We have been asked from several quarters to give our views on the new group, Emancipación. As a context for our reflections we start with a brief summary of our guidelines for debating, orienting and regrouping the world’s revolutionary forces.
"However, even in this dire situation there are many new elements around the world who recognise the stagnation, if not bankruptcy of the system. They are debating and discussing online and face to face in small groups here and there precisely how, if ever, the proletariat will emancipate itself. In doing so they are, like us attempting to re-acquire the experience of past workers' struggles [...] The ICT does not consider itself a mere centre for discussion, but one core of the future international party, which is why it looks closely at other experiences that can contribute to its construction. The ICT's adherence to a common and clear political platform, its constant attempt to keep in touch with the wider class and become rooted in it within the obvious limits of the existing objective and subjective conditions, defines its work towards the creation of such a party [...] Our earnest hope is to engage with new groups who become conscious of the need to overthrow the system, to give them a political compass to rally around. At the same time we seek dialogue with existing groups, to actively cooperate where possible, agree to disagree where necessary, and ultimately to unite as history inexorably moves on and a real class movement develops." On the Future International, ICT, 2018)
These few lines summarise the method and the political proposal that we are putting forward for all the new groupings that, fortunately, are continuing to appear and who are discussing the construction of the future party, the political revolution of the proletariat and the overthrow of capitalism.
1. The Storm of the Second Millennium
The tendency of the rate of profit to fall is the most important law of capitalism and its main contradiction. Capitalist accumulation, i.e. the development of the productive forces, requires growth in the mass of profit, but by thus increasing the organic composition of capital, the rate of profit is inevitably doomed to fall.
When the fall becomes actual rather then merely tendential, the real trouble begins – it is the structural crisis of the capitalist cycle. The first two of these structural crises in the epoch of imperialism led to the two World Wars. This, the third, which began in the early 1970s, has, in fifty years, convulsed the planet in such a way as to take it to the brink of human, social and environmental catastrophe. However the current crisis has also shown capitalism’s unprecedented ability to manage the crisis itself and to delay its effects (whilst magnifying them) through new and old forms, parasitic or real, of appropriation of surplus value: financialisation, speculation, debt, wars, state collapses, relocations, technological revolution, new consumption, cuts and hyper-exploitation above all... In the final analysis, the working class has been made to pay for the costs of the profits crisis, in terms of greater exploitation (longer hours, greater intensity of exploitation, greater job insecurity) and lower wages (both directly in a loss of purchasing power; and indirectly, in cuts in public services; as well as deferred, as in the cut in pensions). So far workers’ struggle against this continuous attack has been feeble and fragmented, but we all know that the situation will only get worse, posing new and additional challenges for both revolutionaries and the class.
In addressing the crisis problem, we distinguish between structural crises and periodic crises.
The first, the structural crisis of the cycle, opened in the early 1970s, marked the end of the economic boom, the beginning of the decline of the third cycle of capital accumulation – based on the fall in the rate of profit – and continues to this day. A historical example of another structural crisis is that of 1929.
Within the current structural crisis of the cycle of accumulation there are also periodic crises. They mark the passage from one phase of the structural crisis to another, new, more serious than the previous one and each with its own characteristics. Examples of these "periodic crises" that occurred in the "structural crisis" were the sovereign debt crisis of the early 1980s, the crises of the late 1980s and early 1990s, that of the "Asian tigers" and of the "dot.com" bubble between the late 1990s and early 2000s. Each of these periodic crises has brought about a new peak in the structural crisis, a new phase and a new level of the attack on the proletariat by capital, as well as the retreat of the proletariat with respect to capital.
It is in this general framework that the latest in the list, the crisis of 2007, exploded as undoubtedly the most serious yet. The crisis of 2007 has not been overcome, and the clouds of a new recession are already gathering. It is in this very serious general framework that the activity of the internationalist political vanguards takes place. Fortunately many are beginning to pose the problem of building a revolutionary organisation of the class that, by guiding and organising future struggles and the most conscious proletarians, can become the political tool through which the class itself will put an end to capitalism and its endless crises.
