Louis on the Failure of the Left

MARIPOWER716 at aol.com MARIPOWER716 at aol.com
Tue Apr 30 05:33:45 MDT 2002

>>At first the loss of the USSR was devastating. Many Marxists, beginning
>with disillusioned Sandinistas, assumed that Fukuyama was correct. Either
>there was no alternative to liberalism or if you opted for socialism, it had
>to be some kind of market version that made all sorts of concessions to
>capitalism. Needless to say, market socialism is not something people fight
>and die for. It is rather a vision that inspires papers given to the
>Socialist Scholars Conference. But at some point, maybe 5 years ago with the
>advent of the Zapatistas, people got into a fighting mood again. This is the
>great contribution of Subcommandante Marcos and the Chiapas Indians. They
>said NO.
>I would have to say that even some of the best of the left of my own
>movement would have a vision of market socialism as a model for future
>development. There are very few people around who would argue against the
>need for a market per se. Rather that a more controlled one is necessary - I
>guess the issue is how controlled.
>The general rationale for this is that in the absence of a different world
>balance of forces (after 1991) any further would be opportunistic and not
>sustainable. I have good friends who are carrying that way of thinking into
>Cuba and China as economics advisors. At the same time, the neoliberal
>market has clearly failed generally and is in the process of being
>challenged in Argentina and other 'weak links'.
>The main thing I think that is necessary is that the youth coming up get an
>education in what's the limit of struggle. The best way to effect that is
>through publicizing the situation in Argentina, Venezuela and Cuba. I think
>for our movement the main issue is to get people educated in the economic
>side of the struggle - that takes time and not a few mistakes. Even now,
>most comrades at the base, I know don't make the connection between taxation
>and public spending - to argue over the efficacy of the market is difficult
>in these circumstances.

>I'm in two minds on the issue of the correct tactical approach - at the end
>of the day you have to cut your cloth to suit the tailor - first you have to
>have seized power. The less particular you are in detailing your programme
>the better as they will only pick holes in it and sell you to the public as
>a bunch of 'golden oldies' - with a failed ideology. That's the difficulty
>of working in an economic upswing. Those present in the current 'weakest
>links' in the imperialist chain have an easier task. I tend to write about
>'democratizing the economic development process' rather than 'dictatorship
>of the proletariat' - but they can mean the same thing - it all depends on
>who's using the words. As one of our main theorists says: "we have nuanced
>the language but that does not mean that we have to lower our sights on what
>we are trying to achieve".
>As for your point that Market Socialism doesn't exactly encourage people to
>fight and die. I agree - it's even hard to canvass poor/deprived people on
>the basis of "we'll make the market more attuned to your needs". However, in
>this time an aggressive form of Market Socialism will inevitably clash with
>the IMF. I think Phil noted this trend where he said that Social Democracy
>is not possible. We can read that another way (apart from the 'much needed'
>scourging of the Centre-Left) - that even trying to deliver something more
>like traditional 'tax and spend' socialism will actually mean that you have
>to make a total break with the established order - I think that's the
>lessons of the PDS in Germany and the Reformista in Italy. That they will
>accept nothing less than total privatisation of society and that any move
>against that is met by an immediate 'capital flight' and the threat of
>sanctions means that countries are forced into what Argentina, Venezuala and
>Zimbabwe are facing now. The contradiction becomes polar. For us as
>strategists, whose primary objective is the seizure of state-power, it means
>that we can realistically sell a move towards meeting the IMF/US head on in
>populist tones - national economic and political self-determination. I think
>that's the point you are making in regard to Peronism - except that the
>contradictions are stronger given the more complete dominance of
>neoliberalism over social democracy.

>The main difficulty is that there is another contradiction in play - that of
>dependency. When I first came to this list I nearly 'ate the head off' Liu
>for his piece on Economic Development - I had no conception that dependency
>theory had some relation in reality. Indeed, I must have never really made
>the connection between dependency theory and our own approach to inward
>investment. That's not to say I don't still think that we can arise from
>that position - just that it's a contradiction with roots in reality and
>needs to be understood properly in order to push the situation on
>effectively. It's the question of what do you tell an unemployed person in
>Ballymun about that new Intel factory job - he can't have it because they
>will exploit his labour! Again, I am not cheerleading that line, just
>reflecting that that's the question which you get hit with when you oppose
>FDI on principle. I would think that most of our theorists would see the
>need for a large degree of state intervention with the social economy taking
>up the slack; however, the development process will be organic with our
>circumstances. I might add that going the whole hog on upturning the market
>relations might be viewed as somewhat ultraleftist in most countries. It's
>just that Argentina has (for a variety of reasons - pegging the Peso,
>structural difficulties etc) become uncompetitive within the group which
>which it's industries compete and it's became the Weakest Link of Capitalism
>right now. Venezuela is not in that predicament (oil seems never to go out
>of style) and that's why their leadership has been able to force only
>relatively small amendments to capitalist property relations (albeit to the
>huge disquiet of the US). I'm sure you agree with much of this but it is an
>attempt to present, in a relatively coherent form, the rationale for the
>(partial?) retreat from demands made on the very nature of market-relations
>themselves. It is necessary for all those to take these views on-board even
>if we are to reject them later. That discourse is a central part of the
>teasing out of the correct strategy for revolutionists across the third
>world. As for you guys in the States - anyone's guess??
>I thought your piece on Hardt was nice. These guys wouldn't know how to fit
>a tyre never mind effect a revolution. Also the reports from Argentina and
>Colombia was nice - those got widely distributed over here.


