Letter: On the Practical Necessity of ‘Real Socialism’

The article “On the necessity and possibility of revolution” in the previous issue of IP, evoked comments from Perry S., which we reprint below, with our response. In his introduction, Perry specifies: “When I use the term ‘we,’ I am referring to the positions of the CHIcago REVolutionary NETwork, or positions that I know CHIREVNET comrades and our closest sympathizers would agree with.”

We are in general agreement with the article, with the possible exception that the question of the necessity of revolution “…is really a philosophical one.” (p.9) We agree that the necessity of revolution is a practical necessity, given the “out of control” environmental degradation of the capitalist system in crisis. (p. 10). Global warming is an established scientific fact, etc., etc. Without real socialist revolution, world-wide, by the international working class, the Earth will become mainly uninhabitable for human beings. This is a key part of the practical necessity.

We use the term “real socialism” to distinguish what we are fighting against/for from all the fake “socialisms” or “communisms” that have ever existed/exist, which were/are state capitalisms, nearly all with the dictatorship of “the party” OVER the working-class, originating with Lenin. We have found that most workers we come into contact with, that are seeking a workable alternative to predatory, alienating capitalisms, are much less repelled by “real socialism” than “communism”, the latter being a hot button turn off, such that discussion often comes to a standstill. (See our text: “What We Are Fighting For”).

We strongly agree with ER’s article that [international working-class] revolutionaries must consider both the objective and subjective conditions in a unified revolutionary theory. [p. 10]

Regarding the objective conditions, international capitalism in permanent crisis must inevitably lead to the “Greatest” capitalist depression ever, sooner or later: because the means of production (which have spread to all countries world-wide) are “over-produced,” and because of the colossal amount of un-payable debt by governments, corporations, and individuals that must be wiped out: this will result in the pauperization of the international working-class to an extent previously unknown.

Regarding the subjective conditions, this will lead the international working-class, which is basically pragmatic and not very theoretical, to conclude that “capitalism is not working”, and actively seek a workable alternative that meets our needs. Here the capitalist ruling classes may try to play the “fascist card” again and/or the “World War card” again, somewhat similar to imperialist WWII. This massively destroyed the “over-produced” means of production, mainly in Europe/Japan, murdering millions of us “over-produced” workers globally in this despicable, anti-working class/anti-human, objective process.

Before fascism gained power, such as Hitler in pre-war Germany, before imperialist WWII started, the class struggle was basically in the subjective realm against these objective phenomena, but for some type of state capitalist “socialism”. Once Hitler came to power, once imperialist WWII started, these phenomena became very powerful objective factors against the international working-class, which revolutionaries should have been struggling against subjectively all along by advocating for genuine workers’ revolution, which we call the real socialist revolution, in all the imperialist/capitalist countries without exception, including the U.S.! This should have been done mainly through clandestine activity.

This is why international working-class revolutionaries should be explaining to workers now that “another world is possible” in a general sense and sketch this out generally and increase such propaganda and agitation a thousand fold once the “Greatest” capitalist depression ever hits catastrophically! Workers will be receptive to real socialist revolution then, especially if we “plant those seeds” widely now.

Perry S., Chirevnet, 8/25/06

IP reply

Dear Perry,

There is much in your letter that we agree with. On your first comment, let me clarify that the question that the author of the article called ‘philosophical’ was: “what kind of necessity [of revolution] are we talking about?” As the article explains, the answer to that question depends on how one understands the world and historical change and is in that sense philosophical.

On your preference for the term “real socialism” over “communism” because the latter is such a “hot button turn off”, we agree it may indeed at times be preferable to use less contaminated words if this helps to avoid misunderstandings. However, there are also people for whom “real socialism” is a turnoff too. And “revolution,” “proletarian,” etc. There are no words in the Marxist vocabulary that are not deformed and sullied by capitalist propaganda and Stalinist practice. Should we abandon them all, thereby depriving ourselves of the conceptual tools that they are for us, or find new words for them? These terms also connect us to the history of the revolutionary movement in which they acquired their meaning. We do not want to hide that we see ourselves in continuity with that movement, with the struggle for “real communism.” That said, we agree that it is counter-productive to brandish “hot button-terms” in a sloganeering way, but we do not refrain from using them in a context that makes their meaning clear.

On your scenario for the future: we agree with you that global overcapacity and “the colossal amount of un-payable debt” are telltale signs that a severe economic breakdown of global capitalism is approaching. However, we want to caution that there are many factors at play that make it hard to predict how all this will unfold. For example, will it “result in the pauperization of the international working class to an extent previously unknown”, as you write? Today, the value of the commodities that constitute a worker’s wage have dropped considerably, thanks to the growth in the technification of their production. This phenomenon is the reason why the general rate of profit tends to drop (the commodities contain less labor, thus less surplus labor, thus less profit) but it also makes it easier -- cheaper -- for capital to slow down this pauperization for at least a substantial part of the working class (and thereby divide it). It’s therefore possible that a future breakdown would not lead to an absolute pauperization of the working class to the extent of past experiences such as in the 1930’s, but would take other forms, equally or more threatening to the survival of the working class and indeed of all human beings. On the political reactions of capital to its breakdown too, we think we should avoid seeing the future as a repeat of the past. We agree that capitalism’s crisis will make it increasingly destructive, that its underlying dynamic is towards the destruction of value to restore its capacity to accumulate. But whether that will lead capitalism, like the last time, to “try to play the ‘fascist card’ and/or ‘World War card’ again”, as you write, is debatable. Some of the issues concerning the forms that imperialism and war take in today’s context are discussed in IP # 40.

We wholeheartedly agree with your conclusion that it’s the task of revolutionaries to explain that another world is possible and to sketch this out. But in order to do so effectively, they must understand it better. That is what IP tries to do.

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