The rise of social reformism, the far right and fascism, and the tasks of revolutionary parties of the working class
Clearly the period we are going through is not one that the bourgeoisie can manage wontedly. These are not average days that we are experiencing.
They are extraordinary in two ways. Firstly, the hegemonic bourgeoisie is increasingly adopting methods that are different from those they used in the past. This is evident in the further restriction of bourgeois democracy by scything of democratic rights and freedoms, and parliamentary governance techniques being overrun by the bourgeoisie and their parties when “necessary” (and this is increasingly the case). But this is not all; it is also evident in the fast loss of grassroots support by the bourgeoisie’s traditional left- and right-wing parties (that have governed for years interchangeably) to a series of new parties. And secondly, at a time when the discontent and reaction of the exploited masses are on the rise and it is becoming increasingly more difficult to govern them, and when the working class, having experienced a historical defeat, continue to be inflicted by disorganisation, confusion, loss of morale and lack of confidence and hope in the future, the revolutionary parties of the working classes have not yet been able to take strong and stable steps towards organising the working class and the exploited masses, through their immediate concrete demands, on a platform of revolution and socialism. This is seen in the reality of the working-class parties, but more so in the ability of left and right wing populist, far right and fascist movements to influence the masses, get their support and become governments in a number of countries, whilst working class parties fail to gain strength.
Bourgeois democracy is getting more and more stunted despite the efforts of the left populist social-reformist movements and their progressive “left” governments –in spite of their limitations– to “broaden democracy”, while taking no action to resolve financial, economic and social problems of the masses. Its hypocrisy is exposed repeatedly, not just in so-called underdeveloped countries with and anti-democratic political system, but also in countries deemed as the “cradle of democracy”, and it is being cut down from all sides and is losing its functions. This is done not just through coups or similar methods, but through “technocratic governments” which serve to undermine the term “the will of the people”, or through Trump’s fait accompli attitude, or as is done most recently in Great Britain through the attempt to by-pass parliament with Johnson and the Queen’s complicity.
On the other hand, over the past 20 years we have witnessed the growth of social reformist, far right or fascist movements and parties whose reactionary position vis-à-vis the working class is well known, some forming governments in various countries.
As examples of social reformists which claim to be “left”, have common characteristics despite their differences, and have formed “progressive governments” based on reforms aiming to improve capitalism, one can list Lula and his Worker’s Party (PT) in Brazil, Tsipras and Syriza in Greece, Chavez and Maduro’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Morales in Bolivia, Ortega in Nicaragua, Correa in Ecuador, Zelaya in Honduras and their governments.
These reformist governments with “left” tendencies have been held up as examples to the world “left“, across their own continent and in the world. However, most of them have been worn down and lost their old power and attractiveness almost everywhere, especially in Brazil and Greece where the right has again taken power. And these are not the only examples of social reformism in the world. For an overview, when we look at these countries alongside the dominant imperialist powers in the world, regardless of whether or not they are populist, it is clear that social-reformist movements and parties who claim to be “left” is a reality, for example in Europe, too.
The old fashioned social democratic parties which formed governments in the past, such as the German SPD or the French SP, have transformed into “centre left” parties of the bourgeoisie, having declared their political bankruptcy, and eroding their “left” credentials almost completely in favour of neoliberal and monetarist policies. The SP was reduced to 7.5% electoral support, and a similar trajectory –albeit slower– was also the case for the SPD. It must be added that bankruptcy and loss of power of classical social democracy, is equally valid for the transition of old revisionist parties to social democratic parties.
It is an entirely natural process for social democracy to attract anger and lose power when it seemingly defends the demands of the masses but does nothing beyond mere talk and exploitation, leaving workers hanging while defending neoliberal policies and directly undertaking or backing their implementation.
European countries are “fertile lands“. If the examples of France and Germany are to be taken, the loss of power by social democratic SP (and its constant ally P”C”F) and SPD created a vacuum, and in France this vacuum was tried to be filled by the left populist Melenchon’s “La France insoumise” (Unbowed France) and by the Greens and the Left Party in Germany.
One can say that right now, on behalf of the “left“, Melenchon’s party in France and the Greens in Germany are on the rise. However, this ascend does not even amount to half of the losses experienced by SP and SPD, and these two parties are not the ones which are in fact on the rise.
During the 2012 elections in France, the SP candidate who was elected as president with 51.6% of the votes in the 2nd round did only get 6.4% of the votes in 2017. This was the result of Hollande’s anti-worker neoliberal policies, which were hated by the masses. Melenchon, the new social reformist candidate on the rise, received only 19.6% of the vote. Another characteristic of the 2017 presidential elections where Macron and the fascistic National Front candidate M. Le Pen came first and second respectively in the first round was that for the first time the centre-left and centre-right candidates were unable to take a place in the second round.
