This text was presented at public meetings held in Italy at Turin, Genoa, Florence and Bologna in or around February 1991
From its very beginnings, Marxism has considered that war doesn’t happen by chance, that it can neither be considered as a cause nor a by-product of history, especially modern history, but is instead an element integral to the capitalist mode of production. For us, ’Marxism’ means the orthodox doctrine for the emancipation of the proletariat that has existed in a clear and coherent form from 1848 onwards. This doctrine is also known as left or revolutionary Marxism as well; even though we cannot talk of right-wing or reformist Marxism as today that it would be a contradiction in terms. The latest official abjurations of Marxism by various allegedly communist parties are the confirmation of this; although they haven’t been Marxist for the last 70 years in any case.
Our declarations and writings do not arise as particular thoughts elaborated within a circle of fertile revolutionary minds, rather they wish only to present to the proletariat a series of historical conclusions. These, though well-known, are rejected by the majority yet have the force of objective data; as laws of social nature, as discoveries linked in a continuous way within the party. And over the almost 150 years of its existence, the party has been a working organism within which Marx, Engels and Lenin militated, as well as the anonymous and unknown, and its task is preparing the way for social destruction of capitalism.
In Marx’s economic theory, we find the explanation of the causes of modern wars. These differ from the wars of the ancients which were fought to gain land, slaves or riches; and from the wars of the rising bourgeoisie, which concluded the formation of the national units of de-throning autocrats and smashing of the great union of feudal states. Never has Marxism explained wars in terms of personalities, or sought explanations in the mental health or wickedness of heads of state. All the imbecile gulf-war propaganda about the mental characteristics of ’Saddam’, and formerly about Hitler, is nauseating; particularly because it serves to hide the truth from the oppressed and intoxicate the conscripts.
Modern wars, from 1914 on, have for their aim the destruction of wealth, not its re-division. Marx teaches us that capitalist production knows no bounds because it is an end in itself. The mechanism of capital and profit is arranged so that competition selects the capitalist concerns that are in a position to produce more capital; the capital which grows fastest – and most resembles a cancerous growth – survives. Around 1700, the capital in England which became established did so because it was so widely spread throughout the world, firstly in France, then Germany, then Italy, America, Japan and even in Russia. But in the last quarter of the 1800’s, capital no longer had virgin land it could occupy. This triggers off that phenomenon of catastrophic proportions; the cycles of crises of overproduction. On the one hand, the capacity for the production of commodities increases, whilst on the other, the capacity to consume on the part of the masses increase only very slowly – and decreases relatively. Capitalist economy needs to force the consumption of the masses everywhere right down to the minimum level necessary for survival. From this arises, in its turn, the absolute necessity of destruction, so as to make space for a whole new cycle of capitalist accumulation, in other words, the famous ’reconstruction’. All this can be found in Marx, and Engels himself made specific reference to the inevitability of world wars.
For Marxism, the point of origin of the current war isn’t the Gulf, but Wall street, London, Milan, Berlin, Moscow and Tokyo. It arises from the economic crises of over production already wreaking havoc in the U.S.A., Russia, and in Europe. Iraq is first and foremost just a provisional target for the imperialist juggernauts, who, given their current alliance, are sharing in its destruction. But the destruction of one country will not quench capitalism’s thirst for new ’business’, capitalism requires the generalized destruction of entire continents in order to ensure its monstrous reproduction. Not counting the uninterrupted series of regional wars, in the first half of the century there have been ten years of war; we can foresee that world capitalism, after more than 50 years of peace will need another cataclysm lasting at least ten years, involving the destructions on a continental scale. The war is not yet over.
This is the reason why the truce offered by Saddam could not be accepted; the scope of the war isn’t to ’liberate Kuwait’, the aim of the war is war itself. Until the arsenals are emptied of bombs, such ’liberations’ are bound to continue.
As a direct consequence of the economic predictions of Marxism, which are today strikingly borne out by the recession (the newspapers would be clogged with articles about it if the columns weren’t already filled with falsehoods about the war) communist revolutionaries draw the conclusion that war is an economic necessity, that capitalism and war are as inseparable as if production and destruction formed a coherent whole, as long as the capitalist mode of production exists, war is therefore inevitable. These theses were not ’invented’ by us, but hammered out by Lenin when faced with the betrayal of the social-democrats in August 1914. They are rejected by every one of the countless groups of pacifists, who delude themselves with the possibility of a capitalism ’with a human face’ which ’rejects war’. In the face of this endless array of political peddlers, ranging from the priests, to ever less convinced ex-communist parties, we reaffirm that the historical tendency of capitalism, which is accompanied by immense growth in the production of all those countries which have emerged from pre-capitalism (such as in Asia), does not lead to war being transcended, and to a society based on peace and world harmony, but to an ever more terrifying catastrophe. The history we are living through confirms it.
Bourgeois society is ever more permeated with militarism, and the claim that democratic society is naturally pacific, whilst dictatorships and fascisms, or the feudal pre-bourgeoisie tend towards militarism, is an opportunist deceit. Militarism dominates wherever there is arms production, wherever the ’military-industrial complex’ holds sway in uncontested fashion, and particularly, therefore, in the most parliamentary, in the most democratic, and in the most liberal countries. We can see how the mobilization, and the shamelessly insinuating and incessant militaristic propaganda can attain maximum efficiency and astonishing levels of cynicism whilst all the while respecting, in the formal sense, constitutional charters, etc.
From these communist theoretical and programmatic assumptions of our party, there inevitably follow the directives which we address to the proletariat when faced with imperialist war. Their aim is to prevent the proletariat from entertaining any illusions about capitalism leading towards the land of ’milk and honey’; to prevent any euphoria and false optimism after the ’collapse’ of that ’iron curtain’ during the ’miracle of 1989’. The war in the Gulf is precisely a direct consequence of the most bitter inter-imperialist rivalry, and of the redundancy of the Yalta Pact.
The party makes no claim to any originality in its tactical orientation and retreads the century old path of defeatism which begins with Marx’s analysis of the Paris Commune. According to Marx, all armies were by then confederated against the insurgent proletariat. The path winds on to Lenin, to Rosa Luxemburg and to the Left, which in Russia, in Germany and in Italy, strenuously fought against mobilization, and against the prostration of the ex-workers’ parties before ’the country in danger’.
Point one, Communists consider that war is reactionary on both imperialist fronts; the proletariat, therefore, mustn’t throw its might behind either side of the imperialist battle lines because it would fall into the bourgeois war trap intended to divert it from class struggle against the dominion of global capital. Worst still is if the proletariat becomes divided into different parts, each supporting their own national bourgeoisie, in war, against their class brothers in other countries. The first two world wars are dramatic examples of such class ruptures. Loyalty to the bourgeois nation, whether in their ’holy alliance’ or as partisans is the opposite of class struggle. War is the opposite of revolution, its negation, the complete inversion of the class front.
The proletariat considers that war when declared by the world bourgeoisie is war declared against itself, and as a consequence it must react against it. It seems obvious and natural, but because of the betrayal of the socialist parties in the first world war, and the Stalinist betrayal in the second, it didn’t happen; thus defeat came after the wars too. There were, of course, exceptions, namely the revolutionary attempts in Italy and Germany and our victory in Russia.
The parties which today declare themselves to be pacifist (in a very feeble way and avidly supporting their ’country’) have already theorized and had plenty of practice in subordinating the proletariat to the world war.
The notion of supporting the Arabs amongst western workers, and championing the Iraqis amongst Arab workers is gaining ground in some quarters. We refute such theses as follows: Firstly, the current conflict is not an Arabic national war. The case for supporting the Iraqi side in this war by considering it as pro-Iraqi nationalism does not stand up. To support the Iraqi side is clearly to support the bourgeoisie, but, the latter cannot claim to be representing the common interests of all the Iraqi classes since these now have interests that are irreconcilable. This is shown particularly clearly by the epilogue to the Iran-Iraq war and by the defeatism practiced by the proletariat at the war front. Saddam isn’t fighting to liberate Kuwait; and that is why he isn’t calling on the masses of other Arab capitals to turn on their governments which, like Kuwait, are also in the pockets of the west; and which fear their own subjects more than the American marines. From Cairo to Casablanca, there has been no call for bourgeois revolution, for a holy war against the West, and we don’t find this in any way "regrettable". This is because as materialists we evaluate historical facts, their ripeness and even their rottenness, and also because we see the possibility of a proletarian revival emerging from the shameful collapse of the pan-Arab myth. Such a revival will not be Arabic alone, but will have to include, at the very least, Europe. Like Marx, when he wrote of the still feudal Poland that it would be liberated in London and not in Poland, so we maintain, at the end of the 20th century, that the Arabic proletariat will liberate itself in Berlin, as well as in Baghdad and Algeria.
The Arabic national question, in the countries of the Maghreb as in the Middle East, has been overtaken by the social question; the bourgeoisie and the Arab states are no longer really involved in the nationalism, but in anti-proletarian irredentism, as Nasser proved. However, though we reject any claim that either Bush or Saddam may make of being the more progressive, we are not indifferent since we retain that the defeat of the West, with their stronger bourgeoisies, would favour our revolution more than an Iraqi defeat which would leave things as they are.
