Some thoughts on the period, why there are not mass fightbacks now


From a discussion on the list......immediately below is by me, then someone else....
Rich Gibson

With considerable respect to anyone on grunder, understanding the difficulties of persevering, hacking at the empire, I don't agree with this piece below.

There are, of course, external reasons for why there is nearly no noticeable left resistance (other than the clear reality that some people have fought back because they HAD to fight back, like California grocery strikers, Immigrants, Detroit teacher wildcatters, etc). It is hard to tell what impact those fights, weakened and sold out as they were, will have on the class consciousness of the future.

External reasons would include the fact that deindustrialization coupled with the sharpened rule of finance capital in the US created a population which can be told to "go shopping," when Bush announces a war, and the population does not run wild--and goes shopping. The collapse of the industrial working class (and the complete betrayal of their unions) is important, both practically and psychologically. 2/3 of the US economy is based on consumerism. I will leave that to others to explore more, only for time reasons.

But shopping and attention to spectacles (more people attended the first LA Dodgers game in the US this year than the total that marched vs the war) is an important factor.

So is fear. It is no secret that repression (watch what you say, the sharp attacks on people who have demonstrated, etc) is afoot.

Second, the US political and military leadership is steeped in the cowardice that Vietnam produced. They are unwilling to take casualties. 4000 dead in five years of war is nearly nothing (1/3 of a bad single day at Gettysburg) and it is one reason why the US is being fought to a standstill by an enemy unfit to be called an enemy.

The absence of a draft is important and the RC is sort of trapped in desperately needing more troops, and not wanting to spark the resistance that a draft would create---but maybe Obamagogue can solve that with a "national service" option for the middle and upper clases, maybe based on school test scores.

I don't think the collapse of the USSR has anything to do with the absence of a class conscious movement as the USSR had nothing to do with class consciousness for fifty or more years. In fact, the absence of the USSR makes it even more possible to deal with communism with young people who are not steeped in Cold War propaganda. I would agree, however, that the idea that "there is no alternative to capitalism," is powerful---and China has something to do with that.

I hope others will chip in with other external factors that retard social movements here.

But internally, I think it is absolutely fair to point the finger at UFPJ, ANSWER, NiON, et al and say they have systematically disorganized what was a million people marching against the war on the week it started, and was, the week of March 15, a group of less than 70,000 people marching nationwide. They managed to shrink a movement by more than 90 % and that is an outrage.

How and why they did that will take a piece longer than grunder would probably carry but I offer these thoughts.

They did it because they refuse to place the wars in context, as part of an international war of the rich on the poor (which always goes on but is intensifying fast), inside that inter-imperialist wars. It is, then, Capitalism and its twin, Imperialism. UFPJ will not say that because they inherit the bankrupt Browder policies of the CPUSA---and they think their inside operatives are actually secret, when in fact they both ARE the police and are known by the police--but their bogus concern for secrecy makes them conceal what they claim are their own "Class struggle" politics from the people.

In the absence of an analysis of capitalism/imperialism, these groups then are completely unable to develop strategies or tactics to respond, nor can they teach people strategies or tactics. Hence, they wind up with this piece meal crap that ends up "do your own thing."

Two other things appear to fall out from the failure to name and analyse capital: a failure to do a thorough criticism of the capitalist state, or capitalist democracy, as CAPITALIST democracy (thus making a three part error (1) dodging the Civics Class myths of democracy (2) not recognizing capitalist democracy as not democracy but its perversion as an executive committee and weapon of the ruling class, (3) making a fetish of democracy inside the resistance ===again boiling that down to "do your own thing," as in the ridiculous World Social Forum in Atlanta last year when people met in separate language/nation/class/race/sex groups then claimed to "march together."--and this kind of democracy only builds the racism/sexism etc that, if we do not demolish it, will be used to demolish us).

A systematic and complete analysis of capitalist democracy has not been done by the left for some time. But democracy as understood by most people and most of the left is, at the end of the day, just "what about ME?"

Anyone who seriously considers taking on an enemy that has a central command, advanced weapons, a more or less disciplined military, and disciplined police force, intelligence services, etc. and and enemy clearly willing to spill rivers of blood, with "democracy," well, that person cannot be taken seriously.

