In critical situations similar to the current one, there have always been at least three alternatives. Radical system change (revolution), extreme hardening of capitalism (barbarity), or reform of the social order (capital-labour pact).
Juan Diego García
Since the acute system crises of the nineteenth century, these three alternatives have arisen, and nothing indicates that this option cannot be repeated.
The Revolution experienced its first victory in the Paris Commune; subsequent victories with the establishment of a global socialist system in Russia and China, Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea; and also with socialism in Eastern Europe, following the victory of soviet forces in the Second World War. An assessment of these revolutions shows undeniable material progress for the workers’ movement, while at the same time revealing the enormous weaknesses of a model that ended in serious crisis, and which now, in many respects, can hardly be a guiding compass.
Barbarity was imposed with fascism in Europe, and with its various versions in the rest of the world. And although it was defeated, it never completely disappeared; fascism has maintained some form of social base, remarkably similar to the traditional. Moreover, it continues, as in the past, to be a reserve political instrument of the bourgeoisie in times of significant risks to the system. Now is no different; we are witnessing the rebirth of fascism across the globe.
For their part, Reformist tendencies have also played an especially important role – from their early forms in the nineteenth century (United Kingdom and Germany), through to the capital-labour pact in Europe.
The latter stemmed from the social democratic tendencies of the workers’ movement and the Christian socialist tendencies of the grande bourgeoisie, especially after the Second World War and with the New Deal in the United States.
Faced with the current global juncture and in the context of a profound global crisis, as practically all the experts predict, do true conditions exist to dismantle the capitalist system and construct a radical new order in its place?
Or, as happened in the past, is it now feasible to reform the system through some sort of social pact? Or, considering the worst case scenario, will the ruling class opt to drive the system with extreme solutions – restricting or overturning all the advances that have moderated the worst forms of labour exploitation – and returning to the barbarity of civil war, and in the worst case, to new world wars, as in the past?
Today’s reformist forces are far removed from traditional social democracy, which proposed dismantling capitalism and advancing socialism through reforms, always peacefully and within the system.
But the present social democracy stopped flying that flag and no longer aspires to socialism. Rather, it proposes a “human” capitalism, if – strictly speaking – this term has any meaning.
Yet, faced with the depth of the crisis, we should remember that at least a considerable, and reasonable, section of the grande bourgeoisie may entertain the enormous risks of largely placing the burden of recovery costs on the working classes, and then opting to implement some reforms to reduce this impact.
Nonetheless, it should not be discounted that a considerable section of the labour force, faced with the reality of a correlation of (largely or totally unfavourable) forces, may decide to accept new pacts with the bourgeoisie – in order to avoid exposure to solutions that are much less advantageous to their interests – including forming new extreme right and fascist forces.
Everything indicates that, at best (and if this correlation of forces is not changed by action from left-wing groups who encourage political awareness and organisation among the working classes) the benefits of such a pact will be even smaller than those brought about by the modern Welfare State. In other words, only some of the gains that were achieved by the traditional capital-labour pact will be able to be recovered – limiting the major damages caused by neoliberalism, but at the cost of fundamentally maintaining this model.
Fascism, as the extreme and most harmful expression of capitalism, was defeated in the Second World War, but it did not disappear.
It has maintained many of its traditional social bases and has updated its discourse – the content of which is repeated and, as in the past, continues to be an instrument of big business. This big money will make use of followers of fascism if the risk of losing power increases and the labour forces jeopardise its privileges.
Despite being a lesser political force, it was able to seize power and, through various methods (which today are much more sophisticated than then), mobilise great masses to the suicidal venture of war.
Fascism now is essentially the same as fascism then, although its outward forms are numerous and extremely diverse.
Only large-scale, powerful social mobilisation will ensure that the grande bourgeoisie desist from using it.
The urgent work of combating fascism at the theoretical level falls to the left-wing and to reformists, who especially need a convincing approach among the working-class social bases that fascism always held and still retains.
But now, the revolution seems to lack big perspectives, especially in the rich world, which still enjoys ample resources. Although this is not the case at the periphery of the system, the weakest link in the chain, which, as it did in the past, could break and open wider perspectives on the left. However, the left seems very disorganised, dispersed and divided.
This is a result of the many interpretations of the past – located on a wide range that extends from those who uncritically accept these (present-day so-called socialism, in particular) to those who, faced with the current weakness, end up accepting whatever opportunity allows, and little more than this, moving their positions closer to simple reformism.
(Translated by Rebecca Ndhlovu – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay