for communist workers’ inquiry

A working paper for our 11th September assembly examining communist potential within the crisis and challenges for revolutionaries.  All are welcome to the event – click here for more details.

The following notes are an individual contribution, they are not particularly sharp or structured, neither are they too funky in style. Nevertheless, they might help as a general ‘point of reference’ for the debate at the conference trying to phrase some thesis about how the ‘different class aspects’ (workplace, migration, university) are related both in terms of ‘class struggle’ and in terms of ‘crisis impact’. The social experience present at the conference will hopefully contribute to this open debate.

We start with looking at the ‘communist potential’ of this crisis and how the main problem for capital is to disguise the ‘abundant productive core’ of the crisis by segmenting the social cooperation of global labour. We then summarise some of the concrete crisis-induced changes in the different spheres of class. We end with a short polemic about the current stage of the left and challenges for working class revolutionaries.

1) The Communist Core of the Crisis

Bluntly spoken there is an objective pivotal ‘communist’ core of the current crisis: increased social productivity and falling profits which surface as over-production and finally as increasing global over-exploitation vs. unemployment. While abundant in terms of social labour, in ‘money making money’-terms – and these are the only terms the (political) managers of capital are able to understand – the crisis is an expression of lack of possibilities. The managers of capital try to enforce their austerity against the overt potential for abundance. They can only succeed as long as they are able to separate the social experience of over-productive labour from the poverty of un-/underemployment. Obviously this separation does not take a pure form of working-class on one side, proletariat on the other. This separation appears in its various shades of development and underdevelopment, of high-tech and labour intensity, of regional deprivation and boom centres, of respectable workmen and lumpen, of hire and fire. This separation will appear in all imaginable ethnic colours. With the disappearance of the old buffer-classes, with the social death of peasantry and artisans in the global South, the demise of the self-employed educated middle-classes and petty bourgeoisie, capital has to face up to its living self. While being in its essence the violent coordinator of social labour – globalisation, international supply-chains etc. – in this crisis more than ever capital has to hide and segment the global character of social cooperation from the emerging global working class. In the attempt to segment and re-combinate capital becomes a burden to social cooperation. It gets in its own way. Therefore the challenge for working-class communists is to discover and point-out this ‘general global character’ of labour in the concrete local disputes, to discover and point-out the ‘political separation’ of development and underdevelopment, the potential of abundance in the face of stark misery. That means to argue not from the abstract level of ‘class consciousness’, but from the perspective of the collective worker. The challenge for ‘communists’ is not separate from what workers’ themselves are forced to do: As we can see in front of our eyes, most current workers’ struggles have to find answers to their own global dimensions – not to proclaim their communist demands – but to simply avoid being defeated.

2) Capitalist Way out of the Crisis: A New Productivity Regime and Social Management of Poverty?

Obviously, facing the current attacks of capital and state on the working class the ‘communist core’ of the crisis seems like a rather philosophical notion. While the global social cooperation and productivity is hidden – or appears as threats of relocation and competition on the immediate level – the job and benefit cuts are so severe that a defensive position seems its automatic result. Capital and state are forced to lay off workers en masse, they are forced to lower the general level of reproductive costs. We will have to find a practical answer to these attacks, based on the wealth of class experience ranging from factory occupations, boss-napping to direct appropriation and embryonic forms of self-management. We will try to go through some of these ‘defensive’ situations below. At this point we should mention that ‘cutting costs’ in itself is no solution to capitalist crisis. The main attempt of the management of capital will be to turn the pressure of the crisis (unemployment, ‘saving pressure’) into higher productivity, work intensity – to re-shift the ratio between dead and living labour – meaning: a higher productivity in profitable terms. The social management of increasing poverty has to be combined with a new productivity regime. This ‘productivity regime’ has to be enforced on all social levels: it is not enough to cut benefits, they will have to create a mobile productive reserve army, mobile despite mass unemployment; to cut jobs is not enough, the remaining workers have to be willing to work within the ‘rationalising work organisation’; to cut education costs is not enough, they have to motivate students to ‘give their creative best’ despite bleak prospects; to shut borders is not enough, they have to single out ‘productive migrants’ etc. As a sidenote: We should not undermine the ‘revolutionary propagandistic’ position that capitalism as a social system is not capable to secure (re)production, that the best ‘productive strategy’ will not counteract its tendency to systemic collapse. Currently working class struggle and ‘structural shortcoming’ seem like a two front-war for the management of capital, the future will hopefully reveal the essential unity of both, the grave digger as the main ‘internal contradiction’. The main-stream left seems miles away from these questions, they tend to merely focus on ‘superficial level’ of cost cutting – this runs danger of ‘fetishising strength of capital’ as a power in itself which lives by taking money from the poor, it runs danger of neglecting the productive core of working class power. The challenge will be to put these ‘individual work-place’ experiences of changing work rules and organisation on the political collective agenda of crisis and class struggle. Part of the struggle against the crisis attack is to discover the impacts on the actual work organisation and work-force composition – the battlegrounds to come. Following some preliminary glimpses at both the immediate attack and the re-structuring.

