No1424 9th May 2013
Increasingly brutal class-war impositions now forcing the working class everywhere into unemployment, despair, penury and desperation are stirring academic and petty bourgeois intellectual commentary on the capitalist crisis. But the bogus “Marxists” still cannot bring themselves to state baldly that the revolutionary ending of capitalism is the only way forwards out of Slump and onrushing Third World War destruction. The dull brained reformism and revisionism they have stuck to all their lives is unchanged and they simply spread more and further confusions and defeatist despair. What is required in the world is a return to Leninist revolutionary principles and the understanding of the dictatorship of the proletariat as the only way for the onrushing and completely unstoppable catastrophe to be stopped. But that would mean an open polemical debate to re-examine the past mistakes of fake-“leftism” and the retreat from revolutionary principles begun by Stalin.
The dull-brained complacency of revisionist “Marxism” has been stirred into “action” on both sides of the Atlantic recently by the hurricane force of the class-war devastation being wreaked on the working class everywhere, as capitalism writhes desperately in its greatest crisis catastrophe and meltdown in all history.
From America there is the Internet darling of the Stalinists, Professor James Petras, berating the traditional class leadership of trade unions and “lefts” for failing to grasp, and respond to, the class struggle.
Despite an elaborate academic rigmarole about “the class struggle from above” (ie ruling class slump savagery) and the supposed failure of the working class to develop the “class struggle from below” with new tactics he essentially does nothing more than repeat old calls for “more militancy” ie missing out the need to finish capitalism and establish proletarian dictatorship.
Effectively he offers, in souped-up form, just the same old reformist pressure ideology which has misled and confused the working class for the last century and especially post the Second World War.
From the UK there is a British variation from expatriate Jamaican professor Stuart Hall*, the “left cultural theorist” and “multiculturalist” reformist*, declaring that there has been a shift to a new phase of assertive capitalism whose “novelty is not generally understood”.
It will not be any better grasped after these academic contributions, which simply muddy the water even further, avoiding all the vital philosophical questions that the working class needs to debate, not just about the increasingly urgent need for a revolutionary future but how to achieve it by overthrowing capitalism..
The calls for “new” developments in “Marxism” to fight back against the increasingly savage demolition by the ruling class of post-war reformist gains, of both welfarism and the supposed “step by step” progress towards socialism which the “lefts” promised, are as useless as the past sixty years of “parliamentary road” illusion mongering and Moscow-founded revisionist pacifism which have constantly headed the working away from understanding the unavoidable necessity to end capitalism for good so that a rational planned socialist world can be built.
The most important question of all holding back workers, about what went wrong and what went right in the first titanic communist developments, and especially the 70 year long overall brilliance of the Soviet Union, are not touched at all.
Where revisionist communism continues to make headway in China and Latin America, it is panned for all the wrong reasons, China falsely declared to be a “capitalist state” and revolutionary Cuba’s philosophical mistakes followed in declaring Chávez a “revolutionary hero” (instead of an anti-Marxist nationalist reformist).
Confusion reins about the “crisis” now allegedly “in the course of recovery”(!!!)
Not a word is heard about the long retreat from the revolutionary perspectives that alone can give mankind a route out of the total Slump and War disasters that have been brewing for decades and now confront the entire world head on after the “credit crunch” which unstoppably rolls onwards.
Not a jot of explanation is ventured about, or even an attempt made to ask crucial questions on, the completely disastrous failures of past allegedly “communist” leadership, and most particularly the pointless and unnecessary liquidation of the titanic Soviet workers state through revisionist retreat.
So the brainwashing capitalist nonsense that ”communism did not work” (the foulest and most sustained BIG LIE in all history) is left unchallenged to further hold back and limit workers' struggle.
Least of all is there any effort to trace the disastrous and mistaken collapse in socialist confidence and capacities (resulting from revisionist misleadership) which was the actual cause of the supposed “failure of communism” (which was neither economically nor socially collapsing) all the way back to mistakes and errors assessing world development begun in Stalin’s period.
Instead the professors indulge the same old sly evasions and cover-ups that were part of that retreat and which slowly rotted the revolutionary philosophy of the Third International from the head downwards, all presented under the cover of an apparently bold new reappraisal of the “class struggle”.
But nothing like the crucial Leninist world view is argued for, and apart from one tiny reference to something called a “political revolution” (not total, social, economic and cultural?) at the very tailend of six pages of academic screed from Petras, not even a gesture is made towards the gigantic mass revolutionary struggles now required (and increasingly trying to burst forth in the Third World in Egypt etc.).
But this unstoppably developing world mass struggle, combined with a the fight for Leninist consciousness, is the only way out of disastrous Depression misery, bitter trade war and onrushing world war which monopoly capitalism’s dominant power, the US empire, has already deliberately set going in Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya and Syria etc and which constantly threatens to boil over into much greater destruction as the intractable world slump deepens.
Capitalism is once again deliberately turning to chauvinism, scapegoating racism, trade war hatreds, and ultimately all out war as a distraction and diversion from its responsibility for the chaos and breakdown it alone has created.
Above all, the most glaring omission is the call for the dictatorship of the proletariat, the only way for the great mass of ordinary and exploited people to take and then crucially hold power and the only possible answer to the dictatorship of money and monopoly capital which is the reality of bourgeois rule.
Constant surveillance, state violence, oppression, draconian court and prison punishments are the order of the day as the monopoly capitalist rule is increasingly showing its true underlying fascist nature, with the “parliamentary democracy” racket ever more threadbare and degenerating ever further into corruption and spin lie manipulation.
