1990s >> 1996 >> no-1097-january-1996

Editorial: Class Struggle Back on the Agenda

Over recent years commentators, left and right, have argued that the phenomenon of "class struggle" has become an anachronism – something that died with the bad old days of the 70s. Those on the right have actively supported the subsequent attacks on the working class (mass unemployment, poorer conditions at work, etc.) as being a price worth paying for the "national interest". Those apologists for capitalism the left have floundered around condemning the "evils of Thatcherism", forgetting previous experiences of Labour governments and losing in the battle of ideas to the "realists" on the right.

Real socialists have remained resolute in our analysis of society. Capitalism is based upon the class antagonism between Capital and Labour. Although class struggle has operated at a relatively low level for so long, we have always maintained that this central feature of capitalist society will not go away while capitalism remains.

The explosion of popular unrest in France is testimony to this. As the economic crisis in capitalism forces France to cut its social spending – exacerbated by its move towards a single currency. The commentators who have previously written off "class struggle" have been forced to sit up and take note.

Workers everywhere can take heart from these developments. The working class in France has demonstrated not only working people acting as a class – but the power that class has in society.

This doesn't mean that socialism is around the corner or indeed that this is even the beginning of the end of capitalism.

This struggle is dominated by defensive reformist ideas and reformist institutions such as the trade unions. The positive point is that within such an atmosphere the potential for revolutionary ideas to spread is increased. This will mean workers breaking with reformist ideology (as indeed some have shown) and realising the only alternative is the political solution of world socialism.

There is no shortcut to this goal. It can only occur when the majority of the working class organise for it and achieve political power democratically.

Without this, struggles like the one in France will just become dates in the turbulent history of capitalism.

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