3) Job Cuts and Closures: How to struggle against them?

Obviously there will be more job cuts and company bancruptcies in the near future. After the blow of the crisis, state subsidies in form of the ‘stimulus packages’ were used to finance a period of piecemeal job cuts, e.g. the mass-lay-off of temps at BMW/Mini in Cowley in February 2009, short-time work and ‘re-organisation’ – a postponement strategy for a divide-and-rule re-structuring. Some of this stimulus will run out of steam and cash any time soon. In some cases the threat of job cuts will be used in order to blackmail workers into agreements: more work, less money for job security. In other cases the closures are final. We will have to see in each case how to answer the threat. Question is whether ‘occupations’ or ‘collective work-forces’ resisting lay-offs can become social focal points. Some of the recent more militant forms of struggle – from threats to blow up the factories or boss-napping in France during 2009 – were successful in an immediate, but final sense. Workers were able to get out higher compensations. Some of these forms seem rather ‘exclusive’, meaning that in their form they did not reach out to the wider proletarian terrain. Some of the demands have a tendency to monetarise the conflict, e.g. by reducing the demands to the question of compensation. There seems to be a correspondence between ‘militant form’ and ‘individual character of success’. While on one hand we can be thrilled by the direct action, in contrast to all the lame marches and petitions and negotiations and delegated compromises. On the other hand it leaves open the question of how the conflict can generalise, how links to already unemployed workers in the surrounding areas or similarly affected workers in the attached industries can be created. On this background we have to re-view the Visteon and Vestas experience: it is not enough to declare them as defeat, because the jobs got lost. They instilled a short-lived culture of ‘occupation’. On this background we should also review the Argentinian experiences of self-managed production. In few cases they became a focal organisational element in ongoing struggles, in the majority of cases they were turned into a government sponsered strategy to pacify workers of bankrupt companies. Workers of many companies were ‘cooperativised’ and transformed into short-term entrepreneurs responsible for survival in the market – untill the old owner comes back or new blue-collar bosses emerge from the shop-floor. The challenge for the communist movement will be to – in an organic organisational sense – foster the social unity and creativity of workers in these semi-self-management situations, of workers in the still profitable companies and the unemployed. Zanon was a start.

