Discussion of the political and economic reforms in the USSR of the late 80s, and the real meaning of communism.
Ever since the Bolshevik counterrevolution the struggle against capitalism has been flung into confusion. It came five years after the collapse of the belief in social democracy as an expression of international solidarity of the working class, five years after the various national social democratic parties supported their respective nation-states against the working class. Bolshevism and the Communist International did not live up to the expectations of revolutionaries across the world. Instead they remained true to their origins in Social-Democracy, defending capitalist restructuring against proletarian autonomy.
This has been the history of the last 70 years. In the USSR our brothers and sisters have continued to assert their interests against the interests of the capitalist ruling class, but a victory against the party is painted in terms of simple westernisation. In the west and the "third world" proletarians have been encouraged to see a Bolshevik-style regime as the sole possible outcome of a victorious anti-capitalist struggle. The continued belief in such fantasies only goes to show how capitalism, a world society based on wage-labour, is strengthened by the divisions in the proletariat, a world class defined by dispossession.
This becomes immediately obvious when we ask ourselves why in 1989, when tens of thousands of miners were on strike both in the USA and the USSR, there was no attempt to form a united movement which could cause additional problems for the bosses. The present upheavals in the USSR offer revolutionaries the opportunity to reassess the situation and renew links across the world which have been severed by many long years of counter-revolution. All national divisions, all borders and all national identities only prolong the illusion of a shared interest between proletarians and the bosses of each national economy. They can only benefit world capitalism as a whole. It is in this context that we send this address to revolutionaries in the USSR.
We hold that:
- Capitalism is organised as a global system of commodity production and exchange based on the dispossession of the proletariat and the exploitation of workers through the alienation of the labour power.
- From the West, where the conditions of classical capitalism still hold sway, to the so-called "socialist" countries, where capitalism has taken newer forms, we see a unity of interest in the proletariat in sweeping away the boss class of whatever ilk.
- The mass deportations and exploitation of workers in labour camps in the USSR from the thirties filled the same role for Russian capital as slavery in the new world filled for western Europe in the period 1600-1890’s - the primitive accumulation of capital.
- Due to the Russian despotic tradition and the role of Bolshevism as the only force capable of destroying working class revolution in Russia and the Ukraine, Soviet capitalism has taken a specific form, in which "bureaucratic money" largely replaced the free movement of currency among bourgeois owners.
- The current perestroika is a mechanism to reorganise the expropriation of labour-power and the circulation of value in a way more in tune with the needs of capitalism as a whole. It is the updating of a decadent superstructure to fit in with new conditions imposed by the changing needs of existing Capitalist social relations.
- Glasnost is the State’s attempt to legitimise itself through civil society.
- Just as in the USSR too much bureaucracy is proving dysfunctional for capitalism, and the rouble is being made more convertible first of all within the country, so in the West the "relative autonomy" of finance-capital will also cause the bosses major problems. This does not herald an era of peace, but a period of renewed war - the class war waged by the boss class against the proletariat which is necessary to maintain exploitation.
- Economic crisis, as a form of capitalist reorganisation, cannot determine a revolutionary crisis which could endanger capitalism as a whole. That depends solely on the force of a proletarian social movement.
- The "anti-imperialist" struggles of former colonies have subordinated the class struggle to the interests of new elites, home-grown managers of exploitation. Whether these elites are organised along the lines of the classical bourgeoisie, or as party cadres exercising their power in a more collective way is determined by the level of capitalist development within their territory. Neither mode has anything to offer the proletariat.
- All the Communist Parties and Social Democratic Parties throughout the world are enemies of the proletariat and will always undermine and attack the revolutionary stirrings of the proletariat.[/li]
- Such revolutionary stirrings face being sucked back into the management of capitalist exploitation unless they immediately oppose the nation-state and national economy. The experiences in Poland with the rise of Solidarity illustrate this well.
- For the revolutionary destruction of wage-labour, commodity production, the subjugation of women and workers still outside capitalist production, it is necessary that a movement which is opposed to all nationalism develops. We are a world class.
Our experience in western Europe has been in many ways different to yours in the USSR, in other ways similar. We need to benefit from each others experience and to unify against the barriers imposed by our respective states. The international carve-up of the world after the Second World War is no longer stable. As the global ruling class reorganises its power, we must recognise that our struggle will take new forms.
