Communists without revolution ? : a position on the classical and the modern revolutionary subject

Dimitris Belantis,

Writer-legal and political theorist, PHD in Constitutional Law , ex member of the Central Committee of Syriza until 2015. Lives in Athens, Greece.

February-April of 2018,

Table of contents

  1. The Marxian theory on labour class as a revolutionary subject
  2. Political Emancipation of the Labour Class and its Double Dialectic : Reality and Illusion of Electoral Power and the Long Term Political Relation of Forces.
  3. Three revolutionary cycles during the “long” 20th century[1]
  1. The first revolutionary cycle ( 1905-1937)
  2. The second revolutionary cycle ( 1945 -1956)
    1. The third revolutionary cycle ( 1965-1980)    
  1. A class without a unified class consciousness ?  Considerations on the “blurry”  class consciousness of the modern working class  ( after 1980) and the “party”  form.
  2. The second decade of the 21st century : the defeat of “new reformism” in  Greece/ Southern Europe as an objective defeat of European labour classes
  3. Considering the exit from the “Left” paradigm
  4. Communists/Marxists after the end of Enlightenment ?  A provisional  conclusion
  1. The Marxian theory on labour class as a revolutionary subject

In the frame of classical Marxism, the theory of labour class  as an exploited and  a  revolutionary class is based on the peculiarity/specifity   of the Capitalist Mode of Production in relation to the precapitalist modes of production. That special form of socio-economic   existence relies on the contractual-economic/ not violent or , more exactly,  not  extraeconomic coercion of the laboring  class as the basic exploited class, as far as it concerns the sale of its  labour force and the extraction of plus-value out of it by the capitalist.   Inside the  capitalist relations of production, surplus-value is extracted through the valorization of the commodity labour force and the offer of abstract labour, for reasons related to the economic reproduction  and  the pure survival of  the workers. On the contrary, in the precapitalist modes of production-social formations, the exploited class  (slaves, serfs, peasants in the Asiatic Mode of Production)  still has the  hold ( in ancient Greek :  nomi –from the verb “nemo”- to divide )   or the physical possession on the means of  labour. As a result of this, the ruling class is obliged  to impose extraeconomic coercion  (especially military and police force-violence, to some extent ideological manipulation) on the exploited class,  in order to make  the working persons  produce  economic surplus for  the dominants[2]. The bourgeois organization of  exploitation, the achievement of legal and political equality as a product of bourgeois revolutions , the abolition of “institutionalized classes” ( the German  “Staende”) rises the  waged labourer to the position of a formally  free and equal member of society.  Not only does the new situation allow social mobility  (even as a  usually not realizable promise), but it also leads to a  (ficticious ) contractual equality with the capitalist. The relation of exploitation is a free- contractual relation, which leads to the sale of labour force mostly at the level of its real value (despite the floating of the price of the  labour force).

-In spite of the fact that the worker in the Capitalist Mode of Production is exploited through a process of  his   “isolation” in the labour process, an “isolation” expressed  specifically in the economic class struggle[3] and in the alienation of the labourers;

– In spite of the fact that the means of labour ( the raw materials, the tools and machines) are not subjected to his control or hold anymore, especially in the stage of real submission of labour to capital, so that he seems to be economically weaker than his predecessor in the Slaveholding or in the Feudal Mode of Production;

The waged labourer  as a legally free person is socially more powerful than the labourer of the precapitalist formations. This formal  freedom does not respond to a pure construction or  fiction, since it  causes important social and political  implications.  We know that the pure legal equality of all human beings has been   successfully discredited and loathed  by the theorists of socialism or the socialists  artists. It is the equality of all human beings to sleep under the bridges or to have lunch in expensive restaurants  ( Anatol France , in the “Red Lilly” 1894[4])  and at the same time  the equality to rest or to work 15 hours a day during the Industrial Revolution. Nevertheless,  legal equality is the necessary starting point, according to Marx, for the sociopolitical attempt to achieve social and material justice, social equality. How can we forget   the arguments of Marx in the “Jewish Question”, concerning the relation of legal equality, political equality   and social equality?  Legal equality is a knife with two cutting edges : it  offers some power and some essential rights  to the waged labourer; at the same time, it incorporates him imaginally and symbolically into the “free world of capital”, into the “working or  enterprise community”, it deceives him.

The theory of  waged labour as a revolutionary subject in capitalism does not rest only on legal or contractual equality. It is  also founded on more essential factors, related to the important  socialization of the production process in capitalism, especially at the stage of late-monopolist or even postmonopolist capitalism [5]. The submission of waged labour to the large factory and the development of a wide  labour division ,  the formation of  a “collective labourer”, who participates in the possession or in the loss of labour skills or abilities ( loss, for example, of working  initiative   at the imposition of Taylorism) , the combination of labour/production  with  the advance of science and technology  reproduces three important tendencies :

  1. The rise of a skilled labourer , who apprehends better and more totally the gross socialized  production process, who has the knowledge and the skills to overtake the control  and the function of production through his own social institutions, the workers’ control and the factory councils or committees . The working class  appropriates  by the means of coercion or persuasion its “stolen” labour experience from  the labour experts or the managers and directors of production, forms its  own instruments of directing and controlling the production, builds  its own “ collective labourer” and “collective intellectuals”. As we know, this regenerative perspective has not been emphasized efficiently in the classical  Marxian work ( with the possible exception of the “Grundrisse”) , although the critique of capitalist labour process “returned”  with a vehemence in the “discourse” of the new labour movements of the 60s and the 70s and in the critique of Taylorism . It also returned inside  the western/May 1968  “reading”/adoption   of the Chinese Cultural Revolution , which stressed the role of scientific knowledge and technology in the support or the overthrow of  capitalist domination inside  the labour process.


  1. The perception by Marx of the antinomy/ contradiction  between  an  intensely  socialized capitalist production, of the socialized “large factory”,  and the existence of  private  property, the private appropriation of the surplus by capital and its bearersThe socialized labour process in the factory   is perceived by the Marxists as the “teacher” or the forerunner of the  future socialization of industry and of the economy at the   national  and international level, the predecessor and educator of the proletariat  into the direction of socialism and  At the same time,  the socialization of the labour  process in  capitalism cannot but reproduce the  resistance of labour to the domination of capital, the repeating  birth of  labour as an antipower to the directing apparatus of capital and of capitalist management [6] .  The rise of that antipower  is clear enough as a tendency  in the descriptions of the  “Grundrisse” but not very present in the core of the “Capital”.   The emphasis on the continuation between the capitalist socialization and  the socialist socialization , the reduced rupture between the succeeding  “modes”,  rises the problem of “state capitalism”, as it appears f.e. in the important  “anti workers’ control”  work of Lenin  “Left-Wing Childishness and Petty Bourgeois Mentality” ( MIA , Lenin, Archive, spring 1918) : in this work,  Lenin  verbally admires  the major socialization/nationalization  of production by the German  imperialist War Economy in the First World War  and the centralist/dirigist  control on the whole capitalist production by the  German imperialist war state in the period 1916-1918  (too many productive forces controlled by very few persons) .He concludes that such a form of centralist direction of production , a technical  “state capitalism” is nothing else than a forerunner of socialism in Russia, if combined with the soviets’ power, “state capitalism” is the natural first stage of socialism[7]. So, we can deduce out of this revolutionary  tradition the dialectic of  two competing tendencies :  capitalist socialization as a tendency uniting labour and capital and causing a  useful  labour discipline, a political-social  submission to capital that prepares socialism. Or capitalist socialization and centralization , leading to labour alienation , being  a  serious  cause for rebellion and for the birth of a labour antipower in the labour process and in the social totality. But,  what is the point to revolt against the “alienating socialization” if you are to re-impose  the not so different “progressive socialization”, the one that advances the socialist productive forces ?   Socialism is “Soviet plus electrification” (Lenin), soviets without a productive and technological  advancement would be actually unsufficient, but the question remains : if someone reproduces the social division of work of imperialist  and war “state capitalism”, why would this process culminate in socialism-communism?
  1. As we see it in the light of the 20th century revolutionary experience and especially the “USSR” experience, the role of the labour class as a revolutionary subject is connected with a certain special  admiration of capitalism and of the capitalist development of  productive forces by Karl Marx , by the Social Democratic descendants of Marx-Engels  and also by the major  Bolshevic leaders[8].  Capitalism seems to be the most advanced scentificaly, tecnnologically and institutionally form of a class divided society. If  capitalism reaches and represents  the “Telos” of the class society, in the sense of  the Hegelian Aim or  prescribed Ultimate Meaning of   the class  society,  a class domination , cultivated, organized on science and politically legitimated  on the “will of the people”, isn’t  it clear enough that the dominated class of that society – only  that dominated class in History– would bear  efficiently the exit from the class society, “from the Valley of Tears”,   and  the transition to communism  and human emancipation?  The above theoretical  attitude of Marx and Engels should be approached  under the light of the intellectual   phenomenon of Enlightenment in the 18th and the 19th   Capitalism is a repulsive and at the same time  admirable product of the Enlightenment-it was borne before the Enghtenment, but its intellectual discipline and imposition ripens through the process of the Enlightenment and the bourgeois revolutions.  Admiration and  radical critique coexist together  as an active contradiction in the thought of Marx. The  size of this contradiction is reflected in the writings of Marx on the British rule of India in 1853 (in  the “New York Times”).  At the same time, Marx recognizes the destructive and the illuminating-civilizing character of British imperialist and colonialist rule on India. Later on, he will depart from that admiration, moving to a  radical critique of international capitalism and to the possibility of the Russian precapitalist society  to  jump over capitalism to a communist social and  productive form by using the ancient communist traditions of agrarian communities and of common land property ( the “Mir” institutions).

