Is the workers movement dead? Are the problems of the present too great to overcome?

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Steven.
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Dec 5 2016 17:53
jesuithitsquad wrote:
I wish I could feel as hopeful as Steven. et al, and much like automation yes, the algorithms hold promise for re-use in a communist society. But I really don't think the notion that the new economy is more-or-less the same as casualization really appreciates the sinister undermining of the social contract that will occur if we are unable to fight back.

Don't get me wrong I didn't say I was hopeful. Nor did I say there wasn't a danger of casualisation (of any sort) undermining working conditions.

But I do stand by my central point which was that I don't think the "gig economy" represents anything new or unique.

For example, look at South Korea. They had a very well-organised, militant working class. But after the IMF got called in in the 1980s, workers got hammered, and now you have a big majority of the workforce who are all casual, on a fraction of the pay and conditions of their permanent colleagues. This did not need any apps. And standard casual work is much more useful for South Korean employers than "gig economy" work because they need factory and office workers to do long hours. They can't have people choosing their hours or doing shifts (the ability to choose your own hours is a pretty standard legal component to self-employment, at least in Europe).

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Of course it holds many things in common because it falls within the continuum of a line of attack on the working class. With casualization, in the US anyway, temp staff still maintain the minimal, basic protections labor law provides. Sure, you can be fired without cause in temp work. As Steven says, that's the case for most jobs in many states in the US anyway. However, if you were fired for an unlawful reason, you still have the ability to use the NLRB or local labor jurisdiction in order to punish the employer for breaking labor law. But in a gig contract, you have none of those protections because you literally are not an employee.

Sorry, but any legal protections for casual workers are not worth the paper they are written on. Hundreds of thousands of casual workers are terminated all the time, and the number who get any legal victory as a result are literally a handful (I'm only aware of one disabled worker who won compensation). In reality the only way you could win such a case is if an employer said "I'm sacking you because you are black (or gay etc)". And if an employer said this to a self-employed person, they could still sue.

I'm sure that legal protections for casual/agency workers in the US aren't any better than the UK (if anything they're probably worse).

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As myself and others have said, it is a jump back in time, before labor laws were in place. So perhaps we can make the argument that we've been here before, but in doing so, we also have to ackowledge that we essentially will have to refight many of the battles of the late 19th and early 20 th centuries just to maintain a status quo.

Again, this is always been the case. Reforms are never permanent. Sadly for the time being it's not even a matter of fighting to maintain the status quo, it's fighting to slow the rate of deterioration.

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Furthermore, as I mentioned above I don't think we appreciate just how much the social contract will be gutted due to the disappearing tax-base for social programs. There is no analog to this in casualization.

As a general point on this, as a communist I have no interest in how the state generates tax revenue. I don't know about the US but in the UK you pay tax based on your earnings, so self-employed people pay taxes, like employees (albeit in a different way). If anything, the gig economy increases tax revenues to the state as everything is electronic and auditable. Previously work like couriers (Deliveroo) and minicabs (Uber) were largely cash in hand, so people wouldn't pay tax.

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I've personally seen my potential earnings literally decimated as a result of the largest tech giant deciding that 100+ years of industry standards no longer apply because . . .new media. And no one--not even the massive organizations whose sole purpose for 100 years has been enforcing these standards against really big foes--can possibly afford to do a proper legal battle because even in a class action, you'd be buried in legal fees for a minimum of a decade.

Not sure what specific example you're talking of here, as I don't know what your industry is. But unfortunately new technology can always completely overhaul industry standards. For example mechanisation and automation destroyed the pay and conditions of many skilled manufacturing workers.

So far the new elements of the "gig economy" are mostly affecting areas which were dominated by ultra-casual self-employment anyway, like taxis and deliveries.

Other industries have been heavily dominated in this way for ages, but with a different label: for example construction (in the UK), truck driving and large parts of the tech sector.

And while in the UK the numbers of self-employed people has been going up (driven partly by the gig economy but perhaps more just by lack of traditional employment), in the US it's been falling for 20 years.

Spikymike
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Dec 5 2016 18:21

baboon take a swipe at Elpsy's comments regarding 'worker identity' but it struck me that there was some inconsistency regarding baboon's own use of this term as between his post no9 with it's reference to the '84 coal miner's strike and the relationship between 'worker identity' the NUM and corporatist identification and his later post no31? It 's possible to distinguish awareness of our working class existence and common interests and identification with our specific role as miners, steel workers, teachers, commuter operators, train drivers etc etc. So that changes in workers technical composition over time may be relevant to workers political composition and the strength of collective class struggle. Does that make sense?

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jesuithitsquad
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Dec 5 2016 19:43

Steven- -Thanks for your engagement on this. You make some interesting points, and I'll definitely take some time to mull over what you're saying. I suspect though that there are either some fundamental differences in the way this will impact the US vs UK and Europe or that we just aren't going to agree on this.

Like I said in my first post on this, my primary concern about the new economy is the question as to whether a combination of automation and extreme atomization reduces the revolutionary potential of the proletariat. It's going to be very tough to organize on the job if we don't have jobs or don't have co workers, and if capital no longer requires our labor our threat of withdrawing has the potential of losing it's importance. Others have given reasons to be less pessimistic, which I'm thankful for. I'm excited to read the Beverly Silver link. That said I think the 'there's nothing new about the new economy' approach is a misunderstanding of what we are facing, and I don't think it's going to match actual experiences.

As for the statistics you used, those numbers don't match what I've seen. This is a couple months old but was the last I've seen on it, saying 30% of US workforce engaged in contract work, with similar numbers in Europe.

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The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) estimates that the independent workforce is some 162 million people, up to 30% of the working-age population in the United States and most of Europe. Official UK figures bear this out, with almost five million people in the UK employed in this way.

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-37605643?ocid=socialflow_twitter

Steven wrote:
As a general point on this, as a communist I have no interest in how the state generates tax revenue. I don't know about the US but in the UK you pay tax based on your earnings, so self-employed people pay taxes, like employees (albeit in a different way). If anything, the gig economy increases tax revenues to the state as everything is electronic and auditable. Previously work like couriers (Deliveroo) and minicabs (Uber) were largely cash in hand, so people wouldn't pay tax.

So there must be a fundamental difference on the way the state collects taxes in the US. The reason this is important isn't because I care about the tax code or other minutia of the sort. It's because, at least in the US, the growth of this economy will either a) completely starve programs like Social Security and Medicare or b) represent a massive tax increase on working people.

