The De-commissioned Army

Carlisle rs21 put forward a revolutionary perspective on the Corbyn victory

Photo: Adam DC

Photo: Adam DC

Jeremy Corbyn’s victory is a milestone in the fight for a better society. It was a day when people who had been silenced by austerity found their voice and bellowed. We witnessed the death and burial of the Blair project. We got the conclusion to the Iraq War that Chilcott is refusing to give.

We are entering into a new period. Never since the war has the gap between the rich and the rest of society found such expression in the political mainstream.

So how should revolutionaries respond, and should we take a stand on joining the Labour Party?

There are many reasons for joining. Corbyn has woken up a de-commissioned army of people who are sick and tired of the way things are. People who live in all parts of the country, belong to all age groups and bring together unemployed people, public sector workers and people across all walks of life – in other words the 21st century working class.

These are the 50,000 who have joined since Corbyn’s election, and are the strongest reason to join.

Another reason to join is to defend Corbyn against the apparatchiks who make up the bulk of the party’s machinery. Corbyn has called for a new way to make policy from the bottom up, and we welcome this.

A final reason is based on the argument that ‘you have to be in it to win it’, and that if we stay outside our influence will decline.

It is clear that a lot of people are being persuaded that a reformed Labour Party would have the capability to transform capitalism. With John McDonnell as shadow chancellor we shall see these arguments develop.

For us, the lines of debate will need to centre on where the power in society really lies, and whether parliament provides the lever that is needed to transform capitalism.

We will also need to debate the nature of capitalism, and why it is a system that creates crises. We need to be clear that bankruptcies, mass unemployment, deskilling and zero hours contracts are not just a result of Tory policy, but of the way capitalism operates.

A left wing government would have to come to terms with the question of how to stop multi-nationals pulling their investment, how to deal with sanctions imposed by hostile governments, how to repulse the attacks of financial markets who will seek to drive us into the hands of the IMF – and break the spirit of the government as they did with Syriza.

Looking at examples of radicalisation over the past century, we can see two things happening. While the majority of people turn to parliamentary reformist parties like Labour, a smaller but growing group turns to revolutionary politics. Both grow together as the working class gains consciousness and confidence.

The Russian Revolution was a product of the crisis of the First World War. Across Europe new Communist Parties were formed, while the Trade Unions grew and parties like the Labour Party and the Social Democrats in Germany were elected for the first time into government. In 1945 when the Labour Party won a landslide and formed the most radical government in the past century, the Communist Party had 45,000 members – the largest in its history. In the late 60s and 70s working class militancy brought down a Tory government for the first time ever, and revolutionaries found an audience on the shop floors for their ideas.

History demonstrates that there is a space to the left of reformism, which flourishes when radical reform seems possible. This is the kind of space to Corbyn’s left that he will need, and the freer that space is, the better for the movement.

If all of us to the left of Corbyn joined the Labour Party what would we do? What would be our gameplan?

Do we have the strength in Carlisle to take on all the right-wing councillors and fight the faction fights? Would we have the stamina to orient ourselves on the migrant crisis, the People’s Assembly, and to campaign against fracking, Trident and the TTIP? Would we have time to build networks with the radical independence movement in Scotland?

There may come a point of maximum crisis in which joining Labour is vital, but that would be in circumstances where the Labour Party formally splits and a new left wing party arises.

In the meantime our place locally is to join in with the struggles that are happening and make the case for revolution as our ultimate goal.

As long as capitalism lasts the majority of humanity will live in a world where the wealth of society is produced by one class and owned by another. Under such conditions we must go beyond parliament, and get to work on those unelected bodies – the civil service, the police, the army and the judiciary. They have grown up as part of parcel of capitalist society and would be used in a crisis to crush any movement from below.

Yet capitalism remains as unstable as ever, threatening our economic existence and the climate. To retain such a system is to condemn the future while mortgaging the present. Let us bury the dead hand of the past before it drags us into its grave.

Every day the entire profit of the capitalist system is based on the exploitation of labour power. Every penny of profit is based on workers producing, serving and selling things. The endgame for our form of politics has to be the overcoming of this system globally. This means orienting our politics on the 21st century working class.

This is what we mean by revolution – a complete transformation of society. It is more than a change of government.

Revolution comes about when millions of people around the world take control directly of the means of production and consumption. This needs to happen everywhere where people live. In cities like Carlisle across the world it would mean every workplace being run directly by the employees, and linking up to form a city-wide council run by delegates who plan together. This would be a complete break with the way things happen now.

We know that we do not live in a revolutionary situation, where this is on the cards. Yet the problems thrown up by the banking crash will not go away and we need to use our revolutionary perspective to challenge from the left while taking part in the movement.

As revolutionaries we must be encouraging people to take whatever steps they can, and we support Corbyn as the greatest leader in the Labour Party’s history – regardless of what happens next.

For revolutionaries, our aim is to harness change where it happens. For us it the true power that keeps capitalism in motion is the collective capacity of the population, the 21st century working class. This is the class of the 99%, the De-commissioned Army, who could try something totally different – something that would be a real break with the muck of ages.

And that rotten national anthem will be the first thing that goes.

