Friday, 30 December 2011

The bankrupcy of economic prosperity

As capitalism lurch's from one crisis to the next we are left wondering is this system the best that we can use for all ?

Fact that capitalism has periodic and systemic faults built into it with many contradictions deep rooted that it finds hard and often cannot solve itself in my view renders capitalism a bankrupt system. A system based on exploitation and greed by the few over the many. It simply cannot provide for all of society. What Marx called the army of reserve workers is a tactic created by the capitalists to keep a hold on workers wages by pitting workers in work to those out of work with the statement if you dont want to take a pay cut to keep your job we have hundreds and thousands waiting in reserve who will be willing to work for less than you do. This is a threat and the threat of the doll queue keeps the working class's wages down so the profits of the rich continue to rise as their crisis deepens.

Built into capitalism as i said are periodic booms and busts as they are known to many. Upturns and downturns. These can be caused by various contradictions in the modes of production and so on. But within each boom therea re the seeds sown for the next bust and vice versa. This is the nature of capitalism the circumstances for the next crash are already there when production begins to pick up again. Its a continuous cycle of deepening crisis's in capitalism.

Let us briefly sum up our sketch of historical evolution.

I. Mediaeval Society — Individual production on a small scale. Means of production adapted for individual use; hence primitive, ungainly, petty, dwarfed in action. Production for immediate consumption, either of the producer himself or his feudal lord. Only where an excess of production over this consumption occurs is such excess offered for sale, enters into exchange. Production of commodities, therefore, only in its infancy. But already it contains within itself, in embryo, anarchy in the production of society at large.

II. Capitalist Revolution — transformation of industry, at first be means of simple cooperation and manufacture. Concentration of the means of production, hitherto scattered, into great workshops. As a consequence, their transformation from individual to social means of production — a transformation which does not, on the whole, affect the form of exchange. The old forms of appropriation remain in force. The capitalist appears. In his capacity as owner of the means of production, he also appropriates the products and turns them into commodities. Production has become a social act. Exchange and appropriation continue to be individual acts, the acts of individuals. The social product is appropriated by the individual capitalist. Fundamental contradiction, whence arise all the contradictions in which our present-day society moves, and which modern industry brings to light.

A. Severance of the producer from the means of production. Condemnation of the worker to wage-labor for life. Antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.

B. Growing predominance and increasing effectiveness of the laws governing the production of commodities. Unbridled competition. Contradiction between socialized organization in the individual factory and social anarchy in the production as a whole.

C. On the one hand, perfecting of machinery, made by competition compulsory for each individual manufacturer, and complemented by a constantly growing displacement of laborers. Industrial reserve-army. On the other hand, unlimited extension of production, also compulsory under competition, for every manufacturer. On both sides, unheard-of development of productive forces, excess of supply over demand, over-production and products — excess there, of laborers, without employment and without means of existence. But these two levers of production and of social well-being are unable to work together, because the capitalist form of production prevents the productive forces from working and the products from circulating, unless they are first turned into capital — which their very superabundance prevents. The contradiction has grown into an absurdity. The mode of production rises in rebellion against the form of exchange.

D. Partial recognition of the social character of the productive forces forced upon the capitalists themselves. Taking over of the great institutions for production and communication, first by joint-stock companies, later in by trusts, then by the State. The bourgeoisie demonstrated to be a superfluous class. All its social functions are now performed by salaried employees.

III. Proletarian Revolution — Solution of the contradictions. The proletariat seizes the public power, and by means of this transforms the socialized means of production, slipping from the hands of the bourgeoisie, into public property. By this act, the proletariat frees the means of production from the character of capital they have thus far borne, and gives their socialized character complete freedom to work itself out. Socialized production upon a predetermined plan becomes henceforth possible. The development of production makes the existence of different classes of society thenceforth an anachronism. In proportion as anarchy in social production vanishes, the political authority of the State dies out. Man, at last the master of his own form of social organization, becomes at the same time the lord over Nature, his own master — free.

extracts from socialism utopian and scientific chapter 3 history of materialism by Frederic Engels

The role the state plays in politicising workers

A DEFINING feature of Marxism, which sets it apart from other political trends, is its theory of the state and its programme and policies for dealing with it.

Throughout the years workers have been found to have come up against the state in the class struggle be that coming up against the police on the picket lines or facing arrest on a public demonstration eitehr way this act by the state quickly teach's workers that the state is not your friend and the role of the police and army at times is there to protect private propety not its citizens as bourgeois media likes to tell us.

The state is not simply there for security . The capitalists use such provision to discipline workers, for example, by withdrawing benefits from strikers.

They also use different wings of the state to uphold their capitalist ideology. For example, the government attacks on single parents or the continual harassment and implication of laziness in relation to the long-term unemployed. In this way they attempt to deflect blame from themselves onto the victims of their system and undermine the confidence of those who campaign for better benefits.

However, the main sense in which Marxists use the term 'state' is to describe the institutions by which class rule is maintained. We live in a class society where the ruling class does not represent the interests of the whole population, where a minority maintains its power and privileges by exploiting the majority. They have to persuade the majority to accept this situation.

They do this partly though their control of ideas, for example, through their ownership of the mass media, their general control of education and other institutions. They try to persuade people that their system is the only and best way of organising society, almost to the extent of being "natural".

But their ideas and system clash with the interests of working class people. For example, if the working class believed the news and political commentators they would never go on strike. But workers find that without organisation and a willingness to take action, they cannot maintain living standards.

So, when propaganda and conditioning fail and working-class people and even sections of the middle classes oppose the ruling class, the ruling class use the police, the courts, the law and sometimes the army to defend their profits and power. They did this, for example, in their efforts to defeat the 1984-85 miners’ strike and during the anti-capitalist marches in Genoa (where a protester was shot and killed).

They need a special apparatus to ensure that their class rule continues. The core of the state, the part which it falls back on to ensure its rule when all else fails, is the repressive apparatus - the police, the army, the courts and the various intelligence agencies like Ml5. (Engels described the state as ultimately being "a body of armed men"). Carrying through the transition to a socialist society inevitably includes major strategic and tactical problems in defeating these agencies which exist to defend capitalist class rule.


Has the 'state' always existed?
IF YOU never read another work of Marxism again, you should read Lenin's brilliant booklet 'The State and Revolution'. Lenin explains that the state arose when society first divided into antagonistic classes.

For centuries humans lived in egalitarian societies, what Marx and Engels referred to as 'primitive communism', where all people were dependent on one another and co-operation was the guiding principle of society. However, as labour became more productive, society produced a surplus beyond its immediate needs.

This created the conditions for class society - the minority who came firstly to administer and then to control and own this surplus protected their right to it by force. The class with economic dominance and power, the ruling class, created the state to protect itself, hold down its adversaries and guarantee that its will was done. This is a very important point because the reverse is also true. When classes themselves disappear, as a classless socialist society comes into being, that same force will no longer be needed.

In a famous phrase of Marx, the state would begin to 'wither away'.

Class society based on the private ownership of the means of producing wealth has taken different forms. When the capitalist class began to develop, they had to wage a Civil War in the 1640s against the existing feudal state to establish a new state that would serve their own capitalist, class interests. They became the new ruling class.


Different Forms of Capitalist State
THE ‘TYPICAL’ form of state in the ad

Different Forms of Capitalist State
THE ‘TYPICAL’ form of state in the advanced capitalist countries today is capitalist ('bourgeois') democracy. Governments are elected by general election, and there are wide democratic freedoms - although in many countries these are under threat. Bourgeois – that is, capitalist - democracy hasn't always existed: the labour movement has carried out long struggles to win democratic freedoms such as the right to vote, to organise and the right to strike. Women also had to fight for the vote.

In many ways bourgeois democracy is more convenient for the capitalists, enabling them to maintain their domination without risky and unpopular dictatorial measures. In the last 60 years, the capitalist class has had some nasty experiences with non-democratic forms of rule - for example, fascism in Germany and Italy cost a world war and massive destruction.

In the last analysis however, if the capitalists feel threatened by the growing power of the working class, they will resort to other forms of capitalist state. In the 20th century typical alternatives to capitalist democracy have been military dictatorship (such as existed in Greece after the colonels' coup in 1967, or Chile after the military coup in 1973) and fascism, such as existed in Germany under Hitler and Italy under Mussolini. In both military dictatorships and fascist regimes, democratic parliamentary rights, trade union and political rights, are abolished and the ruling class gives power to a small group which governs by coercion and terror.

The type of regime which emerges in each historical period depends on how confident the bourgeoisie feels to grant democratic rights.

But every ruling class will revert to authoritarian forms of rule if it has to. The ruling class in Britain is no exception. In a revealing insight in his book, Inside Right, Tory MP Ian Gilmour (now Lord Gilmour and a former member of Thatcher's cabinet) stated: "Conservatives do not worship democracy... For Conservatives... democracy is a means to an end and not an end in itself. And if it is leading to an end that is undesirable or is inconsistent with itself, then there is a theoretical case for ending it."

There have been many occasions when the British ruling class discussed whether or not military intervention was necessary. In 1977, The Observer carried the following report: "Field-Marshall Lord Carver was chosen as Britain's Commissioner in Zimbabwe because he is a man the government knows it can trust. Carver's proving time came three years ago when he was the focus of tensions in right-wing army circles that gave rise to talk of military intervention in a political emergency.

"This time the trouble was over contingency plans for a breakdown in public order after a clash between the government and the trade unions... The Army Council decided that such plans were unnecessary - and indeed that to make them would be politically unwise. Their absence became a talking point in the Army when the 1973 miners' strike and state of emergency precipitated a general election." (Observer 4 September 1977).

It's obvious from the language here that the option of military intervention was not dismissed out of hand, considered outrageous, illegal or treacherous - just "unwise". Elaborate plans are in place to revert to dictatorial government if necessary.


Is capitalist democracy really democratic?
PRO-CAPITALIST POLITICAL theorists say there are two forms of state - 'dictatorship' and 'democracy'. Both of them are ways of ensuring that the ruling class stays in control. Marxists defend democratic rights but say that real democracy cannot exist so long as economic and social power is in the hands of a ruling capitalist class.

Capitalist ideologues say the system is 'democratic' because of the right to vote, and (within limits) there is the right of free speech and of political organisation. A typical argument is that 'if you want to change things, you can always stand for parliament.' In reality things are a bit more complicated. Under bourgeois democracy, the capitalist class keeps its power in the following ways:

It controls the economy:

This, of course, is the basic, most important source of capitalist power, giving it vast resources to ensure the continuation of its rule. Through their control of the workplaces and financial institutions they can decide, for example, that thousands of workers are put on the dole, destroy communities and evict thousands from their homes.

It dominates ideologically:

As Marx said:"The ruling ideas of any epoch are the ideas of the ruling class". The means of communication (newspapers, television etc) are either directly owned by the capitalists or controlled by their political representatives. Capitalist ideas - although sometimes challenged by Marxists - are reproduced in the universities and many other institutions.

It controls the judiciary and the civil service:

Leading civil servants – the Whitehall ‘mandarins' - are not elected, but career officers who earn vast salaries and have the same lifestyle as many capitalists. They often commute between industry and government.

In 1990, 373 Ministry of Defence officials and officers in the armed forces left to take jobs in industry, most of them with arms contractors. (Pallister and Norton-Taylor 1992). The tops of the civil service stay in office whoever is elected. They decide what information is presented and what options are available to politicians. They are recruited from the same public school and Oxbridge background as leading capitalist politicians, and of course the judges.

Law in Britain is not just made by Parliament; it is also made by unelected judges, who are overwhelmingly elderly males from a privileged background. This doesn't mean that groups necessarily take a uniform view.

For example, the whole justice system is held in open contempt by most people because of cases like the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, the M25 Three, Winston Silcott and Oliver Campbell. A special division of the Home Office looks at about 600 "miscarriages of justice" a year.

Some judges are concerned about the credibility of their system and are therefore prepared to admit to some mistakes and release some people. They hope that in this way the idea of "impartial justice" can be recreated, the better to use their powers against more fundamental challenges to the capitalist system.

The capitalist class controls official politics:

In fact the whole 'democratic' structure is designed to keep working people out. Politics for most people is confined to voting once every few years. Most leading politicians are professionals - lawyers, journalists, doctors, company directors etc - and many Tory politicians are themselves capitalists.

Using the 'democratic' system is much easier if you have power and money, if you have access to the press and television. This makes it much easier for the capitalists than for working-class organisations - although, as we discuss below, socialists try to take advantage of every democratic opening that capitalism allows.

Parliament has been referred to as "the best club in the world" where there is a tendency to absorb any working class leaders or reform-minded MPs through its conventions and privileges. A large number of MPs, including Labour MPs, become directors of companies especially ex-public sector companies. Even the wages and expenses of MPs allows them a lifestyle far above what most people can afford. In this way they are insulated from the effects of their policies.

That is why we adhere to the policy of a workers’ MP on a worker's wage for those who claim to represent the interests of the working class.

There can be no real democracy without economic democracy, no real democracy without ordinary people having access to decision making. The only real democracy is socialist democracy.


Repressive apparatuses of the State
EVERY FORM of class rule, every form of capitalist rule, involves various forms of coercion. Even under bourgeois democracy, where there are lots of formal democratic freedoms, the bourgeoisie utilises repression, sometimes in vast quantities. A good contemporary example is the penal system in the United States. Of nearly two million prisoners 60% are black, overwhelmingly young men: the system is, at least in part, an instrument of repression against the black community.

Here, we shall briefly look at the different repressive branches of the British state:

The legal system.

In any society there tends to be a body of rules or laws which are broadly accepted by society. These outlaw anti-social behaviour such as murder, physical attack, theft etc. It’s through such laws and their enforcement that the state acquires its reputation as a neutral regulator of society.

However, law under capitalism is class law. It exists to enforce the rights of property. This is the case both with the civil law, which concerns itself with things like enforcing debt and contract, and also with the criminal law.

Marxists, of course, are not opposed to legal sanctions against anti-social crimes - domestic burglary and crimes of violence, for example. However, the way in which even the criminal law is applied is class-biased: if you're working class, if you're black, if you are a working-class woman, then you stand a much greater chance of being convicted or going to jail. Half the prisoners in Britain are there for crimes relating to debt, or are on remand. One in four women are jailed for a first offence compared with one in 17 men.

23% of women are jailed for theft compared to 11% of men. 80% of women sent to prison are unemployed or on benefit; in effect they are penalised for "crimes of poverty". You stand a much greater chance of going to jail if you are convicted of a bank robbery of £1,000, than if you are convicted of a City swindle of £5 million!

Marx explained the so-called neutrality of the law is undermined by inequalities in income. For example, it is a crime for both rich and poor to steal food. But the poor are much more likely to be forced to steal than the rich who can afford to buy all the food they want.

In addition, there is a series of blatantly political, class laws, relating to things like public order and industrial relations - most notoriously these were the Criminal Justice Act and the various anti-trade union laws introduced by the Tories, which are to do with making it more difficult for working class people to fight the attacks of the bosses.

New Labour has since added a whole new range of repressive laws, which clamp down on civil liberties. And although New Labour has amended some of the Tory anti-union laws, it is still the case that Britain has among the harshest anti-union laws in the world.

In many ways these are designed to intimidate and prevent people taking action. Yet, as many movements show, such as that which led to the freeing of the Pentonville dockers in 1972, the law cannot restrict the scope of working-class struggle once united action and solidarity come into play.

In putting forward these laws, the ruling class, echoed by the leaders of the labour and trade union movement appeal to workers to 'abide by the law'. They rely on the general consensus that may exist for the laws dealing with crime in order to persuade workers that they must abide by political laws.

Although this can have an effect in holding back the movement for a time, it tends to break down as it comes into conflict with the need of workers to defend their working and living conditions. In this respect the Anti-Poll Tax movement was an important breakthrough. It popularised the idea that unjust laws can be successfully defied.

The introduction of such laws cannot be seen as a sign of strength but weakness. It indicates the ruling class are losing the consensus which allowed them to rule with less expense and trouble in the past. It also reveals the real character of capitalism to working-class people.

It is this tactical consideration which has led to splits amongst the ruling class themselves and amongst those responsible for administering the state machine. At the top of society this is a tactical issue. They fear a loss of authority if the state doesn't appear neutral. At lower levels of the state administration, these measures heighten the conflict between the political use of the state and the commitment, for example, of many probation officers, social workers and some prison officers, who see their job as making a practical contribution to society through the rehabilitation of offenders.

The police.

The police, together with the army, constitute the central "body of armed people" which is at the centre of the state apparatus. They are the first line of defence against anything which disturbs the public order of capitalism. In the last 20 years, as social tensions have increased, the myth of the ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ type copper, sorting out lost cats and helping the elderly across the road, has vanished.

The thinking of leading policemen today - a time of increasing political and social tension - indicates that they well understand their basic function in defending capitalism. Former Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, James Anderton once said: "I think that from the police point of view that my task in the future... that basic crime as such - theft, burglary and even violent crimes - will not be the predominant police feature. What will be the matter of greatest concern to me will be covert and ultimately overt attempts to overthrow democracy, to subvert the authority of the state, and in fact to involve themselves in acts of sedition designed to destroy our parliamentary system and the democratic government in this country."

The large-scale involvement of the police against strikers and demonstrators, rather than against traditional 'crime', shows where the real policing priorities currently lie. In fact the Dock Green myth of the friendly neighbourhood bobby could only have come out of the relative social peace of the 1950s and early 1960s.

