Principles of Arbeitsgruppe Marxismus

The hereby given document is the political basis of the Arbeitsgruppe Marxismus (AGM). These Principles replace the hitherto existing Political Platform, on which our foundation was based in September 1994. (The Political Platform has been published in the second volume of our journal Marxismus). We do not withdraw the Political Platform. But we are convinced that the itemising character of the Political Platform is less usable to spread and make our political ideas available than the more explanatory Principles. The new document has been approved unanimously on our 7th conference in January 1999. We believe we can thereby give adequate answers to the central questions that are posed to the working class movement at the Millennium. We combine here our view of the basics of Marxism (as opposed to bourgeois and Stalinist travesties of it) with our overall strategic and tactical positions. Revolutionary programs are in general not timeless. Hence we presume that these Principles will not be the last word. New experience might make changes necessary. In that sense we also see this document as a starting point for a discussion about a new formation of revolutionary forces.

1. Capitalism and Imperialism

In the 20th century capitalism has adopted an increasingly destructive character. Admittedly the spawning and enlargement of capitalism up to the 19th century has already been connected with exploitation, oppression and ecological devastations. At the same time, competition (as central impetus of the capitalist mode of production) pushed feudal and other pre-capitalist forms of dependency or exploitative conditions aside and implied technological, medical and social progress.

The laws of motion of capitalism which, through their dynamics, established the foundation for an improvement of the living conditions of mankind, led to tremendous expansion which approached its limits at the end of the 19th century. Capitalism has – as later defined by Marxists – entered the stage of imperialism. The industrial capital had merged with bank capital to financial capital. Big companies and their allied countries had shared the world among themselves. Export of goods had lost importance in favour of capital export.

More and more sophisticated technological methods led to production of more and more goods and more capital was accumulated. This capital had to be employed profitably in order to prevent the destruction of capital, or economical crises – a goal which became increasingly difficult because of the planet´s limits. As a consequence, the inner contradictions of capitalism became more severe. The 20th century has been marked by economical and military wars for zones of influence between major imperialist powers as well as by destruction of capital through wars and crises.

But this has shown that for capitalism – contrary to assumptions by certain Marxists – there is no situation without solution. Although over-accumulation of capital and falling rates of profit lead over and over again to huge economic crises, this does not automatically lead to collapse of capitalism – contrary to the expectations of parts of the Left. Without the conscious intervention of a revolutionary working class movement towards the overthrow of capitalism, the destruction of capital through wars and enormous collapses of companies will be the result. To impose the succeeding disastrous social consequences on a political level, it is necessary to take brutal actions against the working class movement (or sometimes even against minimal democratic rights). That is the way which allows capitalism to survive over and over again.

But the effects of the ongoing market economy will become increasingly dramatic for mankind and planet. Capitalism has not only survived two imperialist world wars but additionally achieved to limit the proletarian revolution to Russia, then to push it towards degeneration and finally to defeat the Stalinist states. But despite the long boom period after 1945, based on destruction of capital in the war and the international leading position of US-imperialism, and despite the recovery of productive forces, the capitalist motor started to stutter since the late 1960s. Too large amounts of capital had been accumulated. The profit rates fell. Still it was possible for the capitalist class to stabilise the rates of profit at the expense of the working class in eighties and early nineties and also to defeat the former Stalinist states to a large extent. But the underlying trend could only be slowed down rather than stopped.

At the turn of the millennium, a decade after the collapse of „real socialism'', and after the fading of the connected bourgeois ideological offensive, the destructiveness and absurdity of the capitalist system, which has shaped the whole century, becomes plainer and clearer again. Technological progress which would have the potential for many positive advancement for mankind, is turned, under the conditions of capitalism, against the majority of people. New machines lead to unemployment. Under inhuman (and unhealthy) working conditions, goods are produced that cannot be sold afterwards. A lot of products remain unused or have to be destroyed – manufactured goods as well as agricultural goods. At the same time, a huge part of mankind suffers from lack of goods and services such as housing, food, health care etc. The labour power of hundreds of millions of people remains unemployed (while others suffer from increased stress). The human resources of millions of people are being wasted in the parasitic bureaucracy of capitalism like in banks and insurance companies, advertisement sector, governmental and private armed forces of capital). At the same, time there would be innumerable socially and ecologically useful activities which are not done because they are not profitable. For great capital the increased international competition makes ecological considerations (inspite of their contrary assertions) a marginal topic and leads to a continued destruction of the ecological system. A fraction of the amount spent on production of arms would be sufficient to make infant mortality, epidemics, and famine disappear to a large extent on a world-wide scale. On the contrary, misery, hunger and diseases based on poverty are increasing on all continents. The social gap between a small upper class and the majority of people becomes wider and wider.

In the struggle for the crumbs left on the table of multinationals and banks, more and more people are driven into nationalistic, „ethnic'', or „religious'' wars. Their real aims are often nothing more than a re-definition of spheres of influence among groups of capital. At the same time, in semi-colonial countries it has become obvious that bourgeois-nationalistic liberation movements, trying to implement their own „national"-oriented policy within capitalism, are doomed to fail due to the pressure exerted by international financial capital and IMF/World Bank. Again and again, the anti-imperialism of bourgeois forces in the semi-colonial countries has proved half-hearted and wavering. They occasionally tried to improve their profit prospects even against imperialist powers. However they shrink back from a consequent mobilisation of the masses because they fear the possibility of anti-imperialist struggles resulting in a social revolution which could be directed also against the capitalists of semi-colonial countries.

