The two “camps”
During the past five years a series of ideological and political issues arose, relating to choices, orientations, experiences, dilemmas and hardships faced by the multiform resistance and action of millions of people against neo-liberalism, war and imperialism. It could not have been otherwise, since different opinions, lines and ideological currents always co-existed and fought each other within the mass movements. Consequently, the revival of movements at the dawn of the 21st century brought about or refueled a series of political and ideological issues:
Is the concept of imperialism valid in modern times, or does it belong to the 20th century?
The war; with which line shall we fight against it?
Is Europe a pole opposing the US arrogance? What is “Europe” today?
Are we for or against violence? What is our stance towards terrorism and “war against terrorism”?
Shall we struggle to conquer the political power, or it is possible to change the world without conquering it?
Which can be the better and possible “another world”?
Let what follows be considered as a comment on these issues.
Facts are stubborn
Mass movements and resistances, uprisings, revolutionary processes are the products of the need and of the huge oppression experienced everyday on a worldwide scale by those “underneath”. They never are the result of planning on paper, nor are they ordered by ideological currents. The latter rather preexist (even in the form of small circles), meeting with movements on their course (especially when movements develop).
If we were to make a basic distinction within the mass movements on a worldwide scale, we would have to distinguish two great “camps”. On the one, stand those who do not believe that great, radical and serious changes can take place, those who believe that things will basically remain as they are. On the other, stand those who consider necessary the transcendence of the actual system of social relations and its replacement by another one, even if they do not know clearly what that system is and what its basic characteristics are.
These two big camps are present in almost all movements and their procedures. If we wish to study a little more this level (of “camps”), we shall remark that the first, the conservative one, is more composed, more organized, disposes of more staff and has better footholds. The radical “camp” is more diffused, less organized, and has very little support. Nevertheless, the second one appeared to be stronger during these five years. For two reasons: First, because it could express, and really did so, the rage, the despair and the discontent of popular masses, because it was not concerned by electoralist or other calculations, and because the all-sided development of resistance, movements, uprisings etc. is in its nature and constitutes an essential element of its line. Secondly, because during these five years a “necessary” and inevitable acceleration of the aggressiveness of the system’s basic forces took place. These forces, facing an immense economic crisis, had no other choice but the intensification of the attack against working people through the generalization of the neo-liberal holocaust and the recourse to “infinite” war. Therefore, by aggravating the brutality and the oppression, they left no ground to the ideas and the program of the conservative “camp”. In life the “weak” radical camp won.
However, a constant “war of positions” between the two camps keeps on: When Seattle broke out with the cry “smash WTO” and the anti-global movement was born, the conservative camp launched the “alter-globalization”. And opposite: While any reference to the role and character of the EU was almost an issue-taboo, came the “NO” in the French and Dutch referendums, further destabilizing the EU structure. Then, on the war: While initially the conservative camp’s line was “yes to humanitarian wars”, “yes to the punishment of those violating human rights and producing mass destruction weapons”, it gradually adapted to “the USA have the right to punish those having attacked them on 11/9, but they must get UNO’s permission to do so”, to finally be obliged to wind up to the (also wrong and disorientating) slogan “no to war and terrorism”. Nevertheless, in the end, the line of “no to war against Iraq with or without UNO’s decision” prevailed in the movement, and this is how we reached the tremendous world demonstration against war on the 15th February 2003.
During the past five years the “weak” camp managed to delegalize:
neo-liberalism as the only way possible for the working people,
globalization as a positive and objective process,
the EU, the WTO, the G8.
During the past five years the “weak” camp managed to pull apart a number of doctrines:
The unquestioned (until 2003) omnipotence of the USA, thanks to the blows inflicted on them by the heroic Iraqi Resistance, no matter if the latter does not have the full support mainly of the conservative “camp”, as it does not stick to this camp’s “European”-centered notions.
The view that imperialism does not exist, that the state/nation exists no more and that globalization has made impossible any break-through on national level. Nowadays more and more people talk about imperialism. More and more people understand that US imperialism is the greatest enemy of humanity. More and more people realize that Venezuela, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Palestine can exist in conflict with the New Order’s preachers. Gradually, it is revealed that there exist more countries not completely aligned with the international monopoly capital rail tracks; and that even more countries suffocate because of its embrace and seek other perspectives. It becomes evident that the most decisive blows against imperialism and neo-liberalism are dealt on a national formation level, not generally on an international level. Within a few decades Iraq has been transformed, from the chosen child of the West in its fight against Iran, into a second Vietnam for the USA. This shows a lot about what expects imperialists in Latin America, in the Arabic world and in Southeast Asia if they continue with their interventionist policy.
The belief that “Europe” (meaning the EU) would counterbalance the USA’s aggressiveness. Not because there are no differences and contradictions between the USA and the EU, but because the USA still have the power to impose their choices on their “allies”. Moreover, because right now a “relaxation” of neo-liberalism within the EU would plunge European monopolies into an even deeper crisis. Thus, today we see a Europe in the deepest crisis it has experienced so far: an economic crisis, a strategic orientation crisis, a political crisis.