Following the P”C”F, which was almost wiped out of the political scene after a regression from their 1969’s vote share of 21.3% down to 3% in 2012, neither the “centre left” and the SP, which produced presidents, nor the centre right, which ruled over France for many years, have the influence they once had since 2017.
Germany does not seem much different from France, although the SPD still maintains half of its base and commands a majority in the unions.
From the Second World War up to 2017 the country was ruled by two big parties: the conservative Christian Democratic CDU and the SPD, changing hands between them. In recent years however, because of the power loss experienced by these parties, it can only be ruled by CDU-SPD’s “grand coalition”.
During 1969-79, the SPD became the governing party with over 40% of the vote (45.8% in the 1972 elections). In its last term of government (1998-2005), due to G.Schröder’s neoliberal, anti-worker, monopolistic policies that garnered the hatred of the masses, it lost 11 percentage points and regressed in 2009 to a 23% vote count.
The ongoing “grand coalition” which is necessitated by the interests of German monopolies cost huge drops in September 2017 elections both for the CDU/CSU (9% drop) and for the SPD (5.7% drop).
The two “new” social reformist parties, the Left Party and the Greens suffered losses, too. Thus, the real party that ascended in Germany was not these two left wing parties but the AfD (Alternative for Germany), which gathered 12.6% of the votes after failing to cross the electoral threshold in the 2013 elections with 4.7%. The characteristic of the last elections here is that this right wing party with racist and xenophobic views gathered 11% of votes in the west of Germany and 21.5% of votes in the east, on lands that used to be known as the “Democratic German Republic“, primarily in the jurisdiction of the Brandenburg state where the seemingly leftist Left Party and the SPD currently rule with a coalition.
In late summer, CDU and its coalition partner SPD suffered heavy defeats in Brandenburg and Saxony. The racist AfD was the winner of this election with serious rises in its share of the vote, coming second in three states.
The developments in France and Germany paint a picture where the centre-left and centre-right parties are significantly losing power, and with the two-party parliamentary system, the “centre”, even though not collapsing, is showing signs of falling out of favour. In France, with the exception of the “Yellow Vest” movement, the parliament and parliamentary struggle is also falling out of favour, as seen with the low election turnout, but the tendency for the struggles outside of parliament is still weak. On the other hand, this tendency, as is shown by the recent outbreak of popular movements, is changing rapidly in the dependent countries where people have gone onto the streets.
Once again certain new social reformist parties are taking initiative to fill the void left by the declining old social democracy, but because of their refusal of seriously criticising social reformism and not clearly supporting the urgent demands of the exploited masses they are not on a steady rise and their share of the vote is volatile, with certain loss of vote in recent times. However, the far-right movements with fascist tendencies are on a rising trajectory both in France and Germany relatively slow in the former but pretty fast in the latter.
On the other hand, Germany and France reviewed here, as prototypes are not isolated examples. Similar developments are taking place in Italy, where the old social democrats have been wiped out, with the centre-left Democratic Party formed in 2007 losing half of its share of the vote in 2018. The alliance between the far right and fascistic League (18% in 2018) and the Brothers of Italy is on the rise. The government was formed as a coalition of the newly formed 5 Star Movement (31%) and the League, which made an important breakthrough in the European Parliament elections by increasing its votes from 6% in 2014 to 40.8% in 2019.
Similar developments have taken place in Austria. In the 2017 elections, the social democratic party fell into third position with 26% share of the votes, while the first and the second place went to the centre-right Austrian People’s Party, which has been shifting further to the with its leader S. Kurz, and the far right Freedom Party, and Kurz’s party came first in the last elections.
Spain is given as a counter example where the right wing government fell and the socialist PSOE formed a minority government. However in 2019 it was not able to progress forward to form a government, thus new elections are to be held in November. In Britain, the Labour Party increased its votes by 10% to 40% in the 2017 elections, but was not able to show similar progression in the local elections, and in recent polls it appears to be losing support because of its sitting on the fence policies. While the Conservative Party follows a further regressive line, the newly formed Brexit Party came first in the European Elections.
Nevertheless, though they are exceptions for the moment, there are other examples such as Denmark where the social democratic party won the elections and formed a government. However, this was only possible because this party hijacked everything that the right wing parties defended and transformed its platform into a completely reactionary one.
In Greece, Syriza lost its majority to the centre-right New Democracy Party, which formed the new government. In almost all those countries, which were previously under the rule of revisionism we now see the far right parties being the first or second biggest political force. In Ukraine, Poland, Slovenia, Czech Republic, etc. the far right parties rule.