Deriving from  the Marxian introduction to the “Critique of Political Economy” (1859) , the scheme of the  necessary adaptability of relations of production to the gross development of the productive forces, is  a scheme, that not only priorizes structures to practices (  class struggle, class organization, development of  class consciousness through the struggle), without essential subjective   intermediations,  but also transforms the moment of struggle to a passive tool for the  institutional adaptation of the growing productive forces[9].

As the preparing of the labour class for socialism/communism derives from its position in economic and social  production- even as overdetermined  in the last instance , as it stands   in the Althusserian terminology- , it is followingly  strengthened inside the historical political process of class struggle  and during the ripening of the  political-ideological class  conscience of the labour class.

  1. Political Emancipation of the Labour Class and its Double Dialectic : Reality and Illusion of Electoral Power and the Long Term Political Relation of Forces.


It cannot be   seriously disputed that the emerging role of the working class in the 19th and the 20th century is connected with its  active presence  in the bourgeois-popular  revolutions of 1789, 1830 and 1848 in France and in the  early beginnings of its autonomous revolutionary proletarian  role against  capitalism in  June 1848 and during the Paris Commune of 1871 (also in France).  The working class  gains with its political  struggles  first political and then socio-economic rights and is the main transformer of a bourgeois  oligarchic parliamentarism to the  state form of mass bourgeois democracy, in the last decades of the 19th and the first decades of the 20th century. With a start in 1830 and  a final advance in the 50th decade of the 20th century, also due to the  military participation of the working class in the 2nd World War against fascism and the presence of “Real Existing Socialism” as a threat to  private capitalism,  the waged labourers become  in the West “equally qualified” members of the capitalist democracies with rising social demands and rights. Equality obtains social characteristics too – in capitalist limits.  The social and welfare state  of the three “golden decades” ( 1945-1975) is the culmination of electoral and mass struggles of the labour class.

What about revolution ? The rise of the political weight of  working class, especially of the electoral political weight,  does not require a proportional access to the overthrow of capitalism.  So, the gradualist  promises of the Kautskyist Social Democracy in the period 1890-1930 (f.e. the strategy of Karl Kautsky, as presented in his famous work “The road to power” 1909)  were, against to declarations,  false promises .  It is  the late Friedrich Engels ,in his Introduction to “The  Class Struggles in France” ( 1895) , who  is clearly flirting with the idea that the growing of the labour  electoral power can neutralize the state violence and mean “the end of the barricades’era”. It is his student and moral son, Eduard Bernstein, who  sincerely rises   the problem of an antinomy between the reformist practice and the  revolutionary rhetorics of the German Social Democracy  and denounces revolutionary messianism in favour of reformist practice ( “Evolutionary Socialism”, 1899).  Abandoned and  condemned by the Left of the SPD ( Rosa Luxemburg) and its  Centre  leading  theorist ( Karl Kautsky) as well, Bernstein is only verbally defeated. The socialist scholar Richardo Michels ( “  A Sociological  Study of Oligarchical Tendencies in   Modern Democracy”, Torin 1910)  is an essential contemporary source of the reformist transformation of  Social Democratic parties on the eve of the 20th century. Michels  describes the centralist-bureaucratic  organizational form and the reformist transformation of the Social Democratic Parties  of his time and reveals their organic incorportation into the bourgeois democratic and parliamentarian state of Western  Europe and its elits (although Lenin, at the same time, would not relate centralism to opportunism; on the contrary, he would relate it to revolutionary Marxism) .  While Michels presents this process at the sociological level, the “left” fraction of Social Democracy attempts in vain to reverse this tendency politically ( Rosa Luxemburg on the general strike in Prussia 1910, Anton Pannekoek on the necessity to destroy the apparatus of the capitalist state , 1911-1912 in the review “Neue Zeit” , debating with Karl Kautsky). On the other hand,  the philosopher and activist Georges Sorel denounces in his “Reflection on Violence”  the political formations of the labour movement as a sort of “internal parliamentary  opposition  of the bourgeois regime”, supporting the  antipolitical  and anarchosyndicalist option. The outbreak of the war in August  1914 is an essential prove of the  concealed crisis of labour movement.  The appearance of the coalitions of “national defense” , including the vast majority of the Social Democratic Parties of the 2nd International,  is not just a “betrayal” of  workers’ internationalism.  The majority of the European labour classes and their leaderships stand for the war national unity (  in German “Burgfriede”-Civil Peace)  and the slaugthering of workers by workers. It also stands for a cohesive alliance with the capitalist state and not for the overthrow of the regime that produces war[10].

Lenin, outraged after 1914,  because of the “collapse/betrayal  of the 2nd International” and even the collapse of the much admired by him until then Kautskist fraction in the SPD , attempts to explain the “big turn”. His explanation , based on the theoretical scheme of  “labour’s aristocracy” , a limited  social  fraction of the “upper labour class”  as a  social base of reformism and social patriotism, embedded in the  union and the parties’ leaderships, is a very limited theoretical explanation, not fair to his usual great insight. However, it is not wrong to suppose that the “upper strata” of the labour class , especially the organizational leaders of the class, has been sold out to capital , due to the superprofits of imperialism and to the possibilities of symbolic power, offered by the system to those leaders. But why is it a logical  consequence out of this that the large majority of the class,  in a period of bloody mutual destruction and poverty ,not only follows the “corrupted” leaders of the proletariat at the beginning of the war  but also remains on their side until the final stages of the war ?   So that the “Holy Alliance” remains undisputed until the French mutinies of 1917, the big  German strikes of spring 1917 and finally the German revolution of November 1918 ?

The permanent  Russian revolution  of 1917 ( February  1917 and then the “Great October”, being a genuine stage of the revolution and not a Bolshevic coup )  shows  another possible road, the road of revolution. As we will further present, this “road”, the Russian road,  is a rather unique historical combination  of a positive for the revolution Long Term and Short term  political relation of  forces.  A country, combining  the fate of a “weak”  military-feudal absolutism and a very particular  economic state between imperialist capitalist development and internal colonial domination  ( Russia is in 1914 the fifth industrial state of the world)  and feudal-peasant backwardness. A country with a strong revolutionary labour  tradition, that has not been broken after 1905 and   during the war, a weak civil society ( as Gramsci has presented in his welknown  work “ Notes on Machiavelli”) , an unsolved peasant and national problem and an unfinished bourgeois revolution,  a relatively “unsufficient”  repression  apparatus[11]. A combination in a certain conjuncture of the Short term and the Long term advantages for the success of the revolution, a condensation of  all possible contradictions in a unique conjuncture (  L. Althusser “ Contradiction and Overdetermination” in “For Marx”, 1961). Last but not least , a  strong revolutionary intelligentsia, that contributes heavily to the success of the Bolshevic party, possible allies to the Bolshevics ( Social Revolutionaries, Anarchists)  and a Menshevic  reformism with a weak social base and intense internal divisions.