“Parliament” and the “rule of law” is less and less trusted by the overwhelming majority whose cynicism about the whole lying fraud is now correctly almost universal, as the latest UK local “elections” have just demonstrated, seeing widespread contempt expressed in abstentions and salvaged only by the shallow chauvinism and anti-immigrant baiting diversions of the deliberately hyped-up reactionary UKIP (given endless attention, mostly favourable in newspapers, TV panel shows etc), playing on doubts and antagonisms within society as well as tapping the very worst backwardness left in some sections of the working class (and the black cabbie and stallholder petty bourgeoisie) by two centuries of British imperialist racist hubris.
To give their pieces credence, the two professors manage to point at some of the developments in intensified class war by the ruling class which as they observe truly enough have been downplayed or under-emphasised by traditional class collaborating trade unionism and Labourism.
But far from understanding these things as the desperation of a ruling class losing its grip historically and constantly fearful of the next great lurch downwards of an historically bankrupted system of production for private profit, (currently held off only by the insanity of endless Quantitative Easing printing of fantasy money from complete worldwide financial and banking chaos and the riots, rebellions, and turmoil that would lead to,) - the professors see a ruling class on the ascendant and “taking advantage” of the crisis.
Listen to the gloomy tone of each. From Petras:
The entire panoply of neo-liberal policies, from so-called ‘austerity measures’ to mass firings of public and private employees, to massive transfers of wealth to creditors are designed to enhance the power, wealth and primacy of diverse sectors of capitol at the expense of labor. To paraphrase Marx: class struggle from above is the motor force to reverse history – to seize and destroy the advances secured by workers from previous class struggles from below.
Class struggle from above and the outside is waged in boardrooms, stock markets, Central Banks, executive branches of government, parliaments and Congresses. Decision makers are drawn from the ruling class and are ‘in their confidence’. Most strategic decisions are taken by non-elected officials and increasingly located in financial institutions (like the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and the European Commission) acting on behalf of creditors, bondholders and big banks.
Class struggle from above is directed at enhancing the concentration of wealth in the ruling class, increasing regressive taxes on workers and reducing taxes on corporations, selectively enforcing regulations, which facilitate financial speculation and lowering social expenditures for pensions, health and education for workers families. In addition, class struggle from above is directed at maximizing the collective power of capital via restrictive laws on labor organizations, social movements and public workers’ collective bargaining rights.
What is radical and dramatic is the massive entry of decisive new social class actors. They include the rise of non-elected officials to decisive positions of power, forming the “Troika” (the European Central Bank, the IMF, the EU), the equivalent of imperial viceroys, engaged in pillaging the economies of debtor countries; a mass of unemployed youth representing over 50% of workers under 25 years of age; a large sector of low-paid temporary workers not covered by social or labor legislation; a majority of downwardly mobile middle classes, especially among public sector employees and professionals – in the process of being ‘proletarianized’ – losing job tenures, pension benefits, facing rising retirement ages; bankrupt small business people (‘petty bourgeois’) facing unemployment, loss of assets and savings; and downwardly-mobile skilled and semi-skilled workers facing firings, cuts in salaries and wages as well as social benefits.
Above all the crisis is completely misdescribed. Far from seeing it as a decades-long continuous build-up of contradictions and unsolvable problems of over-production, which has already erupted in huge bankruptcies, credit and currency collapses in region after region (Mexico, Argentina, post-Gorbachev Russia, assorted corporate failures in the US like Enron, south-east Asia, and 20year stagnating Japan) Petras still describes the 2007-8 crisis as a passing event which is now “in recovery”:
Ruling class warfare defines who pays for the crisis and who benefits from the ‘recovery … of profits’. The crisis is, by turn, a temporary threat to the capitalist economic system and then, in the course of recovering from the crisis, a political economic and social pretext for a ruling class general offensive aimed at reversing labor and social advances over the past half century.
And in similar vein from Hall:
What is new about this phase of capitalism? Its global interconnectedness, driven in part by new technologies, and the dominance of a new kind of finance capitalism mean that, while a crisis of this system has effects everywhere, these effects are uneven. So far the Bric countries seem relatively unscathed, while the impact of economic devastation has spread from Asia and Africa into Europe.
The breakdown of old forms of social solidarity is accompanied by the dramatic growth of inequality and a widening gap between those who run the system or are well paid as its agents, and the working poor, unemployed, under-employed or unwell.
The crisis has revealed a new, international and ethnically diverse super-rich. The Sunday Times Rich List is topped by two Russian oligarchs and an Indian billionaire. They live a life totally divorced from and almost unimaginable by ordinary people, fuelled by an apparently unstoppable appetite for profit.
...Neoliberalism’s victory has depended on the boldness and ambition of global capital, on its confidence that it can now govern not just the economy but the whole of social life. On the back of a revamped liberal political and economic theory, its champions have constructed a vision and a new common sense that have permeated society. Market forces have begun to model institutional life and press deeply into our private lives, as well as dominating political discourse. They have shaped a popular culture that extols celebrity and success and promotes values of private gain and possessive individualism. They have thoroughly undermined the redistributive egalitarian consensus that underpinned the welfare state, with painful consequences for socially vulnerable groups such as women, old people, the young and ethnic minorities.
