Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Marikana Solidarity up against Centrism and Menshevism

Marikana: The man in the green blanket, later killed by police

 The treachery of Centrism

In periods of working class upheaval (like those most starkly exhibited today in MENA, Greece, Southern Africa, Spain, and China) the working class struggles to free itself ideologically, politically and organizationally from the shackles imposed by generations of reformers, class collaborationist workers’ and bourgeois-workers parties which, when given the opportunity, willingly administer capitalism’s austerities against the workers in the name of labor.  Alongside these reformist layers, the economist union bureaucracy and the labor aristocracy gathers a gaggle of “socialist” leaders, professors and academics who willingly reinforce ruling class hegemony by mis-educating, stratifying, separating, localizing, limiting, demobilizing, and turning our class toward individualist and national solutions.

 The labor fakers guide us to bloc with or directly enter capitalist political formations (e.g., the ANC in South Africa, the Democratic Party in the USA); as regards imperialism these fakers pragmatically adopt social-chauvinist campaigns (buy American, British jobs for British workers, often supporting anti-immigrant laws,) ignoring our internationalist duties and shaming our class’ credo, “An injury to one is an injury to all!”  In times of counter-revolution and imperialist war these “do-good” reformists can quickly adapt and capitulate to the most backward and vile racist, jingoist and nationalist ideologies, they show their true colors and abandon any pretence to representing working class ascendancy. 

 Social Democrats voted for war credits in August 1914 allowing WWI to commence rather than leading internationalist working class strikes to stop the war. Socialists became fascists in 1920’s Italy, the CPUSA restrained the working class with no-strike pledges, and “third camp” state department socialists refused to unconditionally defend North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front during the devastating conventional and chemical warfare which left the Democratic and Republican Parties with the blood of three million dead Vietnamese on their hands. These reformist individuals and parties still dominate the leadership of the working class and the so-called ‘left’.  They are a major impediment on the road to socialism but not the only one.

 Sometimes out in front, always claiming to march alongside yet most often tailing just behind and holding back the most militant and revolutionary workers is a layer of subjectively revolutionary yet objectively centrist individuals and organizations who spare no effort in telling us, “another world is possible,” that  “21st century socialism” is on the agenda.  In the post-capitalist economies many of the same centrists adapt to the pressures of bourgeois democratic forces and shamelessly maintain that market reforms are necessary for the growth of productive forces and thus advance the historic interest of the working class in a period while capitalist markets dominate the global economy. 

 On the plane of theory centrists gather to themselves a layer of academics who squeeze Marxism into underconsumptionist crisis theory and at times put forward aspects of program they can emphatically point towards, despite ultimately balking at class independence.  If drawn as a Venn diagram, the centrist layer would span the gamut intersecting theoretically, organizationally and programmatically with reformism on the right, with anarchism, situationism and councils communists in the middle, and revolutionary Marxism on the left.  Their “common sense,” pragmatic and often eclectic method traps them in a tug of war between the revolutionary aspirations of the most oppressed workers and adaptation to capitalist exploitation made tolerable via material benefits doled out to ever-thinning strata of workers.   In periods of pre-revolutionary and revolutionary uprisings the centrist layers, despite their best intentions, objectively act to hold back the class and disarm it in the face of counter-revolution, capitalist restoration, fascist reaction and inter-imperialist war.

 During this period, like others in the past, this dangerous and contradictory phenomenon  – centrism traps the working class in its own conundrum – despite having its hands on the levers of production, layers of the class most closely linked to the labor aristocracy and small proprietors embrace the “logic” of centrism which looks as if it intends to give capitalism its death blow but holds back the historical and theoretical lessons which the class needs to derive the political and organizational forms and programmatic direction necessary for victory.

 In the face of what may be the working class’ last chance to save the planet from the environmentally destructive anarchy of capitalist production, centrism plays possibly the most dangerous role blocking the working class from its self-liberation.  Objective conditions force workers to fight capitalism (the polls show a disaffection from abject support for capitalism especially among young workers and even in the USA,) Social Democratic treachery will drive the workers from the Reformists (Greece and Spain,) and there with open arms stand the full spectrum of centrism awaiting the disaffected workers looking for their road to power (instead, Synapismos dragged SYRIZA to the right.)