The reasons for loss of influence within the exploited masses and the redundancy of traditional social-democratic parties –which could be said to represent a right wing form of social reformism– are obvious. Regardless of how they were formed, these parties follow policies serving the interests of the bourgeoisie instead of the working class; leading the exploited masses to cooperation and subjugation. Furthermore, they take a suppressive, demolishing stance during revolutionary uprisings – times of crisis of life and death for capitalism. But fulfilling their function depends on their ability to provide attractively packaged prescriptions to the masses; exploiting their hopes for defeating oppression and exploitation through promising the achievement of their demands, which could never be realised. These prescriptions have to be attractive and effective enough to subjugate the exploited masses to the monopolies, but the content is not to encourage attempts to overthrow the system and should deter the masses from doing so. Their “solution” was to spread the belief that hopes of freedom and expectations for the future could be realised within the capitalist system, and to convince the masses to compromise against the bourgeoisie and capitalism. Not only do they serve investment and capitalism, through “dirty deeds” such as the HARTZ legislation dressed as a “solution”; social reformism of the social democrats –for all it did or did not achieve, but not necessarily as an automatic result of this– served more reactionary bourgeois trends such as fascism and enabled them to spread.
1. Almost all exceptional examples of social democracy –traditional form of social reformism– are already or soon to be invalid; globally losing positions, retreating and weakening, they are not considered being a force anymore in some countries. The loss of power and position spreads to new socialist reformist parties, as witnessed in the examples of PT and Syriza. Generally, these parties do not display a consistent development. However, it is true that they showed some advances and influenced the masses in the last decade.
2. Retreat and the loss of power is a trend limited not just to social democracy, and it engulfs traditional right conservative parties. As its hypocrisy and inadequacy becomes more obvious, despite the lack of tendency for an out-of-parliament struggle, the bourgeois parliamentarian system is weakened and tendencies to escape parliamentarianism among the traditional right conservative parties of the bourgeoisie are spreading.
3. Blaming parliamentarianism is spreading among traditional parties of the bourgeoisie; right- populist, racist and fascist bourgeois parties and currents that display hostility to foreigners, but supposedly critical of the system and capitalism, are the ones getting stronger rather than the revolutionaries.
The reason for loss of strength for the bourgeois parties and currents of the right and the left –traditional social democrat social reformists, liberals, conservatives, etc.– is obvious (the reason is also the same for loss of strength among new social reformist parties): capitalist exploitation and imperialist pillage is continued with reckless aggression. Moreover, capitalist aggression renders invalid all concessional agreements based on cooperation between classes, pinning down and cornering the masses at positions that cannot be sustained. The tendency to disengage among the masses is completely understandable given the false hope, created by empty promises alongside reactionary right-wing bourgeois parties, and this fraudulence being exposed under social democratic governments. The same could be said of the tendency to disengage from the parliamentarian system among conservatives and social democrats, who have stood on the right or left of centre and had a string of governments within the parliament.
Discrediting exposure –often by their opponents– of bourgeois parties of the left and the right; exposed corruption of those serving in governments and the ruling parties and the ensuing scandals; these accelerate and increase the tendency among the exploited masses to hate and disengage with the current system and all its parties.
The hypocrisy of the parliamentarian system with its right-wing and left-wing parties, made more obvious under conditions that do not serve their interests, lead to more disengagement of the exploited masses. Disengagement is also encouraged by accusations by new social reformist, racist and fascist parties against the bourgeois parties and parliamentarian system.
Reasons for the far-right, populist, racist and fascist parties gaining strength, while new types of social reformist movements and parties are seemingly defending the demands of the exploited masses, are also clear. Despite a common denominator of compromise and cooperation in dealing with the bourgeoisie and limiting their horizon to capitalism, new social reformist movements and parties, some of which seem to be left populist, did not spring from among the class, dividing it –in contrast to the traditional social reformism in the form of social democracy– but from outside the class as a current from within petty bourgeoisie. Without completely ignoring the class struggle itself, it is concerned more with the demands of the exploited masses on environment, arms race, peace, issues of immigration, etc., verbalising these demands, stressing the human and democratic dimension and making them current, tending to deal with indirect manifestations of the class struggle.
Along with corruption and scandals, as exploitation of their demands by old and new social reformists become more obvious; the real reason for the influence of right populism, racism and fascism on the masses, adding new concerns, such as immigrants, to existing ones and creating new enemies to divide them, and their increased strength, is exploitation of the same demands, in a new presentation and a louder voice. Claiming to be an “alternative” and strengthening their position, it is true that racism and fascism exploit concerns around unemployment and uncertainty of future, as well as other demands of those disengaged from right-conservative parties under harder economic, social and political conditions.
Dimitrov’s comments on the demagogic tendency and deceptiveness of fascism need to be made concrete and advanced under current conditions, as they are also true for populists, etc.:
“Fascism aims at the most unbridled exploitation of the masses but it approaches them with the most artful anti-capitalist demagogy, taking advantage of the deep hatred of the working people against the plundering bourgeoisie, the banks, trusts and financial magnates, and advancing those slogans which at the given moment are most alluring to the politically immature masses. In Germany … ‘The general welfare is higher than the welfare of the individual,’ in Italy … ‘Our state is not a capitalist, but a corporate state,’ in Japan … ‘For Japan without exploitation,’ in the United States … ‘Share the wealth,’ and so forth.
