[Marxism] RE: Communist tasks

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at rogers.com
Wed Feb 18 10:44:22 MST 2004

Walter in part wrote:

"One of the old SWP's defects was its big tendency to attack liberals
with a much greater ferocity than it attacked conservatives, supposedly
on the basis of fighting what it thought were 'illusions'... to have put
the MAIN FIRE on them, that was in error."

I agree, but it's a reasonable position to hold when:

1) you've concluded that capitalism has exhausted its historic
potential, and is poised on the verge of a breakdown - or, better yet,
when it is already manifesting signs of the breakdown in a soaring rate
of corporate and personal bankruptcies, unemployment, wage cuts, home
foreclosures, welfare claims, etc.

2) the working class, the only force capable of changing society, is
exhibiting a higher level of industrial militancy - measured in strike
and union organizing activity;

3) the working class is exhibiting a higher level of political
consciousness - reflected in increased conjecture in its media and at
its gatherings about the bankruptcy of the capitalist system, the growth
of revolutionary socialist parties outside its ranks, the growth of
anticapitalist tendencies within the unions and the parties
traditionally favoured by the class;

4) The ruling class is exhibiting signs of panic - with one wing moving
towards repressing workers' organizations and fascism, and the other
stressing the urgent need to pass domestic social legislation, hitherto
considered unthinkable, to stem the movement of the masses to the left;

5) The emergence of a mass left-wing culture, nourished by a shift in
the popular mood from individualism, cynicism, and despair to
cooperation, optimism, and hope, as well as an increased interest in
social, economic and political issues as opposed to psychology, fantasy,
and sexual and other forms of hedonistic self-gratification and escape.

In these circumstances, it is, I would agree, promoting "illusions" to
support either large-L liberals or small-L social democrats, and
dangerous ones to boot, because you risk being left behind by your
workplace and political associates, who are moving in the other
direction and are demonstrating in words and action that they think
capitalism is not "reformable".

For a whole historical period - roughly from when Marx and Engels lived
through the Great Depression and World War II, the tendencies noted
above were all observable - stronger of course in some periods than in
others in accordance with capitalist economic cycles and the effects of
war and peace, but discernable enough throughout so that an
anti-reformist program could be seen to have some basis in reality.

These were the conditions which spawned the program of the revolutionary
Marxist and anarchist left, which predated the Trotskyist movement and
the SWP, who then carried on with it because they considered the period
had not changed. The program did not call these conditions into being;
it was the other way round. Even with the decline of revolutionary
prospects in the West, the program could be defended with respect to the
revolutions on its periphery - in the USSR, China, and the so-called
Third World - which always seemed a threat to stability within the
capitalist heartlands.

Since then, the working class has declined further as an organized force
in the West, the USSR has collapsed, and China has reversed direction.
Capitalism as a system can be said to at least be holding its own
despite the "contradictions" we are all able to identify, and even
advancing into regions previously closed to it. Perhaps this will change
in our lifetime, and change quickly, but that is how things stand now.

Ultimately, I think your political stance is determined by whether you
believe a) conditions 1-5 described above still exist, b) it doesn't
really matter whether they do, because what is decisive is a
"revolutionary optimism of the will", and c) the masses are bound to the
system and reformist politicians by "false consciousness" rather than
because in general they continue to consider their present conditions at
least tolerable.

Needless to say, my answers to the preceding paragraph are no, no, and
no. If I felt otherwise, I'd be looking to join one of the small
revolutionary organizations, imperfect though each may be, as the most
necessary and rewarding way to spend my time.

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