"The left" and revolutionary situations

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madashell's picture
Joined: 19-06-06
Oct 27 2006 13:09
"The left" and revolutionary situations

Sort of a split from the Plane Stupid thread.

madashell wrote:
Whenever a revolutionary situation has arose it has never been anarchists or lefties who've "kicked it off"

Tacks wrote:
not true at all - as trade unionists and radical workers, the left has almnopst always been involved in some way. I don't know whay ppl insist on repeating this.

The part that I bolded would seem to be the key point here. Obviously trade unionists and millitant workers are going to be involved in the events that kick off and revolutionary situation (millitant workers because they are involved by definition and trade unions because they tend to piggy back off the most millitant workers). However, it's never the organised, consciously revolutionary left (including anarchists, for lack of a better term) that has had the initiative in these situations. It's only when the strike for wages becomes a general strike, or the student march becomes an insurrection that lefties tend to realise what is happening, of course they'll be involved in these events, but the most important aspect is that they are not the only ones involved, they are not the ones controlling things.

Not sure how well I've explained this, to be honest, but it's the best that I can do.

Demogorgon303's picture
Joined: 5-07-05
Oct 27 2006 13:41

Leaving aside for the minute the dubious definition of the "the left" which doesn't distinguish between bourgeois leftism and true revolutionary currents (either Anarchist or Marxist), this is an interesting point.

Firstly, it's inevitable that most mass movements will not begin with explicitly political content. This is because most workers, most of the time, do not have a specifically revolutionary consciousness. Such movements begin around circumstantial issues. The 1905 mass strike began with workers going cap in hand to the Tsar to ask for bread - it exploded into an insurrection because of the kack-handed Tsarist response.

Similarly, the great strikes in France in '68 began as a response to the repression meted out to the far less significant student demonstrations.

The growing influence of revolutionaries in these movements, the appearance of common and explicitly political demands, represent the maturation of the movement and the development of workers consciousness. Hundreds of thousands of workers in Russia 1917 suddenly shifted towards the Bolsheviks because they became aware that the latter were articulating what they themselves were beginning to think as a result of their experiences in the process that had begun in February.

What happens when there is no revolutionary vanguard to articulate the highest aspirations of the masses? For example, in Poland in the early 80s, workers created formidable mass organs that co-ordinated their struggles on a national scale. Despite threatening the Polish state and even the integrity of the entire Russian bloc, the struggle was dissipated by illusions in "free" trade unionism, a desire for Western-style "democracy" and the insidious poison of religion (specifically Catholicism).

The true strength of the working class is precisely its capacity to become both organised and conscious of itself on a mass scale. Revolutionaries perform a vital task in stimulating (not controlling) this process and their absence is a sign that the proletariat has failed to truly politicise its struggle.