Workers should never present today’s crisis of the propertied classes and their social system as primarily an economic crisis. No, it is the great political and moral crisis of our time. It is proof that only the working class has a chance to resolve this crisis and begin transforming society in a truly human way. Because only the working class, the propertyless class, has no interest in turning like dogs on any of the victims of the crisis-ridden capitalist system.
That is why the battle for jobs, the battle for solidarity, the battle against racism and the oppression of women, the battle against immigrant-bashing, the battle for social protection — why all these are a battle for the life and death of the labor movement. They are the battle for the time and space to prepare a socialist revolution! That is what is at stake in pulling the working class together.
Working-class leaders, not utopians
The biggest lie supporters of capitalism tell about socialists is that we are trying to create a utopia, mess with people’s lives, and engineer a massive social experiment. You want to play God with the lives of other human beings, they charge. Big governments and bureaucracy are proven enemies of common people — why can’t you socialists ever learn? That is the opposite of the truth. In fact, communists are less inclined in that direction than any group of people on the face of the earth. As Marx put it, when writing about the Paris Commune of 1871, revolutionary-minded workers “have no ready-made utopias to introduce…. They know that in order to work out their own emancipation, and along with it that higher form to which present society is irresistibly tending by its own economic workings, they will have to pass through long struggles, through a series of historic processes, transforming circumstances and men.”
Communists are materialists, dialectical materialists. We start with facts, with social realities, and how they develop and change over history — how they are shaped by shifting productive relations, social labor, and revolutionary activity. We know that our class and its toiling allies, who make up the majority of humanity, cannot organize the world on new foundations as we are. And a state bureaucracy cannot do it for us, either. We must change ourselves. On this, we are “Guevarists” to the core.
“To build communism it is necessary, simultaneous with the new material foundations, to build the new man,” Che Guevara wrote in his 1965 article “Socialism and Man in Cuba.” We agree. Workers can and will change ourselves as we go about changing the material foundations of our relations to each other. But this cannot be done without tearing down the brutal class divisions that underlie all social relations today and that will lead through war and fascism to a culmination too horrible to even imagine — unless our class organizes to take power out of the hands of the capitalists.
There is only one real equality possible in today’s class-divided world — political equality. And it only becomes possible in the revolutionary workers movement. It only becomes possible as those who make up a fighting workers vanguard collectively prepare ourselves for the battles to rid society of every vestige of exploitation, oppression, and discrimination.
The socialist revolution is not the end of recorded history, as Stalinist ideologues have tended to present it in order to rationalize the counterrevolutionary course of the parasitic caste and its claim to have established socialism in a single country. No, the workers revolution is the beginning of truly human history.
What is most important about the workers revolution is not the particular property changes that will sweep society directly in its wake — although without them, nothing further would be possible — but the fact that its victory opens other revolutions, such as the historic revolution for women’s emancipation. That will not be settled just by overthrowing the capitalist state and declaring the class struggle over. The new possibilities opened by a revolutionary victory, however, will lay the material foundations on which women’s liberation can be achieved and precipitate an explosion in the fight for real economic and social equality by the millennia-long oppressed sex. Similarly, all the manifold forms of class oppression bequeathed by thousands of years of property systems will for the first time be open to being vanquished.
Excerpts from Capitalism’s World Disorder: Working-Class Politics at the Millennium by Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party. It is one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for August. Written in the midst of fast-breaking events that marked the opening of the 21st century, the bulk of the book is comprised of four talks by Barnes that discuss the economic, social and political underpinnings of the significant changes that swept world politics between the 1987 near meltdown of the world’s stock markets, and the so-called Mexican “peso crisis” that hit in December 1994. The selection is from “Capitalism’s Deadly World Disorder,” presented in April 1993 to participants in a regional socialist educational conference in Greensboro, North Carolina. Copyright © 1999 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.
The Militant - August 21, 2017 -- ‘Only the working class can resolve crisis of capitalism’