The second point to consider is: how should the proletariat fight against war. At a certain point, the working class is compelled by sufferings of slaughter and hatred against this society, to set itself in motion to frustrate war objectives, or else, to constrain the state to declare a truce (in the event war has already started). At that time, it will have to face the fact that survival of capitalism is impossible without the carnage of war. The bourgeoisie knows that too much peace would spell its ruin, would mean renouncing profit. For big capital it is a matter of life and death and we can clearly see, at this very moment, gigantic forces pressing inexorably for war and ready to remove any obstacle that gets in their way. Even governments themselves have to act independently of their personal convictions and obey the imperative of war. When things come to such a pass only the party which doesn’t shrink from the necessity of fighting capitalist society, which doesn’t comprise with it, will be able to persist in its opposition to war; preventing war comes to coincide with revolution.
Given the above, we therefore declare – as did Lenin – that proletarian defeatism entails the communist revolutionary programme. Communists, therefore, are not pacifists since they consider that capitalist peace is neither lasting nor an advantage to the proletariat and its revolution. Peace is only an interval between wars and is no less inhuman. From this follows ours long-held and oft-confirmed predictions about pacifists in wartime. Pacifists, by definition neither communist nor anti-capitalist, are destined either to betray their opposition to war or else limit themselves to prayers to their god or exhortations to their governments.
Lenin moreover observed in the democratic countries, that pacifists – for instance the Red Cross – are indispensable as an auxiliary force for luring the proletariat to the front; first of all they deviate the spontaneous movement which is opposed to the carnage of war (and which has its source in the proletariat’s natural tendency towards revolution) with the illusion that prayers and torchlight processions can affect the transistorized heart of big capital; but once war has well and truly arrived, and millions of call-up notices have been dispatched, the majority of pacifists then roll up their sleeves and set about demonstrating the sanctity of war in order to defend ’civilization’ against the ’aggression of the enemy’. War is always fought to defend peace.
The pacifist movement is founded on the fact that not all the various components of the bourgeoisie agree on when and where to stage the massacres; until the stakes are clearly defined some would prefer to line up as part of a ’Mediterranean’ or ’anti-imperialist’ front, or then again some still have unconcluded business deals with the ’enemy’. In the Second World War, the declaration of war against France was delayed by a few hours so that a train load of arms which had left Turin could reach the frontier. During the first World War, Italy hedged its bets as long as possible, just as it did in the Second; in the 1st not only the Socialists were neutralist but also the catholics, Giolitti and the liberals, the Roman church, and even the crown. In the 2nd, secret diplomatic maneuvers were opted for by both the German and English states in order to win over Mussolini. For analogous reasons Gorbachev is adopting a pacifist stance.
Undisputed chief pacifist at the moment is the Pope, who is summoning us to prayer, which never does any harm; he will doubtlessly continue praying through the long years of the next war. But all the national churches, Islam included, have already sided politically with their respective states, praying under the flag as always. We can be sure it will get even worse in days to come.
As they are bourgeois, all these pacifists will close ranks as the expected general mobilization draws near. The proletariat will then find itself isolated. In fact we can say that the proletariat has already found itself alone by opposing the war by strike action, by its spontaneous mobilization; whilst the regime’s unions, on the other hand, have been quick to demonstrate where they stand: on the side of the bourgeois state and the war. As in the 1st World War, the ex-working class unions have shown themselves to be indispensable instruments for actuating proletarian mobilization in the trenches and the factories; the auxiliary force of its unions is essential to the regime as the police would not be enough to keep discipline in the arms factories; and it would only take a few hours for a revolt to spread from the factories to the front. Especially social-democratic and Stalinist opportunism is the best guarantee for the maintenance of bourgeois order.
Today, it is big United States capital that wants the military occupation of the Middle East. For years it has been making preparations, right down to the minutest detail through secret diplomacy, and the occupation has been cynically timed so as to profit from the temporary weakness of its competitors. American capital’s objective is to postpone the collapse caused by the over-production crises and to take possession of strategic crossroads with a view to the next world war. The war hasn’t finished – it has only just begun.
At the same time, it is useful that the illusions of the international law have been unmasked – law clearly derives from violence. For revolutionaries, the might of capitalist conservation can be opposed only by world proletarian might. We don’t delude ourselves that there is any other way. At present though the strength of the proletariat is sapped by division and diversions. We are reminded that Marx wrote: in this society the proletariat is either revolutionary or it is nothing. The challenge that has to be met is the same for the revolutionary bourgeoisie in one fundamental respect – that the battle will take place on a global scale; the proletariat, as in Russia, will have to conquer the bourgeoisie in its own country, and then go on to conquer the countries that still remain in bourgeois hands. For this communist party of the future, it will still be necessary to study military strategy with a view to the war which the states of the new proletarian dictatorship will have to launch against the mercenaries of capital.
There are many things to be taken into consideration: the technical equipment of modern warfare, used terroristically by the bourgeoisie, is in fact in the hands of the proletariat, especially in the most advanced countries and it will have to learn how to use it. Another factor is the possibility of fraternization between the proletarian troops which can be brought about in different ways according to whether the combatants are in the air force, navy or army. Proletarian governments installed in any of the advanced countries will certainly have greater possibilities of maneuver and mobilization than does the reactionary Iraqi state.
As matters stand at the moment we certainly don’t expect any immediate conquests, and, if war broke out tomorrow we couldn’t claim to be able to put a stop to it with our meager forces. But that won’t lead us to hang onto the coattails of the priests and the pacifists. Rather it is because the duty of the International Communist Party today to put up a barrier against the flood of nonsense, the out and out bilgewater spread by our enemies, whether of the pacifist, interclassist or gradualist variety. Our duty is to remain aware at all times of the harsh reality of the struggle between classes and its inexorable laws.
We have already recently seen the proletariat in Italy out on strike. The right moment arrived and a spontaneous mobilization took place for its own economic defense and against submitting to the war. Our contribution is to anticipate the conditions under which the battle will be fought; to say that without trustworthy defensive organizations, without unions which are red and combative no effective defense will be possible; and to say, furthermore, that without the revolutionary party resistance to war is impossible. Most of the proletariat though, despite what we have said, will still find it necessary to experience for itself the bloody betrayal of those other organizations that claim to be workers parties and workers unions. However, a minority of the class will become conscious of communism and the party, and thereby reconstitute the bond that has been broken for more than 60 years.
Amidst this process of economic crises and the preparation for world
war, our small, but nevertheless great party continues working.
(to be continued)
After eight months of struggle and almost 100 hours on strike, a new contract has been signed by the Italian Metal-workers. It has cost them all of 1650 billion lire; amounting to a wage reduction of around 1,100,000 lire for each proletarian.
First of all we should point out that this bosses-union "platform" (this stupid fetish object) has certainly achieved the objectives of both the Federmeccanica (see footnote for all organisations referred to here), and the FI0M, FIM and the UILM, i.e., yet again the renewal of contracts has turned out to be entirely to their advantage - and entirely to the disadvantage of proletarians.
This signing of contracts marked the end of a dispute began on March 12, 1990 when the FI0M, FIM and UILM sent off their original proposals for a renewal of contracts - even then a bosses platform - to the Federmeccanica. In order to show the incredibly swinish conduct resorted to by the union triumvirate, and to make sure everyone knows about it, we will recapitulate the main stages from there on.
One observation straight off: the fact that the initial union demands were the "fruit of a long and bitter struggle" between the union bosses has to be reckoned with and can’t be swept under the carpet; certainly it is true that inside the FIOM, FIM and UILM, different stances were and are taken on how to "manage and program" both union and contractual policy. But we are nevertheless convinced (and will demonstrate it if necessary) that the various different positions, which are certainly not just armchair musings, hang entirely on the best way to put a break on the workers struggle, and on how best to defend the "national economy", i.e., how best to defend the interests of the bourgeoisie and its state. We should never forget that the union swine are masters at fixing things so that they can gradually be channelled in an opportunist direction. Whether specific interests are backed by the unions as the occasion demands or not, we can still say this; that they are firmly rooted in the terrain of "collaboration with the bosses", and are instruments of their programme to keep wages down.
The contractual demands proposed by the three main unions to the federmeccanica comprised: 1) a rise of about 270,000 lire on average, plus length of service rises; 2) a reduction of 64 hours per annum to bring the working week to 37½ hours in two years.
These requests were rejected when presented to the workers at: Alfa-Romeo at Arese and Pomigliano; Olivetti in Ivrea; Zanussi in Pordenone; OM/Iveco in Brescia; Aeritaia in Naples, and at Weber in Bologna. We recall that previously an agreement had been signed between the union and Confindustria leaders, the famous "protocol agreement on new industrial relations", that had precisely the aim of linking workers to company productivity; to prevent any demands being made which aimed to improve their working and living conditions, demands that would inevitably raise the cost of production.
The Federmeccanica, secure in the fact that the unions had dutifully assumed their responsibilities as outlined above, responded to the platform on March 30th with a resounding NO, and the negotiations continued up to the middle of June to no avail. The first strikes then began, many of which were spontaneous and not organized by the union head offices. The union mandarins thereupon announced a totally ungeneral, "General Strike" on June 27th.