2. The Political Compass
In such a stormy and uncertain age, in the face of such an enormous and radical task, the ICT has taken on the role of a political force pointing the way towards the construction of the international class party. This is not only due to its organisational continuity with the most significant experiences of revolutionary organisation of our class over the last century, but, above all, for the strength and coherence of a method and the platform it has developed. Both are the product of endlessly making a balance sheet of the past experiences of the class and its most committed militants, from the lessons that we derive from the strengths and (often tragic) weaknesses contained in these experiences.
Without such a compass, the new class conscious proletarians’ efforts will inevitably be destined to produce further disorientation and discouragement. Without such a compass there is room only for political eclecticism, idealism or a mechanical approach to dealing with problems; in the final analysis, this brings about the disappearance of the role of vanguard that revolutionaries aspire to play.
We are ready to take on the role that is required, but we need to do it with the right method. Not to accept this method means... to simply remain gazing at our navel as in "we do not share exactly the same vision of the struggle for the party". The future can only offer us new and increasingly dramatic moments in the history of the structural crisis of capitalism, for which we do not need observers, controllers, narrators (we have in abundance of chroniclers who just observe events, with a bit of nitpicking here and there, such as the communisators), but militants who share a method and a platform.
3. The First Congress of Emancipación
We cannot ignore that other forces have come into existence who refer, at least in theory, to our own basic principles, namely: anti-capitalism; the centrality of the proletariat; internationalism; the construction of the class party; the necessity of the revolutionary rupture and for communism.
In particular, we have had an exchange with Nuevo Curso for a couple of years, which ended in a rupture. Unfortunately, this break occurred in a way that was not sufficiently public and clear. In fact, despite our efforts, they have not declared the reasons for their incompatibility with our platform. We will instead outline the basis of our incompatibility with theirs.
The fact is that the rupture of the dialogue with ICT was the cause/consequence of a new phase in the life of this group when it transformed itself into "Emancipación" proposing to become "a global regrouping of revolutionaries" nourished on the "positions of the main historical current of internationalism". In short, a new pole of regroupment of the future world party has been born. Fine. All that remains for us to do is to examine the theoretical and political characteristics.
Here we refer only to the document "1st Congress of Emancipation".1 We insert in square brackets, throughout the text, comments aimed at highlighting our different approach to the problems.
1) It is an apparently organic document, incomplete and "uncertain" in substance. A congress that gives life to a force that proposes to become "global regrouping of revolutionaries" should at least have produced a political platform. This does not seem to have been the case. Perhaps this platform will be produced later, but at the moment we don’t know.
2) The first part of the document focuses on an idealistic interpretation of the crisis, which is invalid because it does not allow us to grasp its peculiar characteristics.
Their scheme is: in 1914 capitalism completed its extension of the world market thus starting its period of decadence; since then it has entered into a maelstrom of "qualitative and quantitative destruction, and the degradation of the human element" [as if this had not been true even before 1914]; the 2007 crisis opens a new phase with new attacks, wars and misery [no reference to the structural crisis that opened in the 1970s and the massive changes that this has entailed]; after the 2007 crisis [and yes? we argue the opposite], but since new contradictions have matured in the meantime, the prospect of a new recession opens [true, even if the previous crisis has not yet been overcome]; at this juncture "the capacity to create social cohesion around the needs of each national capital is significantly diminished" because of the "internal battles of the bourgeoisie itself and the years of desperate – and sterile – movements of the petty bourgeoisie" [no, the superficial disaffection of the proletariat with social cohesion – see abstentionism – is the objective product of its impoverishment, not the subjective one of the everlasting, however severe, inter-bourgeois clashes and, in any case, until the revolutionary party operates, every revolt is destined to be exhausted within the system]; the only way out that the bourgeoisie can try is the attack on the proletariat [true, provided that the attack is understood as economic and aimed at extorting more surplus value]. This is what their economic analysis is reduced to.
As we can see, the whole scheme is based on abstract ideas such as that decadence began in 1914. The turning point of 2007, the difficulty in creating social cohesion... the connection between these categories and their material cause, inherent in the mechanisms of the contradictory, but historically determined, development of the productive forces is never described. In short, there is no real reading – historical and contingent – of the real relations of power in operation and of the state of capitalism, not as a result of its "secular decadence", but of a fifty-year period of concrete structural crisis of cycle, unprecedented in history, with its different phases, the last of which began in 2007.
