The period, 1924-1967

77 posts / 0 new
Last post
alibadani
Offline
Joined: 12-09-05
Jan 7 2007 10:30
The period, 1924-1967

This was the period of the "defeat," after the revolutionary wave of 1917-1923. How exactly were the workers defeated? Ideologically, psycologically? How is it that the massive struggles of the 1930's in the U.S were undertaken by a "defeated" proletariat, whereas the two "undefeated" generations haven't done much since the 70's?

Tojiah's picture
Tojiah
Offline
Joined: 2-10-06
Jan 7 2007 10:58

Why do you take 1967 as the ending point of the period of defeat?

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Offline
Joined: 9-02-06
Jan 7 2007 11:34
tojiah wrote:
Why do you take 1967 as the ending point of the period of defeat?

I'm assuming because of the wave of unrest in 1968, although that did not apear out of nothing. I'm guessing Alibadani has an answer prepared for this one.

jaycee
Offline
Joined: 3-08-05
Jan 7 2007 16:50

I think the point about the struggles in the 30's is that they were largely under the control of Stalinist parties, etc. This was also connected to the 'New Deal' in America etc and the preperation for war and state capitalism.

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Jan 7 2007 17:03

treeofjudas - maybe it would have been clearer if the year 1968 had been used. The massive strike in France signalled the beginning of a new period of class struggle and was followed by a wave of struggles in many other countries.

In a period of defeat like the 30s, there can still be very militant struggles. In the case of Spain, where the working class had not been through a direct crushing defeat like in Germany or Russia, these struggles almost reached the stage of insurrection. But the Italian communist left argued that the bourgeoisie was able to drag the working class away from its own terrain, first in France, then in Spain, and also as jaycee says in the US with the big 'CIO' struggles. And not just into confusion but into a growing mobilisation for imperialist war, with the workers 'enthusiastically' marching behind the banner of democracy and anti-fascism.

georgestapleton's picture
georgestapleton
Offline
Joined: 4-08-05
Jan 7 2007 18:06
jef costello wrote:
I'm guessing Alibadani has an answer prepared for this one.

posi
Offline
Joined: 24-09-05
Jan 7 2007 18:44
alibadani wrote:
This was the period of the "defeat,"

Who claims this?

On "periods" of capitalism. What aspects of capitalism define them, make them periods, other than the trend of victories for the working class? Does the explanation, for example, involve reference to the development of the productive forces, and productive relations (on the broad definition of that term)? And if it does, why would anyone expect the "period" to be manifest in the same way in both (e.g.) Spain and the US, which had, during that time, very different levels of development?

EDIT: I mean, world systems theorists of various stripes talk about trends in class struggle in particular areas (geographical and sectoral) of the global economy. And they make reference to trends which seem sort of relevant - profit levels, industries transferring from 'core' to 'periphery', fordism (et 'apres-fordism'), etc. But the whole point of this sort of explanation is to specifically relate developments in aspects of capitalism to developments in aspects of class militancy and success, by specific, defined mechanisms. Whatever those mechanisms don't apply to - e.g. civil war in agrarian Iberia - are in consequence not part of the theory's predictions. My issue with this whole "period" business is that it seems so totally opaque...

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Jan 7 2007 20:03

In the early 1850s, Marx came to the conclusion (contrary to the predictions of the Communist Manifesto) that proletarian revolution was not imminent and that capitalism was entering a phase of global expansion. In 1917 Lenin argued that Russia was no longer going faced with a merely bourgeois democratic revolution because the imperialist war had placed worldwide proletarian revolution on the agenda. In 1933 the Italian communist left published the first issue of 'Bilan' ('Balance Sheet'). It argued that the coming to power of Hitler proved that the revolutionary period opened up in 1917 was over and that capitalism was heading inexorably towards a second world war.
In short: it is absolutely vital for revolutionaries to have a clear grasp of the historic period in which they are operating. It has profound implications for the type of activity that is open to them and for the impact they can have on the class struggle.

