Date: Sunday 26th July
Time: 13:00 - 16:30 (London time)
Marxists are frequently attacked as unrealistic utopians. Rather than talking about revolution, the reformists say we should focus on winning achievable goals for workers. But all over the world, the main reformist parties and organisations have discredited themselves by carrying out attacks on the working class and holding them back in order to save the system. Now, they are in total disarray, losing elections and support across the board. This talk will explain why reformism is a dead end, and argue that only revolutionary struggle can improve the lives of working people. Our speaker, Niklas Albin Svensson, is a leading activist of the International Marxist Tendency.
- Opportunism and Theory in Practice, in Reform or Revolution
- Prospects, in Where is Britain Going?
- Buy at Wellred: Where is Britain Going?
- Two Articles On Centrism
- ILP Conference and Tasks of the Left, in Ted Grant Writings Volume Two
- Buy at Wellred: Ted Grant Writings Volume Two
- The lessons of Greece: the failure of reformism
Niklas: Thank you for listening. Over the past few years, you will be aware, we’ve seen the growth of a new – or of several new phenomena on the left. We’ve seen the phenomena of Syriza, of Podemos, of Sanders, and of Corbyn. Then we also have the social democratic parties and several of them have entered into a partial or into deep crisis.
And to understand this phenomenon, I think it’s worth to go into and consider what reformism really is and to understand also what role it plays in society because all the mistakes, prevarications, and betrayals – beyond those, there is an underlying problem. What is reformism? Well, we can start with the most obvious. The reformists, they oppose a fundamental break with capitalism. Instead, they believe that in one way or another, that they can solve the problems of the working class by introducing a series of reforms.
Now, Marxists are not opposed to reforms, but we don’t think that reforms can solve anything. In fact, Marxism explains why reforms are insufficient. They will not achieve the necessary transfer of power from the capitalist class to the working class. The economy will remain in the hands of the capitalists and they will do anything in their power to sabotage these reforms, particularly if those reforms go beyond what is affordable by capitalism, if you will. And the world market and the capitalist economy does not allow itself to be subdued by laws and regulations and therefore the beautiful programs of the reformists, which promise a lot of nice things, many things we would agree with, but they cannot be carried out under capitalism. Now, Rosa Luxembourg pointed out – pointed this out 120 years ago in her debates with Bernstein. Now, this has been known for history as Reform or Revolution, but in reality, it’s not the question of reform or revolution, but reformism or revolution.
One of the points that she makes about Bernstein and also all of his supporters in general social democracy, is that they have a disdain for theory and the question is maybe why? And here is a quote from the actual text:
“What appears to characterise this practice above all? A certain hostility to ‘theory’. This is quite natural, for our ‘theory’, that is, the principles of scientific socialism, impose clearly marked limitations to practical activity. It is quite natural for people who run after immediate ‘practical’ results to want to free themselves from such limitations and to render their practice independent of our ‘theory’.”
Basically, Marxism imposes limits on what you can do. And these limits are an obstacle to the reformists in their practical activities – whatever deals they want to make behind the scenes, attacks on the working class that they wish to support. In the case of Germany at the time, they wanted to vote for the liberal budgets. And so, the Marxist theory was imposing – was not allowing them to do these things that they wanted to do and so they were moved away from the theory because they – well, they didn’t understand it in the first place, but they intuitively understood that this theory was – probably – give – an obstacle to them doing what they wanted to do.
But what is this theory? Marxists have drawn certain conclusions based on the experience of the struggles of the working class. And this is now – we now have two centuries of experience to draw upon, and that’s not even mentioning the experience of the bourgeois revolutions that came before that. But the conclusions they draw from an understanding of these events are directly contrary to what the reformists want to carry out in practice. And one of the crucial questions is the nature of the state. And now, Trotsky explained – I’m going to try to break up this quote again – “The question of the nature of the state, before and after the conquest of power, is one of the decisive criterions which separates Marxism from all other tendencies in the labour movement.”
From the Paris Commune, Marx and Engels drew the conclusion that the working class cannot seize the ready-made state machinery and use it for their own purposes. Basically, they cannot take over the bourgeois state and use it to create socialism. And this was shown in the Paris Commune when the working class came into power, they put up their own state, and it has been shown many times since, but it hasn’t stopped the reformists from attempting to use the bourgeois states time and time again with completely disastrous results. Sometimes, particularly in the case of a revolution, which precisely poses the question of power. Now, this theory, or this understanding, this experience, is an obstacle to making this very same mistake once again, and therefore also, the reformists will not want to draw this conclusion. They do not want to hear anything about the history of these struggles.
So instead, they must base themselves on bourgeois or petty-bourgeois ideas in the sphere of economy, philosophy, and history, and when we insist that these ideas are alien to the workers movement, it is not because they don’t exist in the labour movement, but because they are fundamentally bourgeois ideas and just like their bourgeois – just like all bourgeois science and philosophy, the reformists are plagued by empiricism. That is, as – I don’t know where the phrase comes from, but it’s been used a few times, “slavish worship” of the established fact. Worship, slavish, like a slave, worship of the established fact. That is basically, they just see what is in front of them and cannot see beyond just the reality as it exists at this very moment in time today. They are completely incapable of understanding the ups and the downs of the class struggle and will therefore have a tendency towards euphoria when the class struggle is on the up and depression when the class struggles are going down because rather than understanding the larger historical process, they can only see what’s happened in the last few months and the class struggle is a drawn-out process. It is not a result of a question of months.
They are actually capable – the left reformists are capable of defending the Soviet Union, for example, or the Cuban Revolution, but only once it has already been established. But only once it is already a fact. They despise revolution but once the revolution has already been achieved, then they can accept it. You can actually see that in some of the Mensheviks, who were quite happy to oppose – who obviously opposed revolution in 1917, but after the revolution had been victorious, were quite happy to align themselves with the state bureaucracy and the Stalinist machinery and many of them became prominent in the Stalinist Communist Party in the decades after revolution. Because besides, just like the Stalinist bureaucracy, there was a continuity between being against revolution before, in 1917, and being against revolution in the 1930s. They are defending basically the status quo. And they much prefer, also, the deformed workers state to a healthy workers state precisely because the Stalinist bureaucracy is their soulmate and they share the same – many of the same traits.
Now, in general, their whole outlook on politics is to base themselves on shortcuts. Basically, they want to set themselves tasks that can be achieved quickly within capitalism, or at least tasks that can – that appear to be possible to achieve within capitalism. And socialism is a question that can be left to the future. So they would stay away from any questions that somehow threaten the capitalist rule as a whole. Stay away from questions or demands that threaten the capitalist system as a whole. And try to find various types of reforms that the capitalists in one way to another can accept. But there are no shortcuts and they don’t want to hear about this. They are in fact trying to promote the very idea that you do not have to change society. They insist that you can actually get all the things that you want without touching the capitalist system. And this is like a very bad builder who will, when you ask him how much it will cost to repair a crack in your wall, he says it would be very cheap. All you need is a bucket of paint and I’ll just paint over the crack. But the Marxists, on the other hand, they’re like the more serious builder who will investigate the source of that crack and will probably find that you need to make – that you might need to dig new foundations to the house. And so your bill for these – for digging the new foundations will be much more expensive. And so the reformists, they are like the charlatan builder who will try to sell you a bucket of paint when you need to dig new foundations.
And for the working class, who are under – constantly under pressure by daily life under capitalism, this might seem like the easy way out. Most workers will try the easy route before they will try the hard route and this is what the reformists basically base themselves on. They base themselves on the backward layers of the working class which haven’t yet understood the need to change society and rather than trying to advance them, trying to raise their level of consciousness, they try to sell them easy solutions. They try to sell them easy solutions. And in the end, the workers will have to pay the price, if the leadership isn’t rectified in time.
Now, Marxists have a different approach and we say – we say what is. We – when something cannot be done under capitalism, we say that it can’t be done under capitalism. We say – if the reformists say we can solve the problems of the crisis by printing money, we say, clearly, this cannot be done. And in fact, this approach was already there in the Communist Manifesto where in the last paragraphs, Marx and Engels, they write, “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims.” Basically, they will not conceal their views and aims. “They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.” And this is precisely what the reformists do not want to say, but rather, they would like say – to give fairy tales, which it is, about the possibilities of reforms under capitalism. And this is – has always been true, but is particularly true now.
Now, from that step of saying that socialist revolution is impossible or unnecessary, there is an inevitable next logical step and that is to say that the socialist revolution is not just impossible, but also undesirable. Undesirable, unwanted, or.... And you find the reformist always finding fault to revolutions. And in their limited understanding, the violence, the upheaval, disruption is a completely – it’s only for the negative. The violence and upheaval and disruption is just a massive negative thing or disaster that occurs. In the revolution, the revolution brings about with it violence, upheaval, and destruction, economic difficulties, and the reformists see this and they say “well look, all these revolutions are bad because they disrupt the capitalist economy”. And so they see – they go from a position of not understanding it – they don’t understand the cause of revolution and when it arrives, they are completely opposed to it. And so – and even, this is even the case when they are sometimes brought into power on the back of a revolution. And they are intensely uncomfortable about sitting at the head of a revolution because of all the pressure they’re under from the working class, whilst at the same time, they are busy trying to make a deal with the capitalist class because that’s another inevitable conclusion – that if you do not accept the taking of power of the working class, then you inevitably wound up having to accept the power of the capitalist class, and this they do.
And from that conclusion, the next conclusion is that they must make some kind of arrangement or deal with the capitalist class because how can they be in government in a society where the capitalist class is in power but the reformists are at the head of the government. So inevitably, they will try to seek some kind of accommodation with the capitalists. And so – this even goes to the point where they establish, where they become like – and this, yeah – they become basically “bourgeoisified”, that they become like – become close to the bourgeois also socially and materially and the bourgeois will open the door for them, at least temporarily, to try and corrupt them. And Trotsky makes his observation in Where is Britain Going? when the leaders – when the Labour Party leaders started to socialize with the ruling class and there was an uproar in elements of the labour movement when this was discovered and then Trotsky says:
“If they stand on the position of an implacable class struggle, there will be no place for any kind of friendly relations.”
He used another word there, but I simplified it.
“Labour leaders will not yearn to be in the bourgeois circles, nor will the bourgeoisie let them in, but the leaders of the labour party defend the idea of the collaboration of classes and the rapprochement of their leaders.”
Or the coexistence of their leaders. So inevitably, the leaders of the – the reformist leaders will have a tendency towards fusing with the capitalist class and they will even go so far as to attempt to create the most optimum conditions, the most optimum conditions for the exploitation of the working class because the system in – the capitalist system in crisis will not give any money for reforms and so the – and also the money from investments will inevitably in some way has to come from the unpaid labour of the working class. It has to come from profits, so defending the capitalist system also means defending the profits of the capitalists. And so you see particularly the right reformists are very keen to ensure the profitability of the capitalist companies. And so strikes and wage demands, if they are “unreasonable”, will be an obstacle to those kind of – to those profits.
So also the reformists have a tendency towards – they like to think that the state can solve the problems of the capitalist system. That’s why Keynesianism is their favoured flavour. And they don’t like to remember Keynes the person but they quite like to remember the bit about him spending a lot of money because the whole point of Keynesianism was precisely to prevent socialism. To stop a revolution and the workers taking power. And if you read Keynes’ writings, you’ll find precisely that he says that. And this is what – and Yanis Varoufakis, he gave voice to this desire when he said that “the role of Syriza is to save the capitalists from themselves”, or words to that effect.
The bourgeois politicians are bad managers of capitalism but the reformists, and even better the left reformists, they are good managers of capitalism. They understand how to make the balance between the workers’ demands and the capitalists’ demands and so how to basically make society good for capitalists and workers. And it’s not an accident that this was also combined with the view that there is no possibility of a revolution today, because that’s what he was arguing. He said that:
“There is no party today that can take power. There is no party ready to take power today, political party. And so we’re going to have to live with capitalism for a while and so we must make the best conditions for capitalism so that this political party has the best conditions to develop.”
And so from his pessimistic outlook on the prospect of revolution and also him denying his own role in that process, that is, he denies that he plays a leading role in that process in Greece, of leading towards revolution. From that, he draws the conclusion that it must be his role to save capitalism. And he is not the first one to draw that conclusion. And it’s very similar to what Bernstein was arguing about at the end of the 19th century. And all of these leaders, they deny, regardless of whatever pretty phrases they use, the fundamental contradiction between capital and labour and the labour theory of value. That is, the struggle over the surplus value is not – they deny.
Now, as I mentioned, over the past few years, we’ve seen a swing to the left in a number of parties, across Europe in particular, and it’s brought to power a number of leaders that probably never had imagined themselves being leaders of a major mass political party. And this is again not the first time this has happened in history. The same thing happened in the early days of the Labour Party, in the 1920s, when the leaders of the Independent Labour Party were put at the head of the Labour Party. And this, Trotsky explains, was a swing – was a result of a swing to the left in the British working class. This is the same period also when the Labour Party adopted its famous Clause Four of the constitution, which committed the party to the socialist transformation of society, if in some slightly confused wording. And Trotsky had this to say about this phenomenon:
“The deep swing to the left of the British working class that brought MacDonald’s party to power unexpectedly rapidly, facilitated the latter’s manifest swing to the right. Such is the link between yesterday and today.”