The miners’ strike of 1984-85 was a watershed for many people. On the field around the coke depot at Orgreave (just outside Sheffield) on 18 June 1984, 4,200 police officers organised into 181 teams, with 58 dogs and 50 horses trying to intimidate and break the spirit of the miners. The fierce repression of the miners’ strike and the poll tax demonstration were not aberrations, but a more open return to the traditional ‘priorities’ of the police.

Some sections of the working class and even the middle class, especially young people, are antagonistic to the police. But working-class people are also worried about crime, which they are the main victims of. They feel the police are needed to deal with situations they cannot tackle themselves.

The police use this fear of crime to build support for themselves and demand more power and resources. We campaign for the accountability of the police. After all if their role really is to protect people from theft and physical attack, what possible objection can there be to being accountable to those they are allegedly protecting?

The Socialist Party campaigns for a democratic check on the police; for elected committees to have the right to hold them to account and to determine priorities and resources.

Not only should such committees be elected but groups that face political policing like the trade unions, black and Asian groups should have direct representation. We also campaign for a fully independent complaints committee, an independent forensic evidence system, for the weeding out of racist officers and for the reinstitution of the right to silence for those subjected to harassment and arrest.

Boston Police Commissioner, Robert Di Grazia once said: "We are not letting the public into our dirty little secret that those who commit the crime that worries the citizen most, violent street crime, are, for the most part, the products of poverty, unemployment, broken homes, rotten education, drug addiction and alcoholism, and other social ills about which the police can do little, if anything".

He denounces the politicians who "get away with law and order rhetoric that reinforces the mistaken notion that the police, in ever greater numbers and with ever more gadgetry, can alone control crime."

The army.

The regular British army was built as a colonial army with worldwide operations to ensure the power of the British state against colonial peoples. The armed forces are vital for the security of the capitalist state against other capitalist states. But the army is also the last line of defence against revolution and civil disorder. "Assisting the civil power", ie intervening in civil disturbances in Britain is a traditional part of the role of the army.

The army was used extensively during the industrial disputes in 1910-1914, and again from 1919-1926. The army was used against the miners of Tonypandy in 1912, intervened when the police went on strike in 1919 in Liverpool and were used extensively during the 1926 General Strike. The army was used to try and break the firefighters' strike in 1977 and was used once again in the firefighters’ dispute of 2002-2003.

Major disturbances, which the police were unable to handle, would again see the attempted used of the army: however, with the semi-militarisation of sections of the police (riot squads etc) this would probably require a higher threshold of disorder than before. It is well-known that the army has detailed contingency plans for domestic counter-revolutionary and "low-intensity" mainland British operations.

The political police.

Every capitalist state operates one or more secret police services, which are in large part aimed at following and disrupting what they call "subversive elements" (ie political movements like the Socialist Party, militant trade unionists and radical activists of every kind who oppose their policies and their system). Their role has been exposed in The Enemy Within, a book by journalist Seumas Milne, about their role in the miners' strike and their attempt, linked to the Cook Report programme and the Daily Mirror, to destroy the NUM leader Arthur Scargill "politically and socially". This culminated in an abortive attempt by intelligence services to deposit £500,000 in a Scargill-linked bank account in Dublin with the aim of framing him as an embezzler.

More recently the BBC programme True Spies claimed that MI5 had sent agents into organisations like Militant (the forerunner of the Socialist Party) and also recruited trade union leaders as agents in order to keep radical ideas in check. Whether or not this was the case, the state’s activities did not stop Militant leading a successful struggle to defend jobs and services in Liverpool City Council and the magnificent campaign that defeated Thatcher’s hated poll tax.


THE BRITISH state today is obviously

with extracts taken from What is the state ? an introduction to marxism from the socialist party

Thursday, 29 December 2011

What did Lenin mean when he talked of trade union contiousness and social democratic contiousness ?

As marxists we are constantly asking ourselves which state of the class struggle are we passing through. As dialectic thinkers we do not see a situation as a stationary one something has happened for us to get to where we are and something is currently happening that will impact on where we go next. We are constantly looking at the working class movements and seeing where if anywhere they are heading.

Lenin was no different in the early part of the 20th centruy when he posed in his excelent pamphlett "what is to be done ?" Lenin formulated that the spontinaity of workers when struggle arises can be bracketed into diffeernt contious and non contious thinking. Lenin explains to us that trade union contiousness is simply workers using the collective power of the trade unions to fight for better pay, conditions and a shorter working day etc. These struggles which are limited to fighting within the existing system of capitalism are key as they do raise contiousness as we well know. But lenin clearly pointed out these struggles are not social democratic as they do not look to challenge the system as yet.
In this piece below from Lenin's what is to be done he makes a excellent point taht on their own the working class cannot draw the conclusions that to fully imancipate themselves as the marxist term goes that the system of explitation and greed needs to be over thrown. Only by the intelligencia and more academic thinkers who understand marxism who can be workers too of course can influence the mass's to convince them that a change of the system is needed. As socialists we have already drawn these conclusions but convincing other workers that there is the need to change the system is our daily task. Showing the inequalities and exposing the capitalist system for what it is is a daily task of a revolutionary.

"A. The Beginning of the Spontaneous Upsurge
In the previous chapter we pointed out how universally absorbed the educated youth of Russia was in the theories of Marxism in the middle of the nineties. In the same period the strikes that followed the famous St. Petersburg industrial war of 1896 assumed a similar general character. Their spread over the whole of Russia clearly showed the depth of the newly awakening popular movement, and if we are to speak of the “spontaneous element” then, of course, it is this strike movement which, first and foremost, must be regarded as spontaneous. But there is spontaneity and spontaneity. Strikes occurred in Russia in the seventies and sixties (and even in the first half of the nineteenth century), and they were accompanied by the “spontaneous” destruction of machinery, etc. Compared with these “revolts”, the strikes of the nineties might even be described as “conscious”, to such an extent do they mark the progress which the working-class movement made in that period. This shows that the “spontaneous element”, in essence, represents nothing more nor less than. consciousness in an embryonic form. Even the primitive revolts expressed the awakening of consciousness to a certain extent. The workers were losing their age-long faith in the permanence of the system which oppressed them and began... I shall not say to understand, but to sense the necessity for collective resistance, definitely abandoning their slavish submission to the authorities. But this was, nevertheless, more in the nature of outbursts of desperation and vengeance than of struggle. The strikes of the nineties revealed far greater flashes of consciousness; definite demands were advanced, the strike was carefully timed, known cases and instances in other places were discussed, etc. The revolts were simply the resistance of the oppressed, whereas the systematic strikes represented the class struggle in embryo, but only in embryo. Taken by themselves, these strikes were simply trade union struggles, not yet Social Democratic struggles. They marked the awakening antagonisms between workers and employers; but the workers, were not, and could not be, conscious of the irreconcilable antagonism of their interests to the whole of the modern political and social system, i.e., theirs was not yet Social-Democratic consciousness. In this sense, the strikes of the nineties, despite the enormous progress they represented as compared with the “revolts”, remained a purely spontaneous movement.

We have said that there could not have been Social-Democratic consciousness among the workers. It would have to be brought to them from without. The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness, i.e., the conviction that it is necessary to combine in unions, fight the employers, and strive to compel the government to pass necessary labour legislation, etc.[2] The theory of socialism, however, grew out of the philosophic, historical, and economic theories elaborated by educated representatives of the propertied classes, by intellectuals. By their social status the founders of modern scientific socialism, Marx and Engels, themselves belonged to the bourgeois intelligentsia. In the very same way, in Russia, the theoretical doctrine of Social-Democracy arose altogether independently of the spontaneous growth of the working-class movement; it arose as a natural and inevitable outcome of the development of thought among the revolutionary socialist intelligentsia. In the period under discussion, the middle nineties, this doctrine not only represented the completely formulated programme of the Emancipation of Labour group, but had already won over to its side the majority of the revolutionary youth in Russia.

Hence, we had both the spontaneous awakening of the working masses, their awakening to conscious life and conscious struggle, and a revolutionary youth, armed with Social-Democratic theory and straining towards the workers. In this connection it is particularly important to state the oft-forgotten (and comparatively little-known) fact that, although the early Social-Democrats of that period zealously carried on economic agitation (being guided in this activity by the truly useful indications contained in the pamphlet On Agitation,"

So what i myself draw from all this is that the role of a revolutionary party involved in the day to day struggles of the workers and inside the unions fighting day to day against the boss's who look to push down their living standards to increase their own profits. We must be alongside workers to explain that that this doesnt have to be this way. There is an alternative and we can achieve this through agitation first and foremost awaking the workers to the task in hand.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

What would socialism look like and how would it work in reality ?

As socialists and revolutionaries we are often asked well what would socialism look like, how would it work and how would you avoid it going the same way as the Stalinist dictators and one party states such as China and Cuba etc. As a socialist I am faced with these sorts of questions often so I thought I’d answer a few on here.

This is a vast topic so I will revisit bits in the future no doubt.

As the current crisis of capitalism unfolds a new and potentially decisive layer of workers and youth will be looking for a socialist way forward. Naturally, this way forward raises crucial questions such as; how a socialist economy would work? How would it solve the problems of mass poverty and hunger? How could it put end to the environmental destruction of the planet?

How does Socialism create and maintain jobs and keep the economy functioning effectively and growing?
The first thing that would happen under socialism is that unemployment would be eliminated overnight. Even in 2000, during a boom period, the UK had 2 million people unemployed. The cost of this is estimated at £5,000 per family per year in terms of lost production and benefit claims. Under socialism everyone would be guaranteed a job by reducing the working week without loss of pay. The reason this doesn’t happen under capitalism (or at least neo-liberal capitalism) is because getting fewer people to do more work is a fantastic way to make profit! However, as Tony Benn said, if full employment can be used to fight Hitler why can’t it be used to feed people? Jobs would be created for the benefit of society as a whole, not for the bank balances of the rich.
As for allowing the economy to grow; even in a bureaucratically deformed workers’ state with no democracy such the USSR and other planned economies they had production levels that were for decades on a par and often better than in the West. This phenomenon would be magnified in a true socialist society with the active engagement of the population and the ‘oxygen’ of workers’ democracy.
Besides, as we’ve all seen recently, capitalism by no means guarantees economic growth indefinitely. What is happening at the present time is precisely what Karl Marx analysed years before, a classic case of over-production. Products such as cars were produced for people to buy but we could no long afford to buy back the things we had produced. And who suffers as a result of this system? Not the capitalists who caused this crisis but the ordinary workers who one day were in a job (so long as it made profit for the bosses) and the next on the scrapheap! This anarchy and unjust ‘employment strategy’ would be consigned to the dustbin of history.
How does it invest in research and development, and find new alternatives for industry, for example switching from dirty fuel such as coal to clean and renewable energy such as wind or hydroelectric power?
How does it create innovation and entrepreneurs, and inspire young people to work hard and achieve?

Under capitalism, the majority of people (i.e. the working class) are coerced to work, we literally have no choice but to otherwise we starve! We are compelled by the logic of capitalism to sell our labour and, as such, capitalism calls the shots, not the people who produce the wealth in society. Under socialism, people would of course be expected to work, but for very different reasons. Instead, workers would be encouraged to work for the benefit of society and not just reasons for of survival. Despite the arguments of conservatives, socialists believe that humanity is basically good but is shaped by the society it lives in. Therefore, I believe that people that believe in a society that works for them, and is, ultimately, run by them will make sure it works. As a socialist society is run by the working class it is in our interests to make sure it works. Every effort will be made to make people’s lives easier and it stands to reason that innovation will still be needed under socialism. A society can never be too efficient.
Again, under capitalism, innovation and entrepreneurship reflect class interests and is therefore only utilised to make profit and not for the overall good of society. The technology exists for everyone to drive around in environmentally-friendly cars but capitalism will not allow this to happen on a mass scale because it will cut into its profits. Production would be based on human need not personal greed.
On the subject of the environment: at the present time science also reflects the interests of the ruling class. What better example of capitalism caring for its own ends rather than the future of the planet and of working people than the Vestas wind turbine factory, where, rather than nationalise the company to save it from going under (although, absurdly, Vestas continues to make a profit) the factory was allowed to shut and 600 workers ended up on the dole. Research and development are based on creating the greatest profit for private owners and shareholders.
We argue for all industry, including energy, to be nationalised under workers’ control who could then draw up a plan of production to develop a sustainable and renewable economy that can save our planet from destruction. The technology exists now for our environment to be cleaned up but this does not fit in with the outlook of capitalism. Any workers that became surplus to requirements as unsustainable industries die out would have the opportunity to retrain in the new industry (something that the government should have done with miners who worked in pits whose reserves were GENUINELY exhausted).
Where does it get its money?
How does it continue to invest in services, industries, secure economic growth and job creation?
I know that you will say tax the rich, but there’s only so much milk you can get from a cow! Once you have taxed the rich into poverty, and hence created a universally poor society, where will you then get money?

There are a number of ways in which wealth will be created under socialism. Firstly, you are correct in saying we will take the wealth of the rich away from them. Taxing the rich would be one of our primary demands now but ultimately, in a socialist society, the wealth of the rich would be expropriated from them with compensation only paid on the basis of proven need. All large industry would be nationalised with the same principle of compensation applied. This would be more than a fair enough deal for the capitalists who rob the working class of the wealth we create on a daily basis!
Secondly, luxury expenditure for the rich will be ended. Capitalist experts are always keen to point out that ending the wealth of the rich will not solve the problems of society, because, however obscenely well off they are, there are not enough of them to make a big difference. Nevertheless, the rich do consume 5% of national income which amounts to £40 billion a year in Britain. This is a sum that could begin the process of transforming the NHS.
Thirdly, arms spending would be abandoned. On a world scale the waste of resources on arms is vast, reaching nearly $1 trillion each year at the end of the cold war – approximately $1,000 a year for every family on the planet. For socialism to work it would have to be an international system and, therefore, in time, the need for arms expenditure would become obsolete. Workers in the arms industry would be re-employed in other, socially useful, industries.
Finally, the obscene waste that occurs under capitalism (in resources and employment) will be abolished and a democratically planned economy will take its place. The world is currently dominated by a handful of multinational corporations who duplicate expenditure in research and development, spend unnecessary vast sums on advertising and design products with planned obsolescence. For example, rival drug companies spend billions on developing varieties of pain killers with marginally different effectiveness. There is also the disgraceful wastage of food that occurs due to overproduction or, even more shamefully, to manipulate prices on the world market.
Given these factors and the huge improvement in resources available and with the profit motive eventually abolished, a socialist government would invest in socially useful production. Commodities would exist for people to buy (planned and monitored democratically by consumer unions) and any money gained would be re-invested into society. Workers would be paid more than well enough to afford any commodity and would stimulate the economy accordingly. The notion of overproduction would become an absurdity. Trade relations between countries would be based on mutual co-operation (for example, in the USSR different countries specialised on the production of certain things but were traded equally).
The crucial difference is that firms will be operating to new rules. Wage rates, working conditions and prices will no longer be set by multi-national firms but by democratic government. Where the economy is unable to produce sufficient commodities to meet demand then a price mechanism and market could continue to operate. But with the profit motive removed many goods including basic foods, housing, fuel etc could be provided for free.
Lenin (in State and Revolution) and Trotsky (in The Revolution Betrayed) both argued that a state will be necessary during the transition from capitalism to communism. But as the planned economy develops it will be able to meet more and more of people’s wants until there is no need to ration and limit distribution and the state can wither away. They were writing in the early 20th century and today the distribution of such goods could be achieved far more efficiently than they can be retailed in shops, especially given recent developments in IT. What could be simpler than ordering free, publicly provided goods on the internet? Demand and future production needs could be monitored continuously and fed into the planning process.
Huge wealth is created under capitalism but is in the hands of a tiny minority, why on earth would we be in a state of poverty when this ratio is reversed and all the waste that accompanies capitalist society no longer exists? We are living under a system that impoverishes well over half the planet and the opponents of our ideas have the audacity to claim socialism would dump everyone into a perpetual state of poverty without any substantial arguments whatsoever! Far from being a society languishing in poverty, a socialist society would be a society of ‘superabundance’ . Capitalism is based on the fairy tale of the perfect market whereas a socialist planned economy deals with the realities of society and offers a way of providing for it.
This only touch’s the surface of the possibilities available to mankind if production was run by and in the interests of the majority rather than the minority. Of course, none of this would be possible without genuine democracy – where working people are involved at every stage of production and elected representatives receive no more than the workers they represent and are subject to recall at any stage.

with credits and thanks to portsmouth socialist party for extracts and input to this post.

Friday, 23 December 2011

2011, A year in revolt

So as we draw to the end of 2011 a year in which many firsts happened be that the fantastic uprisings in the arab world to the amazing co-ordinated public sector industrial action or the fantastic occupy movement which has touched every continent on the planet this year.

At the start of 2011 we thought to ourselves that capitalism was entering a new period of decline on top of the already depression like downturn since 1974 where the ordinary workers have seen their wages fall and living standards stagnate at best and fall at worst.

But for myself 2011 has been a turning point in my political life. I came into the year not knowing waht to expect but leave the year fully realising how big this situation is and our task is greater than ever. I joined the socialist party of England and Wales part of the CWI- committee for workers international in Febuary properly and have not looked back since.

As some of you may know i was in the Labour party briefly and left as soon as i realised what they were all about, or not about as the case is. I have been criticised for leaving labour and aiming fire at them but in my view i feel vindicated in my decision to leave. As i have previously posted on this blog labour do not oppose all the cuts and think the cuts go "too far and too fast" not to mention the cuts are happening at all that is by the by to them and a issue they have accepted the need for "somecuts". Which i flatly refute and that was the crux of why i left labour. I wanted to change them but saw no democratic structure and any organised socialist body within labour to increase pressure on the leadership. For a completely undemocratic structure you will not get far however optimistic you are. So i chose to leave.