888's picture
888
Offline
Joined: 30-09-03
Jan 7 2007 20:49

Why does a period of defeat have to affect the entire world at the same time?

WeTheYouth
Offline
Joined: 16-10-03
Jan 7 2007 20:59
888 wrote:
Why does a period of defeat have to affect the entire world at the same time?

I dont think it does, what about the general strike in the UK? Spanish Revolution? The Hungarian Uprising?

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Jan 7 2007 21:10

1926 in Britain and 1927 in China can be seen as the last gasps of the post-WW1 revolutionary wave. But they were already profoundly marked by the defeat: for example, the Communist parties had already largely succumbed to Stalinism and played a very different role to the one they had played in 1917-20; the same goes for the 'Soviet' state in Russia. By 1936 in Spain the world situation was even more unfavourable to the world proletariat, and this had a direct impact on the events in Spain, rapidly transforming a class war into an imperialist war. Neither Trotsky nor the anarchists ever understood this, and this is one of the major reasons why they made such terrible errors in Spain. Hungary was indeed essentially a proletarian uprising, but again the chances of its developing into a global revolutionary confrontation were almost nil, and its 'national' limitations to a great extent explain the strength of nationalism within the movement. The perspectives for the class struggle in any one country are determined by global and historic conditions, not merely national ones.

WeTheYouth
Offline
Joined: 16-10-03
Jan 7 2007 21:23
Quote:
Neither Trotsky nor the anarchists ever understood this, and this is one of the major reasons why they made such terrible errors in Spain.

I thought Trotsky had little influence in spain? And what were the terrible errors that the anarchists did which were not forced onto them by the conditions of the war?

Quote:
The perspectives for the class struggle in any one country are determined by global and historic conditions, not merely national ones.

But it does not necessarily mean that there will be a uniformed lack of militancy across the globe. Different struggles will arise across different areas of the globe even if we are in a period of defeat.

For example the Telengana Rebellion in 1946 in India, whilst the working class was defeated in the majority of the world there was a communist inspired uprising in India.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Offline
Joined: 9-02-06
Jan 7 2007 22:42
WeTheYouth wrote:
888 wrote:
Why does a period of defeat have to affect the entire world at the same time?

I dont think it does, what about the general strike in the UK? Spanish Revolution? The Hungarian Uprising?

You'll bugger up decadence theory if you keep asking these awkward questions.

WeTheYouth
Offline
Joined: 16-10-03
Jan 7 2007 23:41
jef costello wrote:
WeTheYouth wrote:
888 wrote:
Why does a period of defeat have to affect the entire world at the same time?

I dont think it does, what about the general strike in the UK? Spanish Revolution? The Hungarian Uprising?

You'll bugger up decadence theory if you keep asking these awkward questions.

I love being awkward, you just cant have a world without awkward people.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Offline
Joined: 9-02-06
Jan 7 2007 23:51
WeTheYouth wrote:
jef costello wrote:
WeTheYouth wrote:
888 wrote:
Why does a period of defeat have to affect the entire world at the same time?

I dont think it does, what about the general strike in the UK? Spanish Revolution? The Hungarian Uprising?

You'll bugger up decadence theory if you keep asking these awkward questions.

I love being awkward, you just cant have a world without awkward people.

But it's that awkwardness that prevents a strand of left communism instigating a revolution.

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Jan 7 2007 23:53

yes but...this isn't just about decadence theory. Alibadani posed a question about two periods within the era of decadence. More generally, this is a question about the marxist method: whether revolutionaries are imprisoned in immediate appearance or try to take seriously what Marx said in the German Ideology about the proletariat existing "world historically".
But this isn't only relevant to large time scales. In the most basic strike for immediate demands, it's essential to be able to assess the dynamic of the struggle - whether it's on the rise, marking time, or in retreat. The specific proposals we make within the struggle are closely linked to our ability to assess this dynamic accurately.

WeTheYouth
Offline
Joined: 16-10-03
Jan 7 2007 23:58
jef costello wrote:
WeTheYouth wrote:
jef costello wrote:
WeTheYouth wrote:
888 wrote:
Why does a period of defeat have to affect the entire world at the same time?