 Epoch of Wars and Revolutions

 In our epoch-that of capitalist crisis, of revolutions and counter-revolutions, of inter-imperialist wars and proxy-wars which often begin as currency or trade wars, the resolution of the contradictions driving society from one tragic episode of imperialist war and counter-revolutionary bloodletting to the next, while testing the life-sustaining limits of the planet lies only with the working class leading their allies the poor peasants, the dispossessed, the unemployed, the youth, the retirees, those dependent on social services and oppressed peoples and nations across the planet, to remake the world according to their own plan and in their own interests.  History reveals that class consciousness more often than not lags behind objective necessity and that the class as a whole is only episodically drawn into self-activity, therefore the theoretical, organizational and programmatic preparations for the working class coming to power can only be made by the class-conscious revolutionary workers–the leadership of the working class organizes into its own international combat party.  

 Internationally productive forces stagnate.   Finance capital trapped in the contradictions between the need to engage labor in order to produce surplus value (and thus add to the available reservoir of profit derived from goods production from which the biggest capitalist overlords drink) and the negative incentive, the tendency of the rate of profit to decline, inexorably  places limits on productive investment as opposed to speculative investment in financial instruments (which, while they may gather profit to their investors from the reservoir of productively produced surplus they do not add to the volume of industrial or agriculturally produced goods available for consumption.) 

 In turn internationally the workers’ share of the available produce of their own labor’s effort must be diminished for capital to rationalize the vast reservoir of fictitious capital accumulated in the speculative bubbles chased around the world markets by the big capitalists looking for investment opportunity for vast quantities of stagnating and fictitious capital.   To diminish the workers share, the austerity must be imposed for profitability to return to productive investment.   Workers conditions are attacked today by the bosses gendarme layers of enforcers of austerity, the economic hit men of the IMF and World bank, the politicians promoting “free trade” nightmares like NAFTA and TPPA, the corporate media, the political agents of the ruling class in the workers’ organizations, and when the workers push back; by the armed body of the state, i.e. the police and national guard,  citizen-council-thugs, scab herders, and as a last resort fascist gangs drawn from the most alienated of the criminal element, from the lumpenproletariat and the ruined petty bourgeoisie.

 In its struggle for ascendancy the task of building an independent international revolutionary working class party that stands above limited national programs, that unites the workers of the world programmatically and organizationally is the primary task facing the working class today.   A revolutionary international is required to unite workers across borders to mobilize, educate itself and prepare the working classes of all nations for our historic task; the formation of class-wide shop-floor/office/factory/mine and farm organs of workers’ power, service and domestic workers’ committees, their networking, the building of popular assemblies (cordones industriales) and delegated councils intent upon building socialism via the transitional tool of a workers’ government which will take action, put capitalism out of our misery by expropriating the big capitalist enterprises (the extraction industries, the major manufacturing industries, the distribution, communications, pharmaceutical, medical and financial houses including banks, credit and investment firms) and placing them under workers self-management and running them according to  plans developed by the workers’ representatives attuned to the environmental, and redistributive requirements for remediating the environmental destruction as well as the historic toll on the  billions kept in devastating poverty by capitalism.

 Holding back the advance of the working class toward the realization of its own independent and revolutionary party, the centrists across the board unite behind the work of various academics whose crisis theory befuddles the workers into the mistaken idea that radical yet modest and reasonable structural adjustments to capitalism can be accomplished transforming the workers conditions.  Underconsumptionist theory places the crisis of over-accumulation in the realm of consumption rather than production.  

 The under consumption theorists make the crisis one of falling wage share of the working class as an income class (what Marx calls ‘revenue’ classes at the end of Capital Vol. 3,) so the state becomes the site for a distributional struggle over income shares (i.e., minimum wage, duration and amount of unemployment insurance, tax burden on working class, pensions, national insurance etc.)  At the level of international relations this theory translates to supra-imperialism and in the current situation a US super-imperialism. Income shares are represented at the subjective level as apolitical, trade unionist economism. The centrist loudly declaims for revolution but practices economism. Whereas, if falling profits cause crises despite rising exploitation and independent of wage shares then the crisis of capitalism cannot be resolved by distributional ‘structural reforms’  but only by expropriation of the 0.01% and the reorganization of production by the workers for human need and by their own plan. The break from economism requires the understanding of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall 1 TRPF as Marx explains it.