Defeatist pessimism and class despair is a hallmark of the petty bourgeoisie, which for all its “left” and liberal elements complaining at the iniquities,lies and unfairnesses of capitalism (sometimes genuinely enough, as far as it goes) still has a relatively comfortable “position” within capitalism, like university professorial chairs, media jobs and professional careers, and can never quite see, or want to see the complete upheaval and ending of an entire epoch of history implied by Marxist understanding.
The crisis is “temporary” and “recovery” seen falsely as possible because such brains cannot comprehend the broadest picture of an entire eight hundred year epoch of history coming to an end and being totally changed – not because “socialism is a good idea” but because capitalism is now unworkable (for all the “new technology” which these shallow philistines latch onto, constantly in thrall to the Wizard of Oz power of the bourgeoisie as they see it. But the technology changes nothing about the social relations of production which fatally doom the capitalist way of doing things, if anything only speeding up and intensifying the basic crisis and adding to the contradictions that put capitalism out of time.)
For all the savagery and brutality of the crisis, now tearing up lives and spreading despair worldwide, it is also a gigantic breakdown of monopoly capitalist society, one that has hardly begun yet which offers the greatest opportunity to finally end a system which long ago exhausted any historical progressive purpose it had.
The confidence should be entirely on the side of the great masses facing a ruling class that does not know which way to turn other than to put off the real issues by QE, essentially a cowardly measure by a ruling class that does not dare yet impose the real scale of the crisis and is buying time by using this fantasy “Monopoly money” to keep the wheels turning on a system which is otherwise utterly paralysed, and to prepare for far more devastating class was to come.
The notion of capitalists “taking advantage” as much fake-“leftism” philistinely explains things, imposing cuts for “ideological reasons”, turns the picture on its head.
As if the ruling class has a choice!
Of course it is relentlessly greedy, venal, corrupt and grasping and cannot stop itself from taking an ever larger slice of what cake there is.
Or course it is not going to calmly ”give up” its obscene privileges, luxury and power.
But the turn to Nazism, oppression and excessive violence has never been the favoured option for the ruling class to keep its power and wealth, despite its prevalence throughout the ruthlessly exploited Third World, held down by a string of gangster, mafia and fascist despots from the Philippines to Haiti, Guatemala to Chile, Egypt to Indonesia in order to rip out the superprofits from the desperate Third World workers (as sickeningly underlined by the grotesque factory collapse in Bangladesh, killing over 900 sweat-shopped workers exploited so ruthlessly (like all the Third World) that even the reactionary Catholic Church’s new Pope was forced to declare correctly that it was “slave labour”.
The pretence of democracy and the clever hoodwinking of the masses into believing they “make a difference” through voting, and can secure steady improvement, has long been a much cleverer trick in the “rich” countries than violent oppressions, hiding overt class rule behind a veil of supposed “justice and representation”, throwing a few “concessions” and “improvements” out from the super-profits ripped out elsewhere (like Bangladesh), or simply offering cheap “Empire” (or Primark etc) goods.
The raw dictatorship of money and capital, via the tiny privileged bourgeois ruling class of fabulously rich “owners” and its petty bourgeois retainers (bankers, lawyers, accountants, managers etc etc), is obscured, and hidden with it are the class realities of society, in which power is held completely by the capitalists, who take all crucial decisions behind closed doors.
Abandoning that comfortable class control “freedom and democracy” racket is a signal that the old game is breaking down and that the old methods no longer work.
The parliamentary fraud is threadbare leaving only loonies and bigots like UKIP still standing in remnants, while cynicism and distrust is now universal.
What Petras calls “the ruling class nature of political institutions and policies becoming transparent in severe crisis” should be called by its proper name, the imposition of open class dictatorship – the fascist face of capitalism which is its true character.
Somewhere deep down it is filtering through to the majority in a thousand unconscious ways, that things can only change when this capitalist class rule is replaced by a different class dictatorship, that of the great mass, the proletarians.
But it needs to be made conscious.
It needs leadership developed by the open revolutionary debate and polemic, and a new kind of Leninist leadership party.
The great confusions and illusions of endless daily bourgeois cultural brainwashing need challenging.
But the revisionists have long retreated from explaining the need for, let alone leading, any such revolutionary open polemical struggle, descending into soft-headed illusions in “peaceful democratic routes to power” which in practice simply reinforces the great “democracy” confidence trick.
Now their stupid theories of “containing capitalism’s war drive” by the “peace struggle” and of making “steady socialist progress” with “democratic non-violent means” have been left in tatters by the full onset of the decades-long-brewing capitalist crisis collapse (though even now such mindrot is still misleadingly and opportunistically punted out all over, as for example around the “Bolivarian revolution” in Latin America, despite the loud tocsins of the latest Honduran and Paraguayan coups continuing a post-war record of CIA sponsored slaughter, massacres and oppression.)
Instead of facing up to, and debating, the now obvious proof of basic Marxist-Leninist understanding – that capitalism has reached the buffers historically, with no way out, confronting the working class with the unavoidable challenge of revolutionary struggle to overturn it and the opportunity finally to clear it away and build a new socialist world, – our venerated professors lay on the pessimism and defeatism with a trowel.
In both cases, supposedly, the ruling class is running rampant, “taking advantage” of the crisis as a “pretext” to reverse social and economic gains from the last fifty years in Petras' “thesis”, or “using the crisis to advance the neo-liberal project” in the fake-”left” jargon-speak of Hall.
