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From England’s burning cities

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When a complete blackout extinguished all the lights in New York in summer 1977, plunging the metropolis into a long night of riots, we drew “three simple truths for the proletariat” [1]  from the episode.  The first two were only too evident:  the extreme vulnerability of the capitalist mode of production, not excluding, indeed above all, its phase of peak imperialist centralization; the violence and anger that are exuded from every pore of bourgeois society, the peculiar fruit of this “best of all possible worlds”.  Since then, thirty-five years have gone by and other revolts have repeatedly taken place all over the world (not forgetting that for the whole of the ‘60s the U.S. ghettoes never ceased to burn): in Los Angeles, in Brixton, in China, in Argentina, in Mexico, right up to the Parisian banlieues in 2005, the anger exploding on the streets of Athens during 2010, the social earthquakes that shook almost all the countries on the southern coast of the Mediterranean in the first half of the year (earthquakes whose initially proletarian nature we have emphasized – authentic “assaults on the bakeries” by the hungry and desperate lacking any reserves to fall back on – and the way they were subsequently “captured” and channelled into the democratic course of things by a part of the petit bourgeoisie aiming at reforms that would not, however, upset the status quo).

On a smaller but no less significant scale, in Italy there have been the uprisings by the proletarian immigrants of Rosarno at the beginning of 2010 and more recently at Nardò – direct, immediate reactions against the beastly exploitation they were subjected to – as well as the rebellions that are constantly happening in the concentration camps set up to deal with the so-called clandestine immigrants.   

 

Now, this August 2011, while new and powerful tremors are shaking the rocky structure of the capitalist mode of production, the revolt has exploded in London (basically reduced to a state of siege), spreading quickly to other English cities which have for some time now been hammered by the economic crisis.  In all these cases, entire communities in working-class areas, living on the margins of society and abandoned to their own devices in mega-cities that are increasingly becoming showcases of luxury and wealth and the crossroads of enormous commercial and financial interests, have flooded onto the streets, attacking the most obvious symbols of capitalist oppression and social inequality, emptying shops and chain stores, burning and destroying.  In all these cases, journalists and observers, commentators and political experts, horrified and shaken, have asked themselves, “why on earth do such things happen?”, without being able (or wanting) to give the only possible answer: the agony of this mode of production has been dragging on for decades now with destructive and self-destructive effects, crushing lives, impoverishing populations, denying any sort of future to entire generations, swelling the numbers of the unemployed legions who are now beyond all hope.   This is where the seed of revolution lies.

 

London and England have for some time been at the centre of the whirlpool in an economic crisis that cannot find solutions inside the economic-social mechanism that produced it.  Independently of the colour of the various alternating governments and their policy orientations, in the past few decades we have experienced the inexorable social polarization typical of capitalism on reaching its extreme phase:  the glass and concrete skyscrapers and the tottering slums, the newly renovated city and the city abandoned to decay. Is this anything new?  Quite the opposite!  Why not go and read (or re-read more carefully) The Situation of the Working Class in England, written by Engels in 1844-45 (or even just a novel or two by Charles Dickens)?  Surprise?  Only a blind man or an idiot could fail to see what is swelling day by day in the guts of this disintegrating society, the potential for explosion accumulating beneath the foundations and behind the façades.

 

The young and the very young, black and white, new immigrants and Britons born and bred, furious and desperate, closed in ghettoes and strangled by an increasingly enfeebled economy, pursued by a police force that is the armed limb of a State which is not neutral and objective but the military bastion of the ruling class, raid shops and chain stores, set fire to streets and neighbourhoods.  Nothing but hypocritical and obtuse decent-thinking could fail to see in this the instinctive, unplanned expression of the violence exuding from every pore of a society involved in an eternal, daily war – a war at work (with waves of victims, in what are euphemistically termed “accidental deaths”), wars between industrial, commercial and financial  gangs (with their inevitable effects – in the form of deaths due to hunger, illness, exhaustion, the pure and simple impossibility of survival), wars fought with weapons to win raw materials or keep the worst feared competitors from them, wars for the control of distant and nearby markets, in order to re-locate areas of influence (massacring increasing numbers of various populations) … the capitalist world is an immense battleground where blood never ceases to flow, where collective martyrdom is repeated day after day. Should we be scandalized?

