The tide is turning

Hugh Rodwell m-14970 at
Tue May 21 17:44:34 MDT 1996

Zeynep writes a lot of good stuff on the resurgence of working class
militancy and popular unrest and rebellion. Among other things, she
emphasizes the fact that imperialism is in a state of one-way, accelerating

>I keep saying it, this is going to get worse. Look at the numbers and it is
>very clear that this restructuring is a matter of life and death for
>capitalism. This is no temporary fluctuation.

Then she looks at the present state of class confrontation:

>I urge fellow list members to look into the state of the world economy and
>capitalism. The tide is turning.
>In Mexico, in Germany, in South Korea, in Japan, in Turkey and other places
>we are now witnessing:
>1- More populous working class action
>2- An attempt to free of the strangle of the trade-union "aristocrats"
>3- Unrest in other strata of the society, especially the students, and in
>some    places farmers.
>I am not an optimist, but now this year, finally I'm convinced that the
>upperhand capitalism/imperialism obtained in the 80's is now shaking.

Then she delivers a brilliant remark:

>In the 80's the problem was not that we were wrong,

This is *situation in a nutshell*. Can't be emphasized enough. Remember all
the rats (and some who weren't and should have known much better) who
deserted what they thought was the sinking ship of socialism because of
temporary setbacks for the working class in struggle (big example the
Miners' Strike of 1984-85 in Britain) or the terminal crisis of Stalinism
in the workers' states?

But then she says something more debatable:

>we were defeated
>world-wide. Yes there are many lessons to be learned from the defeat, but a
>defeat is a defeat. It does not mean all your ideas are invalidated.
>Sometimes one is not strong enough.

'Defeat' is too vague when you're characterizing historical periods in
relation to the prospects for class struggle. The least you can do is
categorize the significance of the defeat. I mean, we didn't suffer any
*historical* defeat, in terms of our organizations being smashed. We had
some tactical defeats that weakened us, like the failure of the miners'
strike to achieve its ends, and this made us a bit more vulnerable
strategically, but the fighting spirit of the miners broke the timetable
and the aggressive edge of Thatcherism, and provided a much needed model
for militancy and solidarity (regardless of the errors of leadership that
prepared the way for the 'defeat' and return to work). The nearest we came
to a strategic defeat was the contradictory fall of the Stalinist regimes
in the deformed workers' states. The lack of conscious socialist leadership
in the uprisings that hastened the departure of the Stalinist regimes
opened the door to the restorationist sharks and even the Pope (Walesa in
Poland). But at the same time they showed the capacity of the masses in
these states for large-scale rebellion against brutality, injustice and
exploitation, serving notice on the restorers that their time was limited.

Remember, as long as imperialism survives, everything we do can be
construed as a defeat, if we see things non-dialectically. 'We lose, they
win'. Losing battles is the nature of our struggle. We'll 'lose' every
battle (in the sense of imperialism surviving) until we win the war! The
thing is, the day we win the war, the world changes.

>History moves in swings, something like a pendulum.

No, Zeynep, and I'm not nit-picking here, it moves in waves -- pendulums
are too regular, and they don't have tides.

>The upswing is but at the beginning. The shape of things to come requires
>that all communists and revolutionaries realise what's happenning.

Right! History is in our favour. It has been for a long time. Over seventy
years ago Lenin characterized the present imperialist epoch as one of wars,
revolutions and the transition to socialism. Trotsky subtitled the
Transitional Programme of the Fourth International 'The Death Agony of
Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International'.

Imperialism was kept alive by the life support machine of Stalinism in the
post-war period. Since that political lifeline was cut off (by
imperialism's own greed and blindness) imperialism has been growing more
rapacious and intolerable by the day. All the tensions and contradictions
accumulated during 'peaceful coexistence' are surging out of their
confinement now with explosive force. The working class is forcing its way
back on to the stage without the shackles, chains and grotesque masks of
Stalinist misrepresentation. It's finding its own feet again and starting
to think its own thoughts.

>We must this time link the working class and oppressed people of the
>"third-world" countries with the imperialist country's own working class. A
>defeat we can live with. To be blind to the opportunities afforded is not

True. We must realize that while the bosses are threatening us with the
standard of living endured by the impoverished urban masses of Asia and
Latin America, we can threaten them by holding up our standard of living as
a beacon for the workers of the most exploited countries.

This means we must re-examine what Zeynep calls: 'the gains of the relatively
pampered working classes of the imperialist nations'. 'Relatively pampered'
be damned! Every gain, material, legal and cultural, has been wrung from
the imperialists by struggle and the threat of revolution implicit in a
strong and organized working class. The fact that the imperialists never
admit this and encourage the myth of a pampered working class shouldn't
bamboozle us into using the same language. The working class of any country
anywhere has more in common with the working class of every other country
than with the bourgeoisie of its own country. Where this doesn't appear to
be the case, there's bound to be a tradition of treacherous working class
leadership -- like the French Stalinists and their chauvinism in relation
to the Algerian revolution, or the British Labour Party and its attacks on
the liberation movements in Southern Africa or immigrants from South Asia
and the West Indies.

Linking the oppressed classes throughout the world requires *organizing* on
an international basis. Only a link within one and the same party will
provide the necessary combination of continuity and immediacy, shared
principles, shared priorities and shared campaigns to get out of the blind
alley of nationalism and particularism. A good recent example of this is
the emphasis given to the Workers Aid to Bosnia campaigns in Europe by the
Latin American sections of the International Workers League (LIT/CI).

The Liaison Committee set up by the LIT and the Workers International is
also a sign that the tide is running our way. The days of easy sneers at
splits and bickering within the Trotskyist tradition are over, and the
opportunity is arising to watch -- or even better participate in -- a new
constructive process of principled fusion of Bolshevik-Leninist tendencies
towards a new mass party of the Fourth International.

>I'm not convinced that the US is included yet. But, from the dockers on
>strike in England to the MST in Brazil, from South Africa where the workers
>are for the first time challenging ANC-led policies to France and Germany;
>to the Zapatistas who continue to poke in the eye of NAFTA's dictates -
>there is a trend.
>We've got to change and adopt very fast. I've been watching the trend
>cautiously for the last six months or so, but the information from
>everywhere confirms that 1995 was a slow awakening and 1996 is accelerating.

Remember the prophets of doom after the fall of the Berlin wall! Socialism
is dead, they screeched. The working class is in a coma. Marxism is
religious bullshit. The bourgeoisie are not in crisis. They've never had it
so good. They're on the offensive and winning hands down. The Soviet Union
was never really a workers' state, or stopped being one some time in the
early thirties, so everything we believed in was bullshit. Pure
impressionism, all of it.

Now that things are going the opposite way there is a risk that the
impressionists will come rampaging back and tell us that the rising tide
will do it all for us, that this or that local leadership will be forced to
enact our policies by the necessity of history -- basically, that we don't
have to do more than stand on the sidelines and cheer.

I think it's time we imagined one of these big mobilizations being led by a
conscious internationalist socialist leadership, and worked towards it as a
goal of our party organization, instead of boosting semi-conscious,
nationalist, non-socialist leaderships over our own heads.

>Time to move people.


Time to organize.



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