Tuesday, July 05, 2011
Draft Action Program for Europe Rising
The revolution will not be twittered says a facebook friend. To which we answer: #tahrir #spanishrevolution #Libya #Yemen #Syria #italianrevolution #frenchrevolution #palestine etc. What is happening in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, France and elsewhere in Europe, is the opening of a social revolution promoted by social media, inspired in part by the Arab Spring, the pro-democracy revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East, and also by the 'outrage' sparked by the treacherous role of social democracy. But all of these uprisings have their roots in the resistance of the labour movement to capitalist austerity coming up against dictatorships as in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and the failure of institutionalised social democracy to stop austerity, as in Spain, Portugal and Greece.
This has led to the mobilising of unemployed and educated youth by means of facebook and twitter against these austerity regimes. In MENA the unions have been outlawed or repressed by the dictatorships. In Europe the unions have been tied to social democracy to act as barriers to mass mobilisations. Ostensibly, these uprisings take the form of democratic revolutions rejecting the political system and main political parties that are ‘owned’ by the banks, or by corrupt dictators. There is a common opposition to being mere ‘commodities – bought and sold by the banks’ with no political rights.
A moment’s reflection shows that rejection of fraudulent politics ‘owned’ by banks and corrupt politicians is objectively targeted at the heart of capitalism at a time when to survive it has to force young workers to work for slave wages to pay for its structural crisis. We can therefore see that the content, if not the form, of these uprisings are in fact the opening shots of potentially anti-capitalist and socialist revolutions. This seems to be taken for granted on the streets and is reported in the mainstream media. What is not yet widely understood, is that these revolutions that are beginning, to meet the demands of the youth and other working people, must become openly socialist to succeed, and failing that they will subside into defeat and worse, counter-revolution.
So what has to happen to make these revolutions succeed? There are many competing theories and programs on offer each putting forth a program for success but we can roughly put them into three categories, liberal, radical and Marxist.
If we start with the liberal reformists such as Democracia real Ya! their program asks for no more than making capitalists pay their fair share of austerity rather than imposing it upon the youth and other workers. Their understanding of capitalism is how capital presents itself at the level of distribution of income shares. They don’t want to be bought and sold by the banks, but do not object to fair wages paid by fair employers. So these street reformers have rejected the institutionalised reformists such as the Spanish Socialist Workers Party, who they see as ‘owned’ by the banks, but they are not opposed to the masses creating new parties or backing more radical parties, to challenge the excess power of the finance sector. They are not yet anti-capitalists. This is the stage that the Egyptian revolutionaries have reached. They are negotiating with the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to prevent the old parties, notably the PSA of Mubarak, and the Muslim Brotherhood, from dominating politics and open the elections to the new forces for change. Its reformist objectives embrace both secular and liberal Islam currents.
These street reformists will quickly find their liberal assumptions are put to the test as they come up against the class character of the state which is to manage exploitative class relations on behalf of the ruling class. So if the European uprisings that we are now seeing spreading from Spain and Portugal to Greece, Italy and France etc., are in part inspired by the MENA revolutions, then the reformists will quickly learn the lessons of those revolutions as the struggle to make even the most minimal changes to the existing ‘system’. The reformists will be radicalised as anti-capitalists.
The second grouping is of the anti-capitalist radicals who speak of the need to make a revolution to overcome capitalist exploitation and oppression but without taking state power. This includes a range of modernist political currents from anarchist, autonomist to indigenous and Islam. They view really existing capitalism as exploitative at the level of exchange. This means they are still stuck at the level of the appearance of inverted production relations as exchange relations. It appears that to get profits bosses pay workers less than the value of their labour. The state is totally complicit in its legal backing of this unequal exchange. Typically, Radicals think they can defeat the power of the capitalist state by non-violent mass movements that refuse to play by the rules of existing institutions. Therefore to break with the state and the law mass resistance is necessary in refusing to work as wage slaves. The state will try to smash resistance to work by bringing out the police etc, but resistance on the street and workplace will destroy the state’s legitimacy so its moral authority will dissolve and with it the employers ability to enforce unequal exchange.