I dont think it does, what about the general strike in the UK? Spanish Revolution? The Hungarian Uprising?

You'll bugger up decadence theory if you keep asking these awkward questions.

I love being awkward, you just cant have a world without awkward people.

But it's that awkwardness that prevents a strand of left communism instigating a revolution.

Good. =P

Quote:
yes but...this isn't just about decadence theory. Alibadani posed a question about two periods within the era of decadence. More generally, this is a question about the marxist method: whether revolutionaries are imprisoned in immediate appearance or try to take seriously what Marx said in the German Ideology about the proletariat existing "world historically".
But this isn't only relevant to large time scales. In the most basic strike for immediate demands, it's essential to be able to assess the dynamic of the struggle - whether it's on the rise, marking time, or in retreat. The specific proposals we make within the struggle are closely linked to our ability to assess this dynamic accurately.

You cannot just say such and such time was a period of defeat for the working class because the working class in europe and the west could be suffering defeats but the workers in Asia could be involved in militant uprisings. Its not helpful to our assesments if we simply give a uniform analysis to the situation of the class struggle.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Offline
Joined: 9-02-06
Jan 8 2007 00:02
WeTheYouth wrote:
You cannot just say such and such time was a period of defeat for the working class because the working class in europe and the west could be suffering defeats but the workers in Asia could be involved in militant uprisings. Its not helpful to our assesments if we simply give a uniform analysis to the situation of the class struggle.

pesky spaniards spoilt the theory too. Luckily anarchists canbe blamed.

WeTheYouth
Offline
Joined: 16-10-03
Jan 8 2007 00:03
jef costello wrote:
WeTheYouth wrote:
You cannot just say such and such time was a period of defeat for the working class because the working class in europe and the west could be suffering defeats but the workers in Asia could be involved in militant uprisings. Its not helpful to our assesments if we simply give a uniform analysis to the situation of the class struggle.

pesky spaniards spoilt the theory too. Luckily anarchists canbe blamed.

They did. You gotta love the CNT for many things, but this also gives them extra cool points smile

Tojiah's picture
Tojiah
Offline
Joined: 2-10-06
Jan 8 2007 00:20
Alf wrote:
But this isn't only relevant to large time scales. In the most basic strike for immediate demands, it's essential to be able to assess the dynamic of the struggle - whether it's on the rise, marking time, or in retreat. The specific proposals we make within the struggle are closely linked to our ability to assess this dynamic accurately.

I'm not sure I agree that the same analysis should be used for all time-scales. It may be the former physicist in me talking, but scales of time and space can change the relevant tools of analysis.

Feighnt
Offline
Joined: 20-07-06
Jan 8 2007 02:26

i think, in order to make sense of this, one has to restrict it to europe and north america (which is the typical, mainstream perspective of "world" history - which Anarchists, to a large degree, are also guilty of following, i might point out), rather than the whole world.

... i think it'd also make more sense to say it was the rough defeat of the *Anarchist*, or libertarian socialist, revolutionary trend.

of course, allowing for certain exceptions like Spain tongue

if one looks at it in this manner: Why did the libertarian movement shrink drastically and go through a winter period through that time frame? ... i think a big part of the answer would be Bolshevism on the one hand, and Social Democracy/Welfare Liberalism on the other.

the Bolsheviks were, of course, able to co-opt a large portion of the socialist movement, when they took power - particularly the revolutionary arm of the movement. this, naturally, meant that lots of Anarchists went Bolshevik, assuming that the Bolsheviks had actually, genuinely created the revolution in Russia and were leading it on quite swimmingly - this confusion was to grip a large portion of the socialist movement for a long time, before people finally figured out what was going on. Spain, of course, was a good exception, as the Anarchists there were pretty well organized and were smart enough to see totalitarianism for what it was.

in response to the threat of Bolshevik revolution, defenders of Liberalism eventually, grudgingly, accept that reforms are necessary if they're to stay in power at all, and they put through welfare reforms to try to placate the workers. in other places, Social Democratic parties are able to get in power by promising such reforms, either before the Liberals could change with the times, or after the local Liberals refused to change.