After the neo-liberal offensive in the eighties and nineties, today market forces penetrate all sectors of society on a world-wide scale even more than before: Starting with the political system to cultural life and even private relations. The alienation of people does not stop at the solidarity-lacking condition of the working process but expresses itself in ever more humiliating and absurd forms of psychic pauperisation. But in spite of the predominant fight of everybody against everybody (in the world market, the labour market, and the market for private relationships), which has been accepted by many as natural, capitalists do not rely only on the forces of the free market. Additionally, they use ideological preparation of the population through schools and mass media which deepens and secures the division of the population into men and women, compatriots and foreigners, white and blue collar workers, heterosexuals and homosexuals, old and young.

In this context the capitalist class can rely on the established social structures and traditions of gender-specific, national/racist, sexual and age-linked oppression, which have existed in different forms in former class societies as well. They did not disappear through capitalism but have been modified in a way that is suitable for bourgeois class interest. Within capitalism the oppression of women has reached its most developed form because in tendency it does not appear as inequaliy before the law any more. Hence its foundation in social oppression becomes more evident. Of utmost importance for the securing of social oppression, building of hierarchies and disciplination of the population generally and the oppression of women, children and teenagers in particular, is the traditional bourgeois (petty-) family. Nationalism and racism also play a central role for the securing of capitalist rule. They have evolved in their 'modern' form only through capitalism and systematically generate an identification of the people with the projects of specific groups of capital mostly organised in the form of national states.

Members of all classes are victims of various forms of social oppression. However, the oppression of e.g. wealthy foreigners or bourgeois women is less severe due to their privileged economic situation. Immigrant workers or female workers feel the racist or gender-linked oppression with full impact. Since the capitalist class gains from the social oppression and as the capitalist system is strongly based on the division of the people, specifically the working class, even the 'democratic' version of capitalism has not been capable (and will never be) to overcome the oppression of women, racism, etc. On the contrary, all forms of social oppression are reproduced again and again.

But the ruling class does not feel secure with the ideological indoctrination alone when it comes to ensuring the capitalist exploitation and oppression, because the contradictions of the system result in repeated opposition, organisation, resistance and revolt of the oppressed classes. To keep these forces under control and to maintain the daily functioning of class society, capitalism employs a state apparatus essentially consisting of police, military and judiciary. This machinery is obliged to secure the existing ownership relations, and to be separated from the majority of the people.

Such specific armed formations do not represent an innovation of capitalism. They have existed since the beginnings of class society – since a product surplus is available which a part of the population can acquire with the help of state structures. The particular form of the state apparatus was always based on the particular mode of production and exploitation (slavery, Asian mode of production, feudalism, capitalism). Within capitalism, they typically have the forms of national states which express the capitalist need of a single market and homogenous legal framework. Those national states have been the basis and instruments for the world-wide expansion of capital. At the same time however, national borders were obstacles to expansion. Hence imperialist states have started to create spheres of influence, free-trading zones and blocks.

In this respect, the European Union constitutes a capitalist project for unification which became necessary in order to improve profit opportunities on the national markets that had already become too narrow. Nationalism linked to national states is partially replaced by a mentality of a European fortress, and there is a tendency of Euro-nationalism directed against immigrants from poorer regions of Eastern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. But the mechanism remains the same: the disguise of class differences and a method to sell the interest of the ruling class (hence, the creation of blocks in order to give the European imperialism more emphasis in world policy and economy) as an interest of the whole „people".

However, all attacks against the living standard of the population, the world-wide spread of misery and the state-run apparatus of violence employed by the capitalist class cannot resolve the inner contradictions of the capitalist mode of production. Capitalism inevitably has to reach the limits of its expansion and over-accumulation will continue to increase. The forces leading to a new economic and/or political-military crisis can – in the framework of the system – only be delayed but not prevented. Given the capitalist potential of destruction developed to present, the following alternatives are posed: a new, intensified round of capitalist barbarism possibly leading towards extermination of entire mankind, or the victory of a revolutionary working class over the ruling system.

2. Working Class and Working Class Movement

The working class has a special significance for capitalism as well as for its overcoming. Workers are free in a double sense, they are free from pre-capitalist forces and obligations, free to present themselves on the capitalist labour market, but also free from the possibility of independent production. Hence, they are forced to sell their labour power. They have to obey the command of the capitalists respectively their lieutnants. This is true for workers active in the production sphere as well as for those employed in the sphere of circulation. Only by using the combined labour power of the different parts of the working class, capital can realize its profit and keep its system running.

Due to its position within the process of production, the working class has – potentially – much more power than any other oppressed layer within capitalism, e.g. peasants or urban poor in semi-colonial countries. The – internationally increasing – working class is subject to continuous transformations, as the capitalist mode of production itself. But this permanent restructuring does not change its basic position in the mode of production and reproduction.