A few posts back I laid out the way payroll taxes are collected in the US, and asked if the UK-Europe is similar. The employee pays a 7.5% payroll FICA tax and the employer pays a matching 7.5%. (FICA funds Medicare and Social Security). When one is classified as a contractor, he or she becomes responsible for both portions of the tax. Meaning, the contracting employer is completely off the hook for this contribution. Additionally, as a contractor, there are no automatic withholdings, and it is again the individual's responsibility to essentially save back the taxes they will owe annually. When one is on subsidence 'wages,' this becomes very difficult, if not impossible. Additionally, for hourly employees doing one's taxes at the end of the year is pretty simple. Contractor taxes are far more complicated and difficult.

Like I said in my first post on this, the tax situation is one more way in which the gig economy transfers the costs of labor reproduction away from employers and towards the individual, and this is not the case for temp employees. It seems fairly reasonable to assume that there will be far fewer taxes collected this way, representing a further attack on the social wage.

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Chilli Sauce
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Dec 5 2016 21:49

I take Steven's point on board that the changes brought on by the gig economy are part of the - what did Marx say? - the manner in which capitalism constantly revolutionizes the mean of production. But, while casualization or precarity removed worker protections, job security, and organization on the job it wasn't a fundamental re-classification of the employment status of a huge percentage of the working class. The gig economy seems like it has the potential to fundamentally re-define the terrains of class conflict unseen in the better part of century.

If I wanted to be a techno-optimist - just pretend I'm Paul Mason circa 2011 - I'd point out the way that gig economy workers have used things like WhatsApp to link up and organize struggles. But barring a massive wave of class activity, I think the dangers far outweight the potential.

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Dec 5 2016 22:39

Want to respond a bit more fully but only got a minute.

Chilli Sauce wrote:
I take Steven's point on board that the changes brought on by the gig economy are part of the - what did Marx say? - the manner in which capitalism constantly revolutionizes the mean of production. But, while casualization or precarity removed worker protections, job security, and organization on the job it wasn't a fundamental re-classification of the employment status of a huge percentage of the working class. The gig economy seems like it has the potential to fundamentally re-define the terrains of class conflict unseen in the better part of century.

Do you really think so?

I mean do you really think that employers will be able to have a large chunk of the workforce choosing our own hours and working when we please?

Employers were unable to casualise more than a pretty small minority of the workforce in Europe, using agency/casual/zero hours work, even though that gives them much more control than gig work. So what makes you think something which is even more flexible (for workers) would end up being more widespread?

That's even ignoring the legal issues. Because I mean on a legal front it's possible the gig economy could end up undermining bogus self-employment. Previously you had hundreds of minicab firms, all with bogusly self-employed drivers - which could never be challenged in the courts because it would mean thousands of drivers taking hundreds of different employers to court. Ditto with food delivery riders. But now companies like Uber and Deliveroo are essentially replacing loads of tiny employers with a couple of big ones, which can both potentially be challenged in court (and if they are will probably lose, as it's clear their workers are not self-employed). Not to mention that there is much greater potential to organise against one massive employer than hundreds of tiny ones.

Anyway will respond properly tomorrow hopefully.

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Dec 5 2016 22:43

Hey Steven-- just to say this is a really good point.

Quote:
That's even ignoring the legal issues. Because I mean on a legal front it's possible the gig economy could end up undermining bogus self-employment. Previously you had hundreds of minicab firms, all with bogusly self-employed drivers - which could never be challenged in the courts because it would mean thousands of drivers taking hundreds of different employers to court. Ditto with food delivery riders. But now companies like Uber and Deliveroo are essentially replacing loads of tiny employers with a couple of big ones, which can both potentially be challenged in court (and if they are will probably lose, as it's clear their workers are not self-employed). Not to mention that there is much greater potential to organise against one massive employer than hundreds of tiny ones.
Tom Henry
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Dec 6 2016 04:29
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"Is the workers’ movement dead? Are the problems of the present too great to overcome?"

For the West I think the consensus is that the workers’ movement is dead – therefore we have the critique of ‘programmatism’ by such as Theorie Communiste (see their explanation: https://libcom.org/library/who-are-we ) and Endnotes. However, as Steven and Serge Forward indicate, perhaps we should really not presume anything. On the other hand – maybe the question could be: was the workers’ movement any good in the first place?... particularly if, as Serge Forward notes, the telly is ‘worse than ever’!

As for ‘the problems of the present [perhaps being] too great to overcome’ I would mention a couple or three things. Firstly, what exactly are these problems (I know you, el psy congroo, list them but…) and when and how have these problems or problems like them been overcome before? I presume, though, by this second question you actually mean: is a ‘revolution’ possible? But this too needs qualification. Yes, a revolution is possible, Russia had one a century ago. Slavoj Zizek would like to lead one in the manner of Che Guevara in the near future. But these revolutions, and characters such as Guevara, have ultimately been recognised as ‘Stalinist’. So, no, as you (el psy congroo) indicate, there is no basis, no historical precedent, for the belief that a ‘true’ revolution is possible. (I will come to your question about ‘unity’ and ‘collective consciousness’ later.)

Marx himself, despite his assumed scientism, never said on what basis people would enter into free association with each other in communism – and we are left with only the moral imperative that it is the right thing to do. And this is, ultimately, no different to any other religious or moral solution to the human predicament in civilisation. And we have to remember that ‘our’ previous attempts at ‘revolution’ did not turn out very well.

I never could quite reconcile the twin tendencies within anarchism that indicate on the one hand that everyone should think and do for themselves, and on the other that people need to be enlightened, or have their consciousness raised. Do we believe that people must have their consciousness raised in order to be able to ‘do the right thing’? Does this consciousness-raising come about through individual and social experience or simply through being exposed to different ideas – or is it a combination of both? If revolutionaries think that peoples’ ideas change more through their experience then should those revolutionaries be trying to create and exacerbate situations in which people are exposed to ‘beneficial’ experiences – such as industrial or community disputes, riots, uprisings, war, poverty, misery, rising wealth, etc? If we wanted to create a similar situation to that of the sixties and seventies in Europe we might want to encourage greater wealth amongst the proletariat. If we wanted to recreate the situation that led to the European upheavals at the end of the first world war then we might encourage a world war, but we would probably have to build up a syndicalist union movement first. Should we all become left-accelerationists?

However, you also posit the idea that ‘communism’ may only be possible in the wake of a collapse of capitalism brought about by forces beyond the control of anyone. This line of thinking is often condemned by ‘revolutionaries’ on the basis that it might encourage people to give up doing anything and stay indoors. But you might also be thinking that ‘revolutionaries’ need to be ‘ready’ for this eventuality in order to make sure things don’t go ‘wrong’. If this is the case, then should ‘revolutionaries’ be trying to gather as many people to their cause as possible so that there are heaps of people around at the moment of the collapse of capitalism to guide the masses in the right direction? If this is the plan, then it’s not much different to plan A – which is to draw as many people to the cause as possible in order to help create the situation of revolutionary upheaval. Build The Party?