So the confused ideas of MacDonald during the First World War, when he was a pacifist, they were generally on the left, to the left of the Labour party in that period, but when faced with the – becoming the leader of a political – of the Labour Party, these confused ideas that he had beforehand were suddenly met – or the leaders of the ILP in general – were suddenly met with having to face the real politics, if you will. And so half-finished formulations, ideas, eclectic ideas, picking and choosing from here and there, suddenly when faced with the test of becoming the leader of a mass political party, all this confusion forced the leaders to the right. Because they were completely ill-equipped at dealing with the real problems faced by the working class. They were incapable of facing – to the problems faced, or the tasks faced at that particular time.
And so from being on the left, they very quickly became to the right, the reformists, because there was no opportunity to – for this kind of confusion, where you’re actually faced with the real situation at the head of a mass party. And I think there’s a very strong link there between what’s happened with Corbyn over the last period.
Now, Corbyn came to power on a – as a very left wing Labour politician. Because he was actually – I mean, if you look at the way that he voted and the resolutions he put forward in parliament and so on, there’s very little to object to. But the idea is he was not a Marxist and he was not a revolutionary. He flirted with those ideas maybe, but from his whole outlook, you could tell when he spoke that he was not a Marxist. We have a separate session in this school about pacifism, and Corbyn was a pacifist. He did not understand the nature of war and the nature of the state. He was not prepared to face up to the realities of class society as a result. And so when he came – I mean, he’s known also for being a very nice and friendly guy, which is very ironic given how the media then portrayed him, but he kept trying to appease the right wing of the party. And this is not news, either.
In fact, this has happened time and time again, that the left reformists, they always chase after the right reformists. And the right reformists are chasing after the liberals and the conservatives, the bourgeois parties. And so you have this – you can have this constant stream of politics toward the right, which we see in several countries at the moment, based on the surface of things, in the statements of the leaders of the political parties and so on. But Corbyn tried to constantly appease the right wing. He did not understand that the right wing fundamentally represents the interests of the ruling class inside the Labour Party and the ruling class had no interest whatsoever in allowing Corbyn to become Prime Minister and as a result, the right wing of the party was completely adamantly opposed to Corbyn becoming the Prime Minister. And that, Corbyn was completely incapable of dealing with. He was not prepared to fight, at least not to fight to the end with the right wing in the party.
It has to be said that he had a lot of pressure on it and he withstood that pressure more than many other leaders. But during his, what was it, four years as leader of the Labour Party, he failed to deal a decisive blow against the right wing. It’s very different to what you see the right wing is doing right now in the Labour Party, where they feel very confident because they got the backing of the ruling class and they know it – the whole political establishment, the media, the church even – and so they are very confident in trying to strike a blow against the left now. Whilst it’s not so much Corbyn, maybe. He’s a bit out of it. But a number of the left now are still trying to find an agreement with the right wing. So they are still trying to find an agreement with Keir Starmer at the same time as he – everyone, it’s not even a secret, that he’s trying to get – push the whole of the left wing out of the party.
I would say that that was the main failure of Corbyn, but you can also see the same kind of political problems that arise when it comes to how to deal with the capitalist class and the capitalist economy. And there were – the Labour Manifesto, whilst very good in a lot of ways, it raised a demand for a lot of reforms, but they were – and actually, they even raised the question of nationalization and I think, if I’m not mistaken, also workers’ control, if in a very weak way, but this was combined with constant overtures to the capitalist class. John McDonnell is very theoretically eclectic. At one point, he went on TV and called the capitalist class “wealth creators”, which is complete – well, I mean, these are the – particularly in Britain, where the capitalist class is the most parasitic of any country – well, maybe bar a few smaller nations, but it’s one of the most parasitic capitalist class in the world, and John McDonnell goes on TV and calls them wealth creators, when even the most basic reading of Marxism, Marx, you’ll understand that it’s not the capitalists that are the wealth creators, but it’s the workers that are the wealth creators.
But still, John McDonnell likes to call himself, at least some of the time, a Marxist. And these kind of contradictions obviously serve to confuse rather than clarify the situation. Again, I think in the case of John McDonnell, here’s someone who’s very friendly to the left. He sometimes says very radical things, but he also says the very opposite on another occasion. So in one moment, it’s that capitalist that are wealth creators, next moment, it’s the workers that are the wealth creators. And so you have this weird – and so, he does – the only way to explain this, other than that he is generally – maybe, I don’t actually think he is as confused as his statements are, but it’s a deliberate tactic of his. Of trying to appease everyone. Appease the capitalists by saying nice things about them, then make some radical speeches to the workers so they will be still happy.
But in all this, he doesn’t recognize that he himself is a leader and that he – what he says has an impact. So when he basically call, on a number of occasions, he called for Labour Party branches not to remove their right-wing Labour MPs because he was trying to make some deal with the right-wing and he doesn’t recognize the disastrous consequence that that has, how it completely disarms the movement. And so I think these are some of the main – these – this example of Corbyn highlights some of the main problems of the left reformists. They also make a number of unprincipled concessions. Like, for example, on the question of the European Union, and that wound up being – at the time, it must have seemed like a small thing, that they were – the Labour Party was to support staying in the European Union. It was done in the first month of Corbyn’s leadership. But that little mistake at that time, or what seemed like a little mistake, or a little compromise with the right-wing of the party, in order to not have, in the first month, a big battle over this question, well we see what happened. The electorate did not vote the way that Corbyn had imagined they would.
I think everyone thought that British people would vote to stay in the European Union. And if that had been the case, then probably this small compromise wouldn’t have had such disastrous consequences. But this is lack of foresight – this is lack – but they do not – cannot see into – do not understand the process taking place and therefore cannot see into the future and they could not see that the European Union referendum might very well turn out differently to what everyone expected. Ironically, Corbyn for many – for his – most of his political life, had been advocating for a leave, but when he actually got that outcome, which he had been advocating for, he was completely unprepared for it. And so this little concession turned out to be a big disaster. In the end, it gave them – it became the Achilles’ heel of the whole of the Corbyn movement because all the – a whole section of the left, of the Labour Party, moved from – into a pro-EU position, partly, or to a large extent because of what position that Corbyn took, and this enabled the right-wing in the late – after the referendum to seize upon this in order to launch numerous campaigns on the basis of pro-EU. Even to the point where the main pro-referendum campaign – pro-second referendum campaign in Britain was off the Corbyn left. And so the main campaign for the second referendum in Britain a year ago, or two years ago, was – which was funded by the capitalists, but they were paying the wages of Corbynistas. And this was the deliberate wedge in order to drive – to split the Corbyn movement, which was organized by the right-wing, people like Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell and so on.