Where to does the conservative “camp” aim at?
The conservative “camp” is composed mainly by the social democracy, as well as by some left and “communist” (only by name) forces. It is obvious that their basic conclusion is that not much may be done, apart from them coming into power and be in the management. Whether they are in the opposition or in the government, they try to harness, to incorporate, to use or even manipulate movements, in order to promote their objectives. The incorporation and manipulation of movements is carried out through a rhetoric of “alternativeness”, of “anti-neo-liberalism”, through a rhetoric of vague “rights” without any specific political targets and overthrows.
It is not accidental that certain former radical circles, which have arrived to the conclusion that “there is not much that can be done”, share a common language with the conservative “camp” and their views meet in many issues. Since no major changes can be made, let’s compromise with some “rights” and with ensuring our own space within the existing situation. This explains the fellow-traveling of sections of the radical left with the European Left Party in its openly reformist program. Antonio Negri is one of the most resounding cases (although not the only one). After seeing his work promoted by the “Empire” forces, he was unlucky enough to see all his babble falling apart just like a house of cards, since he declared that no more wars would break out, that imperialism was out of date, that the state/nation was dead etc. etc. He himself, of course, despite the fact that his theories were so soon disproved, remains undismayed: recently, he supported the “yes” for the European Constitution, having a tilt at the supporters of “no”.
At the beginning, “humanitarian” wars were not contradicted by the “conservatives”. First of all, they could not resist the temptation to denounce the violation of “democratic rights” in Cuba and Korea. Then, since they fight for “universal human rights”, they made sure to dissociate themselves from “terrorist” forces, like FARC and the Basque Patriotic Left. They also made sure to dissociate themselves from “fundamentalism” in a more roaring way than from imperialism. They showed an impermissible eclecticism as to which movements would be highlighted and which would be plunged into darkness or even slander (the Sentero Luminoso and the arrest and “conviction” of Gonzalo together with thousands of militants, the people’s war in Nepal or the Philippines, etc., are typical examples). For them, even the Iraqi Resistance smells of fundamentalism and backwardness.
The conservative “camp” waves a riddled “European vested right” or a “change” à la Lula in Brazil. It does not propagate any transcendence of capitalism. It is always “within limits”. Its “alternativeness” and its management of power, wherever it is in power, is no real solution to the problems and needs of the popular masses. Its “line” is the attempt of appeasement of the USA, or even to keep step with them, to support an alternative (imperialist) centre as a kind of counterbalance to the USA, to use and manipulate the movement.
The “contribution” of John Holloway’s view
It is not strange at all that nowadays a neo-anarchist view develops and spreads, according to which it is feasible to transform society without conquering political power. This is supported by the Scottish professor in the Independent University of Puebla in Mexico, John Holloway, who presents himself as the most authoritative representative and “interpreter” of Zapatism (even though many question this role). He has supported these views in his book “Change the world without taking power” (2002). Some of John Holloway’s axioms are: “The state, no matter which state, no matter what the government synthesis, promotes the reproduction of capitalist relations. It is bound to humiliate and rule”. “There is a revolutionary subject, which is dignity. There is no party building, no strategic for world revolution, no transition program”. “Revolution is nothing but the constant uncompromising struggle for what cannot be achieved in capitalism: dignity, control over our own lives”. If John Holloway’s views are put next to Antonio Negri’s, what one gets is the complete ideological and political disarmament of the movement. Furthermore, these views prepare the ground for the promotion of the conservative camp’s positions. Attacking the theory about imperialism, attacking the main views of Marxism regarding the need for destroying the bourgeois state machine (something the anarchists and neo-anarchists always forget) and the use of the new political power by the working class for the promotion of social transformation, attacking the need for political organization and formation of strategic and tactics by the subordinate classes, all this, under the glace of radical and revolutionary wording, are nothing but disorientating attempts.
A significant underestimation
While at the time of the First International the working class movement was the only new movement that comprehended the need for its organization and international struggle, nowadays many and different movements have developed. The retreat of the last 30 years and the organized-coordinated attack of imperialism and the bourgeoisie managed to diminish to a great extent the importance and central character of the working class movement in the eyes of many people. Thus, many say: “The working class movement may have been the protagonist of the previous century, it was tested and it failed. Nowadays it is a minority, but it is certainly not in position to change the world”. Apart from this, “the historical forms of the working class movement, the communist movement, socialism as the political power of the working class and an alternative system gave whatever they could and finally went bankrupt” – therefore, today the supporters of the above mentioned “positions” seek something else: either by remaining within the system asking politely for more rights and changes (social democracy and radicals), or, as John Holloway says: “If we attempt to become strong by founding a party, grasping weapons and winning some elections, then we will not be any different from all the mighty ones in history. Therefore, there is no way out, there are no breaches in the power circle. So what can we do? Change the world without coming into power. How can we achieve this? We do not know”. That is, we stay with “we do not know”! Of course, it is the same person who has claimed that “we do not want to comprehend the world, but to reject it”. That is, rather, we do not know and do not want to know. The rest will be done by … “dignity”.
