Friday, April 27, 2018

Socialist Revolution in the 21st Century?

Amazon link .. and a review

"First published in 1928, this is the Comintern’s official manual for insurrection and it has a foreword by Erich Wollenberg giving details of its composite authorship. The introduction by Piatnitsky is generally sensible, which, since he quotes extensively from Lenin on the necessity of a very advanced stage of political decomposition of the capitalist state as a pre-condition for an uprising, is not surprising.

There then follow four case studies, in approved Staff College fashion, of Reval in 1924, Hamburg 1923, Canton 1927 and Shanghai in 1926-27. These are in effect object lessons in how not to do it and disobey practically every one of Lenin’s dictums. ..."              [from Ted Crawford's 1971 review].

Amazon link - and no reviews

From 2016/17. So relevant and timely that no-one in the UK or America reviewed it on Amazon ... .


In his latest blog post, Marxist economist Michael Roberts concludes:
"Surely, a left government must instead look to replace big capital with democratically-run state enterprises in the ‘commanding heights’ of an economy.  This would lay the proper foundation for innovation and enterprise and thus put use-value before value, price and profit."
Fine words, yet how are we to get there?

Back in the heady days of red-blooded Leninist party building (the 1970s) the revolutionary left was completely educated on what would happen if a left-wing government were to come into office and try to legislate capitalism away. We had seen what happened in Chile.

The media would put up a ferocious ideological onslaught, there would be a massive capital exodus leading to economic depression or collapse while the state apparatus would sabotage socialist initiatives. In extremis, other capitalist powers would restore 'order', perhaps through NATO.

We didn't forget that revolution is civil war. That in an existential clash of two sides, the side with the better programme, the stronger morale, the superior military forces and the more inspired leadership gets to win.

We didn't forget that for capitalists, the socialist revolution looks like the chavish masses violently stealing everything they have, possibly arresting or killing them and their families. No, they surely would not go quietly into that good night.

Of course, the working class today is totally unprepared for such a confrontation. Michael Roberts has argued in his book, Marx 200, that a revival of working class organisation and combativity will not be apparent for some years yet, not until a new capitalist upturn following the end of the current long depression.

And yet we have the prospects of a Corbyn-McDonnell government coming up shortly, which is going to do what exactly?


Perry Anderson wrote:
"Yet it is quite clear that without serious exploration and mapping of it [the nature of socialism], any political advance beyond a parliamentary capitalism will continue to be blocked. No working-class or popular bloc in a Western society will ever make a leap in the dark, at this point in history, let alone into the grey on grey of an Eastern society of the type that exists today. A socialism that remains incognito will never be embraced by it."
And this is the problem. With all its cyclical dysfunctions, the monstrously-complex capitalist economy in all its globally interconnected sophistication works. Its valorisation-brutality forces progressive advances where kinder, gentler and less-driven souls would acquiesce to the always-vociferous and inevitable victims .. and preside over stagnation.

It seems unlikely that the working class will take a leap into the 'socialist chaos' that all media commentators will accurately predict without a really compelling narrative.


My review and Amazon link

Having read János Kornai's blistering critique of the socialist system, I am deeply skeptical about any transition to socialism which promises a quasi-social-democratic state with mass nationalisation enriched by 'bottom-up democratic forms'. I think we all know that revolutionary fervour dims, the masses demobilise and the activists end up colonising the bureaucracies.

Amazon link

Capitalism, with its separation of politics and economics as so usefully described by Michael Heinrich (PDF link: see chapter 11 p. 203), looks a better guarantor of the development of the productive forces and of personal and political freedoms than any kind of model which Michael Roberts is implicitly proposing.

The best indication of the entirely ritualistic nature of incantations of 'the replacement of capitalism' by contemporary Marxist theoreticians is the complete absence of any discussion of the transition itself.

Speaking personally, I prefer a disappointed honesty to hypocrisy and (self-) deception with the potential to lead to catastrophe.


See also; "The Comintern guide to armed insurrection (1928)".

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