Socialism or barbarism



The Marxist bet on the socialist transition: more conscious and faster?

“We cannot speak of a true transition to capitalism unless sufficiently extensive regions live under a completely new social regime. The passage is only decisive when political revolutions legally sanction structural changes, and when new classes dominate the state. This is why evolution lasts several centuries. In the end, it is accelerated by the conscious action of the bourgeoisie. Therefore, the installation of capitalism will in the end be faster than that of feudalism, just as the installation of socialism, even more consciously, has the possibility of being even faster.
(Pierre Vilar) [1].

More aware, and faster was the bet. Socialism has always been a project in a hurry. For many decades, a robust optimism about the future of socialism prevailed in Marxism. In the Second International, the Marxist parties called themselves, with caution, social democracy or Labour, because after the Paris Commune of 1871, the anti-socialist campaign had been so devastating that mediation was more prudent in order to take advantage of legality. The program, however, was socialism, be it gradualist or revolutionary. Marxists knew that revolutions in one country paved the way for reforms in others. Or that the impossibility of reforms paved the way for revolution.

Neither was the choice of the Workers' Party as the name of the left being reorganized in Brazil from 1979/80 onwards by accident. But the strategy was to overthrow the dictatorship and the program was socialism. It has been like this all over the world since the victory of the Russian revolution, and after the defeat of Nazi-fascism, socialism became the reference of the left. Reformist or revolutionary, to be a socialist was to be against capitalism, therefore, against the inviolability of private property.

More aware faster? Some “certainties” of the Marxists of the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries finally collapsed along the way, and we know that the socialist transition will be more difficult than they imagined. In the laboratory of history, a transition to socialism has yet to take hold. Neither social democratic regulation nor Stalinism paved the way. More difficult, however, does not mean that it is not possible.

The problem is that today, three decades after capitalist restoration, a sad melancholy prevails. Many left-wing circles seem like a fraternity of the dead, wounded and mutants. This “lowering of expectations” takes refuge in romantic nostalgia for the past, in theoretical diasporas of catastrophism, in elegant elaborations of pessimism, or in pragmatic adaptations of possibilism. The disjunctive, for many, is no longer socialism or barbarism. It became barbarism or extermination.

The answers for the future of the left will not be elaborated in a “monastery” of copyists of the classic texts. We do not need to take refuge in “museums”. More than ever we must study the history of victorious and defeated revolutions. But it is immersion in the social struggle that can strengthen the Marxist left. Because we were faced with the emergence of the environmental struggle against ecosuicide, or women against patriarchal oppression, or blacks against racism, or LGBT's against homophobia. The challenge remains to understand the cruel reality of the times we have lived through. And keep up the fight. With fury, with ardor, with hope.

Faster and more conscious was the bet. What were the foundations of this hypothesis? Among other theoretical postulates (contradiction between increasingly socialized production and private appropriation; opposition between the world market and the preservation of national borders), two political premises stood out (which are always a bet on the future, therefore, on risk and uncertainty):

(a) the first was the identification of capitalism's tendency to regularly and recurrently precipitate crises of overaccumulation of capital, in the form of overproduction of commodities, with a gigantic social cost: destruction and chronic waste would fall like an inescapable catastrophe on the shoulders of society [2];

(b) the second was the new revolutionary protagonism assigned to the proletariat as a social subject: a class stripped of property and, even if heterogeneous, much more homogeneous than all other classes in society. Gathered in large masses, with social strength superior to the dispersed peasant multitudes, endowed with self-confidence, able to attract the support of other oppressed classes, inclined to collective political action, concentrated in immense urban centers, with a higher cultural level, impulse more defined political class, greater capacity for self-organization and solidarity, and higher "instinct for power".

Would these predictions have been confirmed or not, and to what extent? There are many on the left who are not quite convinced that the crises of capitalism will be inexorable, and even more are those who have lost hope in workers.

But they are wrong. The last thirty years indicate that the crises will be apocalyptic, and the popular masses will resist and fight. But nothing can guarantee victory in advance, and reduce uncertainty, because the ferocity of the counterrevolution will not be less. Because the danger of fascism is once again placed at the center of strategic reflection.

Unforgettable are the pages in which Marx explains in The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, with horror, the monstrosities of the Bonapartist regime in France, after the defeat of 1848. But the Bonapartism of the XNUMXth century cannot be remotely compared to the horror of the counter-revolution in the XNUMXth century.

The same, possibly, can be said even for Lenin, who, however, came from a country where the pogroms were frequent. But, if it was not scandalized by the declaration of the First World War by modern imperialisms, although it was surprised by the support of social democracy to the Kaiser's government, neither did it know the grotesque Nazi-fascist parades, and the horror of genocide as a method and State policy.

But we know what fascism was. And we are experiencing the resurgence of a neo-fascist current on an international scale. Nothing will be more important than defeating her in Brazil and in the world. The argument of this article is that the fight against fascism will not be victorious if the left does not embrace a socialist strategy.

