In the 20th Century Social Democracy has been the main channel through which the aims and aspirations of the European working class have been expressed. At times even a channel for reform and progress - but more importantly, in times of revolutionary crisis (like the present day), Social Democracy has acted with a clear anti-revolutionary function
In this section we argue that the two main labour-Oriented forces in W.Europe - Social Democracy and Eurocommunism are turning from being "allies" of the working class, to being "enemies" of the working class, carrying out direct repression and anti-proletarian policies. This means, in Britain, the Labour Government, and in Italy the Communist Party.
A Bit of History
Victor Serge (in "Year One of the Russian Revolution“)describes how, in 1918, all Germany lay in the power of the Workers' and Soldiers' Soviets, with the revolutionary movement spreading like wildfire. The calculated choice of the ruling class ( the Hindenburgs, the Krupps, the Ludendorffs) was to put themselves at the head of the movement in order to avoid being smashed by it. It was not just a choice between social revolution and a restoration of normal order. It was more than that. The International Powers (through the Treaty of Versailles) had imposed crushing armistice terms on the German working class. The German working class had to be crushed and its revolutionary organisations destroyed, to the point of accepting many years of sweated labour in the interests of the other international powers.
In order to achieve this crushing, the ruling class turned to opportunist elements inside the Social Democrat camp. Ebert and Scheidemann were invited into Government, with Noske, the Butcher, as Commander in Chief. Their task was to seize the right moment for a confrontation - which they did, when they brought the Army against a workers· uprising in Berlin, and within days had murdered Karl Liebknecht and
Rosa Luxembourg, the best leaders of that movement.
Serge says of Ebert and Scheidemann that they were "socialist leaders of the utmost decorum", "but with influence among the masses". It is those two special qualities that bring us right up to the present day and some modern-day “butchers of the revolution” who are also "socialist leaders of the utmost decorum", and who have guaranteed their "influence among the masses" by a whole range of contacts with the official machinery of Trade Unionism: James Callaghan, Helmut Schmidt, Mario Soares etc. These gentlemen are performing their services to multinational capitalism, by imposing Austerity on the working class. They are also moving violently against the revolutionary forces. We need no reminding that it was a Social Democrat Government (Labour) that sent the troops into N. Ireland and has been torturing, maiming and killing the Republican population ever since. Likewise, it is Helmut Schmidt's Social Democratic machine that has perpetrated the horrors of sensory deprivation on political prisoners, has authorised the murders in Stammheim jail, and is turning West Germany into a police State (eg. the jobs ban on political dissidents).
A new phase for Social Democracy - from Reformism to Repression
The face of Social Democracy in Europe has been changing rapidly in the past 5 years as the class struggle has grown. We could summarise as follows:
In Europe the capitalist crisis of 1973 onwards has been brought about mainly by the growth of the power of the working class in the preceding period. The crisis been a necessary means and a tool to destroy that power. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has used the strict terms of its loans to countries like Britain and Italy, as a sort of Versailles Treaty - to re-impose control of the working class by means of drastic Austerity.
However a Chilean-style solution (eradication of the working class movement) has been an impossibility in this period (both because of the strength of the working class, and because such a solution is known to block capitalist development: it will only be used as a last resort). The only way that the Crisis could be made to function effectively against the working class was for capital to enlist the help of Social Democracy (in Britain, the Labour Government and Trade Unions, in an inter-class alliance similar to the wartime and post-War reconstruction periods).
In most European countries we have now lived through 4 years of Social Democracy plus Austerity Measures. The political Right has been pushed to the background of the European political stage (where they wait, like Vultures). The centre of that stage is now occupied firmly by the Social Democrats - and by their allies, the European Communist Parties. We'll return to the CPs in a minute.
The important fact is that, although Social Democracy has managed to block the channels of struggle in certain spheres (eg money-wages), new struggles, new forms of behaviour. and new contradictions have appeared in other spheres.
We can say that, despite the hardships and bitterness of the Crisis, Social Democracy in Europe has still not managed to achieve the fundamental precondition for a capitalist Restoration - ie a return to productive labour and labour discipline throughout the society. In many spheres (both inside and outside the workplace), new forms of dissent, of organisation and of struggle have been born, to confound the Social Democratic project. New spaces of struggle have been opened.
Therefore we find ourselves in a new phase of Social Democracy, to match this new phase of resistance. Social Democracy is no longer a tame, reformist enemy, simply to be outflanked and outmanoeuvred. It is now an enemy that is intent on destroying the forces which are resisting the capitalist Restoration, in order to guarantee a "peaceful" and "planned" return to "normal" exploitation.