But perhaps more importantly, what are the consequences for ‘revolutionaries’ when they insist, however weakly, that one must not lose hope? How does such a pronouncement situate them socially and historically?

Maybe there is no ‘what is to be done’, maybe all we have available to us is an endless exploration of what doesn’t work or goes wrong, that is, what must, on reflection, not be done. Nothing does what it says it does on the tin. Everything, including ourselves, is always doing something else.

More on this theme:
http://luftschloesserverlag.tumblr.com/post/63120978567

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fingers malone
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Dec 6 2016 08:22
Steven. wrote:
The gig economy is just zero hours contracts or temp work with apps. In some ways it is better for workers than older types of casual work as it gives more flexibility to employees to choose their own hours etc.

I've only been formally self employed once, but I definitely didn't have any flexibility to choose my own hours. I worked the hours I was given same as in any other job. The only difference between that and normal employee working was that I was responsible for my own taxes.

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fingers malone
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Dec 6 2016 08:30
Steven. wrote:
So is it the final victory of the employers? In short, no, no more than any of those other equivalent schemes were. Apart from anything else in many jobs you need to give employees at least some sense of stability in order to get decent quality work out of them, particularly for any kind of skilled or creative job.

Well, this is one of the things that employers are demanding, and often successfully, that people work with a high level of commitment and do loads of unpaid overtime, but are not given that stability. That's how zero hours contracts work in teaching. We have all the same responsibilities as teachers on permanent contracts, but with much less security and half the pay.

I don't think the issue comparing zero hours contracts and gig economy has to be 'they are exactly the same/they are completely different' does it? Surely they are on a continuum, with some similarities and some differences. Also jobs and conditions vary hugely within these types of employment, being a zero hours teacher has its problems, but it's very different from being a zero hours worker in a warehouse or supermarket.

Tom Henry
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Dec 10 2016 12:53

El psy congroo asks:

Quote:
Is the workers’ movement dead? Are the problems of the present too great to overcome?

And

Quote:
How would you respond to the idea that the working class will not unify and gain collective consciousness until after capitalism collapses?

And

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Also, who's to say the lack of "traditional" structures in the working class is a step backwards, given their history of the betrayal of the proletariat and communist project?

And

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So the question I pose is this; once again, in a "collapse" scenario, can we seriously expect the proletariat to have any kind of a better chance at communism? If so, what are the possible mechanisms?

And states:

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It's pretty clear to me any amount of cleverness or optimism will not pull us from the situation we're in.

And, in possible contradiction (?):

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It's seriously time to get more creative.

If we follow Marx in his turning of Hegel back on his feet by affirming that the dialectical process in history is a (scientific) materialist one rather than, as Hegel had it, an idealist one led by ideas, then we see the progress of capitalism as the fruit of a class struggle whereby capitalism is further and further developed until a tipping point is reached in the homogenisation of labour that negates the capitalist appropriation of labour.

First there was the capitalist appropriation of the private labour found within feudalism (the first negation of property), and then, because capitalism requires the socialisation of labour, there is to be the negation of this negation through the socialisation of labour that enables labour to wrest the means of production from the hands of the few capitalists and return it to everyone, but no longer on the level of private property, this time on the level of everything being owned by everyone, within a structure of free association and communal decision-making. (The proletariat will/should come to recognise that capitalism has put everything in place for the establishment of a free communist society - with or without a transitional programme - and that all they have to lose in seizing the moment are their chains.)

The negation of the negation is the concept Marx took from Hegel to explain capitalism and the possibility of communism created by capitalism and, indeed, history itself, in materialist terms. Revolutionaries reveal that they follow this materialist conception of history when they argue that they only have a limited influence on events and that the main influence on how people will react in situations is due to the state of the class struggle within society. In this it would be argued that the main reason for an escalation of class struggle, for example, would be due to material factors, not the (non-)influence of radicals. Serge Forward makes a similar point in post #6. Although this might be in contradiction to what he says in post #2: “We're fighting a rearguard action - possibly starting from scratch” – since with this statement one is left to wonder if events create consciousness or people who claim to be in the vanguard of ideas create consciousness. The first conception is materialist and the second one is idealist. Or perhaps it is clearer to say: idea-ist. The first endorses the progressive materialist conception of history, the second endorses Hegel’s progressive dialectic of ideas and spirit. Is there a confusion here? What is it that we think revolutionaries are capable of? And do we think that revolutionaries are able to stand outside of their time in order to guide the masses out of their false consciousness?

The materialist conception of history would state that the ideas we have are bound to be universal within a particular mode of production – a theory that cannot be simply devolved to the maxim: the ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class. Thus, it is to be expected that revolutionaries and others share the same observations and make similar commentaries, though different sections of society, for example the radical left and establishment economists, may stumble upon these observations at different, though proximal times.

Therefore, we have the current writing of the political scientist, economist, sociologist, and previous adviser to the German government, Wolfgang Streeck, who at least since 2014 has been postulating that capitalism is undergoing a slow agony of death similar to the long demise of the Roman Empire.

This is how Guardian journalist, Aditya Chakrabortty sums up Streeck’s view of the end of capitalism:

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This isn’t the violent overthrow envisaged by Marx and Engels. In the Communist Manifesto they argued that capitalism’s “gravediggers” would be the proletariat. Nearly 170 years later, Streeck is predicting that the capitalists will be their own gravediggers, through having destroyed the workers and dissidents they needed to maintain the system.
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/dec/09/wolfgang-streeck-the-german-economist-calling-time-on-capitalism

Chakrabortty continues:

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Not for the first time, the sandwich board-wearers are declaring the end of capitalism – but today Streeck believes they are right. In its deepest crises, he says, modern capitalism has relied on its enemies to wade in with the lifebelt of reform. During the Great Depression of the 1930’s it was FDR’s Democrats who rolled out the New Deal, while Britain’s trade unionists allied with Keynes.