in the meantime, Bolshevik Russia has gone Stalinist, rejecting internationalism quite soundly (though never coming out and admitting this baldly). they use their affiliated parties outside of Russia to co-opt revolutionary tendencies amongst the working class - including ones amongst their own ranks - and push them to do whatever would benefit Russian national interest at the time. naturally, this typically means the local parties in one country or another mute the more radical tendencies of the working class as well as they can, in fear of upsetting powerful Liberal governments or the Fascists (when they were still around). however, when the major Fascist powers which Russia was afraid of were nullified and they found themselves with a bunch of satellite Bolshevik countries in europe, *or*, alternately, before WWII in places where they felt they might not be harmed much by action, they're willing to shake things up a lot more with their parties in other countries, but certainly not in any way which would promote a genuine socialist revolution - at the most, they'd have wanted a Bolshevik government, making another Russia-friendly satellite state.

how's that?

georgestapleton's picture
georgestapleton
Offline
Joined: 4-08-05
Jan 8 2007 02:42
WeTheYouth wrote:
jef costello wrote:
WeTheYouth wrote:
You cannot just say such and such time was a period of defeat for the working class because the working class in europe and the west could be suffering defeats but the workers in Asia could be involved in militant uprisings. Its not helpful to our assesments if we simply give a uniform analysis to the situation of the class struggle.

pesky spaniards spoilt the theory too. Luckily anarchists canbe blamed.

They did. You gotta love the CNT for many things, but this also gives them extra cool points smile

Out of the grave and onto libcom kicking duct in the eyes of the left commies. Ah bless 'em.

jaycee
Offline
Joined: 3-08-05
Jan 8 2007 10:11

well i think Spain shows clearly why the period of defeat was so important to its failure. Spain was completely isolated and had no chance of spreading to ther countries. This is the fundamental difference to the Russian Revolution because the Russian Revolution still possessed the ability of spreading to ther countries. after all the defaet of the German revolution was the major reason for the failure of the Russian Revolution.

obviously there were still struggles during the post revolutionary wave but they were in general extremely isolated. This is especially true of struggles in countries like India and China, these became simple nationalist struggles as a result of this isolation. Also things sucha s the heacy involvement of the Stalinist Communist Parties in all these struggles show there weakness es very clearly.

Also i think the idea that seeing the Western world as the heart of capitalism and therefore class struggle is a very sensible thing to do. THis is not euro-centrism but the simple fact that it WAS the heart of capitalism and therefore any attempts at revolution were bound to need its involvement to a very large extent

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Jan 8 2007 12:39

OK, Revol, try this: stand with feet shoulder width apart, arms curving gently by your side, shoulders relaxed, lower back straight. Imagine this thread being suspended from the cieling and attached to the top of your head. Breath deeply from the tan-tien, in through the nose and out with the mouth. Now draw the chi slowly back into your body through the thread and back into your body.

Now focus on the simple question: do revolutionaries need to understand the balance of foces between the two major classes in society, or not?

WeTheYouth
Offline
Joined: 16-10-03
Jan 8 2007 13:13
Quote:
well i think Spain shows clearly why the period of defeat was so important to its failure. Spain was completely isolated and had no chance of spreading to other countries. This is the fundamental difference to the Russian Revolution because the Russian Revolution still possessed the ability of spreading to ther countries. after all the defaet of the German revolution was the major reason for the failure of the Russian Revolution.

obviously there were still struggles during the post revolutionary wave but they were in general extremely isolated. This is especially true of struggles in countries like India and China, these became simple nationalist struggles as a result of this isolation. Also things sucha s the heacy involvement of the Stalinist Communist Parties in all these struggles show there weakness es very clearly.

The revolution in Spain was isolated, but i dont see were your showing us anything tangible which would show that if the Spanish revolution would of succeeded that it would not of spread, i will give more examples that class struggle was still going on at high levels of militancy even in the heart of the beast so to speak in the form of the great Flint sit down strike in 1936 (USA) were the workers kicked the bosses out of the factory.