Put simply, this means adopting every possible means to isolate, silence, discredit, imprison, marginalise, defuse, and if necessary kill those who are organising
this new phase of resistance. You might recall that one of the much-heralded achievements of the Common Market recently was the establishment of an anti-terrorist Conference. And careful reading of the papers shows our Minister for Internment Merlyn Rees regularly slipping over to Germany to Sharpen up his police techniques, and then continuing to Italy to meet Mr 'Civil War' Cossiga.
And What About the Communist Parties?
It's not extreme to say that in some situations and at some moments, the forces of Social Democracy become the main enemy, acting as the front-runners for the overall project of restructuring of capitalism. In Britain, for instance, it is the Trade Unions (even more than the managements) who are conducting the purges of the militants in the car factories (March 1978).
But the question is, can we include the European Communist Parties as part of this same anti-revolutionary force?
Obviously, Eurocommunism and Social Democracy stem from different roots, and have very different histories. But at a moment when (in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal) the CPs are pressing for national governmental power, it is worth recalling George Orwell's statement, some 40 years ago: "The Communists stood not upon the extreme Left but upon the extreme Right...Official Communism must be regarded, at any rate for the time being, as an anti-revolutionary force".
From our work on this pamphlet, it is clear that the Communist Party in Italy is part of the same tendency by which the traditional "working class parties" are being called upon on to help the bourgeoisie unload the costs of the capitalist economic crisis onto the workers. In this pamphlet we have described how the PCI has been moving against those revolutionary forces which it cannot control.
The PCI is now become the most committed Law and Order party in Italy. It gives support to each new measure of police repression and erosion of civil liberties. It now says that Austerity is a necessary step along the road to Socialism - and that the working class must therefore tighten their belts. And it has publicly abandoned the defence of workers' jobs and workers' rigidity in the labour market.
The resistance to this PCI is hard to measure and define - but it undoubtedly exists. The central question for the coming period is whether these forces will be able to consolidate their power into organised forms, to get through this phase of the struggle, when the PCI is starting to reveal more openly its repressive and anti-proletarian nature.
IN A SENSATIONAL INTERVIEW. TOP COMMUNIST PARTY UNION LEADER LUCIANO LAMA REVEALS HIS TRUE COLOURS.
Just for the record, here are short quotes from Lama's interview in Ln Repubblica, Jan.28th 1978, under the headline: "The Sacrifices We Are Demanding from Workers".
"The Union is proposing that the workers follow a policy of sacrifices. Not marginal sacrifices, but substantial sacrifices...We can no longer force companies to keep on a number of workers in excess of their productive possibilities, nor can we continue to demand that the Layoff Fund go on forever paying the surplus workers their wages...This is a fundamental turnaround in the unions attitude. Ever since 1969, the Union has staked its cards on .. rigidity of the labour force...We are convinced that to impose excessive quotas of manpower on companies is
a suicidal policy. The Italian economy has been brought to its knees on account of this policy. Therefore...we maintain that when it has been ascertained that companies are in a state of crisis, they should have the right to fire."
Finally, we have room to mention a political development just as we go to press: the kidnapping of Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades - an event described by journalists as "unprecedented" in Italian post-War parliamentary history.
The newspapers generally present Italy as a "generalised crisis of violence", "breakdown of law and order" etc, lumping together actions by both Left and Right and by the Mafia. It is important that the reader is able to distinguish the one from the other - because they raise important questions for the class struggle.
On the one hand there are robberies, kidnappings etc that are done by the Mafia and associated crime groups. On the other hand there are robberies that are carried out by revolutionary elements - as well as physical assaults on Fascists, top company officials, magistrates, police etc (including shootings). Then there are the burnings of Fascist headquarters - a type of action which is a mass action (see p.49). And there has also been a movement towards 'expropriation' from shops and supermarkets (organised plundering), which, like the execution of fascists, has been carried out by certain sections of the Left, and has been hotly debated by the movement as a whole, with many, widely differing positions being expressed.
The Red Brigades, like the NAP, are made up of elements of the revolutionary Left, joining together with "illegalists" (including ex-prisoners) and (in the case of the RB) other elements recruited from the assembly lines of the big factories in the North. Since they started life in the early 1970s, they haye carried out a whole series of armed actions. Many of their number have been arrested _ and it was the starting of the Red Brigades trial in Turin (49 defendants) that sparked the Moro kidnap. The kidnap takes up the RE slogan: "Carry the Struggle to the Heart of the State: All Power to the Armed Proletariat".