Stripped of the ponderous language, is this really any different to the trendy “Shock Doctrine” garbage from Canadian academic and arch anti-communist reformist Naomi Klein?
Her book length theory, eagerly disseminated by the capitalist press, was that the ruling class will constantly push to drive down the conditions and wages of the working class, speed up the work process and the intensity of exploitation, and extend the working day.
Pretty much like the middle few chapters of Karl Marx’s Capital – Volume One then, which analysed in rigorous detail the process of exploitation and just what options are available to the ruling class to try and maintain its wealth in the teeth of an ever declining rate of profit and clogging of the system with “surplus” production.
In others words, nothing new and, more significantly, only part of the story (which is why this diversionary slyness is encouraged by the mainstream capitalist press when conditions demand it).
The missing part is of course the need to build revolutionary struggles to end the increasing suffocation of human ingenuity, development and production by the contradictions of the production for private profit system and more importantly to create the open but disciplined class debate and scientific leadership vital to guide revolutionary struggle and the firm working class rule it must establish in order to build a new socialist world.
Klein’s “great discovery” was that the more aggressive sections of monopoly capitalism were taking advantage of natural disasters and financial collapses to step up the monopoly consolidation of the largest conglomerates and corporations in the confusion and chaos that follows the need for rebuilding, as in the New Orleans’ Hurricane Katrina devastation for example, simultaneously increasing exploitation levels.
Given that there is a steady tendency for increased monopolisation within capitalism which goes hand in hand with gangster, mafia and piratical methods, market swamping, bribery, unfair competition, tariff manipulations and so forth, that is hardly a stunning “advance” in theory, and was essentially also detailed in Marx’s Capital (especially Vol 3) and in Lenin’s extension of the understanding in Imperialism:the highest stage of capitalism both excellent foundations for understanding.
Her spun-out observation of one particular way in which this happens, tactically speaking, is possibly of additional interest to Marx’s own observations of the rise in aggressiveness, fraud, and takeovers in periods of market failure.
But it only adds to understanding if it is seen within a world perspective of the need for revolutionary struggle which of course Klein does not mention.
Simply exposing capitalism’s venality and hoping that somehow “mass disgust”, protest or natural justice (or “democracy”) will thereby deal with it, has always been part of the opportunist and reformist armoury, which undermines or deliberately counters, necessary revolutionary explanation.
Klein’s theory goes further, suggesting that monopolies lie in wait for, or even deliberately precipitate, disasters in order to get their wicked schemes through.
But this does no more than state that capitalism uses every dirty underhand trick in the book to constantly expand and wage class war.
The monopolisation process does not lurk around “waiting for disasters” but is a constant tendency of capitalist competition, a part of the cutthroat battle for markets, even if it does become particularly manifest in situations where it is able to “take advantage”, and existing or established institutions, frameworks, or infrastructure like the public housing in New Orleans, are broken up and replaced.
It is also misses out the revolutionary factor.
In the chaos and confusion that followed the Second World War (a very large disaster and shock) for example just the opposite happened; the ruling class backed off imposing even more draconian exploitation in the metropolitan countries and granted across the board welfare improvement, wage rises and investment in social projects.
Why not “take advantage” at that time?
Because there was a wave of revolutionary feeling in the working class is the answer, following ten years of Depression agony and the even worse pain, suffering and destruction of the Second World War “solution” to the crisis by degenerate capitalist “competition” and its inevitable end-point in all-out war horrors to destroy rivals and surplus capital (repeating the agony of WW1 on an even greater scale).
Disgust at capitalism was reinforced by a surge of working class confidence from seeing the weakness and incompetence of capitalism (especially in the colonies) and its own strength, most of all in the titanic triumph of the Red Army driving back Nazi Germany across Europe.
This anti-capitalist conflict to defend the Soviet workers state, was an enormous mobilisation of the proletarian masses which re-stated the original Leninist socialist October revolution even more powerfully than in 1917 and on an even greater scale of sacrifice and heroism.
Capitalism everywhere was in retreat, and desperately handing out favours and concessions (NHS, welfare, pensions, free higher education, etc) to head off what was a dangerously explosive world working class, not “imposing austerity”.
Even the great purpose of imperialist war in wiping out surplus capital and rival capitalists – whole nations at a time like Germany and Japan in 1945 (and in the “greenfields” demolition of their industries in following years) – was suspended because of the revolutionary threat with Marshall Plan injections of investment and Korea war production investments instead (to head off communist revolt).
Or course the huge life-or-death pressures of capitalist competition force out the most underhand methods by the monopoly corporations and especially at the expense of the supposed “gains” made by the working class in the post-war years.
But what should be expected otherwise?
That this is somehow “not fair” or “unreasonable”??
What kind of deluded philosophy ever thought, or led the working class to believe, that the gains it made in the aftermath of WW2 would ever be permanent?
Revisionism of course, squandering the enormous momentum of revolutionary feeling throughout Europe and Asia in 1945 and bolstering up the class-collaborating opportunism of petty bourgeois reformism, selling the working class the notion that through parliament and by “sticking to the rules” of democracy it could steadily and firmly improve the lot of the working class etc.
Even now the two professors don’t essentially challenge this gigantic criminal misleadership, suggesting that the problem is just that the old methods are “no longer sufficient” and blaming the trade union leaderships and other “left” groups for their cosy class collaborationism which says Petras
“has left them ill prepared to confront the open an aggressive all-out war of the ruling class”.
