The End of History?

Owen Jones owen_jones at
Wed Aug 16 11:49:38 MDT 2000


 Firstly I thought this was an excellent analysis that helps to reveal the
real face of an epoch in which the bourgeoisie is as confident to predict
its absolute historical victory, that terrible proclamation whose essence
was found in Francis Fukuyama's neo-Hegelian idealist work, "The End of
History". Indeed, I myself was inspired to write an analysis along these
lines not long ago (though cannot find it), and the fact we have some basis
for optimism shows that this 20-year epoch of working class defeat is,
hopefully, gradually drawing to a close. In 1991, would there have been
anything positive to write about, anything indicating a prospect for
socialist revolution? This is perhaps the best time in twenty years to be a
Marxist; that still does not say much, but now one can say "revolution"
without sounding insincere at least. But has anyone notice that nobody
actually dares say "the end of history" these days?

 I would like to make some comments of my own. In terms of the state of the
working class of the imperialist countries, nearly without exception, their
living standards have been in stagnation or decline since 1973 after the end
of the "Golden Age of Capitalism" (45-73). Workers work harder for longer
hours, for lower real wages (see the article by the Guardian finance editor
I posted a couple of days ago; clearly this bourgeois commentator is not a
radical of any colours!) If we take Britain, possession of cars has not
increased in the past 25 years (just over a quarter of households cannot
afford to buy a car, although of course you have the section above them with
second/third-hand and cheap cars, etc.); this is a clear measurement. If we
take a country like Britain, a third of all children live in poverty
(frankly what they class as "poverty" is pretty damn low), compared to one
in every seven just twenty years ago. However, there has been an explosion
of how much capital the bourgeoisie has accumulated in the past 20 years -
an increase unseen in history. The Guardian article included a graph which
demonstrated a massive increase in productivity, coupled with a decline in
real wages, hence the massive wealth our ruling class has gained; Larry
Elliot observes: "Instead of being captured by workers, America's
productivity gains were captured by capital." Indeed, this is demonstrated
by statistics showing a phenomenal growth in the gap between richest and

 Today, capitalism is still almost everywhere outside North America and
Western Europe in crisis. Asia is still in crisis, and many are predicting a
new Asian collapse. In the 1990s, 8 of the 10 worst economic crises of the
century occurred. The catastrophic failure of the restoration of capitalism
in Russia is a *world-historic defeat of capitalism itself*. Globally, it is
extraordinarily unstable.

 In the case of America, the article pointed out that Clinton presided over
an America that had more people in poverty and with lower real wages than
under Nixon. What has clearly happened over the past twenty years is a
ruling class offensive against the proletariat, which was particularly acute
here in Britain. Firstly it achieved the smashing of the workers' movement,
symbolised most horribly by the defeat of the miners, which heralded vicious
measures against trade unions and the ability of the working class to fight
against their exploiters, so much so that Britain has the worst trade union
laws in the West except for Turkey (!), where for example secondary strikes
are illegal (that's even in the ILO charter). Such laws remain an obstacle
to an upsurge in the proletarian class struggle in this country - what else
were they for? There also remains the problem that a section of the working
class was so impoverished and smashed by the offensive of the 1980s, that
they are too demoralised to fight back.

 Here in Britain, there is massive disillusionment amongst the working class
at New Labour; there have been various symptoms of this, of course, ranging
from the election of Ken Livingstone as mayor, to working class people
refusing to vote and thereby ending with the Tories winning every election
since 1997 despite being at their lowest popularity in history; the
elections in Wales and Scotland where the working class voted for the
nationalist parties in protest since they always pose to the Left of Labour;
the rebellions within the Labour Party against Blairite candidates,
particularly with elections to the NEC and suchlike. There are also the
Socialist Alliances of revolutionary parties which, against my own
scepticism, are getting a real working class base with union branches
defecting, and talk of the rail workers and fire fighters unions defecting.

 There is also growing strikes; there were twice as many ballots for strike
action in 1999 as in 1998, although keep in mind that since the bourgeoisie
won their temporary victory, this has been very low.