4) Re-Structuring: Low technological investment and new work organisation

The communist line runs from insisting on the re-structural character of crisis to the revelation of its absurdity to its political consequence: the active denial of proletarian victim-hood – towards class power. Behind many of the recent struggles – from the Post Office strike to the Leeds refuse dispute – management brokered ‘modernisation’ in turn for less wage or job cuts. ‘Modernisation’ comes in two forms. We can see the blunt forms: longer working-hours, cutting wages, introducing productivity schemes, casualisation, introduction of new lower ranks of employment, re-shifting of departments with ‘rationalising’ results. These attacks dominate in certain sectors, such as education or hospitals (e.g. outsourcing and centralisation of departments in Homerton Hospital). We see as a second form the actual material change in division of labour mediated through new ‘productive investments’: introduction of ‘central collection rubbish bins’ for refuse workers in Brighton, to new check-out systems at Tesco’s, to increased technological control over bus drivers, to new sorting machines in the postal distribution system. Over the last decade Taylorisation and technological control increasingly sped-up and ‘industrialised’ labour in the ‘service’-sector – a sector which the wider left used to mystify as the sector replacing industrial labour – and replacing working class with customer relations on the wider social terrain. At this point we should also mention the impact of the ‘last boost’ of internationalisation of production on the situation in the UK: during the last years we could see the emergence of an actual – not continental – global car production. One of the indirect outcomes being the closures of the Visteon plants. Other sectors intensified these tendencies under the pressure of crisis, e.g. American Express closed its major call centre in Brighton. We have reached a global scale of social production only excluding certain personal services – though medical tourism is another boom island in the sea of recession. The ‘process of modernisation’ becomes the main focus in which to analyse the changing relations between management – unions – workers. We have to collectivise the conflicts arising around these measures, free them from the privacy of company walls and work-place boundaries, develop a language to describe them as what they are: a political attack on the class. We have to denounce these changes in the context of their results – more work, less workers, new divisions – but also discover the potentials to turn the new social cooperation and technological means into proletarian weapons of the future.

5) Casualisation: ‘The 1990 fold-lines of the struggles to come in neoliberal crisis?’

Around the ‘epicentre’ of re-structuring– there are current conflicts about re-adjusting contractual work-relations and the labour market after the end of neo-liberalism and cheap money. As we have mentioned earlier, capital has to disguise the increased social cooperation by creating artificial or formal boundaries: creation of new professional hierarchies, different forms of employment contracts etc. In the last three decades this happened through privatisation, temp work, outsourcing, self-employment – but this required cheap credits for smaller private enterprises or the self-employed. The current crisis has shaken up these neo-liberal forms of employment, loan-backed temp contracts and micro-financed outsourcing are now running dry. In the coming months there will be a lot of legal re-shuffling of employment relations, e.g. in London Hackney Homes and Hackney Street Cleansing announced that they would take back on a lot of sub-contracted work. This process will create new conflicts about standards. And it still cerates major fold-lines within the class. Throughout Europe workers who have been hired after the mid-1990s have been hired to worse conditions, in most cases on temporary bases. The Greek mobilisations – from the December uprising to the recent general strike – shows the split into ‘migrants and 600-Euro generation – and the ‘permanent, old work generation’. This fold-line runs through all regions and sectors. It is one of the main tenencies undermining the traditional ‘trade union form’ of struggle. We have to emphasise the ‘common experience of social cooperation’ against the contractual differences on one hand and the ‘differences in material conditions and immediate matarial interests’ on the other – only once both dimensions are taken into account something like ‘a unity’ can emerge.

6) Migration: The Polish are here to stay

Casualisation is one dimension of the young work-force, its wider migrant background another. The ‘boom’ and the EU extension of the 1990s has attracted many young migrant workers – particularly those countries which now suffer from the ‘real estate’ crisis, e.g. Spain, Ireland and the UK. In many cases these workers have resisted their ‘function’ to lower standards and wages – and now they resist their function as ‘reserve’ labour, which can be sent back home once it is not needed. The Spanish government has offered financial incentives to e.g. Romanian workers if they go back home instead of claiming the benefits they are entitled to. Despite increased difficulties to find a job in ‘the west’, migrant workers try to stay, after having been the productive force of the boom they claim to stay in the better part of the crisis. Since the kick-in of the crisis in autumn 2008 there have been some serious incidents of attacks on migrant workers in Spain and Italy, e.g. in Rosarno in January 2010, when land-owners in coalition with local mafia attacked agricultural labourers. It is to early to generalise the semi-feudal character of the rural background of these attacks. The main other aggressor in its multiply form is the state itself, there have been various riots after attempts of mass deportation in southern Europe recently – and the state in the UK is not less brutal in its direct repression, e.g. in the form of mass deportation of cleaners at London university as response to their collective mobilisation for better working-conditions. In general the anti-migrant atmosphere within the crisis ridden local working-class (a large share of them with migrant background, as well) is not more prominent, than e.g. in the early 1980s. The ‘anti-Greek’ polemics in Germany after the ‘Greek bail-out” did not take deeper roots, nor turned the nationalistic slogans during the Lindsey dispute into substantial practical outcomes. We will have to understand the changes in the migration regime, counter-act the attempts to ‘rule and divide’, discover the international character of the local working class as part of an international struggle against the global crisis. This also means a critical reflection of addressing these workers not as workers, but as part of a ‘community’ – the ‘community’ is a material-cultural fact of proletarian reproduction and informal survival network, but the crisis will aggravate its insular and hierarchical tendencies towards informal patriarchal exploitation.