And the other phenomenon that we’ve seen on the left have similar – have encountered similar obstacles. If you take Sanders, for example, Bernie Sanders, again he was trying to tame the Democratic Party. He was trying to turn the Democratic Party into a workers’ party – well, that’s a generous interpretation, anyway – but constantly had made overtures to the Democratic Party establishment. He played by the rules, as they say, which was completely distorted against him, and if the rules were insufficient to stop him, then the Democratic Party establishment simply cheated. And faced with this, Bernie Sanders capitulated and with the excuse of lesser evilism to support first Hillary Clinton, and now he’s supporting Joe Biden, which are not the representatives of working class in any shape, sense, or form, but mainly another wing of the capitalist class. And this is quite obvious to a lot of Americans, particularly today. And so his whole movement, he fell flat on his face, and all the movement – all those enthusiasm that built up just collapsed. And there’s clearly no way through the Democratic Party.
And we’ve had – I’ve mentioned already the example of Syriza, where Varoufakis, he was on the left-wing, you might say, of that party. Well, maybe left-wing is too strong a word, but in the government, he was kind of left-wing. And he wound up resigning over the question of memoranda. But his whole outlook was not dissimilar from that of the leaders who supported the memoranda, which was – if you remember the actual negotiations took place in the European Union and the leaders of Syriza, they had the idea – basically, they could enter into negotiations and get a better deal than what they had already. Basically, they thought that the cap – that the previous government had been bad negotiators and by just being a bit more forceful negotiators, they will be able to secure a better deal. And that – and this was proven to be completely false.
They faced – was faced – were faced with even more hostility than the previous round of negotiators and the deal that wound up siding was even worse than what had been there before and they had completely underestimated the intransigence of the hostility of the capitalist class. And they made lots of overtures. They opened – they stretched out their friendly hands to the capitalists in the world. I can’t remember if it was Tsipras or Varoufakis who wrote articles in the Financial Times where they were promising that they were going to be very good managers of the Greek economy. That they were going to make sure that everyone got their money back, pay back all their debts. That they in no way were going to threaten the capitalist system or the capitalist property and so on. But none of this had made any impact at all, and even when they had this massive referendum – they had this massive campaign around the referendum – well, they probably didn’t plan for it to be so massive, but it wound up becoming massive because the Greek masses entered, and so the big “No” vote, which was delivered in that referendum, there – I think, I can’t remember the figures, but it was a big vote for rejecting the memorandum, but unsurprisingly, these failed to convince the European Union, but rather, when he came back after that campaign, they gave him an even worse deal than what he had had before.
Why? Because they needed to punish him for basically having attempted to mobilize the masses against the European Union. It would set a very bad precedent, basically, if you allowed the working class to have a say over the memoranda. The European Union was in no way interested to have this Greek, Spanish, or Italian working class at the negotiating table when they were negotiating the memoranda. And so the – Syriza, faced with this intransigence, they capitulated. And it’s just – it’s linked to the position that they fundamentally had, which is that there is no alternative to capitalism and that so if you accept the capitalist system, you have to accept the capitalist cuts, the capitalist austerity, and this is what they wound up doing. It didn’t take long. It took only a few months.
And another party that didn’t even make it into government is Podemos, which is now joined with United Left, but it started off making very radical noises and in periods, it moved quite far to the left, but when the prospect opened up to be able to take part in government, the movement very quickly – the leaders very quickly shifted to the right and attempted to present themselves with a nice image on various questions. One crucial one was the question of the Catalan independence, where they basically abandoned the Catalans, which was a condition for them working together with the socialist party, which if you’ve read Alan’s book, you know, accepted the unity of Spain in its own – very own compromise with the Spanish reactionary ruling class.
In general, the national questions is a big weakness of the reformists who are completely incapable of understanding the difference between the national aspirations of a place like Scotland or Catalonia and the reactionary nationalism of British imperialism. In fact, the Scottish Labour left – they insist that it’s the same thing, so the nationalism is rising in Scotland and nationalism is rising in England and it’s the same thing. So the rights of the Scottish to self-determination is exactly the same thing as the reactionary programme of Boris Johnson. So the national aspiration of the Scottish is the same as the Brexit and the right-wing of the conservative party, and they are completely incapable of understanding the difference between those two.
In general, it has not been an easy period for the parties of the left, and superficially, that might seem like a contradiction. Here we have the biggest crisis of capitalism for eighty years and all the parties that in some way or another promises a different kind of system, if only it’s a small change, not a fundamental change, but they all in one way or another wound up in a crisis. Forgiven, there are – there are even being – some of the bourgeois commentators have commentated – have commented on this fact. [Inaudible] socialist or communist parties.
Where is this rise – how come the left is in a big crisis in the same time capitalism is in crisis? But it’s actually – there is a link between the two and it’s precisely because in a crisis, capitalism can no longer afford reforms, and what is reformism without reforms? Trotsky wrote about this, commented on this as well:
“Viewed historically, reformism has lost completely its social hosts. Without reforms, there is no reformism. Without prosperous capitalism, no reform. The right reformism – The right reformist wing becomes anti-reformist in the sense that it helps the bourgeois directly or indirectly to smash the old conquests of the working class”.
And where was this not – it was very obvious in the case of Greece where PASOK was completely destroyed by its support for the earlier memoranda. Well, there are – they are still around a little bit. They hardly exist now. You can see it in the French Socialist Party, which has faced a similar fate because they are doing the dirty work of the capitalist class and in other countries, the process has begun, but it hasn’t gone as far as in those two. But obviously left reformists don’t actually have anything fundamentally different to offer but rather they – they just present a slightly left-wing version of the same programme as the right reformists, maybe covered up with a few more left or even Marxist phrases. But without being able to deliver any reforms, what is the point of reformists? It doesn’t make any sense.
And obviously the workers will try these outfits out. They will attempt to vote these parties into power. They will test them. They will see – see what happens when they get elected, whether that will solve the problems, and invariably, the answer is no. And obviously that promotes – provokes a certain disillusionment in the class and demoralization among a whole layer of activists as well and confusion. There was actually a good quote in Reform or Revolution by Marx where Marx explains the long, drawn out nature of the proletarian revolution. How it goes through its peaks and its troughs, and how it tests all the different tendencies and labour movements but it’s constantly learning and learning in the process and our attitude towards this – these phenomena. I think it’s in what Ted Grant wrote. I’ve forgotten the name of the text, but:
“The Marxist wing of the Labour Party will tirelessly explain the contradictory position of the left, their lack of foresight, their empirical reaction to events. At the same time they will support, critically ,every step forward taken in the mobilization of the workers in the trade unions and in the party branches.”
