Reflections on May Day - Eleno

A contribution to Reflections On Mayday 2000.

We do not agree with all of this text (notably its "anti-imperialist" support for nationalist struggles) but reproduce it for reference.

Because the hour of liberation is far away it does not mean that this is the hour of surrender.

Despite the emergence of the new anti-capitalist movement', the revolutionary struggles to replace capitalism world-wide are in a very severe crisis, the worst since the First World War in fact. I don't want to be pessimistic, but it is a reality that most activists have failed to grasp. To understand this would be useful in constructing the new movement.

Humanity is paying a terrible price for capitalism's victories in the 80s over the socialist block and the anti-imperialist movements in the Third World. The era that opened in 1917 and stretched to the Cuban Revolution of 1959, through the historical defeat of the US in Vietnam in 1975 and on to the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua in 1979 has closed. In the five years after victory in Vietnam, no fewer than 13 revolutionary movements came to power, in the 20 years since then imperialism has ensured that none have. The first major attempt at overcoming capitalism has been defeated. The once mighty USSR, with all its failures and flaws nevertheless provided the most serious challenge to imperialism, has been torn down together with Eastern European socialism. Together with the failures, all the advances the working classes had achieved have been swept away as capitalism has been restored. A spokesperson for Fiat said eagerly that Eastern Europe would be "like the Third World, but on [western] Europe's doorstep." Already in Russia life expectancy has dropped from close to that of Britain to nearer that of Cambodia.

Meanwhile, the anti-imperialist movements that struggled in the Third World have lost the economic, military and political support once provided by the socialist block. There has been no let up in the arms sales and donations and training in how to use them given by imperialist countries to reactionary regimes fighting against anti-imperialist movements. Arms continue to pour into Turkey to suppress the Kurdish revolution and into Israel to suppress the Palestinian revolution. Here too these movements have suffered retreat and annihilation. Once Central America, Southern Africa and Palestine were the focuses of anti-capitalist struggle in the world. Today, the Central American revolution has been reduced to Parliamentary politics and the Intifada that mobilised hundreds of thousands of Palestinians has been traded for a bantustan dependent on whatever crumbs of aid imperialism offers and in which Israeli security is verified by the CIA.

In nations in which anti-imperialist movements actually managed to seize power the developments have been similar. Whatever restraint the socialist block once forced on imperialism is gone. Imperialism can launch attacks against any Third World country that threatens the interests of capitalism with no fear of retaliation at all. AII across the world from Nicaragua to Angola to Cambodia anti-imperialist governments have been forced into retreat and accepting capitalism back. Some like Sandinista Nicaragua have been completely wiped out.

The remaining socialist countries are isolated and this is forcing the reintroduction of capitalism to varying extents. China is becoming more and more capitalist while Cuba has done its best to maintain the achievements of socialism. However it cannot hope to carry on indefinitely keeping socialism going on one small underdeveloped island in a hostile sea of capitalism.

The resulting "New World Order" was proclaimed as one of freedom, prosperity and democracy by the Cold War victors. Already the lie has been long exposed, buried under the devastation of war and economic crisis. All the things that made the struggle against capitalism come about are still with us, the facts that it cannot provide what the working class of the imperialist countries and certainly not the working classes and peasantries of the Third World with what they need. Therefore it is not surprising that the struggle continues, at a lower level and on a smaller scale at the moment, but it does exist.

Green shoots in the ruins?

Amidst the ruins of defeat there are hopeful signs. A new and inspiring movement has even emerged in Mexico in the 90s the Zapatistas of Chiapas, and the Colombian people fight on undefeated against seemingly impossible odds in their uprising that has been going since the 60s. Where does the 'new anti-capitalist movement' come into this? It is difficult to tell for several reasons. Firstly it is a very diverse movement and secondly there has not been much time to see its true colours or where it is going. However I really do believe that the new movement is progressive. It is certainly a very refreshing experience in comparison with Britain's 'old left.'

The old left was a major obstacle to the anti-capitalist movement and a very damaging one because of its appearances that looked socialist. It represented the more privileged minority of the working class. These privileges come from the profits obtained by the super-exploitation in the Third World, that is from imperialism. That was the reason they could never oppose imperialism, they could never kill the goose that laid their golden egg. Therefore they could not lead any serious challenge to the state because it was this state that maintained their privileges, so anti-capitalist struggle was a non-starter.

This explains things that would seem bizarre otherwise. For example how "Red" Ken could denounce May Day demonstrators and praise the police. How the Socialist Worker's Party can call for the destruction of the Cuban socialist revolution while asking for a vote for the oh so socialist Labour Party at every opportunity, and how the Worker's Revolutionary Party could find itself on the same side as Thatcher and the CIA in praising the anti-socialist Solidarity in Poland.

The new movement is free from these corrupt influences. It does not have the hypocrisy of the old left, it does not have the shameless support for imperialism, the contempt for the mass of the working class, the delusions in social democracy (Labour) and the racism that is inevitable in any supporter of the state in which black people form the most oppressed section of the working class.

But it is not just that the new movement does not have these bad points, it has progressive features as well. Although the word imperialism is not much used, there is an understanding and acceptance that exists in many sectors. Imperialism means that the capitalist class of Britain does not just exploit the working class of Britain, it also super-exploits the Third World. This super-exploitation is well known in the new movement, in the form of sweatshops in which workers are paid a few pence for producing an item that is sold for tens of pounds for example.

The new movement wants to get rid of capitalism, we know that but what does it want to replace it with, and how? That is less clear. It is almost as though we have set out knowing that we have to leave this place behind us but don't yet know where we want to go or by what route.

May Day in London was strongly supported by supporters of revolutionary anti-imperialist movements., especially from Turkey who painted their symbol of a hammer sickle and assault rifle on the base of a statue of Winston Churchill to the horror of the bourgeois media, with the Evening Standard writing the headline "Red Turks bring violence to our streets." We need to strengthen the recognition that this stage of capitalism is the imperialist state, the form that exploits the whole world. We need to recognise that capitalist imperialism is necessarily racist, and that the struggle against imperialism and racism are the same as the struggle against capitalism. That the Turkish revolutionaries are struggling against the same thing as our movement is, that the roots of what the revolutionaries there face in the fascist, massacring dirty war state are right here in imperialist Britain. By doing that the new movement must develop and strengthen its anti-imperialist, anti-racist and working class character. In that way we will find where we want to go and how to get there.

But the 'new anti-capitalist movement inevitably raises an issue that has been off the mainstream agenda since the defeat of the Soviet Union. That is the necessity of an alternative to capitalism, in which production is consciously directed to meet the needs of society rather than being motivated by individual profit, that is a struggle for a real socialist society.

Long Live Globalisation - of the People's Struggle!