The New New Left
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the other former ‘workers states’, and the decline of social democracy, Euro-communism, anarchism and Trotskyism, new generations of youth looked for a new basis on which to renew the revolutionary left . The failure of the ‘old left’ was put down to the bad habits of hierarchy, patriarchy, and bureaucracy among other things. Those who remained loyal to Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks had a hard time getting a hearing if they didn’t change. The result has been a loose coalition of anti-capitalist currents looking for a social movement. This New New Left has turned its back on 20th century socialism and looked forward to 21st century socialism. Various candidates have emerged in an attempt to find a model for a revolutionary party suited for today’s conditions. The most important examples are the PSUV in Venezuela, Die Linke in Germany, Left Party in France, and most recently Syriza in Greece.
However there is nothing new or 21st century about these parties. They are a rerun of the broad working class parties of the 19th and 20th century combining reformist, centrist (preach revolution but practice reform) and revolutionary currents. They are no more immune from hierarchy, patriarchy and bureaucracy than their earlier prototypes. This is because they are parliamentary parties that tie workers to bourgeois state institutions which are designed to reproduce capitalism and all of its class exploitation and oppression. Even if the revolutionary wing is strong, it cannot jump over parliament while attached to the dead weights of Members of Parliament. The testimony is in the betrayals of such parties in the face of revolutionary crises yesterday, and today.
The German SPD gave support to the German ruling class in WW1 though a small number of its revolutionary MPs voted against supporting the war. Today the PSUV includes the Bolibourgeoisie who limit the party to reforms despite its strong Chavista working class base. The German Die Linke (Left Party) is a ‘democratic socialist’ party proposing Keynesian reforms, while the French Left Party cobbles together social democrats and Greens and is a popular front party propping up the French state. Now Syriza enters a popular front with the nationalist Independent Greeks.
Unless the revolutionaries break free of the reformists and centrists in these parties, they cannot fight to mobilise working class forces to overthrow the state. The result is that the anti-capitalism class party is dragged down to the lowest common denominator – parliamentary reforms. The first duty of revolutionaries is to build a strong, independent, internationalist, and revolutionary party. To do this it is necessary to win reformist workers by entering into united fronts with them to expose their rotten leaders and win them to a revolutionary program.
Such united fronts also apply to voting for and even entering broad parties, to split the members from reformist and centrist leaders. Such a tactic would apply for example to Syriza to get it into office to expose it and destroy workers illusions in its reformist program. The purpose of such united fronts is to destroy these rotten leaders as agents of the bourgeoisie and traitors to the working class.
We say beware the New New Left, it is neither new, nor left!
Review: Marx at 193
Marx would be 193 if he was alive today. Reflecting the fact that Marx’s reputation is still alive and kicking, the reviewer says that Marx today got most things right, but that society it much more complex today than Marx could have envisaged.
Yet the reviewer’s examples of ‘complexity’ are such as a more ‘complex’ class system with lots of mixed identities rather than fixed in any one class position. He claims that workers can also be bourgeois by virtue of being in pension funds. Tell that to the so-called middle class in the US whose Pension Funds have been stolen by owners who go bankrupt! This is perhaps the basis of his claim that in the West the bourgeoisie are the majority class!!
Second, that the working class is fragmented between and within countries rather than being internationally united force. He cites the case of the massive Foxconn workforce in China which won a big wage increase not by striking but through a NYT article exposing the rash of suicides. Somehow the writer doesn’t make the connection between Apple being forced to respond to global public opinion of a world working class (of consumers yes) that condemned its super-exploitation driving young workers to suicide! Working class unity is also expressed in the power of a global consumption strike. Chinese workers are creative in their struggles.
His third example is Marx failure to predict the destruction of nature. This is utterly wrong. Marx saw capitalism becoming increasingly destructive of the forces of production which are in the main nature, both as the source of raw materials, and human labour power. Global warming etc is the working out of this prediction in the deep structures of nature, just as is the rising global movement of humanity as workers to stop the destruction of capitalism. (See article in this issue)
The relevant point here is that writer says that what let Marx down was his rejection of ‘empiricism’ as a preoccupation with surface forms rather than deep structures. I would say that ‘empiricism’ is the writer’s problem. It leads him to say that the nature of capitalism has qualitatively changed as it surface complexity has increased. Yet the deeper dynamics that are driving the surface changes in capitalism continue to deepen the class contradictions and I would suggest make Marx even more relevant at age 193.
We say, today, 130 years after Marx’ death, “class struggle” is still the motor of history.
Who was Red Rosa?
Luxemburg Foundation (Die Linke) opened in New York
“The opening event featured a keynote address by Gregor Gysi, one of Europe’s most well-known socialist politicians, known for barbs of wit and force of character. Gysi recounted his party’s struggles in making up the trust-deficit from the taint of the East German legacy. “I am a democratic socialist; I don’t like concentrated authority,” said Gysi. “State socialism has failed, but this does not mean that capitalism is the only game in town. Capitalism thought it won, but it didn’t—it’s just what remained.””
Oh the irony; taking the name of Rosa Luxemburg in vain against ‘concentrated authority’. Yes Rosa was against centralism and criticised the Bolsheviks. Yet the failure to build a mass Bolshevik-type party in Germany before 1919 was the main reason for the defeat of the German Revolution. So the Rosa that Die Linke wants to own was not the real Rosa who condemned the German Social Democratic SPD and Kautsky's USPD for the betrayal of the German Revolution. We have to rescue the real Red Rosa from the modern day heirs of the SPD reformists and USPD who were the real 'centralists' collaborating with the Freikorps in her political assassination in 1919!
We say stop former Stalinists dragging Red Rosa’s memory through the mud! Long Live Rosa Luxemburg!