“Fascism delivers up the people to be devoured by the most corrupt and venal elements, but comes before them with the demand for ‘an honest and incorruptible government.’ Speculating on the profound disillusionment of the masses in bourgeois-democratic governments, fascism hypocritically denounces corruption.“(The Fascist Offensive and the Tasks of the Communist International in the Struggle of the Working Class against Fascism, Dimitrov’s Report delivered at the Seventh World Congress of the Communist International)
Another factor that must be mentioned, beyond far-right conservative or social democrat governments’ silence in the face of rising racism and fascism, is the reactionary measures they take due to their conciliatory stance, clearing the way for these extremely reactionary currents and enabling them to get strengthened.
Marxist-Leninists are the ones who really oppose capitalism, the parliamentarian system and all their consequences. However, as the deceit of the right-wing / left-wing demagogies are exposed by the cursed consequences of capitalism and the masses lose faith in the system parties and disengage with them, they turn to those populist, racist and fascist parties that continue to exploit their demands.
Why can the revolutionary working class parties not utilise enough the opportunities presented by this process when the contradictions of capitalism are sharpening and the increasingly discontented masses search for new alternatives? What are the shortcomings, which prevent them from advancing and how can they be overcome?
These questions are vital.
Sharpening capitalist contradictions push the masses in every sphere (including the political field) to a face-off against the bourgeoisie, creating the opportunity for the revolution and the strengthening of the ML parties. But it does not happen that way.
In the recent past, where capitalist contradictions have sharpened, it was not the working class and revolutionary parties, in the name of the left, but Tsipras and Syriza, Iglesias and Podemos or Melenchon and ‘France Unbowed’ in France, Lafontaine and the Greens in Germany and many other examples in Latin America that the masses turned to; those petty bourgeois organisations, despite how they represent themselves, in cooperation with the bourgeoisie and looking for a place in capitalism. It must be recognised that, despite adopting concessions and advocating class cooperation, this type of social reformism and the petty bourgeois approach that characterise it, have control over the discontent of the exploited masses against the consequences of capitalism as well as ideological hegemony over the resulting struggles.
On the other hand, rightwing populist, racist and fascist parties, both in government and when in opposition, are steadily advancing and increasing their influence on the masses.
Without a doubt, this issue, and the developments that give rise to it, show the state of revolutionary class parties: that they have to start by addressing the issue realistically and honestly and they need to advance to a stage where they respond to the needs of the exploited masses, squeezed within the cogs of hypocrisy of capitalist exploitation and tyranny.
Surely, the revolutionary parties of the working class in different countries do not have the same level of development and there are differences between them in terms of the level of their relations with the masses, the scoop of their work, the breadth of their instruments and opportunities. Some have more advanced and developed relations with the exploited masses, while others have relatively less. No doubt all are on the path of development but it is also true that there are problems, of the movement in general, that need to be faced.
At a time when traditional parties and the parliamentarian system itself lose their functions, the bourgeoisie finds it harder to rule through old norms and traditional currents, when petty bourgeoisie itself is hostile, when reactionaries and fascism is on the rise, and hence the world is moving towards a period of transformation, the parties of the class cannot be content with their own positions. It is clear that they must renew themselves, but the need for the renewal of revolutionary parties and the dynamics of this renewal are surely different from those of the bourgeoisie; it has to be.
We know that the issue is linked to the historic defeat of the working class and its consequences, and we have discussed this to a certain extent. However, we cannot be content with renewing these discussions. Yes, the working class was defeated, its forces scattered, its self-confidence inflicted and weakened. But the issue is not yesterday or tomorrow; it is how to proceed today, under the current conditions.
1. The need for ideological purity and clarity
One cannot argue that the revolutionary working class parties could overcome their problems and strengthen themselves through ideological flexibility. One can neither orientate towards class collaboration nor can grow by following the nationalist path, uniting with their own bourgeoisie. The answer to the existing problems is not in moving away from revolutionary aims and objectives and developing a right tendency in search of a solution on the basis of the existing statuesque. On the contrary, the answer is in uniting with the masses and getting stronger, and maintaining the ideological purity of parties and making them more revolutionary.
This is why when the fundamental contradictions of capitalism deepen, bourgeois currents with its right as well as left (classical social democracy) weaken, and this proves the necessity of ideological soundness and reaffirmation of revolution.
Ideological flexibility and the tendency to shift to the right can be improving only temporarily, yet it is in fact destructive, as was the case with the new type social reformism, which was on the rise once but has now its ups and downs. What we need to follow is not any kind of development and growth but the kind, which is antagonistic with the bourgeoisie while contributing to the cause of the working class emancipation.