3) The dialectic of the political struggle between the classes is reduced to the campaigns that the bourgeoisie are carrying out (environment, feminism) in order to distort the proletarian struggle that we imagine, would otherwise, march directly towards revolution (the problem of consciousness).
The same idealistic method is applied to the reading of relations between classes: the objective difficulties of the accumulation cycle [which for them have been going on indiscriminately for a century] do not automatically imply a danger to the survival of capitalism, because exploitation can always increase [true, albeit within certain limits]. "The subjective conditions, the consciousness of the universal class ... are independent of the course of the crisis." [and idealism takes flight, consciousness is independent of material conditions, patterns prevail over facts, subjectivism over a firm analysis of reality]. In fact "only during the last three years ... we have seen massive class movements" [this gives rise to the doubt, supported by other statements, that the history of the modern class struggle only begins with the foundation of Nuevo Curso, borrowing a schema similar to that of the "historic course" of the ICC, which opened in 1968 and ended with ... the disintegration of the ICC itself]. "At this moment that exploitation as a class is intensifying" [the truth is that for at least forty years the exploitation of the class has been ceaselessly intensifying, and on a global scale]. In any case, how does the bourgeoisie keep the proletariat quiet? By organising "ideological campaigns to enclose workers around supposedly common causes that have secondary benefits for the bourgeoisie". For Emancipación climate change and the women's question are not contradictions emerging from the very structure of capitalism but studied campaigns of the bourgeoisie: 1) to create new inter-class movements; 2) to give sustenance to new eco and politically correct markets; 3) to place their offspring in positions of power. Now, although these three phenomena actually occur, it is equally true that the problem of plastic, of the environment, of pollution produced by this system that is poisoning the whole world, are concrete contradictions that affect the class first of all; equally true are the femicides, the oppression of gender and the greater exploitation of class that the female component of the proletariat suffers. The proletariat, and its vanguards, exactly contrary to what Emancipación does, must redefine these issues – because they are real contradictions – in the light of the revolutionary programme. Downgrading these real contradictions to mere "bourgeois campaigns against the proletariat" just means abandoning the role of revolutionary political leadership, in order to argue alongside conspiracy theorists that “it's all a plot”. It means escaping from the real political problems we face, fomenting at the same time a psychosis of encirclement and persecution that has nothing to do with reality and which has been shown to be do so much damage in the ranks of militants in the past. Why does it do this? To safeguard its own idealist method and define its organisational boundaries, inevitably ending by burning up the sincere energies of its generous comrades who interact with one another.
Comrades! We are serious! Reformism, the politics of compromise and opportunism have always tried to ride all the more or less class movements, since 1848 at least. Reducing all this to bourgeois campaigns means to lack understanding of the relationship between structure and superstructure, its reflection on class consciousness and their implications in the political battle, in order to fall back into the usual ICC framework based on the plots of the international bourgeoisie, an idealist and conspiratorial viewpoint that has already contributed to the collapse of the ICC itself before you.
"The dominant ideology is the ideology of the ruling class.” So what? It is a banality. The real problem is what revolutionaries are doing to snatch the class from the poisonous influence of bourgeois ideology and win it over to the revolutionary cause. Let's see then what Emancipación concretely proposes:
4) The chapter "Tasks of the revolutionaries" follows. In which... there is no mention of the revolution and the construction of the political conditions necessary for its implementation. All the practical/propositional part is reduced to a generalist "self-organisation of class v trade unionism".
"We will not do the math for them. Our fight will cost them." In other words: strikes (rightly) should not worry about the bosses’ profit and must be organised from below, directed by assemblies of all workers.
On this we agree but, even here, the fact that all being workers is not an idealistic vaccine against betrayal and capitulation. Consciousness is not inherent in the DNA of the proletariat, but it is an economic and social product. If struggle assemblies or mass meetings, 100% proletarian, vote against the general interests of the workers, which is always possible, as the distant and more recent history of the workers' movement unfortunately teaches us, the internationalists will still have to carry out a political battle inside them. Or do we agree to capitulate to defend our jobs with compromises because the assembly decided on it?
For Emancipación, in neighbourhoods and in fragmentary situations it will be necessary to work for territorial bodies.