Their parties, labor or social democratic, with dual loyalties to capitalist profits and social welfare, are deeply embedded in the capitalist order .Under pressure of ‘the crisis’, they abandoned labor and embraced the formulae of the ruling class, imposing their own versions of ‘austerity’
Petras further scolds.
But he fails to mention that this entire reformist ethos was left unchallenged and effectively supported by exactly the “peaceful progress through democracy” line of revisionist perspectives from the end of the Second World War onwards, in a world where capitalism could supposedly no longer grow aggressively and would be hemmed in by the socialist states, steadily out-competing capitalism and the “steady advances” of the working class conditions in the capitalist states, until capitalism finally spiralled out of sight and everyone calmly adopted communism.
All that had to happen was for the unstable “war tendency” of capitalism to be suppressed, allegedly by “peace struggle”, a breathtaking mis-assessment of the unstoppable drive to complete world war breakdown in capitalism.
Capitalism, dominating all ideology, culture, media and politics will initially always succeed in stampeding the masses into war with chauvinism. scapegoating, finger-pointing casting of blame on “others” and the relentless Goebbels lie campaigns against supposed “dictator monsters” using the most lurid fantasies of unproven, unverified and mostly non-existent “war crimes” to whip up self-righteous war-hate.
It will and is (in Libya and Syria etc) succeed in getting barbaric war diversions going which cannot be stopped by moralising chants to “Stop the War”.
It would be easier to train sharks to babysit than prevent war.
The revisionist line from Moscow, completely lost sight of the fact that the only reformist gains ever made by workers are the spin-offs from revolutionary ferment, not reformist “negotiation” in itself.
As the EPSR analysed ten years ago, this totally wrong perspective was founded in the deliberate and utterly wrong revision (“updating”) of Lenin advanced by Stalin in his 1952 Economic Problems of Socialism.
But this critical error is untouched by the professors.
And for all their supposed radicalism now that the crisis is so obviously biting, they still do not advance beyond the notion of making reformist gains for the working class.
Petras sounds bold enough:
The deteriorating conditions of these social classes cannot be altered by workplace trade union activity or by ‘collective bargaining’ – only a political solution- a change of political regime – can shift economic resources from debt payments to productive job-creating investments. The so-called ‘Eurozone’ is, in reality, a mini-empire of tributary vassals and imperial states – reforming empires has been historically demonstrated to be a futile enterprise.
The political class, as currently constituted which supports or operates as opposition within the imperial framework, is organically incapable of reversing the changes resulting from the ruling class offensive. The historical legacy of the ruling class offensive and the emergence of new systemic ‘fault lines’ demands new political movements reflecting the weight of the new dispossessed classes: the specific demands of the downwardly- mobile middle class, businesspeople and workers; the desperate demand for jobs by the vast army of unemployed youth with no future. What is to be done? Clearly parliamentary dissent and electoral politics provide no answers to those millions losing homes, to those losing businesses.
There are tens of millions who have never known any employment. Only action directed at mobilizing the unemployed to paralyze the circulation of goods and services; only collective action directed at preventing foreclosures of mortgage holding households; only demands for public works to provide jobs; only factory occupations can save jobs; only worker takeovers and running of factories can provide alternatives and build support for regime change, a political revolution and a break with the tributary empire.
But “direct action” is still only to be aimed at defensive measures to head off the worst of the slump by “providing alternatives”.
But there are no “alternatives” within capitalism.
It is finished and can only lurch on into devastating disaster for as long as it continues to rule.
Every one of the “radical” actions proposed by Petras immediately raises a thousand questions about how the working class is going to insist on such measures, and equally importantly how the ruling class is going to respond.
There is no room any more for any concessions and so it must intensify the class suppression, which will make the draconian class war so far look like a tea party.
In other words every move to be made now, if it has any efficacy, raises directly the question of class power.
That is not answered by weasel words about “regime change” or even “political revolution” unless some idea is given about how this is to be achieved.
Nor is it answered by Hall’s call for yet another variation on the endless “socialist alliance” groupings in which
“environmental, anti-cuts and feminist groups...come together ...with the old, defensive organisations of the working class to produce the coalition that might make them an effective political force”
going to change anything.
It is answered by talking about the dictatorship of the proletariat, the very question Petras evades, and slyly covers up by his supposed scolding words on the “neglected class struggle”, and the very question that will be avoided as always in yet another hodgepodge fake-“left” group in the UK.
But Lenin had something better to say as the EPSR quotes in every single issue (see EPSR box):
It is often said and written that the main point in Marx’s teachings is the class struggle; but this is not true. And from this untruth very often springs the opportunist distortion of Marxism, its falsification in such a way as to make it acceptable to the bourgeoisie.
For the doctrine of the class struggle was created not by Marx, but by the bourgeoisie before Marx, and generally speaking it is acceptable to the bourgeoisie. Those who recognise only the class struggle are not yet Marxists; they may be found to be still within the boundaries of bourgeois thinking and bourgeois politics. To confine Marxism to the doctrine of the class struggle means curtailing Marxism, distorting it, reducing it to something which is acceptable to the bourgeoisie. Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Of course this is not enough – there are a thousand issues for the revolutionary party to understand and explain, and Leninist understanding needs to cover every aspect of society.