7) Unemployment: Underclass or Working Class?

In terms of crisis impact there are two very notable tendencies within the UK labour-market. First of all, the actual official unemployment has not risen sharply, what has increased significantly is ‘under-emplyment’ in form of part-time jobs or day-to-day jobs. Unemployment has grown the most amongst the young working class – which confirms the general trend, like e.g. in Greece or Spain. Here the hierarchical re-structuring of the labour-market has following aim: lowering the reproduction costs for a high structural unemployment and ‘dynamising’ unemployment to keep pressure on low wage segment of the work-force. We have seen some of the future frontline: welfare bill and new migration regime. In the last two decades lefty initiatives around the question of unemployment remained marginal once they tried to organise the ‘unemployed as unemployed’. We have to apply the concept of composition as much on the unemployed as the employed part of the working-class. Long-term unemployed relate to their status quite differently from recently laid-off long-term employees or from building or other saisonal workers between jobs. People take action over ‘benefit claims’, but apart from these immediate interests their is little collective identity and experience of ‘the unemployed’. This might change during this crisis – we have to analyse the structure of unemployment in concrete terms. While doing this a major challenge will be to over-come the traditional dichotomy of the labour movement: separate organisational forms for unemployed and employed workers. The question is how long ‘unemployed’ or ‘other employed’ understand themselves as part of their ‘old workplace and collective’. And at what point would unemployed feel motivated to support a struggle of waged workers – what are tendencies which are motivating? The critics of the Linsey dispute emphasised the ‘nationalist tendencies’, but their was little attempt to understand the relation between employed and unemployed construction workers who both took part in the struggle. On the background of rising unemployment and the pressure of the crisis regime to segment the emerging global working class we have to re-debate categories like ‘labour aristorcracy’ and ‘lumpenisation’: the traditional state-communist left used these categories monolithic, reflecting its monolithic understanding of working-class in general. These notions have created a lot of damage to the movement, nevertheless they describe certain social tendencies, such as the integration of ‘supervising parts’ of the working class and brutalisation and individualisation as a result of exclusion from the labour process. In towns like London it is difficult to shut your eyes from both tendencies. Walking through the City gives you a feeling that there are actually thousands of wage workers who have good reason to feel that they will lose privileges if the crisis will affect everyone indiscriminately. If you walk through Lower Clapton the atmosphere of exclusion and internal-brutalisation is not mere media invention. We will have to develop a debate which goes beyond ‘working class self-policing’ or activist social work – these are open questions.

