There has been no revolution in Tunisia or Egypt .. And none is likely there or the UK any time soon.
It seems ridiculous to suggest that protest doesn’t work that there has been no revolution, in the middle of the uprisings across the Arab world. But that is what must be argued. Sadly the Left and the @ movement have been infected for generations by a putchist fever, a Blanquist or Leninist mania, that believes society is changed by uprisings, revolts and rebellions, by putches. Well they are, regularly, but what we see are just simple changes in the rulers, and usually movement rightward not to the Left.
There has been no revolution in Tunisia or Egypt as I understand revolution. A revolution as I see it is when the people / the workers take over not just TV stations, but the mass of the factories that produce goods and the offices that control society, as in Spain in 1936, or Nantes in 1968, Turin and Milan in 1919 and parts of Russia in 1917. The World Turned Upside Down.
What we have seen now are revolts. Revolts against dictatorship, just like in Eastern Europe in the 1990s, but there, like now, there were no social movements big enough to rejoice in, no movements that could create new societies and today Eastern Europe is freer but less equal than 20 years ago. East Germany, Poland, Yugoslavia, the Caucasus, Czechoslovakia, Albania, ‘soviet Asia’, the list of rebellions that ended up with no more power with the people is long. And remember ’68? Later that year the people voted in De Gaulle in massively increased numbers.
Sure, of course, revolution is a process, so that factory occupations are not always at the start, but it is clear there is no ‘communist movement’ in any of these countries, and that includes the UK, capable of influencing events in a progressive direction.
So what goes wrong in these events? It is simple. That there is an absence of a mass movement in the working class capable of capitalising on the crises that regularly infect ( though not terminally ) capitalism. The Left always claimed what was missing was a revolutionary party! Partially maybe. But a party is nothing without a movement, something the Left have forgotten. You can not build a castle on sand as they have tried to do. After 40 years of SWP party building, after Tony Cliffs turn from a Luxembourgist party (IS) to a Leninist Party (SWP) on the basis of his analysis of the failure of 68, the IS/SWP is smaller than ever. Sure, have your party, but every Left/@ group I seen puts party before class.
The deadening legacy the Left has given us hangs over everything. Now more than ever we need a new Left without Leftism, a new politics that appeals to ordinary people, that talks the language of ordinary people, that people will give up what they have for. Here today in the UK the idea of revolutionary change is a joke. The Left have zero influence. Less than for 100 years. A useful idiot (though he is not as daft as he appears I suspect) like Tommy Robinson is more popular than Lindsay German or Linda Taafe!
Instead of 40 years of movement building, embedding revolutionary ideas in working class communities, the UK Left and @ movement gave us sectarianism, as they fought over who would be the true vanguard, and gave us a endless headless chicken tailending and strangulation of any campaigns that did arise in the class. The Left and @ movement has concentrated almost entirely on a political level with stuntism, placard waving and chanting, and so called international solidarity (it does nothing of the sort in reality) and has only really engaging with the working class as individuals through the unions and then only every related to organised workers. The NSSN the most important development for years was never taken seriously by the Left parties who dominated and fought over it would seem has destroyed it ( watch this space). While the Left usually looks down on the @ fascination with the spontaneous the @s are in reality little better, dividing endlessly like amoeba.
Worse is the belief that in crisis comes communism and change for the better. The Trotskyist Left has fetished their guru’s writings on decadence and crisis and believe that is from crisis that change will come. Some idiots in the 1970s took this theory to it’s logical conclusion and adopted the ‘strategy of terror’ wherein by acts of terrorism they believed they would force the state to react so brutally the masses would rise up. It, surprise surprise, failed.
What comes from chaos is not communism but fascism and authoritarianism. Always has done and always will; unless there is a massive movement for communism ready.
The Left is now entirely absent from the vast majority of working class communities, and incredibly sometimes by political design; the SWP has always argued against community work e.g. re the Poll Tax campaign, believing in a crass reading of Lenin that change can only come from trade unionists and in the workplace. Even though our biggest victory for generations was the Poll Tax campaign, even though the miners strike only carried on as it did due to community support (though clearly it needed industrial action to win that dispute) they have resolutely refused to deal with people where they live. Incredibly they have utterly disregarded the work of the Italian and other Marxist in the 1960s and 1970s around e.g. the Italian Autonomia movement re the crucial role of community in the reproduction of labour and political consciousness. The German communist movement made the same mistake in the 1920s and 1930s with disastrous consequences.
What we have forgotten to do is what the old communists and anarchists did. Slowly building form the base to create mass popular movements from below. The best examples of people and movements who do this today are not Left wing; the community organising movements based on Saul Alinsky’s ideas in North America that were cynically used to put Obama into the White House, the Le Pen fascists in France in the 1990’s and the Islamists in the Middle East, like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas in Palestine, clerical-fascist indeed as Tony Cliff called them, but dedicated to using welfare, schooling etc to create the mass movement that will take them to power.
Each of these groups understands power a thousand times better that today’s Left. Power is gained when people want to give their small piece of power (the ability to withdraw labour or to march on the street) to create change, to create a mass movement based on those bits of power. But they will only do that if they believe it is worthwhile. Today’s stagnant, humourless, shouty Leftism alienates, and worse it shouts out loud, “We are not a movement who can win but a movement who shouts in defeat”.
It is time for a change, a complete re-orientation back into ordinary communities. If progressive politics are outside the mass of people they will lose. It is simple maths. And study politics! I hear the masses of the academic Left shout-back “we do that!” But they don’t. They study minuateae and abstractions.
To study politics is to identify power relations, where we live and work and to understand how to change them.
Anyone who had genuinely studied politics in this way would have been building mass movements. Study when we did win, whether it be the Poll Tax, however superficial that win or the strikes of the 1970s or Spain in 1936.