 Marikana Solidarity: Our experience and some observations

 On August 16th of this year we of the CWG, together with our international co-thinkers in the Liaison Committee of Communists, proposed solidarity actions with the murdered and striking Marikana and other South African mine workers. We wrote our first leaflet and blog statements on the subject that night and spent the next day beating the Bay Area bushes for support for an ASAP demonstration of this solidarity. Before another week went by there was enough far-left agreement for a solidarity committee to “exist,” and it exists. We could scarcely say it was formed. Not only was this not a propaganda bloc, as some who have fetishized a ‘principle’ that only a revolutionary party or perhaps also its union caucuses may raise transitional demands, but the committee has so far failed to adopt a mission statement 2. There are a number of centrists who have their own reasons for preferring that the committee have only a logistical and no political agreement. Each dreams of turning this movement (!!! There’s hardly a movement) into an uncritical cheering squad for the South African political grouping of their choice, or to position her/himself to broker the support of major Bay Area union officials (a vain hope, as we said and as it turns out.) 

 One of these is the well-known spokesperson for the Democratic Left Front (DLF).  Judging by two months of what he has said and what he has not, including his articles in Amandla, the public organ of the DLF, we would have to say he has a functionally Menshevik conception of the South African revolution.  This is not merely his personal view of how matters stand, either. Was there a Lenin? Does he matter nowadays? You’d never guess from the front page Amandla article “Crisis and Alternatives” of Dec. 11 by Achin Vanaik.  He begins by playing up to the left and even seems to contradict the more usual “underconsumptionist” view expressed in Amandla, saying crisis is the natural product of capitalism.  But he drops that subject almost right away.  Was there a revolution in Russia?  He doesn’t mention it at all, and it doesn’t appear in the discussion of desirable economic organization models and examples, which is glaring given what he says the purpose of the analysis was. 

 Do you see mention of taking power?  Yes, they say you can’t fool yourself about that.  But there’s no mention of a revolutionary party, scarcely any mention of the working class, and instead we have a discussion of what “coalitions of progressive forces” can accomplish, what reforms (yes, they said it) would amount to alternatives to the capitalist crisis.  “Progressive alternative” is the big concept here, and it boils down to making finance capital a utility owned by the state; the state, but not under workers’ control, the state he finds so very useful for regulation and conflict resolution between competing capitals and international stability in the abstract.  We were just thinking about this and how it sounds like a Cliffite International Socialist Organization (ISO) fake socialist “campaign” when the Zimbabwe comrades of the Revolutionary Workers Group warned us that members of the local ISO had put out the call to form a DLF in Zimbabwe!  If none of this sounds like the dictatorship of the proletariat to you, it doesn’t sound like one to us either.

 Now of course the DLF can say this is a signed, guest article, and disown any part of the content if put on the spot. But it is in the discussion of what southern hemisphere nations (!) can do to mitigate the natural crises of capitalism and the collisions of states in competition that the author shows his true colors.  He employs indirect but nevertheless unmistakable language to propose that the states of the southern hemisphere would be better off fighting American ‘hegemonism’ by allying themselves with the economic projects of China and Russia, and he discounts as a much less likely development the rise of Chinese Asia-Pacific ‘hegemonism’ to the point of contesting U.S. ‘hegemonism.’  How is this Metternich-style combination calculus calling itself a dialectic different than the foreign policy – or is it retail advertising?- of the tri-partite Popular Front? From the “market” or “21st Century” phony socialism it is eager to embrace? Perhaps being “serious about power” as they say on their masthead logo means doing what the Popular Front only proposes to do.

 And what of the South African Popular Front? The author doesn’t mention it at all, and he is supposed to be addressing the reasons why the Southern hemisphere has not seen the masses on the streets fighting austerity the way the European masses have. He puts it all down to manipulations of national and ethnic hatreds by the hegemonic U.S.(!) and the dollar economy. Workers’ champions need to put the DLF on the spot about all of the above and accept no baloney.  How do they differ from the Kautskyians of a hundred years ago who fudged on the question of the fate of the bourgeois state to placate the reformists and for the same reason dodged on how the workers were to come to power? 