2. Yet one cannot move forward by negating a series of experiences. Revolutionary class parties need positive examples, which could be the basis of arguments for their growth and development.
a) A solid ideological struggle against all bourgeois currents and especially the new type of social reformism and fascism, based on concrete practice and utilisation of every opportunity to unmask them
It is important to extend ideological and political education to equip the cadres against fascism and social reformism. Fascism’s ability to mobilise masses by the manipulation of their demands and fake anti-capitalism as well as the use of conservative beliefs and prejudice is well known. Social reformism, on the other hand, though not a workers’ current or movement, can have an effect with the illusion it spreads among the working class with its organisations by use of their demands and sensitive issues as well as its claims of modernity at a time when the working class is disenfranchised and has not much weight. There are conflicts and contradictions between them but this does not change the fact that they both are reactionary currents, which aim to strengthen and extend the life of capitalism. While the far right, racism and fascism are the reactionary currents of monopolies; social reformism is a current of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, which can play politically different roles (sometimes progressive and sometimes reactionary).
b) The need to develop the right positions and policies and not being content only with ideological purity
There is no doubt that ideological purity is a must, but it is not enough: the policies put forward for a certain period (tactics) and for special areas must also be concrete and flexible, as opposed to the ideological field. One cannot replace policies with ideological principles, which have to be refrained from flexing. The concreteness and flexibility of revolutionary policies, both general and periodic in the field of tactics and in special areas, come from, first, the fact that the balance of power between the classes (countries, parties, etc.) change in time and in accordance with conditions, and second, the fact that strategy makes tactical maneuvers possible through tactical compromises and retreats to safeguard its success. Revolutionary politics and practice must surely meet Marxist-Leninist principles, but it is obvious that one cannot be contented with only repeating certain ideological principles or facts. Working class parties have to become masters of implementing Marxism to the concrete conditions of individual countries, to the present period, to the subject, sector, factory, etc. that is in question.
c) The need to assert ourselves as an independent political movement
In countries where capitalism developed more or less, the working class must organise as an independent class party, and as a political alternative it must call the working class and the exploited masses to gather around its independent programme to fight against imperialist capitalism. Without forming a political alternative there is no chance of becoming an alternative to the existing order in practice.
Inevitably, there will be differences in terms of tactics from one country to another as the conditions in which class struggle is waged vary, and as political alternatives, the call of the revolutionary class parties to the working class and exploited masses to organise and fight is not necessarily synonymous with the call to overthrow the bourgeoisie in power in every situation.
Furthermore, in situations that necessitate a tactical change, say, in order to counter an imperialist intervention in individual countries or to hinder the formation of a fascist dictatorship, certain alliances or coalition of forces, which may be different from normal times, may be formed around a common objective (in the form of support not based on a certain deal or coordinated or uncoordinated unity of action). One cannot defend ideological flexibility or the abandonment or postponement of the independent organisation of the working class, but it is necessary to be flexible in tactics, as is the waging of class struggle with flexible tactics. For instance, in Venezuela, there is nothing wrong if the working class party, organising and carrying out its work independently among the working class and drawing a demarcation line between itself and the ruling party, shares a common position or have an alliance with them in certain circumstances.
However, under any circumstances, revolutionary class parties have to assert themselves as an alternative force with its own independent politics, organise within the working class and working masses under their own banner, and call the masses to gather and fight around their own revolutionary platform of struggle – whether they are in alliance with other forces or not.
3. The need to develop special policies
It is true that social reformist formations such as Podemos and Syriza (Chavism and now movements headed by Maduro, Lula and others can be added onto this list) have, especially in their rising period, influenced and gathered the working class around themselves, and this influence went as far as the revolutionary class parties to a certain extent. This influence varied in different times and places. This has shown that the revolutionary class parties are not strong and sound enough. It has also shown something else: Yes, in general, the wordings are correct, as are general positions (reaffirming revolution, opposing the existing system, etc.) However, developing a correct position is not limited to having general political truths with the correct ideological position. One needs to develop detailed correct special policies in every area as well as in general.
Let’s take the example of the question of immigration and xenophobia, which is exploited especially by far right, racist and fascist currents. There is no question that this issue is linked with economic problems, regional wars and crises arising from the sharpening contradictions of capitalism, and that this issue is used as a basis for xenophobia, which has a reactionary effect on society in the political sense. Knowing that the European left-social reformists highlight the humanitarian aspect of this question and defend the “open borders” policy as a solution, while the far right populists, racists and fascists use this issue as an instrument of agitation and have a position of “deporting migrants” with slogans going as far as “death to foreigners“, what position should the defenders of the cause of the working class take? While observing principles, one would of course not try to solely defend the truth without being concerned with how it will be understood by broad masses or without any effort to develop ideas regarding the details of a policy.