I have been a trade unionist the bulk of my adulthood; a communist my entire
adulthood - meaning over the age of 21 and actually since 19, and worked
extensively in the nationality movements in America. All social movements ebb
and flow. I get elected to more things than I want to be involved in.
Strategy and tactics are important to anyone involved in the social movement.
Strategy and tactics of communist in the social movement is another matter,
but subjected to the same ebb and flow.

At one period or moment - which might last 5 or 10 years or 12 months, it is
entirely appropriate for communist to concentrate on consolidating the
theoretical basis of their movement as the advanced detachment of the working
class. The rub with this formulation is that many comrades conclude from this
that one "does nothing."  As an elected representative in the union it is
impossible to "do nothing" because ones life activity is embedded into a
complex of social relations; in this instance trade union activity. I
distinctly recall years when I could not sell a communist newspaper or any of
the literature from Marx and Engels and was compelled to give away much of
the literature.  The most broadly distributed newspaper I have distributed in
the last couple of years was an issue of a communist newspaper that had on
its front cover a picture of working women. The men wanted the paper almost
as much as the women. The article talked about women as worker and problems
peculiar to the woman proletariat.

>From 1993 up until the April 2000 "collapse" of the stock market it was
difficult for me not talk to about investment opportunity everyday at work.
The younger generations of workers entered the auto industry during 1991 - if
they were lucky, and the 1993-1995 period at ages 18-25 and are absolutely
devoid of a concept of a "downturn" in the market. I felt compelled to sell
"red capitalism" in my everyday encounters and became somewhat disoriented.
What parts of my sanity remained intact was due to the older workers class
instinct and their dogmatic clinging to the various forms of class struggle.
I am old enough to instinctively know that disorientation is the material
manifestation of flux or change - a "leap," in the economic, political and
social sphere.

What helped me over the years is a study of dialectics and the concept of
polarization of the working class. This meant reading the Communist Manifesto
a thousand times a month, walking the streets of the city in every
neighborhood to "experience" the economic deterioration that is the face of
the concentration of wealth and stability of a more secure sector of the
proletariat, versus the lot of the "have-nots."  I am generational part of
the highest paid industrial workers and actually will go to buy the wife a
new car tomorrow. This is no pun. I have had to adjust my thinking and
attitude - repeatedly, to the lowest sector of the proletariat to escape that
period of the political wave of "market socialism."  This of course means
that I got caught up in "a vision of market socialism as a model for future

Studying "the concept of polarization of the working class" is no abstraction
and the material that was studied was written by communist I have maintained
contact with for a lifetime, despite of my lack of organizational
affiliation. These communist are professional revolutionaries. This means
that they live extremely frugal lives and/or have a small pension that allows
them to maintain a certain continuity of the communist movement - not the
working class movement. It also means that their minimum of organization and
dues collective allows for a financial basis for theoretical consistency.

My "relative comfort" does not dictate my politics or rather strategy as a
communist - not simply a militant or fighter in the social movements. I am
absolutely subjected to the political climate but this is defined on the
basis of the extreme polarization of the working class. Hence, my tactical
approach to matters as a communist is never confused with my tactical
approach as a unionist or neighbor or attendant at a school board meeting. I
live in perhaps the most economically depressed drug infested and
criminalized area in all of Metropolitan Detroit. "How depressed?" We don't
have a police department because the city financially collapsed. Yet, outside
my door is my $30, 000.00 customized, rather large van. The neighborhood
thugs and urban street toughs are ready to seriously hurt anyone that has the
appearance of harming my daughters, wife, property or myself. My extended
family is most certainly composed of these urban toughs and street

People can be won over to the cause of communism in an upturn, but this
requires a conception of polarity and "seeing" the lowest strata of the
working class, not simply youth who congregate in urban gangs. The bulk
membership of urban gangs are proletarian youth as opposed to a strata within
the gang, which become street entrepreneurs.

The massive growth of homelessness and poverty in America occurred during one
of the greatest "upturns" in our history. The tragedy is that this vast
marginalized proletariat of all nationality and "colors" was labeled an
"underclass" - which really meant "below" the unionized and higher paid
workers or worse the lumpen proletariat - a concept more suited to another
period in the evolution of capital.

Communism is of course a conception of the market because the market is that
arena of economic activity wherein the production and distribution of the
social product takes place, i.e., the selling and purchase of labor. The
basis on which the social product is distributed clarifies and further
defines specific economic formations. No communist worth his salt is against
commerce or working. The question as communist - not simply militant
fighters, is the status of labor as a commodity.