This is also fine, but does not take into account the difference between class struggle organisations and the political instruments of the party for intervention in them. This provides us with the explanation of the document’s substantial political and methodological inadequacy with respect to the real "tasks of revolutionaries".
In any case, the chapter did not seem aimed at explaining how to organise demand struggles, unless you want to make revolutionary politics coincide with that of ultra-radical trade unionism. It talks of the tasks of the revolutionaries. But what are these tasks? How does proletarian consciousness arise from an immediate demand to a revolutionary one? How do communists organise themselves and make communist politics in the workplace and in the local areas? It is not given to know. Or rather, it is expressed ambiguously in the following sentence freely taken from Munis and his For a Second Communist Manifesto in the chapter "Tasks of Our Time": "The general program ... leads from the immediate struggle for the most basic universal needs to the process of abolition of wage labor".
This is nothing more or less but the classic shopping list of any combative trade union: less work, more job security, adequate pensions... seasoned with "innovative" elements for intervention in the neighbourhoods: closure of gambling joints, pawn shops, churches, a ban on drug-flats (“narcopisos”), opening of social centres... for the unity of all proletarians regardless of ethnicity, sex, position. Some demands seem simply arbitrary such as the call for a 30 hour week. We ask ourselves why limit the demand to a 30 hour week? Why not a 4 hour flexible day or some other concession capitalism cannot make? Demands arise from the struggle itself and the important thing is that they are owned by the workers who put them forward. They are their demands, however reformist, or unlikely to be met in practice, they have the function of giving cohesion to the struggle, and it is in the struggle itself that the workers discover their solidarity, and acquire the organisational means to realise their potential as a class antagonistic to the capitalist system. The task of revolutionaries/communists is to point to the future beyond the immediate struggle, to support the struggle, but all the time articulating the communist programme as the historic discovery of the class itself.
In addition to radical trade unionism, what we have here is the horrendous method of the Trotskyist Transitional Programme2 , as does a certain concept of councilist/counter-power that recalls a little Gramsci and a little Autonomia Operaia, in a sort of progressive reform to be implemented under capitalism, denying it in words but supporting it in deeds. It is a socialism that defines itself by making conquests and "liberated spaces" one step at a time.
Comrades, we have seen and heard these things hundreds of times. The history of the world class movement is full of these searches for shortcuts, of voluntarism, of economic slogans from above. Comrades, it doesn't work. Not understanding this means retracing your steps into one of the most classic blind alleys. To understand it is to use the method of "re-appropriating the experience of the past struggles of the working class". The document ends here. In short, we got off to a bad start and ended up worse.
A couple more concluding considerations.
5) Concluding the shopping list and finally posing the political problem, Munis in his "Tasks of Our Time" argues, borrowing from the worst of Trotsky, that "it is essential to link [those demands] without interruption to the supreme measures of world proletarian revolution".
Here is the essence of the idealistic, progressivist, reformist error: to believe that there is continuity between economic and political demands, that we progressively move from A to B (passivity > economic struggle) and then equally progressively from B to C (economic struggle > political struggle for communism), when instead the whole question of class consciousness is reduced to jumps and breaks. This is the essence of the materialistic dialectic, of the dialectic of opposites, of its rupture with nineteenth-century positivism. The history of the generalisation of the class struggle is a history of flare ups and pauses, the history of revolution is a history of fractures and sudden and unforeseen turns. Trying to bring all of this into a progressive framework, as Trotsky in the Transitional Programme, as Munis in the "New Manifesto", do, alongside a myriad of other reformist-progressivist-pseudo-revolutionaries, means forcing reality into an idealist scheme, it means violating both reality and the communist dialectic and the history of the internationalist revolutionary movement.
This positivist vision that sees socialism gradually establishing itself was typical of the Second International, from where Trotsky recovered it in the psychological desperation of the darkest hour of the counter-revolution. And in the light of this continuity with the Transitional Programme that has never belonged politically and/or methodologically to the communist left, today you have decided to proudly recall the "Fourth International from 1938 to 1948", which for you would be the "main historical current of internationalism”. But the internationalist communists, all of them, already at that time, were fighting against its progressivism, positivism, opportunism, ambiguity with respect to the anti-fascist struggle, national liberation struggles, democratic conquests, its analysis of state capitalism in the USSR, and the relationship with the Stalinist parties considered by the Fourth International as the right wing of the proletarian movement and not the left wing of the bourgeoisie, right back to the united front. The problem is not "Stalinized Trotskyism", as you like to maintain, but Trotskyism tout court, as we have abundantly argued elsewhere. A Trotskyism of which you have decided to declare yourselves heirs today.