I do not regret my decision at all and have been involved in some excellent campaigns with the socialsit party against cuts, privatisation, job cuts, wage cuts, youth unemployment and so so much more.

The socialist party is a fighting revolutionary organisation with a aim and a set of real solid values in marxism which i have come to embrace as a guidline to my political development.

As the socialist party looks to the thoughts and ideas of Karl Marx and Leon Trotsky but not religiously of course we look to apply these graet revolutionary thinkers to todays struggles they have shown me from reading their material that you have to live the struggle to be able to understand other peoples struggles and how to put forward socialist ideas that can and will appeal to the mass's.

But as for 2011, its been a big year and many will have been drawn into the struggle. Maybe not all that many are joining revolutinary organisations such as the socialist party as yet but this is due to the lack of class contiousness and peoples inability to formulate a alternative or to link the failiures of capitalism to a need for an alternative and then what that alternative is. In time i firmly believe that organisations like ourselves will be a beacon for working class people to come to to find out our ideas and what would we do. We would welcome this and engage in a discussion and a debate on the way forward.

As marxists we always take a class perspective on every situation and in 2011 we have needed this more than ever. In 2012 we will need this tool even more i feel with the class struggle intensifying even more and people becoming more and more poloarised in their views and political opinions.

I have been on some big demonstrations myself this year from the amazing turnout of up to three quarters ofa millin trade unionists on the streets of London on March 26th which i extensively blogged about on this blog here. To the amazing co-ordinated strikes by three quarters of a million public sector workers on June the 30th which i feel was the start of the workers fight back for real but many will identify November the 30th of this where a fantastic turnout of up to 2 million public sector workers walked out in defence of their pensions and for future generations pensions. I was in Hertford on the day and what is normally a quiet conservative backwater of a town was full of trade unionists determined not to let this con-dem government railroad over their pensions and what is in affect differed wages.

Since then we have seen certain union leaders looking to sell out workers but this will i am sure be met with resistance and i am hopeful in the new year of further escalated action in terms of strikes and demonstrations. This is a battle we can and must win for the good of all workers and i believe we can win.

But 2011 will be remembered for other huge uprisings in the arab world where Egypt and Tunisia were the two nations to first fight back after decades of brutal dictatorship. The rest of the world looked on in amazement as dictator after dictator was crumbled to the ground by ordinary peoples pressure and demonstration. Since then the amazing over throwing of dictators has slowed and had the sting taken out of it for various reasons non least the western imperialist intervention in Libya and the brutal crack down on Syrian anti government demonstrators too. But no doubt there has been a shift in opinion and a complete condemnation of the Iraq war that these dictators can be removed without a huge los of civilian life like was the case with the American and British invasion of Iraq and Afgahanistan .

Lets also not forget the wonderful idea of teh occupation movement in which hundreds if not thousands of towns and cities

This in responce of course to the global economic crisis and the thought of the ruling class putting all of the burden on to ordinary working people and the poor to pay for a crisis they did not create.

This has been the case all across the world largely where capitalist leaders have locked their nations in to a deep program of austerity including cuts to public services that the working class's will use the most, tax hikes, further privatisation and a increase in their vicious neo-liberal policies.

I have made the point before on here that people say to me ooh the nasty tories are back and such things as oh they dont know what they are doing they are incompetent . But believe me this may be the case up to a point but this is about far more than that. You only have to look across Europe to tell this as Spain, Italy and Greece with imposed technocratic leaders now all in place to push through austerity.

But is this working or having any effect ? yes it is having an afeffect on the poorest and the most in need but it is certainly not working. Ireland and Greece where deep austerity measures were meant to be the benchmark for others to follow have resulted in huge unemployment and huge suffering on behalf of those who as i say didnt cause this crisis.

Those who caused the crisis , those who run capitalism. Not the governments so much although they did play their part in bailing out the rotten bankers who had gambled away billins if not trillions speculating using our money and failed spectacularly causing the governments of the Uk and othrs to step in and save the banks but this was the crucial point in which private debt from the banks then became what is known now as "sovereign
and now the governments of all fashions be them social democratic or right wing are being forced to put through these cuts on behalf of the markets who are the true rulers of society as we do ultimatly live in a capitalist society. It is the market who call the shots unfortunatly and governments simply react to them to keep them happy.

But although governments are pushing through cuts like there is no tommorrow the markets are still sulking and would appear little will do to help them recover right now. But governments will not let up on their drive for cuts in living standards of the ordinary working class.

So as we go into 2012 i feel it is more nessesary than ever before for us to create new mass workers parties to get into some position of influeincing things to popularise the ideas that aausterity is not needed and that it is actually making things worse if not better.

We need to be saying we need jobs not cuts. Investment in industry and affordable homes not higher rents and cuts in housing benifits to the poor. At the end of the day it is the working class who create the wealth not the rich they only ruthelessly cream off the wealth from what we produce. So they want to keep us working and competing against each other for jobs and wages to craete further division as waht the ruling class fears most is workers organising and fighting back.

The odd organisation they dont mind but when workers organise in a huge mass way there is very little stopping them carrying out and forcing throuhg what they want. We need to get back to a position of power like that where what the working class says gets done where we have the power to bring the capitalists to their knees and grovelling before we start demanding a better standard of life for the many not just the few.

I see 2012 being a big year as the class struggle intensifys but we must be ready and ready to put our best foot forward. Trade union leaders at the top of our movement will not be allowed to flinch if they do they will be gone. We need real leadership and if it is not forthcoming we will organise ourselves as rank-and-file.

So you thought 2011 was big i really do feel 2012 will be even bigger!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

North Korea, a gross distortion of what socialism is

The death of the long time Stalinist dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-Ilwww.
, brings no relief to the workers of the country. They suffered many years under Japanese occupation (1905-1945), then during the Korean war (1953-1955) and many, many years of the most ruthless Stalinist rule. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the economy of North Korea suffered setbacks and it is estimated that more than two million people lost their lives during famines at the end of the 1990s. North Korea is now one of the poorer countries in the world, but until well into the 1970s, the income per head of the population was higher than in South Korea.

Stalinist rule in North Korea adheres to the “Juche“ ideology, of ‘self-sufficiency’. The North is unsuitable for food production, because it is mountainous and cold. It has many minerals in its soil, even quite rare ones. The Chinese government prefers the present regime because it gives them relatively easy access to these minerals, and North Korea provides it with a buffer. If North Korea ceased to exist, China would border a country that houses a large contingent of American military forces.

For Japan and South Korea, the presence of the Stalinist regime is discomforting, but it provides a useful excuse for obscene military expenditure. One of North Korea’s military trump cards is that it possesses a nuclear bomb. This seems to be a fairly primitive thing, like the American nuclear bombs in their early stages of development. It is probably too big to fit on a missile, but the North Koreans conducted two test blasts after the US invasion of Iraq, to show the world that they too had the bomb. North Korea’s large land force is meant to defend the country and to repress the population; there is no credible air force or navy.

Most of the expenditure of North Korea is on its military apparatus. This will not change. The new leader, Kim Yong Un, is young and there is no doubt that the military council will firmly hold on to the reins of power. If they do not fall prey to dissension, they could hold on to power for quite a while - the regime has shown itself to be quite tenacious. The regime has effectively isolated the country and ruthlessly repressed any independent working class activity.

Life in North Korea is a nightmare for workers: a harsh struggle for survival in a country with has almost no heating and extremely low temperatures in winter, little and/or very primitive food, and almost no lighting (often one bulb for an apartment). Life is difficult for workers even if you do not take into account the horrendous repression, the concentration camps, the controls over the family and the workplaces, the total lack of information (mobile phones and internet are prohibited) and the ubiquitous secret police.

The death of this tyrant has again provided the representatives of capitalism with an excuse to besmirch the ideas of socialism, despite the brutal reality that this regime, among the most horrific and oppressive band of despots ever to have falsely bore the name. The CWI stands for a struggle to overthrow the brutal corrupt Stalinist dynasty, an integral part of the international struggle to end the poverty, repression, dictatorship and conflict which dominates the region. Asia, through mass struggle. Such a struggle to establish a workers’ democracy and genuine socialism in Korea, based on the democratic control of government, and planning of the economy, may seem far away at this point in time, but like the North Korean football team, the Korean workers always manage to surprise.

with extracts by Gerbrand Wisser, Ofensief (CWI in Netherlands)

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The dangers of trade union beurocracy and selling out members

Initial agreements on public service pensions have been signed by all the unions representing local government workers, most health staff and some teaching and civil service unions.

The agreements were reached on a day of key talks for public sector staff.

Unison is poised to put the government's "final offer" to members of its executive in the new year.

But the PCS union has rejected the latest offer from the government for civil service pensions.

Two major teaching unions - the NUT and NASUWT - have yet to sign up but sources say they are not rejecting the government's proposed deal unlike the PCS.

Commenting on the latest round of Teachers' Pension Scheme talks, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers' union said: "The NUT was not able to sign up to the Government's headline proposals. There was insufficient progress in terms of the Government's position that teachers should work longer, pay more and get less."

The NUT's National Executive will meet in January to take a view on progress in the negotiations and its next steps.
This all comes at a time just before christmas. Many public sector workers will feel very let down by their trade union leaders. But this is sadly not unexpected. Not to lay the blame at anyones door in particular but certain right wing trade union leaders always had the intention all along of selling out their members. Getting the "best deal" and "damage limitation" was the name of the game all along for leaders such as Dave Prentice and Brendan barbour of Unison and the TUC respectively. Just to add these leaders will retire on a very nice comfortable pension themselves.

But this is systemic we have to understand. So often in the past and is their role really as trade union leaders not to lead a fightback although at times they are forced into this from pressure from below but there have been times in the past where trade union leaders have lent on the government of the day and used the laws to get out of strike action anyway they can.
Trade union leaders just like their paymasters are reformist by nature and this is something new workers to the struggle will have to begin to understand. They have no idea of seeing past their noses and see nothing outside the capitalist system the status quo if you like. They are mostly non radical and enjoy very comfortable lifestyles and pay packets. They are reformist by nature and should be no suprise to us that they sell out all the time.
The decision should be given to the rank-and-file to decide but no doubt this will not happen.
We in the socialist party do not hold any false illusions in trade union beurocracy despite what some anarchists might say. We are fully aware that trade union leaders are not on the side of the workers. Our policy would be to transform the trade unions from bottom upwards. starting with all elected officials to only recieve the average wage of a skilled worker. To ensure trade union leaders feel the day to day struggle of ordinary workers.
Strikes are a last resort for many workers but this dispute over pensions could have been won and pushed this weak government back

Not that striking is the be all and end all of union activeity but a fighting union attracts workers and always has done.

Take the PCS who has a fighting left leaddership have completely rejected the governments proposals as unlike Brendan Barbour who is lieing out his back teeth there has been no progress made on negotiations at all and Mark Serwotka is right to point this out. A fighting union will always attract workers and the PCS will gain support out of this for standing firm to the government who wish public sector workers to carry on working longer, paying in more and getting less. It is a mantra that Mark Serwotka has said time and time and he's r ight to say so.

Nothing has changed despite what Brendan barbour tells us.

Workers today are fighting the class struggle with almost two hands tied behind their back as Jim Horton said last night at a meeting on the history of the trade unions never have the working class been more weaker than today. No political representation and a very weak union movement which is only just starting to rebuild itself after years of a lull.

N30 was massive and a change in contiousness happened on that day no doubt. We do need more strikes to bring this government to its knees but it doesnt look like on pensions this will happen. At this time it looks like a ebb in the class struggle. Things were going well up to now we were knocking on open doors calling for a general strike in the public sector but we've hit a bump now and the working class must respond and respond i am sure they will next year.

The idea of unofficial action by workers will be mentioned more and more with sparks taking lots of unofficial action every wednesday in this last part of the year can open up a wave of militant unofficial action if trade union leaders are not prepared to act.
With the sparks unite was so weak it called off its ballot for strike action just at Balfour beatties threat to go to court for a iinjunction. They didnt in the end but just the threat of this forced unite to call off their ballot. They are now reballoting but a blow has been taken .

The coming times will be very interesting we are entering a time of heightened class struggle and the working class will need to find its voice in anyway it can. The fight of our lives is on and its not a fight we can loose. What happens in the next few years will affect us for a long time to come. We either organise now or roll over. The trade union leaders have chosen their path we must choose ours.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Assessing the contiousness after N30 and what next ?

As the dust is still settling after the fantastic national strike of public sector workers supported by thousands of private sector workers too on November the 30th. Many trade unionists and socialists are weighing up the impact this strike has had and where do we go from here.

30 November was the day when around two million public sector workers, members of 30 trade unions, took part in the biggest strike for over three decades. The majority had never taken strike action before, many had never expected to. But they see no other way of both defending pension rights and signalling to the government that they will not accept its plans to destroy public services.

There were massive demonstrations in cities, towns and even villages, with estimates of over 1,000 taking place. In most cases they were the biggest rallies to have taken place for many decades, if not ever. In Bristol over 20,000 marched, in Manchester more than 30,000. In smaller towns there were large demonstrations - 2,000 in Bournemouth, 4,000 in Truro, 1,200 in Birkenhead, 1,000 in Hastings, 1,200 in Warrington, the list goes on.

Whatever brave face the Con-Dems show in public, behind the scenes they were shaken by the massive display of 'people's power'.

In one day, 30 November (N30), trade unionists gave a powerful demonstration that - contrary to the government's propaganda - public sector workers are crucial to keeping the country running. N30 showed that if these workers withdraw their labour, they are capable of bringing the country to a halt.

The private sector as well as the public sector was affected in many ways - including the closing of the Metro and the Tyne Tunnel in the North East, the money lost by the airlines and, above all, by the millions of private sector workers who had to take the day off in order to care for their children.

That is not to say that N30 was 100% solid in every workplace. At national and local level some of the unions participating have not organised a serious struggle for decades. Union officials have in many cases become used to administering defeat rather than fighting to win. Inevitably, as a result, there were many workplaces with no real union organisation.

However, across the country there were reports of workers walking out and organising picket lines in such workplaces. This is a beginning of rebuilding the trade union movement in Britain. Unison membership applications have increased by 126% since the ballot result. The same will undoubtedly be true of the other unions that joined the strike.

Unfortunately, the right-wing trade union leaders are terrified of calling further national action. Unison's leadership have mooted 'smart action' - that is sectional action - as the next step. This would be a serious mistake. Sectional or regional action as a supplement to further national coordination action could be useful, but as a substitute it will demobilise and potentially divide the movement.

The struggle of local authority workers in Southampton is held up as an example of 'smart' action. In reality, while Southampton shows the determination of local authority workers to fight, it is a demonstration of the limitations of 'smart' action, not of its success.

On N30 millions of workers felt their collective power. At the same time the majority understood that the government would not retreat without further action. The right-wing trade union leaders only took part in N30 as a result of pressure from their members, who were frustrated that they had not been called out for the strike on 30 June. Now that so many trade unionists have had their confidence increased by taking strike action, it will be very difficult for the right-wing union leaders to avoid calling further coordinated action.

It is clear that N30 had a big impact but drawing concrete conclusions of how far and wide this impact was felt is difficult to tell.
I have heard many misguided thoughts and reports on the strike from some thinking that this strike would have been enough to bring down this government and stop the attacks in one go to other nieve feelings that one day will be enough. It wont unfortunatly and more pressure needs to be pushed for for further strikes. The NSSN makes clear there should be escalated action of at least 24 hours across the country.
The truth is this government wants us to endure a lifetime of low pay followed by an impoverished old age. They have sought to divide public sector workers from private sector workers. However, the real division in society is between the haves and the have-nots.

Our slogan is "fair pensions for all". When rich Tory ministers talk about "fairness" between private and public sector pensions what they mean is a race to the bottom - they want to impose on us the worst pension provision they can get away with.

That is why we must stand together to defeat this attack. But they couldn't get away with this if the Labour Party were not committed to protecting corporate interests above those of the vast majority in this country.
If the main political parties in this country are incapable of representing the interests of the vast majority, then it is time we do so ourselves.

We will use all campaigning methods to defeat these attacks. We will oppose them in the courts, in our workplaces, in our communities too. I urge everyone not only to support your trade union but also the anti-cuts alliance in your own town or city. If there isn't one - then set one up.

We give our solidarity and full support to the pensioners' alliances, the students and the school students and the Occupy movement.

After 30 November's brilliant show of strength and solidarity we must prepare for further action if the government does not concede. Which looks unlikely now with further threats being made that will force this on us all.
With a potential sell out coming from the tops of the trade union movement of which i have blogged about the dangers of this from more right wing trade union leaders is a real possibility this coming week. We must ramp up the pressure on these leaders to continue the fight till the end.

Tommorrow monday the 19th of december there willl be a conference of the Public Sector Liaison Group (PSLG), the body that brings together TUC affiliated public sector unions, will be convened on Monday 19th December at 3PM.

At this meeting TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber will attempt to sell Francis Maude's latest pensions offer as the basis for a settlement of the dispute to trade union leaders.

In a bid to head off this damaging out come the NSSN and other left trade union activists are calling for a lobby of the PSLG before it meets. Trade unionists will have the opportunity to voice their opposition to Maude's proposals and demand further action in the New Year.