We will not be occupied here  with the problem of the “Stalinist”  degeneration of the Russian revolution after 1921 and 1928. Our basic focus will be the failure of the German  revolution of 1918-1923 and  more generally of the European revolution after the First World War. It is mainly the failure of the German revolution[12], that leads to the isolation of Soviet Russia and the break of the  organic link between “socialist East” and “capitalist West”. The stalinist-bucharinist theory of “ building socialism in one country” originates from that break of the link, from that major failure of communism in the 20s and the 30s .

Why did the German revolution fail in 1919   ( Berlin uprising in January and in March 1919, Munich uprising), 1920-1921( Ruhr crisis after the failed Kapp coup , March action in 1921),  and finally in  the expected,  precisely prepared by Moscow and the KPD  but  “not attempted at all” revolution of October    1923? .  Why is it that oncemore   a large part of the German labour class, after a destructive war and in conditions of absolute  poverty, does not revolutionize itself but remains a support of Social Democracy or an  indifferent viewer, when the revolutionary part is violently crushed or abandoned ?    The understanding of that strategic   failure is essential for a credible  explanation of the international and European history of communism  (revolutionary Marxism).  The explanations of the basic contemporary  leading  actors of German  communism  ( Heinrich  Brandler, August Thalheimer, Paul Levi, Karl Radek, Ruth Fischer and Arkadi Maslov, Ernst Meyer, Paul Froehlich, Richard Mueller etc) vary;   all of them have two possible cores : either the  objective/subjective conditions were not “ripe”, that is there was not  a “revolutionary situation” , as it is described in Lenin’s work “The collapse of the Second International”;  the situation when the “above classes” cannot rule   and the “below classes” do not want to be ruled anymore, organs of dual power are formed etc . The absence of revolutionary situation  is the later explanation of  the Marxist theorist and politician   August Thalheimer for the  revolutionary failure of the 1923 crisis[13]. This explanation tries to doubt the “serious responsibilities” of the communist leadership in 1923  (Thalheimer himself, H.  Brandler) on the fact that the situation was not really revolutionary   (Pierre  Broue, the major Marxist historian of the German Revolution,  indicates that the situation was indeed revolutionary until the August of 1923 and then the tide started to withdraw).  The second, more usual explanation, shared by Trotski in the “Lessons of October” and  by most   classical Leninist writers,  is the absence of a  real revolutionary communist party, according to the Bolshevic standards, the absence, failure  or  crisis of revolutionary  leadership in Germany.  This explanation is a repeat in terms of the Leninist explanation of the “Burgfriede” of 1914. The “leaders”  either are sold out to capital  and  betray the revolution ( the Social Democracy in  Germany) or are floating  (the USPD between 1919 and 1922) or are not capable to manage the revolutionary crisis (the KPD); so, they tend to miss repeatedly  the given “opportunities”. In the years 1917-1920, Lenin insists on the idea that European  communists have to be educated after  the Russian standards.

The explanation of absence  or of crisis of revolutionary leadership as the defining cause for a revolutionary failure presupposes that – not relevant to the short or long term relation of forces-  a homogenous socially and politically labour class   with apparently and clearly  unified class interests and apparent social needs and interests at the “moment of revolution” , even more ,a united and “ready” bloc of the popular classes around the labour class as a hegemon, are  exclusively “turned down” or betrayed or blocked by the vanguard party, the supposedly vanguard party ( f.e. SPD n 1914 or in 1918) or   the absent or incapable vanguard party[14].  So, the institution itself that labour class  has produced for its liberation  always tricks  and confuses class totality and always manipulates and blocks the Gate to Paradise.

To our “humble” opinion, the explanation of the “absence of revolutionary leadership” ( willing and capable at the same time)  is, when offered as an unique and exclusive explanation,  wrong and unsufficient. It is wrong for the Germany of the Middle War and for all the given  and missed “opportunities” in the West during the 20th century.  The first strategic defeat of the German labour class in the years 1918-1923 and the second-final  strategic  defeat against fascism in the years 1929-1933  are not to derive exclusively from the absence of  revolutionary leadership . This explanation is the logical effect of a “theory”, that relies on the exclusively and gradually determined  revolutionary role of labour class in capitalism.  This  is the first major theoretical error :  labour class is not an  exclusively and permanently  revolutionary class. It is a potentially revolutionary and anticapitalist class, a class with a contradictory   social-political “class position”[15], with a probable, potential  and eventual/contingent revolutionary position[16]. Potentiality  or eventuality or “contingency”  of the revolutionary rising has to be stressed. This position is not  antimarxist, it is a  position of critical and creative Marxism.  Lenin realizes the problem very clearly in his major work “ Was Tun” ( “What is to be done”) in 1902 , when he differentiates between the “spontaneous” and the “ conscious” position and practice of the labour class. According to Lenin’s scheme, the “spontaneous” position  usually tends to be a reformist or an anarchosyndicalist position, when the “conscious” position can be constructed only through the moment  and the intervention of the  Marxist revolutionary party ( this Leninist  scheme is  “loaned” by the contemporary  work of Karl Kautsky on the problem of class consciousness).   He hopes to find the  solution in the development of the political organization and its practices. History did not always prove this  approach.

To our opinion, the solution is not to find-exclusively- in the historical adventures of genuine  revolutionary or simply “revolutionary” parties. The solution is  a complex one, is multi-dimensional and multifactorial  and is basically related to the contradictory and antinomical  presence of the labour class inside the capitalist relations of production and power. The labour is submitted to the discipline of capital  and the socialized process of production .  Socialization of the capitalist production  does not lead necessarily  to a radical position. Inside this process,  alive  labour  either comes to a socio-political  antagonism with the power of capital or is disciplined and reconciled with that power, so that it follows the rules of capital and “accepts”  its alienation from the means of production and the labour process itself .  In the case of antagonism, revolution is not the only possible outcome : antagonism may reach the level of a reformist – collectively contractual agreement ( post war social compromise or  contract)   or it may reach the level of the “rupture” and the “moment” of the attempt to overthrow capital politically and socially. These possible-eventual outcomes do appear  (all of them)  in the continuity and in the historicity  of class struggle. They are connected with the positions of “relative force” of the basic antagonistic  classes (  waged labour and capital) and also-in the real existing class and social formations- with the positions of “relative force” of class coalitions and blocks ( coalitions of the basic classes with the “middle” classes, the “peasant” classes, the technical, political and  philosophical  intelligentsia, the lumpen proletariat  etc).  Classes have an autonomous  material basis. Nevertheless, they  are not to be understood  historically out of their relative position to antagonist classes (and  also to  not antagonist classes).

The class struggles, especially the political class struggles , develop on two different time scales or time periods.  The Long Term time scale and the Short Term time scale. We use here  the terms of the  historical “ School of Annales”  and especially of Fernand Braudel, concerning the different development of  historical time in the short term and the long term of historical  periods.  The history of Long Term  or of Long Time ( what Braudel defines as “longue duree”[17] )  is the history of long processes, processes  of maintaining or changing permanent social structures . Social history and economic history evolves in “long cycles”[18], as the structural patterns of societies take a long time to be formed or to change definitively.  The time of structural formations or radical structural changes is always the Long Time. On the other hand, the Short Time is the time of events, the time of “daily history”, as Braudel calls it. The time of social revolution belongs to both time dimensions or scales, happens on both of them. Social revolution is basically  a long term movement (Claudin 1975) ; it responds to a large period of struggles and to a large period of socio-economic political and ideological transition. It is also a short time movement.  The problem of seizing   and keeping the political power by a revolutionary class , which is crucial for political Marxism ,  is solved not  exactly at a  “temporal moment”, on a specific date,    but –usually- in a definite period , inside a political “conjuncture”,   in a period, that unifies, concentrates and condensates -in terms of struggle- the living contradictions of a social formation and of its relation to the world system. So, the revolutionary  “rupture” is existing in both temporal continua. In the terms of Althusserian glossary  and philosophical discourse,  (“Contradiction and Overdetermination” , 1961),  the short term  or the “conjuncture period”  class struggle includes  the various overdetermining contradictions   (including the  radical party/ies’ temporal political strategy) , while the long term positive or negative relation  of forces and the international relation of forces are determining contradictions in the last instance .

