before the European elections, in which the social democratic
two of the most authoritative social democratic leaders, Tony
Blair and Gerhard Schröder, published a letter in which they formulated
the principles of the so-called "new centre" (neue Mitte).
could be summed up as arguing that the traditional ideas
of social democracy (redistribution, a mixed economy and state
in the spirit of Keynes) needed to be replaced by new approaches
in the spirit of neo-liberalism.
True, the authors of the letter took their distance from neo-liberalism
stating that they did not share its illusions that all problems
could be solved
through market methods. At the same time, they proposed to
solve the problems of world trade by liberalising it further. Instead
solidarity, they called for increased competition, and instead of job
for preparing young people better for life under the conditions
of a constantly changing market conjuncture.
reply to Blair and Schröder, Gregor Gysi, founder of the German Party
Democratic Socialism and leader of its Bundestag fraction, published
his own document.
This was entitled "Twelve Theses for a Modern Socialist
Politics" (Zwölf Thesen fur eine Politik des modernen Sozialismus).
These theses purported to represent a consistent defence of
the principles of social solidarity, regulation and redistribution.
there was practically nothing socialist about Gysi's theses.
The text did not even mention the labour movement; all the reforms
the document defended were seen not as the consequences of mass
by workers acting from below, but rather, as the results of initiatives
by the state, acting from above. In essence, Gysi was defending
a complex of measures that are thoroughly progressive within the
framework of capitalism, but which do not in any way extend outside
and do not even break with the system's logic. In the 1970s
such a text would have been interpreted as a right-wing social
document. At the end of the 1990s, it is an example of a critique
of social democracy from the left.
am not setting out here to criticise my friend Gregor Gysi. Like a
a US bar, he "plays as well as he can", or more precisely, as
as circumstances allow. As a real politician, Gysi understands that
must not fall outside the general context of the debate; otherwise,
he will seem an "abstract ideologue", a "utopian"
and so on, and
will not be able to convince anyone. Within this context, Gysi's
the most left wing. But this in itself already bears witness to
the historically unprecedented decline of the socialist movement.
decline is occurring against the background of a crisis of the
and other forms of workers' self-organisation. From time to time
the working class makes its presence felt through strikes, but on
it has once again been transformed from a "class for itself"
a "class in itself". The more fortunate groups of workers, those
are involved with the most modern technologies, are not showing
solidarity with those who perform traditional physical and mechanical
it appears that capitalism has not grown appreciably stronger
as a result
of the decline of the socialist forces.
The crisis of the system
is subject to its own logic, which made its effects felt unmistakably
during the Asian and Russian financial cataclysms of 1997 and
1998. Those whom the financial crisis struck first, it appears, are
but Latin America and western Europe promise to make up for
them. The series of financial calamities is only one manifestation
of a general
process. In the period from 1989 to 1991 the capitalist world
system reached the limits of its expansion, becoming truly global.
development inevitably involves a sharpening of contradictions.
Luxemburg spoke of the alternatives "socialism or barbarism".
correct; socialism has suffered a defeat, and barbarism is triumphing.
This barbarism is appearing now on the fringes of the system,
in Russia and Africa, in the former Yugoslavia and in Colombia.
first is simply hotbeds of chaos. The world of universal competition
becomes a world of ungoverned violence, corresponding precisely
to Hobbes's notion of "the war of each against all". Laws are
The desire for victory (or for revenge on anyone who has
bested you) is absolute. It is dictated by the very logic of the
as elemental aggression is its inevitable outcome on the psychological
level. The conclusions of psychoanalysis, already formulated
in the 1920s (on the threshold of fascism), are confirmed by the
experience of recent years.