Compare that with now. Over 40 years, neoliberal capitalism has destroyed its opposition. When Margaret Thatcher was asked to give her greatest achievement, she nominated “Tony Blair and New Labour. We forced our opponents to change their minds.” The Prime Minister who declared “There is no alternative”’ then did her damnedest to extirpate any such alternative. The result? The unions are withered, the independent tenants’ associations have disappeared along with the stock of council housing, the BBC is forever on the back foot [my edit: the telly is worse than ever!!], and local, regional and national newspapers are now the regular subjects of obituaries. A similar story can be told across the rich world.
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/dec/09/wolfgang-streeck-the-german-economist-calling-time-on-capitalism

To remind ourselves of the distinction between Hegel and Marx mentioned earlier we could ask: was it really Thatcher and her gang that changed the minds of people? Was it Thatcher who changed the world or was Thatcher a product of the world? If the events of history are decided on the plane of a ‘battle of ideas’ where does that leave the notion of historical materialism? Is the class struggle subdued (or perhaps, rather, temporarily won by one side or the other) because people develop different ideas, similar ideas to their supposed opponents, or because of material events within society? Do events follow ideas or ideas follow events? Why is that the only solutions to social problems that have eventuated in the last 200 years or so (for example the Russian Revolution, or the Cuban Revolution) have been capitalist solutions, that is, solutions that have actually accelerated capitalism and extended its empire through the intensification of the exploitation of workers and resources?

So, the gloomy Streeck bemoans the fact that the ‘opposition’ within capitalism (the left and the working class) has been neutralised and that this will lead to the downfall of capitalism because, as he insists, capitalism will now suffer “from an overdose of itself”.

But maybe it is wrong to say that all the reforms of capitalism won in the heat of class struggle have contributed to the further expansion of capitalism? Maybe the neoliberal turn was always on the cards and it is this development, as Streeck insists, that heralds the collapse of capitalism? That is, for the first time in history class conflict would be transcended by the neoliberalism made possible by the class conflict within capitalism. But wasn’t it the establishment of communism that was supposed to do this??!

And if this is the case then we have left behind dialectical materialism, the theory that the conflict of forces within society produces higher levels of existence. The essential notion of aufheben, or sublation, or the negation of the negation, is that society and material forces are in constant movement and conflict (history [not ‘pre-history’] is the history of class struggle) and that the ever-evolving claimed ‘future’ is a mixture of things preserved, abandoned, and transcended.

And if there is no dialectic happening (no class struggle) then history has indeed been halted in Marxist terms, that is, Marxism is no longer relevant as an historical or sociological method.

What I mean is, if revolutionaries and State-sponsored economists are coming to the same conclusion: that capitalism is going to collapse in a horrible mess (more horrible than the continuing horrible mess) - then how is it that they (I mean we) are coming to this conclusion? Are events and daily existence shaping our ideas, or have some of the economists been listening to the ideas of the revolutionaries, or some of the revolutionaries been listening to the economists?

Anyway, Streeck has recently written a book, but you can get the gist of his thesis in shortened form here:

https://newleftreview.org/II/87/wolfgang-streeck-how-will-capitalism-end

And you can read an opposing view from the Financial Times here:

https://www.ft.com/content/7496e08a-9f7a-11e6-891e-abe238dee8e2

And another review of his thoughts here:

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/government/2016/11/14/how-will-capitalism-end/

el psy congroo
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Dec 11 2016 00:17

Thanks to everyone for the great thread so far.

Quote:
aufheben

please no

Briefly; Yes, political determinism and idealism seem to be everywhere. And on a separate note; Yes, I've been critical of Marx, Marxism and the workers' movement. Thinking minds question.

The thing is...we haven't failed. Marxism has failed to achieve communism. Anarchism can barely be said to have tried. The fact remains no different---myself and other workers before me have gone twelve rounds, fight after fight, only for the thing to have been thrown by the promoters all along.

Workers don't want to fight capitalism, they want to improve their financial situation. They aren't against value relations, and they weren't during the Russian Revolution. They think money works for them.

I think perhaps the bourgeoisie, certainly various elements of it, have been class conscious since the 18th century. They have their class dictatorship. They have fought civil wars and defeated "counterrevolutions" hundreds of times. Their revolution continues to win. Like Bordiga said of Hitler and Mussolini, they are the best revolutionaries. But unfortunately for us all they're about to blow up the planet, so we have little time left for our own revolutions.

Action certainly does come before consciousness. Struggles forge consciousness. However, little (even if increasing) action remains. There's no point anymore anyway, right? Rewind to 1920, was it any different? How do we overcome the paradox of fetishism? The paradox being that value relations are a result of social being. To reject them within capitalism is to be extinguished like a candle flame.

Tom Henry
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Dec 11 2016 04:50

I am a bit stymied by these last comments, as in I am not sure where to go from them. I am not sure what you are getting at. What do you mean, for example, by “aufheben – please no”?

Is to lose hope (“There’s no point anymore anyway, right?”) a decision that ‘revolutionaries’ might make, or is it an attitude that is determined by the social environment and their relations with other ‘revolutionaries’ and those they seek to enlighten? Who are the ‘revolutionaries’ in places like the UK or the US who seemingly stick to their guns their whole life and largely refuse to present their doubts (since doing so might harm their presumed ability to enlighten others)? What do they do?

What does “struggles forge consciousness” mean? Sustained consciousness? Momentary consciousness? I presume, by-the-way, that you mean ‘class consciousness’? If ‘struggles forge consciousness’ then there should be a sustained incremental increase of consciousness amongst the masses occurring throughout history – since there are struggles happening everywhere all the time. Even if they aren’t happening in show-stopping fashion. But even when they happen in show-stopping fashion do they really ‘forge consciousness’? Did May 1968 in Paris forge French proletarian consciousness – or did it ultimately, in terms of ‘resistance’, only contribute to the development of leftist political theory and the careers of a whole slew of academics?

If we think that ‘struggles forge consciousness’ then maybe we are misreading what is happening in reality? Maybe we are belittling the intelligence of ‘the masses’? Maybe it’s not about ‘consciousness’ – maybe it would be truer to say, since this is what history shows in more detail, that the effects of the defeat of struggles, or the neutralisation of struggles, or even the ‘winning’ of struggles, is the key ‘lesson’ revolutionaries could learn? Since it is the return to daily existence that is most influential in the way we perceive the world. We have not overcome our 'survival sickness' as Vaneigem once hoped we would. People adapt to their situation in order to survive – are they stupid to do this? They are of course trapped, and I would suggest they know it, even if they don’t articulate it, and they usually ultimately refuse to follow the idealists down an immediately suicidal path. It would be pointless to judge people on what they do to survive (I’m not saying you are doing this here).

I am also not sure what you mean by:
“How do we overcome the paradox of fetishism? The paradox being that value relations are a result of social being.”
The recent discussions of ‘value-form’ are, in my opinion, fatally limited from the start because before one can truly discuss the relations of value in a Marxist or post-Marxist sense, one must really come to grips with the ontology of human labour as expressed by Marx. The insistence that the ‘revolutionary project’ is now to abolish value and labour is perhaps not quite so clear cut… but that is for another discussion.
But perhaps you are referring to ‘false consciousness’?