This position does not only provide the working class with the possibility to halt the capitalist production and circulation – as well as profiteering and accumulation of capital – but allows the working class to be the only possible social base of an anti-capitalist revolution and a socialist society. Only the working class can end the „natural" mechanism of capitalism and, at the same, time take over and reorganise production and circulation in a new way. By coming into power only the working class can end the class rule of the bourgeois and start the withering away of any kind of class rule and the various forms of social oppression.

However, the working class does not seize this function automatically – in the sense that it would be sufficient to wait until the „objective historical process" carries out this development on its own. First, it is necessary that the individuals holding a specific position in the production process become a collective that is conscious of its situation. The working class in itself has to develop into a working class for itself. This is a process full of contradictions, depending on many factors: on the possibilities of the ruling system in a specific period and country to make concessions towards the working class in order to feed their hopes for an individual career; on the social structures and cultural traditions; on the extent to which much bourgeois ideologies and tendencies are rooted or discredited in the working class; on class struggle experiences through which the participants (can) become conscious about their own interests in contrast to the interests of others; and, finally, on the strength of and intervention by a revolutionary working class movement which can give social conflicts a farther-reaching political perspective.

On the one hand, the revolutionary working class movement, and its theory, Marxism, express the social and political contradictions of capitalism, in particular the class interest of the working class. On the other hand, the revolutionary working class movement and Marxism are subjects with the scope to influence historic developments decisively, i.e. the most resolute part of the working class which has the advantage of having insights into social relations, historic experiences and a more comprehensive perspective of class struggle.

The need of a separate revolutionary organisation, the goal to build a revolutionary working class party, results from the character of the socialist revolution itself, which is partly founded on the experience of former struggles and their generalisation. Through organising the most conscious parts of the working class, supported by revolutionaries form other classes, it is possible to create a political force which is not only capable of drawing conclusions from former class struggles and act accordingly, but also to analyse the relations between the classes, i.e. the actual balance of power in society and its dynamism, and to use the analysis to draw specific conclusions for its policy.

Moreover, the revolutionary party has to take into account that the working class is not a homogenous class, whose consciousness is equally spread and will develop in a linear way. The social and political layers within the working class rather show a periodically different development of class consciousness and, therefore, a distinguished readiness to fight the capital and its society. Only a political force, that is able to analyse all tendencies within the class and consider them politically, but that also has used its theoretical understanding to gain relative independence from the consciousness of the more backward layers, from illusions and rapid demoralisation, can represent the interest of the whole class and eventually – mediated through the most conscious parts – lead it. Hence neither the political commanding of the working class, nor the sheer collection and focusing of its immediate interests and single fights are the revolutionary party's function and raison-d-être. Its necessity rather derives immediately from the historic interest of the working class (and mankind) to put an end to exploitation and to the murderous dynamic of capitalism. In this context the revolutionary forces have a fundamental interest to force back all forms of social oppression, to integrate the fight for women's liberation, against racism, etc. into the class struggle and, hence, to widen the front against the capitalist system.

The organisation of the working class and the oppressed layers has to be international and internationalist for of two reasons: Firstly, socialism, the class-free society – as shown by the experience of the Stalinist countries – is only possibly on an international or even global scale. Secondly, a proletarian practice which breaks up the national boundaries is the consequence of from the internationalisation of the capital. The revolutionary International does not constitute an abstract ideal but is a political consequence from the development of capital itself. It should be the political instrument which allows the working class to lead the class struggle on an international scale and to confront the international operations of capital with an internationally organised proletariat. In this context anti-imperialist struggles are an important element in international class struggle to overcome the capitalist system. The working class in the imperialist centres will not be able to free itself as long as it accepts the imperialist oppression (and, with it, the rule of its own exploiters). In this respect, the active support of anti-imperialist struggles is a relevant barometer for the class consciousness in imperialist countries.

Of course, the building of a revolutionary International and the striving for internationally united operations of the working class do not imply the negation of nationally different conditions and tasks of the class struggle. The construction of the national and the international organisation is interrelated. Moreover this constitutes a process: a new revolutionary International cannot just be proclaimed. In the same way that a proletarian revolution should not be misjudged as a single act of will of the working class, the revolutionary party and the International will not automatically and linearly be created as the result of class struggles. The development of class struggles and class consciousness makes it quite unavoidable that revolutionary forces are formed relatively independently (in a theoretical and practical way) from the working class. A revolutionary working class party embedded in the masses will be the outcome of a lengthy and combined process of discussion, raising of consciousness and militant mass actions. But even in countries and periods in which the formation of Marxist organisations takes place in the form of small groups, mostly isolated from the proletariat, Marxists will always orientate their activities towards the goal of a revolutionary party.

The combination of revolutionary theory and activity, the melting of the revolutionary organisation with the mass of the workers and thus the shift from the revolutionary program to a decisive factor in society, are the aims of revolutionary policy. On the way to achieve this goal, there are different periods, characterised by different tasks. They result from the general situation of class struggle and the scale of development of revolutionary organisations. As long as Marxists are forced to exist relatively separated from the mainstream of the working class, there will necessarily be tensions between opportunistic adjustment to reactionary tendencies in the consciousness of the working class on the one hand, and sectarian disclusion on the other hand. In order to prevent both tendencies as effectively as possible, it is not only necessary to be aware of this fact and to have a clear political-theoretical understanding but also to have a realistic estimation of the situation in society and, in particular, of the political tendencies and organistions within the working class and the working class movement.