Migrants who are forced to move to another country because of economic difficulties or wars cannot be excluded. However, one cannot overlook the exploited sentiments and perceptions of the workers who are on the verge of losing their jobs because of rising unemployment and who have become open to the influence of xenophobic propaganda with reactionary-fascist content. Therefore, one has to develop special revolutionary policies, which can be easily understood and taken on by the masses. Unless this is achieved, other forces, especially the reformist or fascist ones, will take hold of this area.
There is no prescription for the determination of special policies that we need. The only way is to make effort to establish special alternative political forms, thinking hard and considering each and every concrete situation. Regarding the example of the question of refugees, in those countries where migrants are being used as an instrument of provocation of war, if the refugees are given some special treatments such as free health care and education, one can demand the extension of those rights to include the workers and labourers in such a way that could educate the workers and eliminate xenophobia. The right thing would be to put emphasis on unemployment and dismissals soaring under the conditions of capitalist crisis, demand job security, linking and dealing with the question of foreign (migrant) workers on this basis. In this way, one can link capitalism to unemployment and migration, and expose social reformism with its humanitarian approach as well as racism and fascism as defenders of capitalism, which is the cause of these questions.
Surely, similar situations are faced in many subjects and developments. Thinking hard and making effort to find apt solutions, develop special policies and come out with success in seemingly “difficult” circumstances, not limiting oneself with the right general statements and always being in search of concrete policies, all this will enable us to master the question of implementing Marxism into specific subjects and areas and thus establishing links with the masses.
These “difficult” circumstances are not exceptions but a general characteristic of our time.
In the face of the heightened attacks of capitalism, social reformism in its new forms comes up with policies not only general but also specific to every area, bonding the masses to the existing order with multiple bondages. Using all sorts of demagogies, nationalist, populist, racist and fascist movements try to get the backing of the masses by exploiting the impasses of social reformists, denigrating/blaming both the left and the existing political and economic order and coming up with policies and “solutions” seemingly different but in fact aiming to protect the system.
One cannot deal with social reformism, fascism or the other currents by solely making ideological criticism or producing alternative ideological solutions (socialism).
It needs to be done in a more concrete way, as these currents themselves are very concrete not only with their class characters but also with their aims and objectives as well as their policies and “solutions” they come up with for the demands of the masses resulting from the consequences of capitalism, using them skillfully with their demagogies. Therefore, developing concrete political work of exposure to unveil them is a primary precondition for becoming a practical alternative. A never-ending campaign of expressing political facts is a constant weapon for revolutionary working class parties.
However, the agitation-propaganda activity should not consist only of verbal or written clichés; it must be prepared meticulously and meet the concrete need. This requires a detailed study of facts and developing specific policies supported by those facts. In this way, it would be possible to have an effective and influential agitation whose correctness, concreteness and difference can be noticed, workers can tend to contribute to their “own” newspapers, and leaflets on various questions can be read with interest and not left to a side with the assumption that they “always contain the same thing“.
The explanation of political facts cannot be done without the economic and social aspects, as politics is an intensified manifestation of the economy. This is important because it is mainly the economic aspect where the actual impasse and hiding field of social reformism and movements such as fascism is there. They use demagogy, propose solutions in many areas but when it comes to the economy they have no solutions or the ones they come up with are easy to unveil because they are hollow and superficial. They defend the same capitalism they seem to blame in order to deceive and draw the masses, and they cannot envisage anything else but the system of bourgeois hegemony. Therefore, it is vital for the exposure activity against these movements to include and highlight the economic aspect.
Marxism requires having the deepest knowledge of truth/reality. Theoretical and practical study and analysis is the key to gaining this skill. This is vital for elaborated economic and political work of exposure, to develop specific policies, to gather the exploited masses around, and to become an influential force, an alternative to the existing system. With this in mind, one has to give importance to scientific research and study and to the organisation of the flow of information from factories and other work fields to the party centre.
Also, the assignment of cadres must be apt for the needs of the organising work among the exploited masses, especially the working class, as well as these two indispensible activities. This requires setting aside sufficient number of central cadres for the ideological and political work as well as practical leadership of the organisation, but also the assignment of the best party militants to carry out the party works especially in the factories and large workplaces.
4. The need to develop rational positions in content and in form
One must develop apt positions with apt forms, which can be easily adopted and not flouted by the working class of the present day as much as by the modern world. None of the proposals to be put forward could be outdated or clunky to be chucked away without any consideration. It is a well-known fact of Marxism that the advance of the level of consciousness of the exploited masses in accordance with the changes in objective conditions led old forms of struggle and organisation to become obsolete; therefore, one must surely make all the necessary changes; however, it is not all about this. It is obvious that there has been a rapid change both in the material technical basis of the world and of labour and production and the conditions for their realization. Now, it is more to do with computers and the digital platforms rather than pen and paper; science is not only immersed in artificial intelligence but factories and homes have opened to this area, though the latter still requires a certain level of wealth. Technology is now part of life and almost every worker owns a mobile phone. The revisionists use the discourse “everything becomes obsolete and needs change” to imply that it applies to Marxism. Refusal of this does not mean that the world remains the same. On the contrary, dialectical materialism teaches that everything is in constant change. For instance, it is not only the young people but the workers in general use their phones for communication, say, to discuss their collective bargaining process – although face to face discussion and organisation is still vital and more effective and cannot be replaced with anything else.