Secondly, the UFPJ et al refuse to take on the question of nationalism, as we know, and it is a key poison. The continuing appeal of nationalism leads to the preposterous trap of "support our troops." The left has made a fettish of troop support. FTA,

Third, the left has not moved to make the kind of basebuilding (remember Build a Base in the Working Class, a great piece) that makes trust possible, the kind of interracial etc organizing that creates friendships that then allow people to learn from each other, and fight together. Combatting the fear that is pervasive (in schools for example) can only be done with the kind of empathy that friendship can offer, tied to an ethic that does indeed insist "you are what you do."

Last, contrary to the below, social movements are both simultaneous and organized. The civil rights movement was organized for decades by people who, perhaps unlike many radicals now, knew they were just "getting ready to be ready," people who got and expected nothing at all in return for the many sacrifices that were necessary to, over generations, spawn a movement---which itself got derailed by refusing to take on capital, capitalist democracy, nationalism, etc.

I do not think there is a clearly demonstrable connection between the state of a given economy and the rise of social movements. While willing to be corrected, it appears to me that the Vietnamese and Chinese resistance/revo movements grew in very hard times.

My own view of what is next for us is very dark, the emergence of fascism as a mass popular movement that could last awhile, but nobody has a crystal ball, tomorrow is always something of a mystery, and the kind of basebuilding that must be done, must be down whatever it is that tomorrow may bring.

At 01:03 PM 3/28/2008, you wrote:

There is a very important question that is in people’s mind (particularly those involved in “the movement” in general), why aren’t the masses up in arms against the tremendous attacks we are suffering at the hands of the bosses? After all, workers and youth are being attacked more and more, now even more with the growing economic meltdown of capitalism.
IMO there are many reasons, one is the loss of class consciousness in the U.S. (and in many other countries) because of the collapse of the old ICM and the sellouts by revisionists of all kinds, union hacks, “’pro-workers”  liberal politicians (including black and Latino pols), etc. etc. There is no leadership to fight back, even at the lowest reformist level.
Another reason is that historically, I believe, workers have fought economic battles against the bosses’ attacks not so much during period of recessions of depressions but when the economy is beginning to recover. I believe William Z. Foster described that the mass struggles and prolonged struggles by workers in the U.S. actually got going when the Depression was coming to its end and the economy was making a comeback (in the mid 1930s). The biggest mass struggles launched by workers and youth since the 1930s was during the 1960s and parts of the 1970s, when world capitalism  was still in its post-WW2 boom. One reason LBJ was able to offer his War on Poverty and the bosses granted workers some concessions (particularly black workers who were in the forefront of militant fightbacks in the U.S.). As soon as the mass struggles died down, the RC began to take away those concessions, and using anti-poverty pimps (remember that term), black and Latino politicians, liberals, etc. to keep “the peace.” Then came the Reagan Counterrevolution and the union-busting of PATCO (which had supported Reagan’s election campaign), plus the busting of the struggles by Eastern Airline, Continental Airlines, Greyhound, Hormel, etc. etc. etc. This was accompanied by the massive givebacks by the UAW, USWA and other industrial unions. Now, workers’ wages are at the same level as 30 years ago.
But nothing lasts forever. Things will change. Workers’ mass struggles tend to be spontenous and they might take longer than usual because of the problems outlined before (lack of class consciousness, not world center of communism to look at in spite of the weaknesses of the former Soviet Union and China when it was red). I think the 3rd International said that it might take a long period of mass struggles by workers to regain their confidence and class consciousness. It might also take a 1905 at least for the U.S. working class. So the point is what should we do? Being opportunist and reformist (like the different anti-war groups: ANSWER, Troops Out, UFPJ, NION, and other  opportunist groups formed by Workers’ World, CPUSA, RCP, ISO and various Trot groups) won’t get workers and youth anything but the pitiful anti-war actions of the past few weeks. Putting revolutionary politics in command and working with the idea of urgency and patient (being optimist about revolutionary work at the same time we take a long range outlook) with the mass of workers and youth (including those with illusions on Obama and Hillary, which will be shattered very soon) should be our style of work in this period (and in almost every period).
What do others think? Maybe there are other reasons why the class struggle is so low now. Let’s hear about them.