Also I am not sure that it is judicious to demean ‘the workers’ with sweeping statements about what they think, or want, or who they are. Is the world really full of idiots who need re-educating by visionaries such as ourselves? Lenin and Stalin certainly thought so.

Thus you say: “Workers don't want to fight capitalism, they want to improve their financial situation. They aren't against value relations, and they weren't during the Russian Revolution. They think money works for them.”

Well, I don’t want to fight capitalism either, I wish it would just go away, or that I lived on a different planet, with The Clangers. And I am not sure that I have ever actually fought capitalism in the first place. I am also not effectively ‘against value-relations’, and yes, I wish I could win the fucking lottery (although I don’t even buy a ticket) …

Lastly, for accounts of show-stopping by anarchists, the events in Spain in the first half of the 20th century are worth consideration, as well as reading Peter Arshinov’s beautiful account of The History of the Makhnovist Movement 1918-1921.

baboon
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Dec 11 2016 12:53

I don't think that el psy's rejection of the workers' movemen has elements of an adequate response to what is a very major question. The Paris Commune, 1905 and the workers' councils, the world-wide revolutionary wave of 1917-26 (inadequately dismissed as "a Bolshevik history"), the rearguard action of the proletariat during the Second World War (when it hardly existed), the global "re-awakening" of 1968. These struggles and these sacrifices can't be easily dismissed as el psy seems to do. They have a great deal of worth to bring to future struggles.

I agree with the point made in one of the posts above about the importance of the struggles in China in the last decade or so. These are a significant expression of workers' combativity and the international nature of class struggle. Certainly these struggles straight away come up against the state and the immediate identification by the workers of the trade unions with the state makes the former less of a useful buffer than the more mystified unions of the west. Nevertheless, tens of thousands of workers have joined wildcat strikes and there have have been clear expressions of class autonomy which is no mean feat faced with a regime that spends more on internal security than anything else and whose repression is swift and brutal.

I still think that Europe is going to be pivotal for the future given the strength of democracy, reformism and the unions, illusions which are gradually being stripped away by the development of the crisis.

el psy congroo
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Dec 11 2016 15:12
Quote:
I am not sure where to go

Welcome to the club.

Quote:
aufheben – please no

A reference to the now defunct group who collaborated with a police informant.

Quote:
What does “struggles forge consciousness” mean?

I meant when workers struggle together in a collective way it tends to counteract the dominant ideology, in certain occasions where the conditions are present. I would make the argument "random acts" of rebellion, "rioting", whatever you want to call it, do not "forge" an "anti-capitalist" consciousness in the same way. There are certain types of "direct confrontations" which differ greatly in "quality" (as well as quantity).

Tom wrote:
Did May 1968 in Paris forge French proletarian consciousness[?]
baboon wrote:
They have a great deal of worth...

I'm sure they do for the French, and to us all, although it's not widely known about in many places.

Quote:
Also I am not sure that it is judicious to demean ‘the workers’ with sweeping statements about what they think, or want, or who they are. Is the world really full of idiots who need re-educating by visionaries such as ourselves?

I think this is a bit of a jump. I only meant to highlight the prevalence of "economism", which perhaps comes from a failure to comprehend and reject the "value-form", fetishism, whatever we want call it.

Quote:
I agree with the point made in one of the posts above about the importance of the struggles in China in the last decade or so. These are a significant expression of workers' combativity and the international nature of class struggle.

OK, but it also is a significant expression of like 400 million former peasants who were promised a middle class lifestyle equivalent of 1950s America. Are they striking because Mao Zedong betrayed the revolution and tradition of things like the Shanghai commune? They strike for money. It's not a critique of capitalism. Only after the struggle do a minority of the workers involved form a "communist consciousness", if any.

el psy congroo
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Dec 11 2016 18:01
Quote:
Is the world really full of idiots
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Noah Fence
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Dec 11 2016 18:50

EPC, I can't figure out what the meaning of your post #46. Can you explain?

el psy congroo
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Dec 11 2016 21:41

It's a quote or maybe a question gleaned from Tom's post #43.

Although I reject the educator/educated hierarchy and elitism in general, I am a proletarian, always have been/will be, most of my friends and family are, and I can say this; a very small minority think communism "is bad on paper". Most favor the "idea of it", but know that "it can never work". The tiniest minority (me) advocate for it openly.

With this as my measure of intelligence than yeah, the world really does seem full of idiots. There is no evidence humans have ever been able to consider the impact of their consumption more than two or three generations down the line maximum.

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Noah Fence
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Dec 11 2016 22:21

Hmmm, of course, in the eyes of the majority we are the idiots - spending our time, often part of what little money we have, and equally importantly the space in our head that could be spent on pleasurable thought, pursuing a dream that even if it eventually materialises, will almost certainly not be experienced by ourselves. Spending our time looking closely at human suffering, filthy corrruption and god knows what other horrors. I often ask myself why I bother but I guess I find the same answer to that question as you. Are we idiots? Well I don't think so but to label everyone that isn't an active communist as one is surely unhelpful and most of all, inaccurate. Being a human being involves way more than our political beliefs or lack of them. There are many types of idiocy - selfishness, being judgemental, making assumptions, etc etc etc. We're all guilty of some of these things some of the time but that shouldn't mean we should be totally condemned. I do understand what you're saying and in my most frustrated moments I probably think the same thoughts as you've expressed but to write off my friends, family and everyone else is mean spirited, depressing and really just plain daft.

Tom Henry
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Dec 11 2016 23:38

El psy congroo writes:

Quote:
There is no evidence humans have ever been able to consider the impact of their consumption more than two or three generations down the line maximum.

So, it seems that your questions here are generated not so much by an analysis of the broad phenomenon of class conflict or society but by a sweeping misanthropy you appear to have developed on account of your experience in ‘politics’ or whatever is meant by ‘struggle’. I wouldn’t blame you for adopting such a view, but it would perhaps have been better if you had stated this more clearly at the start.

I would like to make a couple of comments though.

For ‘evidence’ of a generational management of the landscape by humans it is worth reading Bill Gammage’s book The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia.

It is also interesting to investigate other ways humans have interacted with their environment, in order to perhaps help lift oneself out of the terms of consumption and production that dominate our current umwelt.

