May Day 2023
The Struggle of the Proletariat Has only one Purpose: it Defends the Immediate and Future Interests Exclusively of the Proletarian Class!
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 20; Autumn-Winter 2023)
All the trade union organizations and all the «workers» parties have been devoted for decades to collaboration between the classes.
Towards the end of the Second World Imperialist War, we called the re-organized trade unions «tricolor» (i.e. national), just as those fascist trade unions were, because their fundamental characteristic was and is to be a mouthpiece for the demands of capitalism in the ranks of the working class, and because their specific function was and is to mediate between capitalist demands (at the company and national level) and the immediate demands of the workers (the proletariat). Their policy was and is to adapt the demands of the workers to the needs of the individual companies as well as to the national demands of the bourgeois power. For the effective implementation of this policy in a democratic regime there is no other system – apart from the one applied by fascism, i.e. the violent destruction of the workers’ unions and their replacement by fascist single trade union – than that of class collaboration, which consists in deluding the proletariat – after it was weakened by the historical defeat of its revolutionary struggle and its class character was replaced by democratism – that the way to improve its conditions of existence and work is to submit to the demands of capital at the company and national level, both in economic and political dialogue with the bosses and their state.
The main exigencies of capital are to make workers work as productively as possible and to pay them as little as possible. Every capitalist necessarily acts in the market where he encounters competition from other capitalists; therefore, he pursues these goals in order to make his profits and beat his competitors; but to achieve these goals he needs to have the necessary number of workers to exploit and their willingness (convinced or forced) to meet the needs of his company. As is well known, in capitalist society the wage labourer is a proletarian because he only possesses his individual labour power, which he is obliged to sell to the capitalists in order to receive a wage that will support him and his family; to be proletarian does not only mean to be without reserves, but also to make your life completely dependent on the work that the capitalist does or does not give you.
The capitalists are the owners of all the means of production on which the labour power of the workers can be employed, naturally according to the most productive organization of work, and by virtue of their economic and political power they appropriate to themselves all the products of every production cycle; thus in practice they have the lives of all urban and rural proletarians in their hands. The real power of the capitalists lies precisely in this domination; power which is reinforced by that particular political organ which is the State, whose primary function is the defence of the general and individual interests of the capitalists against both foreign competition and the struggle of the proletarian class.
Every capitalist has to contend with competition from other capitalists as well as with his own proletarians insofar as the latter take up the struggle and demand higher wages and less onerous working conditions. The workers’ struggle against the capitalists runs parallel to the competitive struggle that every capitalist and every state wages against the foreign bourgeoisies. But for the workers’ struggle to be a classist struggle, it must be conducted with class methods and means and with objectives exclusively in defence of proletarian class interests; that is, methods, means and objectives which are incompatible with social peace, with social dialogue, with collaboration between the classes.
In the historical course of the development of capitalism, the proletarian class has also developed not only as a mass of working forces, but also as class organized to defend its own interests. That is why the capitalists, apart from having the very clear protection of the state, have tried in every possible way to counter the power of the organized proletariat, both at the immediate level, that is, the unions, and at the political level, that is, its parties.
In capitalist society, the struggle between the classes never disappears; it can reach its maximum expression at certain historical junctures, as in revolutionary situations, when the proletariat unites its forces by being led by its class party; or it can persist, even for decades – as it was the case in the last century – within the domain of the social contrasts that are effectively under the control of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie exercises this control by various means: by increasing competition between proletarians, by using direct repression in the workplace, by resorting to state repression through the judiciary and the police, by bribing trade unionists and politicians, by firing the most combative workers, by relocating production, by closing down plants that are no longer sufficiently «productive» with respect to the market or simply because they have fallen into bankruptcy.
