Two positions on what our perspective should be

Derek Seidman derektheredrebel at
Tue Apr 2 23:30:36 MST 2002

Here's a "dialogue" (or more of a critique of one by
the other) between two positions on what is to be done
nowadays, especially in regards to the whole
anti-globalization movement. The side which supports
concentrating our efforts in the anti-glob/capt
movement was not written by me (I hope the comrade who
wrote me it doesn't mind me posting his thoughts--
don't imagine he would). I've really been thing about
these issues; what do folks think?

Derek Seidman

> For the most part the new movement has a largely
> defensive character - opposition to the harmful
> effects of neoliberal globalization - and lacks a
> coherent, credible alternative to the status quo.
> But the emergence of bodies like the Direct Action
> Network, Independent Media Centers, spokescouncils
> etc. show a certain dynamism and are affirmative of
> new forms of solidarity emerging in the gap of a
> string of long defeats for the working class since
> the mid-1970s.

"new forms of solidarity emerging in the gap of a
string of long defeats for the working class"? This
seems like BS to me, as if the few anti-globalization
protests which we can count on our fingers constitute
a working class "movement" or something.  Also, look
at what in general is happening in society right now:
the most important shift going is the layoffs and the
recession. How has the working class responded to this
test of something like a million layoffs, probably
affecting something like 5 million people when you
include families?  It hasn't responded at all!  If
there were new forms of solidarity or whatever
emerging, I think we would have seen at least SOME
kind of response. It seems like you're just using
grandiose language (which the Trotskyist tradition has
never failed to do) to describe a few
petty-bourgeois/student protests that have occurred.
The mass of society is really inert and asleep...
though that's probably not news to you.

> For one thing, organized working class resistance
> in the current period is, like I said before,
> defensive, more a response to a string of defeats
> than an affirmation of new political ideas, and, in
> some sections of the trade union movement, tinged
> with ultimately regressive protectionist sentiment.

And this organized working class resistance is...?
Where...?  If there was even a protectionist
resistance, this would even be great, but I don't
think there is even that. Have you looked at strike
figures from 1980 - present? It goes from something
like 300 major strikes in the Reagan era to like 19 or
20 in the year 2000. So is a new and REAL resistance
really in the anti-globalization movement, which is,
after all, dominated by the petty-bourgeoisie,
students and union bureaucrats? It seems that you
think so...

> I think right now, the task for revolutionaries is
> to expend a lot of effort in the new anti-capitalist
> movement, since ultimately that is where a new,
> strong, international revolutionary left will emerge
> from.

This a pretty bold and unsubstantiated statement,
don't you think? This is a mostly petty-bourgeois
movement your talking about; not to say that
workers don't participate in it at all, but it's led
and dominated by the middle class. Also, it's not even
really a movement in this country. After all, how do
you define a movement?  I'd say it has a real
interaction with the existing institutions and class
structure of society. For example, the black movement
swept up millions and changed some important
institutions, relationship of class forces, as did the
women's movement (institutionally at least).
But this? If it's petty-bourgois and not even a
movement (which I've argued above), then how can you
argue that "this is where a new, strong, international
revolutionary left will emerge from", that this is
today where the tasks of revolutionaries lie?

I really don't think our fundamental task is to orient
towards whatever pops up at the moment, especially now
when people are deluding themselves about the
anti-globalization movement, acting as if it is going
to 're-forge the revolutionary left'. Our task, as its
always been, is to build a base amongst workers,
because without that we have no political weight
WHATSOEVER. Of course, you could say that in the past
few years, a few protests that (in the USA) drew
about 50,000 people is a really big deal; but let's
face it: these protests were composed of mostly
counter-cultural people, students, middle class
radicals, some workers, and their trade union
bureaucrats. This is like .00001% of society, and many
of the protesters come from a pretty marginalized
portion of society on top of that.

On the other hand, we have something like 15 million
unemployed working class people in the USA, reduction
in wages, speedups, all huge attacks on workers. Now,
where should we emphasize our work? Whenever the Left
sees a protest of more than 10,000 people pop up, you
hear the same "oh, here's the reforging of the
revolutionary left; we need to throw ourselves into
building the 'new movement.'"  Whether it's Mumia,
globalization, South Africa... whatever. The Left says
"There it is! Forget consistent work in the
population... we need to throw ourselves into this new
"movement" or else we'll be left behind."
It's not like that though. In fact, you have to go out
into the population and convince people of your ideas;
we really need to fight for that hard mass of workers
that are not politicized, that pay no attention to
these globalization protests, and have no confidence
in themselves as a political force. They're the ones
who can really make the fundamental (revolutionary)
changes in society that we're fighting for. And I'm
not saying don't work inside the protest movement; but
I think your perspective is way off; you think all
this "anti-capitalist" stuff represents a lot more
than it actually does. We can help build these
protests, go to them, form links and connections
within the globalization movement, but it's a whole
other thing to say this is the task of revolutionaries
today, that this is where we can reforge the
revolutionary movement that died with the Comintern
inthe 1940's or whatever.

I don't think we can act like a revolutionary left
really existed substantially here in the 60's and
70's; even then it was pretty marginalized given what
we *need*, since we are after all talking about
taking down the center of world capitalism. The German
CP had 600,000 cadre in the late 20's, 6 million
votes, people who had led strikes and mutinies,
organized uprisings, etc. Somehow, this is going to be
'reforged' by the 'anti-globalization movement'? Let's
be honest with ourselves...

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