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Joined up thinking for the Irish Left
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international | anti-capitalism | opinion/analysis Thursday October 27, 2011 20:16 by Tom - Anarchist Black Cross and #OWS
Reformists clash with the revolutionaries for years on the methods of struggle against capitalism. The first group is criticized for its strategy of building a new society step by step. Revolutionaries say that it will never happen because real liberation requires radical action and confrontation with the enemy. But reformists say that revolutionary methods are based on short-term changes that lead to violence and it is never possible to predict the outcome of the revolution.
So the conflict about the strategies already takes many years and we see no improvement here. Last week I attended a lecture on these two issues at the http://www.wsm.ie/bookfair and I spotted that the movement is still in the stagnation in this field. I mean we all know the history: conflicts between Marxists and anarchists, reformism promoted by Edward Bernstein, Spanish revolution or insurrectionary campaigns run by urban guerillas in Germany, Chile or Greece and other countries. Thereís more stuff http://www.thoughtcrimeink.com/books/detail/anarchism_s...tion/. It gives a framework for the analysis, but we are at a point in which global capitalism is very strong and dreadful, and all sorts of leftists are considered to be commies and fans of Stalin. This means that there is no time for further doubts and disagreements. We can share our analysis on blogs and Indymedia sites, but it only gives us a little. Mr. Th0rin said to me recently that one of the biggest victories of the current system may be the fact that we are able to write and publish wise essays and books, but we are unable to operate.
Thus, back to our conflicted reformists and revolutionaries, I think we get to the point where both groups are correct.
Whatís good in reformism?
Well, if we want to be honest we have to recognize that the movement is weak. Although we have hundreds of organizations, social centres, campaigns, websites and activists involved in every field of struggle, as a WHOLE we are weak. We do not have strong foundations, we do not have a close international cooperation, we do not exist in the mass media (unless there are some riots), we lack the people and money. Capitalism has it all and this is why it is so strong.
If we think about real change we must have SOMETHING. We must have a base to support the change, something that will act as financial and logistical support. We need a global and local solutions, which allow us to organize, gain experience and get involve other people. For example, local activists have some great ideas, they want to meet and start working, but what if they do not have access to any place where they can actually do it? What if they need money, but do not have access to funds which will help them? What if thereís a threat of repression, but there is no one who will protect them? What if they lack skills and do not know anyone who could provide training?
Itís happening now, thatís why so many brilliant projects die before they even get started. Often it happens also that the campaigns which last a long time are simply harmless for the elites. Itís convenient for them. So itís easy to set up a gardening group but try to reduce dependence on oil for your region. Or try to change the law so that animals were not defined as property. Youíll see how quickly you become a terrorist and public enemy. Therefore, before making big challenges we have to be prepared and have adequate resources (funds, community properties, legal teams, food suppliers, plans, skills, etc.). I know it takes a lot of time and it sounds really reformist but letís be honest : this has to be built first. Otherwise, how can we even think about the revolution? That would be disaster. A small group of people against the tanks of NATO and the mercenaries from Blackwater? We can actually see a part of it in Greece currently. There are several urban guerillas groups operating in Greece which try to confront the government and wake up the people. However, they do not have the necessary capacity and despite the many actions Greece remains in a big trouble. So after a few years of fight instead of mass support of the population they get lessons of a state terror in prisons.
Anyway at this point the reformist approach is useful. To think about the revolution you must have a social and logistic background to make this possible. But I think that here the role of reformist thinking ends as well. Faith in the parallel construction of an alternative society with no reaction of rulers is simply naive. As soon as they see the threat they will try to fix this. So the entire reformist path leads to a confrontation anyway. At least I donít see any other way.
Politicians, capitalists, bankers, elites Ė or whatever you call them Ė will not go away just like that. Their wealth is based on power and control. I mean they have invested millions in corporations and they hold shares in businesses exploiting workers, destroying communities or causing the environment pollution. They own dozens of properties and banks, they support the wars, they kill millions of animals every year, they profit from unjust globalization in Third World. At same time they drive big SUVs, fly private jets, staying overnight in hotels http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/15/dominique-s...tions Does anyone really think that seeing a threat to their status, they will just give the power to the people in the name of freedom? No way!
Donít get me wrong here, it doesnít mean Letís kill them all. Iím far from that and Iím far from saying that each of them is responsible for terrible crimes. But the fact is that these groups do control the economy and politics. And they do it wrong what affects everyone. Another fact is they do control police and military and in the face of threats to their power they will try to eliminate opposition. It means they will use the police and army if required. And alternative institutions, alternative economics, and finally an alternative society are such a threat. I mean we saw it in so many cases that it is hard to count (Argentine, Mexico, Peru, Greece, Italy, Libya) So if we have a base (tools) ready it will probably get tough now. Never mind whether youíre a hippie or black block member. As soon as the growth of independent projects (e.g. community financial institutions) reaches a certain level the authorities will feel threatened. Then they will react.
Anyway this is where revolutionary thought comes to place. I would like to believe that radical changes can be done peacefully, but it is difficult to imagine it when we are dealing with the violent opponent. The confrontation at some point is inevitable. The problem is, however, that the wrongly run revolution can bring more harm than good. Riots, violence on the streets are no fun, even if it is a part of the struggle for a better life. The revolutionary attitude demands great discipline too, because it is easy to cross the line of morality. I mean the revolutionís aim is to overthrow an unjust system and not to enjoy violence itself. However, we can be sure there would be people who just want to shoot other people. Also because of that the reformist part is important because building alternative places educates society at same time. You get educated earlier through doing things, not during insurection. Otherwise, instead of putting power into the hands of people we may have an explosion of mass killing, robbing, etc. I do not think that violence can be avoided. I mean if you look at history, large social movements always came through the fight to achieve what they wanted. So this is really bad news, but on the other hand is it so better to be oppressed by capitalism? And I know there are a lot of people that donít feel oppressed. They usually split into two groups, the rich and the unconscious. The last ones need to switch off their TV first. Then they will see we donít need to take 30 years mortgage to own a house if we donít want to. And then many other things will get clear (Honey, how could we feed our kids with junk food for over 10 years???)
So finally reformists must realize that their method leads to a response of state anyway. Itís better to know that earlier than be surprised and then shocked by brutal response. And revolutionaries need to understand that the struggle is something more than just open and armed resistance. The revolution itself is the moment of climax but to defeat the system you need a broad perspective. Pre-revolution and post-revolution times are just as important. So these two views should be combined not separated.
At the end of day itís all still theory. Nobody knows what will happen. It is certain that the movement must unite to join together different trends and work out an overall strategy. Resistance must be global as capitalism is global. Of course, these are just words like many others, but without the unification of the various groups we will continue to use corporate laptops to write anti-corporate notes. Without a new strategy, we will never progress. The evolution of the movement is very slow especially if you compare it with the flexibility of politicians and financiers.
And people still do not recognize the environmental pollution, surveillance, junk food, labor relations, economic system and many other issues as something that is destructive to themselves. And if even they do they do nothing about that . They simply lack faith, because no one can propose to them a credible plan for change. So they choose to believe in Obama instead of themselves.