If you are unable to make this lobby of the TUC which we can understand this time of year and such short notice we would urge you to sign this petition online demanding further action on pensions from the trade union leaders.

The NSSN will be demanding:

Reject Maude's latest pensions proposals which will mean all public sector workers having to work longer, pay more, and get less.

No to secret deals by union leaders over the heads of the membership. We demand democratic control of the negotiations.

We demand that the date is set for the next co-ordinated public sector strike early in the New Year. UNISON Scotland has already proposed 25 January as the date of the next strike.

The lobby will begin at 2:00 PM at Congress House, 23-28 Great Russell Street. WC1B 3LS

The NSSN urges all of it's supporters and readers to come down to the lobby and build the pressure for further action in defence of pensions.

Friday, 16 December 2011

No to any sell outs on pension reforms, demand TUC set next date for action

As i posted on the eve on November the 30th on this very same blog that the TUC must name the next date for escalated action of at least 24 hour strike action on a national scale. So far we have not heard anything on this front sadly. Untill yesterday where the TUC met to discuss the next way forward or not it seems.

On 15 December the TUC’s Public Sector Liaison Group (PSLG) met for the first time since the magnificent 30 November public sector strike.

Disgracefully, Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, argued that all of the trade unions should sign up to the government’s latest ‘heads of agreement’ on pensions, which would then allow Francis Maude to announce before Christmas that the dispute has been settled. This was met with outrage by many of the public sector trade unions present.

Not one of the central demands of public sector workers has been met. All public sector workers are still being told to work longer, pay more and get less.

The teaching unions NUT and NASUWT reported that they had been offered no serious concessions by the government, as did the civil servants’ union PCS, the Fire Brigades Union and representatives of workers in the NHS.

In local government the only concession is to delay the attacks on pensions until 2014, provided that local government unions promise to accept the pain without a fight when it comes.

Yet Dave Prentis – general secretary for Unison – the biggest union in health and local government – argued for accepting this rotten deal. Hundreds of thousands of Unison members who struck on 30 November will not agree.

30 November showed the potential power of the working class in Britain. We can force this weak, divided government to retreat, but only if the action is stepped up.

The leadership of the TUC and Unison were only forced to support N30 because of the pressure of rank and file trade unionists – now we need to do the same again.

At the PSLG, PCS demanded that the meeting name the day for the next day of national coordinated strike action.

In Scotland, Unison delegates have already unanimously proposed 25 January as the day of the next strike.

National Shop Stewards Network supporters need to pile on the pressure for the date of the next strike to be set before Christmas, and to take place in January.

We immediately need to:
■Flood the TUC and Unison leaderships with letters, resolutions and petitions of protest demanding that they do not sell out the pensions struggle and immediately set the date for a strike in January in coordination with the other public sector unions.
■Members of all other public sector unions to send letters, resolutions and petitions to their National Executives demanding that they set the date for a strike in January in coordination with the other unions.
■Organise a mass lobby of the next meeting of the TUC, which is taking place in early January.

The need and the role of an international

We as socialists do not take a middle class petti-bourgeois attitude to class struggles we take a internationalist outlook of events. As we know full well that capitalism a global system based on exploitation and greed is a global system that any challenge to this system needs to be met with a international global response.

Many of the great revolutionaries realised this with Karl Marx and Frederic Engels forming the 1st International in the 19th century. In the time since then there has been several attempts to bring together a new international with a common theme and all speaking the language of revolutionary socialism .

Today the socialist party of England and Wales formally Militant is part of the CWI the Committee for workers international one of the few if not the only ral organised internationals still going today with any serious marxist and class analysis.
The CWI was founded at a meeting of 46 comrades from 12 countries in April 1974. This was not the beginning of international work by supporters of the British Militant (now Socialist Party), who were the main initiators for the founding of the CWI. Many efforts were undertaken in the previous ten years to extend the influence of the ideas of the British Militant internationally. Even without a single international contact, Militant always proceeded from an international standpoint. An international is, first of all, ideas, a programme and a perspective. The general ideas are the linchpin of any organisation. From this alone flows the type of organisation that is required. Therefore, the history of the CWI, as with the British Militant, is a history of the ideas of this body, in contrast to the ideas advanced by other rival Marxist organisations.

The need for an international organisation flows from the very development of capitalism itself. The great historical merit of capitalism is that it developed the productive forces, of which the working class is the most important, and bound individual nations together through the world market. Internationalism, as Marx pointed out, flowed from the very situation created by capitalism, i.e. the creation of the world market and the world working class. This idea is even more important today in the period of globalisation. The linking together of companies, continents and different national economies on a world scale has been taken to an extent never even imagined by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky.

First International
The first attempt to set up an international was, of course, undertaken by Marx and Engels with the founding of the First International. Marx attempted to bring together in one international organisation the most advanced sections of the working class: French radicals, British trade unionists, and even the Russian anarchists. Great work was undertaken by the First International, culminating in the heroic Paris Commune. Engels pointed out that the International was "intellectually" responsible for the Commune although it had not "lifted a finger" to create it.

This first great attempt of the working class to establish their own state made the bourgeois tremble. They drowned the Commune in blood and conducted a witch-hunt against those who they held responsible, above all the leaders and adherents to the First International. But the defeat of the Paris Commune also coincided with an upturn in capitalism and a serious crisis within the First International especially because of the role of the anarchists, led by Bakunin. Marx and Engels led a successful struggle against the ideas of anarchism but, alongside the disruptive activities of the anarchists, the upswing of world capitalism created reformist illusions in those like the British trade union leaders, which led to splits and divisions within the First International. Marx and Engels then drew the conclusion that the First International had done its job, had established the idea of internationalism and of an International in the consciousness of the working class. But they also concluded that, having exhausted this historical mission, it should be wound up after moving its offices to New York.

Second and Third Internationals
The period which followed saw the creation of mass parties of the working class. These parties were mostly influenced by the ideas of Marx and Engels. This process culminated in the foundation of the Second International in 1889. This organisation developed in a generally progressive phase of capitalism. Tens of thousands of working-class people were mobilised by these parties, attracted to the ideas of socialism and given a basic class education. But because of the objective conditions - the steady progress of capitalism in developing the productive forces - this led the leaders of the parties who adhered to the Second International to collaborate with the capitalists, seeking compromises, which became a way of life. In effect, a stratum rose above the working class, with catastrophic consequences, once capitalism’s progressive phase had exhausted itself. This was clearly shown in the onset of the first world war. The overwhelming majority of the leaders of the parties of the Second International supported their own bourgeois in the bloody slaughter of the war.

The adherents to genuine internationalism were reduced to a handful. Some who may feel that the genuine internationalists today have been enormously weakened by the collapse of Stalinism and the ideological offensive of the bourgeoisie, should ponder the situation of Lenin, Trotsky, Connolly, MacLean, Liebknecht, Luxemburg and other genuine Marxists, in the first world war. At the Zimmerwald conference, which gathered together those who were opposed to the first world war, the old joke went that the delegates could have fitted into two stagecoaches! Yet two years later the Russian revolution exploded, and within nine months of this, the Bolsheviks were in power and the first genuine workers’ state had been established. This set in train the ten days that shook the world.

Out of the Russian revolution came the creation, in 1919, of the Third International. If anyone has any doubts of the effects of the Russian revolution, read John Dos Pasos’s USA. He gives many headlines from the US press about the Russian revolution. Not just the yellow press, whose editors dipped their pens in mad-dog saliva, but also the so-called "responsible and informed" journals of capitalism, like the New York Times, which carried headlines such as, "Lenin Assassinates Trotsky", or "Trotsky Kills Lenin". Even more lurid was the edition which claimed, "Trotsky Kills Lenin in Drunken Brawl". The Hungarian workers attempted to follow their Russian brothers and sisters, as did the German and Italian workers. In fact, the whole of the European working class was striving in this direction. It is not possible to go into detail on the causes of the Third International’s degeneration. Trotsky traces this out in detail. The main causes were the isolation of the Russian revolution and the development of a privileged strata which usurped political power. The defeat of the German revolution and the later betrayal of the German working class with the coming to power of Hitler consolidated the political counter-revolution carried out by the Stalinist elite.

The question is how to build such a mass International. We have a vital role to play in this process. We have in the past, as I described, sent comrades to different countries and continents throughout the world to establish the first forces of genuine Marxists. If necessary we will continue to do this. But a new mass International will not develop in a linear fashion. The process will involve fusions, splits and the reassembling of genuine revolutionary forces on an international and national plane.

We have been very successful in this regard. From the beginning we managed to absorb into our ranks organisations that did not agree with everything that the CWI stood for. In Cyprus, for instance, the group mentioned earlier that eventually joined us, after quite lengthy discussions, was somewhat heterogeneous. Many of those who remained with the CWI and who played a key role in building a very important section in Cyprus were, from the outset, committed to the general perspectives and programme of the CWI. But there were others who could be described as occupying a left centrist position, vacillating between the ideas of the CWI and centrist ideas. Some of them dropped by the wayside as the group became more serious, while others evolved into genuine revolutionaries

The development of the British section has always run alongside the growth of the CWI. But it would be a mistake to see the CWI as a mere adjunct of the work that we did in Britain. The CWI has a separate identity. It was impossible to replicate exactly the experience of the British Marxists in every country even in Western Europe. Painstaking discussions ensued with comrades in different countries in elaborating different and varying strategies and tactics to enhance the profile, numbers and effectiveness of the supporters and members of the CWI. As explained above, even when we were restricted to the small island of Britain, we always had an international outlook. We never took a purely British position but always proceeded from an international analysis, only then examining how the situation in Britain fitted in with this. We were always on the lookout for international contacts. Many of the international contacts that we made appeared to be purely "accidental". But these "accidents" were related to the changes in the objective situation which was affecting the working class and their organisations.

It is key in the upcoming period that we continue to take a international outlook on struggles of workers and look to interveen where we can. Workers across the world will be looking for ideas out of this crisis and we will look to be there ready and looking for them.

(pieces taken from the history of the CWI by Peter Taaffee on www.socialist world website

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

A system in crisis

Capitalist chaos – class struggle sharpens

CWI - a socialist analysis

Below, we publish a document on world and European perspectives which will be proposed by the CWI’s International Secretariat to a meeting of the International Executive Committee of the CWI in January. Following discussion and amendments at the meeting, the final version of the document will be published on at the end of January

A world in turmoil
1. Since the last World Congress, just over a year ago, the world has been in almost continuous turmoil. We have witnessed the Middle Eastern and North African revolutions, which still endure, as the bloody conflicts in Cairo and elsewhere in late November indicate. This in turn has been followed by the elections in Egypt. In the first stages of the Egyptian parliamentary elections the Islamic parties appear to have won two thirds of the vote. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party got 36.6%, according to preliminary results. However, the ultra-conservative fundamentalist al-Nour party, with its doctrine of Salafism gained nearly one quarter of the vote in areas which encompass nine of Egypt’s 27 provinces, including the main urban centres of Cairo and Alexandria. On the other hand, parties supporting the regime of Mubarak received only 3% of the vote! By the time of the IEC, the elections will have been completed and we will have a better picture of what this signifies.

2. The CWI predicted in broad outline, particularly for Egypt, in the documents adopted at our congress, the revolutionary upheavals which have unfolded in the region (we will comment further on the developments below). This has to be taken together with the revolutionary convulsions in Greece as well as the mass strikes and protests in Spain and Portugal. New social explosions impend in Italy, Ireland, Britain and elsewhere. Even the seemingly ‘strongest’ or up to now the ‘least affected’ European countries will not be immune from the radical if not revolutionary virus emanating from the so-called ‘periphery’ of southern Europe. The US has also seen the sizeable ‘Occupy’ movement which has affected and drawn in sections of the trade unions.

3. The continuation of the deep crisis of world and European capitalism has provided the impulse for these events. This crisis has been enormously compounded by the ‘sovereign debt’ turmoil. This in turn opens up the likelihood in Europe of national defaults and the collapse of the euro with all the grave consequences for European and world capitalism flowing from this. The crisis has already led directly to the demise or overthrow of a number of governments and prime ministers: in the last year alone, the execrable Berlusconi in Italy, Papandreou in Greece, Zapatero in Spain, Socrates in Portugal and Cowen in southern Ireland have all been swept from power.

4. This was preceded by the overthrow of Ben Ali in Tunisia, Mubarak in Egypt, Gaddafi in Libya, and followed by Saleh in Yemen. Nor have the mass movements and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa finished their work; other governments in the region are likely to be toppled in the next period. Europe can also expect further convulsions which will lead to the early demise of current governments and the possible eviction from office through elections of Sarkozy in France, which could be paralleled with the breakup of the ConDem coalition in Britain and early elections, leading to its defeat. It is not just the desperate economic situation afflicting the whole of Europe that could shipwreck the Cameron government. The EU crisis could trigger referenda in a number of European countries. Although Britain has opted out of the new ‘treaty’, it is not excluded that the Tory party could split on this issue.

5. Ireland also could face a very important referendum on this issue. An opinion poll in October showed that 47% of the Irish electorate would vote against the proposal to amend the Lisbon Treaty with just 28% saying they would vote for it. In Britain, there would also likely be a ‘No’ vote in the event of a referendum and this could be repeated in some other countries within the EU, if the different governments actually allow a vote on proposed treaty amendments. In such a situation, we would be compelled to support the ‘No’ campaign, as we did in Ireland, particularly as the Lisbon Treaty and the EU in general are perceived much more so than in the past as austerity mechanisms to savagely attack the living standards of the working class. This question has already been posed in the British labour movement. The RMT rail union wishes us to be heavily involved in a ‘No’ campaign. The England and Wales organisation of the CWI considers that it will be necessary to be involved. However, we must seek to give it a clear anti-nationalist profile, standing for socialist measures whether inside or outside the EU. We will probably have to produce special material on this issue.

The ‘Occupy’ movements
6. At the same time, the ideological cement underpinning capitalism has been severely undermined. Not only does capitalism confront its biggest economic crisis ‘ever’ (according to Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England), in its wake it has also faced a profound crisis of legitimacy. This is reflected in the mass strikes of the working class but also in the worldwide ‘Occupy’ movement which spread to about 1,000 cities and all continents.

7. Despite its weaknesses – it is not firmly based either ideologically or with deep roots and a presence in the organisations of the working class – it has nevertheless evoked widespread public sympathy including from the working class and the labour movement. This movement, unlike the antiglobalisation movement at the turn of the century, takes place against the background of a deep recession. Most active support, however, in most countries emanates from the increasingly alienated young people, many if not the majority from the middle strata of society. However, the highlighting of searing inequality against the background of mass impoverishment synonymous with ‘modern’ capitalism has evoked a powerful echo among broad sections of the population in Europe and the US. An additional factor is that in this crisis it is not just the working class but also big sections of the middle class that have been affected – some of them quite severely. In the US, for instance, average wages of manual workers– still referred to as ‘middle class’ by the capitalist media as a means of blunting growing class consciousness – are at the level of the 1950s in real terms; the religion of everlasting capitalist progress has been shattered. The unrestrained piling up of wealth by the ‘1%’ – perhaps the greatest concentration and centralisation of capital in history, foreseen by Marx – has fuelled the protests. There have been many symbols of this in the past period but perhaps the most striking example is that of Bloomberg, the present mayor of New York, the 30th richest individual in the world – literally one in 230 million – who through his police sought to repress the ‘Occupy’ movement in ‘his’ city. The images of this were beamed around the world as was the indiscriminate use of pepper sprays against crowds in Seattle, one of those affected being an 80-year-old protester.

8. This comes after the earlier attacks on students in Britain, followed by punitive punishment, including draconian prison sentences, for the young people caught up in the protests at the end of 2010 because of the destruction of their future, which the massively increased university tuition fees and the withdrawal of grants for the 16 to 18-year-old mean. This, however, did not prevent the riots in London in late summer 2011. This bore out completely our contention that unless the labour movement provided an organised resistance to the savage cuts in public spending of the Tory-Liberal Democrat government on welfare, planned poverty, then an inchoate movement of despair would erupt from below. The government attempted to explain the riots in terms of the ‘criminality’ of those involved. This was entirely disproved by later reports which showed that most of those involved were poor, economically and culturally deprived, etc. On the other hand, others, like the SWP, sought to prettify the movement as ‘positive’, a genuine conscious uprising of the oppressed! This is equally wrong and moreover is potentially dangerous for the working-class movement.

9. Already alienated youth attracted towards anarchism – as Greece shows – have indiscriminately and provocatively attacked the police, which in turn has provided an excuse for the state to use repressive measures against workers involved in strikes and protests. Rightly, our comrades in Greece have criticised and separated themselves from such actions. These methods, particularly on the basis of defeats and setbacks, can lead to a section of disappointed youth, not all of them of petty bourgeois origin, resorting to the methods of terrorism. In one of the demonstrations in Greece, it was the workers themselves – members of the Communist Party (KKE) – who were subjected to physical attacks. Such methods are totally alien to genuine Marxism. Even if these young people and workers are genuine in the belief that such methods can undermine and eventually overthrow capitalism, it is the duty of Marxism to counter this mistaken approach. Reaction can only gain if these methods persist, both in providing an excuse to the state to use repression but also, at this stage in particular, alienating sections of the middle-class and even workers who are maybe joining the struggle for the first time. It is therefore necessary to educate the new generation in combating anarchistic methods which can lead into a blind alley for the workers’ movement. We need to point out in particular that, historically, it was not those who started out with bombings and terroristic methods which led to overthrow of the tsarist regime and landlordism but the Bolsheviks, basing themselves upon the working class with the methods of mass struggle, the general strike, independent committees – soviets –and workers’ and peasants’ power.