regional and ethnic conflicts, the spread of weapons of mass destruction,
growing corruption, mafias, narcobusiness all these are rampant
in the periphery. The explosion of nationalism is the predictable
result of capitalist globalisation. The scale of the slaughter
in Rwanda, Sierra Leone and the Congo is already fully comparable
with the destruction of human life in the gulag or during the
war, with the sole difference that at that time, the killing
took place against a backdrop of great historical collisions,
it is simply casual and commonplace. Kurdistan, Chechnya, Tajikistan,
the former Yugoslavia, Colombia the geography of violence is constantly
expanding. This outburst of violence is the natural reaction of
peripheral society, denied the prospect of sharing in market prosperity
and without clear perspectives for transforming itself on any
shocks on the periphery are increasingly making their effects felt
in the centre
as well. The wealthy countries are being battered by waves of
refugees and migrants; this in turn is stimulating the growth of
and police control. The decline of education is becoming
a general phenomenon in the centre as well as the periphery. This
is becoming even more noticeable in the developed countries, which
dependent on imported brain power. This resource, however,
will soon be exhausted. The economic crisis could turn into an
chaos is spreading, overwhelming more and more new territories and
life. Fukuyama's "end of history" could become Spengler's
of the West". And not only of the West. Paraphrasing the
thesis from the program of the Soviet Communist Party, it might
be said that the present generation could witness the total collapse
of modern civilisation.
scenario will not be spelled out in detail, even though the signs
that it will come to pass. All that can be said to reassure
the reader is that even the collapse of civilisation does not
mean the extinction
of humanity. The latter survived the downfall of ancient
society, and will survive the fall of global capitalism. But as
to what will
grow up on the ruins of capitalism, we are no more able to judge
than the last of the Romans were able to speculate on the prospects
of the Renaissance. Nevertheless,
there is another possibility. If not barbarism, then socialism.
Socialism, that is, understood as a radical systemic alternative
not as a means of improving and "touching up" capitalism,
but as a new
society that will succeed capitalism. In my view, the "return"
of socialist ideology and of the corresponding mass movements
is the only
alternative to general barbarisation.
might this "return" be like, if it occurs in the first decades
twenty-first century? It is impossible to make detailed prophesies,
but a few
predictions are in order.
of all, the labour movement will gradually overcome its crisis.
of organisation of the trade unions will change. The unions will
become less centralised and bureaucratised, and their ideology will
radical and internationalist. Instead of defensive struggles,
we will start to see unions going on the attack. Gradually feeling
out the weak points of the transnational corporations, and coordinating
their actions on an international level, the trade unions will
again alter the relationship of forces between labour and capital.
the trade unions will be possible only as part of a more general
process in which the class of hired workers will be transformed.
notion that hired labour equals physical work is vanishing
into the past. Science and education have been thoroughly proletarianised.
In the course of the technological revolution, a new social
layer, a sort of "technological elite", has been formed. This
elite has been content to reap the fruits of its privileged
position in the world of labour, in practice supporting the neo-liberal
model of capitalism.
however, has been possible only during the rise of the technological
revolution. No revolution, even a technological one, can continue
endlessly and without let-up. Revolutionary phases of the development
of technology are being replaced by evolutionary ones, and the
position of the technological elite is changing. To a significantly
this elite will come to feel its dependency on the real elites
of bourgeois society the financial oligarchs and the transnational
bureaucracy of the private sector.
more the technological elite discovers contradictions between its
and those of the bourgeoisie, the more it feels itself part of
of labour (along with scientists, teachers and medical personnel).
The change of psychology is occurring slowly; a generational shift
is needed. Nevertheless, this is a necessary and legitimate process.
Some sociologists (for example, Alexander Tarasov) consider that
it will be this technological elite that acts as the gravedigger of
It will play the same role in relation to bourgeois society as
the bourgeoisie played in relation to feudalism. It is worth noting
that it was
absolutism that established the bourgeoisie and sustained it in
its early period.
any case, the new technological elite will be forced to recognise
part of the world of labour, just as the bourgeoisie once recognised
itself as part of the third estate, placing its common class interests
above corporate divisions. Overcoming this corporatist atomisation
of the workers has been the main task of the traditional labour
movement. The question now is how to find a new "identity".
not be easy, but it is indispensable.