Not the bolshevik seizure of power and leninist bullshit then?

You cant just explain strikes, struggles and revolts away just because the CP was involved, alot of the time revolts were expressions of the working class fighting back.

Quote:
Also i think the idea that seeing the Western world as the heart of capitalism and therefore class struggle is a very sensible thing to do. THis is not euro-centrism but the simple fact that it WAS the heart of capitalism and therefore any attempts at revolution were bound to need its involvement to a very large extent

How is it sensible to base your entire theory of global class struggle on one fifth of the worlds workers?

The Bolivarian revolution for example, could in the future go towards a more libertarian direction, and i doubt that it wouldn't able to spread across south americal just because europe is not in revolt.

Tojiah's picture
Tojiah
Offline
Joined: 2-10-06
Jan 8 2007 14:00
jaycee wrote:
obviously there were still struggles during the post revolutionary wave but they were in general extremely isolated. This is especially true of struggles in countries like India and China, these became simple nationalist struggles as a result of this isolation. Also things sucha s the heacy involvement of the Stalinist Communist Parties in all these struggles show there weakness es very clearly.

But didn't Russia degenerate into Stalinism in a period of high international militancy, with huge international support?

posi
Offline
Joined: 24-09-05
Jan 8 2007 15:25

Hi Alf,

First of all, can you stop arguing as though the debate here is whether communists should adopt a concrete analysis of real historical circumstances and class forces? Rather, the debate is over whether your particular attempt to implement that stance is successful. Now, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt here, and take this slowly. Here are some questions.

Alf wrote:
In the early 1850s, Marx came to the conclusion (contrary to the predictions of the Communist Manifesto) that proletarian revolution was not imminent and that capitalism was entering a phase of global expansion.

I don't dispute that Marx did argue this, I have no idea - but can you please provide some key references/quotations to corroborate your view?

Alf wrote:
In 1917 Lenin argued that Russia was no longer going faced with a merely bourgeois democratic revolution because the imperialist war had placed worldwide proletarian revolution on the agenda. In 1933 the Italian communist left published the first issue of 'Bilan' ('Balance Sheet'). It argued that the coming to power of Hitler proved that the revolutionary period opened up in 1917 was over and that capitalism was heading inexorably towards a second world war.

Forgive me, but does this mean anything more than 'people have argued similar stuff to this before'? Because that wouldn't be a good reason, would it?

Alf wrote:
In short: it is absolutely vital for revolutionaries to have a clear grasp of the historic period in which they are operating. It has profound implications for the type of activity that is open to them and for the impact they can have on the class struggle.

... but like I say above, no one disputes the need to have a clear grasp of historic circumstances, the question is whether your (thus far, totally opaque) device of "periods" is helpful for that at all.

I'm also going to re-put the questions which I originally asked, which you didn't answer before (and which were also never answered on the unions and communists thread). Could you please answer them?

First, I wrote:
What aspects of capitalism define them [i.e. "periods"], make them periods, other than the trend of victories for the working class?

Secondly, I wrote:
Does the explanation, for example, involve reference to the development of the productive forces, and productive relations (on the broad definition of that term)?

This is the key question. What is it about capitalism in any "period" that makes it a period, and distinguishes it from other periods?

Also Alf, why don't you answer alibadani's third question, in the original post?