And I think that remains our role today. This was about the 1970s, he was writing – or the 1960s, actually, he was writing this, but we must, we must continue to patiently explain, as Lenin said, how the programs are impossible to carry out under capitalism, but also the need for Marxist theory. The need to understand the society which we live in. Also understand the lessons of the past.
Because all these things are the things they completely don’t want to deal with because if you understand those questions, or you understand those things, it means you have to draw certain conclusions, and the only conclusion you can draw is that reformism doesn’t work. It cannot solve the problems of capitalism. And it cannot solve – and therefore, it can also not solve the problems of the working class. And all this is the task that we have before us.
The working class consists of different layers. Some draw revolutionary conclusions much quicker than the others. And it’s not a uniform process. First the one, then you have two workers, then three workers, but there is a small layer, a trickle for a period and then suddenly you have a change in the situation and there’s a whole flood coming at once. And you can see the change in consciousness sometimes in opinion polls where – and you can – for example, in the United States, at the moment, where you have this massive shift in – from people thinking socialism is a bad thing to socialism is a good thing. And in that big layer of people thinking that socialism is a good thing, there is a layer that think that communism is a good thing. Now, it’s only 5%, but 5% out of 250 million is quite a lot of people.
And so from our point of view, our goal is that yes, we have to patiently explain, also because it’s a method of – this is the right approach to winning the mass, who are not yet drawn the revolutionary conclusions, but at the same time, our immediate task is to reach those young people and workers who have drawn those revolutionary conclusions and win them and organize them in the Marxist tendency. And I’ll leave it at that.
Frederick: Hi. I’m Frederick from the Swedish section of the IMT. And I think for a long period, for many workers in the advanced capitalist countries, reformism and class collaboration really seemed to work. This was based on the upswing of capitalism after the Second World War. But that period is now over. The crisis of capitalism also creates a crisis of reformism, like Niklas explained. And I thought I would use Sweden as an example.
My grandmother was born in 1925. Her family were poor contract workers in the countryside. And I remember my grandmother telling me that when she was fourteen, the lousy house that she was staying in burned down. But she didn’t have any possessions anyhow, except for a small photograph that she was sad to have lost. So they were very poor. But when she died a few years back, she was living comfortably in a nice big terraced house with a small garden, nice furniture, etc. She had everything she could have wished for. And I think this example is not uncommon, neither in Sweden nor in many other advanced capitalist countries. Especially in the period after the Second World War, living standards increased massively. In Sweden, you had full employment, free healthcare, free education, cheap housing, childcare for everybody, decent unemployment benefits, decent pensions, and so on and so on. You had a creation of the so-called “welfare state”.
But all this was only possible due to various specific circumstances. The strength of the workers’ movement and also Sweden being just next to the Soviet Union. And both of these things acted as a good whip in the back of the bourgeoisie. It was very clear what would happen if the bourgeoisie didn’t conceive reforms. But then another thing was just as important – the general post-war upswing in the economy. And also, actually, that Sweden collaborated with the Nazis during the war in order to not be attacked by the Nazis. And after the Second World War, the entire world was in ruins, but the Swedish industry was intact and it could increase its export massively. And this created massive profits for the capitalists. And in order then for – to avoid strikes and class struggle, the bourgeoisie could concede reforms.
But with the international crisis of the 70s, it became clear that this surplus was running out. Industries closed down. Unemployment rose. Productivity stagnated. High inflation ate up the economic growth. So the capitalists went on to the offensive to raise their profits. And just like Thatcher and Reagan attacked the working class across the world in the 1980s, the Swedish bourgeoisie tried to attack the Swedish labour movement head-on with a massive lockout in 1980. But in Sweden, they were defeated. The working class and the workers’ movement was still powerful. So in order to attack the workers, they had to lean on the reformists. They had to use the tops of the workers’ movement, the tops of the unions and social democracy.
And in the past thirty years, everything has changed. Sweden has been the country with the highest growth in inequality in the entire OECD. Schools, hospitals, elderly care, and the entire welfare system is actually in crisis now. They basically cut off one fourth from all the employees from the public sector since 1990. And now, during the corona crisis, Sweden has the fifth-highest amount of reported deaths per capita in the world. Bernie Sanders calls this “Scandinavian-style socialism”, but this is not socialism. This is capitalism in crisis.
And what has happened now to the mighty Swedish Social Democracy? It is they, together with the bourgeois parties, that has carried out all these attacks. This party used to get over 50% in the elections. Now, they get half that. They used to have hundreds of thousands of members with active organizations almost in every block. Now, the internal life of the party is practically dead. The ex-Stalinists, the Left Party, they’ve supported the Social Democrats in government and is correctly not seen as an alternative. So the authority of the reformists has collapsed compared to before. But from our point of view, I think this is a good thing. Lenin called these peoples the labour lieutenants of capital, and what this situation means is that they can’t control the movement of the working class like they used to. But of course, especially with older workers, there are still big illusions in reformism, and at one stage, the workers are going to have to pass through the school of left-wing reformism in Sweden, just like in other countries.
But now they will learn quicker than they would have in the past. And just like in the rest of the world, the class struggle is coming to Sweden. But the class struggle now won’t be like the post-war period. It will actually be more similar to the harsh and bitter struggles of 100 years ago. But this time, the working class is much more powerful, and rather than trying to lull the workers to sleep, like the reformists do, what we must do is tell the workers the truth. To have a future worthy of the name, we cannot limit ourselves to what capitalism allows. This means nothing more, nothing less than that the working class must assume power. Thanks.
Roberto: Good evening comrades from all over the world. After the excellent leadoff by Niklas and the very good contribution by Frederick, a little taste of a southern European contribution. Niklas, in his leadoff, quite correctly quoted Bernstein. There is a very famous quotation that is also in Rosa Luxembourg’s book Social Reform or Revolution, a quote by Bernstein that said – what Bernstein said, “The final goal, no matter what it is, is nothing. The movement is everything.” So this is the essence of reformism. What it means is gradualism. The fact that you move, that you conquer little by little, piece after piece, one MP after another, one count after another, we can achieve a better society, and for someone, ultimately, even socialism, is the centre of this theory, is the main difference, as Frederick says in his contribution, between us and the reformists. Between Marxism and reformism. The need for a revolutionary break. The need for a changing of the face of status.
