We welcome the 4h issue of Insurgent Notes – Journal of Communist Theory and Practice, offering a series of much needed Marxist analysis of the most important upheaval of our time – that of North Africa.
Today millions of working class people in places like Wisconsin, Spain, and most of all, North Africa are rebelling in the only ways that they know how to against an array of conditions that they are not fully equipped to overcome. We do not know how to smash through the limits presented by history, and reorganize society on a different tip.
The missing element is a theoretical system that can generate a coherent strategy, and apply it through a concrete form. We have the objective conditions of crisis. In a growing number of places, we have spontaneous participation in mass activity. But the crucial ingredient has yet to present itself – an international organization with roots deep in the proletariat and networks throughout it, putting forth a programmatic vision for total revolution that accumulates the lessons of all the existing struggles and processes those lessons back through its networks to reproduce a revolution world-wide. In other words, history has produced a revolutionary set of conditions, but we have yet to produce a revolutionary party on the basis of horizontal centralism. Weaving together that kind of consciousness through that kind of organization is the central purpose of Marxism and was the basis of Marx’s own practical work. To produce this party in this moment… this is a global task for all revolutionaries to face, now more than ever.
Featured in Vol. 4 of Insurgent Notes, is a very creative and comprehensive look at the Arab revolts that synthesizes political economic, linguistic, and historical analyes to treat the regional upheaval. Here’s the Introductory section to the article, The Arab Revolts and the Cage of Political Economy, by Benoit Challand:
“The wave of Arab revolts is the biggest political earthquake that shook this planet in quite a while. Sporadic massive protests did take place in the last decade (in Seattle or Genoa for G8 protests, in Greece revolts because of the economic crisis), but none took the regional and truly transnational scope of the Arab revolts of the last six months. Their aftermaths are still being felt far from its original epicenter, Madrid being the latest emulation of the type of spontaneous popular occupation initiated by Tunisians and refined by Egyptians in Tahrir Square (Madison was another one). As this is written, future spillovers of that wave might even be felt elsewhere in Europe (Georgia at the end of May), or more certainly in Sub-Saharan Africa (Uganda in particular), forcing us to reconsider the novelty and potential of these popular protests.
Yet, one should not be all too enthusiastic about these revolts. Even if they herald a new era where people have powerfully asserted their inalienable right to protest (and we hope they will continue doing so), the powerful cage of political economy has remained intact even after six intense months of protest. The intent of the imperial US power in the region, along with its allies Israel and the European Union (EU), remains unchanged.
We will review some of the reasons that sparked these revolts (§2), list some of the novelties of the revolts in comparative perspectives: what they are and what they are not (§3), and then proceed with an analysis of the possibility for radical political formations to emerge as full actors or not in the coming years (§4), before reaching a conclusion.“
All revolutionaries must set aside time to study the North African rebellions and help other militants to do the same, in order to arm ourselves for the next cycle of struggle that will inevitably emerge right here, wherever you are. Whether or not the struggle advances to the level of Tunisia, Greece, or even Britain – let alone go beyond it – is up to you.
Let’s recall the limits of our ability to change history in the last major period of global upheaval that lasted from WWII through the early 70s, which was hemmed by theoretical models that fell short of the historical moment. Truncated Marxist concepts for revolution that didn’t quite strike at the destruction of commodity production and value may have recruited a few thousand militants to revolutionary organizations in the US, but they located the crisis external from the economic contradiction and privileged the political aspects of imperialism only. Even when they succeeded in smashing bourgeois political rule , they could not succeed in ushering in a socialist society, dictated by proletarian consciousness, leading toward the abolition of classes. What will prevent the movements of today from meeting a similar end?
Conversely, ultra-lefts have churned out theoretical gems, but met zero success at integrating themselves into mass movements and seldom even consider the construction of parties and organizations of the working class to be viable projects. Theory is sterile, removed from spots of great ferment. What will it take to make militants out of such intellectuals?
A new generation of radicals have discovered the categories of Marx’s Capital but we still have an underdeveloped method to apply it in struggle. The interlocking nature of capitalist value in crisis, will create more rebellions around the world and more lessons for us to learn from. Transnational institutions like the International Monetary Fund, global corporations and banks, and blocs of states along with the normal circuits of accumulation which know no borders, and the internationalization of the proletariat through unprecedentedly massive migration, are all factors that weave us into one big revolutionary process.
The world of 2011 is much different from that of the WWII-1970s era. In the article, Anti-Imperialism and the Iranian Revolution, by Arya Zahedi, featured in Insurgent Notes Vol.4., this point is made very clear. The author discusses the demise of anti-imperialist ideology in terms of its supersession by the material conditions faced by an advanced working class that is confronting the same conditions faced by the proletariat of most of the countries -First World and Third World alike – currently in revolt:
“We are faced, much like here in the US, with a young, highly skilled, technically advanced workforce. But when this force leaves the university and enters the ranks of the proletariat, there is no prospect waiting. There are more workers than positions. This is true not just of the “white collar” sector, but also for industrial workers, but for different reasons. Regardless, a precarious position awaits much of the population. The situation affecting a nineteen year old in Tehran is quite similar in many ways to that of her contemporary in Athens, Cairo or Paris. And we see the explosions taking place. The alienation, so commonplace, is not one that can be quelled by the emotional rhetoric of national independence.”
Insurgent Notes Vol. 4 is full of quality analysis like this, offering lessons for us to digest as we posit more and more programmatic documents to other revolutionaries for debate and the working class for consideration.
One of the lessons we may draw from previous cycles of upheaval within the US and abroad, is that nationalism ultimately produces divisive and oppressive regimes based on class collaboration. True liberation lies in internationalist proletarian unity. Capital’s own evolution into a more and more singular process on a global terrain has produced the material basis for a potentially unprecedentedly unified revolutionary program. We are fortunate today to be able to look to the actions of our sisters and brothers in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Greece, Spain, and Britain to California, Washington, Texas, Georgia, New York, and the whole USA.
One thing is certain – rebellions do not naturally turn into successful revolutions. Only through a revolutionary programmatic focus that combines the seriousness of Marxist categories with the lessons of real revolutionary struggles that millions of working class militants around the world can agree on will be able to build an international force with the potential to smash capital and the bourgeois state.
Thank you Insurgent Notes for helping us all advance that struggle.