8) The Post-Neoliberal Student-Worker

The question of the relation between students’ and workers’ movement used to be a question of political alliance, since the post-war period it turned increasingly into a social question of how different ‘stages/sectors’ of the working class can fight together. In the early 1960s the high-educated technicians saw there white collar turning bluish-grey, their qualification subsumed to a despotic industrial system. This palpable ‘proletarianisation’ in combination with am extremely hierarchical university system and the wider social atmosphere of psychedelic unrest made them question the university as an institution in itself. The universities got superficially reformed by anti-authoritarian attitudes, but the post-1973 crisis period offered only bleak prospects for the post-graduate life. The graduate taxi-driver entered the scene. The IT-boom and increased deficit spending on social management in the time of New Labour gave a short gold-rush to the educated parts of class, with the bubble burst the chances. Neoliberalism induced corporate values into the education system: competing departments, higher fees, marketable module-knowledge. We have to be stereo-typical to describe the student-worker-figure of today: an indebted business student with applications running for position as call centre quality supervisor? The focus of the European student mobilisations of the last years have re-focussed from ‘reform of educational content’ (PISA etc.) to the questions of fees to the attacks of budget cuts. The latter – though the most defensive – bears potentials of closer links between those who teach and those who are taught. During the most recent protest there have been more efforts to include the question of university maintenance staff – there are hopeful tendencies that the universities in struggle can become convergence centres for the wider social conflicts against austerity. This might sound like California Dreaming, but hey. We can see the slight contradiction reflected , e.g. at the Middlesex occupation, where on one hand students referred to the university as a factory, on the other hand to the long and good reputation of the department within the academia. The occupation mainly focussed on organising ‘alternative lecture sessions’, instead of swarming out into the general social factory. And what happens after graduation? The strong integrative force of capital has never purely been based on ‘greed’, privileges, or command – but on the fact that a large army of science workers can feel like they are operating in a social vacuum, that they are purely scientific and creative. We will have to analyse the crisis shock on this section of the waged middle class. The left debate about the division of manual and intellectual labour has always suffered from its very own division of labour and therefore partial social blindness: while the debate about Taylorism in the 1960s and 1970s reduced the ‘collective qualification’ of industrial labour to the level of ‘trained monkeys’, the Negri influenced self-portray of the ‘precarious knowledge-worker’ in the 2000s created two over-hypes: on one hand their own ‘self-employment-precariousness’ was put in the same league as of the precarious working conditions of cleaners, on the other hand their ‘free association’ and creative knowledge was seen as already detached from the rest of capitalist social relations, as quasi-communist – a voluntarist, if not vanguardist attempt to give the debate about the revolutionary potential of economic misery and general intellect a concrete social figure. ‘General Intellect’ roughly meaning that productive knowledge becomes the main productive force in capitalism and a main reason for its crisis: the time to create and apply the knowledge takes much less ‘valuable’ time than it safes social labour time through ‘rationalisation’. We have to pick up the questions of the debate, but base it on concrete wider class reality.

9) The Proletarian Terrain: Housing, Health and Child Care and other Fields of Reproduction

A workers inquiry should take the whole proletarian experience into account, the question of how workers live, how their household reproduces itself, what kind of collectives and neighbourhoods exist outside the job and how the experience of crisis – e.g. the fear not to be able to pay the mortgage or the nursery place or the kids’ student fees etc., impact on the behaviour ‘at work’ and the other way around. Like at the work, the neoliberal phase has increased fragmentation within neighbourhoods, the ‘right-to-buy’-policies has created both new division lines within estates and individualised the working-class housing question. In our approach of the proletarian terrain we have to reconsider categories like the ‘community’ to a certain extend. In many cases this category is a rather helpless attempt to address a social unit which does not exist anymore and not yet, unless in its institutionalised form of NGO-led ‘community groups’, Tenants Associations or state supervised social work. Similarly like at work we would have to examine the organising role of these institutions, and find existing forms of self-organisation in neighbourhoods. The current crisis surfaced pretty much as a real estate crisis, throwing thousands if not out of their homes, so into a feeling of insecurity. Old lefty-subcultural practices like squatting might gain a new social dimension. Some recent well-documented experiences of squatting in Tower Hamlets or Hackney have brought up new questions about the relation between squatters and residents and state power. Other chances of direct proletarian interventions in the terrain have been missed, e.g. there was little to no protest against the 20 per cent bus fare hike in London in 2009/10. For the wider terrain we can say that since New Labour the inter-linking of state welfare and social control, of state agents and NGOs became more subtle, e.g. the post-natal health visitor not only gives breast-feeding advice, but inquires and reports the general family conditions to the authorities. Large proletarian sections are trapped in this self-perpetuating cycle of increasing dependence on welfare plus state mediation of social conflicts (results of atomisation and increasing urban poverty and brutalisation) and the social repression and ‘case-ification’ attached to it – creating more passivity and individualisation. In this field the class and gender divisions open up widely: while female qualifications in form of soft-skill management was in increasing corporate demand during the hard-landing of neo-liberalism, the sub-proletarian teenage mum became the main symbol and target of state control over proletarian reproduction. Revolutionary organisation would have to be able to combine self-organisation of material support and a critique of the role of the state in its various forms. We would have to develop a language which manages to address the wide-spread atmosphere of alienation which urban life creates – not in ‘organic-slow-food’ or ‘back-to-the-village’-terms, but in terms of a perspective beyond the city.