The revolutionary party is only one of many  important factors in the long time, a usually- but not always- very important factor in the short time, in the “revolutionary conjuncture”.  The long term from the view of the “revolutionary tendency” :   the long time rising of the “force” of labour class  in a series of economic and political struggles ( Russia : revolution of 1905, “stabilization”  period, intervals of “weakness”, war,   revolutions of 1917, China : participation in Kuomintang phase, defeat and repression  in the cities, reforming of revolution  in the peasant periphery, World War II, victory on the Kuomintang, etc   ), the long time forming of its  social and political organizations , the long time  building of social coalitions, the long time  resisting the  “revisionist-reformist” ideologies,  the long time  developing its culture, its moral values, its forms of solidarity and social existence.  The long time development  of social and class consciousness, which happens not only in the “party level of producing consciousness” but also in the spontaneous  political level[19]-see the example of the mass strike phenomenon as described by Rosa Luxemburg ( 1906).   The long term from the view of “class reconciliation” “class cooperation” and  political submission to capital : the  “tangible” possibility of social reforms   without the sharpening of social conflict, without the perspective of violence and death, as they indeed  happen in a civil war, the retreat of antagonistic class consciousness, the merging of the  labour class socially and culturally with the middle classes,  the retreat from radical options of its culture due to the threat of violence or due to the acceptance  of defeat.  Example : The German workers , who followed the Social democracy in Germany after the First World War and not the KPD, were  already aware of the long and bloody civil war in Russia ; the fear of  physical death , even in a society, in which  death was more acceptable  and usual than it is in the narcissist present, was an important factor against revolutionary engagement  , neglected by many   writers of the Left  on the German revolution. Also,  the great danger of an Entente occupation of Germany, if the revolution succeeded, was a central theme in mass psychology.  The “reconciliation” tendency in the long term , its victory,  is what really  happened   in Europe of the Middle War finally , is what happened more systematically after the Second World War in the countries of advanced capitalism ( welfare state), with a  counterrevolutionary neoliberal  escalation  in the last four decades. On the contrary, in the countries of capitalist periphery , revolutionary Marxism  had many victories , provisional victories but-not less-  victories. The “defeat of revolution” in the West[20], founded at most in the more advanced structure of the ideological apparatuses, seems to be a lasting experience, connected with the retreat of the West from the more radical and demanding  versions of Enligtenment. So the long term “reconciliation tendency”  looks like the “normal” situation of the capitalist formations , under the regime of bourgeois democracy or under exceptional  regimes of “ state emergency”.

The relation of long time class struggle to short time class struggle  presupposes the study  of social classes, as they are formed and  obtain their identity through the means of class  struggle, as they do not exist before class struggle.  It also presupposes a “break” with  gradualist determinism, productivism  and economism, a superiority of the notion of class  struggle over the notion of the “development of productive forces”.  The priority of productive forces and their significance, the priority of a one sided option of “ material structure”, the productive forces  (  the most important one in reality :  the  relations of production)   in relation  to  class struggle ( that is, the active and flowing dimension of a class society) has been an important “symptom” of Marxist economism and evolutionism ,  a ruling tendency in the Labour Internationals, as L. Althusser, Ch. Bettelheim, R. Dunayevskaya  and many others have efficiently  described.

Class struggle and its limits : long time radicalization or long time  systemic assimilation  are contradictory  “moments” of the whole labour class as an autonomous or potentially autonomous social subject ; the labour class , inside its social and political limitations and determinations, can “choose” to retreat from antagonism or to follow  a more moderate version of antagonism. Not only is it manipulated but it can also “choose” to remain manipulated, especially in  the modern  social environment,  rich in information and of knowledge.  The labour class has a symbolic and ideological communication with the capital and its cultural frame, with the other classes and their cultures, with the bourgeois society as a whole. Today, less than in any other period, the labour class is not a gear or an instrument in the hands of a wise “revolutionary party” ,Leninist or not, or an instrument of a reformist or a unionist bureaucracy. The opposite may happen and has already happened many times : the “choice” of the majority of  labour class to revolt , its autonomous action and organization is the basic motive for the “use” of the revolutionary organization by the class for the overthrow of capitalism or just for its survival.  The class determines   the strategy, the party determines the tactics. This is more apparent in the “blocked bourgeois democracy” of the 21st century, in a period when the labour class is more and more excluded from parliamentary  political representation and and its own parties  experience a very clear process of decline.

Does it mean that the political organization has been useless or just negative in the long time class struggle ? No, it has been a valuable support  in the long time organization   of class interests. It has been helpful for the development of political class consciousness and practical mobilization, it has been helpful in the defense against capitalist reconstruction, it has been helpful  in the advancement of an antagonistic social and political culture. On the contrary, the  reformist or the “Stalinist” stabilization of the “party form” in the 20th century  has in many cases contributed to class defeat and to the political confusion inside the class-in times critical for revolution.  The rule is that, in the  case of a positive or a negative  contribution  by the “party form”, the contribution is never an exclusive contribution. The class as a total subject, not only its political parties, defines its history and its fate.

In the short time class  struggle, the revolutionary party ( or parties) , as long as it remains revolutionary,  can make the positive difference.  Let us take the case of a “revolutionary period”, when a positive long time relation of forces is  partially counterbalanced by a negative one. The case of the Spanish revolution  of 1936-1937 is an interesting one.  A mass radical  organization of the working class , a large  and long experience of disobedience and class struggle, even of  violent – armed forms of class struggle ( Barcelona 1918-1921) , a vast   experience of street fighting and of rebellion , a limited influence of traditional Social Democracy and an extremely limited influence  of Stalinist “popular front”  communism-at the beginning. On the other hand, a non proportional influence of class radicalism in the other Spanish districts, apart from Catalonia, a deep  influence of Catholicism, authoritarian tradition   and reaction on some peasant and  poor city  populations, especially in Navarra, the Spanish Vandee,  a long time  cooperation of Spanish reaction with international fascism,  the resort of the capitalist class to colonial armed forces, the Morrocan units,  the danger of international isolation. The subjective and organizational weakness of the revolutionary tendency –in a frame of balancing the opposite long time relations of force- has been definitive for the defeat.  That does not mean necessarily that the demanded form of organization should have been a traditional Leninist  but not Stalinist  party of the vanguard, as the traditional Trotskyist or doctrinary Leninist writers imagine the “necessities” of the time ( Trotsky also in his articles  on “The Lessons of Spain” and the Spanish revolution ). The case of the Liberation Movement in Greece ( EAM) against the Axis occupation   in the period 1943-1945 is also a good example for the case that  a totally  wrong strategy of the “vanguard party”, combined with problems of the “popular” social coalition,   can cause a disaster in spite of the positive start of the revolutionary movement .

The moments   of long time radicalism or long time “class reconciliation” do not  always concern  the totality of a socially  homogenous labour class.  Labour class, more generally the laboring popular classes,   have always been divided. Although  we do not agree with the Leninist  scheme of “labour aristocracy” as a central  explanation of reformism,  it is not to doubt that the labour class has had a deep vertical stratification in most cases and in most countries.  The Italian and German “operaists”  in the 1960s and 1970s  have supported and founded  the argument  that  class struggle does happen  not only between capital and labour but also between different strata of the labour class- a tendency more immanent in the revolutionary periods.  We do not agree with an one sided division of class  exclusively attributed to its   “technical” and  economic composition inside production  (determined only by its technical contribution to the organization of production, its place in  the technical or social division of work). Nevertheless, the important  work of Karl -Heinz Roth and  Angelika Ebbinghausen   on the “Other Labour Movement in Germany” ( 1973-1974)  has a great  analytical value, as it has proved that “specialized” labourers  and “not specialized”  mass labourers in Germany  have often followed very different paths in their relation to capital and in the advance of class  struggle. Still , they have not proved  the ability of capitalist regulation politics to influence  and to manipulate the total population of specialized labourers in Germany , many of whom supported the revolutionary movement of the 20s and formed the left-anticapitalist  wing of the councils’ movement  ( for example the  labour crisis in   the Ruhr region ( 1920-1921), a district populated basically by “specialized workers” of  the large metal industry).   Another important writer of the operaist stream, Sergio Bologna,  has put under consideration many  extreme positions of Roth and Ebbinghausen[21].