The distribution of the social product and the availability of the social
products have much to do with the state of development of the industrial -
nay, developing computerized infrastructure. The communist conception of the
market is from the standpoint of the status of labor as a commodity. The cure
to the various theories called "market socialism" is formulating the question
from the standpoint of the status of labor as a commodity and the specific
technical development of the infrastructure driving distribution. The
clustering of distribution centers (stores) and networks in America is more
dense than in any country on earth, with perhaps the exception of Japan.

To "effect a revolution"  - that is consolidate the aftermath of a period in
which polarization leads to the collapse of the state structures is an
entirely different matter. The strategic line of communist - that is our
fundamental line of march, is to the society of the future in which the
status of labor as a commodity is abolished. From the standpoint of daily
living this is not a "straight line." From the standpoint of the march of
human history and the progressive accumulation of productive forces we are
dealing with a "straight line."

The question of the state and the seizure of state power is merely a juncture
in the strategic line of march. The question of the seizure of state power
only presents itself under specific conditions of extreme polarization of the
state itself; the collapse of the political middle, a certain turning inward
and paralysis in the organs of violence; a specific inability of the ruling
class to rule in the same way and a refusal of the masses to be ruled in the
same way. There of course have to be in existence a network of communist -
League, who can more or less act as an advanced detachment that can win the
vanguard of the popular masses or proletariat to the need for decisive action
- "seizing the authority of the state," as a fundamental question of ensuring
the material survival of the masses. The classical scenario for communist in
which the dialectic of the collapse of the political middle, the growth of
popular organs of mass power and a fundamental rupture within the state due
to its extreme polarization is the war conditions of imperial conflict. The
question of seizing state power - if you will, and the daily grin of living
and engaging the various fronts (and rears) of the social struggle is linked
to the question of state power based on the complex of economic and political
conditions that creates crisis as society undertakes the transition - leap,
from one mode of production to another. A qualitative leap can easily take

The question of state power can be understood better when the role of
communist strategy and tactics is understood.

What I have told the younger generation of workers facing layoff for the
first time in their entire lives is that "you misunderstand capitalism and
this shit ain't no bowl of cherries just cause you get lucky and knock a few
paychecks down. Now I can't make nobody see things my way, but if you have
some time you might want to stop by the house and we 'push a few pieces'
(chess), drink a beer and do something interesting like talk about a book
instead of a video."  Now what I tell the neighborhood toughs and street
entrepreneurs is "you need to throw something in the goddamn pot and stop
eating up all my food, every time you see me bar-b Q'n."  I usually end with
"you need to get a job or something" and then say "strike that out, I was for
"Jobs, Peace, Equality and Socialism" in the 80's - fuck a job, it ain't
nothing but a bunch of work."  That sector of the proletariat marginally and
seasonally employed have a different conception of "the system."

My point?

Communist strategy deals with the historical process as expressed in the
social movement. "Historical" is the operative word. The social movement is
grasped on the basis of the changes in the mode of production and the history
of Marxism in America indicates the importance of grasping this logic.
Telling individuals at a school board meeting that what is needed is the
"dictatorship of the proletariat" is not wrong but inappropriate because the
workers do not understand why the school system is collapsing or understand
the response of the bourgeoisie to this collapse and their current strategy
of placing education under the domination of military leaders and business
leaders in the large urban areas.

In the area where I reside this "school question" has become profoundly
political and a direct - immediate question, of the composition of the state
power, unlike anything I have experienced in life. The reason is the
qualitative changes taking place in the mode of production. The old school
system was based on the mass needs of industry and servicing an industrial
infrastructure. The government conformed and serviced the need to produce
"cookie cutter" type individuals in large quantities. The developing
infrastructure has no such needs.

We are in the most imperial of all countries with a huge and extremely
diverse proletariat on a very large land mass. "Ultra-clear" class concepts
are needed to forge a viewpoint of fighting for ones material survival as a
class. Our bourgeoisie has had extraordinary maneuvering room and a
fundamental absence of feudal economic and social relations has not made
matters pleasant or easy. On the contrary, we have not experienced the
historical social upheaval of classes, which characterize a certain "European

Communist tactics - not the tactics of the herioc militant fighter we all
admire, are dictated on the basis of the ebb and flow in the social movement.
The tactics of fighting in the social movement only becomes communist to the
degree that we figure out how to create and continuously recreate our
replacements in the image of our heritage, i.e. create more communist. Hence,
the fight in the ideological realm to consolidate a "minimum" communist
conception of the "science of society" and reformulate the class issues on a
basis that reflects the "qualitative leap," taking place in the production
process. We fight because we must or capital will surely crush us. We become
communist because the  "science of society" makes sense.

No matter what social movement aspect one is involved in the litmus test for
communist - not simply militants, is the patient work to develop communist
troops - generals, who develop the capacity to view the social movement as a
whole as opposed to the standpoint of their daily engagement. The working
class is and will continue to fight under all kinds of banners.

Melvin P.

PLEASE clip all extraneous text before replying to a message.

More information about the Marxism mailing list