Manifestations by the outraged from Spain to Israel from Greece to India, Britain to the United States, Chile, Italy, Portugal, Canada, New Zealand, etc: students and the middle classes take to the streets in launching a cry of revolt the against banks and governments: “They are stealing our future!” But what future?
The only future for which it worthwhile to fight is not that of social advancement and reform of the economic and social system that condemns the vast majority of the world’s population to increasing poverty, but that of the communist revolution through the struggle of the proletariat, which alone has the strength and the political program needed to destroy capitalism!
(«Proletarian»;Nr. 8; Spring 2012)
The initial appearance of a veritable movement of the outraged was during the May 15 movement in Spain, when students and sections of the petit-bourgeoisie mobilized against unemployment and austerity measures: taking the example of the occupation of Tahir Square in Cairo during the revolts in Arab countries, they occupied the main square of Madrid, the Puerta del Sol; the movement then extended itself to other major Spanish cities. The appellation is now known throughout the world.
As often happens during serious economic crises, the petit-bourgeois stratum, facing the threat of ruin and proletarianization, are mobilizing to protest against the government and the “powerful” (banks, large corporations, multinationals, etc.), to demand the maintenance or the restoration of their privileged social position relative to the proletarian masses. Today this malaise is not expressed by parties of parliamentary opposition nor by extra-parliamentary organizations, it is expressed from below, spontaneously, in protests that begin with a few hundred people which can grow into the thousands. In the streets or squares of major cities, protesters consider themselves “free” to participate, outside of party structures which require a formal commitment which is not only ideological but practical. An expression of a sort of liberation of discontent and disapproval by means of smartphones, blogs and social networks in the form of rallies and colorful processions, these movements rely on strength in numbers, on their peaceful nature, on freedom of expression to demand social justice from the authorities, claiming to represent the 99% of the population who are impoverished against the 1% who get rich.
Being much less politicized than the May-June 1968 movements which burbled phrases about “workers’ power” and shouting “power to the imagination!”, they take democratic rights and freedoms seriously, counting solely on the pressure of their demonstrations to make the authorities bend. At the root of these protests, however, there are common problems such as poor housing, unemployment, not to mention the seemingly endless corruption.
Can movements of these kind trouble governments and the ruling classes? Yes, but only in terms of public order.
Things would be very different if it was the working class which came into action, not only going on strike and mobilizing against the anti-proletarian measures of the bosses and the state, rediscovering the road of the class struggle and organizing itself on this basis by breaking with the democratic illusions that sterilize all social movements.
Under pressure from an economic crisis which after 4 years strikes not only the proletariat, but also large sections of the petit-bourgeoisie, the movements of outrage sprang up in Greece, Spain, Chile, Israel, Italy, Britain, the United States, before touching down in many cities globally on October 15 with demonstrations large and small.
In the United States in recent weeks the Occupy Wall Street has movement “dared” set up camp in front of the New York Stock Exchange, erect a small pacifist village, complete with a tent kitchen, children’s area, sleeping tents, meeting space, recreation areas, etc.. The police did not intervene until the demonstrators, who had received support from some unions, (such as the United Steel Workers) tried to cross the Brooklyn Bridge on Oct. 11. Indiscriminately pepper- spraying everyone, the police dispersed the demonstration and arrested 700 people, but that did not stop the movement from spreading to many other cities and north to Canada.
Even in Israel, which has yet to suffer the crisis to he same extent as Greece, Spain and the United States, a strong movement of the outraged appeared with its encampments and large peaceful demonstrations, it attacked the “party system”, accused of failing to take into account their real interests or of being too sensitive to pressure from ultra-Orthodox groups. The protest was born from the impoverishment of sections of the petit-bourgeoisie and the inequality between those who were able to accumulate wealth during the period of economic growth and those who were left out of the division of “spoils”. This movement has nothing to do with proletarian demands for the defence and improvement of living and working conditions, especially for what concerns the Arab-Israeli and immigrant proletarians, even if it also advances demands of the laborist type such as free education, the construction of popular housing, taxing the rich, etc. And if we move on to more general political questions, such as the issue of the oppression of the Palestinians and the continuation of colonial settlement, then the demand for “social justice” disappears before the notion of “national security”: it is not by accident that the movement of the outraged in Israel groups together both partisans of Palestinian self-determination and supporters of the colonial policy pursued by all Israeli governments ....
In Italy the protests of the outraged have taken the classic characteristics of student protests. On October 7, tens of thousands of students demonstrated in 90 Italian cities to protest against austerity measures imposed on the schools and universities, demanding the “right to study”, that is, the right to social advancement. But the targets have been extended to the banks and politicians who only care about their own particular interests, manifesting both the despair at the prospect of proletarianization and the illusions of being able to find an improvement of the situation by refusing to pay the public debt, by a generational change politically and by technological innovation.