 

3. Reform or Revolution?

At present, the working class movement is clearly dominated by reformist forces, trade unions and social-democratic parties that are not oriented towards a revolutionary overcoming of capitalism. Their aims are reforms within the framework of capitalism (frequently even only the prevention of unduly harsh bourgeois counter-reforms). Formally, some of those parties may still – detached from their political practice – have the long-term objective of socialism. As the policies of the reformist tendencies does not point beyond the capitalist property and production relations, but concentrates on their sound and fair functioning, it constitutes a sort of bourgeois policy. The distinction of reformist and open bourgeois parties is the fact, that it depends on its roots in and connections with the working class. Contrary to classic bourgeois parties, such as the US-Democrats, the German CDU (Christian Democratic Party), or the Austrian ÖVP (Austrian Peoples Party), the social democratic parties do not just incidentally maintain a trade union or workers wing. The British Labour Party, the German SPD and the Austrian SPÖ base their existence on the connections with the working class, mostly mediated through the trade unions. It is exactly this connection which is the reason why the reformist parties are interesting for the capitalist class. With them a political integration of the working class into the system is possible. Due to their bourgeois policies and being organically anchored in the working class, the reformist parties can be called bourgeois worker's parties.

The reformism of social democratic parties and trade unions is based on the needs of the workers for an immediate improvement of their living conditions in and outside the companies, for the successful sale of their labour power. This call for reforms is not a necessary contradiction to a revolutionary orientation of the working class movement. It only becomes a contradiction through the organisation and containment through reformist parties. Only the politically organised reformism is tied to the capitalist system. It expresses the short-sighted interest of those workers which are privileged and corrupted by imperialism by means of some concessions. Those workers (sometimes called labour aristocracy) developed out of its own a layer of bureaucrats who do not want to endanger their social partnership with capital by revolutionary activities.

Reformist organisations play an important role for the capitalist class. They help to propagate bourgeois ideology among the proletariat and to implement bourgeois interests. They politically tie the working class to the prospering of their own capital and their own national state – up to the defence of the fatherland. While reformists usually support imperialistic /nationalistic wars led by the capitalist class, they immediately become pacifists as soon as an anti-capitalist revolution or even a more militant class struggle takes place. Of course reformist parties repeatedly took part in the bloody suppression of worker's fights and revolutions. This demonstrates their bourgeois nature in the clearest way.

The bureaucracies of reformist parties and trade unions fear their privileges threatened through revolutionary developments. Hence they propagate – if they formally still cling to a socialist perspective – a stepwise and peaceful (mostly parliamentarian) way towards socialism. To present this has always proven disastrous. Bourgeoisie will not give up their wealth and power without fight. Depending on the situation, they will use their full instrumentarium of state repression, reactionary gangs of assassins, and nationalistic inciting to maintain their rule. Hence, a working class movement oriented towards a gradual and peaceful reform of capitalism can only capitulate or it will be suppressed by the capitalist class.

The overcoming of capitalist barbarism will only be possible through revolution. And this revolution will be the more unbloody the more the working class and, in particular, the revolutionary forces are prepared for a violent fight with the suppression instruments of the capital. A counter-revolution of the bourgeoisie can only be prevented if the revolution destroys the bourgeois state, hence the police, the judiciary, the army, and the bureaucracy. To that end the working class needs its own organisational structures: Firstly, a revolutionary organisation that usually has already been set up before the revolution, that organises the most conscious parts of the working class and can give the revolution a political perspective. Secondly, workers's councils (Soviets) or worker's committees which are not arbitrary inventions of some revolutionaries but emerge „naturally" in every proletarian revolution due to the immediate needs in the struggle. The worker's councils or committees include the majority of the working class and organise the class struggle on local and company's level. Those committees are regionally and nationally (and if possible internationally) connected with each other. In these structures, workers can decide in a democratic way on further measures regarding the struggle. Thirdly, worker's militias that are subordinated to the committees, which result immediately from the need to defend demonstrations, strikes, factories and districts, and, finally, the revolution against reactionary attacks.

Committees and militias of workers are not only instruments for the struggle during the revolution, they also constitute instruments of power to organise (production, distribution, social welfare etc.) and defend the new society. Contrary to class societies, these institutions are not separated from the majority of the people. The delegates in the Soviets on company's, local, regional, and national level are accountable and can be voted out of office at any time. Their income does not exceed the average income of a trained worker. The militia is immediately tied to the working class. As the power of the working class means greatest possible democracy for workers and poor peasants but at the same time the supression of the exploiter classes (that fight to regain their privileges), there still exist, to some extent, state structures, which may be called proletarian semi-state.