Amandla!, the journal of the DLF serves up a watered down Marxism where crises have so many contingent aspects that they can in part be managed by a broad anti-capitalist front which does not exclude popular fronts.  For example, Foster and McChesney 3, editors of the Monthly Review in an article on the global financial crisis continue the underconsumptionist school of Baran and Sweezy. Long term stagnation is caused by financialization, the “stagnation-financialization trap”.   But what caused stagnation? In last paragraph before the section on ‘The ambiguity of global competition’ we find the main point: Prices rising ahead of labor unit costs!  That is, relatively falling real wages leads to market saturation which then becomes overproduction of commodities.  Hence the classic Monthly Review school of underconsumption.

Rémy Herrera suggests underconsumptionist theory in “Reflections on the Crisis and its Effects4, also published in Amandla: This over-accumulation manifests itself through an excess of saleable production, not because there are not enough people who need or desire to consume, but because the concentration of wealth tends to prevent an increasingly large proportion of the population from being able to buy the merchandise…
…The neo-liberal regime has thus been unable to maintain growth except by doping to death the demand of private consumption while promoting lines of credit to the maximum. It is this exorbitant expansion of credit that has ended by revealing the crisis of over-accumulation in its current form. In a society where increasingly large numbers of individuals are being excluded and without rights, the expansion of outlets offered to the principal owners of capital can only delay the devaluation of the excess capital
placed on the financial markets, but it can certainly not avoid it.”

 For their part, Panitch and Gindin 5 ignore the fundamental causes of crisis and focus on different forms each time.  They think that 1970s crisis was resolved by neo-liberalism and that this “new” crisis is not caused by falling profits. They have special emphasis on the state as site of class struggle which logically lends itself to “structural reforms”.  These guys are not Marxists but empiricists.

The Democratic Left Front in South Africa and the entire layer of World Social Forumites, NGO lovers, ISO/SWPers, hand in hand with anarchists and Occupiers are drawing to themselves layers of anti-capitalist youth whom they seek to poison with anti-Leninism masked as anti-Stalinism. They appear to deny the inter-imperialist struggle and recreate the Kautskyite supra-Imperialism with the USA as the super imperial power.  Thus they make little of the inter-imperialist struggle between the US/UK bloc and the China bloc. Meanwhile Africom is preparing for a bloodbath across Africa as wars for resources proliferate. They embrace the theorists (Chomsky, Harris, Harvey, Panitch, Sangar) from whose ilk we are presented underconsumptionist crisis theory which blames the crisis on the symptoms leading them to Keynesian solutions and limiting demands (i.e., calling for nationalization of the mines but not calling for workers control and not demanding there be no compensation for the big capitalists.)  

 The Democratic Socialist Movement

 We haven’t encountered any Taffeites face-to-face in the solidarity effort to date in the U.S.  Nevertheless, who and what the “Committee for a Workers International”(CWI) is and their errors generally and those of their South African affiliate, the “Democratic Socialist Movement” (DSM) are questions we will need answers for as they attempt to fill the political void to the Communist Party’s left.  They have garnered some international attention from all the blame and denunciations (and also repressions) heaped on them lately by the Vavi leadership of COSATU, the trade union federation that is integral to the Popular Front state.  We think the DSM wants into a Popular Front government, which certainly would have to make some disagreeable anti-austerity and wage concessions to the masses to accommodate them.  How is that, you ask?

 The CWI is another anti-Leninist tendency originating in Britain, where it is an attempt to revive a Labour Party that really never was, i.e., an actual 2nd International type Socialist Party, and not the actual, and from day one, ‘bourgeois-workers party’ that is the 2nd International, pro-imperialist outfit.  An affiliate of the CWI in Eire has had some traction on a similar, if somewhat more historical basis, only neglecting that most Socialists who were not wiped out in 1916 went on to found the Irish CP.  The Irish Socialist Party has seats in the Dial Eirann.  One almost never hears from or about them over the din of continuous scandals there.  The DSM was at first a small socialist split from the African National Congress, only later rallying to the CWI.