During the Summer break - an excellent pretext for putting a break on the workers in struggle - no change occurred in the approach of the union H.Q’s.
On the return to work, the unified unions "reviewed" the original platform, and the first concession was this: the demands are lowered to 230 thousand lire in salary increases and a reduction of 40 hours per annum.
Not even these "modifications" - which are not "adjustments as proposals for negotiation" as the union paper Nuova Rassegna Sindicale ingenuously asserts - managed to unblock the negotiations. But the conjurers at the union H.Q.’s, who are ever at work with their stale old illusions, pull yet another rabbit out of the hat - this time the Honourable Bourgeois Minister of Labour, Donat Cattin, who is insistently called upon to intervene; the same personage who has already "since August let the unions know that he would supervise the negotiations"; this, when he announced in Nuova Rassegna Sindacale that: "blackmail tactics have been chosen: in exchange for a reduction in hours - and not a merely symbolic reduction - an overtime increase has been demanded. With regard to the item on wages: if you want increases that go beyond the rate of inflation, we have been made clearly to understand that the price that must be paid is a moratorium for at least two years on renegotiating company contracts and a freeze on seniority rises".
By appealing to the bourgeois ministry, a cardinal rule of class struggle is renounced; that which indicates to the workers that they must fight on a level that is GENERALISED AND WITHOUT ANY SET TIME LIMITS. Appealing to the ministry is also tantamount to being conditioned by conscious blackmail, conditioned by respect for the written laws; the upshot of which is that it comes to seem logical and natural to religiously genuflect before them.
Against this backdrop of union prostitution, on October 5th the second "general strike" occurs. On March 16th, talks between the Federmeccanica and the unions break down once again. On March 24th, after various "exploratory" talks, the minister Donat Cattin calls both sides together in order "to mediate" between them. November 9th, another sectoral "general strike": in Rome a national demonstration takes place with 250,000 workers participating from the metal-working, textile, chemical and agricultural sectors. In the following days, it looks as though confrontations might break out again; November 13th, a phase of meetings with ministers commences but the negotiations come to nothing.
Finally, amidst wildcat strikes, agitation and roadblocks, railway blockades, "general strikes" and postponements, the result after eight months - which is quite a long time - is precisely nothing. The bosses "blackmail proposal" ends up by being accepted.
No-one can say that the workers have been reluctant to fight. But we can say that the 96 hours out on strike (not bad in this day and age) and fought with admirable spirit and sacrifice at that, have been thrown down the drain by the opportunist unions in their shameful kowtowing to the enemy.
A situation rife with hypocrisy and falsehood has meant that 96 hours of strike action have been wasted. If the workers interests and the elementary principles of class struggle had been to the fore, these 96 hours should have, and could have, achieved RAPID and DECISIVE results by ensuring that the strikes were truly NATIONAL, UNITARY, and NOT CONSTRAINED WITHIN SET TIME LIMITS. Only GENERALISED and SUSTAINED actions could have hit at the bosses vital interests.
The central importance of the metal-working industry in the national economy would have allowed these actions to widen, deepen and make the workers offensive both irresistible and irreversible.
The latter then was the cause of the defeat. But what do the putrid Union centres have to say about it? "It doesn’t seem appropriate, at this time, to centralise the struggle for contracts" (Nuova Rasssgna Sindacale, 19-11-90).
By November the 9th, millions of workers were on the move, metal-workers, workers in the textile, chemical and construction industry, and workers in agriculture and commerce, but the splitting and the splintering around sectoral interests had betrayed the struggle.
By November the 22nd, negotiations are resumed and Donat Cattin, the minister, presents his proposals: 1) a four year contract, 2) an average monthly increase of 250 thousand lire, to include length of service increments, 3) a reduction of 16 hours per annum, 4) a "one-off" payment of 710 thousand lire, 5) a moratorium on renegotiation of company contracts until April 30th 1992. On December 4th, the attitude of the FEDERMECCANICA and CONFINDUSTRIA hardens and they reject the minister’s proposals regarding the reduction of hours (much to the rage of the workers) and negotiations are suspended. Another meeting in Turin, and another breakdown in negotiations over hours; the CGIL, CISL and the UIL, who are ever eager to give proof of their good intentions to their members, decide on a strike; but in order to give the bosses plenty of time to prepare, they set the date for December 20th! By December 12th, the game was already played out. Big boss Pinfarina now asks for a "compromise" professing that "a point had been reached (a lowest common denominator) beyond which it wasn’t possible to go; out of regard for social responsibility, and not because of workers’ protests or for fear of a general strike" (L’Unità 15-12-90).
On December 13th, Donat Cattin brings the two parties together, and separate meetings are held between the CONFINDUSTRIA, FEDERMECCANICA and the bourgeois "community coppers", the unions. Then on December 14th, there takes place the last bit of sleight of hand. At four in the morning, like thieves in the night, all agitation is liquidated in the most shameful way with the signing of a usurers treaty.
Herewith the metal-workers new contract:
1) The contract is to be reckoned as running from January 1st, 1991 to June 30th 1994. This prompts the union leaders of the CGIL, CISL and UIL to declare that "it cannot constitute a precedent for future negotiations". Such a statement is a barefaced lie because the imposition of longterm contracts is an old and established way of attempting to block off the initiative to proletarian struggle. International opportunism has taught (in Switzerland there is perpetual "labour peace") that all is well for the bourgeoisie as long as the business commissions supervise the putting into effect, and respect for, the regulation of wages (to which they allegedly contribute their "business acumen") and of working conditions. Such is the bourgeois dream, to realise an eternal "labour peace"; a set of definite rules to resolve the struggle between labour and capital; commissions that program and reinforce meetings with the bosses and state.
The proletariat will show that their dream is a policeman’s utopia.
2) Wage rises: average gross monthly rise to be 217 thousand lire until the contract expiry date. This amount to be subdivided into three parts payable at different times as follows: a 100 thousand lire (on average) To be paid from January 1 1991, that is, about 46% of the total; 39 thousand lire (18%) from January 1 1992; 78 thousand lire (36%) from January 1 1993.
Finally, with length of service rises included in the reckoning as well, the average increase over a period of three and a half years comes to scarcely 250 thousand lire! In fact this rate is even lower than that asked by the declaredly patriotic state unions, and it is nothing other than a total and complete capitulation.
3) A "lump-sum" payment of 840 thousand lire paid in two instalments: 450 thousand lire will be included in the first pay-packet after the signing of the agreement; 390 thousand lire in May 1991.
From January 1 1991, monthly increases, (currently fixed for workers of the seventh grade at 90 thousand lire a month) will be raised to 115 thousand lire. From the same date, allowances for managerial staff (presently set at 120 thousand lire a month) will be raised to 190 thousand lire. From January 1 1991, the occupational bonus will be raised from 30 to 55 thousand lire. [ed: this occupational bonus is only paid for days worked and is not taken into consideration when pensions are worked out; neither is it taken into account when overtime rates are fixed].
4) Reduction of working hours: Not only is this has a pathetically small reduction of 16 hours, but there are strings attached: 8 hours of this will not be made effective until October 1993, and the other eight, not until April 1994! Will this reduction of 3 and a half minutes per day really be worth waiting for!
It comes then as no surprise then that the rubbishy union leaders signed this traitors charter without seeking approval from the workers assemblies.
And who has gained from this new labour contract? The proletariat, the class, or the enemy? To us, the reply seems simple, there can be no doubt that the Federmeccanica has won, capitalism, the class enemy has won. Thanks to the sabotage of the union centres, a contract has been imposed at "zero cost", that is, neither the bosses profits or the exploitation of the proletariat has been diminished.
The bourgeois regime, with its defensive apparatus for regimenting the workers in war and peace, and imposing its laws, has won yet again. To shake off this oppression, one way, and one way only remains open to workers: the strike, appealing to the solidarity of the exploited in all sectors. But in order to struggle effectively, the workers must throw off the ball and chain that has weighed them down for decades: that of the union traitors. The rebirth of genuine red, class unions; of anti-boss and anti-bourgeois mobilization lies before the rising generation of proletarians.
|Metalworkers Unions||Union Federations|
|FIOM - Federazione Impiegati e Operai Metallurgici (the most important metalworkers union)||CGIL - Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro||left (communists (!), socialists)|
|FIM - Federazione Italiana Metalmeccanici||CISL: Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori||centre (Christian democrats)|
|UILM - Unione Italiana del Lavoro||UIL: Unione Italiana del Lavoro||centre-left (socialists /social democrats)|
|FLM - Federazione Lavoratori Metalmeccanici|
|CONFINDUSTRIA - federation all types of private employers|
On June 2nd and 3rd, militants of the party and sympathisers from different parts of Italy, Britain, France and Switzerland assembled for the regular working reunion. As ever, our meeting was not about launching new programmes and political lines. That kind of thing is more the province of the bourgeois party congresses where self-criticism and self-analysis serve merely as a cloak, as highly convenient expedients for preserving the same structures, and the same ideologies which were already threadbare I5O year ago when we condemned them in our manifesto.