For example, as recorded by Claude Lévi-Strauss in The Story of the Lynx, 1996, James Teit notes the relationship of Indigenous ‘Canadian British Columbian’ hunters to their prey, wild goats, over a hundred years ago:

Quote:
“When you kill [wild] goats, treat their bodies respectfully, for they are people. Do not shoot the female goats, for they are your wives and will bear your children. Do not kill kids, for they may be your offspring. Only shoot your brothers-in-law, the male goats. Do not be sorry when you kill them, for they do not die but return home. The flesh and skin (the goat part) remain in your possession; but their real selves (the human part) lives just as before, when it was covered with goat’s flesh and skin.”

When I used the word ‘aufheben’ I was referring to the concept not the group/journal. Your response “please no” is surely, therefore, because my use of the word was clear, flippant.

I would also like to mention the danger of prioritising one’s own particular experiences in situations of discussion. While it is natural and unavoidable to mention ones own interpretations of one’s own specific experiences, these must be kept within context and only become useful when they are used in a very limited fashion to make more general observations. To rely heavily on one’s own experience closes down discussion rather than opening it up. It is more useful to engage in discussion from the basis that we all have a range of experiences, but none of us is the expert on any aspect of the world we see around us. The philosopher, Gilles Deleuze, said this well:

Quote:
“Arguments from one’s own privileged experience are bad and reactionary arguments.”

When you say “I am a proletarian” I do not know what you mean by this, and you present this information as if it gives you some kind of special position within this discussion.

el psy congroo
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Dec 12 2016 03:37

There's some really good points in the last two posts.

I'm sharing perspectives influenced directly by people around me, too, it's not just my experiences which have led me to say this, that's why I felt it was necessary to mention I come from a working class background.

The point about indigenous people is something I'll remember, but can we really consider all their cultures to be "civilisations"? Sure there are examples like the Mayans, but Tom mentioned Aborigines in Australia, or early examples in the Mediterranean, Africa, Asia, and I'd add some Native Americans during certain periods all of whom were a lot more "hunter-gatherer"-like. Over-hunting was pretty common. They think lots of the large extinct creatures are dead in part because of this. Technical advancement, "economic growth and prosperity", centralised power structures, increased and often reckless consumption, it's all part of what we call "history's progress" or just progress.

Really I'm not really resentful of humans or humankind in the way I'm being accused. It's more about people who support the bourgeoisie in ideological ways that frustrate and demoralise me. (Us?) And there is a larger critique of civilisation itself to also be had in my opinion.

Did anyone hear the story of the Wal-Mart worker who had their logo tattoed on his arm?

He said it was to show gratitude for all the company had done for him.

I suppose this person isn't an idiot? Or that I'm an evil blasphemous pompous selfish sweeping misanthropist for suggesting it?

Tom Henry
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Dec 12 2016 03:54

Hi el psy congroo,

Yes, the views people have in support of what effectively oppresses them and their families are indeed frustrating - this is part of the point of this thread surely? The questions being: how much does this matter; how might these views change; how should 'revolutionaries' engage with these frustrating ideas? This is what we have been discussing.

Something else to consider is that there is a lot of 'disbelief' across the classes in the mission statements of modern society. And as you may have implied, it is 'the ruling class' that believes in everything less than any other section of society. In my experience (!) I have met managers who believe far less in the mission of a company than the workers under them, but they know how to talk the talk, etc.

The Wal-Mart worker story (which I can't remember hearing) is interesting because it doesn't support your argument - surely, most people, from any class, would think that doing such a thing was indeed foolish and silly (unless the person had a mental illness and they refused to judge it in those terms).

el psy congroo
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Dec 12 2016 14:28

Hi Tom and thanks everyone for the continued discussion.

To answer your questions:

Quote:
How much does [pro-capitalist ideology] matter[?]

I think it matters a lot if we want an serious chance of a worldwide society of freely associated people. I'd argue we all need communist consciousness before we can have communism.

But back to bourgeois consciousnesses, can you convince people to overthrow their government with it? Sure.

Quote:
How might these views change[?]

From the past, we know this can change exponentially in both quality and quantity. But we don't understand the "mechanism" of the development of consciousness and I doubt it's mechanical at all in the first place.

The point to be made here is that this has never changed greatly enough or fastly enough.

Quote:
How should 'revolutionaries' engage with these frustrating ideas?

John Cleese, Dead Parrot, Monty Python?

Honestly I have no idea, which is unfortunate as I've been trying for over a decade now.

Revolutionary orgs are not exactly masters of "public relations". Never been in one that developed my "ability to intervene in class struggles" or one that has proved this is a legitimate concept to begin with. After all, the action of pitching new ideas to people in this society is often referred to as "marketing". I have no idea how to begin "marketing communism". Become a socdem or trot?

Quote:
Something else to consider is that there is a lot of 'disbelief' across the classes

Disbelief of what? The Mayan apocalypse? This is an instinct I don't listen to anymore. Any "disbelief" that doesn't amount to an outright and conscious rejection of ideology has seemed purely meaningless from my perspective. For every ounce of disbelief in capitalism, there is ten fold that belief in nationalism, racism and democracy,

proletarian.
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Dec 12 2016 21:45

I'm probably the most pessimistic I've ever been.

I think the defeat of the last century still plays a massive role in propaganda terms and existentially. The availability of credit I think is also a big factor. And the fear of if you even attempt to struggle it could get so much worse (and of course it's not so bad cos there are people living on a dollar a day etc). I've been working for just over a year after a long period of doing fuck all and my co workers are absolutely clueless. They are all low paid but think the company is doing them a massive favour by letting them work there, they think their interest lies in making the company (owner) more money. They are mostly in sales but not on commission, yet still have this mindset. These are mostly subjective factors but in combination with the lack of industrial centers and mass work places these days I think there is little to no hope at least in backward Britain and probably the West as a whole. There is more hope in the East, yet the trend is barbarism not struggle. The middle east is on fire and the US is surrounding China with bases, missiles and battleships.

Tom Henry
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Dec 12 2016 23:34

El psy congroo writes:

Quote:
I think it matters a lot [establishment of a communist consciousness] if we want an serious chance of a worldwide society of freely associated people. I'd argue we all need communist consciousness before we can have communism.

I think this is the key to your argument – and it is this very point that I have questioned in my previous posts. I think that this is the position you have and so your question is – how does this consciousness come about?

Therefore, I have suggested that there two ways it could come about.

The first is that revolutionaries think they must engage in a battle of ideas (like Frank Furedi, for example, is doing) in which they try to draw as many people to ‘the cause’ as possible. This is the ‘Build the Party’, or build the ‘Vanguard of Ideas’, option. It is what any group that recruits members to its ranks is participating in, even if at different levels of authoritarianism and discipline.