The concept of strategy was not present in the bourgeois revolution. This can be explained by a variety of reasons: the amalgamation of capitalist relations of production with pre-capitalist relations, at least since the XNUMXth century in Europe, long before the conquest of political power; the possibility of mergers and pacts between the different property classes; the ambiguity of the relationship between the bourgeoisie and the peasant masses; the counterrevolutionary violence of the aristocracy; the secular backwardness of political revolutions, subjective immaturity or the very embryonic stage of historical thinking and military arts. The elements of conscience in the bourgeois transition were embryonic.

Marxism incorporated the vocabulary of military science in the process of constructing a theory of crisis. Among them, strategy and tactics stand out. The concept of strategy is key because it delimits the existence of ends and hierarchizes them among themselves, and in relations with means, or tactics. It turns out that ends and means are relative concepts, since what were means can become ends and vice versa. This delimitation involves a choice. Choices refer to the notions of time and space.

Time demands resilience and firmness, and space demands intelligence and audacity. A left without a strategy is condemned to bipolar behavior and an erratic destiny. He will fluctuate between euphoria and depression depending on the outcome of the tactic.

During, at least, the last sixty years, the idea of ​​socialism was so associated with the historical experience of bureaucratic dictatorships that the very concept of socialism, that is, the most general sense of the project of the egalitarian struggle of the workers' movement was placed under suspicion.

Some ex-Marxists believe that distrust is here to stay. Many socialists estimate that it would be transitory. Perhaps the tragic outcomes of the socialist struggle in the XNUMXth century are fueling, even today, some shame even with some words that, because they were used and abused, fell into disgrace. Strategy is one such concept. For this reason, a significant part of contemporary left-wing literature rehabilitates and even exalts less military, and more literary (also more imprecise) formulas, such as a “utopian paradigm”.

The utopian dimension of an egalitarian project could never be minimized, since the political bet will always depend on an engagement that requires facing doubts and risks, not to forget the dangers and defeats. All the formulas that place “in history” the hope of defining a fight that demands commitment and will can only help to sow fatalistic illusions or deterministic skepticism.

“History” cannot decide anything because it is not a subject, but a process. Socialism, on the other hand, has always been understood by Marxism as a project that depends on the ability to organize social forces with anti-capitalist interests, and on the presence of political subjects capable of translating these interests into a perspective of power. But without “faith” in the possibility of these social subjects being victorious, which, summarily, we could call a class identity, it would be very difficult to sustain in a continuous way a militancy that demands sacrifices and abnegation. This trust in the revolutionary disposition of the workers and the oppressed is essential to nourish a political project, and it has an obvious utopian dimension.

The problem, however, is that the formula “utopian paradigm” has been used as an alternative to socialism. A kind of “most beautiful flower” in the “democracy garden”. In a situation like the one we are experiencing, of a crisis of capitalism, but also of crisis and reorganization of the left, therefore, of great uncertainties, it is not strange that ideological insecurities gain ground.

In any case, it is baffling how many socialists accept it in place of socialism. This is not an innocent choice. And it confesses more about the current difficulties of criticism in the face of the “virtues” of “republican democracy” (the “mantra” of absolute values ​​repeated to exhaustion), than it explains about what is thought of as a project of an egalitarian and libertarian society. Post-Marxist or even post-socialist, criticism of the idea of ​​project and praise of the idea of ​​process, defense of the indivisibility of moral imperatives and politics, it has been a theoretical whooping: more Kant, less Lenin.

But the left will not be able to defeat the neo-fascist danger without a socialist strategy. When they set themselves in motion, as in Chile last year, the popular masses don't just want democracy. They want more and are in a hurry.

*Valério Arcary is a retired professor at IFSP. Author, among other books, of Revolution meets history (Shaman).


[1] On the subject of the transition from feudalism to capitalism, there is an extensive historical discussion. More specifically on the notion of long duration and the semi-catastrophic (unconscious), semi-revolutionary (conscious) nature of the process, and the alternation of gradualist rhythms and revolutionary ruptures, it is worth consulting Pierre Vilar. VILLAR, Pierre. “The transition from Feudalism to Capitalism” In SANTIAGO, Theo Araujo (ed.). Transitional Capitalism. Rio de Janeiro, Eldorado, 1974. p. 35-6.

[2] An interesting fragment about these predictions can be found in the Grundisse: “On the contrary, it must become impoverished (…) since the creative force of its work as the force of capital, establishes itself before it as an alien power (…) All advances of civilization, therefore, or in other words, any increase in the social productive forces, if you will the productive forces of labor itself - derived from science, inventions, division and combination of labour, improved means of communication, creation of the world market, machines, etc. – do not enrich the worker, but capital, once again, only increase the power that dominates the work, only increase the productive force of capital.” (MARX, Carl. Fundamental elements for the critique of political economy. GRUNDSSE, 1857/8. Mexico, Siglo XXI, 1997. p. 214-5).


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