But without the foundation of the need for proletarian dictatorship then every “class struggle” is the same and it is possible to pump out this kind of pernicious confusions and disarming brainrot:
The most sustained and successful advances in social welfare and public services over the past decade have occurred in Latin America where the crisis of capitalism led to militant, broad-based class movements, which overthrew neo-liberal regimes, and imposed constraints on speculative capital and debt payments to imperial centers .Subsequently, nationalist resource-based regimes re-oriented state revenues to fund employment and social legislation. The sequence of popular revolts and political intervention, followed by the election in most cases of nationalist-populist regimes, ameliorated the crisis and sustained policies incrementally advancing working class interests.
Yet there are indications of how such a compromise (“left” alliance) might work, for example in the short era of Ken Livingstone’s GLC and the radical experiments under way in Latin America.
The fake-“left” loves the “radical experiments” if South America precisely because they have not confronted the need for the proletarian power and can be used to “justify” all the old reformist “peaceful road” garbage.
But for all their laudable left-nationalist reformist achievements (hated by the US empire) all the “Bolivarian revolution” countries remain with intact capitalist ruling class ownership and powerful, constantly plotting, counter-revolutionary forces, wide open to endless subversion locally and by Washington, which has spent decades organising coups, massacres, torture and repression.
Two coups under the Obama presidency in Paraguay and Honduras have already given repeat warning of the unchanging reality of bloody imperialist domination, and the reality of its total contempt for “democratic principles” and popular elections.
By all means the continuing success of their anti-imperialism and any defeats they can inflict on imperialism (politically, economically, militarily or by counter-disruption policing) are steps in the right direction for the world class struggle.
But to herald these partial and left bourgeois nationalist movements as the example to follow for the working class is simply to repeat all the errors and mistakes of past reformist misleadership.
Most of all they continue the disastrous illusion that “peaceful pressure” and the “electoral path” can change the world, exactly the criminally opportunist nonsense pumped out by Salvador Allende whose “first ever elected communist government” was toppled by the brutal torture and massacre coup of General Augustus Pinochet and his CIA backers. Stuart Hall even specifically refers to the devastating lesson of Chile.
But far from drawing out the critical understanding that the working class needs to be prepared with the soundest Leninist understanding and leadership he simply bewails it as another “victory” for the ruling class.
Facilitated by the brainrot of reformist and revisionist anti-Leninism, he should add.
Hugo Chávez continued to insist on “following the rules of democracy” and opposing “dictatorships” to his dying day, leaving the masses just as open to illusions as Allende did.
The Bolivarians have not yet been toppled, to a large extent because the huge crisis, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the rising Middle Eastern revolt especially, have diverted US empire attention and resources.
But right on cue, the disruption against Venezuela has been stepped up with a massive destabilisation campaign since Chávez’ death, ignoring the clear and massively popular election victory of his successor Nicolás Maduro and pumping out a campaign of bogus “electoral challenges”, backed by a deliberate Washington refusal to recognise the result.
This is exactly the pattern of Chile and sabotage and counter-revolution will continue non-stop until either the “left” regime is toppled or the US empire is ended.
Petras further confuses matters in the eclectic round up he makes of world class struggle for example, writing off the working class in Britain and America “where traditions of class struggle and general strikes are weakest” a complete misrepresentation of a centuries long history of battling and organisation.
This is the slimiest of excuse making for the pernicious influence of revisionist politics, which have left unchallenged the pernicious class collaboration of imperialist corrupted Labourism.
Even worse is this sly reference slid into a “round-up” of class struggles:
The class struggle from below is especially intensifying among some of the more dynamic capitalist countries in which workers have experienced a prolonged period of intense exploitation and the emergence of a new class of ruling billionaires linked to a dominant one party elite – cases of China and South Africa.
Since when did China become a “capitalist country??
When was the counter-revolution???
China’s possibly excessive use of capitalist economic methods to drive its very backward economic development forwards (in the way Lenin used the NEP in the Soviet Union) has certainly blurred any easy analysis of the achievement of the workers states, but to date it remains a workers state, directing and controlling the strategic direction of investment (currently into the still less developed western hinterland after the huge coastal growth of the past).
The words of the EPSR from ten years ago are still valid:
Even if there is never an end to Beijing’s Revisionist nonsense, failing to offer the slightest grasp in public of Marxist anti-imperialist science, the vital importance of the dictatorship of the proletariat (as opposed to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie) is nevertheless still proving its worth despite everything.
It would be pointless to pretend that all is well in the Chinese workers state or economy, or that Revisionist confusion in Beijing does not still jeopardise all of the massive gains of the proletarian revolution which have transformed China from the most abject poverty and colonial humiliation to near super-power status in just 50 years.
But the writing-off of this monumental historical transformation of China as being “nothing to do with socialism” according to the fake-’left’, or as having “gone back to capitalism” according to other rival petty-bourgeois Western interpretations, is plainly nonsense, whatever the destiny of the present Communist Party regime.
There are pragmatic NEP-policy signs everywhere. Mr Yang sounds like a dangerous NEPman extraordinary, yet Brilliance has just been renationalised, according to the Times, or never left state quango control, according to the Chinese.
And having to own and look after your own house need not necessarily be any different from having to own and look after your own trousers. The Stiglitz ‘privatisation’ claim may be less than meets the eye.
The growth of very rich capitalists in China certainly will generate ideological class pressure which further hampers any return to Leninism and feeds the “don’t rock the boat” revisionist perspectives which lead Beijing to believe it can “temper the force of imperialism” as in its collusion with Washington to impose sanctions on North Korea to “rein in” Pyongyang’s entirely justifiable self-defence moves against the aggressive South Korean and US forces which constantly intimidate it with belligerent “war exercises”.