Surely, the fundamental contradiction of capitalism has not changed. It is bound to be resolved, i.e. capitalism has to be overthrown. However, productive forces have advanced much faster and capitalism has also undergone much change.
This means that “prescriptions” and ideological characterisations are not enough for winning over the masses, that one needs to have concrete determinations based on facts and develop their positions accordingly. Nothing remains the same once determined, things change and they need to be re-evaluated again and again. To form a unity with the masses it is important to develop ideas and policies, taking into account both constant small changes and big and important ones that take place in time. This requires developing ideas and policies through a series of studies and analysis, something to be repeated and revised accordingly when needed.
For instance, in general and in individual countries classes and class relations, as well as the capitalist economy, undergo various changes. These changes are, of course, not regarding the nature and the main characteristics of capitalism or classes; however, they would inevitably affect the revolutionary work in terms of forms. For example, in the past century casual work or subcontracting were hardly there, but at present they are very widespread; many lines of production have been relocated from advanced countries to the relatively underdeveloped ones where labour is cheap, mining has also largely been moved to these countries; division of and expertise in production has well advanced. In organising the working class, the differences resulting from these changes must be taken into account.
5. The need to carry on the struggle in every field and to form broader alliances
The 20th century has seen many movements such as women’s, youth, peace and national liberation struggles. However, in the political arena, just like the trade union field, direct confrontation of classes was the dominating feature of class struggle, and in many cases, when class struggle was mentioned, such confrontation between the working class and the bourgeoisie (and the bourgeois state) came to mind. This was mainly due to the political and trade union organisation of the working class, and even a conflict sparked from another area did not only link with direct class struggle, but also transformed into a form of struggle between the working class and the bourgeoisie.
At present, however, partly as a result of the weakness of the independent political movement of the working class and its lack of organisation, and although we see some mass workers’ struggles with a trade union character but mainly not on a national level, we witness many struggles for various issues, in addition to peace, such as environment, digital laws, anti-corruption, etc. Some of these, like the latest climate actions, are also gaining an international dimension. In addition to the weakness of the independent political movement of the working class and its lack of organisation, we witness “forms of organisation and struggle” which speak highly of disorganisation, especially with the petty bourgeoisie taking the initiative and bringing to the fore its own disorganised sensitivities. These include social movements and forums, Climate Change protests and the “Gezi Park” actions in Turkey and the “Yellow Vests” in France – though the last two are categorically different, they are not class-against-class kind of mobilisations.
Leaving aside the last two, these struggles generally are not large mass struggles with strong bases nationally; they emerge and die down intermittently. There are other examples too. In Cologne, Germany, the reaction against the destruction caused by the RWE company in Hambach forest has turned into a struggle against the monopoly, getting the support in the region at the state level and mobilising the local people and especially the youth. In Turkey, the environmentalist fight against the destruction of Mount Ida (Kaz Dağları) by the Canadian gold mining company, despite its disorganisation and intermittent rise and fall, can overcome locality and become a catalyser of people’s reaction against the government.
While the working class cannot intervene enough as an organised force, the interventions of the petty bourgeoisie in accordance with its class status will obviously have weaknesses. Of course, this will be criticised, but there will also be a fight against those new “theories” based on the weaknesses of these movements, for instance, stressing the “new middle class” as “the new historic subject“. Also, there will be an ideological struggle against the positions where “social forumism” is elevated to a theoretical level and these forums are canonized as a form of organisation and struggle without a consideration for having a mass base, as they usually involve transportation of “forum participants” from one country to another, or in fact intercontinentally. However, this necessity for criticism cannot be a reason for these movements, especially the ones with a relatively large mass base, to be treated as non-existent or taken a stance against, just because they do not resemble with the traditional forms of class struggle where the workers have a direct encounter with the bourgeoisie –which especially gets a negative reaction from trade unions. What needs to be done is to take a critical but active part in these movements, especially the ones with a mass base, trying to overcome their main weakness, i.e. the organising of the working class, and enable them to advance in the right direction as much as possible.