This was also the centre, not only of the programme of the socialist social democratic party, but also of the communist parties and particularly of the Italian Communist Party after the Second World War. As you may know, it was one of the biggest communist parties of the western world, the biggest communist party of the western world. The idea – and they followed the idea that working class should become one – the ruling class, but the ruling class within capitalism, so in a situation of compromise with the bourgeoisie. Ruling together with the bourgeoisie.
And for a number of years – decades – this seemed to work because of this situation – of the Second World War – that gave a very strong position for the reformist parties, for reformism. For example, in Italy, there were a number of regions where the Communist Party had more than 60% of the vote. They conquered cities and regions. They made a lot of reforms. It was like – to live in those regions was a bit like living in Sweden, as far as the reforms were concerned. And there was a sector built by the Communist Party, like the cooperatives, built by the socialists before and then the communists that really actually became part of the ruling class. For example, controlling a large part of the supermarkets.
They think that they can change from inside the system. But it is not possible. You cannot change the system from the inside. It is the system that will change you instead. And in 1989, after a collapse of Stalinism, even the Communist Party dissolved in Italy. Part of two million people in the 1970s were seduced into nothing. But as Niklas said, and also Frederick, we are living now in a completely different situation. We are in a stage where the days of reformism are gone. This does not mean that reformist parties are not possible to rise again, but these reformist parties will have a very, very weak character because they will rise, sometimes they go to power, they cannot deliver anything and they will fall into crisis. This is for example that we see clearly in a number of countries in Europe. We saw the example of Podemos, Syriza, La France Insoumise in France. They all rise and then they fell, or they are still alive, but they were reduced as importance very, very heavily in the space of very few areas.
So we are not living anymore in an epoch of social democratic or communist parties that are really Stalinist, who are really Stalinist parties, of a kind of parties that could live for decades and rise gradually and peacefully and can have a hope to get a position, a strong position in society. There will be parties of crisis. From one side, the bourgeoisie will need the reformist parties – will need reformist parties to hold back the working class. This is clear. But they will not be able – the bourgeoisie – to control through the reformist parties the masses as they did before, as they did until the 80s. So we are living in a time that is much more like the 30s of the 20th century, when the reformist parties who rise will shift very rapidly into a left reformist or centrist direction. And in the space of very few times, they will collapse. And we have to remember that in the 30s, the revolutionary forces, the section of the Russia that followed the ideas of Trotsky, the ones who followed the ideas of Trotsky, were able to make important gains in these parties, in these centrist or left reformist formations. So we are entering a period where the teaching of Trotsky of the 30s will become more and more relevant for our world and the myth of working between these reformist parties, inside these reformist parties. And so this is the teaching that we have to make living again in our daily work to be successful in intervention of the stormy events of the next period – of revolution and counterrevolution that will be faced and with the crisis of reformism in the epoch that we are entering. Thank you. Thank you and goodbye, comrades.
Jonathan: Good evening to everybody. Greetings to all the comrades of the world. This is a very beautiful and important event. And thanks to comrades Niklas, Frederick, and Roberto. It’s very important for us here in South America getting this approach to their experiences in Europe. So now the situation in Colombia is – we’re under a very particular case. We’re under the Duque’s regime, Ivan Duque, and this is a very particular case because it’s part of this Bonapartist wave that we’re seeing in the world. We can see this in the cases as Boris Johnson or Donald Trump and it’s like going back to Bonapartism but in a farcical way. If we remember a Marxist quote on the 18th Brumaire. And if we speak about farce as a theatrical genre, Duque is like a jester, or maybe a puppet. Well, he’s called a puppet by the people because workers understand he’s not the real president. The real government – the real ruler in Colombia is Alvaro Uribe, a former president and a former employee of Pablo Escobar. That basically means that we are ruled by the most backward version of capitalism. Well, we are ruled by gangsters.
And, well, this is very bad for the workers because that means we are ruled by killers. And there’s been a lot of killing in Colombian history, and especially in recent history from sixty years – since sixty years to now. And the origin of this violence and the explanation of this is that it’s a very backward ruling class who had a lot of difficulties on planting capitalism here in Colombia. And because they couldn’t succeed with capitalism, they couldn’t succeed on developing solutions to the everyday problems of the people and that creates a vacant in politics, and this space, this void, is filled with violence. A lot of violence. Any kind of violence you can think about. So what do we have to confront this violence? Not very much that – the only thing we have now to fight back this is Gustavo Petro and it’s not a very good option because it’s not even a reformist option. If we analyse his speech and his discourse, he’s actually a liberal. He – there is a common root with Chavez and that is Simon Bolivar. In both cases, they recognize Bolivar as an option for the masses in South America, but while Chavez understood the lessons from history, Petro didn’t. Chavez understood that the way to update Bolivar’s thinking was socialism. Petro’s intention is to develop something that he calls “human capitalism”.
As Marxists, we understand that such thing doesn’t exist. We understand that human capitalism is the same thing as a vegetarian tiger. But why is he so popular if he says such stupid things? The main explanation is because of a lack of options. And this lack of options is the result of two processes. First, the violence of the ruling classes. The result of that is the killing of the main leaders of the workers and peasant movement, and this is happening even now, with the killing of social leaders. And the second process is a huge lack of theory, a huge tradition of lack of theory in the left. This lack of theoretical work has made huge space to this type of project to develop, even though it doesn’t work. So has Petro any chance to succeed? Well, maybe, because we are facing a very big political crisis in the ruling class. Uribe is under a big pressure, mainly because first, we are under an economic crisis now. That means that the support, the US support is not as big as it used to be ten or fifteen years ago when he was the official president. And the ruling classes also has a crisis of leadership. And the explanation is the same – under an economic crisis, they cannot offer other solution than violence. So in the sense, Petro has a chance to succeed, but is that a solution for the workers? It’s certainly not. Why? Because we doesn’t have the conditions we heard to develop not even reformism, and – but human capitalism, well, you know. What about the other options we have in Colombia, on the workers’ movement? The other versions are sectarianism, as Maoism – sorry, the other options – and the rest of Stalinism, it’s supporting Petro. That’s why we are insisting here in Colombia on building a cadre organization based on theoretical work and in the ideas of Marxism. Thank you very much, comrades.
Garcia: Hi, I’m Garcia from the IMT in Argentina. First, I would like to say hello to all the comrades from all over the world. Like we discussed yesterday, the world is in a new development now. It started in 2008 and now, with COVID-19, we are seeing a new development. This is the new era of revolutions and counter revolutions worldwide.