The duty assigned to the Marxist party isn’t bringing the doctrine up to date to accommodate to unforeseen new phases of capitalism (an alibi that has served as cover for a whole historical range of betrayals from Stalin to Gorbachev) rather it is to act as custodian of the class doctrine for the still revolutionary proletariat of the future. It is a doctrine which negates economic mercantilism and political democracy, and will always be alien to both monopolistic western capitalism and eastern state-capitalism. Furthermore, it is hostile to both in equal measure.
Despite the discordant caterwauling of cynical and demented bourgeois propaganda, hesitant but nonetheless genuine class reactions are emerging; serving to remind our enemy that its historical condemnation has merely been postponed. These class reactions will be attentively considered and assessed by the party during the necessarily difficult (and by no means short) process of their orientation.
At the organizational meeting on Saturday morning, packs of the party newspaper and the latest issue of "Comunismo" were collected ("Comunismo" containing full transcripts of some of the reports given at the last meeting in February). We considered projects for publishing party periodicals and texts, along with related technical and financial problems, and also evaluated the considerable efforts and successes, which despite their modest dimensions due to the minimal forces available to us, continue to uphold and defend the tradition of the Marxist Left in its uncorrupted entirety, and therefore the uniqueness of its methods.
The first speaker gave a far-reaching exposition of the history of the Left: the theme being the Fraction abroad and the other groups opposed to the policies of the International.
The Fraction was very wary about establishing contacts with these other groups (which formed everywhere to a certain extent, and which exhibited a vast range of differences between them) since their theoretical elaboration was either totally unsatisfactory or entirely lacking. No-one had taken up unequivocal positions on the fundamental questions of "party and class", the "united front" and the "worker and peasant government"; the result being that such unresolved issues would turn into veritable Trojan Horses with which the counter-revolution could penetrate the Communist International and destroy it from within.
That being said, the Fraction could not fail to recognize that these groups contained sincerely revolutionary proletarians seeking to prevent the definitive triumph of Stalinism.
The Left therefore assumed a hermetic stance towards attempts at organizational pacts and accords proposed by various parties. At the same time, it remained available to engage in the serious work of re-orientating these comrades towards the Left, above all by laying bare the insufficiencies of the positions of other groups. Indeed, the very fact that there were so many opposition groups was an extremely negative factor in itself, not merely because it caused fragmentation, but because it meant that there existed a multitude of ideologies which it would have been useless to try and hold together in the name of anti-stalinism. Anti-stalinism couldn’t in itself guarantee the re-organization of the revolutionary proletariat.
The Fraction invited the various groups to abandon the alluring temptation of immediate successes, and invited them instead, like the Italian Left, to engage in an attentive analysis of what had caused the International to degenerate, and on the basis of these conclusions, elaborate a platform for action; only after a constructive comparison of each others programmes could a meeting be really constructive.
However, the Fraction’s attitude to the Russian Opposition was entirely different because this organization had elaborated systematic directives of action, and had never parted company, on central questions, from the politics of Lenin.
In the 2nd half of 1929, when direct links were formed between our Fraction and Trotsky, it seemed, despite old tactical differences remaining, that we should be able to travel far together on the basis of our similarities. Soon, however, these relations were destined to become strained through Trotsky’s impatient wish to form an International organization immediately; despite all the deficiencies - recognized by Trotsky himself - of the various anti-stalinist groups.
The situation would be further aggravated by the formation of the group calling itself Nuova Opposizione Italiana, which was composed of a small number of expelled ex-leaders of the PCI (Italian Communist Party) and dedicated, above all, to a petty politicism lacking in any principles or scruples.
After a short break, we turned to the subject of economics; a topic which we have examined at several reunions on the basis of the 1956 report on the course of World capitalism. We are, incidentally, in the process of republishing this text, with added statistical information and commentaries; it will be updated until 1988 - no mean achievement! This time we dealt with steel, an industry which dominates humanity, in both war and peacetime, in this millenary epoch of its prehistory. To reverse this dominion, so that the living organism dominates over metal, industry needs to be seized by the disinherited from the "iron masters". The tables of figures, that will appear in the text mentioned, cover the entire cycle from 1870-1988, a period which corresponds, for the old industrialisms, to their complete decadence, whilst for the younger ones it covers their birth, ascent and decline. Capitalism, in ever greater parts of the Earth is going through its juvenile progressive phase, and weighing down heavily on capitalism as a whole. On the global level however, all the world requires is to be freed from it altogether.
We were told about annual steel production, (figures were given for each country in millions of tons with a figure of 100 set as total production for all countries in 1913) and the rates of annual increase indicating the succession of industrial cycles.
Another table of figures (our calculations - and over the same period), covered the percentage contribution of every country as part of gross steel production. This stimulated numerous observations on the relation of forces between capitalisms, and their respective evolution over the period in question. Attention was drawn to the late appearance of Italy and Japan, both of which, even at the outbreak of the 1st World War produced only a minimal amount, with the other five countries holding uncontested domination. During the period in question, this re-division has shown notable changes percentage-wise, whilst as for gross tonnage produced, expansion has obviously been enormous, a thousandfold - at an average rate of 6,5% increase per annum between 1870 and 1979. From then on up to the present, steel production has decreased. Russia is the country which has experienced the biggest increase (times 13,500!) followed by Italy (times 5,925) both starting out from virtually nothing. France, Great Britain and Germany increased less as iron and steel industries were already established by 1870.
As regards the fight for world supremacy, we noted how Great Britain was undermined from its dominant position in 1888, and the United States in 1971. Finally we remarked on the series of crisis years.
These two reports brought the Saturday afternoon programme to a close. The next day the sitting opened with the continuation of the examination of the workers’ movement in the British Isles, arriving at the stage where cooperativism is unmasked, both its assumptions and practices, as pro-bourgeois and conservative. In the first period of cooperativism, as we saw at the last reunion, we could recognize that it had certain merits i.e. it demonstrated in practice that the labouring classes have no need of the bourgeoisie to ensure the efficient organization of production and distribution. It was a useful polemical proof. But as time went by, they would also show that no one organizational form could ever gradually replace the social relations of the market and wages: in fact, cooperativisn, with its delusions of being a bridge to Socialism, was solidly anchored in the society of the day - was aiming at running the factories "better than the masters". Evidently the proletariat would never manage to seize power from the bourgeoisie and landowners by such means.
The Workers’ cooperatives constituted themselves, even in the formal sense, into undiluted capitalist joint-stock companies up to the point where they even employed wage-earners: and parallel to that, there arose the first unions for cooperative employees to resist their own comrade-bosses.
We note that the legal form of cooperatives is very similar to agricultural and industrial enterprises in Russia: it is no accident that perestroika heavily depends on the cooperatives as part of the so-called democratization of the work-place.
From its motherland in England, the capitalist cooperative spread its tentacles through the vast colonial empire and showed itself no less piratical than the individual owners of capital.
Next, as part of our Nature and Revolution series, there followed the "anti-ecological" report in a polemic against the latest Redcross-type whingeing of the "environmentalists" which (as the reunion was in progress, yet another referendum was being voted on) does all it can to disguise the fact that the one alternative facing humanity is either capital, or non-capital; the latter meaning the "rational and far-sighted management of the Earth as common property". Their aim is always the same: to deny the class struggle with the utopia of a governing ‘Biocracy’ which "forbids interspecies conflict". Under the cover of the incredibly vague slogan "back to nature", they deny that history moves under the impulse of the struggle between classes.
We were the first to apply the methodology of the natural sciences to human history: the very same method which the Bourgeoisie has been obliged to apply in order to increase the production of profit.
Darwin demonstrated that conflict takes place both within and between species, between the more and the less adapted: this doesn’t mean to say that forces of collaboration don’t exist over and above the individual as well.
Whilst ecologism doesn’t reach the level of species consciousness, the revolutionary party does: it alone is the depositary of the past history of the classes, and it alone can glimpse the future. Meanwhile ecology chatters away about mere marginal change.
It is not by chance that when we make projections about a future society different from today’s, we include chemistry and nuclear energy. Nor are we inconsistent when, through studies of the past history of the oppressed, we reclaim the arts and beliefs of the ancients, the lost paradises of all religions, and share in them to the extent of seeing them as born of the need, from the possibility, of classless communism.
The rest of the reunion was dedicated to reporting on our activity amongst workers struggling against the traitors in the unions and the bosses. We were given an account firstly of the recent railway strikes which, unfortunately, were organized in various committees based on separate categories. Such committees revealed an incapacity to struggle together, even when faced with the harsh and co-ordinated attack by the bosses with their anti-strike laws. We then heard of the COBAS movement among the school workers and of how it is mobilizing much less during the present phase. The tradition embodied in its name remains; along with a practice that for every worker signifies a struggle both resolute and outside of bourgeois parameters. The reformist style platform was fought against by our comrades in the national assemblies. Further information appears in "II Partito Comunista" No.184, about relations amongst the railway workers; in the same issue we have reprinted the document that we are distributing among the school workers against notions of interclassist co-management and their deforming influence. A translation of the latter is available in the English language on request.
On the 29th and 30th of September 1990, we held another general party reunion at Bolzano in northern Italy. Participating in this meeting of our organization, small though it is, were comrades from Italy, France and England. We have our local comrade on the spot to thank for the excellent hospitality and organisation, which corresponded exactly to our needs, and which meant we were able to carry out our work methodically and without any timewasting.