What are the main apparatuses organizing the tendency of social peace and class reconciliation  in modern democracies ? In his work “ The Antinomies of Antonio  Gramsci” , Perry Anderson has highlighted in the middle of the 70s  the central position of parliamentarism and bourgeois democracy in the West. Since then , bourgeois democracy and political representation of opposing class interests have obviously  declined. There is no passion anymore in party politics and no wide interest for the process of governance[22].  More influencial  centres of influence are the mass media, the social nets of communication, the ever  lasting structures of consumerism and of the commodities’ religion ; austerity policies reduce the ability to consume without altering the socio-psychological  attitude to consuming. Consumerism remains an attitude of high importance in our postmodern world ; cultural liberalism is an ideology attached to consumerism :   it is the ideology of consuming your money and your body without obstacles and discriminations.  The “exceptional” tendency of revolutionary practice has been deeply undermined  since the end of  World War Two  by the “consuming society” and the forms of individualization  of  social consciousness.  The   critique of Herbert Marcuse to labour class  as a revolutionary subject   in the “One Dimensional Man” (1961)  may have been premature and extreme but it was not wholly unjust. If he had written it twenty years later, he would have been closer to  social reality.

A central thought , based on the arguments above, is the relative autonomy of labour class  and of all the popular and working  classes from  the existing binding  socio-political determinations- in the limits always  of those determinations. The will   to rebellion and revolution for a part of the labour class – or, on the contrary, the repulsion  of class conflict and revolution for another part, is not  just a reflection of  violent class repression, of ideological manipulation or of biopolitical regulation. Taking all these  objective restrictions to account, we have to accept that there is, there must be  a moral  choice of the labour class to define its destiny and future, a “moment” of moral political liberty and  free decision. Revolution is a positive and necessary  option, but it does not “have to happen” or is not, under any circumstances, destined to happen  The failure of socialism in the 20th century is also related to an approach, that rejected free choice of the labour class  and   subjected labour class  activity entirely either to the “negative” apparatus of the bourgeois state or  to the  “positive apparatus” of the proletarian  party/state , governmental  in the “Real Existing Socialism” or oppositional in capitalism. Theories negating the “subject” or the “subjectivity” of the labour class and the “people”  contributed to that approach.

Next, we will examine the  main characteristics of the revolutionary tendency in the 20th century, as they evolved in three following “revolutionary cycles” or three  specific periods of revolutionary action. “Three long waves of revolution”,  breaking the normality of the capitalist  societies and their “normal”reproduction.   With many important defeats and some important victories.

  1. Three revolutionary cycles during the “long” 20th century[23]
  • The first revolutionary cycle ( 1905-1937)

Our  basic reference to the revolutionary 20th century as the temporal epicenter   of social revolution takes into account the wider temporal   frame of the last two centuries ( 19th  and 20th century as a whole) , when the notion of labour social revolution emerged. The attempts of the 19th century prepared mentally- and  also from the aspect of organization- the more successful attempts of the 20th century. It would be correct to describe, in the sense of Eric  Hobsbowm, the period 19th +  20th century as an “age of revolutions”[24].

The first revolutionary cycle of the 20th century begins with the Russian successive revolutions ( 1905, 1917)  and ends with the defeat of the Spanish revolution of 1936-1937 and the road to international  war.  Russia, as we have noted, is a huge country-continent, moving between advanced capitalism/imperialism and backward feudal militarism/absolutism, with a limited   hegemonic and parliamentary   sphere , a country where all the national and international contradictions are radically   articulated  due to the development of war and state collapse.  As Trotsky correctly  claims in his book “Permanent Revolution”[25]it is the fight  for a socialist state power , that takes  under its flag  the unfulfilled duties of the bourgeois   democratic  revolution. The  radical labour movement, under the Bolshevic hegemony,  seizes  state power in October 1917, transforms the state  and maintains its power  with the “terror”  means  of a very violent civil war[26] , at the cost of millions of dead, and not quite peacefully, as some writers suppose, putting the emphasis only on the “Day of the Revolution”. Besides, the blood flows in Russia  not only between revolution and counterrevolution but also between different wings of the revolution (see the case of the Socialrevolutionaries and their conflict with the  Bolshevics  or the  famous Kronstadt uprise and  repression).    The revolution expands in all Europe ; it is defeated and  repulsed  by the capitalist and landowner reaction in Finland ( 1918)  , in Hungary ( 1919) , repeatedly  in Germany ( 1918-1923), in Austria ( 1919) and in Italy ( 1919-1921). It is also stopped, in the form of Soviet military advance,  at the doors of Warsaw ( summer 1920)-the Polish workers’ class does not support a territorial soviet expansion. The formation of the Third International in 1919  does not manage to prepare successful leaderships   for the  social revolutions in Europe. It does not even have the appropriate time to do that. When the Third International stabilizes its existence (1921-1922), the revolutionary wave has in most countries withdrawn.

In most countries, labour class is divided into a  revolutionary large  minority, that acts under the  condition of post war social  and economic collapse,  and a reformist or probourgeois majority, that supports the counterrevolutionary Social Democracy  in order to secure its  moderate gains or even participates in the counterrevolutionary  military corpses (Freikorps) and embraces reactionary nationalism.  This second move is the first step towards “passive revolution” , a counterrevolutionary mass action, the term chosen by Gramsci to define the profascist  or proreactionary mass consensus, a process that transforms revolutionary subjectivity to counterrevolutionary subjectivity.  In most countries, two blocs are formed gradually, a revolutionary bloc  and a counterrevolutionary bloc.  Opposed to the Russian experience is the fact that peasants, middle strata of the city  and  many unemployed people or members of the intelligentsia  do not ally with labour class but with the reaction.   The Communist International  realizes the turn of situation against revolution, the start of “capitalist stabilization”   in its 3rd and 4th Congresses ( June-July   1921, December 1922) ; the United Front line is adopted in order to serve the needs of the new situation. The hopes for the United Front strategy are not fulfilled.  The new line  is either not practised  at all or fails to bring socialist workers closer to the overthrow of capitalism  (Germany , October 1923, Chemnitz Congress in Saxony –Thuringia). As far as we know, a general account of the United Front strategy,  referring to the revolutionary  period 1917-1923, has never been presented.

Many writers have stressed the importance of the war experience and the after the war collapse crisis in connection to   a weaker   political  relation of the owning classes with the middle strata  and the ruled classes as factors  that favoured the  revolutionary uprisings  (see P. Broue for Germany,  many others) . At the end , bourgeois class coalitions  could stand the strike  and counterattack successfully. The revolutionary part of the working class in Germany  not only does not ally with the poor and dependent peasants of Elbe-Prussia or Southern Germany and the middle strata but verbally rejects this potential alliance (see also the critique of Lenin in the “Left Wing Communism”)  ; the revolutionary doctrine of the KPD addresses only the workers –wage labourers , a fact that runs back to  the old opinion of Marxist Social Democracy that  peasants  as a whole are a unified  reactionary  maze, tending out of its nature against labour  (Kautsky). So, the self-fulfilled prophecy is  finally verified : whenever  the labour class fights  against capital heroically but  without social coalitions, without breaking the coalitions/blocs of capital, without forming its own historical bloc, as   the “class against class”, it  is always defeated.  Concerning the middle and poor peasants, the political repulsion against the peasants   will have its ideological  repetition in the  Soviet collectivization of land in the period 1928-1935, when the political problems  with the poor-middle peasants will be solved  exclusively with political coercion and not with a socio-political cooperation[27].