In this sense, Argentina expresses a specific problem and all the politics from Argentina expresses itself in this frame. The crisis of reformisms in Argentina represents that reformist parties cannot give a clear answer. It doesn’t add just to Argentinian capitalism because you can’t control what you cannot possess. It’s almost like the reformist parties want to go backwards, forgetting about imperialism and forgetting the role of imperialism. Trying to fight for the development of trusts, of cartels, and the idea of going back to a productive capitalism. In periods of boom like we have seen in Latin America, it was easier for the reformist parties to take policies that guarantee the gains of the bourgeoisie class and at the same time, try to meet the demands of the working class.
In times of deep crises like now, that’s impossible. There is no material basis for reformism, as they have discussed in this talk. In Argentina, after four years of fightback with the Macri government against the working class that represented the clearest bourgeoisie interests, in 2009, the Peronism came back to Argentina in something called “frente de todos” – an across the board kind of party for everybody. The Peronism party has a clear bourgeois direction, but it has the working class as the base of the party and the limits are quite clear in this pandemic because even though they try to implement measures against the pandemic, going backward in Argentina is becoming a real thing. Layoffs, austerity, poverty – with this, we can see that independently of whoever governs the country, whether it’s neoliberal or reformist, there’s the same reality.
Capitalism and its deep crisis can only make us go backwards. We’re not saying what the ultra-left say, that all governments are the same, but all of them follow the same direction in regard to capitalism because they don’t have any other alternative to offer. But it’s also true that Peronism as a movement maintains a right over the workers in Argentina and this makes the debate with the left in Argentina. We know that to create a revolutionary party, you have to have two steps. First, the creation of the cadres and on the other hand, we need to win over the masses because otherwise, there’s nothing we can do.
The question is, how do we help to break with specific sectors of the reformists in the working-class layers that see the Peronism like a valid alternative? And for this we maintain that the left must maintain its position with the oppressed, using the idea of the united front to show the real face of the reformists. The bourgeois nationalism can only be surpassed with the condition that there is a strong working-class party and for this, the tactics of the united front are essential. The tactic from the united front is fight together, march divided – the independence of class that has nothing to do with the independence of politics within the working class. Right now, the diligence of the left in Argentina that expressed in the united front in Argentina have diluted the revolutionary programme, including the programme boarded in 2011 that is basically parliamentarian and sectarianism and economization, taking the importance of building a workers’ party.
We believe we need to have a dialogue about this in the united front in Argentina because the necessity to build a workers’ party is implicit in the necessity of this party to win. We need a party that is solely based on Marxist theory – a revolutionary direction that can help the working class take over, eliminating the bourgeoisie and eliminating the state, advancing towards a workers’ state. Pandemic and capitalist crisis go together and for this, we will see insurrections all over the world. The Red October in South America was not a singular instance, but a show of what is about to happen in the future. There is no time to lose. We need to prepare for the future. So I invite everybody who’s listening from Argentina to join the International Marxist Tendency and build Marxist forces in Argentina. Thank you very much, comrades.
Hans: Hello, comrades. Greetings again from Germany, from the German section of the International Marxist Tendency to the rest of the world. Some comrades have made some very important statements already on the question of reformism and I do not have to repeat everything they’ve said.
It’s very important that we see there are different shades of reformism and centrism and as the crisis deepens, there will be also more radical forms of reformism, of left reformism, present in the labour movement, of the school that the workers will have to go to. And like in the 1970s and 1980s, we will be confronted again with shades of left reformism that claim socialism as their destination but then they will say that we have to achieve step by step and they will say that we have to be realistic and the excuse will be the seemingly or alleged lack of consciousness and the alleged backwardness of the masses, which they see as something static.
Now, we emphasize in our transitional demands and our programme the key issue of private property is smashing private property of the capitalists and the capitalist state. And we call now more than ever in the present situation for the nationalization for the commanding heights of the economy and workers’ control. At the same time, we will hear reformists presenting slogans like democratization, industrial democracy, workers participation, and co-determination.
Here in Germany, after two world wars that were lost by the ruling class in Germany in 1918 and 1945, there was a desire by the working class for the nationalization of monopolies and break with capitalism. And this was – this movement, this pressure, was derailed twice with the help of the reformists when they said no, we cannot have full nationalization. You can have workers’ participation. You can have workers co-determination in the domain of management and this has been a source of corruption, of bribing shop stewards and top trade union leaders, who in many cases, have become members of the supervisory board of capitalist companies and adopt capitalist thinking. The biggest union in Germany, which is IG Metall, a very powerful union so far, has statutes and there is a sort of Clause Four in the statutes of IG Metall, like the Labour Party, in Germany, it’s Chapter Two of IG Metall, statutes which call for the nationalization of key industries.
So in the moment of truth, when it comes, you know, to applying this Chapter Two, even the left reformists would say “Well, this is not the moment to call for nationalization. There’s no mood for it. The masses would not understand it and do not demand it.” And we’ve also made an intervention at Lufthansa at their – most recently demanding for the nationalization and working control, workers’ control, but some union leaders told us to put down the placard demanding workers’ control and they even threatened to call for the security forces to get us away from the demo if we continued to put forward this demand for nationalization. And at a similar demo, we wanted to read out a solidarity message with a comrade working in an airport and this was banned by the union bureaucracy because they said “We do not want to scare the shareholders by calling for nationalization.”
So we see what Trotsky said in one of his last writings – that in the period of imperial decline, the union bureaucracies of all shapes, and there are all shapes of unions in the airline industries in Germany – union bureaucracies fusing and getting closer to the ruling class and the bourgeois state. And also another important issue, when you deal with reformism, is their worship of the bourgeois state and their adoration for the bourgeois state.
What’s even worse than worshipping the bourgeois state is reformists in the left party and reformists in the trade union bureaucracy worshipping the European Union as a product of enlightenment. You get reformists on the right-wing of the left party, Die Linke, saying that the European Union was an internationalist, left-wing, progressive, and peace-making project that had learned the lessons of World War I and World War II. And this is a completely sentimental point of view and really, will lead to enormous delusions and defeats in the future. And also reformists, what they do instead of mass mobilization, they are heading for government positions.
You know, when listening to Pepe, I remember Fausto Bertinotti, Italian Communist Party leader, in 2004, he came to Germany before the European election and he said, “We, in Italy, we have to join the next government to get Berlusconi, Berlusconi out. Otherwise, we will be stoned by the workers.” A few years later, Bertinotti and his party were stoned by the workers for being in government carrying out cuts, privatization, and the war in Afghanistan in the name of ousting Berlusconi. And therefore, we must be prepared, you know, for reformists of all shapes, you know, that they are looking for government positions and that this will be an enormous defeat implicit and therefore it’s all the more important to build strong sections of the International Marxist Tendency to prepare for the future battles. Thank you.