 

An entire mode of production demonstrates in practice its bankruptcy, its physiological inability to solve even one of the problems that it itself has created, the emptiness of all the recipes, whether liberist or statist, right-wing or fake “left”, the impotence of gradual reform; the young proletarians from the suffocating suburbs have brought it to trial instinctively and without reasoning, in their anger and rebellion.  We leave the bourgeois press’s journalists and opinion-makers to their reflections on the designer shoes, iPads and plasma-screen TVs stolen during the nights of rebellion, the sentimental, moralistic whining about the small shopkeeper who sees a lifetime’s savings go up in smoke, the pseudo-political and pseudo-sociological interpretations of the gangs, the thugs, the hooligans:  all so many words.  “These are not revolts for bread or hunger.  These are rebellions by deprived consumers excluded from the market,” sentenced one of the many “masters of thought” in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera of 11/8:  a fine thought, fully accommodated within the bourgeois ideology!  In order to sell and make a profit, capital has made these products (those very designer shoes, mobiles, iPads) into as many “staple goods”; and now its underlings – the philosophers and sociologists – are surprised (and write about it in nice little essays) that these “staple goods” are made off with together with the bread and butter. The rebellion of the dispossessed always targets the symbols of the power and the wealth they are excluded from. 

 

This said – we wrote in 1977 and in 2005 and we repeat it today (and this is the “third simple truth for the proletariat”) – it is not enough to feel immediately and instinctively on the side of the exploited rebels.  What is needed is the clear-sightedness to affirm something more.  To affirm that these flare-ups – so important as signs of the growing fever within capitalist society and the limits beyond which “patience” becomes unbearable – do and will occur more and more frequently under the pressure of the economic crisis.  And that, however, abandoned to their own resources, they are destined to pass without a trace (except, unfortunately, for more proletarian deaths: the only solution bourgeois power knows to the social crisis is, in fact, military and repressive), to ebb into frustration or – worse still – to become channelled into the blind allies of rebellion for its own sake.  The young proletarians who rebel do not automatically become a “class avant-garde” just because they protest against social and police oppression and the class perspective does not evolve mechanically from street fighting, even the most furious of it.  What is needed in this situation, as it develops so dramatically and explosively, is the revolutionary party (and this need is becoming more and more evident in the defeats, amplified by its own weakness): in other words, the organ and tool which alone, after having carried out extensive work in contact with the proletarian class and thus being recognized by the latter as a true and reliable guide, can take up the impulses (irregular, disorderly, irrational and fuelled by gut feelings) coming from below, gather the anger and energy that comes from the grass roots of this decaying society and direct it towards the real, fortified bastion of capitalist power, the bourgeois State, conquering it and shattering it, to build its own dictatorship on the ashes, as a bridge that must be crossed to finally achieve a classless and therefore State-less society. 

 

In the face of battles that are destined to become more and more extensive and clashes that will become increasingly acute and extreme with all the forces that wish to harness and repress the will to rebel and struggle, the revolutionary party is the only link in the chain that can weld the responses (even the most instinctive of them) to the living and working (or non-working) conditions in which millions of proletarians are trapped and transform them into a political class struggle, directed towards insurrection and the seizing of power.  

 

But this Party is not designed around a conference table, as though it were the project of a forward-thinking architect, neither does it arise miraculously out of the fights themselves by virtue of a kind of spontaneous autogenesis coming from below, as so many fools would have it.  It is the result of a long struggle carried out in an organized manner and in an international perspective by communists who, regardless of whether they were in a minority or few in number, managed to remain faithful, from programmatic, organizational, theoretical and practical points of view, to a tradition – the only tradition that over a whole century now has succeeded in maintaining the true revolutionary path – ours.  There are no other ways.  This one alone, with objective and subjective conditions having matured (including – and we stress it, to avoid any kind of voluntarist misinterpretation – the manifest inability of the ruling class to deal with the social crisis), can allow proletarians of any age, nationality, gender or skin colour, to make their way out of the blind allies and ghettoes where they are compelled to live their daily lives.

 

England’s burning suburbs today and who knows where tomorrow launch the umpteenth appeal to communists, to devote their best efforts and their revolutionary passion, courage and determination to strengthening the international communist party, extending it and sinking its roots in the international proletariat.  Only in this way will it be possible to draw lessons from the flames of isolated struggles and channel them, victoriously, into the battle for a new, classless society tomorrow.



 

[1] “From the great Night of New York, three simple truths for the proletariat”, Il programma comunista, no.15/1977

 

 

 

International Communist Party

 

(Il programma comunista – Cahiers internationalistes – Internationalist Papers)


 


 

 

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