practice, the working class is being formed anew, just as happened in
mid-nineteenth century, when industrial labour took over from
On the basis of a new class consciousness, a new socialist
project is possible. Despite the fashionable debates about the
new principles, the key ideas of socialism must remain unchanged
otherwise, it will no longer be socialism. From private property,
to social property. From an economy subordinate to the profit
needs of the
private sector, to an economy where the social sector holds sway,
serving social needs.
new economic relations can really come into existence only in the
form of a
"mixed" or "transitional" economy, of "market
socialism". But it
does not by any means follow from this that the combination of market
socialism is stripped of contradictions. Socialism does not necessarily
exclude the market, but it is not in any sense the outcome of
market logic. It is precisely the limited nature of the possibilities
the market as an organising basis for the economy that makes socialism
historically inevitable. The forcing out of market relations by
new relations based on cooperation and solidarity cannot be mechanical;
where market relations are natural and necessary, the market will
survive. But as is shown by the experience of the internet and of
science, the logic that operates in the technologically advanced
areas of the economy is different. The greater the spread of post-industrial
technologies, the greater will be society's need for non-market
social sector is impossible without state ownership. This is not
ownership is good in itself (it is often bad), but for the reason
that without nationalisation, socialisation is impossible. Near
the end of
his life, Leon Trotsky stated that socialisation emerges from
in the way a butterfly arises from a pupa. Millions of pupae
perish without ever becoming butterflies. So it was with the Soviet
economy. The Soviet economy never became authentically socialist;
carcass of the centralised state put a brake on all qualitative
growth. Instead of development and transformation, what began
Trotsky, one could say that at a certain stage property has to
"pupate", taking on a state form. But in order for subsequent
in the direction of socialism to be possible, the state itself
has to undergo radical changes.
call for the democratic renewal of the state is not only a socialist
is society's natural, positive answer to the challenge of globalisation.
The transnational business elites and the financial oligarchs
are highly integrated with one another, and at the same time marginal
in relation to society to any society, not only in the countries
of the "periphery", but also in those of the "centre".
society cannot be global. Nor can a labour market. Consequently, when
to policies of globalisation, the left defends the interests of
society against the transnational elites. This obliges leftists to
and here we come up against a very sharp cultural and ideological
problem. In France and Mexico, for example, there are traditions
of democratic and revolutionary patriotism, closely linked with
concepts of human and civil rights, and with the values of enlightenment
and freedom. In Russia and Turkey, by contrast, the democratic
and left traditions developed in confrontation with nationalist
ideology. As a result, leftists are beginning to draw their inspiration
from all sorts of reactionary ideas about "native soil".
leads we know from the example of Zyuganov's Communist Party of
the Russian Federation.
principle, the reply to the question of "left-wing patriotism"
has to be
a consistent democratism. Since the advent of globalisation, it has
that international forms of democracy and representation are
absolutely essential; without them, democracy on the level of the
state is defective
and incomplete. Without a national state, however, democracy
cannot exist at all. Society can express its interests and defend
them only within the framework of a national state. International
can be representative and democratic only if they rest on democracy
in every individual state, just as this democracy can be fully
if it rests on local self-management.
a time when transnational capital and international financial
are becoming more and more irresponsible, escaping all control
(in essence, they themselves seek to control legally elected governments),
the defence of national sovereignty is becoming tantamount to
a struggle for the elementary civil rights of the population. We have
right to participate in making decisions on which our lives depend.
understood in this way, the idea of sovereignty has nothing in
with the ideology of "ethnic" association, or with the
(a derivative of tsarist-era authoritarian chauvinism) preached
by Russian nationalists. The struggle for economic sovereignty
only when it takes the form of actions in solidarity by the peoples
of different countries. It needs to rest not on the idea of nationalism
(in essence, bourgeois-bureaucratic nationalism), but on the traditions
of internationalism and anti-imperialism. In short, leftists in
order to be "modern" and "up-to-date" in this case
need first of all to
remain true to themselves and to their own age-old principles.
clearly needs to undergo the most serious changes is not the idea
as an alternative to capitalism, but the concept of the left
party. The point is not simply that Lenin's understanding of democratic
centralism was pregnant from the very beginning with authoritarian
degeneration. This form of political organisation arose out
of the specific conditions of Russia in the early years of the
whatever we might say about it today, was suited to these conditions.