Our efforts are directed towards continuing the fight in defence of authentic marxist doctrine, of its battle order, and its reading of historical facts. These days, marxism is a doctrine denied by everybody; but, in days to come, the proletarian masses will embrace it once again in a reborn world communist party. With the forces available to the communist left today, we confront the predominant bourgeois lies and threadbare Stalinist and reformist opportunism with the science of a large, global social class; deprived of its voice today only through a historical accident. Our present function, and general "workplan", is that of forming a link in the chain which connects past and future generations of revolutionaries: the "thread of time". This thread is unravelled by rejecting nostalgic or intellectualist positions and replacing it with a partyist and socially-combative attitude - even if it is just in the pages of a review.
As is our usual custom at reunions, we started off by agreeing on what future work is required, and confirmed proposals for the publication of reviews and texts in the different languages. Soon to appear in English will be the pamphlet Revolution and Counter-revolution in Russia, and, in Italian, The Course of World Capitalism is about to be republished with a large number of statistical tables. These tables being intended not only as support for the main text, but as a basic tool for future party studies on the generalized crisis of capitalism.
The Origins of the Communist Party in Great Britain
In the afternoon, reports on our work of the past four months commenced with a translation of a study on the origins of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and the way in which it emerged from an earlier confluence of socialist parties and movements. Unlike the Italian party born at Livorno in 1921, the British party managed neither to prevent itself from becoming subject to the majority Labour Party, or to clearly perceive the latter as the long arm of the bourgeoisie in the working class. This error, supported by the directives of the International itself, would become apparent - though regrettably too late - during the General Strike in 1926.
The report described the various left-wing components which went to make up the party on its formation. Firstly the party made the error of basing itself on the British Socialist Party tradition; then there was the Socialist Labour Party: dubbed ‘impossibilist’, which forecast left-wing unions and confused union with party functions; the Workers’ Socialist Federation led by Sylvia Pankhurst, a combative organisation of London East-end workers, with anti-parliamentary tendencies and later on anti-union tendencies as it came under the influence of the Dutch and German left; and the South Wales Socialist Society, a league of Welsh miners, also anti-parliamentary. From these four organizations, the last three born as a reaction to the sickening reformism of the first (though on an insufficient basis) it would be difficult to derive a really sound communist party; let alone one that was steady enough to put up a resistance to the crisis which raged in the International from 1926.
Report on the Russian Economy
The study entitled "The impossible reform of capitalism in Russia" (see il Partito No.175 & 187) continues with the publication of agricultural statistics. These confirm the comparative economic backwardness and social viscosity of the kolkhoz sector, which opposes any capitalist modernisation and is a reservoir of conservatism. Resurgent Slavism is the ideal of this sector.
The report turned to an analysis of the economic transition we are currently witnessing. It was briefly recalled that a century of capitalist accumulation has now taken place in Russia, an accumulation which has now matured with generalisation of the sale of labour-power and appropriation of surplus-value by enterprises. State-control of large-scale industry and nationalisation of agricultural land are steps towards capitalism (and not towards socialism as the social-democratic and stalinist vulgate would have it), similarly, perestroika (which is allegedly opposed to it with its "privatisations" and "liberalisations") is a continuation of capitalism in that it pursues the one historical tendency towards the concentration of scattered productive forces; towards further expropriation of the securities and reserves of kolkhozians, co-operativists and proletarians: from a state monopoly, that exists more in the law books than in reality, on to a real and direct monopoly of capital.
Russian capitalism needed the armour of the state behind which to grow, but now, what little of it remains has become a hindrance to further expansion and plunder and merely hinders its "wheelings and dealings". The rational market and planned capitalist production is a utopia, especially in times of crisis.
The "radicals" are an expression of the wealthy classes; of the Russian bourgeoisie who can now appear in the living flesh, cast the veil of the "bureaucracy" aside, and finally demand complete unlimited freedom to exploit the proletariat. Gorbachev represents the State of All the Russias, and in true cowardly fashion, the bourgeoisie ends up by submitting to his discipline despite all the tumult and noisy shouting: it is a state which tends to make gradations of impoverishment amongst the poor classes (in thoroughly opportunist fashion) for fear that they rise up in rebellion.
The one great unknown in this phase of the Russian crisis is a not impossible military coup, which, even were it to sack Gorbachev, would carry out his delayed capitalist programme. And, of course, there is the gigantic and concentrated force of the proletariat, unrepresented in the new-born parliament, who, impelled by the sufferings inflicted on them by the capitalist crisis, might just recall the heroism of their fathers and grandfathers.
Communism and Ecology
In this next report, another comrade continued our polemic against the ruling class ideologies which defend the "naturalness" of the present mode of production. Amongst these, we find so-called environmentalism, one of many similar trends which have this much in common at least: they are all horrible petty-bourgeois monstrosities. Perhaps we can detect a slight decline in their popularity now.
The ecologists’ inability to resolve the relationship Mankind-nature is characteristic of the bourgeoisie in general. The bourgeoisie has arrived only at Darwinism, which explains the evolution of living species. Marxism however, whilst appreciating Darwinism in its own sphere, doesn’t apply this theory to the society of human individuals which evolves according to historical laws which are far more complex: we don’t share in human evolution through gradual individual selection, and not even through class selection.
Neither individuals nor classes create the external world, and even today we can’t produce our own complete theory about it. Human intervention into the external world, real "ecological reforms", will be postponed until the monoclassist society that follows on from the era of anti-bourgeois dictatorship. Neo-malthusian ecologism, which accuses the well-heeled of causing "consumerism" and "destroying the environment" is the new glue of class collaboration.
Preparations for the Gulf War
The Saturday session concluded with an evaluation of the state and class forces fielded in preparation for the imperialist war in the Persian Gulf. The possibility of war appears merely as the necessary final phase of a gigantic production cycle, with its financial and industrial centre situated mainly in the imperialist capitalisms of East and West. The Gulf region - at a cross-roads between continents, and a reservoir of black gold - will never find peace within the national and mercantile framework; causing suffering to disinherited Arabs, countless ethnic groups and the Jews. Only a coordinated uprising of the global proletariat will be able to sweep capitalists aside simultaneously on both sides of the wars’ changing frontlines.
The Party-Class Relationship
First thing the next day, a young comrade, re-proposed a projected study on the question of the party-class relationship and its schema; designated by us by the term "reversal of praxis". The theme will be treated in more depth, and related to the particular - but very important - union question.
History of the Communist Left, 1928-1930
The next report was on the history of our fraction abroad, which formally constituted itself from the time when it was judged that the Left’s work had become impossible within the International.
We were always very wary about accepting the repeated invitations towards unification put out by the others groups opposed to Stalinism since all such groups based themselves on criticisms of only certain aspects of the degeneration, and were therefore very heterogeneous. Exception was made for the Russian Opposition led by Trotsky. But even the latter would not draw up a critical balance-sheet of the tactics of the Third International since they understood the strategy adopted in Russia to be applicable in Europe. The fact is, the Russian opposition were co-responsible for the direction taken by the C.I. up to 1923 and the theses of the first four congresses. Our fraction, in contrast, called for the completion of the necessary Bolshevik tactics, against the old democracies.
However, in order to carry out a possible work of clarification together, and given our common ground of marxism, and struggle, we would have accepted the coexistence of our fractions’ positions with those of the opposition. But this would be prevented by the various pint-sized Trotskys with all their little diplomatic manoevres; we didn’t provoke the break with the opposition, we had it inflicted upon us.
The report went on to describe how the same methods arose in the Opposition, which were so depreciated in the Stalinised international. In a similar vein, the gradual slide of Trotsky himself into tactical positions identical to Stalinism was highlighted, that is, the idea of democracy as a necessary transition between fascism and the dictatorship of the proletariat in Italy and Spain.
Finally two articles were read from a 1931 issue of paper "Prometeo" which condemned the newly arisen Spanish Republic.
The Communist Left and the Third International
Still on the theme of the history of the Left, the final report of the reunion was a translation prepared by our French-speaking comrades which took the form of a summary of the relations between our current and the Third International between 1919 and 1926 (see this issue for the full report). These relations involved a whole series of fundamental tactical points; applicable not only for those times, not only for present communists, but which project forward into the future, to the time when plans will be made for the social war of the world revolution.
The reunion drew to a close with final agreements on impending work, and arrangements for publishing full versions of the reunion reports in the party press.
The following article by William Morris was published in "Workers’ Dreadnought", Vol. X No.30, October 13, 1923 and represents a complementary one to the article by Sylvia Pankhurst in the previous edition. The Pankhurst article was about the Poplar Board of Guardians (issuers of Poor Law benefit), under the control of the Labour Party, bringing in Police to beat up unemployed protesting over cuts in benefits. Pankhurst pointed out that this event was the consequence of representatives of the working class becoming involved in the administration of capitalist machinery, namely the State whether in its national or local versions. Consequently they become bastions of capitalism itself, having no other role than in the maintenance of the capitalist system. They cease being representatives of the working class (even though they may still parade themselves as such) and play out their role as Municipal bosses, the employers of wage labourers and representatives of property and finance.