All the above “new positions” do not form any ideological answer or outlet to the many issues posed by the historical experience and the reality itself! They are unable to offer any essential answer to real issues posed by life itself. What is the value of these answers for experiences such as Iraq, Cuba, Palestine, Venezuela, Argentina, Nepal, the Philippines, Bolivia, for the anti-war movement or the movement against imperialist globalization, for instance? No other world is possible without the organization and the active participation of the basic masses, that is, first and foremost, of the working people. No other force can be the backbone of the social block, which will lead to the possible and necessary new world.
What about the “weak” camp?
The radical camp continues to struggle in a loose way, mostly not coordinated, with little support. Its main strength lays on the propulsive power of revolts, outbreaks, popular activation. The “weak” camp urgently needs organization, knowledge and generalization of the concentrated experience. It needs firm political and ideological reference points. It needs international coordination. It needs a General Line. Revolutionary Marxism, with all its supplies from the past, but also with the ability only Marxism possesses to analyze the reality and offer a perspective, has to become one of the most decisive weapons of the “weak” camp. In reality, if the latter realizes its power, we will experience even more unprecedented conditions, bringing us closer to the stage of active resistance on an international level. We have to contribute to this acceleration!
Instead of epilogue: Two crucial issues for revolutionary Marxism today
We will borrow a thought formulated by Antonio Gramsci during the 20s, when he was leading the Italian Communist Party. Talking about the “ideological” element, which is necessary to the revolutionaries and the communists, he was saying that this consists of “the understanding of the conditions within which takes place the struggle, of the social relations within which takes place the struggle, of the basic tendencies that act upon the system of these relations” (“Political Texts” by Antonio Gramsci, p. 63 of the Greek edition). In a certain sense, this position retains its actuality. The revolutionaries and the communists must define their stand towards the mass movements, the revolts, the upheavals (even towards regimes and countries), and generally towards all the unprecedented situations that life will bring to the fore. Getting rid of any arrogance and of the dogmatic adherence to the snugness of the past, the revolutionaries and communists will have to reckon with the new correlations and new situations.
From a certain point of view, the conditions within which acts the contemporary revolutionary movement are somehow similar to the conditions of the First International. Not only Parties, but also trade unions, cooperatives and workers’ mutual help organizations made part of the First International. Within its frames different ideological currents existed. However, the basic particularity was that the First International “was constructed directly on the base of mass workers’ movements and not on the base of the Socialist Parties as such, and within these mass movements of several countries the Marxists were far from prevailing” (“History of the Three Internationals” by William Foster, pp. 158-159 of the Greek edition).
In the actual conjuncture, and for some time that we do not know how long it will last, the revolutionary and communist movement will function as a wing, a component, a minority within the frame of movements, revolts and efforts. This will be the general rule for quite a period. The exceptions, the cases where the revolutionary and communist movement will be “dominating”, are not to be excluded, and they will contribute to the general advancing towards a higher stage. However, the faster we will get rid of the “habit” to yearn for forms of the past and to copy these forms, instead of taking example of the best elements of the era during which the communist movement was prevailing, the fewer delays we will present.
Any analogy between today and the era of the First International stops here. The communist movement has to realize that the nodal point for the “ideological element”, as we borrowed this notion by Gramsci, is that “we live before but also after the Revolution, as well as after the capitalist restoration, and right in the middle of the New World Order”. To put it in a more simple way: We have lived victorious revolutions and the first attempts to build socialism; these constitute a part of the inheritance, of the equipment we bring along. However, we have also lived the decomposition of the transition societies and the restoration of capitalism, a fact that charges the revolutionaries and the communists with “bills” from this past: here lays a clear requirement for conclusions and theory. Finally, we live right in the middle of the imperialist new Order, where the instability, the explosions and the dead-ends will multiply. Through continuous efforts on world level, new roads must be opened, and the objective law of development of the movement must be discovered: the theory and the practice, the new revolutionary program, are essential equipments in a new environment.
Which is the future of the revolutionary and communist movement?
Can the resistance movements all over the world become victorious without promoting a liberating social vision? Can the communists exist outside the move of the masses and outside the big and small resistances put up by the peoples? Because the answer to both questions is negative, the future of the revolutionary and communist movement is unbreakably tied with the course and the evolution of the mass movements. “Life will impose its rights”, as Lenin said. The communist movement does have a bright future, under the condition that it will prove in practice, and convince the masses, for the necessity and timeliness of communism. Easy to be said, difficult to be done. But that was always the way it goes!