Beijing’s retreats from Leninist understanding need disentangling and challenging as much as any other revisionism.
But declaring it to be run by a new class of billionaires – equating it to Russia where there was a sharp and obvious counter-revolution in 1989-90 – is a nonsense.
Such confusion needs challenging and tackling across the board, possible only by building and constantly developing a scientific perspective, constantly tested in open polemical battling and the practical struggle.
*[Editors note - this is a completely different Stuart Hall to the BBC presenter just found guilty of child sex abuse at the BBC( back to story].
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The only healthy response to hospital neglect exposés, NHS cuts savagery and food contamination scandals is to struggle for the revolutionary destruction of the rapacious capitalist profit-making system and the construction of planned socialist economies across the planet. Calls to “defend” or “celebrate” the NHS without arguments for revolution misleads. Cuba points the way. A Leninist polemical fight for revolutionary perspectives and leadership is the missing vital ingredient
Foul “blame the worker” attacks on nurses and doctors for the tragic and avoidable deaths and neglect at Mid Staffordshire hospital are a fascist class war response by a ruling class compelled to impose Slump conditions on the working class everywhere.
Cameron’s calls for nurses to be hired “on the basis of having compassion as a vocation”, whilst inflicting conditions of civil war mayhem and vengeful lynch mob barbarity across the Middle East, North Africa and Central Africa alongside the US, French and other imperialist powers (Libya, Syria, Mali, Ivory Coast, Somalia, Congo, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. etc,) in response to capitalism’s crisis, is puke-making in its hypocrisy and contempt for the working class.
(The vicious scapegoating of Dr. Keilloh, a locally popular North Yorkshire doctor, for British imperialism’s regime of torture in Iraq, and the brutal torture and murder of Baha Mousa in particular, when he served as an inexperienced and undertrained regimental medical officer, merely serves to underscore the disdain the ruling class has for patients and health professionals)
Why would anyone want to spend years of training to work in such a stressful and pressurised environment as an underfunded and understaffed NHS hospital if they didn’t have a sense of compassion???
Equally sickening are the politicians who spend their waking days lying through their teeth whilst feathering their own nests through corrupt Parliamentary expenses manipulation and lucrative backroom business deals, jumping on understandable demands for “a duty of candour” and “absolute openness” on the part of NHS managers in order to distance themselves from the scandals.
Demands for “transparency” and “greater accountability” will not stop deaths arising from neglect, mis-diagnosis, poor hygiene and callousness from re-occurring again and again because the “NHS management culture of complacency, cost-cutting and bullying” merely reflects wider and all embracing capitalist culture which determines all aspects of human behaviour.
If NHS managers “put corporate self-interest and cost control ahead of patients and their safety”, then it is because capitalism demands that as little of the “surplus value” extracted from working class labour as possible is spent on providing services for the working class, so that the vast bulk of it is available for profit-making.
Abuse and neglect doesn’t happen because the NHS has failed to recruit the “right people”.
It happens because capitalism is driven to cut all services to the bone, forcing longer hours, speed-ups and greater responsibilities on health workers, eventually leading to the alienation of a minority of health workers from their patients.
In all public sector jobs, the crushing weight of bureaucratic accounting procedures and cost control systems has become more important than the people they are supposed to serve.
How many times have we heard teachers complaining they spend more time on paperwork than on their lessons and pupils???
Expecting the NHS to develop an organisation culture that “puts patients at the heart of everything it does” whilst existing in a system driven solely by the pursuit of profit is pure idealism.
Things will only get worse as the monopoly capitalist economic order lurches into catastrophic Slump failure and meltdown, tearing apart all post-1945 welfare state “gains” in its wake.
Calls to “defend the NHS” from vicious cuts savagery are healthy enough initial responses to the crisis.
Whilst pro-NHS marches, strikes and demonstrations are to be welcomed, they are, on their own, a million miles from the revolutionary understanding the working class needs if it is to end the Depression now wiping out entire nations through Slump impositions and Nazi warmongering.
Spontaneously emerging working class struggle will intensify as the crisis pushes it to the brink of absolute penury.
But what the Mid-Yorkshire NHS Trust strikers, campaigners against Dewsbury A&E closures, and the 25,000+ who marched to defend Lambeth hospital (not to mention the 100,000s of overworked and harassed NHS hospital workers and the millions who depend on its services) urgently require is the revolutionary consciousness necessary to bring capitalist tyranny to an end once and for all and replace it by planned socialist production across the planet.
Given the vicious attacks poured on the NHS by Cameron’s Tory toffs, manipulating such scandals as Mid Staffs in order to push through more savage cuts, the urge to “celebrate the NHS” may carry some appeal.
Celebrate the achievements of the working class by all means, but such celebrations will never challenge capitalist class rule.
Danny Boyle’s clever Olympics opening ceremony “celebration” of the NHS was aired to billions world-wide, but it did nothing to hold back the axe-wielding Tories or their Lib-Dem collaborators.
The Labourites were constantly singing the praises of the NHS to high heaven whilst hypocritically stabbing it in the back almost as soon as they got into office, initiating the entire cuts agenda in the first place.
Guardianistas such as Polly Toynbee can write blistering exposés of NHS cuts, mismanagement and neglect, but exposure alone will never stop such tragedies re-occurring either (and Toynbee refuses to draw revolutionary conclusions as her anti-communism drives her to present Labour as somehow “progressive” and squeaky clean).