Niklas: Well, there was a couple of questions in the chat as well, I thought I would take up as I saw them. One was “What are the memoranda?” Now, it’s – for those who weren’t politically active at the time, you might have missed it but the European Union, as part of the bailout of Greece, which in reality, was a bailout of the German and French banks, but as part of that, they asked the Greek government to agree to a memorandum. Basically, of a number of attacks and counter reforms, cuts – an austerity programme, basically. And it was a savage one. There wasn’t just one. I think there were three in the end. The final – well, I think – now, it might have been four. There might be four now. Anyway, each successive bailout, they had to sign a new memorandum. So it wasn’t just the European Union asked the Greeks to pay back the money or have a repayment plan. They asked them to carry out specific measures, specific attacks on the working class in order to get this bailout money, in the end, which cut the living standards of the Greek workers by more than half. So agreeing to these – to one of these packages is a clear – is one of the crimes of Syriza, or the crime or Syriza. And it is the reason why they got them booted out of government recently.
Someone in the chat pointed out that Podemos has actually changed their policies not just on the national question, but on a host of other things and that’s obviously the case. All of it removed a number of points on the programme which would be inconvenient in entering a government, also courting a socialist government. Yeah, a socialist party government, not a socialist government.
Frederick spoke on Sweden and there was apparently some confusion between Sweden and Switzerland. This is something that you have to face a lot. Sweden is not the country of cheese and watches. It’s the one with IKEA and herring. But yeah, Switzerland is not really the country of cheese and watches, either, as I found out when I talked to them. Anyway, but the point about the Swedish workers is that it seems to work – reformism seem to work for all historical periods. Well, at least for two decades, maybe three.
And this was the case also in a number of other European countries. Very similar stories you can hear told about Britain. And this was the period when reformism appeared to work. And so when, you know, it was – this – there’s a saying about the Labour government of 1945 – it’s the only one that ever carried out the programme it was elected on. And that probably is true also of a number of Swedish governments in the period after the Second World War. And it seemed that little by little, reform by reform, you might achieve socialism. Well, if you went to strike, you got a little bit more in wages and so on. It seemed that reformism actually worked, even in those countries where the reformists weren’t in government. So you have this phenomena also by conservative governments are introducing reforms under the pressure of the class, of the working class. Sometimes also the pressure of the Soviet Union, being on the borders. The ruling class and also the massive economic upswing. And this may – the capitalists made a number of reforms in order to buy social peace but it was not across the whole of the world. This was only in the advanced capitalist countries this happened. And it’s also – they also have another name, which is the imperialist countries. And there is a link between reformism and imperialism.
Reformism is only possible on the basis of super-exploitation of the masses of the Third World, not because the workers of the west are exploiting the workers of the south or anything of the sort. It’s because you can give some reforms to some workers some of the time, to paraphrase Bob Marley, but you can’t give all the workers all the reforms all of the time. So the massive profits they were making in the ex-colonial countries enabled them then to make not as big profits in the west, and thus buying themselves social peace in the advanced capitalist countries to prevent the workers’ revolution there.
But this was the period of the colonial revolution when countries in Africa, Middle East, Latin America, and so on rose up against imperialism – the Cuban Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, etc. etc. So the two things are linked. And yeah, Ted Grant made this point in – I’ve forgotten the name of the document – ‘Preparing for Power’. “Because of the super-exploitation of colonial masses” – actually this quote is actually from Where is Britain Going? by Trotsky –
“Because of the super-exploitation by the colonial masses, the British imperialists were enabled to grant concessions to a privileged stratum of the British working class and even to a certain extent to raise the level of the whole of the British workers above that of the European workers.”
And that’s also why you have the strength of reformism in advanced capitalist countries but you don’t actually have the reformists in the ex-colonial countries. They might appear as temporary phenomena, but there’s no – the economic and social basis for reformism doesn’t exist, as Jonathan pointed out. There’s also this party – the specifics of the situation in Argentina, which also doesn’t have a tradition of mass reformist organizations, but instead, have this rather strange tradition of Peronism. So sometimes, when comrades go out and they travel out of the advanced capitalist countries and they go to another part of the word, they go and they go looking for the Labour Party or the Social Democratic Party, but it doesn’t exist. In fact, the parties of the Socialist International, which is a joke, but anyway, the so-called Socialist International, they were the parties of (Bernardi?) in Tunisia and of Mubarak in Egypt. So this particular phenomenon of reformism in this kind of long historical sense, it’s a phenomenon of the advanced capitalist countries.
But then, as Pepe pointed out, this reformism is a thing of the past. In fact, it’s quite long ago now since the reformists were actually capable of delivering anything. Not since the – in most countries, they have not been able to give any kind of reform since the 1980s. But the leadership of the labour movement always lags way behind the objective situation and you often find the situation where the mass of workers are moving to the left but because the consciousness of the leaders of the working class is formed in the past, at the same time, they are moving to the right. And on the surface of things, it looks like politics is moving to the right, which then in the minds of reformists, justifies a further move to the right and the only thing that breaks that cycle is the entry of the masses into the scene. And I think that’s part of the phenomenon we’re seeing now.
And really, the – well, it’s to say like a consciousness lags behind events, and leadership lags behind the consciousness, so consciousness catches up with a bang. The consciousness of the working class. And the leaders – and the – there’s also where you should have this quote “sharp turns” also in the situation of the leadership of the class. So, for example, the apparently out of nowhere phenomenon of Corbyn and Sanders. And – but then also the very rapid disorganization and demoralization that followed their defeat, which then prepares the way for another movement of – on a higher level because young people, or workers, they will have learned the lesson and they will not enter into the next wave of the movement with the same naivety that they entered into the first one. And in that sense, nothing is lost in history.
But obviously, this gradual approximation, and this is an approximation toward a revolutionary position that is taking place, the workers are gradually seeking alternatives and they’re moving further and further to the left but there is nothing between capitalism and socialism. And in a similar way, there is no solution, there’s no like – between a revolution and austerity. And so these – all these like groups or parties or tendencies that try to occupy the space between reform and revolution, or even more between austerity and revolution – all of these are – have – well I’ll say they’ll all turn to dust and they will – as soon as they get a chance, they will fail. But that approximate movement, approximating a revolutionary position, cannot continue indefinitely. And the working class – by the time the working class are ready to draw revolutionary conclusions en masse, they do not have time to construct a revolutionary party from scratch.
And so our role must be to build that party and that organisation now. And our – and we must base ourselves in that building on that layer of the class which draws conclusions faster than the rest. So and in that period, that layer is quite large. So our – we must maintain our patient criticism of the reformists, the left reformists, and even the centrists when those such currents arise, but our task is – but we must prepare by building the organisation today.