At this moment in time, there is no basis in any country of Europe for a Bonapartist or fascist solution. The fascist organizations today are mostly small sects without mass influence. Even the attack in Norway was not an expression of strength, but of weakness. Terrorism is always ultimately an expression of weakness and an inability to reach the masses. [part 1]
Role of reformism
The bourgeoisie does not need the fascists at this moment in time. Any attempt to move in the direction of fascism or Bonapartism at this point would simply provoke the labour movement to action. The politicians in Brussels fear that Greece is becoming ungovernable. If it has not yet become so, it is thanks to the reformist leaders. That is why for the immediate future, the bourgeoisie must rule through the reformist parties and trade unions.
In Greece, the Pasok leadership took upon its shoulders the task of saving capitalism. Papandreou was anxious to prove his “statesmanlike qualities”, that is, his devotion to the interests of the bankers and capitalists. He was willing to accept all the odium of the austerity programme, and ultimately to sacrifice himself on the altar of Greek and European Capital.
It is precisely the reformists who are implementing the cuts, either directly or by supporting the right-wing governments’ attacks on living standards as a “patriotic duty”. In Greece they entered a so-called “national unity” government with the New Democracy and also the extreme right-wing LAOS party. In Italy they collaborated fully in voting in favour of the “technocratic” Monti government. In both Greece and Italy, these so-called governments of national unity represent the unity of the bosses against the workers in organizing further severe attacks on living standards.
As a result of the bureaucratic and reformist degeneration over decades, but especially over the past half century, the leaders of the mass organizations of the working class have transformed themselves into massive obstacles to the revolutionary movement. It is a monstrous fact, but a fact nonetheless. It is a dialectical contradiction that, precisely at a time when capitalism is in its deepest crisis in history, all the leaders of Labour Movement have embraced the “market”.
Once you have accepted the existence of capitalism, you must carry out the dictates of Capital. That explains the conduct of the reformists who everywhere act as the administrators of capitalist crisis, carrying out a programme of cuts and attacks on living standards to defend the interests of the bankers and capitalists. In this, the “Lefts” are no better than the right wing. They share the view of the right wing that there is really no alternative to capitalism, and must act accordingly.
They have abandoned any perspective of the socialist transformation of society. The difference is that whereas the right-wingers perform their services to Capital enthusiastically and unhesitatingly, the Lefts believe that it is possible to have capitalism with a human face. They want to add a teaspoon of sugar to the bitter medicine. But life has prepared a harsh lesson in realism for left reformism. Irrespective of their subjective intentions, the Left merely acts as a cover for the right-wing reformists.
The same is true of the former “Communist” leaders who have become transformed into vulgar Social Democrats. These leaders are completely out of touch with the real mood of the working class. Anyone who thinks the Italian, Spanish or Belgian workers, or the workers of any other country will take these cuts without a fight is living on another planet.
Without the reformist leaders, capitalism could not last even for a week. For that very reason, talk about the danger of fascism and Bonapartism makes no sense at the present time. The ruling class all over Europe must base itself on the leaders of the workers’ mass organizations at this stage. Any attempt to move in the direction of fascism or Bonapartism at this point would simply provoke the labour movement to action.
Of course, this can change. The present crisis can last for years. At a certain point, the ruling class will say: there are too many strikes, too many demonstrations, too much disorder. We need to restore Order! Then there could be a movement towards reaction. But even in such a case, the ruling class would have to proceed carefully, first testing the ground by moving towards parliamentary Bonapartism.
The ruling class is not in a position to launch an all-out attack on the Labour Movement. On the contrary, the pendulum will swing to the left. The working class will have many opportunities to take power into its hands before the ruling class can turn to reaction. Of course, the movement of the working class is never in a straight line. We have time, but not unlimited time. The bourgeoisie cannot use open force at this stage. But that can change, and will change. Defeats are inevitable. At a certain stage, the bourgeoisie can win support to a demand for the restoration of order. However, that is not an immediate perspective in any developed capitalist country.
The role of the youth
One of the most noticeable factors in the movements that have swept the world has been the mobilisation of the youth, who at all stages have been at the forefront of the struggle. Young students and workers, because of their position, are a very sensitive barometer of the underlying contradictions in society. In the Arab world, almost 75 percent of the population is under the age of 35. Of these, almost 70 percent are unemployed and most have to struggle to make a living in the informal economy. Moreover, the suffocating suppression of all democratic rights puts an extraordinary pressure on the youth who by their very nature are rebellious against such constraints.