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Jan 8 2007 16:17

posi: To be honest I don’t altogether understand your question about “what make things periods”. Why is it “opaque” to talk about periods? How else can you identify broad historical trends and overall tendencies rather than simply piling up collections of facts? This can be applied to different aspects: Marx’s notion of an “epoch of social revolution” refers specifically to periods of history when there is a growing conflict between the relations of production and the forces of production. Other ‘periods’ can be identified in relation to the evolution of the class struggle. Bilan for example looked at the whole series of major defeats for the working class in the 20s and 30s and concluded that the period of revolutionary struggles that followed the first world war was over. The consequence was that revolutionaries could not in those circumstances reasonably hope to form a ‘party’ in the sense of an organisation capable of having a major influence on the mass of the workers. They thus rejected Trotsky’s efforts to form a Fourth International as voluntarist and opportunist. Without some sense of living in a definite ‘period’ in the evolution of class forces, how could they have developed this argument in a coherent manner? In this they were being perfectly coherent with Marx’s method in the 1850s, which is why I don’t think you’re right to claim that no one disagrees that “communists should adopt a concrete analysis of real historical circumstances and class forces”. .
The flight away from historical analysis, and the understanding that the class struggle has its own dynamic, in favour of thinking that revolution is possible at any time provided you have the right leadership, or discover ways of provoking the masses to revolt, or get enough workers to join your organisation, has been a constant problem in the proletarian movement and we can find any number of examples of it on these boards alone.

You’re right, I should have responded to alibadani’s third question, ie "How is it that the massive struggles of the 1930's in the U.S were undertaken by a "defeated" proletariat, whereas the two "undefeated" generations haven't done much since the 70's?"

First of all, I don’t agree that the “undefeated proletariat” hasn’t done much since the 70s. There were extremely important struggles in the 80s, not least the mass strike in Poland. There are also some very important struggles developing now, after a period (phase, interlude…) of disarray in the 90s. And one of the key differences between the struggles (yes, often very militant) of the 30s and the post-68 struggles is that in the 30s the bourgeoisie was able to derail them into support for an impending world war, whereas the struggles post-68 have acted as a barrier to a third world war, even though the latter was the ‘logical’ outcome of the economic impasse facing the system.

WeTheYouth
Offline
Joined: 16-10-03
Jan 8 2007 16:25
Quote:
the struggles post-68 have acted as a barrier to a third world war, even though the latter was the ‘logical’ outcome of the economic impasse facing the system.

How was it the logical outcome?

WeTheYouth
Offline
Joined: 16-10-03
Jan 8 2007 16:52

I reckon the ICC is gonna post and say that they was wrong after all.

Alf's picture
Alf
Offline
Joined: 6-07-05
Jan 8 2007 17:25

Jolly helpful contribution to discussion, Revol, and I'm glad you have such respect for academic historians.

Posi: I forgot to give you the reference about Marx and the need to understand ‘periods’. I was referring to the debates in the Comunist League, where Marx argues against the voluntarism of the Willich-Schapper tendency. There's a well known passage which is relevant, where Marx rejects their substitution of mere will for a real understanding of the historic conditions (minutes of the CL's central committee meeting of September 1850).

There is also another famous passage in the Class Struggles in France (part IV):

“Given this general prosperity, wherein the productive forces of bourgeois society arc developing as luxuriantly as it is possible for them to do within bourgeois relationships, a real revolution is out of the question. Such a revolution is possible only in periods when both of these factors — the modern forces of production and the bourgeois forms of production — come into opposition with each other. The various bickerings in which representatives of the individual factions of the continental party of Order presently engage and compromise each other, far from providing an occasion for revolution, are, on the contrary, possible only because the bases of relationships are momentarily so secure and — what the reactionaries do not know — so bourgeois. On this all the reactionary attempts to hold back bourgeois development will rebound just as much as will all the ethical indignation and all the enraptured proclamations of the democrats. A new revolution is only a consequence of a new crisis. The one, however, is as sure to come as the other”.

I will try to come back to some other posts. But to answer treeofjudas briefly: Stalinism was a product of the defeat of the revolution. It consolidated itself in Russia after the various efforts to extend the revolution (Germany, Italy, Hungary, etc) had all been defeated. I would make a distinction between the opportunism of the Bolsheviks in a number of these movements, especially after 1920, and the openly imperialist and capitalist policies of the Stalinist regime.

No one has answered WeTheYouth’s claim that the ‘bolivarian revolution’ could be the basis for a genuine revolution, instead of being its bourgeois negation. But it's closely related to this topic. If it's meaningless to see the proletarian revolution in any global international context, why not see it emerging in the specific conditions of one country alone?