10. The serious, more farsighted bourgeois have shifted their original position from outright hostility to the ‘Occupy’ movement into seeking to co-opt it, to ‘assimilate’ it. They are attempting to lean on the ‘leaders’ or ‘non-political’ spokespeople of this movement to lay the basis for cutting down some of the more glaring blemishes of capitalism with a ‘Tobin’, or ‘Robin Hood’, tax on financial transactions. And, given the alarm at the top of capitalism at the turn of events, it is not excluded that some measures of a cosmetic character could be undertaken against the banks, for instance, and even the ‘rich’. The panic in bourgeois circles in general was summed up by the right-wing founder of the Independent newspaper in Britain, Andreas Whittam-Smith, who wrote recently: "Western nations are now ripe for revolution." The purpose of Whittam-Smith and the bourgeoisie for whom he speaks is not to prepare to commit suicide or depart from the scene of history but to use these movements as a lever to save if possible and renovate the capitalist system. Moreover, the lack of a clear alternative from most of the leaders is assisting them in this task.

11. The ‘Occupy’ movement is the widest global movement since the collapse of Stalinism. It encompasses more of the world and is deeper than the anti-globalisation movement of the turn of the 21st century. Although it is ‘anti-capitalist’ in essence, the ‘Occupy’ movement does not seriously challenge capitalism; many of its leaders do not propose ‘system change’ but seek to ‘mend a broken system’. Incredibly, some on the left, even including Trotskyists like the USFI (in Spain, for instance), have sought to reinforce the ‘non-political’ posture, which on the part of the youth who participate represents the rejection of pro-capitalist ‘politics’ and the big parties which reflect them.

12. Never before in history has it been more necessary to stress the need for organisation, for a mass workers’ party, as a vital step in the development of class consciousness; ground won in the past has to be reconquered again and again. To some extent because of the turning back of the wheel of history, we face some of the tasks of Lenin – set out in his pamphlet ‘What is to be Done’ – on the need for a party to combat false ideas, in his case those of the ‘Economists’, of so-called ‘spontaneity’, opposition to ‘politics’, etc. Of course, we face an entirely different period. We are not starting with a blank sheet. There is the accumulated experience of the working class and the formation of parties. But we still have to reckon with the deep scepticism – a product of the betrayal of the ex-social-democratic parties and Stalinism – which affects the new generation, and leads them to the dead end of ‘anti-politics’. This was indicated clearly in the recent elections in Spain: ‘They don’t represent us’, ‘they are all the same’; ‘the polls are in the safe custody of the European Central Bank’. Moreover, spoiled ballots, abstentions and blank votes were 11 million, more than voted for the right-wing victors, the Partido Popular.

13. This movement, which at one stage assumed mass proportions in some countries – Spain, Greece and, to some extent, in the US – represents a necessary stage of a confused but important political reawakening. This was inevitable given more than 30 years when the ideas and influence of neoliberal capitalism dominated and were enormously reinforced by the ideological offensive of the bourgeois in the period after the collapse of Stalinism. These movements hold out the hope, for those participating and those observing them, of drawing revolutionary conclusions. The precondition for this, however, is the intervention of the labour movement and in particular Marxism, which, while being sympathetic and sensitive, argues against the ‘non-political’, anti-party stance of many who have been drawn into this movement.

14. At the same time we have never had a fetish about organisation and a party. Of course, a mass party will be necessary for the working class to conquer and hold power. However, the way in which this will be constructed – which will vary according to the concrete circumstances in each country – has to be worked out in the course of events and through the experience of the working class itself. Parties, particularly of a mass character, in this explosive era may not be constructed in a linear fashion, step-by-step, like mass parties were built in the period before the First World War. Such is the severity of the present crisis – reinforced by the message from bourgeois leaders that the working class faces ‘endless austerity’– that one can perceive of a situation where this could lead to a mass uprising, which could result in the masses being compelled to move in the direction of power. After all, this is what happened in Spain following the uprising in July 1936 and also in Portugal after the failed Spinola coup of March 1975, when the banks were expropriated and most of industry was put in state hands. In these situations, the question of the rapid building of a mass party was posed – and moreover was possible – if there had been a subjective factor not necessarily of millions but of thousands or tens of thousands of cadres who were politically and theoretically armed to intervene in the situation. This is in no way to make concessions to anti-party or anti-organisation moods that exist. On the contrary, it poses sharply the vital necessity of the building of an organisation, of a revolutionary pole of attraction, which is capable of intervening in the situation and building a powerful force of the working class, particularly to consolidate power as the working class moves towards revolution in real pre-revolutionary situations. Merely to pose this question at this stage indicates the political sharpness which is required by us in this period.

The general strike
15. The general strike has come back forcefully onto the agenda of the workers’ movement, particularly in southern Europe. In Greece – with seven general strikes in 2011 alone, including one-48-hour strike and not including public-sector strikes! – in Spain, Portugal, Italy and in recent years, in France, one-day general strikes and partial ‘general strikes’ have featured. But Northern Europe will catch up, as shown by the one-day public sector strike in Britain in November. This was a colossal and effective strike, involving at least one and a half million workers, the biggest in absolute numbers since the 1926 general strike, and was a landmark in the history of the workers’ movement. The Belgian trade union leaders tried to sidestep calls for a general strike by organising the 2 December 80,000-strong daytime demonstration in Brussels, but support for general strike action is growing, especially in Wallonia in struggle against the planned partial closure of the ArcelorMittal steel plant in Liège where, significantly, the trade unions are officially calling for the company’s nationalisation.

16. General strikes implicitly pose the question of power before the working class and the labour movement. However, it is not posed in this way at this stage in the political outlook of the working class. The reasons for this we have sketched out in previous material: the legacy of the collapse of Stalinism in the form of pro-capitalist ideology and a consequent political immaturity of the working class, as well as the opportunism of the trade union leaders who are afraid of going outside the limits of capitalism. Not least of the factors holding back the working class from drawing all the necessary conclusions from the current situation is the weakness of the alternative revolutionary pole of attraction. Therefore, general strikes which represent a high point in working-class struggle take the form, at this stage, more of mass protests than serious preparation to take power out of the hands of capitalism which is ruining industry and society, in the process dragging the working class into an economic and social abyss. However as the working class is hardened through struggle with the creation of a new generation of fighters and particularly cadres, this will change and new general strikes which do raise the alternative of a new society of workers’ power and socialism will be posed in workers’ minds.

17. Moreover the struggle will take different forms at different stages. In Greece for instance the number of one-day general strikes that have taken place is incredible; in fact it is unprecedented. This was followed by the 48-hour general strike and our Greek organisation was the first to raise and popularise this slogan. In this sense, the Greek workers have outdone the Argentinian workers who had a similar struggle to theirs at the turn of the century. It is not just the working class but broader layers, including sections of the middle class, which are being drawn into the strikes, which have therefore assumed some of the characteristics of the ‘hartals’ of India and Sri Lanka with the towns and countryside, virtually the whole population, participating in such action. At the same time when the masses are checked in one field – in this case the industrial plane – they turn to the alternative, the electoral field. While industrial and social struggles will continue in the next period, it is likely that the masses will now turn in this direction with promised elections in early 2012. This will require our Greek comrades to raise the alternative of a workers’ government to the right-wing alternatives of Pasok and New Democracy. The precise expression of this in terms of parties to support has to be worked out in discussion.

The revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa
18. The revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa are, with the events in Greece, the most important developments for the workers’ movement in the past year. Tunisia and particularly Egypt, the world’s oldest nation state, have exercised a magnetic effect on the masses throughout the region. They also resonate powerfully in the neo-colonial world and in the advanced industrial countries as well. For instance, in the USA they helped inspire the Wisconsin protests and the Egyptian flag flew over the ‘Occupy’ movement in Oakland and elsewhere. However, as in all revolutions, particularly in the period after the overthrow of a dictatorship, illusions are generated in the masses that the main job has been completed. In reality, because the revolution has not been completed, right from its outset the forces of revolution and counter-revolution have vied for supremacy. The liberal bourgeoisie and the Islamists have tried to contain the revolution, together with the remnants of the old regime. They seek to engender a mood of class conciliation, of ‘national unity’. They instinctively oppose all attempts to organise independent action or organisations of the working class. Moreover, amongst the masses, who seek the line of least resistance in the first instance, this mood can also exist. Even where there is a strong revolutionary party that seeks to warn the working class and counter this from the outset, as with the Bolsheviks in 1917, this mood can exist for a period, allowing the establishment of class collaborationist, coalition governments. It takes time and events, together with the intervention of the revolutionary forces, to change this. In the case of Egypt there was no mass force in the underground which could perform this job.

19. In the vacuum that existed, as with other cases in history – Poland under Stalinism, in Iran under the Shah – religious forces, with roots amongst the masses, can initially provide a force, a pole of attraction, around which the opposition to dictatorial regimes can mobilise. This role in Egypt has been played by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and the mosques. They were persecuted, which enhanced their attractiveness to the exploited workers and peasants, as were the network of charities, enterprises, etc, which they built under Mubarak and, previous to him, Sadat. Consequently, they were well placed to exploit the current elections in which they have received an estimated 36.6% of the votes counted so far. In addition to this, the more fundamentalist expression of right-wing political Islam, the Salafists around al-Nour, linked to the more fundamentalist Wahhabi brand of Islam emanating from Saudi Arabia and the doctrine of Al Qaeda, seems to have done well with almost a quarter of the votes in the cities that had voted by 5 December and probably could register more than this in the countryside.

20. If they are allowed to form a government then the Brotherhood will come under serious examination. They are, in any case, a more conservative force than in the past. They abandoned the struggle to overthrow the dictatorship, concentrating on providing the organisation to feed the poverty-stricken masses. They initially stood aside from the revolution which caused splits, particularly amongst the youth within their ranks. Unlike the Iranian revolution, when radical Islamic forces initially developed, the Brotherhood is politically conservative, accepting the free market, not favouring independent trade unions and rejecting ‘extremist’ brands of Islam in favour of the Turkish model of Erdoğan, even borrowing the name of Turkey’s ruling ‘Freedom and Justice’ party. This party was described by the New York Times as a “religious right of centre movement but no fanatical band”. This is also the favoured model for the ‘moderate’ Islamist forces throughout the region, including Ennahda, the party in Tunisia which emerged victorious in the recent elections there. However, the military council, SCAF, has no intention of ceding complete power to the ‘civilian’ forces. Another ‘model’ is Pakistan, where the army and the generals are the real ‘power behind the throne’ – the government and Parliament – and have been and remain so since the foundation of the Pakistani state.

21. There were big illusions in the military at the time of the overthrow of Mubarak – ‘the Army is with us’. And at its base and even amongst a significant section of the middle layers of officers, that was the case. However, the top generals, we warned at the time, were and remain an integral part of the ancien regime. In fact, we commented at the time that, in effect, the military carried out a ‘soft coup’ in overthrowing Mubarak in collusion with the CIA and American imperialism. They were terrified that the revolution under way – and it was and remains a revolution – was deepening and would not stop at the removal of Mubarak but would go further towards a social and economic revolution. The Egyptian revolution – the country contains one third of all Arabs – was above all a mass event, in which the working class, particularly in Suez, Port Said and elsewhere played a crucial role.

22. Once the masses have thrown off the shackles of a dictatorship, they inevitably come forward with pressing social and economic demands. There has been a wave of workers’ actions – attempts to establish independent trade unions – which had been effectively banned by the military, demanding that those culpable in the killing of the protesters at the time of the overthrow of Mubarak, as well as those who perpetrated the massacres in November, be brought to trial.. So great has been the disillusionment since the events of February that a questioning has arisen as to whether it was a real revolution in the first place. In fact, in both Tunisia and in Egypt the masses moved independently or semi-independently against the dictatorships of Ben Ali and Mubarak. They made the revolution but because of insufficient consciousness of their own power and a programme to achieve this they did not complete the revolution in a social and economic sense.

23. Revolutions, as Karl Marx pointed out, are the locomotives of history while counter-revolutions – dictatorships – are an enormous brake, throwing back consciousness enormously. Both in Tunisia and Egypt what we saw was in fact a political revolution which changed the main actors on the stage but did not touch the social foundations of Egyptian landlordism and capitalism. The generals have an estimated 40% stake in vital aspects of the economy. Moreover, US imperialism has donated an estimated $150 million to promote the “transition to democracy.” And the army still gets $1.3 billion a year from the US. The army in all capitalist states is the main guard of private property. Increasingly aware of the real situation, some of the participants in the February uprising now say that all that has been achieved is ‘a change of curtains’. That is true of the state but not of the consciousness of the mass of the people, particularly the youth and workers who participated in the revolution. And the masses have begun to pour onto the industrial, social and political stages. There is now talk, correctly, of the need for a second and third revolution. For this to happen, what is required is the building of powerful and independent workers’ organisations, both on the industrial and political stages.

24. Imperialism and its client states in the region were completely taken aback by the outbreak of revolution. Obama and the representatives of the strongest power on the planet were powerless to intervene, reduced to utterly pious regretful phrases about the role of US imperialism in propping up Mubarak. Sarkozy and Cameron were equally impotent. In Egypt and Tunisia, where the urban masses played the key role, military intervention was ruled out. US imperialism, that still views the region as of key strategic and economic importance, was in any case completely tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan, and therefore could not intervene militarily particularly using ground troops, even if that was possible. The same applied to its NATO allies.

25. Only with events in Libya, and to some extent in Bahrain, was imperialism given the pretext to establish a foothold against the revolutions. Our analysis of the uprisings in Libya, of NATO’s intervention and the subsequent outcome of the 9 or 10 months struggle has stood the test of events. We supported the uprisings against Gaddafi in Benghazi and other towns in Libya. At the outset they represented a genuine movement of the masses in opposition to the dictatorship. The committees established to administer Benghazi after the expulsion of Gaddafi and his henchmen, including the now imprisoned son of Gaddafi, Saif, appeared to be in the hands of genuine representatives of the masses and have a mass popular base. At this stage, the Benghazi masses were opposed to outside intervention by imperialism. However, the mobilisation of Gaddafi’s troops on the outskirts of Benghazi and the consequent fear of a massacre allowed imperialism the excuse to intervene militarily through NATO. The subsequent course of the war – orchestrated and controlled both in the air and on the ground by NATO – altered completely the character of the ‘revolution’. The CWI has always opposed the Gaddafi regime and has called for support for genuine mass movements to establish a real socialist, democratic society in Libya.

26. However, the war conducted against Gaddafi possessed all the features of a de facto military imperialist intervention. It is impossible for Marxists to give support to such an action. And yet, to their eternal shame, this is what some alleged Marxists did! The propaganda campaign against Gaddafi included manufactured hysteria and gross exaggeration of what would happen if Gaddafi’s forces were to occupy Libyan cities held by the ‘rebels’. It was claimed that massacres would automatically follow. No such things happened when Gaddafi’s forces fought the rebels for Misrata and other cities on the way to Benghazi. However, this was used to carry through real massacres on the part of the ‘rebels’ when they entered cities that were allegedly in support of Gaddafi and through the air war of NATO. It is impossible to calculate the exact number of victims arising from this but probably between 30,000 and 50,000 people were killed. It is not possible to describe the outcome as a victory for ‘revolution’.

27. What transpired in Libya in the beginning was a genuine revolution of an incipient character which was derailed by a counter-revolution in a ‘democratic’ form. However, as the scale of bloodletting and reprisals – sometimes against completely innocent people including black-skinned Libyans and foreign workers, some of whom had lived in Libya for many years – has been revealed there is profound questioning as to whether ‘democracy’ or counter-revolution currently dominates. In fact, the post-Gaddafi Libya is clearly a new fiefdom for imperialism to exploit its rich resources, particularly its oil reserves. Combining completely antagonistic forces from the Islamists to defectors from Gaddafi’s regime, and assorted ‘democrats’ of recent vintage, it is very unlikely that the Transitional National Council will hold together. Libya threatens to fall apart, as we warned before the war, and resemble in the future not so much a democratic Arcadia, which had been promised, but the nightmare of ethnic and tribal divisions along the lines of Somalia. We advocated an independent movement of the working class for Benghazi and a class appeal from them to the Libyan masses as a whole. A similar class approach is necessary in all the states in the region – the perspectives for which are impossible to compress into this document.

28. The movement in Syria is clearly at a crossroads. The number of victims arising from the regime’s repression is over 4000 now. Daily mass demonstrations take place and sanctions have been imposed both by the UN and now the Arab League. The latter is a severe blow to the elite gathered around the Assad regime because of its historic association with the Arab struggle. Only Iran – where the Shias are in the majority, unlike in Syria – supports the Assad regime. But Iran is also now facing sanctions because of its nuclear programme. As we have pointed out previously, it is possible that military action could follow this, which could trigger a regional conflict, including war. Indeed, with the near civil war in Syria all kinds of possibilities involving conflict could break out. Turkey, which is already involved on its borders with the flight of refugees into its territory, has already warned the Syrian regime that it might be compelled to intervene. On the other hand, Israel – which actually prefers the Assad regime to remain in power because of the fear of what would happen if it was overthrown – could also be drawn in. This could take the form of military action against Iran or Syria or both. The region is like a tinderbox where anything could happen. Then there is the Palestinian question, which could explode at any time. Moreover, all of this is taking place against the background of radicalisation – reflected in strikes and occupations – in Israel. A new period of generalised struggle, arising from the deepening of the world economic crisis and its severe impact in the Middle East and North Africa, is likely. We must energetically seek out the best sections of workers and youth and convince them about our ideas and perspectives.