The position today of the youth in the advanced capitalist countries is fundamentally not that different from the position of the youth in the backward countries. In Spain, youth unemployment for those below the age of 25 is more than 40 percent, and the situation in the rest of Europe is rapidly moving in the same direction. At the same time, bourgeois democracy is quickly losing its legitimacy in the eyes of the youth who correctly see it, and all established parties related to it, as a cloak for the dictatorship of the bankers.
A Pew Research poll recently found that households in the US headed by people age 35 and younger were worth an average of just $3,662 in 2009, 47 times less than the median net worth of households headed by people 65 and older. With unemployment and debt at record levels, there is no light at the end of the tunnel for this “lost generation.”
The young generation growing up in the advanced capitalist countries today, is the first since the Second World War that can expect to see a lower living standard than their parents. They have no memory of the “golden days” of reformism, where capitalism could afford to give a few minor concessions, allowing the reformist leaders to build up authority that they could translate into social peace. They have no memory of the struggles of the post-war period when the workers moved through their traditional mass organisations. The only experiences they have are of the counter-reforms of the 90s, and the constant betrayals of the social-democrats and, to a certain extent, the Stalinists.
Therefore, the youth view all established political forces with mistrust. The authority of the leaders of the traditional mass organisations among the youth is at a historical low. Since the beginning of the crisis, the youth have been hit hard, but have not seen the reformist and Stalinist leaders representing their interests. The traditional organisations are still heavily weighed down by a stifling careerist bureaucracy and therefore at this stage are not reflecting the aspirations of the movements that have taken place. On the contrary, the leaders of the Labour Party in Britain, the PASOK in Greece, and the Democratic Party in Italy are bending to the pressures of the capitalist class and doing their utmost to appear as “statesmen”.
This situation will change in the future, starting first with the trade unions. Already we can see the pressure on the trade union leaders to do something. In several countries they have been forced to call general strikes, for instance. However, we are still in the very early stages of a process of inner differentiation within the mass organisations.
Thus, while the youth, especially its active layers, are drawing revolutionary conclusions, the leaders of the official mass organisations are desperately clinging to the capitalist order. That is why they cannot satisfy the radicalised youth who are looking for ideas that completely break with the system. The youth act boldly and energetically, and this creates great opportunities for the Marxists who can approach the youth directly under their own banner. If the Marxists adopt a flexible approach to this revolutionary youth, big gains can be made.
Ebbs and flows inevitable
A perspectives document is not merely a list of facts and figures. It must deal with the fundamental processes of the World Revolution. We should try to draw the threads together and draw conclusions. We have now entered into the most turbulent time in human history, with a sharp upturn of the class struggle everywhere. We have entered a period where we can see bourgeois regimes fall, just like the Stalinist regimes fell 20 years ago. The bourgeoisie is uncomfortably aware of this and is increasingly alarmed.
Everywhere we see the symptoms of decline. Such symptoms are familiar to students of history who are acquainted with the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Scandals rock the bourgeoisie in France, Italy and Britain. The scandal in Britain is the deepest, affecting every institution: the press, the politicians, the bankers, and the monarchy.
Events in Wisconsin show the beginnings of ferment in the US as well. This does not mean, of course, that the red flag will fly over the White House tomorrow. But it means that the same process is happening everywhere, at different speeds and in different conditions, even in the richest and most powerful country in the world.
However, we must not adopt a superficial and impressionistic attitude to events. The masses cannot stay on the streets indefinitely. Sudden and sharp changes are rooted in the situation. In one country after another, the working class and the youth are already taking the road of struggle. The revolutionary ferment will unfold over years, maybe decades. We must expect ebbs and flows. There will be moments of great advance, but also other moments of tiredness and disappointment and even periods of reaction.
There will inevitably be setbacks and defeats. But in such a period, defeats will only be a prelude to a new revolutionary upswing. Let us remember that even in 1917, there were ups and downs in the Revolution. After the defeat of the July Days, Lenin had to flee to Finland and remain underground almost until the October Revolution. But the revolutionary conditions gave rise to a new upsurge. We see exactly the same pattern in the Spanish Revolution in the 1930s.