This dictatorship of the proletariat will be necessary as long as the world bourgeoisie still has means of power to organise a counter-revolution, as long as the revolution is extended to an international level and stabilised. The semi-state structures will continue to exist until most goods have lost their commodity nature, until the scarcity of resources (regarding human needs on an international level) is pushed back successfully by means of human and technical productive forces. Then the administration of scarcity is less and less necessary. Therefore classes and the proletarian semi-state cannot simply be abolished, they wither away together with the production of commodities. The basis for this development is the post-capitalist mode of production, which is determined by a plan democratically developed by the working class. It is only possible to speak of socialism, if commodity production, classes and state have mainly disappeared. Already in the transitional society and even more so in socialism, the organisation of production will be changed considerably and modified to the workers´ needs. Material security and the withering away of petty family structures will create the basis for women´s liberation. However, social oppression does not automatically disappear during the building of socialism. Therefore it is necessary – even in the revolutionary transitional society – to fight conservative ideologies and push them back in a politically conscious way.

However, to win over the majority of the working class for the revolutionary overcoming of capitalism, mere measures of enlightenment and propaganda for socialism and revolution will not be sufficient. The proletariat does not automatically develop a socialist consciousness from its class struggles. But struggles (whether inside or outside the sphere of production) can reach the limits of the capitalist system. Either they are smashed to pieces at these limits (because of their helplessness in view of capitalist Sachzwänge or because of the state instruments of repression), or they develop a system-overcoming perspective through the combination of their own experience and the deliberate intervention of revolutionaries. For such a successful intervention the use of transitional demands is important. They cling on the (often fragmentary) economical and political daily struggles of the working class, trying to unite them and to push them forward, to give them a central perspective, to internationalise them and, finally, to combine them with the take over of power by the working class. In a strike, for instance, the demand for worker's control of the production can be important because it leads to the question of who is in power in economy, hence in society: the capitalists and their state or the proletariat and their organisations.

This compellingly demands the overcoming of reformism as dominating political force within the working class movement. The influence of reformism will not diminish „on its own'' – even in periods of revolutionary upheavals. On the contrary, reformist organisations can play a key role (because of their traditional roots within the working class) in appeasing and preventing revolutions. This implies that, in the process of building revolutionary parties, reformist mass organisations must not be ignored or simply „unmasked''. Ways and means have to be found to influence the political development in the reformist parties – not with the illusionary goal of reforming those parties, but to separate the basis from the reformist party bureaucrats and reformism altogether.

To that purpose revolutionaries use the tactic of the united front. Its aim is to push reformist organisations that are under the pressure of their basis into a united struggle for specific urgent interests of the working class and, at the same time, to convince the members and followers of these organisations in the concrete struggle about the inconsequence and/or treason practiced by its leaders. These united fronts can have different shapes: Alliances for demonstrations or strikes; critical support for reformist parties running in elections for the bourgeois parliament; the entry of revolutionaries into reformist parties (entrism). In all those forms, it is crucial that the political independence of the revolutionary forces is maintained and that this tactic of building a revolutionary organisation is not mixed up with a political adjustment towards reformism. In particular in the case of entrism it is important that there exist lines of rupture inside the reformist parties, that a respective mood among the rank and file of the party allows an open dissemination of revolutionary positions. Of course, the prerequisite for the realization of united fronts is a certain strength of the revolutionary organisation which usually guarantees the freedom of revolutionary propaganda.

 

4. The Failure of the Stalinist Model

The Russian October revolution in 1917 was the first successful proletarian revolution. Its consequences had substantial influence on the further history of the 20th century. Led by V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky under the slogan: All power to the Soviets!', the bourgeois state has been smashed by the October revolution, and replaced by a semi-state based on workers´ and soldiers´ committees (Soviets). The nationalisation of big companies and banks, the introduction of a Foreign Trade Monopoly and – above all – the elimination of the market mechanisms in key areas led to a planned economy.

But the former ruling class of Russia used their foreign-based wealth and their relations with imperialist countries to start a civil war. They were supported by the international bourgeoisie by money, a trade blockade against the Soviet republic and direct military interventions by foreign troops. Temporarily, the Soviet power was reduced to less than a quarter of the Soviet territory. But the Red Army, set up and led by Trotsky, remained victorious because of the following reasons: Firstly, the majority of the working class supported the Bolsheviks. Secondly, most peasants clearly preferred the Bolsheviks to the counter-revolutionary landlords. Thirdly, the allied intervention in Russia was hampered by the solidarity movement of the international working class movement.

But the military victory of the Bolsheviks coincided with a political defeat. The consequences of the three-year civil war were economically and politically disastrous for the young Soviet republic. The economy was ruined through blockade and war. Through the system of war communism – under a centralised and authoritarian ruling – it was possible to partly maintain the basic supply during the turmoil of war. The consequence of this was, however, the undermining of workers control in the companies and the encouragement of the process of bureaucratisation. The breakdown of the industrial production, the unavoidable closure of many large companies afflicted by war and blockade, and the massive exodus of the politically most active workers in order to join the Red Army, withdrew the Soviet system its foundations and promoted the elimination of Soviet democracy and the setting up of bureaucratic dictatorship over the working class.