Finally, it is worthy to note that the Anglosaxon world does not live in the first cycle anything that goes beyond an ephemeral labour  radicalization   (clearly apparent in Britain in 1918-1919 as a movement against intervention in Russia)  and moves toward revolution . It would be an interesting social and political study to research the origins of the not revolutionary orientation of the British and American  working class in the 20th century and its insistance to the ideals of a reformist and union  liberalism. Britain, the country , that was described  by Marx as a model capitalist country , remained through the era of modernity outside the field of revolution- with the possible exception of the militant  Chartists’ movement in the decades of 1830 and 1840.   This reality puts under trial the traditional  “progressive”  belief that advanced capitalist countries are  “riper”  than  backward countries for an anticapitalist revolution  (advanced  productive forces) . Also, the belief  that labourers, more adapted to the discipline  of large factory and its socialization of production are “riper” for revolution. The Russian  and the Spanish example- the most genuine and powerful  revolutionary examples in Europe – were products of new  labourers either not yet submitted to  large factory discipline-sons and daughters of peasants and artisans- or not willing to submit without resistance to capitalist discipline.

Oncemore on the  crucial defeat in Germany ; historical lack of ability or of will for revolution  covered  a large part of German labour and the German popular classes ( especially the socially marginalized  middle strata of the cities) , not only failure or non existence  of the vanguard  Marxists party. The theory of the lack of “revolutionary leadership” led  politically to the problematic route of “Bolshevization” of the KPD ( “Bolschevisierung” Weber H. , 1969) under the Zinovievist  Maslov-Fischer leadership and then under the Stalinist  Thaelmann leadership.  Even, if this process had been led by the Trotskyists-Zinovievists and not the Stalinists,  it is doubtful that it would produce something different than a  leadership, loyal to the USSR of one or the other form- relative independence of the CPs was not an option for all the Bolshevic fractions .  Nevertheless, the KPD was not a useless or impotent  tool in the period 1918-1923. It collected most persons, incorporating the revolutionary minority of the old SPD, it had a substantial  influence in Prussia-Brandenburg, Saxony-Thuringia  and the Ruhr district  (large factories,  metal miners , coal miners, large  metal and chemical industry producing means of production etc)  , it took   part-at a not neglectable measure-  in the councils ‘ movement and in the factory and shop-stewards’  committees, it had  a national net of armed militsias and a mass potential ready for the violent   overthrow of regime. Also,  leading intellectuals, famous  orators  and  labour unionists.  It also had the clear moral and material  Soviet support until the  October 1923 ( it is not true that Stalin undermined the attempts and preparations in Germany   of the autumn  1923[28]).  It had absorbed  the  larger part of members  the “centrist” USPD  (Independent SPD, it was divided between SPD and KPD, after the Congress of Halle  1920), while at the difficult moments it could  also count on the alliance of its own  ultra-left split of  1919, the KAPD and the anarchosyndicalists of the AAU[29].

It is also important that the war and post war crisis radicalized a big part of the specialized metal workers ( “masters”, “Meister” ) and divided the specialized metal workers into a reformist and a revolutionary part ( Bologna 1973)  . The KPD took advantage out of this process among the radicalized metal workers[30].

So, the crucial factors  of German failure did not lie only in the failure of the KPD , they lay in the Long Time and the Short Time relations of forces in Germany , combined together.  Also in the “wrong” combination/condensation  of contradictions at the specific conjuncture. The matter of “non determination” and randomness was also significant.   We cannot know what might have been if  Rosa Luxemburg and  Karl Liebknecht had survived the January 1919 rising[31]. Or if the KPD had some more years of preparation, like the Bolshevics had  in Russia.  All these considerations do not cancell   the problem that under the extreme conditions of  national defeat, postwar, collapse and poverty, the radicalization of the German labour did not exceed, for the majority,  the limits of a democratic-bourgeois revolution, something that was probably clear to Rosa Luxemburg at the founding Congress of the KPD-Spartacus   in Berlin ( 30-12-1918/ 1-1-1919 ) and fortified her explicit  hesitations,  concerning the prematureness of socialist  revolution in Germany.   The majority seemed to choose its miserable survival than the  violent death or the hunger death   in  a prolonged civil war or during an Entente intervention.   The Russian Civil War offered a negative than a positive example for revolting.  The toll of deaths was not an inspiring spectacle. The repression of the   “not Bolshevic” radical parties in Russia   (Left SR, anarchists, Left Menshevics ) also contributed to the political isolation of the KPD.  Together in the United Front but separately in the postrevolutionary  structure of power?  The poles of the contradiction inside the capital relation and,  more specifically , inside the labour class’s  social and political positions have moved finally not to the direction of the negation of capital power but to the majority direction of an “assimilation” and  a conciliation of the antagonists. As an experiment of  permanent social state was impossible under the Weimar republic, the whole labour class was to pay bitterly  under the Nazi regime for its double failure ( 1918-1923, 1929-1933).

So, the failure of German revolution is to be attributed to aspects of a very difficult long and short term relation of forces,  of a strong  division inside the labour class interests and cultures  and of a failure in revolutionary strategy : aspects   of an important reformist influence of the long term period since 1880, aspects of a need for personal security and for “peaceful evolution ” , for the not generalization  of a   civil-revolutionary  war experience , aspects of diverting class interests ( masters and unspecialized workers, employed und unemployed etc), negative aspects of the Russian revolutionary experience, aspects of economic improvement after the summer 1923  default crisis due to  Gustav Stresemann stabilizing  politics, finally aspects of the KPD , USPD and  SPD policies, especially of the inefficience of KPD policies to unite  different labour class strata, to achieve the United Front from below, to unite labourers , peasants, unemployed and failed middle strata people,  and –last but not least-to combine class and national liberation demands against the Versailles’treaty , as it condemned all possible implementations of the so called “Schlageter line” by Karl Radek in the summer of 1923 (this line was not  100% correct, it really  played,  to some extent, with the devil, but it included the valuable thought that Communists in Germany had to refer to national liberation  as well, against Versailles, the Dawes Plan, the Young Plan etc) .

The first revolutionary cycle ends with the  failure of the Popular Front in France ( 1934-1938) and then  the  tragical defeat and  reactionary repression  of the  great Spanish revolution, in the spring-summer of 1937 ( Barcelona Days).  We do not classify the  French Popular Front to the  “clear” revolutionary experiences, although its social dynamics  in the summer of 1936 superceded potentially  a case of radical  reformism ( Daniel Guerin and Marceau Pivert, on the Left of the SFIO,   claimed  that the PF experience  was indeed a cancelled revolution).  The imposition of important prolabour reforms  and not only the lack of revolutionary strategy of the PCF stopped the revolutionary dynamics[32]. At the same time,   the road of Democratic Spain to defeat and the “non intervention” of Leon Blum  government  crushed  the morale of the French labour movement and prepared the reactionary transition to the state of Vichy .

The great Spanish revolution, crushed by the parallel  and converging  beatings of  fascist counterevolution ( Francoism – reactionary   aristocracy and capitalist class- international fascism)    and  Left-Democratic   ( inside the democratic bloc)  counterrevolution  (democratic capitalist state, democratic bourgeoisie,   Stalinism and Right of the Social democracy , intervention of the USSR and the CI  against the  revolutionary wing  etc), is –next to the Russian and perhaps more than the Russian – the leading social revolution of the 20th century in Western Europe[33]. Like the Russian case , it happened not exactly  in the periphery of capitalism but in the “periphery/back  seats  of the metropolis itself” ( Spain and Russia were at the same time backward –feudal countries and countries participating economically and culturally in the advanced world).  Like in Russia, there was a  social coalition   of labourers, small peasants, labourers-peasants, popular classes in the cities and intellectuals.   We have explained the long term dynamics of revolution and counterrevolution in Spain . Reformism was not a clear option for the Spanish society before and after the First World War , as a result of very sharp class division and  conflicts and of an extreme traditionalist-reactionary position of the majority of owning classes.  The outbreak of the  Francoist coup on the 18th of July 1936 unleashed  a quite successful  general  armed rebellion of the workers in the cities; it  also  led to  the military control of Barcelona and a great part of democratic Spain by the militsias- revolutionary councils of the revolutionary wing ( composed mostly by the anarchosyndicalists of the major confederation  CNT and the anarchists of FAI).  An advanced form of workers’ control and self-direction dominated in the industrial and land production units  of Catalonia, Aragon and an important part of southeastern and northeastern Spain[34].