The road we have chosen is not going to be easy, but very difficult. We must steel our cadres so that they are not unduly affected by ephemeral developments in the class struggle. This is an epoch of revolutions, but also of wars and counterrevolutions. This means that tremendous opportunities are open to the Marxist tendency everywhere. However, the prior condition for success is that we train our cadres in the Marxist method.
Twenty years ago the Stalinist police states with their powerful repressive apparatus fell one after another under the pressure of mass upsurges. Ted Grant pointed out that the collapse of Stalinism was a dramatic event, but it was only the prelude to something far bigger: the crisis of capitalism. And that’s what we are witnessing today.
What was astonishing about the fall of Stalinism was the ease with which the workers overthrew what seemed to be all-powerful states with huge repressive apparatuses. The same thing can happen under capitalism, as we saw in Tunisia and Egypt. In the moment of truth the old regime fell like a house of cards. Situations like May 1968 can be repeated and generalised.
The one thing that was missing from the revolutionary situations that arose in Tunisia, Egypt and Greece was a revolutionary leadership. This is something that cannot be improvised. It must be prepared in advance. How is that done? What is the duty of the Marxists in this situation? We do not yet aim to reach the masses with our propaganda. That is beyond our ability. We aim at the most advanced elements of the workers and youth. We do not put forward “easy” agitational slogans that merely tell the workers what they already know. The workers need to be told the truth. And the truth is that under capitalism the only future that awaits them is one of permanent austerity, falling living standards, unemployment and poverty.
The older layer of tired and demoralized elements will tend to drop away and will be replaced by younger and more vigorous elements who are prepared to fight. As we have explained, the masses will put all the existing parties and leaderships to the test. There will be a whole series of crises and splits to the right and the left. At a certain stage a mass left wing will emerge. The right wing will be shattered by events.
Someone might object: “but the masses in Greece and Spain and Italy don’t know what they want!” But they know what they don’t want! There is a questioning of capitalism which was not present before. However, we must be realistic. The masses cannot stay on the streets indefinitely. There will inevitably be periods of lull, during which the workers will think deeply about what has happened, criticize, differentiate and draw conclusions. It is precisely in such periods that the ideas of Marxism can gain a powerful echo; on condition that we are patient, that we listen to what the masses are saying and put forward the correct slogans.
Our duty, to use Lenin’s expression, is to patiently explain. We must explain that only the expropriation of the bankers and capitalists and the replacement of capitalist anarchy by a democratically planned economy can provide a way out of the crisis. In particular, we must counter the nationalist poison of the Stalinists, who, in the case of Greece, advocate a return to the drachma, by advancing the slogan of the United Socialist States of Europe, the only real alternative to the bankrupt bosses’ EU.
In the revolutionary events that are coming, the advanced workers and youth will learn. Of course, movements like the indignados in Spain display a certain amount of naïveté and confusion, but that it inevitable. There is always confusion in the early stages of a revolution. That is because the masses do not learn from books, but from experience. If we work correctly we can help them to draw revolutionary conclusions, and come to understand the need for Marxism and a revolutionary organization.
The ideas of Marxism are the only ideas that can lead the working class to victory in Europe, in the Middle East, and throughout the world. These are our weapons. In the military academies of the bourgeoisie, the future officers study past wars in order to prepare for future wars. In the same way, we must prepare our cadres as the future officers of the revolutionary proletariat. Every comrade must study the past revolutions in order to apply the lessons for future revolutions.
In the past, our perspectives were correct but may have seemed a little abstract. Now they are very concrete. This reflects, on the one hand, the maturing of the conditions everywhere. On the other hand, it reflects the fact that the IMT is actively participating in revolutionary events. We are no longer simply observers and commentators but active participants.
Tremendous opportunities to build the organization are before us. However, the organization will not build itself. It will require hard work and sacrifice from each and every comrade. We must be filled with a sense of urgency to build the forces of the revolutionary International. If we do not do it, nobody else will.
What is happening should fill us all with enthusiasm, determination and confidence in the future of socialism. By basing ourselves on a scientific analysis, and applying intelligent and flexible tactics, we can connect with the best elements of the youth and the working class, and raise the whole International to the level of the tasks posed by history.