Workers International Network

“What is lacking….”

Yesterday, I went to a memorial for a long-time socialist fighter who had died recently. He had never given up the struggle, and as was fitting, all of those who spoke not only talked about this comrade; they also raised the political issues to which he had dedicated his life. One comment especially struck me:

“What is lacking is the leadership, but the groundwork is there,” said one of those who paid tribute.

Almost all of those who were there and those who spoke had spent many years fighting for the working class and for socialism. And, like me, they weren’t far from the end either. As a result, they seem stuck in an earlier period, because that is exactly the point: The ground work needs to be made anew, it isn’t there any more, or it’s almost not there.

In an earlier period, there were huge workers’ parties – the social democrats and the Communist parties. They were in a position time and again of leading the working class to power, but their leadership betrayed them time and again. And now?

The Communist Parties are more or less gone. And the Social Democratic Parties, if they haven’t become out-and-out capitalist parties, they are the “next best thing”, and entire generations of workers don’t look towards them anymore. And beneath that, much of the old traditions of the class struggle have been severely weakened, almost to the point of disappearance. This is connected with the fact that the industrial sector of the working class has been severely eroded in the West, and it is that sector that best carries on these traditions.

In the document “Preparing for Revolution” these points are explained. A part of that is below. But the main point is this: The best tribute to those old socialists (such as this writer) is to recognize the new situation that has opened up and to adjust ourselves accordingly.

From “Preparing for Revolution”:

“The new crisis today finds the working class in its former strongholds politically disarmed. Its earlier traditional socialist outlook and basic class consciousness have ebbed, due to a number of factors. The most immediate of these was the collapse of the former Stalinist states, which for all their more repugnant aspects, nevertheless had still held out some fading hope of an alternative future. Other causes were the decline of formerly formidable trade unions in the by now rapidly de-industrialising countries; the erosion of industrial communities in their traditional strongholds; the prolonged upswing and development of the new technology; the new-found triumphalism of the capitalists; and the abandonment by former “left” as well as right-wing reformists of even the pretence of socialist aspirations.

“The need for trade unions, the power of the strike, the culture of class solidarity, and the obsolescence of capitalism were most strikingly obvious within the old great concentrations of industrial manufacturing workers. What remains today of 150 years of socialist tradition in the West is little more than a fading memory among diminishing circles within the older generation. In the old homeland of the proletariat, many workers today are far less conscious than previously of their role, their tasks or even their class identity.”

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