6) In your schema the following vision seems to emerge: thanks to revolutionaries (and perhaps also due to material factors, it’s not clear here), proletarian movements can arise that may have the potential to mature in a revolutionary direction, but such movements are immediately attacked by the "campaigns" of the bourgeois and petty bourgeois sectors from above, and by the infiltration of lumpenproletarian elements from below; the ideological influences of these half classes would dilute the pure movement to the point where it was destroyed.
Comrades, this is idealism: the "pure movement" does not exist. A movement can be 100% sociologically proletarian and put itself on anti-revolutionary positions, just as petty bourgeois and sub-proletarian sectors can adhere to the revolutionary programme. That is not the point. The point is the revolutionary party's battle for method, platform, programme against capitalism as a whole, and also in the capacity of the revolutionary movement to attract the wavering elements of the petty bourgeoisie and sub-proletariat to its leadership. Again, the clash is not a clash of ideas and ideologies, but a class clash. The bourgeois and underclass ideologies, which you consider to be the cause of proletarian defeat (the theoretical and political implications of this methodological error are enormous) are, conversely, the product of the spaces left free by the class in a forty-year period of defeat, retreat, fragmentation and isolation. In these dramatic subjective conditions it is natural that bourgeois ideology should spread within proletarian ranks, especially if the party is weak (either it is completely missing or it has adopted confused and opportunistic positions).
Again the point is to strengthen the party, to do this we must start from a solid, cohesive, consistent, historically tested, platform. Finally, consciousness is not given to the proletariat by the holy spirit, but by its relationship with the class party. Honestly, it seems that this game of shouting at bourgeois campaigns and lumpen infiltration, as well as being illegitimate in Marxist terms, is more useful to cover the holes in your methodology than anything else. [On consciousness, see The German Ideology and Class Consciousness and Revolutionary Organisation].
As communists, we gladly greeted your appearance, and we were well disposed to a clear and open confrontation, even meeting you in person in Madrid. Unfortunately, it is clear that your project is pursuing a path other than that of revolutionary debate and clarity. Perhaps you were not clear until recently about the political decisions that you have taken over the last year, and you have not realised that you are taking the path of ambiguity that already many (some more lasting than others but never for very long) have taken before you. If this is the path you have decided, then we wish you good luck, you will really need it. If instead you understand that this new approach of yours, idealistic in its (non-existent) economic analysis and in its approach to the problem of consciousness, pseudo-Trotskyist in politics, cannot lead to anything that the class has not already failed to experience, then, perhaps, there is still room for a change of step.
What we do suggest is that you behave like revolutionaries who care more about the world revolution than their own organised circle. What does this mean? What you have not yet done: to open a real dialogue. And here we are not just speaking to you but to any political force interested in undertaking a serious political confrontation of ideas.
We invite you to do this: take our political Platform3 (not a leaflet, a half sentence, the alleged behaviour of a single comrade, etc.) and criticise it point by point, find the methodological errors that, in your opinion, would make it an inadequate tool to build the future party around it, do it with seriousness and commitment, as we have tried to do in this document, albeit a concise one. We are always available and open to the sincere relationship between revolutionaries. Everything else is of little interest to us.
Internationalist Communist Tendency
PS One last note. You close your documents with an update of the "old" slogan: "Workers of all countries, unite, abolish armies, police, war production, borders, wage labor!" Perhaps the "destruction of capitalism" should be added to the list, without which everything else is not possible?
- 1The English version is here en.emancipacion.info Unless it says otherwise, all references are to this document.
- 2We will never stop asking comrades to study this document of the worst Trotsky, a fine example of opportunist maximalism, maximalism in words and in deeds. This document demonstrates in an irreversible way Trotsky’s abandonment of the revolutionary camp and continues to guide the journey to the left of the bourgeoisie of generations of Trotskyists, irrespective of the particular group which they are constantly breaking up or re-forming just as Emancipación is also indirectly doing.
- 3Soon to be updated.