Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Friday, March 15, 2013

John Molyneux on revolutionary politics today

The liberal media (The Independent, The Guardian etc), the left blogs and so on have been awash, recently, with claims that Leninism is over, that vanguard parties have had their day, that broad left unity is the only way forward and so on... Moreover all this comes after the summer and autumn of 2011 which saw the Indignados in Spain and the Occupy movement, in both of which a generalized anti-partyism was prevalent, and in a context of widespread disillusionment with mainstream political parties among the general public and vaguely autonomist movementism among students. Then came the spectacular rise of Syriza in Greece, accompanied by widespread enthusiasm for Syriza across the European left (including Tariq Ali and Richard Seymour), when it became apparent that Syriza had a real chance of winning the election.

Here it should be noted that an anarchist/autonomist type strategy which downplays the role of the state (Hardt and Negri) or rejects the taking of state power altogether (see John Holloway’s ‘How to Change the World without Taking Power’) can more easily coexist with a strategy of a reformist government of the left than either of these strategies can coexist with a revolutionary Marxist perspective of building a revolutionary party and smashing the capitalist state. They, the anarchist/autonomists, do their thing at the base, in the localities etc., while the reformists do their thing at the level of government.  Two interesting historic precedents for this are: 1) the early 20th century ‘economist’ tendency in Russian Social Democracy who argued that the job of Social Democrats was to restrict themselves to supporting the economic struggles of the working class and not get involved in political struggle which, as Lenin explained at the time, meant leaving politics to the liberal bourgeoisie; 2) the Spanish Revolution where the anarcho-syndicalists refusal to take state power (on the grounds of being opposed to any kind of dictatorship) morphed into support for the bourgeois liberal/ Communist/reformist Popular Front government.

History ... shows that revolutions do happen and that the 20th century witnessed a large number of revolutionary challenges by the working class. To this must be added the facts of the present deep global economic crisis of capitalism combined with the rapid onset of climate change (demanding an international solution beyond the reach of any national left government) and the need for the overthrow of capitalism, rather than its reform, becomes compelling. In my opinion the likelihood of revolutionary outbreaks and attempts by the working class in the next twenty years or so is extremely high. The real problem will be winning – and that will need a revolutionary party not an alliance of ‘interstitial’ and ‘symbiotic’ strategies or a broad left party a la Syriza or Kautsky's SPD.

From John Molyneux, 'Erik [Olin Wright] and the Zeitgeist' - see also Molyneux on Marxism and the Party

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