It is a fact that since the end of the Second World War onwards, the policy of class collaboration of the trade unions, reconstructed after the fascist era of the single trade union, and of the so-called socialist and communist parties, was no longer an episodic thing or related to a particular sector of production; it became institutionalized, therefore having validity for the entire economic system, and thus ensuring the regulation of all social relations between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. And it is to fascism that post-fascist democracy owes this fine result, as it was the first to introduce class collaboration between capitalists and proletarians through the corporate system (with joint organizations of workers and bosses) as the only recognized basis for bargaining between proletarians and capitalists, both in the economic sector of private and public capital.
On the other hand, the development of capitalism in its imperialist form, with the creation of huge monopolies, trusts and multinational corporations whose interests transcend the national frameworks within which any national capitalism has developed, has necessitated the generalization of this method of bargaining between companies and the work force and its institutionalization through state laws that would facilitate and pre-emptively regulate the administration of the labour power in a prescribed manner. And indeed, institutionalized class collaboration is no longer a case of Italy or Germany, but applies to all capitalist countries.
The defeat of the goals of the proletarian cause – an historical cause that cannot be other than revolutionary and worldwide – is due above all to the degeneration of proletarian parties and working class unions that took place in the 1920s, during which there was a shift from the exclusive defence of the interests of the proletarian class on the immediate and general political terrain to the defence of bourgeois interests.
While capitalism, in its imperialist form, has moved forward by centralizing its power in a few state colossi representing the centres of world imperialism, the proletariat – in view of its class interests at the national and global level – has, on the contrary, stepped backwards: it has lost its class power because it has embraced as its own the petty-bourgeois illusion that it could achieve a social system in which every social class, every social stratum, could satisfy its needs without having to go through the class struggle, i.e. without having to take the path of anti-bourgeois and therefore anti-capitalist revolution. This illusion has not fallen from the sky; it arises from the social relations that characterize this society, which are permeated by the bourgeois-democratic ideology according to which every individual is born with equal rights and equal opportunities for growth and improvement of his personal situation; according to which we are all citizens under a state that recognizes and represents the sovereignty of the people, a sovereignty protected by laws that are «equal for all». That all this is a pack of lies is demonstrated every day; if this were not so, there would not be a group of billionaires systematically seizing most of the world’s wealth and billions of starving proletarians; there would be no wars between bourgeois factions and states to overwhelm each other for the purpose of securing greater power and better chances of capturing economic territory, business, and proletarian masses to be exploited.
The capitalist economy is based on a fundamental law according to which capital must exploit wage labour: the more it exploits it, the more surplus value it extracts and the more it valorises the capital invested. Without wage labour, capital would perish; without the subordination of wage labourers to the demands of its valorisation (i.e. its augmentation), it would have no reason to exist. Just as the bourgeoisie cannot escape this law, neither can the proletariat. The interest of the bourgeoisie is to keep this system alive, the interest of the proletariat is to emancipate itself from this system; these two interests permanently clash, not because of the will of one class or the other, but because they are antagonistic, and have been so ever since the capitalist mode of production historically imposed itself.
This class antagonism is always present, even when the proletariat is not fighting: in fact, it is the bourgeoisie that is in permanent struggle both against any remnants of previous modes of production, against foreign bourgeoisies and the proletariat. In the first case, it represents economic and social progress; in the second case, it represents a competitive struggle to increase power against competitors and thus to strengthen the preservation of the capitalist economic system; in the third case, it represents social reaction, because the social wealth produced under capitalism is the result of the exploitation of wage labour, which historically tends towards emancipation from capitalism: «The essential conditions for the existence and for the sway of the bourgeois class is the formation and augmentation of capital; the condition for capital is wage-labour. Wage-labour rests exclusively on competition between the labourers». We have known this since 1848, since the time of Marx and Engels’s «Communist Manifesto» and the bourgeoisie knows it too, since it knows – because the history of class struggles and proletarian revolutions teaches it too – that with the development of big industry, of which it is the «involuntary promoter» the proletarian masses develop, transcending all «national» borders, and with them the basis of the class struggle on a world scale.