However, the worst aspect was the failure of the world revolution (in particular in Germany between 1918 and 1923, and finally in China in 1927). Since the very beginning the Bolsheviks had considered the Russian revolution only as starting point for an international revolution, which, on the other hand, would be the prerequisite for an favourable further development of the Russian Soviet state. Through the international isolation and the backwardness of the productive forces in Russia, the nwe bureaucracy – mainly consisting of former czarist bureaucrats – succeeded in suppressing the power of the Soviets and the workers democracy.

Finally, in the middle of the twenties the bureaucracy took over. Contrary to the Marxist perspective of the dying of the state, the semi-state bound to the working class was replaced by a state with an apparatus of bureaucrats and police raised above society. Proletarian internationalism was replaced by Russian nationalism. Many achievements which were brought forward by the revolution for national minorities or women were eliminated again. On the political level a bourgeois counterrevolution was carried out step-by-step. The working class was finally deprived of their political power. Employing their bureaucratic-military apparatus, the bureaucracy, led by Joseph Stalin, built up a rule over the working class. At the same time, the party democracy inside the Communist Party was abolished and any possible opposition eliminated. With the suppression of the left opposition around Leo Trotsky, the bureaucratic bourgeois counter-revolution was sealed. As a consequence, the Communist parties of the Comintern internationally were brought into line and bureaucratised. The political „cleansing'' in Russia was mainly directed towards the Bolshevik cadre, while the party was stuffed with career oriented bureaucrats. The peak of this process is marked by the Moscow trials 1936-1938, when all leading party members (except Stalin) from the time of the revolution were convicted – by means of allegations and confessions made under torture – as counter-revolutionaries and finally were murdered.

However, the fundamental economic and social structures, the post-capitalist relations of property and mode of production, remained intact in the Soviet Union. It is true that the bureaucratisation seized the planned economy as well. Instead of a democratic planned economy based on the Soviets – according to the needs of the working class – it was now modified to a bureaucratically planned economy adjusted to the needs of the new ruling caste. And the enterprises' internal regime was reshaped according to the alienated capitalist commando structures. Nevertheless, key areas of the economy still did not work according to capitalist mechanisms. The relationships between enterprises and the state, and between different enterprises were not regulated via the market. Characteristics of capitalism, such as industrial cycles, over-accumulation of capital or unemployment did play no role in the Soviet economy.

Under Stalinist rule, Marxism was dogmatised into Marxism-Leninism and adapted to the goals of the bureaucracy. This was expressed by the concept of Socialism in one country. While Trotsky, Lenin and the Bolsheviks assumed that only an international revolution could prevent a degeneration of the Soviet Union, Stalin, Nikolai Bucharin and the bureaucracy now declared that not only the survival of the transitional society in Russia only was possible under the dictatorship of the proletariat, but even the realisation of socialism. This was impossible due to the simple fact that the economic autarky in the backward Soviet Union implied a backdrop behind the level of international organisation of production achieved already. Progress in production technologies – isolated from the world economy – resulted in a falling behind in other sectors. However, a socialist society has to reach a higher level of development regarding productive forces than capitalism. Only the co-operation of highly developed countries based on planned economies can constitute the foundation for the withering away of commodity production, classes and state, and consequently for socialism.

In addition, the defeat of the revolutions in Germany in 1923 and China in 1927 strengthened the power of the bureaucrats, because now it was easier to sell the idea of a gradual and disciplined progress towards socialism in Russia (instead of an orientation towards world revolution). Clearly the bureaucrats were not interested in a successful proletarian revolution and the establishment of a functioning workers´ democracy in other countries because this could have threatened their own position. From 1927 onwards the Stalinist leadership of the Soviet Union and the Comintern worked on the systematic sabotage of the international revolution.

Stalinism crystallized itself to a reformist and in the last analysis counter-revolutionary force, like the social democrats. After the ultra-left Stalinist policies applied between 1928 and 1933 had made the strategy of the United Front with the social democrats impossible (and hence definitively contributed to the defeat of the German working class movement against Nazi-fascism), the party line was turned abruptly. The concept of Popular Front which, from 1935 onwards, became the compulsory political guideline of Stalinism, was not only oriented towards a United Front with reformist workers' parties but included also and in particular an alliance with the so-called democratic bourgeoisie. For this intended alliance, the political independence of the working class was sacrificed. This implied a withdrawal from class struggle and proletarian revolution. In the Stalinist parties the classical reformist stage theory, the separation of minimal and maximal programme, was sealed and imposed. On a world scale, Stalinism now participated in limiting class struggles within the framework of capitalism. The remaining difference between Stalinst reformism und social democracy was the fact that Stalinism was not based on the aristocracy of labour in the imperialist countries but on the Soviet bureaucracy. This made Stalinism in bourgeois´ eyes still a little bit suspicious even though the Soviet leadership tried hard to disperse doubt regarding their reliability: through the liquidation of the Comintern and the implementation of the concept of peaceful coexistence, the commitment to the world revolution was publicly renounced.