The pitfalls of this radicalism all flow from its fetishised exchange analysis. The masses cannot impose a radical reform that equalises exchange without a social revolution that overthrows the capitalist state and capitalist social relations. The capitalists and their state are not constrained by a morality that acknowledges unequal exchange. They think they have the total right to impose their property rights on workers and to force them to work, and will use the state to smash resistance unless it is organised as a revolutionary power capable of defeating capitalist state power in an armed struggle for socialism. The danger of radical anti-capitalism is that young workers won’t learn these lessons until they have been defeated. To avoid this danger it is necessary for Marxist revolutionaries to use the conditions for intense ideological struggle and debate to convince reformists, radicals, and non-Marxist socialists that they need a Marxist program for revolutionary socialism.
While the liberals think that capitalism can be reformed to produce a fair distribution of income, and radicals think that capitalism can be reformed to produce equal exchange of value, Marxists understand that capitalism is based on fundamentally unequal production relations that have to be overthrown before social equality is possible. But this is not a consciousness that can be arrived at spontaneously by camping in the city square or even by heated ideological debates. Capitalism is able to hide its exploitation at the point of production by turning production relations on their head as exchange relations which makes it appear that individuals can be made equal by getting paid the full value of commodities they produce. Marx called this commodity fetishism because instead of labour-time being understood as the measure of value, value now presents itself mysteriously as inherent in the commodities themselves. Marx discovered that while workers got paid the full value when they sold their labour power for a wage, that unique 'queer' commodity is able to produce more value than its own value.
The result is the expropriation of surplus value from the working class in the production process. Surplus value is the source of profits, and when insufficient surplus value is produced profits fall. When profits fall capital is not invested in production but in speculation in existing values. This causes price bubbles in excess of values that must go bust. Capitalist crisis therefore begins at the point of production not in the banks which must go bust when the speculative bubbles burst. Thus the role of Marxist revolutionaries in the revolutions that have begun in MENA and Europe is to critique liberal and radical reformist politics as unable to confront the basic cause of capitalist crisis and austerity – capitalist social relations and the state which exists to reproduce and enforce those relations. Marxists explain what causes the ‘outrage’ and ‘indignity’ and also what must be done to eliminate that cause by means of socialist revolution.
What Must Be Done!
Commodity fetishism means that workers do not become spontaneously revolutionary. Things are not as they appear. It is necessary to go from surface appearances to the essence of capitalist production relations. Marxism is a revolutionary critique of capitalism that penetrates this essence and exposes the fundamental contradiction between use value and exchange value as the basis of class struggle - the motor of history. Marxist revolutionaries intervene in these uprisings of the outraged and indignatos to resolve the basic contradiction by overthrowing capitalism and creating a socialist revolution. Our method is the transitional method of Trotsky.
Trotsky’s method is called transitional because it starts with what is necessary to resolve the contradiction, not what seems to be possible. We start with what we need to live, not what the bosses can afford: that is, immediate democratic and economic demands. We recognise that we are in a structural crisis that has two possible outcomes – either the bosses’ need to defeat the uprisings and make us pay for the survival of their rotten system, or we need a make a revolution to expropriate the expropriators and create a socialist society. By raising these demands we prove that in fighting for them worker must then ‘cross the bridge’ to fight as an independent class prepared to take state power. There is no halfway house. For the working class to survive, capitalism must die!
Democratic and immediate economic demands:
Jobs for all by cutting working hours!
Living wage and basic income!
Freedom of speech and assembly!
Equal rights on basis of nationality, gender and sexual orientation!