Therefore, the bourgeoisie has every interest in blocking, fragmenting and diverting the workers’ struggle from the terrain of antagonistic confrontation between the classes to the terrain of class collaboration. The objective of the struggle of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat is not only to keep it in the position of proletariat, whose life depends exclusively on wage labour, and therefore on capital, but to prevent it from organizing itself independently, for its own class interests and for historical objectives completely opposed to those of the bourgeoisie. And in this operation the bourgeoisie uses the contribution of all the forces which it has succeeded in corrupting and transforming into forces of social conservation: the opportunists, the collaborators who come from the ranks of the proletariat itself.
The objective of the proletariat’s struggle against the bourgeoisie is not only the improvement of its conditions of existence and work on the immediate terrain, but its general emancipation from the yoke of wage labour: from being class for capital, the proletariat historically struggles to become class for itself, for its own emancipation.
What must it emancipate itself from? From capitalism, from the bourgeoisie that crushes it in conditions of absolute dependence on wage labour, that has made it the slave of modern times. This is that great historical goal which the proletariat announced with its revolutionary struggles in Europe in 1848, in 1871 with the Paris Commune, throughout the first two decades of the 20th century with the struggle against war, during and after the war, and in 1917 with the victorious revolution in Russia and the revolutionary attempts of 1919–1920 in Hungary, Germany and in 1927 in China.
But those struggles have been defeated; the bourgeoisie, although perpetual wars between states, although ever more acute and devastating economic crises under its rule, has triumphed; it is still in power everywhere, in all the countries of the world, industrial and non-industrial. It would seem to be invincible.
But history does not let the timing of revolutions and counter-revolutions be dictated by the will of the most powerful bourgeoisies: neither the bourgeoisie nor the proletariat invented the class struggle. It springs from the development of the productive forces, which clash with production forms that, at a certain stage of development, can no longer contain them and limit their objective thrust. Of course, the bourgeoisie has tried, is trying, and will try to impede this development because it can do nothing to solve the crises that periodically and increasingly affect its economic and social system other than to partially destroy the productive forces that it itself has created and developed. However, it destroys them in order to renew them, because its objective is always the valorisation of capital, a principle which – if not stopped – will reintroduce the general conditions for new crises and new destruction. The modern productive forces are the capital and the proletariat, the former seeking to limit their development, the latter, representing human labour, which is the basis of social production, is pushed towards ever greater development: their clash is inevitable. The solution cannot be brought about by the bourgeois class, but only by the class of producers, the class of the proletariat, in a way that has been manifested in history since ancient times: by revolution. The bourgeoisie itself was driven to revolution in order to give free development to the modern productive forces it represented by overthrowing the feudal and Asiatic productive forms with all the necessary violence. And for more than a hundred and fifty years it has been fighting against the revolution which under its rule has taken the form of the proletariat.
Revolution is a historical process, not an act, however violent, lasting only one day or one year. And for such a historical process to lead to revolution, it is precisely the workers’ struggle that must develop on the terrain of class confrontation, a terrain that is at first the terrain of struggle in defence of immediate economic interests, but which the very confrontation with the ruling bourgeoisie and its state elevates to a general political struggle.
With the degeneration of the Communist Parties and the Communist International in the 1920s, the way was opened for the general defeat of the revolutionary proletarian movement. Since then the world proletariat has been pushed back a whole century. That is why the bourgeoisie seems invincible. But the workers’ struggle has not ceased to show its signs, even though it is imbued with democratic and pacifist illusions.
Without going back to the fierce struggles in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943, to the uprising in Berlin in 1953 or in Budapest in 1956, we only have to look at the very long line of workers’ struggles that have erupted in different parts of the world to realize that capitalism is not the source of prosperity and peace, but of inequality, exploitation, misery, crises and wars, against which the proletarian class has no choice but to take up the struggle, a struggle which, however, finds in its path the forces of trade union and political inter-class collaborationism. And it is this collaborationism that is the cause of their powerlessness.
