- Category: Theory
- Created on Thursday, 28 January 2010 12:32
- Written by Nando Sims
"In the world’s current economic crisis, reformist politics is no longer possible. Any 'political mechanism' someone might try to use [within the official political system], would lead to betrayal within a year… Everywhere in the world, any wish for “change” or reform now pushes events immediately toward military coup. Look at Honduras. People’s war is the only way -- now more than ever."
I answered: This kind of “inevitabilist” thinking doesn't requires much specific analysis -- all kinds of assertions ("everywhere in the world") can be made constructed upon one or two underlying assumptions.. Many times in the last century, communists have announced that the system was in such extreme crisis that reform was now impossible. This is the essence of the theory of a "General Crisis" of capitalism -- promoted by the Comintern during the Great Depression. It was argued that capitalism no longer had the room or the flexibility to change (or grant “reforms”) -- and so every desperate struggle for survival had now become inherently revolutionary. And any strategy of fighting for reforms was now ridiculous, inherently sterile and ultimately counterrevolutionary. Supporters of the General Crisis Theory said that monopoly capitalism was now tending toward fascism (in the 1930s) and was laying down its previous (competitive capitalist) banner of bourgeois democracy. It was even said that the social-democrats of Europe had literally become social-fascists and were (because of the crisis and the logic of bourgeois politics) the twin of the actual fascists. All of this was a mistaken, mechanical and reductionist. Politics based on such thinking proved to be quite disconnected from reality. In fact capitalism proved far more flexible and resilient than the “theory of general crisis” allowed. Lenin had called imperialism "moribund" -- but the system was not literally moribund in the sense that it was in some more-or-less permanent death spiral with little chance of restructuring, innovation or temporary recovery based on restructuring. Methodologically, it is always dangerous to base your politics on schematic deductions from single basic assumption (especially if that assumption is also a false one). More: It is not true that no reformist politics is possible. In fact, reformist politics will remain possible throughout the existence of capitalism (and reformist politics will even be possible after socialist revolution has captured power). I am not saying that reformist politics is correct (au contraire)— and i am not saying that reformist politics will successfully solve the problems of the people. But it will not be impossible to embrace or pursue -- in part because capitalist forces will not just "use the stick" but will also try to draw the people into various forms of restructuring and cooptation. It is highly mechanical to assume that the “ground has been cut out from under” reformism in some absolute way. Capitalism has proven capable of coopting people and granting concessions — even in the depths of crisis. Look at the history of FDR’s New Deal. It is even true that under fascism, conditions have sometimes improved for people, and there have been cooptive mechanisms for drawing people into support of fascist regimes. I.e. fascist regimes have never been simply open terrorism by the state — They have always had more complex mechanisms and political dynamics. If you base your politics on sweeping (and false) assumptions — if you assume that the people will “flop over on your plate” simply because of the objective conditions, if you assume that reformist politics will (in simple and inevitable ways) expose itself as counterrevolutionary…. you will quickly be frustrated and embarrassed by the real-world functioning of politics and economics. and you will also (specifically) underestimate the real need for political work — exposure, analysis, organization, organizing and leading struggle, and more.... SLP writes, for example,