Revolutionary leadership is necessary to transform ‘peaceful’ demonstrations in city squares from Egypt to Spain into armed working class revolutions. Our demands are designed to take workers consciousness from liberal pro-democracy to the proletarian dictatorship through the process of ‘fighting and learning’ how to become an independent class. Class independence means a total break from the bourgeoisie and its class state. We can prove that the state is not class neutral by fighting for ‘bread’ and ‘freedom’; being the best defenders of bourgeois democracy when the capitalists cannot afford it. We can expose the union bureaucracy as the agents of the bosses’ by demanding they take sides. We can unmask Social Democracy as bourgeois parties run by the labour bureaucracy to impose austerity. We demonstrate that popular fronts which trap workers in political alliances with the bourgeoisie are in fact counter-revolutionary disarming workers preparing the way for fascists to smash the working class. We prove beyond doubt that the armed forces of the state exist to defend the class interests of the capitalists when they attack peaceful demonstrations. We do this by praxis - saying and doing. Our main tool for this revolutionising of proletarian consciousness is the Political General Strike.
Class independence demands
Break with the bureaucracy! Rank and file control of unions!
Break with bourgeoisie! No to Social Democrat traitors! No to popular fronts!
Down with the Officers caste in the Military!
Smash the Fascists, no quarter!
The Political General Strike
There is an almost universal vagueness in talking about the General Strike. That's because it has been debased by reformists to mean days of action to pressure bourgeois governments. But revolutionary Marxists regard the Political General Strike as a political strike to take power. We strike until we win state power. For that reason the demand should never be raised unless we also state what must be done to prepare for a successful General Strike. A General Strike concentrates workers power by taking control of production, and by splitting the army and winning over of the rank and file so that a ‘dual power’ situation is created. .But it can only do that if it is armed to defend itself from state forces, paramilitaries and fascist thugs. There is never a peaceful transfer of power from a ruling class to a revolutionary class. Only a revolution that is armed can defeat the armed counter-revolution.
In Egypt the revolution is currently contained by the SCAF. This is because those who rose up to remove the Mubarak regime had illusions in the army and the bourgeois state as class neutral. To win, the revolution must now unite the youth rebels with the unions and prepare a general strike to split the army and create a dual power situation. In Greece where the pro-democracy revolutions are most advanced in Europe, the same demands are necessary. Workers have to prepare for a Political General Strike by forming strike committees, councils, militias and the national coordination of these organs to win the strike and take power, smash the state and impose a proletarian class dictatorship, or Workers Government.
Workers Power Demands:
Build workers councils!
Form defence committees and workers’ militias!
Unite workers’ councils nationally and internationally!
For an Indefinite Political General Strike!
The Workers Government
The crowning demand of a revolutionary program is the seizure of power and smashing of the state. This was the only major change that Marx and Engels made to The Communist Manifesto after the defeat of the Paris Commune in 1871. The crisis of Marxism and of revolutionary leadership in the period since WW2 has forced a retreat from the Marxist/Bolshevik position on the proletarian dictatorship. Reformists of all colours have baulked at the use of this term and watered down the question of taking power to one of a peaceful evolutionary transition from bourgeois democracy to workers democracy. But Marx proved in 1871 that bourgeois democracy is only a mask for bourgeois dictatorship and that a revolutionary class must be a dictatorship to defeat the reactionary class. The Bolsheviks confirmed this in practice in 1917. For the first time in the history of class societies, however, socialist revolution can create the conditions for the revolutionary proletariat to end classes and with it the need for a class dictatorship.
So when Trotskyists talk about a Workers Government, we do not mean that in Egypt workers will vote for a party where the working class majority is represented. Or that in Spain or Greece a new workers party will successfully defeat Social Democracy and resolve the contradiction between use-value and exchange-value peacefully. That is a reactionary utopia that can only lead to the defeat of the revolutions that have begun. Our revolutionary utopia is based on the real prospect that capitalism has prepared the way for socialism. The working class is the revolutionary class, the vast majority. It is proving every day that it is ready, willing and able to fight. All that is lacking is a revolutionary Marxist party that can intervene with a revolutionary program as a guide to socialist revolution, to transform the necessary fight for survival into the utopia of a socialist future.
For a new World Party of Socialist Revolution based on the 1938 Transitional Program!
For Socialist Federations of North Africa, Middle East and Europe!
Worker of the World Unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains!
Victory to the international working class revolution!