This article constitutes a critique of and dialogue against the reformist perspective. Unfortunately there is no date to this article by Morris and is not readily traceable in those books which do reproduce some of his works. Because of the nature of the article it seems to be part of the period in which he was active in the Social Democratic Federation or in the Socialist League. Presumably this article may well have reflected the period in which he collaborated with the supporters of Engels in trying to steer the socialist movement in the direction of the class struggle, rather than in a reformist one. We base this assumption upon the reference to "practical" socialists, precisely because all those who follow the well- trodden path towards class collaboration do so upon the basis of being "practical". There is no other "practical" road open to change they say. And of course the other cry is "somebody has to do it" – to which we assume means also disciplining workers whether by management procedures or Police batons.
The difficulty in tracing this article is not unusual. There is no substantial history of the Socialist League, even though it represented the preferred option of Engels during the mid-1880s. But that is not surprising as the involvement of Marx and Engels in the working class movement in Britain has not been examined in depth. For instance Marx and Engels support for Ernest Jones’ reorganised Chartist Movement in the 1850s is shrouded in silence. Nor has the struggle within the English section of the First International attracted much attention by historians, excepted for the occasional study. After all the British bourgeoisie has an interest in keeping the strategy of Marx and Engels towards the class struggle in Britain shrouded in silence. Ignorance is bliss for the bourgeoisie, precisely because employees are easier to handle that way.
century ago these "practical" socialists could believe and
project themselves to be "wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing".
phrase is often used to characterise people who are believed to be
potentially dangerous and who surround themselves with
respectability. In this case it is more a strategy of infiltration
into the ranks of the ruling order with some sort of change in mind -
the seizing of controls of the state or political parties for some
surreptitious purpose. With the complete integration of all the
"practical" socialists into bourgeois order, under way at
the beginning of the century and completed during and just after the
First World War, they have changed their nature. From wolves in
sheep’s clothing they have become their opposite - sheep in
wolve’s clothing, thoroughly tame characters dressed up as very
possibly some sort of danger for the system, sometime or other. They
are paraded out whenever there are social movements in order to
divert or diffuse them. They fill the ranks of the Labour left-wing
MPs (you can hear bleatings all over the place) and local councils.
The "radical" Labourites as Councillors, who still pose themselves
those thirsting for social change through very constitutional means,
and continue in the same rotten reformist tradition, are merely the
latest wave whose role is that of disorientation of the population in
general and the working class in particular. They castigate any other
future but capitalism as "utopian" whilst striving to enwrap all
can in the hideous machinery of the status quo. Those who believe in
using the machinery of the state, public enterprises and democracy as
a vehicle for social change for the people/working class are the real
Utopians. It is the road to ruin and destruction and they will try
and take the working class with them if they get the chance.
The study of economics is no doubt necessary for militant Socialists; the more a man knows of them in all their details the more he is able to meet not only the sophistries of the "educated" anti-Socialist, but, which is more important, the awkward and hard-to-be-answered questions which people who have never thought of these matters sometimes stumble on.
Of course, that he should be able to make his knowledge of any use depends on whether he has understood what he has learned, especially in dealing with inquiring ignorance. The "educated" man will sometimes be floored by a phrase, will retire abashed before "surplus value", and refuse to tackle the iron law of wages, on the same grounds that the Oxford undergraduate declined to give his examiner any information about King David for fear he should be lugged all through the Kings of Judah and Israel; but the ignorant man may require information after he has got over the first shock of the unaccustomed enunciation of the big worded dogma. So that our student of economy had best be careful to look at it that he can translate his phrases into a language "understanded of the people". But when our learner has really got to know something about economics; nay, when he has them at his finger-tips, he still has to beware of another trap, or rather of two more. He has (old a Socialist as he may be) to take care that he does not read the present into the future, to suppose that when the monopoly of the means of production has been abolished, and no one can any more live on the labour of the others, but must do some recognised service to the community in order to earn his livelihood, but nevertheless, people’s ways of life and habits of thought will be pretty much as they are now. The other trap generally besets the way of the same kind of Socialist who is apt to fall into the first-named; it is the too entire absorption in the economic view of Socialism, and the ignoring of all its other aspects.
The kind of Socialist who is most likely to be caught by these traps is he who considers himself as specially practical; although the due deduction from the last one at any rate would be the abstention from action of all kinds and the acceptance of the position of an interested and helpless spectator. Your "practical" man is very naturally anxious that some step towards Socialism should be taken at once, and also that it should be taken under definitely Socialist auspices. Therefore, he really addresses himself to people who would be likely to be frightened into mere hostility by any apprehension of a change in the life of Society; he is thinking entirely of the conservative side of human nature as the thing to be won over, and ignores that which exists just as surely, its revolutionary side. The result is that the wolf of Socialism be clad in the respectable sheep-skin of a mild economic change; yet not with much success. I have been present on several occasions when the experiment has been tried, and have been much amused by the demeanour of the respectables, who, trying to be convinced, or at least to appear to be, have nevertheless shown uneasiness, as if they detected the disguised animal, and saw his glistening teeth and red jaws peeping out from under the soft woolly clothing of moderate progress. Also, though it was less amusing, it was instructive to watch the look of those convinced but not fully instructed Socialists who were present, on whom the sight of the transmogrified sham animal monster produced nothing but blank disappointment and dismay. Altogether these occasions have been to me hours of humiliation and discouragement; and I think also that there was no gain in the humiliation; neither I nor the other comrades needed to undergo it. The opponents were not won over by it, they were only confused and puzzled, and made to feel as if they had been laughed at.
But I do not mean to say that these one-side Socialists are generally acting disingenuously, or merely trying to smooth down a hostile audience. I believe, on the contrary, that they do not see except through the murky smoked glass of the present conditions of life amongst us; and it seems somewhat strange, not that they should have no vision of the future, but that they should not be ready to admit that it is their own defect that they have not. Surely they must allow that such a stupendous change in the machinery of life as the abolition of capital and wages must bring about a corresponding change in ethics and habits of life; that it would be impossible to desire many things that are now the main objects of desire; needless to guard against many eventualities which we now spend our lives in guarding against; that, in short, we shall burn what we once adored, and adore what we once burned.
Is it conceivable, for instance, that the change for the present wage-earners will simply mean hoisting them up into the life of the present "refined" middle-classes, and that the latter will remain pretty much as they are now, minus their power of living on the labour of others? To my mind it is inconceivable; but if I could think such a prospect likely I should join with Mr. Bradlaugh (whose ideas of the aims of Socialism is probably just this) in a protest against the dull level of mediocrity. What! will, e.g., the family of the times when monopoly is dead be still as it is now in the middle-classes, framed on the model of that of an affectionate and moral tiger to whom all is prey a few yards from the sanctity of the domestic hearth? Will the body of the woman we love be but an appendage to her property? Shall we try to cram our lightest whim as a holy dogma into our children, and be bitterly unhappy when we find that they are growing up to be men and women like ourselves? Will education be a system of cram begun when we are four years old, and left off sharply when we are 18? Shall we be ashamed of our love and our hunger and our mirth, and believe that it is wicked of us not to try to dispense with the joys that accompany the procreation of our species, and the keeping of ourselves alive, those joys of desire which make us understand that the beasts, too, may be happy? Shall we all, in short, as the "refined" middle-classes now do, wear ourselves away in the anxiety to stave of all trouble, emotion and responsibility, in order that we may at last merge all our troubles into one, the trouble that we have been born for nothing but to be afraid to die? All this which is now the life of refined civilisation will be impossible then.
I have often thought with a joyful chuckle, how puzzling, nay inexplicable to the generations of freedom, will be those curious specimens of human ingenuity called novels, now produced, and which present with such faithful detail the lives of the middle-classes, all below them are ignored except as so many stage accessories; amongst them all, perhaps, Dickens will still be remembered; and that because of what is now imputed to him as a fault, his fashioning a fantastic and unreal world for his men to act in. Surely here again all will be changed, and our literature will sympathise with the earlier works of men’s imagination before they learned to spin out their own insides like silkworms into dreary yarns of their sickly feelings and futile speculations; when they left us clear pictures of living things, alive then and for ever. We shall not desire and we shall not be able to carry on the feverish and perverted follies of the art and literature of Commercialism.
I wonder that those who will insist in reading the life of the present into a world economically changed, do not see how they start wrong from the beginning; and I wonder all the more as they are often clear-headed and capable persons.
The competition of the profit-market forces us under our present system to turn our attention over-much to producing wares with the least possible labour; our epoch is compelled to sacrifice everything to this necessity. Considering the aspect of London and our great manufacturing centres, for instance, it seems that if it were possible for us to go on for long at our present rate of sacrificing to this tyrant of cheap production, the time would come when having to choose between the greater part of us living in cellars and never seeing the sun again, and fore-going the cheapening of cotton cloth by a half-penny a yard, we should be compelled to choose to submit ourselves to the former – inconvenience. This, I say, is our necessity at present, because the competition for profits, which is the master of production, is a system of mere waste, first as a war and next as a bonfire, so to say, for the consumption of the product of labour merely in the interests of the power of the proprietary classes. Or may we not say that the gentilities, the luxuries, the pomp of these classes in an ascending scale, from the small villa-dweller to the great territorial magnate, are the necessary baits held out to the producing classes to ensure their "content" with the present state of things. "It is true," they proclaim, "that you are in an inferior position now, because you belong to the useful class; but there is no legal disability preventing you rising out of that class, by means of thrift, self-denial, and clever rapacity, you may attain this nice stuccoed villa with its art objects and nick-nacks, its smiling, obsequious servants, and vacant wife and daughter dressed up to the nine; next, as you grow older and colder and stupider, this mansion awaits you with all the "refinements of civilisation", flunkies, libraries, parties, seats in Parliament and the rest of it; and at last, when you have really come to believe in yourself as a benefactor to the human race, because you, once the robbed, have become a robber on the very largest scale, here is your park with its surrounding acres, and the state and majesty of a landed gentleman amongst the toilers afield who have even less than you began with when you were a useful man. There shall you found a family, take a peerage, and die universally respected!"