Many of the struggles of the last forty years have been inspirational - such as Hungary ‘56, France and elsewhere ‘68, Portugal, Ethiopia ‘74, Poland ‘70, ‘76 & ‘80, South Africa 1976, 1984/5 & 1989(?). But their failure to break out of the limitations of the nation state places them in the position of "prison revolts" - our nation is a prison! Current conditions mean that more than ever, the revolutionary struggle is international or it is nothing!
We describe ourselves as communists as we are fighting for the abolition of wage-labour, commodity production, the subjugation of women and imperialist exploitation. In the west this can sometimes cause confusion as we are depicted by the bourgeois press as being partisans of the USSR. We however assert that the communist movement is a product of the class struggle. It is not the application of some programme devised by the left-wing of the intelligentsia. It arises from the day-to-day struggle of workers and other proletarians across the world who are forced to defend themselves against the increasing power of capital over their lives.
This struggle conflicts with all forms of mediation and institutionalisation (e.g. trade-unionism, democracy, representation), because it cannot reach a happy, harmonious balancing point where the interests of capital and the proletariat can be reconciled. Such ideologies, and indeed such periods of tranquillity are used by capital to reorganise ready for its next assault on the proletariat. Thus the defence of the proletariat can only be forwarded by moving onto the offensive and destroying capital. As struggle develops this becomes clearer and clearer to the participants.
The domination of capital has reached such an extent that its effect on world ecology has reached a crisis point Though it might lead to the destruction of all human life, or even the extinction of life altogether across the planet, we do not see this as an automatic conclusion. In fact we see the current concern of leading capitalists in green issues shows a traditional split within capitalism, between those who place their particular interests above their class interest and those who see the need to reform the whole system to safeguard continued exploitation. We consider it as frightening, and probably more likely, that capitalism will move back from the brink of total destruction - by the imposition of conditions where uncontaminated air, water, food etc. is only available to those with money. It is merely an extension of the same principals as which the capitalists seized control of most of the land in the world i.e. the imposition of commodity economy on a more and more extensive scale. It is a mechanism whereby capital invades our lives more and more. Thus any ecological movement which fails to confront the question of capital from a proletarian perspective will be counterrevolutionary.
We seek contact with revolutionaries in the USSR to deepen our understanding of our class and its struggle. So for instance it comes as no surprise to us that Yeltsin calls on striking miners to return to work as we have been faced with a leftist "loyal opposition" for years - we hope to offer you our experience of this to help you in the struggle there. But for us there are many areas where we can learn from you - organising clandestinely for example. There are other topics of which we need more knowledge e.g: We are clear that "The Great Patriotic War" was used to harness the proletariat to the capitalist regime in the USSR, and we denounce the Second World War as an inter-imperialist war. But at the same time we wish to learn of the experiences of those partisans who took up arms in response to Nazi occupation but refused to be subordinated to the Russian state or the Allied war effort.
This address has been drawn up by a small group in London, all too aware of our feebleness in the face of the forces we oppose. It is available in Russian, English and French. We hope to make it available in other languages as well. We hope to set off new dialogues not just between ourselves and comrades in the USSR, but a rekindling of discussion by the many groups dotted around the world. Our own political development owes much to three sources in particular:
- the anti-Bolshevik communists of the 1920s (Anton Pannekoek, Sylvia Pankhurst, Otto Rühle etc.)
- the clarity that emerged in France in the 1960s, where Socialisme ou Barbarie tried to understand the changed conditions of modern capitalism, and where the Situationist International and Vieille Taupe took the further step of defining revolution as something encompassing all aspects of our lives;
- and sone of the autonomists in Italy in the late 1970s, who uncompromisingly reasserted proletarian autonomy outside of parties and unions.
We invite response from comrades throughout the world. Situated in London, we have access to a multitude of resources - including historical archives, modern technology, etc.- which we hope to put at the service of the development of a world wide communist movement. Despite our limitations we feel capable of having an impact. We do NOT put ourselves forward as a nucleus of a new World Communist Party as we see that "The Revolution is not a Party Affair". We undertake this task as part of the process of the self-organisation of the proletariat as a CLASS against capital.
Published by the Red Menace, London, September 1989. Taken from the Practical History website.