29. The opposition in Syria appears to have gained ground in the past period. However, it is not clear that it has reached the ‘critical mass’ that could lead to a speedy overthrow of the Assad regime. Syria is very divided on ethnic and religious lines. This is why imperialism and neighbouring Turkey fear the breakup of the country. The bitter sectarian ethnic and religious conflicts that would result from this would have incalculable consequences on neighbouring states. The opposition is divided with most of the opposition coming from the majority Sunni population. At the same time the army – always crucial in maintaining the Alawite elite around Assad in power – has not yet disintegrated, although sections of it have defected to the rebels. Therefore, it is most likely that the struggle in Syria will be a more drawn-out one. The regime does not yet appear to be at its tipping point but in this highly unstable situation it could arrive at this position very quickly.

Severe economic crisis for capitalism
30. The ‘Occupy’ movement is highly symptomatic of the overall mood which is developing under the whip of this crisis. It also presages coming mass movements in many countries not yet seriously affected politically, and not just in Europe but throughout the world. This deduction arises from the perspective of an enduring long-term crisis of capitalism, which has formed the bedrock of the CWI’s approach since its onset in 2007-08. Our conclusion was that we had entered a period of revolution and counter-revolution because of the incapacity of the bourgeoisie to solve this underlying crisis.

31. This has been reinforced at each stage. However amongst the masses there were illusions that capitalism would be able to extricate itself: through state intervention, stimulus packages, etc. And these measures did have some effect in preventing an outright depression with mass unemployment along the lines of the 1930s; but they did not solve the underlying crisis. Moreover, the switch from semi-Keynesian policies in the US, Britain and to some extent elsewhere to austerity programmes reinforced the recession, with depressionary features following in their wake; capitalism now finds itself in a cul-de-sac.

32. The European ‘sovereign debt’ crisis illustrates the catastrophic consequences for capitalism, not just in Europe but throughout the world, of the financial credit bubbles, which grew exponentially and involved massive injections of fictitious capital during the boom in the ‘noughties’. This process, which goes back to the 1970s, was in turn the consequence of the lack of profitable outlets in Europe, the US and Japan. There has been some discussion and controversy in Marxist economic circles as to the immediate factors which lead to a crisis. However, Marx was careful not to single out just one trigger for the onset of crises. Undoubtedly, the limited purchasing power of the masses, which is inherent in the exploitation of labour power, examined by Marx, reinforced by the colossal inequality, which is a feature of the last 20 to 30 years, as well as the current attacks on living standards are big factors in the present crisis.

33. On the other hand, the long-term tendency of the rate of profit to decline, particularly when there is a drop in gross profits – which mostly concerns the capitalists – can be a factor leading to crisis. As we pointed out, this is certainly not the case in the current situation, where there is a colossal accumulation of cash reserves (what the capitalists call liquidity). Samuel Brittan, a British economist firmly in the Thatcher camp in the past but now fervent in his advocacy of semi-Keynesian measures, has pointed towards healthy profits presently in the coffers of big business which could provide the source of new investment and could, he maintains, in turn provide a spark to begin the process of growth. However, confronted as capitalism is with a big element of Keynes’s ‘liquidity trap’ – a hoarding of assets and money, low interest rates, fear that deflation will persist, etc. – the capitalists are refusing to invest, are, in effect, on a ‘strike of capital’. Creditors refuse to lend and borrowers – weighed down with leaden boots of debt – refuse to borrow more. At the moment, the system is jammed and, given government and private indebtedness, that is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. All the economic institutions of world capitalism point to, at best, stagnation in the current economic situation – an ‘L-shaped recovery’ – with anaemic growth rates and, in some estimates, zero growth for the eurozone. At the same time, it cannot be ruled out that the paralysis of the bourgeois in the teeth of this crisis can lead to an outright depression or, at the very least, depressionary features – already there in some cases – in countries in Europe and even on whole continents.

China facing crisis
34. Nor can China provide the lifeline for rescuing ailing world capitalism. In 2008 when China faced a serious crisis, factories were closed and unemployment climbed exponentially. Consequently, the Chinese elite feared massive ‘social unrest’, code for revolution. So they ‘primed the pump’ through a massive injection of credit facilitated by the state banks that dominate the economy. This resulted in annualised credit growth of 170%, probably the biggest ‘economic stimulus’ in world history. China was allowed to do this because of its unique character. In this way, the Chinese elite managed to crank up the growth rate to double digits. But the other side of this was that factories and shopping malls were built on a massive scale which will never make a profit, with many them standing idle. This overcapacity is the price that China, particularly the ruling elite, was prepared to pay to prevent an uprising of the Chinese masses. They were able to do this because of the unique character of China. It possesses a considerable pure capitalist sector, particularly in the coastal provinces. But the remnants of the now disintegrated ‘planned economy’ still exercise an important, in some senses a decisive effect, on the direction of the economy. We have characterised it as a ‘state capitalist’ regime of a ‘unique kind’. Its ‘uniqueness’ is indicated by the considerable concentration in the hands of the state, some estimate a majority, of banks and industry, but with a substantial ‘pure’ capitalist sector. There is no comparison to this kind of state, which exists in China at the present time. It allows this regime to do something in the midst of a crisis that no other is capable of doing; a massive stimulus package, which has created jobs not just in China but indirectly with those trading with China, such as Germany.

35. However the other visible side of this process is huge overcapacity – fuelled by bank credit – and a bout of inflation, which the Chinese regime now appears to have under control. Officially, government debt remains below 20% of GDP. However, if you factor in the local government infrastructure loans and sundry other commitments, the Chinese national debt is closer to 70% of GDP. Edward Chancellor in the Financial Times [5 December] comments: “Beijing cannot repeat the massive stimulus package of 2008-09. That was a one-off trick for which the bill of reckoning remains to be paid.” However, a second stimulus package of some size cannot be ruled out. This process was reflected also in the chronic housing problem. This goes together with massive corruption and the growth of inequality, which is recognised to have aroused the indignation of the masses. It is estimated that the growth rate is likely to drop to about 8%, which will immediately affect those countries whose manufacturing industries have received big benefits from the Chinese economy, like Germany, and some of the commodity producers, like Brazil, who have increased their trade with China but now will probably face a contraction. Not least of the effects will be the fuelling of discontent, which is rising amongst youth and the working class against the unacceptable social conditions that now exist in China. Since 2008, China’s stock of private credit (or ‘social finance’) has grown to an extent that it has exceeded the credit growth of the US in the years prior to the Lehman Brothers collapse. The slowdown in the world economy could have a serious impact on China’s economy.”

36. The capitalist crisis is not just economic but profoundly political, particularly at the summits of society, with the biggest and most open clashes within the ranks of the bourgeoisie for decades. Their political leaders are treated almost with disdain for their inability to show a way forward. They are like a football crowd dissatisfied with their manager and shouting, ‘You don’t know what you are doing!’ Their ineffectiveness was quite clearly demonstrated at the Cannes summit of the G20 in November. In the run-up to this meeting, the press was full of optimism, echoing Obama’s slogan, with the French pronouncing: "We Cannes do". Afterwards, the conclusion was: "We Cannes not do"!

37. This gathering also served to illustrate the decline in the economic power of US imperialism. In the immediate period after the Second World War, US imperialism through the Marshall plan was able to impose its economic will in the capitalist world. Even at the summits in the past 10-20 years, the US was able to wield its influence on economic policy. At this gathering, Obama was completely unable to impose on ‘Europe’ economic solutions beneficial for the continent and, of course, for the world as a whole. Sarkozy was also treated disdainfully – he was forced to publicly kick his heels – until the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, eventually deigned to turn up to meet him. This was supposed to be the platform to launch Sarkozy’s bid for a second presidential term as he paraded himself before the French people as the ‘saviour’ of European and world capitalism. His proposal for China to use its colossal reserves to underwrite the euro in the form of loans and guarantees to the European Central Bank (ECB) was dashed within days of its announcement. Even if it wanted to, the Chinese regime will be incapable of selling to its own population – with average GDP per head on the level of El Salvador – the massive transfer of funds to prop up the pensions of ‘rich Europeans’.

38. The failure of capitalist summits to offer a way out of the economic crisis is accompanied by the open inability to take or coordinate any serious measures on environmental issues, especially climate change. In fact, the opposite process is happening; even such limited and ineffective measures as the Kyoto protocol are history and several states are opting out. The Durban climate conference (COP 17) is a manifestation of this failure. After a minor decline in carbon dioxide emissions in 2008 and 2009, even the US Department of Energy’s latest world data shows an unprecedented increase in 2010. It is worse than all worst-case scenarios put forward by the experts of the IPCC (the UN’s world climate council) four years ago. With an additional 5.9% rise in emissions in 2010, the speed of the increase reached a new all-time peak. While some of the demonstrations linked to the COP 17 summit have been smaller than in the past, this inability to find a solution has a big impact on the consciousness of workers and especially young people. Environmental questions will be a trigger again for protests and rebellion in the future.

Europe in ferment - France
39. Sarkozy himself is under siege – as with all governments of Europe –because of the effects of the deteriorating economic situation in France, with unemployment rising. He faces an uphill battle to secure a second term in April and May’s presidential elections. There is the ‘drip drip’ of job cuts; the car giant Peugeot has angered unions with its proposals to scrap 5,000 jobs from a total worldwide workforce of 200,000. The threat to France to downgrade its credit rating is being used by Sarkozy to prepare the ground for savage cuts: ‘spend less and work more’. There is a noisy campaign by the government and the employers to cut ‘labour costs’. It is alleged that the hourly cost of labour in France rose by €9 between 2000 and 2010 and in the same period in Germany it rose by just €4. This is just one example of the way the bourgeois in each country play off their working classes against one another – dragging in at the same time the terror of the ‘downgrading’ of its national debt – in order to justify the huge reinforcement of neoliberal policies.

40. The employers are also demanding the complete scrapping of the remnants of the 35-hour week, which it alleges is a ‘handicap on the cost of labour’. France being France, the working class, despite elections on the horizon, is bound to move onto the industrial plane in answer to these attacks in the next period. However, they will also look towards the electoral plane. The more advanced detachments of French workers will be searching for a clear fighting alternative. It will not be forthcoming from the main challenger to Sarkozy, the Socialist Party candidate Hollande, who is already committed – like his ‘social-democratic’ cousins throughout Europe – to cutting the debt, meaning further attacks on the working class. However, if he is successful in defeating Sarkozy and carries out similar policies, as he will, then he will meet with ferocious resistance. In the ‘primaries’ to select the Socialist Party’s candidate, there was a massive turnout, reportedly of about 2 million. This does not at all vindicate the method of ‘primaries’, borrowed from the broken political system in the US. This is designed to dissolve the organised strength and politically-aware membership of a party into the raw mass, influenced by the press, etc. But it was a powerful expression of the yearning of huge swathes of the population, particularly of workers who feel disenfranchised, when no candidate or party really expresses their views. They therefore turned out in huge numbers and in the first round 17% voted for the ‘left’ candidate Arnaud Montebourg. His programme was only vaguely left but struck a chord because of the implied criticisms of capital and the suggestion of a radical alternative.

41. Imagine the response if the NPA, in the past period, had organised itself properly and formulated a clear class struggle perspective, intervening energetically in all of the myriad industrial and social conflicts of the past few years. Our French comrades reported that there had been 77 strikes in France between February and the beginning of June alone. The NPA would now be a serious contender for garnering at least some of the support that presently goes to other left forces and candidates. Unfortunately, it appears as though the NPA will not be a serious contender in the elections. This itself is a criticism of the still leading force within the NPA, the former LCR, French section of the USFI, who have been incapable of building on the success of the 2002 elections. It is still necessary for us to assist the best workers and youth who wish to transform this party into a real fighting socialist pole of attraction. At the same time, it is urgently necessary to attract to our own banner those both within the NPA as well as a considerable section of workers and youth who remain outside its ranks. In the convulsive events are that opening up in the country, France and the French working class will reclaim its place in the first rank of radical and revolutionary forces in Europe.

Germany – dominant force in Europe
42. Germany has long been the leading economic force in Europe. However, the Eurozone crisis has forced it to be a more overt political force. The representatives of German capitalism have assumed the mantle over the rest of Europe as the US did towards the world in the past. It has used the eurozone – with interest rates set by the ECB, which it dominates and attunes to its interests– to put the rest of Europe on ‘rations’. This was tolerated – indeed, it was enormously beneficial – by the ‘periphery’ because it allowed them to borrow at low interest rates, which allowed them to ‘grow’ although at the cost of piling up huge debts. The quid pro quo for Germany was that these countries and the rest of Europe provided the markets for German exports, industrial exports in particular. China also represents a huge market for German goods but with the likely slowing down of the Chinese economy– latest estimates say that growth rates could slump below 8% – sales of these will fall. The other side of this, of course, is that other countries, particularly the weaker ones, were placed in a currency straitjacket, which has proved disastrous – as we anticipated – once the boom turned into bust. Nevertheless, German capitalism has made huge financial investments in the eurozone by its banks purchasing sovereign bonds and this why they are exposed to its collapse.

43. The attacks on the living standards of the German workers in the earlier part of the last decade , through the programme of wage cuts, part-time and precarious work etc., has up to now given German capitalism a competitive edge in exports . Both Europe and China have provided the main outlet for these, which will not necessarily be the situation in the future. A period of competitive devaluations, which would follow the breakup of the eurozone, could have a devastating effect on the German economy, with one estimate concluding it could result in the loss of at least one million jobs in Germany.

44. Angela Merkel, expressing the confidence of the German ruling class, bestrides Europe as an imitation ‘Colossus’, waving the big stick at perceived economic sinners throughout Europe, but she does not cut the same figure at home. Unemployment has gone down yet her coalition government– with the former ‘liberals’ of the FDP – is not popular and could collapse at any time. Moreover, she has to face big opposition within her own party, the Christian Democrats, over Europe with some sections of the party, backed by elements of big business, threatening to split and form a new eurosceptic party. Industrial production has fluctuated up and down in the latter months of 2011, reinforcing the worries of the more farsighted representatives of German capitalism and Merkel herself of the consequences for them of the current world and European economic death spiral and particularly the threat of a deepening of deflation. She has floated the idea of a minimum wage, partly for this reason but also because she wants to lay the basis possibly for ditching the waning FDP from the government. This in turn could prepare the way for a grand coalition with the SPD, but it is also possible that a split in the ruling coalition will force early elections.

45. While DIE LINKE has suffered regional election setbacks and its national opinion poll standing has fallen to around 8%, it still has the potential to grow and act as a rallying point for left opposition, particularly when the SPD is back in the federal government. Like some of the other left parties, for example the IU in Spain, DIE LINKE has moved leftwards in response to the crisis. It recently adopted a left reformist programme that combines openness on participation in capitalist coalition governments with calls for “system change” and pledges that “we want to build a democratic socialist society”. The combination of DIE LINKE being the only Bundestag party opposing the EU leaders’ ‘rescue plans’ and the return of Lafontaine gives the party another opportunity to build support, however whether it is able to seize this opportunity is unfortunately an open question.

46. The onset of the crisis has profoundly affected Britain, particularly since the election of the ConDem coalition government last year. The catastrophic errors of the British ruling class have been exposed. It has allowed its manufacturing base to atrophy in favour of investment in financial services, which in turn have collapsed. All the layers of fat built up to cushion British capitalism from economic storms have been eaten away. Its empire has gone and North Sea oil revenues have begun to run dry.

47. Unprecedented cuts in living standards have been implemented with more to come. The government admits that living standards in 2015 will be lower than they were in 2002; society will have stood still for 10 years! This will go down historically as a lost decade, with a lost generation of one million young people and one million women already unemployed, with more to follow in the dead-end of joblessness.

48. Britain faces a situation it has not confronted for 80 years. The ConDem government’s declaration of war against all the rights and conditions of the British working class – for this is what it represents – is the greatest challenge since the period immediately prior to the 1926 general strike. This explains the ferocious reaction of the mass of the working people reflected in the huge demonstrations and strikes in 2011: 26 March, the biggest specifically working-class demonstration in history; 30 June a partial public-sector strike; and the mammoth 30 November strike.

49. The official leadership of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has been compelled to go where they did not want to and that was to ratify action against the government’s plans. In this, our comrades played a key role, especially where we have considerable influence on the left in the unions. Above all, the battle that we have been engaged in the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN), where we mobilise from below as well as from the top within the trade unions, has paid dividends in helping to bring about this situation. Our youth comrades have also conducted a heroic and energetic campaign against youth unemployment, including the new Jarrow march, as well as intervening in the riots in London, etc.

50. The situation in Britain illustrates many things: the blind alley of capitalism and the lack of an alternative of all the major parties and organisations. This includes the great majority of the trade union leaders, particularly those on the right. It also illustrates the role that can be played by a small organisation which possesses clear perspectives. It can have an effect much greater than its size. This is what we have achieved in Britain at the present time. However, it is not sufficient just to build influence but serious forces have to be organised in the party.

US workers begin to fight back
51. The crisis is clearly illustrated by the deadlock in Europe between the different European powers over what economic direction to take. If anything, the divide between different sections of the ruling class and their alleged representatives in the US is even more pronounced, expressed as it is in the stand-off between Congress and Obama over the scale of the cuts, the issue of health, education, etc. Obama is terrified that a deepening of the European crisis – resulting in the collapse or partial collapse of the banking sector– will have wider repercussions on the US and the world. This could dash his hopes for a successful re-election campaign for the presidency next year.