Expensive baits these! Yet necessary while classes last, since the lapse of time has evolved us out of the simpler systems of chattel slavery and serfdom.
I won’t go into figures as to the cost of these two gulfs of waste necessary to the stabilising of our present system; the waste of commercial war, the waste of the supporting of a proprietary class with all its camp-followers and hangers-on; nor do I suppose that we shall ever know how prodigious a waste we have saddled ourselves with in this matter; but it is clear it is prodigious. Well, under the new conditions of Society, commercial war will have died out, and with it the wasteful occupations that support it; and class-rule will have disappeared, so that its waste will have gone; labour will no longer be directed in the interest of the profit-grinder or the idler, and the task of the producer will be so easy, that the dogma which our pessimistic friends now hold that men will always do their work in the way which gives the least trouble (understood whatever sacrifices they have to make for it), will cease to have any meaning, because there will practically be no longer any compulsion to work.
Mark Twain says, apropos of Tom Sawyer’s white-washing, that work is labour that we are compelled to do, and pleasure labour that we choose to do, which we beg our economic- pessimist friends to remember.
Meanwhile, I hold that we need not be afraid of scaring our audiences with too brilliant pictures of the future Society, nor think ourselves unpractical and Utopian for telling them the bare truth, that in destroying monopoly we shall destroy our present civilisation. On the contrary, it is Utopian to put forward a scheme of gradual logical reconstruction of Society which is liable to be overturned at the first historical hitch it comes to; and if you tell your audiences that you are going to change so little that they will hardly feel the change, whether you scare anyone or not, you will certainly not interest those who have nothing to hope for in the present Society, and whom the hope of a change has attracted towards Socialism. It is a poor game to play (though so often played in politics) to discourage your friends in order to hoodwink your foes for a space. And certainly the Socialists who are always preaching to people that Socialism is an economic change pure and simple, are very apt to repel those who want to learn for the sake of those who do not.
If there’s one thing which has characterised the Argentinian bourgeoisie, it’s the capacity to do anything necessary to maintain its own class rule. From 1930, it professed to be enforcing a corporative regime, but in order to adapt to the needs of the international market, and the new techniques of production, it hasn’t hesitated to alternate the use of dictatorships and democratic forms of rule; subordinating the working class to one sector or another of the dominant class.
Peronism, which served to implant capital’s real domination - to which stalinism, social-democracy and trotskyism also contributed - merely created false expectations in the Argentinian working class. Peronism’s first government served to lead the working class into the defeat of 1955, and to bring about the loss of its union organisations to state control. Peronism is a counter-revolutionary movement whose only objective is the maintenance of society in such a way that the proletariat cannot become independant as a class.
In a process that began in 1973, the working class tended to break the Peronist expression of bourgeois nationalism; but this process was interrupted by the defeat of 24 March 1976 and the dictatorship, maintained until 1983. With the fall of fascism, many sectors of the working class sought an alternative in "radicalism", which had veered left and seemed to be another road towards social conquests. After the failure of "radicalism",the proletarians who’d turned to it, now in agreement on its class nature, returned to the fold of Peronism and gave their votes back to this movement in 1987.
As to the Menem-Duhalde government, it is an expression of the most highly concentrated sectors of the national economy most closely tied to the world market. Its highest interest is to have the greatest production of surplus value, and it aims to achieve with a plan to speed up the centralization of Argentinian national capital and its integration with world capitalism: hence it total agreement with the IMF and the World Bank, and with the present US government, Great Britain etc. etc.
The IMF recognises that the Menem government has given it more than it could have expected.
Not only does their project tend to the subordination of the working class, but the aim is to destroy any idea it may have of revealing itself as such, as a class. From this premise is born the necessity, not only of making the CGT (General Confederation of Labour) subordinate to its interests, but of placing it officially at the command of the national presidency. For their plan to work, which aims at bringing about the defeat of the workers in all their struggles, capital requires the complicity of the union leadership.
Episodes in the class struggle at this point in the life of Argentinian society show that we’re still in the fascist phase of capitalism. When telephone workers went on strike, after the minister of labour failed to honour an agreement, the management began sacking the strikers and replacing them with members of the armed forces. Suddenly the union decided to suspend the strike and make a deal with the government - the latter would then negotiate from a position of strength, counting on the complicity of the union leadership.
However, the Menem goverment’s intention is nevertheless to defeat the telephone union since the latter has adopted positions distinct from those of the clique now in power i.e., it has resuscitated the old nationalist and anti-imperialist banners of Peronist demagogy, something which is troublesome in the current process of modernization of the capitalist accumulation. In these negotiations, the telephone workers lost, not just because of the union leadership, but also due to the positions of the so-called "left-wing" parties, and in particular of trotskyism, which set about restoring social democracy, and washing away the sins of stalinism: it called for struggle for "Socialism in democracy"; spreading the theory that the revolution can only pass through the election of deputies and members of parliamnent.
In the middle of the present strike, left-wing forces are notable by their absence, and limited to ostentacious displays of democratic cretinism; they talk about and engage in everything - except the class struggle. All this, by not centralising the proletariat’s struggle, will lead to defeat. Confronted by this situation, what is needed is the rise of genuine, orthodox revolutionary communism, with all its theoretical and practical intransigence. We will continue to uphold our historical position: "The question of force is initially a question of reconstruction of revolutionary theory, then of the communist party without frontiers".
Changes of scenary in Argentina
It is always difficult for the democrats or Peronists to mask Capital’s dictatorship in Argentina.
At dawn on the 3rd December 1990, an Argentine army unit known as the "carapintadas" (the painted faces) occupied various barracks and the offices of the army general staff.
Despite the fact that one of the insurgents, commenting on the events in a press interview, was astonished at the lack of popular support for the uprising, not so the poor and labouring classes, who are clearly well-aware on which side the declared fascists stand. They are the same people who, from 1975-1983, attacked the workers’ struggles and destroyed their most combative organizations by armed force. That much is obvious to the working class, despite its lack of the political organisation which would direct its present misery and sufferings towards the revolutionary perspective.
What no-one says to the proletariat, is that parties and units like those of the "carapintadas", and the nationalist Workers’ Party are always kept in a state of readiness by all bourgeois governments in case they need to repress the subjected classes by military means, without getting their own hands dirty in the process. Fascism is just the armed wing, the illegal emergency squad of democracy. This explains and justifies President Menem’s recent pardon of the officials of the past fascist government, who were only carrying out the orders of the dominant class. Even the Carapintadas have benefitted from the pardon - although this is the fourth time they’ve rebelled! On the other hand, they say, they’d have been covered in glory during the "irredentist" war far the Falkland Islands.
Since 1927, the Argentinian bourgeoisie has continued to alternate the three forms of government: the social-democratic type of Alfonsin, Menem’s Peronist- corporative type, and the military type. From 1945, even the unions leadership have been co-opted into the government. Proletarians shouldn’t support any of the three forms. Rather, they must combat all three in equal measure, as they’re three heads on the same Hydra of capitalism.
For some months Liverpool has been the centre of attention while politicians of the various Bourgeois parties, ably assisted by the Media, have launched concerted attacks against the working class. And a pleasurable time has been had by all of the ruling class because it has been able to get away with it. The working class has been unable to really respond precisely because of the so-called left-wing groups, along with unionised sectionalism, who have channelled any proletarian responses into the very safe areas of parliamentary and municipal politics. Tied up in such a fashion the working class has become a football to be kicked about by any section of the ruling class who cared to have a go.
The decline of the British economy, particularly its large-scale manufacturing base, has hit initially the northern areas in the last two decades. After that it was the turn of the Midlands, which had been built upon the manufacture of consumer goods. There had been some concern about these developments amongst the ruling class, but all this was ignored when the Thatcher government came to office in 1979. Filled with the sort of arrogance that only stupidity and ignorance can give, the New Right (who for some inexplicable reason characterised themselves as "radical" (?), and even - wait for it - "libertarian"!) wants society to re-fashioned in their own image. Swept away would be the dependency of making things, which sounds oh-so terribly tedious, the new emphasis would be on service industries, banking, stock markets, Shopping Malls, etc. All those frightful and boring regulations would be ignored, the markets would be freed and so everybody who cares to take the opportunities can be rich! At this they were egged on by certain advocates of free markets which we would be justified in calling the Bonehead school of economics, as exemplified by the likes of the Adam Smith Institute, followers of Milton Friedman, etc. For them it would be one long party-party, with money being generated from who knows where, and who cares anyway. But as sure as night follows day, crisis follows boom, Markets for goods dry up, Commodity Markets go berserk, Property prices tend to fall through the floor, Banks and Building Societies end up with problems, money vanishes as quickly as it appeared, and everything turns sour. The much vaunted Market System turns out to be a joke - and the Western capitalists lecture their Russian brothers on how to run things?
