25 September 2006
My buddy S. Artesian who writes such inciteful deconstructions of capitalism especially its depradations of South America, is, it has to be admitted, pretty much a lone voice these days, at least in the so-called developed world.
An avowedly unreconstructed Marxist, that is, he continues to utilise Marx’s razor sharp analysis of capitalism in all its gory details which as events unfold in this post-Soviet world of capital in (yet) another crisis, becomes all the more relevant to our current predicament.
The problem for all of us lefties is not so much in understanding how capitalism actually works, this has been documented, one could say ad nauseum, but in how to apply that understanding to its overthrow.
You would think that after 150 years we would by now have a better handle on things. Is it because capitalism is so adept at adapting to constantly changing circumstances or because we haven’t?
And yes, it’s true to say that capitalism’s control of the media and especially of ‘education’ has meant that it has defined the terrain within which we struggle and in so doing, made damn sure that opposition is marginalised and/or demonised, not to mention ridiculed.
This has led to our demoralisation and retreat into all kinds of wacky ideas and above all, heaping blame on everybody but ourselves.
So how to overcome this disastrous situation? Some of us, including yours truly, put a deal of faith in the IT revolution as a vehicle to liberate us from the shackles of capitalist propaganda and mind control. We saw the Internet as a vehicle for disseminating the ‘truth’ and above all as a means of connecting a global movement of opposition, a truly international movement of solidarity.
This is not to say that many on the Left, especially in the early days of the Internet didn’t view IT as a ‘tool of the devil’ thus illustrating the depressing fact that the Left which used actually express the idea of progressive was instead, anything but. In a word, we had atrophied into a state decay and pointless bickering amongst ourselves.
My English art school education exposed me to many ideas that came not from the traditional Left but from ‘left field’, leading me to realise that the culture of the Left, built as it was on the industrial working class and the Russian and Chinese Revolutions, no longer addressed the new situation.
As a result I found myself condemned by the left, the left of the left as well as the right of the left. Confused? So am I. Perhaps I need to expand on this a little. The Left broadly speaking is/was divided into two camps. On the one hand we had the established Communist parties that took their cue from the Bolshevik Revolution of Lenin and later, Stalin. Opposed to them were those who are called Trotskyist, the so-called left communist (or more derogatory, ‘ultra-left’), who believed that Stalin had betrayed the ‘real’ socialist revolution and that building Socialism in one country was impossible (only world revolution would do the trick). Later, this morphed into Maoism, a weird hybrid of Trotsky AND Stalin. Go figure.
Meanwhile, real revolutions were being carried out, not in the Western world but in ‘backward’ countries like Cuba and Nicaragua, but of course these revolutions were taking place in a world shaped by the Russian and Chinese revolutions and most importantly, the Cold War, which in spite of all the ideological battles being conducted amongst the ‘Left’, was an expression of the fact that capitalism knew exactly what the struggle was all about even if we didn’t. After all, the Cold War was an invention of the West, not the Soviet Union.
The Western world was under no illusions about the fact that it was their ruling classes that were threatened by the very existence of the Soviet Union, China and Cuba, regardless that the ‘Left’ was tearing itself apart over whether or not they were really socialist.
Thus, the ruling class still rule with an even more ruthless and murderous hand as the events of the past few decades prove. In this, nothing has changed except our inability to produce a new analysis and strategy. Instead, fed up with waiting for us to produce solutions, we have been upstaged by a posse of unreconstructed religious ruling priest/land owners from an even earlier epoch! The ruling class are laughing all the way to the bank.
But hang on there … we may have our problems but the ruling classes of the West are in a crisis of their own making, needing no ‘help’ from us, yet we still can’t get our act together. Indeed, capitalism thrives on crisis, how else can it justify the impoverishment of its populations, both material and spiritual, and the rest of the planet unless it uses/creates a crisis of one kind or another as a justification for the use of force and extermination?
Then along comes comrade Hugo Chavez who breathes new life into the idea of revolution but is it socialist, the ‘Left’ cries? But does it matter what you call it, or is it a question of redefining our definition of socialism? This is, as Chavez says, Socialism, 21st century style. There is, as I attempted to reveal in my review of DL Raby’s book ‘Democracy and Revolution’, a need to produce a new kind of democracy that reflects first and foremost, the direct participation of people in the decision-making process before one even thinks about the overthrow of capitalism.
As Raby says, the overthrow of global capitalism is not yet on the cards, it is simply too powerful, but a transitional state is possible, Venezuela is proof of this. A society that exists in tension with capitalism, not yet able to overthrow capitalism but able to set the stage by making structural changes that put the people in charge which in turn, empower a newly invigorated state, but a state that is answerable to the people. Make a wrong move and it will have to answer to the people.
Any state, empowered by the people makes for a powerful adversary. Yes, it can be defeated through the use of overwhelming force but when people are empowered and organised to the point where the state becomes their weapon of choice, they are extremely dififcult to defeat.
And as if to prove my point, the emergence of Chavez and the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ is the latest ‘crisis’ to confront the West (as if they haven’t got enough problems). Thus every challenge to the rule of capital is transformed into a ‘crisis’ used to justify the use of yet more force, sabotage, murder, blockade and coup d’etat.
The real challenge posed by Venezuela lies not so much in whether or not it’s socialist but that ordinary working people have propelled the Bolivarian Revolution along. Surely this is (yet again) another lesson we need to learn (as if the 20th century hasn’t taught us over and over again), real revolution lies in unleashing the creative powers of working people to take control of their own destinies, which is why it is so dangerous, and I mean REALLY dangerous to the ruling class, unlike ‘al-Qu’eda’ and the other conspiracies engineered by our ruling classes.
We need not only to support the Bolivarian Revolution but to learn lessons from it, lessons that we can apply to our own miserable situation. No more directions from ‘on high’, no more elites telling us what is best for us.