The reason is obvious: all these struggles are a result of capitalism and the inequalities and unfairness it creates with the motive for profit. They emerge as different manifestations of the antagonism between the socialisation of labour and production and the private character of capitalist ownership. Environmental problems emerge as a result of capitalist destruction of the environment for profit, corruption is an incurable disease of capitalism, and digital laws are an instrument for increasing the capitalist profit by commoditising everything. Therefore, each and every struggle in these areas, no matter who has the initiative, is a manifestation of class struggle in terms of their content that target and weaken capitalism. Therefore, they cannot be considered as non-existent, nor can they be left to the initiative of others because of their present forms, or the fact that industrial workers are not the main participants, or that they have the stamp of petty bourgeoisie with its encouragement of disorganisation or other weaknesses.
It is true that the development of class struggle in various manifestations requires the revolutionary parties of the working class to undertake the task of and give greater importance to organising this class, but the following also needs to be stressed: The question of unity among the various sections of the working class has become ever more important due to the changes in the capitalist organisation of work, i.e. subcontracting, part-time, casual and contractual work. This is also because of the greater incorporation into the working class of certain sections that were once a part of the petty bourgeoisie such as public employees, doctors, engineers, teachers, health professionals who hire their labour in return for wages, as well as due to the huge rise of informal forms of labour.
Surely, this task belongs by and large to the working class parties but different forms of alliances may also be needed due to the possibility of some sections of the class having gathered around various trade unions or progressive or maybe even revolutionary political organisations. Furthermore, some form of alliance will be inevitable with the petty bourgeoisie who take an active part with initiative in these struggles, which objectively target capitalism. This means that it is again the task of the revolutionary class parties to work between the various sections of the working class and the petty bourgeoisie, and that it necessitates alliances with the aim of winning over these qualified masses as well as the fight against the degenerative influences of the petty bourgeoisie. Moreover, imperialist interventions and the tendency towards fascisization brings on to the agenda certain forms of alliances based on the demands of independence and democracy.
Therefore, it is necessary to project broader forms of alliances mainly with a class aspect but also with trade unions and political organisations, and prepare for them especially on a notional level. Also, because of the lop sided balance of power, i.e. relative weakness of the working class parties in relation to bourgeois, petty bourgeois, etc. political organisations, one needs to be fully vigilant against the danger of tailing behind them.
6. The need to carry out continuous and systematic daily work of agitation, propaganda and organisation
Systematic daily work is as important as the other factors to become a stronger organisation with a mass base.
For the revolutionary working class party to win over the exploited masses, it is vital to carry out continuous and systematic daily work of agitation, propaganda and organisation, and for this work to include the exposure of social reformism, right populist, racist and fascist movements in order to prevent them from getting the support of the masses by manipulating their demands.
It would be impossible to achieve this without carrying out the party work within the masses with any instrument possible, trade unions, etc. and making this work daily and continuously, since the bourgeoisie influence them 24 hours, in addition to traditional prejudices, through the media, religion, schools and barracks.
Previously, in this text, there was a mention of the need for best militants of the party to be deployed to the factories and big workplaces for party work. Also they and others around them, living in the working class neighbourhoods and sending their children to the same schools as theirs, can have concrete agitation and propaganda work and unite with the masses easily.
For an effective propaganda and agitation, the immediate economic and political demands of the masses must be determined correctly, which is only possible by knowing about and being part of their lives. A general agitation and propaganda, limited to an abstract exposure of capitalism and void of these demands, bounds to fail. On the other hand, an agitation based on these immediate demands and accompanied by the exposure of capitalism and a direct link with the question of political power should be effective in advancing mass struggles, winning the masses and organising the party in these struggles. This is the only way for the revolutionary working class parties to become stronger with a mass base.
In terms of the advancement of mass struggles and the party getting organised in them, what is also needed in addition to a correct and realist formulation of the demands of the exploited masses is the formation of tactical platforms, linking the demands of various struggles. These platforms can unite the masses in accordance with periodic economic, social, political changes, ups and downs of the struggle; play a certain role for the advancement of class parties, helping to win over the masses.
However, one should know that even the most correct agitation and propaganda based on the most realist immediate demands and carried out daily and systematically will not give fruit immediately, though there may be exceptions. Masses will not tail behind a right thing quickly or easily, but will test it with their own experiences. This is also true for the unveiling of the social reformist, racist and fascist currents and movements in the eyes of the masses. If they are doing what they should be doing, it is not a sign of revolutionary class parties being in the wrong if the masses are testing their ideas and calls or going behind reactionary movements for some time before they learn from their experiences.
The social movements that broke out this year, especially in October, in the dependent countries for the time being, easily acquiring some political objectives and targeting the negative consequences of capitalism. The objective character of these movements as well as the position of the class parties in them wherever they are organised show that one can have faith in the future.
Capitalism is based on class antagonisms, has already decayed and does produce its gravediggers. Therefore, class struggle and its products, i.e. revolutions and the emancipation of the proletariat, are inevitable outcomes. Revolutionary working class parties will surely grow and advance as class struggle advances, leading the revolutions.
CONFERENCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL MARXIST-LENINIST PARTIES AND ORGANISATIONS (CIPOML)