The crisis over the last couple of years has hit the South of England because it was virtually the only area to benefit from the consumer-led boom of 1988. The Northern cities hardly noticed this boom and so have not really felt much of the present recession, as it has experienced one long decline in economic fortunes. Liverpool has been a sharp example of this tendency: from being characterised as the Gateway to Empire it has now been called the Naples of the North. With the decline of manufacturing industries the only large employers of labour tend to be in the Public Sector. These have come to seen by some parts of the bourgeoisieas refuges for workers so they can have some sort of security of employment while the wild gales of economic crises rampage through the private sectors. Infuriated by this ignoring of the slump in the south (besides some quiet nods of satisfaction that at least some of the middle class "professionals" are experiencing what whole sections of the working class has been through) this attitude of the working class had to be challenged. If they are not frightened by the consequences of crises and economic slumps, then the workers may start to get ideas above their station in society!
Attacks against Local Council workers
With the decline of large-scale and consumer manufacturing the largest sectors of workers are now mainly in the public sector, employed by the likes of Local Government and the Health Service. The attention of the state and Government has been steadily towards these public sector workers, particularly with many other industries having been transferred to the private sector. The shake-ups in the public sectors, through cuts on manning levels and increased exploitation, have also the intent on creating shake-outs whereby "surplus" workers will be made unemployed. The Tories are striving to create equity in exploitation and unemployment between the public and private sectors.
The strategy for the attacks against the public sector has been through reduction in funding requiring the particular sectors to cut down on staff. In this way the Government transmits the consequence of the crisis in the economy directly into publicly funded concerns. Often it is covered by that wonderfully bland phrase "natural wastage" whereby growing unemployment and attacks on working conditions is masked by not taking on staff when people leave, retire, etc. This is often one of the trade union’s preferred options, but this usually means that others have to rot on the dole, in the case of the young and/or members of ethnic minorities, never having any prospects of work. But for the trade union officials at least they appear to keep their hands clean. They are not confronted with angry members with redundancy notices - the growing ranks of the unemployed are comfortably faceless, and not likely to be members of their union / branch / industry anyway.
With regards to Local Councils the way of controlling public expenditure has been in rate-capping whereby for each amount they go over fixed amounts in Local Rates, now Community Charge, the Government reduces the amount it pays to that Council by a much greater sum. The penalties inflicted can be quite significant. But all the same the Government will expect all the services, and any new ones Parliament may decree, to be provided by the Local Councils within the local tax rates recommended by the state. The more Local Councils go over the Rates / Poll Tax specified by the Tories the greater the problems in local services. This is the process which leads to all the attacks against the municipal workers. The tighter the financial screws turned by the Government the more the Local Councils intensify the attacks on their workers. And the attacks often fall upon the older workers, those prone to sickness, departments they incite the public against, etc., all standard tactics of bosses, whether private or public employers.
The attack of the "moderates"
The different varieties of Left blocs of Labour Councillors (whether called ‘Militant’, Broad Left or anything else) have been replaced by a right-wing leadership which for some reason or other is called "moderate". Intimidation and threats of violence against themselves was the accusation of the "moderates" to all and sundry. This "moderate" wing asserts itself as the old-fashioned "responsible" type of Labour Party that is well-known and loved (particularly by the bourgeoisie) for its track-record of attacking the working class. However, there is certainly nothing moderate about the way they have been attacking their own workers. This "moderate" wing comes from some who replaced disqualified Councillors, thrown out some years ago for failing to set a legal budget in time, others appointed to replace purged left-wing Councillors, all loyal to the national leadership of Neil Kinnock. Having despaired of many years of illegal budgets, conflicts with the Government, the "moderates" decided to fix a budget that would be within Whitehall’s guide-lines, and establish a good working relationship with the Government.
In order to do this "balancing of the books" redundancies of up to a thousand were mentioned. Not unnaturally many Council workers were outraged at the prospects of losing their jobs. Local Councils were never notorious for paying high wages (bonus schemes had to be worked to get decent wages in many departments) but at least many Council workers could look forward to virtually a job for life. All this is now under threat. Campaigns, threats of strikes, some limited occupations, were the response of many of the workers. Action undertaken by key workers, such as the Finance Dept., rather than large-scale mobilisation of Council workers, was a way local trade union leaders hoped would affect the functioning of the City Council without hurting the workers’ wage packets too much. In reality it has only served to isolate sections of workers, breed fear and suspicion on which the Council bosses could then intensify their attacks.
Privatisation of some services, such as refuse collection, has been proposed as one of the attacks on the organisation of the Council workers. If the Council can’t carry out its "reorganisation" of the workers, by cuts in staff and increases in work-loads, let some private employer do it, and make money as well. In this way the French- owned Company Onyx has been handed the work on a plate. Many of the Council workers will be taken on by Onyx and the rest will be either re-deployed to other work if they can’t be made redundant. So far it seems as if the Council hasn’t been able to get away with redundancies, at least on paper. But there are two other processes going on. The first one is "voluntary" redundancy when some workers have had enough and volunteer for redundancy, many old and sick, who will have been under increasing pressure over the last few months. The Council bosses have tended to "target" these workers as ones they want to get shut of. The local trade union leaders have not objected to this form of job loss. After all many of these same branch officials had instituted a bar to recruitment of workers who had "taken the money", "sold their jobs" and so had effectively operated a system of black-listing fellow workers. Will they campaign in the same way and follow these workers around who take voluntary redundancy and get them barred in the same way as they have barred others from working for the Council? The other one is in the "freezing" of recruitment of new workers, posts vacated are not filled and so unemployed stay unemployed. But more than that, a far more insidious tactic is being used. If anybody wants better pay rates or an increase in hours (the City employs a lot of part-time workers as it is cheaper that way for a whole number of technical reasons) the money has to be found from existing budgets. Workers in some departments, and outside funded projects, have to agree to cuts (including job losses), in order to pay for them. No wonder that a real fighting alliance amongst the workers hasn’t been achieved.
The "moderates" have opened up the offensive against members of their own party with the intention of getting rid of anyone who doesn’t agree with these attacks. Various so-called left-wing tendencies, who have been trying to create the Labour Party into something it has never been, i.e. a working class party, are in the process of being expelled. If they had any sense they wouldn’t have been in the Labour Party in the first place. The Labour Party hasn’t been a working class party (if ever) since the end of the First World War. Since then it has been a bastion of capitalism and an essential part of the whole defensive network of existing society. Indeed those who have confined their arguments with the "moderates" on an electoral plane, on the basis of being Broad Left or even "Real" Labour, have only strengthened the right-wingers. Indeed the Walton By-Election recently held, the consequence of the death of the sitting MP Eric Heffer, served only to provide a further weapon in the attacks against the Council workers at a potentially significant moment in the struggle. A rival candidate, Lesley Mahmood, referred to as standing as "Real Labour", claimed to continue in the traditions of the former MP Heffer. Heffer, proclaiming a left-wing tradition, had declared that the Labour Party should be a "Broad Church", able to encompass all tendencies. Presumably there would be a place for anyone, such as the "moderates", who wanted to attack the workers. Opposition to expulsions would cover presumably the most right-wing opportunists. However, the Labour leadership doesn’t agree to this "Broad Church" concept. The case of the Birkenhead MP Frank Field is a case in point. This rightwing MP succeeded in infuriating many Birkenhead Labour Party members because of his views. The local Party tried to replace him with a local trade union official. The ousted MP complained to all and sundry and eventually a new ballot of the Birkenhead Party took place, at which Field just scraped in. Arguments continued, and in the end the National Labour leadership decided it preferred the rightwing MP so much it shut down the entire Birkenhead Party to prevent any further attempts at deselection.
The conflict between two rival Labour candidates ("Real" and Official) gave an opportunity for another concerted attack on Council employees. The "moderates" went on to blame the Council workers for all the financial problems of the City. Mounds of uncollected waste on the streets was shown as a consequence of not having "responsible" attitudes to the management of the City. Workers, as residents of the City, were turned against workers, who are employees of the Council. An atmosphere of near hysteria was created in order to further intimidate Council workers, while leftists and rightists were arguing who were and who weren’t the real Labour Party. In all this the issues facing workers, whether Council workers, residents, Poll Tax payers (or non-payers) was lost in a quagmire of Parliamentary abuse and mud-slinging. Workers facing redundancies were urged to vote in an election which could not possibly affect their situation. Only the class struggle could have turned round the situation. Poll Tax non-payers could have been mobilised to strengthen picket lines (instead of mere hot-air), a real alliance could have been forged between different sections of workers, bridging the divide between public and private sector industries, but none of this was done. While people still ramble on about "working within the Labour Party", as if that is the road to the "masses", enormous confusion and disorientation is sown within the working class, that is the real working class which exists outside the Labour Part