The second is the one whereby revolutionaries think consciousness can only come through actual experience. Therefore, in this belief, revolutionaries must wait for the situation to change before they can intervene and sound like sensible folk. When the consciousness of ‘ordinary folk’ has been raised to a certain level through their engagement in ‘struggle’ revolutionaries will be able to be heard and will be able to guide and direct ‘the masses’.

Within anarchism and the far left these options have formed the basis of a split in strategy.

Some people have insisted that there needs to be a formal organisation to draw more and more people to their ideas and to ‘keep the flame alive’.

Some see this option as a misunderstanding of how things change and are wary of the dangers of forming organisations as they seem to always ossify or become the opposite of what they were intended to be. What I mean is that some see a danger in organisations because they become more concerned with the perpetuation and survival of the organisation than the constructive free flow of ideas, and they also become, very quickly, a hierarchy with a core and a periphery in the membership, no matter how libertarian they profess to be. This is not due to the personal ‘failings’ of people, it is just, if we look at history, how organisations evolve.

This then, is where the discussion begins, as it were (it is where I have begun from in my posts). Starting the discussion from here will lead to investigations of how organisations and far left political parties work; it will lead to an examination of what the notion of ‘raising consciousness’ means in reality; it will lead to a questioning of the belief in communism and how those beliefs previously have worked out in history. These are, of course difficult questions, to which there may be no answer. They are explored in the book ‘Nihilist Communism: A Critique of Optimism – the religious dogma that states there will be an ultimate triumph of good over evil – In the Far Left’ (http://littleblackcart.com/books/communism/nihilist-communism/)

So, instead of dwelling on one’s ‘pessimism’, and falling back into old ‘solutions’ (particularly since there is a constant flow of people through radical politics who enter and leave, either with disillusionment or a career as a manager) I think one should explore how to use that pessimism. This was what I suggested at the end of my first post (#38):

Quote:
Maybe there is no ‘what is to be done’, maybe all we have available to us is an endless exploration of what doesn’t work or goes wrong, that is, what must, on reflection, not be done. Nothing does what it says it does on the tin. Everything, including ourselves, is always doing something else.

The nihilist communists were onto pessimism as a tool fifteen years ago, I notice that pessimism is now the new cool way, according to some Self-Help Manuals (see, for example: Oliver Burkeman’s The Antidote: Happiness for people who can’t stand positive thinking), to achieve ‘balance’ in life. It’s no coincidence, our thinking rides the waves of daily existence. No one decides what to think as if they were in a vacuum.

PS
el psy congroo, this is not important or worth replying to, but how did you get this:

Quote:
Disbelief of what? The Mayan apocalypse?

From this:

Quote:
Something else to consider is that there is a lot of 'disbelief' across the classes in the mission statements of modern society.

Although I do agree with you that it is what people do that is the most important thing, not what they say they are going to do, or what they say they think - for example, I say I disagree with just about everything but my actual daily existence effectively, and actually, supports everything. But my point was set within the context of your appeal as to how to change peoples’ minds through ideas. This is, of course, another facet of the discussion of determinism, the materialist dialectic, and idealism.

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Dec 13 2016 09:03

Tom you are certainly more patient than your fellow travellers. I appreciate your long and thoughtful comments but can't help to think you've been setting a trap by guiding the discussion towards class consciousness. A topic we know you have some interest in ( to say the least).

It's part of the discussion but I'm not sure the term is used in the same way by everyone. Part of your critique as I read it here and elsewhere feels quite focused on the word and it's origins. Perhaps you need to establish more precisely what you mean by the word. Your comments above touch on it but I still feel you could be talking past each other.

My thoughts are that regardless of how the changes come about it can always go in multiple directions. The tools and ideas available will determine the course. 'Revolutionaries' would in my view do well to ensure libertarian tools and ideas are available.

Tom Henry
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Dec 13 2016 11:38

Cooked,
Setting traps? Ffs. I was trying to get to the bottom of what el psy congroo was asking. Wasn't this (class/revolutionary consciousness) where I started here anyway? So not much more need for explanation. And isn't it reasonable that I have tried to devolve this discussion down to its essentials because there has indeed been much talking past each other? For the record I found the topic really interesting partly because it does involve, from the start, the strategy/concept of 'consciousness-raising' and partly because it examines, from the start, the usefulness or otherwise of optimism and/or pessimism. My ultimate point being that pessimism can be a tool for useful critique and useful engagement. Your final paragraph here probably sums up a general and/or final view for the discussion, succinctly put, and that's fine, but I am not sure that it says much - apart from 'carry on as we were' of course (and this is exactly the strategy el psy congroo was questioning), and perhaps, as you imply, substituting passion for simply making ourselves available. Which is also fine.

el psy congroo
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Dec 15 2016 16:39

You wanna talk about consciousness, or no? Let's talk about it then. I would also appreciate an expansion of Tom's use of the term. I'll try to speak less abstractly

Perhaps my concern over the non-state of the worker's movement comes from the same "search for blame" that (an unknown portion of the) proletarians are undergoing, expressed by the far-right populism being secreted by the w. class presently.

The comparison by some in the anarchist milieu of the nihilists to the strategies and tactics of MLK, Jr. is interesting. The argument being both advocate withdraw all, non-action, etc. Also reminds me a bit of daoism. On a slightly related note the shrinks say the abandonment f hobbies and passed times is a sure fire sign of severe depression.

I'm definitely more open to the idea of "passive refusal and active contestation" (R&D 2015) than I am to the nihilist's "do nothing".

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Jan 1 2017 03:37

I feel revolutionaries have more, or less always asked themselves this question. At the end of the day a full scale social revolution that completely over-turns the capitalist order has yet to be seen (obviously) so there is always room for doubt, thoughts like "Is all this really even gonna happen?". My answer is this; I have no clue. I honestly have no idea weather, or not we will succeed. I don't think anyone knows, nor has anyone ever known, and anyone who says they do is majorly deluding themselves. Weather it's possible is a different question. To be a revolutionary is ultimately to answer yes to this question. Revolutionaries are always profoundly and fundamentally optimistic as we fundamentally believe that society can be changed for the better. If you asked me "why" I think that I would say that human beings have not lived in one form of society for the whole history of their existence. We have profoundly re-organized and reconstituted society many times in human history. Capitalism itself was created through the radical re-organization of society by the under-classes. For me it will never be a matter "if" we can do it. It's a matter of how.

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Serge Forward
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Jan 27 2017 11:15

Is the working class movement dead? What is the role of pro-revolutionaries in the current social, political and economic climate?

Pre-discussion comments by an AF member to a libertarian socialist discussion meeting in Leicester, 25 January 2017. NB: this is not verbatim but more the speaker’s somewhat sketchy notes re-assembled into a more readable format.