 It is not true in other advanced capitalist nations, where the class
struggle is much more intense (and thereby the Left with it). In France,
where the bourgeoisie never really had such an offensive as in Britain or
America, the class struggle has been much more intense. The biggest strikes
in French history occurred in 1995, and for the first time ever, directly
succeeded in toppling the government.

 In Russia, although its bourgeoisie is now mounting an offensive against
the working class (particularly with the new Labour Code), which is
effectively tied to the ruling class with chauvinism due to the Chechen War
II, there is also working class militancy. Up till the Chechen War II, there
was an upsurge in the class struggle, with the rail wars, the miners'
strikes and the factory occupations; much of this is still happening, and
the most revolutionary section of the Russian working class is coming
together to form the Movement for a Workers' Party out of 31 different
groups. The MWG leader, Oleg Shein, leads a militant trade union called
"Defence" which has led many of the occupations and strikes, and is also
elected to the Duma - the first Marxist elected in Russia since the days of
the Revolution.

 Elsewhere in the former Stalinist countries, the restoration of capitalism
has clearly caused a catastrophe for the working class, but the proletariat
are not so trampled over as to be unable to fight. In Romania, there have
been a series of big strikes since 1990, not least by the miners who toppled
the first new regime and then marched on the capital a couple of years. In
Albania, there was Europe's only revolution of the 1990s, in which workers
seized parts of the country after the collapse of the pyramid investment
schemes. In the Czech Republic, support for the Communist Party is
increasing and it is now the biggest and most popular party in the country,
and though its core was that section of the bureaucracy that had something
to lose from the restoration of capitalism, it now has a deep working class
base; I am expecting the mother of all demonstrations in Prague at the end
of September when the IMF march in, which the CP and trade unions have
mobilised behind. In East Germany, the PDS is a similar workers' party as
the Czech CP and has big working class support. There are of course growing
working class struggles in other former Stalinist countries, such as the
Ukraine. In the country which suffered the bloodiest counter-revolution,
Yugoslavia, there are growing working class struggles both against the new
bourgeoisie and imperialism - such as miners in Bosnia and Kosovo. In Serbia
itself, the counter-revolution happened at a slower pace due to the strength
and militancy of the Serbian proletariat, although the ruling class tied
them to it with chauvinism with various wars.

 I must take issue with you when you say that "communists" have been or will
be elected in Mongolia and Romania; they are clearly not communists, but are
parties whose core was of the old conservative wing of the bureaucracy with
a vested interest in defend state property and with something to lose from
the restoration of capitalism. Their leaders are usually bourgeois. In the
case of Mongolia, the leader of the party models himself on Tony Blair.

 In China, there are also growing strikes in different regions, as there is
growing resistance against the continuing restoration of capitalism; of
course, back at Tiananmen, a Marxist workers' union had been formed with
revolutionary workers fighting the Chinese bureaucracy, although they split
seriously with the reactionary student leaders; there was back then the
possibility of a workers' political revolution. We should not forget that
when they were charged by the troops of the Chinese bureaucracy, many died
singing the Internationale.

 In Indonesia, there was of course a revolution in 1998. This revolution is
not over. Although much of the bourgeois media is ignoring it, there is
growing unrest, and the workers and students are growing increasingly
radicalised. The old slogans of "Reform" have been replaced by "Revolution".
The situation of the workers and peasantry has deteriorated significantly
under the Wahid regime, which is going quickly down the tubes.

 I must disagree with you on Ecuador; that really was a revolution, and not
a military coup as the bourgeois press presented it. There is an article on
what happened that I must dig up. However, again this revolution is far from

 As you have said, general strikes have been sweeping Latin America - from
Argentina to Colombia. On the peasant uprisings; such peasant bands will
never succeed in seizing power unless they gain the active support of the
urban proletariat. At present in Colombia, the petty-bourgeois based groups
not only do not have support of the urban proletariat, but to a certain
extent, the proletariat have some hostility towards them. This may now be
changing, since of course in Colombia the proletarian class struggle is on
the increase, with the general strike and suchlike. I must take issue on the
Shining Path - to me that was very much a case of rural petty-bourgeois
insanity and Pol-Pot-style lunacy, but forget it. Anyway, there were also
the mass student occupations in Mexico, as well as peasant land seizures.