As far as we know, the extent of self-direction of production by the producers themselves  ( “autogestion”)  and their organs of power in Spain , either as non commercial atomized units or as  cooperatives or as nuclei of a combined and unified units of production, even without an efficient planification  system,  was substantial ; it was not superseded  by other revolutionary experiments in the 20th century.  Workers’ control stopped existing in Russia on May 1918. It was not practiced  in China, with some possible exceptions in the period of the Cultural Revolution. It was practiced in Yugoslavia after 1948 , adopting  an orientation of semi- popular capitalism. It was practiced in the anti-imperialist Algeria for a short period and with a larger state back up. It was not practised in other countries of the “Real Existing Socialism” , after  real revolutions or  after the Soviet  military occupation of Eastern Europe  after 1945.   The insistence and the passion of a large part of the Catalan and Spanish   working class for a social cooperation, self-direction  and a form of class power , based on  committees and  councils in the place of production, was the highest moment of social revolution in the Europe of the 20th century, on the basis of the pre- World War II labour movement[35]. The reason of defeat is not so easy to locate, due to the very favourite Long Time relation of forces  in the labour camp and the imaginary and cultural richness of the  working classes of Spain .  One aspect is the very negative international relation of forces  in the 1930s: victory of fascism in Italy and Germany,  retreat of the international revolution, Stalinism in Russia and in the leadership of the CI , limited successes in France.  The Spanish revolution had to  confront and  neutralize or defeat   a vast international heterogenous  “coalition” of different forces , which stood persistently  for its failure.  The counterrevolutionary role of Stalinism has been a central obstacle, as the Spanish Republic was totally dependent on the military/financial  support of the USSR, in  the field of weapons and volunteers. The revolutionary wing was not materially supported in the Civil War military fields and then it was crushed.   On the other hand, the “vanguard” of the revolution was extremely weak and did not possess a  political decisiveness. It was also isolated at the international level, as the majority of democratic or leftist volunteers  were loyal to the centres  of Paris or of Moscow.  A short time formation of a wide counterrevolutionary camp, internal and external, in connection with  the advance of  traditional reaction and fascism and the mobilization of  the backward part of the popular classes  against the Republic, balances the positive historical  relation of force.   The subjective role of the CNT-FAI has been a role of confusion, statist illusions  and manipulation of the anarchists by the central PF government, as many anarchist writers  a posteriori sincerely  accept[36].   The fundamental antipolitical position of the CNT-FAI, leading to the rejection of an “anarchist political dictatorship” had catastrophic effects for the camp of revolution.   Even in Barcelona,  in the May Days of 1937, the leadership of CNT-FAI sacrificed the uprising in the name of “preserving  the democratic/antifascist unity” and persuaded the fighters of the revolutionary wing to stop fighting and reconcile with the Stalinist coup[37].  The anarchist concept that  “corrupting” state power or was not to be taken ,  as it would lead to an not acceptable  anarchist dictatorship, left free  room   for action to the counterrevolutionary wing of the Republic, especially the Stalinist  PCE and the Soviet NKVD-GPU mechanisms- the practice of the PCE is for the first time after 1919  a clearly CP  counterrevolutionary practice.  As far as it concerns the POUM, its leadership was more conscious of the developments to come, but it didn’t have the political strength and influence  to impose a better strategy[38].  Trotsky criticizes the weaknesses of the POUM, especially its wrong participation in the Catalonian government ; his critique , justified in some points, remains doctrinary and  external ( “Lessons from Spain-the last warning”, 1937) . Is is not coincidental that the pure Spanish Trotskyists  (Bolshevic -Leninists) never became  more than some hundreds of people in the heart of a social revolution (  Alba –Schwartz 1988).

The errors of the revolutionary camp in Spain do not lead to the result that an alternative outcome, combining antifascist war and social revolution, against the whole world would have been a simple or an obvious  matter. The only plausible possibility would have been a more early  outbreak of World War II,  that would have offered time and moving room to the revolutionary wing of antifascism.

The defeat of the first Chinese revolution in 1927-1928 ( slaughters  of workers in Shangai  and Kanton) by the Kuomintang forces  is one more important point of the pre World War II labour movement . It stresses the importance of the rising of colonial and semicolonial peoples against imperialism.  Not only does this defeat verify the problematic dependence of the CPs by the Moscow-Stalinist  international strategy ( disastrous  submission of the CCP to the bourgeois  Koumintang) .It also proves that the revolution in the “pure”  periphery countries does not copy the   model of armed labour insurrection in the cities, the metropolitan model of class struggle. The rising of the peasants  (poor and middle) as a  giant revolutionary class in the East and the South  is a lesson for the Marxists , that cannot be ignored.  The labour class will not “return” in China to the strategy of  big cities’ insurrection , as the traditional Stalinism and Trotskyism assume  in China even  at the end of the 20s. It will join the peasants in the armed surrounding of the cities and the prolonged popular war  against colonialism- fascism – imperialist capitalism under the new creative  synthesis of the Maoist leadership.  Surpassing the “stages”’ strategy in  practise   but in   a very peculiar manner,  emphasizing the agrarian populations and their action .

The defeat of the Spanish revolution finishes the first  revolutionary cycle, the cycle with the three powerful European revolutions ( Russian, German, Spanish).  It is not just a coincidence that the purge of the POUMists in the summer of 1937 (murder of Andres Nin and  many anarchist volunteers, trials of the POUM leadership in 10.1938)  is the western shorter  version  of the counterrevolutionary Soviet purges of 1936-1939.   The historical  distance between Moscow and Barcelona, Paris and Berlin has been shortened in the decade of the 30s.  Counterrevolution was the joining option.

  • The second revolutionary cycle ( 1945 -1956)


“ The permanent revolution is not a “leap” by the proletariat , but the reconstruction of the nation by the leadership of the proletariat” , Trotski , the Permanent Revolution, 1931.


It would not be wrong to take into account a more general typology , that unites the first and the second revolutionary cycle as two stages of the “European Civil War” (1918-1945) , that is a  wider historical context during which the forces of revolution and counterrevolution  repeatedly  clash in an armed struggle for power and armed  revolution  stands ante portas for European and world capitalism[39].

The peculiarity of the second cycle lies in the  historical connection of the social question ( class division)  with the  antifascist struggle and the national liberation  question in  countries occupied by the fascism-nazism  ( by the  Axis countries)  until 1945  or in colonial –semicolonial countries  after 1945[40]. The revolutions of the second cycle are mostly socialist-antifascist-anticolonial –antiimperialist  revolutions. They are not at all  “pure” labour revolutions, even if we accept that the revolutions of the first cycle were primarily ( but not exclusively) workers’ revolutions. . Even in the first cycle, the revolutionary movement faces aspects of the national question : nations of Soviet Russia and  the recognition of their right to self-determination, defense of the socialist fatherland after the revolution,  Versailles and Ruhr crisis in post  World War I Germany,  question  of Catalan autonomy in 1936-1937.  In the periphery,  the national and the class question are weaved together from the beginning ( the subject rises in the first Congresses of the Communist International with the  wellknown  debate V.I. Lenin-M. Roy ( Indian communist leader)  on the problem) .