52. But the economic catastrophe of the US today is also alarming the bourgeois of other countries because of the still pivotal position of the US ruling class for world capitalism. The ‘American nightmare’ was the headline of an editorial in the Guardian on 28 November, which stated: “The US economy is now almost thrice as big as in the early 1970s – and yet the typical workingman finds not a dime of this transformative growth in his pay packet… Back in the 1960s, it would have been assumed that such a sustained riot of the rich would incur a revolution.” And the grounds for a revolution in the outlook of the working class are being prepared by the systematic and seemingly never-ending degradation of the conditions of significant sections of the masses. Unemployment officially stands at 9% but is, in reality, twice that level and with a pronounced tendency for mass long-term unemployment to become entrenched along the lines of the 1930s.

53. In some senses this crisis is worse already than the 1930s. Overall, that decade witnessed economic stagnation and ‘depression’. But within this framework there was a period of growth from June 1934 to 1937. Roosevelt’s attack on the pensions of First World War veterans in 1937 threatened to plunge the US economy back into crisis. However, the US was saved from a new and deeper crisis by the onset of war preparations, which allowed growth in the defence industries to seep through to other industries. Without this, the social convulsions of the 1930s could have tipped over into a powerful revolutionary movement with the possible establishment of an independent mass workers’ party. History, however, took a different route. But now the knot of history is being retied in the industrial and social reawakening of the mass of the working class in America. This process will be furthered by the attacks arising from this crisis, which will rain down on the heads of the American workers.

54. Moreover, the US is racked by a deep political crisis. Daily, both houses of the US Congress demonstrate just how dysfunctional is the political system and how outdated is the US Constitution. This constitution, designed in the 18th century for a small farmer-dominated population and for ‘bipartisanship’, is no longer ‘fit for purpose’. Bipartisanship is completely outdated and utterly incapable of reconciling the growing class antagonisms that are rendering it almost ungovernable. This would represent a problem in any state but it could put the most powerful in mortal danger.

55. The infamous ‘special interests’ – with at least 13,000 lobbyists infesting Congress, 25 for every US congressman – big business and its cohorts dominate this ‘dollar democracy’ as never before in history. At the same time, more than 50% of the people – and that figure could grow in the next US presidential election – are disengaged from this travesty of democracy, where an increasingly impoverished population gets to choose which gang of millionaires and billionaires will dominate and exploit them over the next four years.

56. No US president has been elected for a second term with the level of unemployment that now exists in the US. Obama’s popularity has plunged as a result with one poll in December giving him an approval rating of -24 percentage points! This would ‘normally’ indicate the defeat of the incumbent in presidential elections. However, few US presidents, if any, have quite faced the incredible phenomenon of the Tea Party with its ludicrous and crazed ideas and leadership. In few other countries could potential candidates get away with what Perry, the governor of Texas, attempted recently. In attacking Obama, he allegedly quoted him as saying that the economy was ‘not important’. However, Obama, it was shown later, had never said such a thing but his opponent in the last presidential election, John McCain, did express himself in this way. But no apology or retraction was forthcoming from Perry when this was revealed.

57. The overall political level in most countries has been thrown back. And, if left to the media, which lies through its teeth even against ‘liberals’, this will not rise much, if at all. The US started from a very low level and because of the absence of class-based parties, the level of understanding politically has sunk even further amongst huge swathes of the population. Nevertheless, under the pressure of big events the political understanding of the working class in particular can develop by leaps and bounds. This would be facilitated enormously by the building of a real ‘third party’ as a mass radical pole of attraction.

58. To the Tea Party Obama is without doubt a ‘socialist’! He is certainly not, as his actions have demonstrated when he has bent the knee to big business. He has also backpedalled on necessary reforms in health. Roosevelt in the 1930s, in the manner allegedly of Jesus Christ, threatened to ‘drive the moneylenders from the temple’. Obama has not even attempted to trim the fingernails of big business as he more and more demonstrates that he is firmly in the camp of capitalism.

59. On the other hand, the American working class has been given a very powerful lesson in the realities of capitalism over the past period. They have witnessed mass evictions from their houses– over 2 million houses have been ‘foreclosed’ – they have been ejected from the workplaces and factories while the rich pile up even more wealth . They have witnessed and defeated the attempt of right-wing governors of states such as Ohio to outlaw unions and the right to organise in the public sector. This attempt was smashed by a successful union campaign in a referendum to defeat this proposal. It is just one indication of the rising militancy – the increased class polarisation – which is taking place in the US the present time. It is no accident that the ‘Occupy’ movement was on a higher level of involvement, reaching out to the trade unions in particular, than in most countries in Europe. A bigger space was allowed for this movement to develop because of the low density of trade union membership – just 12% of the American labour force is organised into unions – combined with the conservative officialdom that dominates big sections of the trade union movement. Therefore, the unions – particularly the militant base of many of them – threw themselves eagerly into the ‘Occupy’ movement. In this way the mood in the ‘Occupy’ movement can feed back into the trade union movement and prove to be an important catalyst for change.

Dilemma of the eurozone
60. As to perspectives for the eurozone and the fate of the euro, the bourgeoisie themselves are completely at sea, incapable of coming up with agreed solutions. Mervyn King, when asked what was likely to happen in the next few months, bluntly stated: "I could not tell you what is likely to happen tomorrow never mind in a few months time." Equally, it is very difficult for us to work out precisely the likely march of events, particularly the timescale of how the ‘sovereign debt’ crisis will play out, particularly in the short-term. This question was carefully analysed in the article which appeared on our website and in the theoretical journal of the English and Welsh section, Socialism Today. The IS agrees with the analysis made there and the following conclusions.

61. The article pointed out that Merkel and the Bundesbank have blocked the ECB making large-scale purchases of eurozone government bonds, the only immediate measure that could possibly shore up sovereign debt in the short term. This is despite pleas from eurozone governments, including Sarkozy, for ECB intervention. At the same time, the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF – which has only around €250bn left) has not been turned into an effective vehicle for intervention (it has failed to raise additional funds on financial markets). Merkel has also rejected so far the introduction of mutually guaranteed eurobonds to secure the position of the weaker eurozone countries.

62. ECB intervention or eurobonds would, in the view of Merkel, let the ‘profligate’ eurozone governments off the hook regarding further austerity measures. They would create ‘moral hazard’, allowing them to run up further debts without any penalty. Meanwhile, the assault on eurozone bonds by financial markets continues, even threatening French sovereign debt. “Few doubt Ms Merkel’s good intentions,” commented Philip Stephens [Financial Times, 22 November], “many more worry, with good cause, that her obsession with moral hazard could yet be the death of monetary union.”

63. However, there are also attempts by Germany and France to prepare such measures through the back door by extending the ECB purchase of government bonds or bringing forward the additional implementation of the ESM to 2012. The crisis is pushing the German and French bourgeoisies into more and more attempts to centralise Europe and organise new bail-outs to banks and states, which will continue until they cannot afford to either financially or politically. Then the centrifugal forces will take the upper hand. New U-turns are possible and likely, both towards more centralisation and in a nationalist direction.

64. The big bond traders have forced up the cost of Italian and Spanish sovereign debt, and are now turning against French government bonds. The bonds of other countries, like Netherlands, Austria, etc, have been threatened. There is even the beginning of a sell-off of German bonds, despite the relative strength of the German economy. This reflects growing fears among Asian investors of a complete collapse of the eurozone.

65. Merkel’s response has been to propose ‘more Europe’, initially tightening the eurozone monetary union. This would be, according to her plan, another small, incremental step towards fiscal and political union. She is proposing a tighter eurozone regime, with strict rules over taxation and spending. There would be the creation of a new body, a ‘European monetary fund’, which would have powers to intervene, supervise or even take over the fiscal and economic policies of national governments. Then, it is hinted, it might be possible to introduce mutually assured eurobonds and deploy other measures to support eurozone governments. This plan, for supervision of all eurozone budgets, would really be a return to the stability pact, broken by France and Germany in the past, but now ‘on steroids’!

66. Merkel, however, has not welcomed proposals from Barroso, president of the European Commission, putting forward plans for eurobonds. The German version would be based on stricter conditions than are being proposed by the commission. This has raised fears among European leaders that the new eurozone regime would, in effect, mean German hegemony. This was particularly true after comments by Volker Kauder, Merkel’s parliamentary party leader, at the recent Christian Democratic Union conference that Europe “is now speaking German”.

67. The proposals put forward by Merkel would require a treaty revision. Although the revisions would affect only the 17 eurozone members, revisions would require the approval of all 27 EU members. In a number of countries this would require referenda. In her meeting with Cameron, Merkel, it appears, was eager to get the British government’s acceptance. In return for the Con-Dem government accepting the treaty changes (and, according to some reports, giving an undertaking not to call a referendum in Britain), Merkel would agree to further opt-outs for Britain on social and employment legislation.

68. Would the measures proposed by Merkel be enough to save the euro? The first problem is time. It would take at least several months, possibly all next year, for the eurozone leaders to draw up and themselves approve a new eurozone framework. But then there is the even bigger problem of gaining political acceptance in the eurozone countries. Mass opposition will undoubtedly be increased by further austerity measures, a downswing in the European (and most likely global) economy and the fact that Merkel and others link these limited steps to the idea of political union.

69. Merkel is raising the question of political union as a long-term aim to be achieved by incremental steps. A fiscal union, with a central political infrastructure – a supra-national state apparatus - is the logic of a single currency. The present crisis shows the impossibility of sustaining a pure currency union without fiscal and economic coordination. The wealthier capitalist states are never going to underwrite the weaker economies without having a decisive say over their economic policies. To be successful in the long run, the currency union would require a common fiscal policy, common sovereign bonds and transfers from the wealthier to the poorer countries to avoid growing economic disparities and political tensions.

70. This implies a federal European state, similar to the federal structure of the United States. However, the US was formed during a period of long-term growth in the 19th century. US capitalism was consolidated as a result of the civil war against the southern slave-owners, who were based on a plantation economy. US capitalism was able to develop a common (or at least dominant) language and culture. In contrast, Europe (whether the 17 or the 27) consists of a collection of nation states with their own languages, histories and national consciousness.

Greek workers continue to fight
71. For these reasons – as we have long contended – the euro and the Eurozone rather than leading to a more unified Europe will result in the opposite: to splits, nationalism and all the ‘evils’ which the euro project, we were told, would banish forever. The euro itself could collapse with either a voluntary or forced exit of a number of countries, beginning with Greece. The price of remaining within the euro is a permanent savage austerity package and, at the end of this, national debt will still be 120% of GDP! Yet this is already the ‘unacceptable’ current level of Italian national debt, which forced big cuts and prompted the downfall of Berlusconi, replaced by the imposition of an undemocratic ‘technocratic’ government.

72. This means the mass impoverishment of the Greek people for a whole historical period. Workers in other countries will share the same fate, as the programme of the British ConDem government for years of austerity indicates. The Greek people currently fear that eviction from the eurozone will turn back the clock to the economic backwardness and isolation of the pre-euro period. Therefore, in opinion polls 80% expressed opposition to leaving the euro at the time of Papandreou’s projected, but then withdrawn, referendum. However, this could change very rapidly and in a referendum on ‘in or out’ – which could loom quickly not just in Greece but in other European countries – getting out of the EU could appear as a more attractive option than remaining in the austerity straitjacket. However, we have to emphasise that ‘in or out’, the same problems will be posed and the same attacks on living standards will be unleashed against the Greek people. The reintroduction of the drachma could lead to the wholesale collapse of the banks and with this the destruction of savings – à la Argentina – as well as a devaluation of the new currency, which would be accompanied by a big rise in inflation.

73. We have to be extremely flexible in the way that we approach the EU and the possibility – perhaps even the likelihood – of referenda for and against the euro and the eurozone, which could be posed both in the 17 countries within the eurozone and the additional 10 countries ‘outside’. Because continued membership of the EU could be identified in the minds of the masses with further ruthless cuts in living standards, in some situations the working class and our sections could be faced with voting to leave the EU. In this situation, it is vital that we put forward a class and internationalist position, with clear opposition to bourgeois nationalism, which we oppose on all occasions. However, in view of the bureaucratic centralist diktats of the EU, a legitimate feeling of national indignation can develop, as has obviously been the case in Greece, and can develop in other countries. Trotsky pointed out that it is the working class and its organisations who are the real champions of the ‘nation’, of which the majority is the working class and its allies.

74. The idea that the EU was ‘progressive’ and was leading ineluctably towards a ‘unified Europe’ has been shattered with the onset of the economic crisis. This idea, which was entertained not just by bourgeois liberals and pro-capitalist trade union leaders but even by some of a Marxist or even a Trotskyist persuasion, has been severely undermined as the neo-liberal character of the EU – with the imposition of anti-worker measures such as the Posted Workers Directive, the opening of the door for the acceptance of wages and conditions of the neo-colonial world – has become clear. This view has been reinforced by what has been perceived, particularly in those countries at the receiving end, as a virtual colonial power inflicting misery and diktats on its ‘subjects’. This is the case in Greece with EU officials installed – or at least attempting to act – in the offices of the different ministries, thus ensuring the carrying out of the austerity programmes. The same applies to the virtual ‘coup’ of the so-called ‘non-political’ Monti government in Italy, which followed the eviction of Berlusconi from power. The same process has been witnessed in Greece with the replacement of Papandreou’s government by a ‘national’ government led by former ECB vice-president Papademos as an ‘arbiter’ between New Democracy and Pasok.

75. This represents a new phase in Europe, reflecting as it does the depth and seriousness of the economic crisis, the severity of the attacks on the working class, its resistance to this and, as a consequence, the intensification of the class struggle. Even in ‘normal’ periods of ‘social peace’, a veiled civil war takes place between the contending classes. This, however, has taken a more direct and open form in the past period as the bourgeois has, in some instances, resorted to brutal measures against the rights and conditions of the working class, as is clearly the case in Greece. The Greek workers are still ferociously resisting, reflected in the power workers’ refusal to implement government-imposed measures which would have seen householders’ electricity supply cut off if they had not paid the new property tax. This is accompanied by a ‘don’t pay’ campaign in which our comrades are participating. But even in other countries where the class struggle has not yet reached this pitch – in Ireland, Britain and other countries – a kind of ‘one-sided civil war’ has been unleashed, which has not yet been met with sufficiently resolute resistance from the trade union leaders. In fact, the capitalists, in a number of countries, have won the first round in the battle; in some cases – such as Greece – the second and third rounds as well. In Britain, 300,000 public sector jobs have been lost since the ConDem government came to power and another 400,000 are planned to go. The promise of Osborne and Cameron that private-sector jobs would replace them, like the phoenix from the ashes, has been shown to be completely illusory; there are plenty of ‘ashes’ in the empty factories and a massive rise in unemployment, but no sign of the phoenix which has flown away to China and other ‘growth areas’, never to return!

Spain and Portugal look over the cliff
76. With the advent of right-wing governments in Portugal and Spain, the working class can expect a huge worsening of their position through a deepening and extension of the austerity measures promised by the new right wing government of Rajoy in Spain and by the Portuguese centre-right coalition government, elected in June. The Portuguese economy contracted from July to September 2011 for the fourth consecutive quarter, the worst performance of any of the 27 nations in the EU. Gross domestic product fell 0.4% in the third quarter compared with the three previous quarters and was down 1.7% from the same period last year. And tax increases aim to reduce the real income of public-sector workers and state pensions by more than 20% compared to 2010. Significantly, soldiers and police, wearing civilian clothes, joined in the massive demonstrations and the general strike in November which brought the country to a complete standstill.

77. Even 87-year-old Mario Soares, former leader of the Portuguese Socialist Party (PSP) and past president of Portugal, was compelled to oppose the government’s programme and support the general strike! What a volte face for Soares, who played a decisive role in the derailment of the Portuguese revolution in the early 1970s! He acted as a conduit for German social democracy – which in turn was linked to the American CIA – in facilitating counter-revolution in a ‘democratic’ form in Portugal. This rescued Portuguese capitalism, which The Times newspaper, in a premature obituary, had declared ‘was dead’ following the events of March 1975. Unfortunately, Soares and his party, together with other factors– and particularly with the absence of a mass revolutionary party– managed to bring it back from the dead, subsequently leading to the rolling back of the gains of the revolution and in turn laid the basis for the nightmare confronting the Portuguese people today.

78. One thing is certain: the traditions of the Portuguese revolution which began in 1974 will be rediscovered by the new generation moving into struggle. The same need for a mass guiding organisation of the Portuguese masses remains as urgent today as it was in the period following the 1974 overthrow of Caetano. The Portuguese Communist Party, while it has still an important presence in the working class, has not yet managed to shed its Stalinist traditions and methods of the past, and has failed to reach out to the new generation with a genuine Marxist, democratic revolutionary policy and organisation. On the other hand, the Left Bloc, which had the promise, when it was founded, of becoming the basis of a new alternative revolutionary pole of attraction, has stalled because of its heterogeneous class character– it is not firmly rooted nor does it appeal to the working class, particularly the industrial working class. It was also opportunist in its approach in the recent elections when it supported the PSP candidate for president! The small forces of Marxism in Portugal must fight for a genuine Marxist programme, orientating to the new generation of youth and workers, and at the same time combine this with the struggle within the two major left forces of the CP and the Left Bloc.