Just to say that this discussion lead-in mainly deals with the situation here in the UK, reflecting my own knowledge and experience. I accept that there will be similar elements which apply to the situation in other countries, as well as differences.

So, is the workers’ movement dead? In short: no. But it is on life support. Since the early 1980s there has been a marked decline in class consciousness, class cohesion, solidarity and such like. Now we have a working class that is de-educated, de-politicised, atomised and individualised. In terms of class struggle politics, it is as if we are starting from scratch.

The 1970s was the post-war high point in class struggle and the organised working class which featured significant struggles with miners and other industries, events such as the battle of Saltley Gate, the fall of the Heath government and culminating in the “winter of discontent”. On the continent, such mass wildcat strikes were known as “the British disease” which seems hard to believe when we look at how things are now. Prior to this meeting, I received a document from the CWO (Communist Workers Organisation) which quoted statistics from the UK Office of National Statistics which noted that in 1979, 2.95 million working days were lost to strike action. I’ll repeat that figure so we can all just take it in: that’s 2.95 - almost 3 million days - lost because of strike action.

Forward closer to the present and the same Office of National Statistics gives the figures for 2015 as 170,000 strike days – a tiny fraction. What that figure doesn’t tell you either is the quality of the action taken. I am assuming that the majority of those days would be official actions, one day strikes, often token and with limited effectiveness. What stands for a working class movement has retreated into reformism and identity politics - world where Corbynism and the Labour left even seems comparatively radical. Meanwhile, sites of genuine class resistance are now like virtual oases in the vast capitalist desert.

That said, it’s possible I’m offering a somewhat rose-tinted view of the past. After all, while the 1970s saw inspiring acts of working class activity, it was also a period of chronic racism at all levels of society, where sexist attitudes were endemic and violent homophobia more or less the norm. Over the years, such reactionary views became increasingly unacceptable – although, more recently, it looks as if there’s something of a backlash with racist, xenophobic and conservative attitudes apparently on the increase.

As for the mass industrial action and wider class consciousness of the 70s, yes it was often militant and often wildcat in nature, but it was also solidly tied to labourism or the CP, reformism and orthodox trade unionism. It was also followed by Thatcherism. And let’s not forget the open collusion of the trade unions themselves in the collapse of the organised workers’ movement over the last 30-odd years – yet another failure of social democracy.

So if it’s all so dire, is it worth reviving? Yes, because class struggle is fundamental, the ONLY way to ever abolish capitalism. This is because, ultimately, capitalism can only be abolished by the workers of the world seizing the means of production – however unlikely it may seem in the here and now.

So what should be the role of pro-revolutionaries? All those years ago, the First International declared that the emancipation of the working class was the task of the workers themselves, and this holds true today – however far away the notion of the working class emancipating itself may currently seem. Nevertheless, there are no short cuts to this – well no short cuts that won’t end in disaster in one way or another.

That means no substitutionism – in other words, substituting your particular group, party or political movement for the working class. Likewise, no Jacobinism, Marxist-Leninism, or so-called insurrectionism (whether anarchist, Maoist or some other Marxist-Leninist variant) either. All of these, in their own particular way, aim to act for (or in the name of) the working class rather than the working class acting for itself. They are all every bit as much a dead end as the reformism of those who have opted to throw in their lot with Corbynism and Momentum.

The alternatives to all that may not be very exciting but they are essential. Those of us who advocate a revolution to establish a society based on the principle from each according to ability to each according to need, whether we call ourselves anarchists, communists, socialists or whatever, need to maintain a revolutionary intransigence, serving as a class memory – the “thin red line” so to speak.

But also, we need to be practically engaged in struggles as and when they arise - involved, whether active within or supportive externally to those “oases” of class struggle I mentioned earlier. This also means being proactive in things such as residents’ groups, claimants’ organisations, autonomous workplace activity… or by establishing or re-establishing such organisations but without repeating past mistakes. I’m also aware that these days, such types of organisation are few and far between. Nevertheless, where we are active, whether actively participating within or offering solidarity from outside, we need to engage with action that is meaningful. I’m minded of the quote from the old group, Solidarity:

Quote:
Meaningful action, for revolutionaries, is whatever increases the confidence, the autonomy, the initiative, the participation, the solidarity, the equalitarian tendencies and the self-activity of the masses and whatever assists in their demystification. Sterile and harmful action is whatever reinforces the passivity of the masses, their apathy, their cynicism, their differentiation through hierarchy, their alienation, their reliance on others to do things for them and the degree to which they can therefore be manipulated by others - even by those allegedly acting on their behalf.
el psy congroo
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Jan 27 2017 14:38
Serge Forward wrote:
Pre-discussion comments by an AF member to a libertarian socialist discussion meeting in Leicester, 25 January 2017.

Cool.

Quote:
So, is the workers’ movement dead? In short: no. But it is on life support. Since the early 1980s there has been a marked decline in class consciousness...it is as if we are starting from scratch.

Sounds like the disappearance of the proletarian identity to me.

Quote:
The 1970s...mass wildcat strikes were known as “the British disease”...the UK Office of National Statistics which noted that in 1979, 2.95 million working days were lost to strike action. I’ll repeat that figure so we can all just take it in: that’s 2.95 - almost 3 million days - lost because of strike action...Forward closer to the present and the same Office of National Statistics gives the figures for 2015 as 170,000 strike days – a tiny fraction.

I've seen lots of similar figures from other countries, not at all limited to the main European capitalist countries. What's really clever is that the stats I've seen show an increase in the amount of workers participating in strikes since about 2013, rather than increase in strike days. The leftists are all about these trade union actions. Feels like a bourgeois ploy to me. Make it look like unions are on the rise, even though they're totally incapable of revolutionary actions because one-day strikes aren't gonna do shit against capitalism in the long run.

Quote:
As for the mass industrial action and wider class consciousness of the 70s, yes it was often militant and often wildcat in nature, but it was also solidly tied to labourism or the CP, reformism and orthodox trade unionism. It was also followed by Thatcherism. And let’s not forget the open collusion of the trade unions themselves in the collapse of the organised workers’ movement over the last 30-odd years – yet another failure of social democracy.
Quote:
So if it’s all so dire, is it worth reviving?

"Worth it"? Sure. Possible to return to 1917? Doubt it.

Quote:
But also, we need to be practically engaged in struggles as and when they arise - involved, whether active within or supportive externally to those “oases” of class struggle I mentioned earlier.

Wait, I thought your whole position rejected the idea of "oases" of class struggle? Confused now.