The 57 varieties of fake-“lefts” (Trots and Stalinists) go no further with their meek and ever-so-humble “stop the cuts” sloganeering and “r-r-revolutionary” tail-ending of working class spontaneity.
Not one of them warned the working class of the catastrophic nature capitalism’s crisis.
While some of them will now concede that this “may” be the “worst crisis ever” (but not that we are seeing the total paralysis and failure of 800 years of capitalist development and class rule), nowhere in any of their endless reams of slickly produced publications will you find the need for revolution (as the only way to bring the crisis to an end) put to the forefront of their propagandising.
Most (SWP, Workers Power, AWL, etc), will still disgrace themselves by calling for “votes for Labour” (as if their version of blood-thirsty axe-wielding and warmongering is any more desirable than the Tories’).
Others, such as the remnants of museum Stalinist revisionism (CPGB-ML), will restrict themselves to making grandstanding statements that may at least expose some of the Trots pro-Labour treachery but always avoid making the argument for revolutionary perspectives.
The working class has long seen through this Labour party “democracy” fraud anyway, as the decades-long slump in voter participation in once “Labour strongholds” shows.
ALL the fake-“lefts” let the capitalist class off the hook with their refusal to build revolutionary consciousness, and their derision and hostility towards the tiny circles of Leninism still doggedly struggling for such understanding for their “catastrophism” and “cranky Marxism”.
Any “celebrations” that do not put the NHS cuts crisis in the context of capitalism’s revolutionary crisis will only amount to a long overdue “wake” for all of this futile reformism because there is no turning the clock back to 1945.
The idea that the NHS was ever going to be long term, stable and sustainable was a fraud from the start.
The only reason capitalism conceded it in the first place was to head the working class away from revolutionary conclusions about their experiences of the last Depression and world war.
The titanic achievements of the Soviet Union in defeating Nazism and constructing socialism were irresistible, and so capitalism needed to ape communism by allowing the creation of the “welfare state”.
The welfare state (and the NHS in particular) has been very useful in providing a “democratic” veneer to its bourgeois class rule dictatorship reality.
Even Thatcher during the 1980s privatisations kept the NHS largely intact, despite despising its very existence, because to break it up would open up numerous revolutionary questions in the minds of the working class.
The NHS helped sustain the Labour reformist lie that the welfare state itself was “socialism” and so there was “no reason” to overthrow capitalism and build a communist society.
With its relatively better pay and working conditions when compared to the vast majority of the working class, it also helped to foster a tier of the working class that possessed a stake in maintaining the capitalist system and sustaining Labour reformism.
Now all this reformism is falling apart as capitalism itself collapses.
The crisis is shattering the illusions of all but the most backward remnants of Labour’s long lost working class support base.
The Tories may resent diverting the tiny fractions of the huge profits the ruling class makes out of capitalist exploitation to the NHS, but the idea that the cuts are “ideologically-driven” (as the fake-“lefts” and TUC/Labourism declare), given the usefulness welfare state-ism has had in helping to prop up capitalism, is risible.
If it was all about “ideology” the Tories would have done it decades ago, not now when capitalism is in terminal crisis and seeing the potential for revolutionary turmoil erupting everywhere.
The NHS has long been a source of huge source of profits as it provides a funnel through which Treasury resources, obtained from the working class through taxation, can be channelled to big business multi-nationals via overly inflated prices for drugs and treatments, corrupt PFI deals and other profiteering cash grabs.
The distortion of health care by the drugs companies’ aggressive pursuit of profits can be seen in the drying up of supplies of new antibiotics because long- term heart disease treatments are proving to be far more lucrative; with potentially disastrous results as drugs-resistant diseases rise and medical costs soar.
Such risks are exacerbated by capitalist farming methods and the pharmaceuticals’ heavy promotion of the unnecessary use of antibiotics in animal feeds to promote growth, with disastrous consequences for the food chain.
Capitalism makes people sick: literally and figuratively – obesity alcoholism, drug and tobacco addiction, post-Friday night binge drinking street brawls and accidents and other symptoms of the alienation of the working class from capitalist society carry huge financial burdens for the NHS.
The deliberate and cynical creation of markets for sugar and corn-syrup based products since the 1970’s; manufacture of processed foods pumped full of all sorts of chemicals, protein enhancers and horse-shite; excessive use of toxic fertilisers and pesticides on food crops; and a thousand and one other harmful capitalist production methods and marketing techniques have had such a detrimental effect on human health that it is near impossible to predict the extent to which health services will be needed once capitalism has been overthrown.
Socialist Cuba, and crucially its proletarian dictatorship, has been able to make stunning advances in medicine and health care, with comparable levels of life expectancy, despite being starved of funds and resources by the 50-year US imposed siege blockade, and because capitalism was abolished in a revolution.
Capitalism is in the grip of the “over-production” crisis that Karl Marx explained would inevitably tear apart the very fabric of capitalist society, as the deep-seated contradictions within its profit-driven system finally erupts to the surface, dragging the entire planet down in an orgy of destruction.
In the age of imperialism, such destruction of “surplus” capital means a return to world war.
The road to total war has already seen death and destruction inflicted on Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc. and will intensify a hundredfold.
The only way to stop imperialism’s war rampage is to defeat it, and that requires a working class conscious of the revolutionary role it plays in world history.
Leninism is the only guarantee for the health and wellbeing of the world population and urgently needs to be built. PW
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