Today's task is not to formulate an abstract ideological critique
of Leninist centralism, but to search for organisational forms
that are appropriate
to today's social structure and to the present collective
us stands the task, which history has shown to be very difficult,
a consistently democratic party. So far, neither communists, nor
social democrats, nor Trotskyists, nor the national liberation
of the countries of the periphery have been able to meet this
But the very fact that this task has not been carried out (it
theoretically insoluble) is an important matter of principle.
ideal model for a party, a model that can be reproduced anywhere, is
The question of the political organisation of the modern-day left
is not at all theoretical, but acutely practical. Without a practical
movement, all party statutes and programs are useless. Where this
movement exists, we do not find an ideal model, but practical
with a multitude of problems and contradictions. For all its difficulties,
however, the movement carries us forward. Examples here are
provided by the Party of Workers in Brazil, the Party of Democratic
in Germany and Rifondazione in Italy. The experience of these
can be criticised from the point of view of some ideal conception
of what leftists should now be like. This theorising, however,
is worth nothing unless there is also critical analysis of the
unless there is participation in the practical movement
(on this level many of the positions Gysi has taken, though I
do not agree
with them completely, strike me as having far more weight than
the speeches of his critics, even though these discourses might in
terms be more correct).
the new epoch, the division between reformists and revolutionaries,
of basic principle, is becoming much less significant than the
conflict between leftists on the one hand, and ex-leftists or
on the other. The problem faced by social democracy today
is not related to its moderation or reformism, but on the contrary,
to its consistent, fundamental rejection of reformism and of any
form of socialism, even the most moderate. Social democratic positions
can now be found only among dissidents within social democratic
organisations, or among members of parties to the left of "social
democracy" (the German PDS, the Swedish Left Party and so forth).
crisis of social democracy means that the tasks of reformism need to
afresh, while taking into account reformism's inherently limited
nature. The weakness of the left movement, meanwhile, signifies
is indispensable. Reformism was possible when the relationship
of forces favoured the labour movement. This relationship of
forces represented a conquest of revolutionary struggle. It is
to win minor and partial reforms from today's elites, since there
is nothing that compels them to make these concessions. The left
to become really dangerous to the establishment, arousing in
it, not sympathy, but horror. Only then will the left command
aimed at convincing the elite of the "seriousness" and
of the left will ultimately bring about the movement's self-destruction.
The movement needs to prove its seriousness to the workers.
To achieve this, it has to express the moods of workers, and to
real gains in the interests of its social base. Often, this occurs
as the result of quite "irresponsible" actions, as in Paris
1995, when the trade unions brought the country to a halt while
the "privileges" of civil servants. Although the degree of
radicalism in the countries of the "centre" and "periphery"
inevitably differ, the general principle is the same everywhere:
honest reformist has to become a revolutionary.
final point. Socialism has another name: culture. The principle of
the principle of socialism, is located outside the market and
to a certain degree is opposed to it. Beauty cannot be measured in
human merit is not always profitable, and knowledge must not
be an object of sale and purchase. Knowledge belongs to everyone.
interest in socialism felt by the intelligentsia early in the
aroused not only by the fashion for new ideas and by the momentum
of revolutionary expectations. It was profoundly professional
or, if you
like, even corporative. Culture is fundamentally anti-bourgeois;
the laws by which it operates are different from those of
business. If we are now seeing a massive shift of the intelligentsia
positions, this testifies not so much to the crisis of socialism
as to the profound crisis of the intelligentsia, which has lost
its place in society. Art is being replaced by show business, and
"research projects" that are of interest solely to the person
society can exist without culture and science. In place of the old,
intelligentsia, a new one will therefore come into being.
Together with it, we will see a new generation of socialist activists.