There are 3 comments

  1. Eric Josephson

    This is the first article I’ve read from Revolutionary Socialism in the 21st Century which tried to analyze revolution, and, less so, socialism. I could have missed something previous — please let me know. I have some questions about how the article sees revolution developing: “Revolution comes about when millions of people around the world take control directly of the means of production and consumption. This needs to happen everywhere where people live. In cities like Carlisle across the world it would mean every workplace being run directly by the employees, and linking up to form a city-wide council run by delegates who plan together. This would be a complete break with the way things happen now.” If (when) the capitalist state’s armed forces, cops, soldiers, fascist thugs, etc., all-out attack these councils and the masses they represent, how would the workers and their councils defend themselves? Can a “city-wide council” or league of such councils coexist a long time with the the current state? would they pressure the existing state?; the article says “we must go beyond parliament, and get to work on those unelected bodies – the civil service, the police, the army and the judiciary.” That’s lumping some disparate elements together. The job of the police and the army is to beat and kill the workers and oppressed nationalities, and the judiciary sends them to do it. Civil service bosses are like private sector bosses, so the workers should deal them the same. But many civil servants are workers, understood to be such by themselves and the rest of the working class, providing necessary services to other workers — as best they can — and sometimes striking to defend their standards as workers. I speak from longish experience as a communist (in the USA), but I think that many workers who want to fight would have the same questions. And anyway, why not explain now that communists believe there can be no protracted “dual power,” and that the workers will have to defend themselves massively, militantly against capitalists and their thugs who would massacre us before giving up their property? Patient, persistent explanation and demonstration of these facts would go toward helping the most advanced workers, youth and others see the need for a communist revolutionary party. Shouldn’t building such a party in all countries should be the explicit task of any publication standing for Revolutionary Socialism? PS: The article says that it was necessary to vote for Corbett as Labour head. Me too. The author was not sure whether revolutionaries should join the Labour Party now, but thinks it might make sense in certain circumstances. Me too, me too.

  2. svenschiepers

    If you want revolution, you’ll have to get off the idea that zero hour contracts and capitalism are something evil. Imagine for a moment a world of zero hour contracts and no income or VAT taxes whatsoever. Currently, in a lot of western countries effective tax rates for the non-elite reach up to 75% and higher.

    Capitalism is not something big and evil, it’s is grass-roots. It’s saving income from your labour to plan for the future. Entrepreneurship and competition are born from capitalism, the sole innovative forces behind our productiveness. When capitalism is un-tampered with, society moves toward a natural growth equilibrium. Capitalism is merely the name we gave to the system by which we naturally allocate resources in the most effective way. The evil you talk about is something different, a hybrid of capitalism and something else. As long as the mainstream left continues to deny this, a true revolution of the left is far away.

    We read Piketty, we read how bad the world has gotten in the ‘capitalist era’. And indeed, it is true, the common man is back at prosperity levels of the 1970’s now. Only thing, it wasn’t a capitalist era. The world hasn’t been capitalist since at least 1850, when fractional reserve banking became an accepted standard of finance. Marx published his manifesto against capitalism into a world in which power was abandoning true capitalism in favour of something different. In the late 19th century and especially during the great wars of the early 20th century, the hybrid between fractional reserve financiers and the state arose and consolidated itself as the oligarchic system we inherited into the 21st century.

    And while the worker class thought they needed to fight capitalism, the newly founded oligarchy gladly accommodated the state- building ambitions of the newly inspired social revolutionaries. Great states the revolutionaries build, and great wars they fought. All financed by a counterfeiting finance cartel.

    This cartel has its origin with fractional reserve lending. Lending out paper that amounts to a claim of 100g of gold, while only holding 50g of gold was criminal in most cases during the early 19th century. Jews, often being outcasts in Christian Europe, were forced to earn their livelihood with criminal practice. As a result, often they were found as ‘moneychangers’. In any case, as soon as someone found out their financier was a liar, he’d go bankrupt with his estate seized by the townspeople.

    Amschel de Rothschild managed to elevate his profession and possessions. He managed to forge an alliance with a Prince of Hesse if I’m correct. He created bonds and other financial instruments that soon started circulating between the political nobility of the old cities of Europe. When the revolutionaries finally came to kill the incumbent politicians and industrials alike, the financiers adopted and simply began to serve their new clients. As a result, nothing changed. Ordinary people eventually managed to claim a little more perhaps, but the hybrid of the coercive state and the criminal financier remained and thrived. Up until now.

    So, I would suggest for modern socialists to turn away from Marx from time to time. Marx was a statist, he saw in everything the role of the state. Perhaps even, that’s why his ideas were eventually permitted to really manifest. A state implies central authority, and central political authority is nice and manageable for the money managers. Perhaps modern socialists need to look at an important critic of Marx, also a socialist. The first Anarchist. Founder of Mutualism. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. In his ideas might lie the real revolution.

  3. Michael Rosen

    Hi svenschiepers, if you can find a passage in Marx that says he is in favour of ‘statism’ or even ‘state socialism’ please do put it up here so that we can discuss it. I think it’s fair to say that some anarchists predicted that there would be people calling themselves marxists who would try to bring in some kind of ‘state socialism’, but that is not Marx, nor is it inevitable that that is how Marx can or should be interpreted. I don’t think you’ll find many people who post here who think that the state is the means by which socialism can be achieved, nor that the ideal society is one entirely directed by the state. There is plenty of room for discussion here about the role of, say, community action, industrial action, occupations, communes, nationalisation, democratic recall of all managing organisations, and representative bodies, the strategic running of finance and production, co-operation with other states (as presently constituted) etc etc. but it’s best to kick it off with a fair account of what Marx actually said (or didn’t say) rather than telling us all to drop him.

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