Re-educating the movement

Submitted by martin on 12 May, 2010 - 9:52 Author: Editorial

Everywhere the financial and economic crisis has brought discredit and odium on capitalism, on capitalists, on bankers, and on their snouts-in-the-trough politicians.

Nowhere, in the election campaign just past, did that truth find any expression. Nowhere at all near the main flow of the contest was there any socialist critique of capitalism.

Nowhere is there a strong movement animated by the conviction that there is a socialist alternative to capitalism, and fighting to win it.

Nowhere is there a strong working-class movement armed with the the Marxist view of capitalism's transient place in history of what must be done to replace it with a better, fairer, more democratic, non-exploitative form of economic and social organisation - socialism.

We have seen a Republican administration in the USA and New Labour politicians in Britain use the state to bail out the bankers with public money - that is, recognising the necessity of social regulation of the economy, and bestowing "socialism" on the very rich.

Bosses' governments serve a system in which the gains are private, while the massive losses of the ruling class are socialised.

Yet we do not have any widespread understanding that yes, social regulation of the economy is what is needed, but it should be done by and for the majority of society and not just for the rich.

Capitalism and capitalists are, in a limited sense, discredited. Socialism, for now, is even more discredited. It is marginalised.

And this in a situation in which, in Britain and other countries - in Greece already - we are mostly likely in for years of turmoil and class conflict.

Yet the events of the last two years provide tremendous proof that the basic ideas of Marxist socialism, and our understanding of capitalism, are correct.

Capital, by its own processes, has concentrated and centralised itself so much that, for instance, the two mortgage companies which the USA nationalised in 2008 controlled three-quarters of all new mortgages in that enormous country of 300 million inhabitants.

The gigantic capitalist enterprises have already to a very great extent been socialised organised on a society-wide basis. Within states and internationally, they control very large areas of society. But they are "socialised" by capitalist profiteers and run on their behalf, by their governments. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, it is socialisation of the very rich, by the very rich, for the very rich.

Government intervention to regulate, administer, and sometimes rescue those gigantic enterprises is necessary if society is not to break down. Even the most right-wing bourgeois government ideologists proclaim this loudly! Even froth-at-the-mouth advocates of big business and the free market understood that and acted on it in 2008.

In so far as governments intervene, they do it as governments of the big bourgeoisie, to preserve this system, run for private profit. Even when they are forced in the interests of the capitalist class as a whole to nationalise enterprises, everything is done for, or mainly for, the big bourgeoisie. These governments rule for the bourgeoisie.

The working class, and working people in general, need a government of our own, a workers' government that will serve our interests. That government will organise the already-socialised economy in the common interest, not in the bourgeois interest.

It will expropriate the bourgeoisie and substitute proper, continuous, planning for the gyrations of the market. It will organise the economy for human need, and for the preservation of the environment on which humankind depends not for the greed of those who now run the economy and society in their own private interests. It will socialise the gains.

Society moves spontaneously, in its normal capitalist workings, towards the socialisation of the economy. Frederick Engels called that the invading socialist society. Like a human pregnancy, this socialisation needs to be delivered from its integument before it is a viable independent organism.

“Socialism" needs to be delivered from the rule, and the highly structured anarchy, of the capitalist profiteers and the governments prepared to loot society on their behalf.

The left is not ready for the situation we are now entering: we must make it ready.

We must muster sufficient forces to seize the chance to explain to our class the craziness of the system under which we live and the possibility of something better. To explain that a working-class democratic socialist alternative is necessary, urgently necessary, and that it can be won. To explain that democracy is more than the very shallow, merely political thing which, at best, it is now, under the bourgeoisie.

That real democracy, democracy worthy of the name, must be democratic control of the economy on which society and humanity depend, as well as a greatly expanded and deepened political democracy. That a socialist revolution of the working class is necessary. And that it is, now as in Russia in 1917, when the working class seized power, possible.

One of the great lessons of the 20th century is that there is no such thing as an insoluble crisis for capitalism. Given time, given the chance to hold on tight, given the lack of a politically coherent alternative to itself, it recovers.

Economic devastations, immensely tragic for vast numbers of people and even for individual capitalists, can, paradoxically, clear the way for capitalist economic revival. The manic-depressive system climbs out of the trough and begins a rise to peaks from which it will again, in time, plunge down. The cycle goes on.

Capitalism will not jump into history's abyss; it has to be knocked on the head and resolutely pushed!

In the first place, now, socialists must not only organise united fronts in class-struggle clashes but also, and urgently, do basic educational work in the labour movement and the working class.

Given the state of the left and would-be left, doing that basic educational work on a large scale is ruled out without a radical change in attitudes and modus operandi.

The SWP confines itself to often trivial, and almost always limited and reformistic, agitation and demands. The SP limits itself to the same sort of thing, plus an undertone of stodgy and apology-voiced lowest-common-denominator "socialism" and the invocation of a "new workers' party" on undefined politics. Others fantasise about revolution soon.

Yet in principle there is no reason why the Marxist socialist groups, all of whom pay lip-service to the basic Marxist ideas about capitalism and the alternative to it, should not unite to create a socialist educational movement.

There are precedents and parallels. For over half a century, a basic "non-party" Marxist education society did good work in the labour movement. It was known at first as the Plebs League and for decades as the National Council of Labour Colleges. Its existence facilitated socialist cooperation in the class struggle; but it was eventually, in the early 1960s, merged with the TUC education department.

In the mid 1960s, for a while, Marxist socialists cooperated to launch a "Centre for Socialist Education" which did limited but good work.

The fundamental advantage of such a body is that it could probably exercise in the labour movement an influence on the level of basic Marxist socialist education that would be far greater than the sum of the work of its components acting separately. It could also stimulate real discussion on wider issues among its socialist component parts.

Comrades who have the welfare of the labour movement at heart and who feel the urgent need for socialists to act in the crisis of the capitalist system will see the enormous advantages of such a socialist united front for education. We ask them to think about.

We appeal to Marxist socialists to discuss with us how this proposal might be realised, and we commit ourselves to do as much as we can in this direction, however many or few allies we can get.

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