 I also disagree completely with you on Fiji. There was a left-reformist
regime in power, the Fijian bourgeoisie was getting nervous, and thereby
staged a coup. George Speight is a corrupt businessman who was facing
charges for fraud; he met with the dozen leading businessmen of Fiji who
wanted the government out of power, and overthrew the regime on their behalf
to stop it challenging their interests. The government was resting on the
working class to carry out very limited reform. The bourgeoisie staged this
coup, stirring up racism for legitimacy and turning Fijian workers against
each other, since Indian and "natives" make up about half the population
each - it was very much a case of divide and rule. One of Speight's closest
friends said that in reality he did not care about Indians whatsoever and in
fact played golf regularly with them; in reality he had nothing to lose. It
was not the ethnic make up that was pissing him off, but its class basis,
but he manipulated simmering racial tensions to seize power. Why on earth
would a Marxist want to support such a coup??? I think the comparisons
between Fijian natives and Australian/New Zealand natives is absurd. The
Fiji Indians were taken from their homes by British imperialism and settled
there. They now make up 49% of the population. Until 1990 they had no
political rights and were discriminated against in other ways to, and the
constitution has now been reversed to this. Ordinary Fijian Indians and
"natives" are as poor as another. To go on about the ruling class being
dominated by Indians is, as Engels might say, "socialism for fools".

 As for Zimbabwe, it is not altogether true that the proletariat and
peasantry are on the opposite side of the barricades. I myself once
considered the MDC to be a tool of imperialism and the Zimbabwean
bourgeoisie and landowners. In reality it is not as simple as that, and is a
multi-class organisation. A revolutionary socialist of the ISO was elected
to parliament under the MDC umbrella, although his campaigning used ISO
posters and revolutionary slogans - he won over 80% in Harare's biggest
constituency. He actually _supports_ the land seizures, and calls for a
split in the MDC because of its multi-class character and its reactionary
bourgeois leadership. In the elections, the correct position would be to
support proletarian candidates like this man of the MDC where they stand,
but not to vote for MDC bourgeois candidates. I certainly would not vote for
any Zanu-PF candidates, which Zimbabwe's only elected Marxist termed as a
bourgeois-nationalist party with a petty-bourgeois composition. And frankly
I stand in the camp of the only consistently revolutionary class, the
proletariat, and not the vacillating petty-bourgeoisie, although in the case
of Zimbabwe we must call for a peasant-proletarian alliance, which implies
calling for splits in BOTH the Zanu-PF and the MDC parties.

 Also on South Africa, there appears to be this idea that somehow with the
death of Apartheid that South African imperialism died. Unless I am
mistaken, finance capital was not expropriated there.

 In America, there is certainly growing working class militancy. The recent
LA janitors' strike was reported in the bourgeois media here to be the
rebirth of American working class militancy.

 Then there is this new world-wide phenomenon of "anti-capitalist"
demonstrations. You know, I've been scratching my head and wondering how the
hell the ball got rolling. But anyway, these LA demonstrations are facing
violent repression, as Lou reports. Police are charging demonstrators on
horseback, beating them up in the street randomly, and arresting them en
masse. I heard of two demonstrators who were arrested for unfurling the
American flag with corporate logos and put on bail for $20,000. Clearly the
ruling class are using the 1960s tactics of putting high bails on these
people (like $1 million) in an effort to bleed the organisations dry.
Meanwhile, according to articles I have read from the American bourgeois
media, the members of revolutionary organisations in the US is on the
increase - not least in their youth sections. One can hope.

 Meanwhile, if indeed a new imperialist military intervention is being
prepared, now in Colombia, and a new Vietnam War is on the cards, with the
present increasing radicalisation going on already, one can only imagine
what the effects will be in America. It could end up with millions being
radicalised at the very heart of world capitalism. One can dream, one can

 But anyway, I very much appreciated your analysis, it was quite inspiring.



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