However, imperialism was not willing to have a lasting deal with the Soviet bureaucracy, which had emerged strengthened from World War II. Instead, it started the Cold War in order to contain the „communist threat''. Clearly, the hostility of imperialism was not directed towards the political rule of Stalinism but above all against the post-capitalist property relations the sheer existence of which was considered dangerous and hence could not be accepted. As a counter-measure against the imperialist offensive, the Soviet leadership started to assimilate the social structures in those countries – which had become part of their military sphere of influence at the end of the war – to that of the Soviet system. In the Eastern European countries and in Yugoslavia, China, Cuba and Vietnam – where this process occurred without direct military intervention of the Soviet Union -, the capitalist economy was brought to an end and the bourgeoisie was forced out of immediate political power. However the political power was not seized by the working class and the oppressed, organised in workers´ committees and militias. The bourgeois state machinery was not smashed. Rather the national Stalinist bureaucracy (with the backing of the Soviet Union) took over this state machinery, cleansed it a little bit and refilled it with own followers – in order to use it against the political demands of the proletariat as well as for the oppression of the economic rule of the bourgeoisie.

Following the example of the Soviet Union, in these new „socialist countries" the capitalist economy had been replaced by nationalised means of production, a Foreign Trade monopoly, and a bureaucratically planned economy. Labour power was not a commodity. In China and in the Soviet Union industrialisation programs were pushed through by means of brutal repression against workers. However, in the last decades (especially in Eastern Europe, but also in the Soviet Union and Cuba) workers in many areas had considerably more freedoms and were less under pressure – as long as there was no political opposition – than in capitalist companies. This was an expression of the economic expropriation of the bourgeoisie, a consequence of the remaining and exported achievements of the October Revolution and, not least, the expression of the remaining power of the international working class. However, the freedoms in the companies were mainly used in a destructive way (laziness and slack work), as the independence and creativity of the working class were oppressed.

The working class had – like in the Soviet Union – neither the possibility to shape the mode and relations of production independently, nor had it control over internal or external state policies. And similar to the Soviet Union, there were no signs of a withering away of the state. Instead, like in the Soviet Union, the state was ruled by a parasitic bureaucratic caste, that also pursued the counter-revolutionary international strategy connected to the conception of Socialism in one country. Due to the bourgeois state apparatus together with the specific form of post-capitalist modes of production and the remaining gains of the proletarian October Revolution the societies in Eastern Europe, Yugoslavia, China, Cuba and Vietnam – as well as the Soviet Union since the middle of the twenties – can be called degenerated workers' states. The fundamental contradiction between planned economy and bourgeois state, shaping those bureaucratically blocked transitional societies sooner or later had to be resolved one way or the other.

Marxists had to defend the remaining rests of the October Revolution in the Stalinist countries against capitalist restoration and imperialist attacks. They had to orient themselves towards a political revolution (as the best possible solution), like the relatively far developed one in Hungary 1956. Political revolution means the elimination of bureaucracy via a revolution of the working class in order to offer the opportunity to an international expansion of struggles against capitalism and hence the further development towards a class free society. A central part of the programme of the political revolution is the smashing of the bureaucratic-military state apparatus and its replacement by a workers´ democracy tied to an proletarian semi-state. Together with the political revolution, a massive restructuring and reorganisation of the planned economy was necessary, both on the level of companies as well as on the level of the entire society.

However, historically a development into the other direction has succeeded: the restoration of the capitalist mode of production. Since the sixties and seventies, the limits of bureaucratic planned economy had become more and more obvious. Although it was possible to develop the mining and heavy industry, remarkable attempts towards innovations in the consumer goods industry were not possible without the democratic participation of workers and consumers in the elaboration of the plan. Facing economic stagnation, the bureaucracies vacillated between the introduction of elements of the market on the one hand and tighter centralisation as practiced before on the other hand. That way the fundamental problems could not be solved. The development of productive forces was halted by the bureaucratic commando economy, the enormous costs of bureaucracy and repression machinery, and by the isolation of Socialism in one country from the world market and from the world revolution.

In the eighties, the crisis of bureaucratic planned economy was worsened by the armament policy of imperialism. This policy made the Soviet Union lose a lot of economic substance. Finally, the Stalinist block collapsed and its sibgle parts were subjugated by imperialism. The stepwise restoration of capitalism – whether in Eastern Europe or in China – is executed mainly by "turned" Stalinist bureaucrats, who have rescued their privileges by transforming themselves into managers, entrepreneurs, or nationalist politicians in the market economy. As the state machinery already had bourgeois character, only limited cleansing was necessary. The bureaucrats had based their policy on the post-capitalist mode of production only as long as support and pressure from the Soviet and international working class existed. In the eighties at the latest, it became obvious that the bureaucratic planned economy was no longer appropriate as a source of bureaucratic privileges. Since an alienation between working class and „socialist'' economy had occurred, the latter was no longer believed capable to meet the material needs. The obvious economic and political inferiority of the bureaucratic leadership against world capitalism finally led (for the time being) to the majority support of the project of capitalist restoration. The historic cycle, which had begun with the October Revolution, ended in 1989/1990.

 

5. Revolutionary Perspectives

In the Stalinist countries the term socialism was used for decades to veil the bureaucratic rule and therefore it was discredited in the eyes of millions of workers. But also if the collapse of Stalinism has immediately allowed the apologists of capitalism to take a broad offensive against socialism, the collapse has its positive sides as well. The political devastation produced by Stalinist forces through their dominance of the „communist'' camp in the working class movement continues to have an effect but will at least not be reproduced any longer. This increasingly offers the possibility to remove the bourgeois, Stalinist or anarchist distortions of Marxism and to develop a new working class movement.