10) The struggles I: popular unrest or class movement?

The current cuts in the public sector rebirth memories of the anti-Poll Tax mobilisations. The picture of large popular waves of unrest in reaction to top-down crisis measures meet both the classical visions of a ‘democratic’-left, which sees the working class mainly as an amorphous mass or recruitment base, and insurrectionist ideas of ‘the uprising of the people against the state’. In the last two years of crisis there has been an increase in ‘popular unrest’ which invigorated the idea of insurrection, e.g. the international hunger riots in spring 2008 or the Greek riot in December 2009. May be we have to look a little further back in time to analyse the internal class composition of ‘popular unrest’. The examination of the unrest against the crisis attack in Argentina in December 2000/2001 and the following development of the movement allows us to have a very concrete debate about the relationship between struggles of urban poor, workers, impoverished middle classes within a popular uprising. We cannot go into detail here, we can only state that the organisational cohesion of the most advanced points of the uprising – the autonomous assemblies in neighbourhoods and occupied bankrupt companies – proved to thin without similar struggles in the running capitalist production. A similar division appeared, as already mentioned, between the Greek uprising in December 2009 – which developed assemblies in neighbourhoods and occupied universities – and the general strike in 2010 – which had material power to shake the economy, but lacked these forms of self-organisation.

11) The struggles II: Response to the crisis in the UK

A reflection of the crisis-induced struggles in the Uk would have to be based on a wider collective effort. We know little about the internal dynamics of current strikes against pay freeze, e.g. at Weardale in Astrum, or the mobilisations at DC Thompson in Dundee against job cuts. At this point we can only hint at some tendencies within the current struggles we should look out for. As a main tendency we can state that most current workers’ disputes have to find answers to severely social and political questions in order to sustain themselves – as we were able to see during the Visteon factory occupation in spring 2009. From day one of the conflict, the workers were facing questions about all main aspects of modern class society. What is the difference between a private company like Ford or Visteon and financial institutions like KPMG, which were as decisive for their situation. What is current picketing law and police policies? What is the international dimension of Visteon, what about the plants in Turkey and South Africa? How to put more pressure on Ford in times of global re-location and crisis of the car industry – how to get Ford workers involved, how to extend a struggle into wider society? What is the role of bureaucracies like Unite and how to they relate to our representatives? And who are these anarchists? Revolutionary solidarity at this point has to be both practical and a common process with workers to find answers to these questions. We have to overcome the rather appeal/ideal-like understanding of solidarity prevailing in the left and put it on its feet: The question is whether there is a ‘common experience’ of crisis and crisis related changes on a day-to-day level which can create reference points across sectors. A workers self- inquiry should look out for these ‘lines of attacks’ and ask at the same time about the ‘social dimensions of work’, meaning which other workers outside of your immediate department or company are part of your daily work, directly or indirectly. The question of organisation and generalisation has to be asked on the background of these two daily dimensions: social crisis and social cooperation. Revolutionary solidarity then becomes organisation of direct exchange and mutual aid.

12) Unions and Institutional Representation: How do conflicts and conflict-solution change with the crisis?