79. The continuing economic crisis could also bring back onto the agenda the national question in Europe: for instance in Spain and in Britain – both in Scotland and Wales. Even in countries in which the national question has seemingly been ‘solved’, or pushed into the background, it can reappear: in Belgium, in Italy (for instance in the north and in Alto Adige), in Ireland, Cyprus, etc. This can complicate the struggles of the working class unless a clear policy and approach is adopted. This involves support for the legitimate national aspirations but opposition to bourgeois nationalism and striving for the closest unity of the working class in action through unified workers’ organisation in trade unions and parties.

80. In Spain, the right-wing government, under ferocious pressure from the EU for even more cuts, will act quickly to introduce ‘reforms’, in reality massive counter-reforms. A programme of cuts, estimated at €16 billion, must be inflicted on the Spanish people in order to mollify the ‘markets’, in effect a handful of bond vigilantes. Rajoy, leader of the Partido Popular (PP), won by default, perhaps anticipating an economic default by his government later! However, the capitalists have little faith in the right-wing government delivering. The electoral victory of the PP led to a precipitous drop in shares the day after it was elected! This is tacit recognition that the Spanish workers and their organisations – despite the existence of mass unemployment – remain a formidable force to reckon with. The government of Zapatero acted to restrain, to an extent, a full confrontation with the working class, because of its alleged ‘socialist’ pedigree, although in reality – as the indignados movement showed – it has moved so far to the right, it was seen as just another capitalist party.

81. The Spanish masses will be much more prepared to confront an open right-wing government of the PP, perhaps after an initial pause, as they gather their forces and their thoughts, to take on the new government. A protracted period of struggle opens up in Spain on the social, industrial and political arenas. The ‘indignados’ movement which began in Spain – obviously inspired by Tahrir Square in Egypt –initially adopted perhaps the most pronounced ‘non-political’ stance of any. This was precisely because of the complete disappointment, particularly of the youth, in the political decay of all the main parties. This included the trade unions and the United Left (IU). It is true that the IU increased its representation in the Cortes, tripling its number of MPs. But given the disillusionment with the capitalist parties, particularly the ‘Socialist’ party, and against the background of the devastating economic crisis, it should have done immeasurably better. In Valencia – the third largest city in Spain –for instance, one quarter of the workforce is unemployed. PSOE received its lowest number of seats – 110 –since the end of the Franco regime in 1977.

82. However, the political abstentionism of the youth cannot be maintained in the teeth of the seriousness of the crisis confronting Spain and the urgency of seeking a viable solution. The ‘Occupy’ movement will melt away unless it takes on a clear political direction. The CWI in Spain must push, as we have done so far successfully, for the struggle within the left organisations, particularly IU, for a clear Marxist policy of struggle, which can engage youth attracted to the ‘Occupy’ movement and to politicise them on clear class lines. This must be combined with raising a clear independent Marxist banner. Rajoy expresses the complete bankruptcy of Spanish capitalism, speaking for the system as a whole, throughout Europe and the world, when he declared: “There will be no miracles… We haven’t promised any.”

Berlusconi goes but more attacks in Italy
A similar approach is adopted by the leaders in other countries, including those of the ‘left’ like Bersani of the Democratic Left (PD) in Italy. The PD – the remnants of the once mighty Communist Party of Italy – acceded to the capitalists’ campaign that lifted Monti to the head of a completely undemocratic ‘technocratic’ government to replace the discredited Berlusconi. In fact a ‘soft coup’ by the right has taken place without a peep of protest from the ‘left’ political leaders. They now display the same fear of taking power, on which Trotsky remarked in relation to the de Man plan of the Belgian social democracy in the 1930s. The devastating crisis –partially hidden by Berlusconi’s long period in power – is now clearly visible. Italy has experienced a ‘lost decade’ of economic stagnation which has left Italy at the bottom of the world league table of growth. According to the IMF, “only Zimbabwe, Haiti and Eritrea have done worse”. As in other countries in southern Europe, it is young people who have borne the brunt with at least 30% unemployed; many of them, because of the housing crisis, forced to remain living with their parents until they are into their forties. Under the ‘national umbrella’, Monti’s government – urged on by the EU – will attempt to attack all the past gains in the Italian working class, on pensions in particular, by seeking to cut them and extend retirement age to 67. But not for nothing did the leader of the Northern League, Bossi, warn Berlusconi before he departed the scene that if they touched pensions “the people will kill us”! The same will apply to the Monti government or any government which replaces it.

83. Whole families exist in Italy – as in other countries –with the only source of income being the pension received by a retired parent. An attack on pensions – which will surely come from the Monti government – is therefore in Italy much more a direct attack on whole families than in other countries. It is sure to provoke massive resistance, as will raising the retirement age: “How can you retire at 67 on a production line? It is not physically possible. We are producing a car in less than a minute,” commented a car worker reported in the Financial Times.

84. Therefore the expectation that this government will last until elections scheduled for 2013 is a chimera. If the Monti government tilts towards the ‘left’ –by introducing a wealth tax for instance, highly unlikely but not ruled out – it could be brought down by the right-wing parties who still have a majority on paper. However, it will not be in parliament that the crucial social issues will be decided. It will be in the factories and workplaces and on the ‘street’ which will now be decisive. The mass demonstrations, the singing of hallelujahs in Rome when Berlusconi was driven out – more like a ‘liberation’ that the normal change of government– the chants, the ferocious reaction of the students all over Italy, is the signature tune of this coming period.

85. The general strike called by all the major unions for 12 December, in a matter of days after the announcement of the new austerity package, is an indication of the anger that has exploded from below. It presages a new period of class struggle in which what is left of Rifondazione Comunista, which is sticking to its support for the PD, will prove incapable of giving a fighting lead. The initiative of well-known metalworkers’ leader, Giorgio Cremaschi, which has gathered together hundreds of lefts under the title ’Cancel the Debt’, will also be tested in the major clashes between the classes.

86. Italy will see the rekindling of its best revolutionary traditions in the coming period. The idea of a ‘workers’ front’, of the best militant working-class fighters and young people, which can lay the basis for the rebuilding of a genuine workers’ party, fits the present needs of Marxism in Italy. The installation of undemocratic regimes in Italy and Greece raises the question of the character and the limits of bourgeois democracy in the present period.

Elements of Bonapartism
87. One function of bourgeois democracy is to contain the social tensions which rise particularly in a crisis from overflowing the riverbanks, of ‘normal’ and ‘peaceful’ daily, parliamentary struggle. But increased ‘electricity’ – rising class tensions – can reach such a pitch that the ‘fuses’ blow. The idea of a cross-class solution to the crisis was summed up by the British Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) George Osborne in the sentence: "We are all in this together." The idea that the class struggle has been conjured away convinces few in this period of heightened class tension. Warren Buffet, allegedly the richest man in the world, stated bluntly: "There is class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning."

88. Faced with a serious even threatening challenge, which assumes more and more of an open character – as in Greece and elsewhere – the capitalists can resort to extra-parliamentary measures. There is an element of Bonapartism even in the most ‘democratic’, or ‘republican’, countries, in the powers, very often ‘latent’ and held ‘in reserve’, which governments can resort to in ‘emergencies’. Part of this process has been an increased tendency to use state repression. The extreme manifestation of extra-parliamentary measures, of counter-revolution, is of course fascism. The bourgeois cannot resort to the classic fascism of Hitler and Mussolini in the modern era. The class balance of forces – particularly with the overwhelming social weight of the working class, including its newer layers, as well as the radicalisation of the petty bourgeois or sections of it – precludes this.

89. However this does not mean that the bourgeois will not seek to edge towards more ‘authoritarian’ measures, which have as their aim the bypassing of democratic control through elected bodies. In the future, particularly if the working class and its organisations miss chance after chance to put its stamp on the situation, leading to mass disillusionment, then it cannot be precluded that a new ‘strong man’ could emerge out of the chaos with all the associated barbarism – as in Latin America in the 1970s. Before the nightmare assumes a real form, however, the working class will have more than one opportunity to effect socialist change, especially if Marxism can win over the great majority. It is clear that in Greece in the last two or three years alone the working class could have taken power and effected socialist change if they had had at their head a mass revolutionary party – our present organisation organised on a mass basis.

90. But even in the present crisis, forms of Bonapartism – parliamentary Bonapartism in particular – can be resorted to by the capitalists when there is political deadlock, as there is to some extent in Greece and Italy. Moreover, such measures can be threatened on a European scale as well as in nation states; witness the leaking in the Bundestag of Ireland’s next budget before the Dáil and the Irish people were informed of its contents! The unelected EU commission – with the connivance of Merkel and Sarkozy – have resorted to Bonapartist diktats against ‘miscreant’ countries that are reluctant to swallow the austerity medicine. They are proposing a tighter version of the ‘stability pact’ that did not work fully in a period of boom and therefore is less likely to be effective in a period of serious economic crisis. They are threatening to ‘fine’ countries that sin against debt limits a percentage of their GD.

91. However, at this stage this is a very weak form of parliamentary Bonapartism. Moreover, it can be blown away once the situation that gave rise to it changes, particularly with an upswing in the class struggle, which is likely in a number of countries. Also, in Greece, given the new bitter mood which has developed, the resistance of the working class will be resumed once the full impact of the austerity measures on top of the agonies that the Greek people have suffered in the past period are felt.

The far right
92. The far-right parties and organisations in Europe continue to occupy an important part of the political vacuum which has existed for some time now. In fact, in some countries they have strengthened the position on the electoral field in particular. The far-right National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, could have a big impact in next year’s French presidential elections and it is not excluded that she could beat Sarkozy in the first round. In the Netherlands, the party of Geert Wilders, the PVV, is propping up the government. Wilders is seen in the polls as the second most popular politician in the country. In Austria, the far-right Freedom Party is just behind or level-pegging in the polls with the governing Social Democratic Party, with the other far right party, the BZÖ, at 5%. In the Russian elections, the right-wing nationalist the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia led by Zhirinovsky received 11.4% of the vote. And, ominously, in opinion polls in Greece the nationalist right-wing party, LAOS, is at 8% at the present time, while in Hungary the viciously anti-Semitic Jobbik party has a substantial electoral base with almost 17% of the vote in the election of 2010, giving it 47 seats in the parliament. Its vote rose by over seven times from the previous election in 2006. There are important, vicious far right-wing organisations, possessing paramilitary wings, although with smaller numbers, in Scandinavia, in Germany in Italy, Britain and elsewhere. The damage and mayhem they can inflict on the completely innocent was revealed in the Norwegian massacres in the summer by the racist right-wing madman Anders Breivik. This was followed by the revelations in Germany of a cell of neo-Nazis which had carried out a series of murders over seven years and yet had never been detected by the police!

93. These parties and organisations have to be countered whenever they raise their heads, but they do not yet represent a firm basis for right-wing reaction. In pursuit of electoral popularity and acceptability many have sought to downplay their overt racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Islamism, etc. But if the working class is not presented with a clear alternative, a new party fighting for them, these parties can grow. They can be reinforced by a further deepening of the crisis and a consequent growth of helplessness and despair. It is urgent that we, the CWI, and the national sections of the International continue to pay special attention to the far right opposed to the labour movement and propose effective measures to counter and undermine their influence.

Russia and Eastern Europe badly affected
94. Eastern Europe and Russia have also been severely affected by the crisis in the eurozone. The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland have seen the value of their currencies plummet. The Czech koruna – considered only recently to be a ‘safe haven’ for the region – has dropped against the euro. Moreover, the Czech Republic is perhaps the most exposed with 49% of its GDP consisting of exports to the eurozone, while Hungary has 44% of its GDP, Bulgaria and Poland 20%! Russia, on the other hand, sends exports to the eurozone worth less than 10% of GDP, while Turkey sends just over 5%. The glittering promise of an everlasting staircase to wealth and prosperity linked with a return to capitalism and the prospect of these countries entering Europe has been severely undermined. Notwithstanding the disarray in the EU, the ruling class or caste which holds sway in countries like Poland are ever hopeful and still knocking at the door demanding entry. However, when the dust settles, if indeed it ever does, at the end of the present European bust up, then there could be little for them to enter! The stronger EU powers like Poland could find themselves, as a consequence, plunged back into the kind of economic catastrophe which has blighted countries such as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in the past period.

95. At the same time the shine has begun to come off the Putin regime, reliant on the income from oil. The price of this commodity has been affected by the stagnation or even further decline in the world economy. At the same time, there is growing discontent, partially reflected in the outcome of the rigged parliamentary election. Putin’s party ‘United Russia’ has lost its two-thirds majority and gained just under half of the votes, down from 64%. The Communist Party’s share of the vote shot up from 11% to nearly 20%, and it seems to have gained votes from a layer of youth. With the outlawing and intimidation of the opposition, which the Putin regime has perfected to a fine art, the real discontent of the masses can only be indirectly expressed. However, this was spectacularly on display when Putin attended a martial arts tournament – at which, through his own admission, he is an ‘expert’ – and was roundly booed by the crowd. This visibly shocked Putin, which then led his apologists attempting to excuse the booing; they were not displaying opposition to Putin but merely wanted to go to the toilet! Therefore presumably they were inviting Putin to ‘piss off’!

96. In reality, it is incidents like this which display the simmering hatred of Putin – referred to in his own cloistered circle as the ‘tsar’ – and his regime, which is looting the resources of Russia at the expense of the people, from increasing sections of the masses: “Putinism, the selective autocracy that he created, is a giant car boot sale.” [David Hearst, Guardian 30 November 2011.] Coming to power, he pledged to eliminate the power of the ‘oligarchs’ – seven of them control half of the wealth of Russia –but he has, in effect, created a new set of gangsters, oligarchs in their own right, in place of the few like Khodorkovsky who have been jailed. The court case in London recently between Berezovsky and Abramovich has revealed in all its gory detail the scandalous and shameful economic looting of Russia, the stealing of the resources built up by the Russian people, through mass privatisation and ‘wild capitalism’. It was probably the greatest robbery perpetrated in human history. These two oligarchs and their deeds, their misdeeds, make Chicago gangsters of the 1930s like Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel look like street corner muggers.

97. And there is a growing awareness of this amongst the people, even amongst that section of the population, young people – who in the 1990s had the greatest illusions in the return of Russia and the former Soviet Union to capitalism. But the only governments that they have experienced are one gangster regime after another of rotten and prematurely senile Russian capitalism. But as the Guardian article indicated: “Russians are still waiting to live the normal life they rightly yearn for. Many have given up waiting. A private poll of 5,000 students at Moscow State University found that 80% intended to leave the country.” Something like 30 to 40% of the total population would also like to emigrate!

98. Hearst also showed that there is a flood of capital exiting Russia. The ‘filthy rich’ have demonstrated their ‘patriotism’ by doubling the amount of capital flows out of the country this year from $34 billion-$70 billion! Moreover, should the price of crude oil hit $125 a barrel, it would not benefit the Russian people as four times as much money as a percentage of GDP is going out of Russia rather than coming in. In other words, both the most dynamic section of the population, the young people, and the capitalists and their international backers have no faith in Putin or the regime upon which it rests. The conditions for a revolution, an explosion, are therefore being prepared in Russia: “It’s clear that the authorities very much fear a Cairo-type situation unfolding,” said Nikolai Petrov, a Moscow analyst. [Financial Times 5 December.]

99. As elsewhere, the independent power of the working class has not been expressed either in powerful independent trade unions or in the creation of a mass party of the working class. The main opposition to Putin at this stage is around those ‘liberals’ who are fighting against Putin’s ‘crony capitalism’ and looking to establish a more ‘normal’ capitalism, built firmly on ‘the rule of [capitalist] law’.

100. Because of the history of the workers’ movement in Russia, once they move into action they will rediscover the rich revolutionary traditions of the past. It is the new generation – students who seriously look towards the labour movement and the working class – as well as young workers who will supply the necessary yeast for the rise of the workers’ movement in Russia.

101. Clearly, we have arrived at a turning point in world history. The utter bankruptcy of capitalism is clear before the eyes of the world. The bourgeoisie – at least their representatives – openly confess their inability to solve the problems of humanity. Patchwork solutions, which are all that is on offer, are not enough. This is revealed in the economy, the social field, with the increasing impoverishment of growing sections of the working masses, and also in the environment. Any pretence of a ‘green agenda’ is being thrown overboard as capitalism scrambles for an economic lifeline to save its system. ‘Growth’ at any cost – which in any case will remain illusory – is proclaimed by the ConDem government in Britain, even if this results in a rise of harmful emissions. At the same time, the climate change conference in Durban is in disarray and could break up without even a minimal agreement. This reinforces our contention that capitalism will be incapable of saving the world from a catastrophic and potentially irreversible meltdown of the ice caps and the environment as a whole.

102. The class divide has widened enormously during the crisis and is destined to widen even further. But the greatest gap is between the objective situation of failing and disintegrating capitalism and the consciousness of the masses. This arises from a number of sources and differs from continent to continent and within countries in the same continent. Sections of the working class – with memories of recent prosperity – are still in a state of shock at the severity and length of the crisis. They will need more time to see that capitalism is on its way out on the basis of undermining the rights and conditions of them and their families. Many are hoping against hope that the ‘good times’ will return. Most will be severely disappointed when this does not materialise. However, we will be making a mistake if we conclude that this is the outlook of all sections, even a majority, of the working class. Events since 2007-08 have left an imprint on the consciousness of huge swathes of the working class and particularly of young people. As we have repeated many times, however, most of these workers know what they do not want but are not yet clear of the alternative. However, events, and big events at that, will change this and prepare the ground for further revolutionary or near-revolutionary explosions, leading to a molecular change in the consciousness of the working class. New political formations of the working class, including mass parties, will arise in this period and these will give us opportunities. The change of consciousness will allow us to win the best to the banner of Marxism, to the CWI.