The starting positions for an international reorientation are not easy indeed. This is not only due to the reformist dominance in the working class movement but also to the unbroken economic and social offensive of capital. On the whole, the working class continues to remain on the defensive on an international level. Apart from the dominant elements of chauvinism, nationalism, and political apathy, as a consequence of the intensification of social contradictions left wing tendencies, tendencies of class struggle, and political disintegration from the capitalist system are developing. At present this is matched to political disorientation of most workers, but it also offers increasingly starting-points for revolutionary forces.

However, revolutionary forces – to a different extent in different countries – are largely separated from the working class. As a consequence revolutionaries are facing more tasks than they can meet considering their relatively modest forces. Therefore, all revolutionary groups and tendencies are forced to focus on certain fields while neglecting others at the same time. These decisions cannot only be taken on the basis of objective necessities, but subjective possibilities have to be taken into account as well.

The essential prerequisite for revolutionary forces to be capable of taking adequate steps in different situations of class struggle, to be capable to deduce the correct conclusions from the development and outcome of struggles and to prevent them from falling prey to reformist and spontaneous currents lies, in our opinion, in revolutionaries relying on a strong political-theoretical foundation: a) on a fundamental analysis of the present capitalist system, its contradictions and its substance. b) on the assessment of workers´ struggles and their development dynamics. c) on drawing the balance sheet of the Stalinist model of Socialism in one country. d) on resuming the internationalist traditions of the working class movement. The Arbeitsgruppe Marxismus has set its main tasks in the acquisition, spreading, and finally extension of Marxist theory – as key areas for a revolutionary renewal of the working class movement.

For Marxists theoretical work cannot be an academic end in itself, but is based on a political orientation towards the working class movement and its struggles. Even without personal participation, the experiences of proletarian class struggles and other social struggles constitute an important factor in the development of political assessments and positions.

Where revolutionaries intervene directly in class struggles – and the Arbeitsgruppe Marxismus does so in certain cases – it is always necessary to combine the starting-point of immediate interest with the further development and generalisation of the struggle and finally with a system-overthrowing perspective. Neither adjustment to reformist tendencies nor idealistic enlightenment should be the fundamental approach to such interventions but rather the revolutionary tactics of the united front.

If struggles against imperialism, national/racist oppression, women's or sexual discrimination are lead by bourgeois political movements which are not part of the working class movement, then revolutionaries must support those struggles nevertheless, as they have an overwhelmingly progressive character and prevent the splitting of the working class along reactionary lines. Hence anti-imperialistic struggles against attacks from imperialism or pro-imperialistic regimes have to be defended unconditionally. By no means should revolutionaries comfort national or social oppressed layers – in the name of the „unity of the working class'' – with hopes about their liberation „after the revolution'' and, consequently, stopping their support for these struggles against oppression. Such a unity of the class does not overcome the real splitting, is based on oppression and hence finally is both as well reactionary as fragile. A real unity of the working class can only be based on a consistent struggle against nationalist, racist and social oppression, which should – whenever possible – also include members of relatively privileged layers of the working class.

The preconditions for actual alliances with bourgeois movements are, firstly, that they carry out real mass mobilisations against national or social oppression. Secondly, the revolutionary organisations must posses relevant strentgh and, thirdly and most importantly, that they do not give up or reduce their independence or class struggle – contrary to social democrats and Stalinists with their tactics of the Popular Front. The criticism of the frequently reactionary bourgeois leaderships of movements against national or social oppression must not in the least be moderated. Revolutionary forces always must try to organise the masses in imperialist countries, socially oppressed layers and in particular their proletarian part independently of any bourgeois leadership in order to integrate them in the working class movement and to provide an anti-capitalist perspective to them. For example, it will become evident that consistantly led anti-imperialist struggles cannot be separated from the struggle of the working class against capitalist exploitation. On the contrary, these struggles melt together in a process of unbroken and combined revolution, into a permanent revolution.

For the formation of a force, which is able to bundle different class struggles and struggles against national and social oppression against the capitalist system, it is necessary to overcome the relative gap between revolutionary organisations and the working class. However, this cannot happen in a voluntary way, by proclaiming new „revolutionary parties" indepently of actual struggles. We do not regard the necessary bridging of this gap as a straight-lined unification-process of both factors. A new revolutionary International will not be created linearly from one of the revolutionary organisations. We assume that none of these organisations can legitimately claim to be the only „real revolutionary" organisation. New revolutionary mass parties will emerge from important class struggles. Along with them, and in their theoretical reflection, there will not only be a strenghtening of revolutionary forces, but also a regroupment of them. The class struggles, the development of theory, the interventions of revolutionary organisations, and their internationalisation will influence one another. In view of the fact that capitalist promises are increasingly revealed to be empty phrases, we will face stormy times, times in which Marxist organisations will be of great importance.

 

Translation: Georg Hammeter, Paul Mazurka, Eddie Proprentner, Eric Wegner

 

 

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