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Economic crises periodically strike the whole of society and they cause the degradation of living conditions of the vast majority of the population. But if capitalist society appears as split between the rich and the poor, it is actually divided into social classes with conflicting interests: the bourgeoisie which dominates the entire society economically, politically and militarily and the classes subordinate to it: the petit-bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The proletariat, because it is the class whose exploitation gives life to the whole bourgeois economic and social system is the only class which has the ability to really fight against this system and to overthrow it. The petit- bourgeoisie, made up of very many stratum (small farmers, artisans, merchants, professionals, various intellectuals, etc.), lives in part from the exploitation of the proletariat and inevitably aspires to join the ranks of the big bourgeoisie; this is why it is unable, as history has shown, to really fight against capitalism, to have a political program and to play an independent political role, despite the fact that it constantly runs up against the competition and pressure of large capitalist enterprises, and is periodically condemned to ruin.
The offspring of commercialism and private property, the petit-bourgeoisie wants to keep the mercantile and capitalist structure of society which alone can give it its privileged position in relation to the proletariat. That’s why it defends the basic categories of society and of bourgeois ideology: private property, the family, the State, public institutions and services as well as the prevailing prejudices against foreigners, women, etc. It is always ready to put on the red shirt of reformism when its social conditions are threatened by the crisis or the black shirt of fascism when they are threatened by the proletariat. And is always at the forefront when it comes to putting on the military uniform to “defend the fatherland”.
For Marxism the petit-bourgeoisie is a demi-class, not because it is located between the fundamental antagonistic classes of society, but because it is inherently unable to express an independent perspective, eternally condemned to oscillate between these two classes. But because of its position of proximity to the upper layers of the working class, it is also a formidable channel for the dissemination within the proletariat of the bourgeois positions of class collaboration, of democratic participation, of reformism, legalism, pacifism, etc. By its intermediation the most harmful bourgeois prejudices and habits continually insinuate themselves amongst the proletarians. It is in this function of preservation and defence of capitalism, of which it pretends to represent the “human face”, that the petit-bourgeoisie has found its true “historical” role: its ability to neutralize the workers’ movement. It furnishes the ruling class with the, political, intellectual, bureaucratic and religious personnel routinely used to divert the proletariat from the class struggle, by presenting them with the methods and goals that hide the reality of class antagonism, leading workers’ struggles into dead ends. Thus it can continue to parasitically receive its share in the exploitation of the proletariat.
This is why the petit-bourgeoisie fears and struggles against any perspective of autonomous independent struggle of the proletariat.
The illusions of being able to “change the world” without touching the capitalist mode of production, through reforms obtained by mobilizing large masses of peaceful demonstrators can in reality only serve that of social conservation. History has shown that only the overt confrontation between the proletariat mobilized in its class organizations and guided by its party, and the bourgeoisie, its employers’ associations and its State, can decide the fate of the world. If the bourgeoisie triumph, no “change” can take place other than the worsening conditions of the proletarian and semi-proletarianized masses, increasing the exploitation of wage labor and of the oppression of the weakest nations and peoples in a continual alternation of periods of peace preparing for wars and wars preparing for peace.
If it is the working class which is triumphant, as occurred temporarily during the Paris Commune of 1871 or for a longer period during the Russian Revolution of October 1917, then it opens up a revolutionary process whose objective is the destruction of capitalist society based on commodity production, the law of value, profit; and its replacement by a rational society, without classes, based on human needs. It is only in this direction that it is possible to end the increasingly acute contradictions of current society which because of insane capitalist growth steals the future not only the of younger generations, but of the whole human species.
The future that capitalism reserves for young and old alike is inscribed in its mode of production: increased exploitation, misery, hunger, war in an endless spiral. No doubt a privileged few can improve their living conditions, but it will be at the cost of degradation to those of the broad masses of the laboring population.
The future of humanity is in the hands of the only revolutionary class, the proletariat, the class of those who possess nothing, who have nothing to lose but their chains. The youth, the students who believe that it is possible to change the world “if we want change”, but without breaking the chains with which the society of Capital dominates the world, can ultimately only reinforce this dominance by the dissemination of these crippling illusions. If they really want to change the world, they can only do so by embracing the cause of the proletarian revolution, putting their energy and enthusiasm in the service of the working class.
Apart from this perspective, there is nothing other than the shabby and impotent world of “individual conscience” of “personal freedom”, perishable and worthless merchandise in a mode of production that has nothing to offer to mankind: capitalism is the negation of all harmonious relationship between human beings, of any socially useful activity for humanity, of any pleasure in life for the masses!
October, 16th 2011
International Communist Party