 In South Africa what causes the migraines for the Vavi COSATU leadership is the DSM’s call for a “new mass party of labor,” i.e., an old social-democratic, Labour Party, such as they mistakenly think the British model was.  The COSATU leaders are sharing power with the ANC and have real privileges and Mercedes to lose!  Such a new party would fill seats in Pretoria and share power in coalitions, just as the actual Labour Party in the U.K. always did.  We are encouraged that they reject the Krugman Keynesian economic view that the present crisis of capitalism is “superficial” and “unnecessary” and that a macroeconomic policy of government spending in the U.S. could cure the world economy with full employment in two years.  They quote Karl Marx from the Communist Manifesto in their most recent webzine on the nature and cause of capitalist crises.  But we don’t know if they explicitly reject underconsumptionism, for a fact. 

 Knowing how to compile a list of scandals and the right capitalists to blame is useful but the indispensable remedy for capitalist crises, the politically organized armed uprising of the proletariat for the smashing of the bourgeois state and its replacement by their own self-organized power is absent from their pages.  We think the workers have to take control of their Local Unions and break with the COSATU leaders and the Popular Front.  We are for the permanent revolution!  We are for a Socialist Federation of Southern Africa, and not in the never-never land of a second stage of the revolution that never comes and for which the various Menshevisms have no actual plans. We think that forming a new parliamentary party of a type that proved everywhere to be useless and ultimately an obstacle, just because momentarily it seems to suit a mood of the masses and is therefore possible and can fit you out with perks is a terrible opportunist error.

Permanent Revolution not Centrism

The Liaison Committee of Communists warns the workers and anti-capitalist youth that the only class that can defeat capitalism is the working class, that the popular front is the consequence of the two stage theory and that workers must not be drawn into a bloc with capitalist parties or enter the capitalist government.  The workers party does not enter politics to administer the capitalist state but to bring it down and form a workers state. Any left front that does not clearly state and stand by this understanding is not left at all but a radical petty bourgeois movement which will prevent the workers from finding their road to power.

Furthermore, there is an international layer of fakers who claim not to be leaders, who claim to be listeners, who claim they will follow the lead of the “real workers” and not show up with any pre-conceived program.  Nevertheless, these fakers are actually leaders, no matter how much they deny it.  They are leaders who are today telling the workers, “you don’t need your own revolutionary party, you don’t need to maintain class independence, you don’t need to develop a transitional program to help workers advance from their minimal day to day demands to the logic of a workers government, you don’t need to understand the pitfalls of Stalinism.”  THEY ARE LEADERS BUT THEY ARE LEADING THE WRONG WAY!

To defeat capitalism workers need their own revolutionary party and a revolutionary workers’ international that unites workers of the world in the face of pending inter-imperialist wars.  The formations that oppose the building of such a party are transmitting the ideology of the ruling class into the workers movement trying to keep the workers from having their own independent and revolutionary party.  The DLF in SA runs from Stalinism but only critiques its authoritarianism and the cronyism that it has degenerated into.  It does not critique Stalinism as a social phenomenon and therefore the break of Mazibuko Jara (a DLF founder and spokesperson) and others from the South African Communist Party (SACP) is incomplete and either ignores or denies (but has not stated) that the pitfall of Stalinism is its reversion to the Menshevik two stage theory, which the SACP embraced and implemented, abandoning proletarian revolution for the “National Democratic Revolution.” 

Only the theory of permanent revolution can explain why the African revolution stagnated and has produced a continent of semi-colonial states which have not attained their independence from imperialism and which today are being prepared, by competing imperialisms, as the battle grounds over which world monopoly of essential resources and super-exploitable labor will be fought in the coming decades.  The theory of Permanent Revolution holds that the weak bourgeois classes of the semi-colonial and ex-colonial countries cannot break with imperialism and therefore cannot complete the national democratic tasks of the bourgeois revolution.  Only the working class can complete these tasks through the agency of the dictatorship of the proletariat in an uninterrupted revolution that carries bourgeois democracy to its conclusion and carries society beyond to the socialist reorganization of production for human need.

18 DECEMBER 2012

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