In those distant 1950s, and 1960s and 1970s, which shook social peace in France, Italy and again in Germany, and in the 1980s in Britain, Poland and Russia, the ruling bourgeoisies used all the means of traditional collaborationism and the new extra-parliamentary and «far left» reformism, including armed struggle groups, to contain the pressure of the working masses and sabotage their protest and strike actions in order to bring them back to the terrain of social dialogue. And so today, in the face of the possible future outbreak of war on a world scale, the first signs of which were seen at the beginning of the 1990s with the war in Yugoslavia and today, much more dangerously, with the war in Ukraine, each ruling bourgeoisie has intensified its nationalist propaganda calling on its proletariat to national cohesion, to the Sacred Union, to the defence of the values of Western civilisation. Nothing new under the sun: it is exactly the same propaganda that each bourgeoisie has used to subject its proletariat to strict discipline and to send it to the slaughter of war on both sides of the fronts. Nationalism, spiced up from time to time with all sorts of «claims», but whose aim has always been to act as a bond between bourgeois and proletarian interests, interests which in reality are always antagonistic, because while the bourgeois make profits out of wars, the proletarians lose their lives in wars.
We cannot conceal the fact that nationalism, though got bitter with time, still has a decisive influence on the proletarian masses today. Every country is arming itself for upcoming and future conflicts, every parliament is giving the green light to a whole series of measures and laws to restrict as much as possible the much vaunted freedom of association, expression and strike. And each of the forces of class collaborationism, whether trade unions or parties, takes it upon itself to draw the proletarian masses aside by bringing them onto the terrain of impotent social dialogue and asking the bourgeois power to show mercy on the workers who are increasingly reduced to a life of precariousness and misery.
And when the proletarian masses, as in recent months in France, Britain, the United States, Germany, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Venezuela, China, Spain, Cuba or Sri Lanka, and in Italy or Iran, take to the streets to fight against the high cost of living, against intolerable social conditions, against worsening working conditions, against the deterioration due to pension reforms, against redundancies and unemployment, and for wage increases, at that moment the so-called «workers» trade unions will speak up loudly, demanding that no further capital be invested in the arms industry, but in the improvement of the conditions of workers, and threatening with strikes and demonstrations that no bourgeoisie today fears; whereas the so-called «workers’» parties are preoccupied with their intrigues by their seasoned political careerists, who are ready to take every opportunity to strengthen or extend their privileges. This mob is the first great obstacle that the proletarian class encounters on its path; it is the social force that every bourgeoisie unleashes against it to weaken it, to divert it, to deceive it, and to avert any action that it takes autonomously. From this fact alone it is clear that the bourgeoisie in fact fears that the proletarian masses will be pushed onto the path of classist struggle, and fears them because it knows from historical experience that the social power of the proletariat can become a formidable striking force on the condition that it becomes completely independent of every bourgeois institution and apparatus, on condition that it gives its struggle the content of the exclusive defence of proletarian interests and of the methods and means of anti-capitalist, hence class struggle.
The proletarians have not to defend a fatherland that does not belong to them and for which the bourgeoisie sends them to slaughter in wars; they have not to defend the company in which they work as slaves, nor the national economy that exclusively feeds capitalist interests, just as they have not to fight against proletarians of other nationalities, either as immigrants or even more so as «enemies of the fatherland». Their arch enemies are their national bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisies of all other countries. And their only ally is the proletariat of other countries.
May Day, which the bourgeoisie and collaborationists of all colours have turned into a «Labour Day» celebration, was a day of struggle, of anti-capitalist struggle, of struggle against the bourgeoisie; it must become so again if the proletarians want to shake off the intoxicating haze of nationalism and collaborationism and take up the arms of their real class struggle, the only one that will open the way to revolution against this society of oppression, of devastating economic and social crises, of wars.
Fight exclusively in defence of proletarian interests and for independent organization!
Proletarians have no country!
Proletarians have a world to win!
April, 25th 2023
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