.Individual reforms have to be judged on there own merit, it’s pure silliness to think anything else.I’ll let someone who was there at the time answer the Poland question but it should be remembered that the trade union leaders that led the solidarity movement only went on to be the administrators of the capitalist state.The ultimate and only way we can really ‘support’ the working class is by pointing out that the only way to end the endless treadmill of the class-struggle is to abolish the class society.
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