During the conference we should try to avoid ‘ideological’ over-general discussions about the role of the unions, we should base the debate on concrete examples. The ‘unions’ are still the main address when the left wants to get in touch with the ‘working class’. For most sectors this means that the left remains paralysed and out of touch, given the non-existing union representation. In many other cases – increasingly with the heat-up after the slump – the union apparatus worked openly against workers’ unity or activity, be it the EU unions’ nationalist course during the conflict about closures of General Motors factories, be it the ‘scare-tactics’ during Visteon or the authoritarian attitude during recent cleaners’ dispute in London. We will be forced to analyse the union’s role as a material force on a day-to-day level though: how does the union structure react to the changed composition of work-force and the small attacks of re-structuring? is the introduction of new work rules negotiated or resisted etc.? does the role of shop-stewards change, their relation to the apparatus? Apart from that, we are frankly spoken bored with the lefty practice to complain about the betrayal and appeasement of existing struggles by the union-leadership: it just reflects that we have little to say about the internal weaknesses of the struggles themselves. It is their ‘structural/organisational limitations’ which can explain the power of the union apparatus to ‘betray’ or ‘appease’ – not the other way around. While the left is usually good in ‘raising the more radical slogans’, we so far understand little about these ‘hidden conflicts’ and power relations. For example during the Royal Mail workers reported that strike days were used to change existing work patterns: may be the ‘radical slogan’ of an ‘indefinite strike’ would have played in the hands of the management at that point of time, while collective underground refusal and parallel organisational efforts to close the gaps between permanents and temps/private delivery would have been more fruitful. We are also bored of attempts of ‘reforming the rank-and-file’. If the existing union structure enables us to get in direct contact and conversation with other workers, fine. In most cases it does not, so we have to build up a basic structure for direct exchange anyway – and should focus on that.

13) The Post-Neoliberal Left

It is similarly tedious to bash the left. We could put it short by saying that the left has to re-compose and prove itself in situations like the support of the Visteon occupation. Only on the background of these actual conflicts we can assess our own situation, the positive or negative role the current left actually plays. Obviously this is not enough. We would have to analyse the developments of the last generation of the left, a decade of anti-glob mobilisations – now that the main enemy neoliberalism has imploded. This analysis can not be reduced to an ideological level, the short-comings of the ‘anti-neoliberal’ ideas are to blatant. We would have to reflect on the internal dynamics, e.g. the positive wealth of experiences and experiments of self-organisation (media, meetings), and some of the negative outcomes which surface now, at the end of a cycle of struggle. Here we have to take the ‘material reproduction’ of this generation as much into account as the desperation of the management of capital for new ideas how to get out of this crisis without major social discontent. In combination we can say that with the end of the movement the ‘qualifications’ of the movement are brought to the market as individual assets. We can observe as vast professionalisation of the former radical left, in form of ‘organiser’-jobs, academic careers, political advisory positions. We have to discuss these developments – not on a moralistic individual level – but on the level of social impact within the revolutionary movement. Here the boundaries are difficult to draw, from the early engagement of the Tutte Bianche in local politics, to the entry-door to global decision making for parts of the former anti-glob left during the recent climate summits, to the transformation of Attac into a parliamentary force, to the ‘funding-business’ for political projects, to the immediate consequences of ‘professionalising’ political activities as wage work. We should reduce this debate to a necessary background for the debate about our own future tasks, which has to comprise the debate about our own reproduction.

14) Recomposition of the communist movement

We don’t want to conclude this working paper with transitional demands on the behalf of the global working-class – we want to talk about the necessary steps for our own transition within class movement. We hope that the debate on the conference will overcome the dichotomy between armchair critique and chicken-run activism. We hope that we can overcome the stale and separating view on the relation between ‘working class’ and ‘communists’, where the ghost of historic class consciousness had to be led in in order to fill the gap. For us the relation should be a common process of militant inquiry, of learning about the social dimension of our productive power by practically extending day-to-day struggles. Only in this way we can overcome utopian communist views, which judge the ‘reformist’ character of ongoing struggles by their proclaimed demands – which blockade themselves by separating practical support and critique. This inquiry first of all requires that we get organised ourselves, among ourselves and within class reality. We need parallel steps in order to do this:

* organise research and debate about the current local impacts of crisis and of struggles in response
* debate political questions we have to ask in order to foster self-organisation and generalisation within struggles
* form local base-groups and publications which are able to practically support struggles and get involved in detailed reports and reflections of workers’ experience
* organise a debate about historic experiences of organisation, e.g. Big Flame or Potere Operaio and current international struggles
* form a wider network and publication which is able to coordinate and collectively reflect local experiences and efforts

Only on the strict and dogmatic line of proletarian self-organisation and practical engagement in class reality this effort can become a pluralistic process of a revolutionary left.