The second cycle is characterized by the return of “nation-fatherland ”  in the discourse and the practice of the revolutionary labour movement –this time not as a condemned  “social patriotism”,  but as a positive  “ anti-imperialist/antifascist  patriotism”. Class struggle reproduces, here,  and not only negates  the national question.  The positive meaning of “nation’s liberation” is well explained  by the conjuncture; it can also lead to  ambivalent results and positions.  The double character of World War II  as  imperialist war and antifascist war  ( Claudin 1975) defines the “return of nation”.  On the other hand, the  socialist revolutions of the second cycle are the forerunners of  the anticolonial –antiimperialist movement of the 50s-60s-70s.  Either in classical  metropolitan countries conquered by the Axis in the period 1941-1945 ( Italy, Belgium, France, Netherlands) , or in middle advanced  capitalist countries, conquered by the Axis  in the same period ( Greece, Yugoslavia ) or in colonial –semicolonial  countries of the periphery rising against imperialism  (China, Vietnam-Indochina  , Korea, Malaya , Philippines  ). Despite the argument of some Trotskyist organizations in the 40s that the “return of nation” constitutes a  “betrayal”, a revisionist turn, abandoning the 1914-1918 internationalism,  no revolution will succeed in the 40s and later on the basis of a pure  internationalist labour character, if  denying the importance of the national question and of national-antiimperialist  independence. This is one of the main reasons that all-with no exception- the communist leaderships of the revolutions after 1944  are not influenced essentially  by Trotskyism or by Anarchism; they are “orthodox” communists ( Stalinists) , that  decisively  follow an autonomous ( national)  revolutionary route and not the central Soviet line; they practically  break with the central line, either  with shouts ( Yugoslavia) or without shouts ( China) . We will call these leaderships “radical  Stalinists” or “left  Stalinists”.

Revolutionary victories of the  communist movements in the second cycle : Yugoslavia and Albania in Europe , China, North  Vietnam ( after the victory in  Dien Bien Fu, 1954, by the general Giap)  and  North Korea in Asia.  No victories in the metropolitan capitalist countries.  The CPs in periphery and semi-periphery  lead  huge armies of peasants and workers, of the popular classes in general,  to the seizure of political power. Mobilization in the form of strikes and street fighting in the cities  does happen, but is secondary to the form of popular war.   Organs of dual power do appear ( peasant soviets in China after 1930, Yugoslav local and federal committees  in 1943-1945, also factory committees after 1945 ), but they do not act really  independently from the leading party-army  strategy – a major difference from the first cycle.   The dualisation of power happens mainly between  the popular army  and the apparatus of the old regime.  There is a strong dimension of bureaucratization[41]  and direction “from above” in the  revolutions of the second cycle, as a result either of Stalinist tradition or of the different political  form of the social  conflict.  The state form, established by the revolution, seems to be an already  bureaucratized dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasans, which sets obstacles  to the transition to communism, if not blocks it; this does  not preclude  a  later radical  movement into the direction of socialism-communism, as it happened in People’s China in the 60s. As a whole taken, the revolutions of the second cycle are poorer in class spontaneity and in the self-organization of the popular classes, but not just “constructs” of the communist leadership (like Castoriadis once claimed). The “import” of Soviet Leninism-Stalinism has both virtues and  vices. The defeats of the European revolutions, based on the initiave of labour class are also  a dimension to consider.

Our approach to the nature of countries of Eastern Europe, where “socialism” ( in reality,  bureaucratic state capitalism) did not procede on the basis of a revolution but on the weapons of the Red Army under 1945, does not permit us to include them clearly to the revolutionary phenomenon of the 20th century. However, revolutionary practices and moods were apparent in the abolition of private property and traditional  capitalist   forms of government  on the side of the labour and popular clasies, especially in  Chechoslovakia at the turn of 1948. The new regime had  a  popular social base not only because of its antifascist character but also because of the propopular reforms it introduced by seizing the property of the old ruling classes ( landowners, industrialists, bankers etc) and introducing measures of social rights.  There is an “anomalous” exception to the route of the “Real Existing Socialism” countries : the Hungarian revolution of  October-November 1956. What was it ? A fascist counterrevolution, as the Stalinists defined it ? A coup  against socialism?  An  intervention of the NATO backed  Western imperialism into the socialist camp?  All these explanations resemble classical  conspiracy theories and are not credible. The organization of the rised Hungarian workers   in  the form of workers’ councils ( under the centrality and leadership of the Greater Budapest council) in all the large  production units , their participation in the classical form of  violent city insurrection, their military fight against the Stalinist regime  secret police and the intervening Red Army forces, their declarations supporting socially owned  property but not the property of the Stalinist party-state , classify the uprising to the  classical revolutionary tradition of the radical wing of labour class against capital and for the seizure of state power. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Hungarian revolution is the last classical labour and socialist revolution of the 20th century.  Two large differences with the other experiences : a) this a revolution against state capitalism and not private capitalism. The capital is unified and “planned”  by the  party-state as a collective bearer of capital ( Belltelheim “Class Struggles in the USSR”, 2nd and 3rd -4th Volumes).   So , it is not social ownership against private ownership but social ownership against the state management of capitalist appropriation of the means of production[42]b) the ruling class is a class , using Marxism as its ideological tool. A labour class exploited under the “banner of Marxism” logically rejects “Marxism” as an ideology of oppression, although it   implementates  in practice the  deeper meaning of the Marxist work.  The Duplicity of Reason, in Hegelian terms. One more interesting point : this is a politically and socially spontaneous  revolution. No party , no special political organization leads it. This is a specific form of revolution, with many common points with the Spanish of 1936-1937. The lack of a special political organization has two opposing effects :  a lack of efficiency   in the political moves and, at the same time, an    independent dynamics, that cause a serious disorder  in  some  countries of the “Real Existing Socialism” (  especially Poland 1956-1957, interfeeding with the East German rebellion of 1953 etc).

The negative alternative of the second cycle responds  to the cases of defeated or cancelled revolutions in the West and the periphery. Two cancelled revolutions ( in Italy 1944-1948, France 1944-1947) one major defeated revolution in the zone “periphery  or backward part of the Western metropolies itself” , the Greek revolution ( 1943-1949) , some more in the classical periphery ( Philippines, Malaya, in the second part of the 40s). The most interesting case , to our opinion, is the Greek revolution (1943-1949), a process where the struggle for national  liberation against the Axis   leads to a large mobilization of the popular classes and the emerging  dualization of power   (the labour class in the cities with many forms of self-organization , the peasant and petty bourgeois classes in the country , instituting organs of popular self-government and   popular justice), to a clear but not confessed social revolution .  A social and political coalition for socialism is practically formed inside the EAM  movement  (Front for National Liberation) and under the leadership of the  KKE ( CP  of Greece). Then, the “victorious revolution[43]” is lost : The influence of  bourgeois and petty bourgeois intellectuals and politicians in the  EAM institutions ( for example the Socialists of Al. Svolos) and inside KKE/PGC ( for example the moderate wing of I. Ioannidis)   , the politics of “peaceful coexistence” between the Allies in 1944, adopted by Stalin and the CPs , the wrong insistence of KKE to the stages’ strategy and the goal of  a real bourgeois democratic revolution after 1934,  all of these causes taken together, lead to the deliverance of  forcibly  seized   power in Greece  by EAM/KKE to the capitalist camp and  to British imperialism ( pact of Lebanon  in  5. 1944  ) , to a heroic but  delayed resistance of EAM-KKE to the British-capitalist bloc in December 1944 and to a delayed and politically undermined general civil war in the period 1946-1949, that was entirely  lost due to the very disproportional relation of political and military forces.   Here like in all revolutions of the 2nd cycle, the crisis of bourgeois hegemony on the nation, its loss by the capitalist class for reasons of occupation by the Axis forces , of popular organization, of reaction’s  betrayal to the Axis, leads to a popular hegemony on the nation under liberation, so that the social defeat  leads to a national dependence  by the forces of imperialism ( British, American)  as well. The nation’s  class direction is reconstructed from below. The substitution of a  class coloured fight for national and social  liberation by the line of “national unity” with the proAllies part of the bourgeoisie and with British imperialism   (government of Cairo) is a catastrophic decision, that signifies the beginning of the end. That should not bring back the argument that the adoption of “liberated nation” was false and wrong from the beginning. National liberation can and should be articulated with social liberation, under a fascist military occupation. National liberation does not  necessarily  coincide with “national unity”. Even the late stage of Greek revolution in the 40s, the  Civil War of 1946-1949 , fought by the KKE and the DSE army ( Democratic Army of Greece),  still refers not only to a democratic-socialist power structure but also to the liberation of Greece by the Anglo-American political rule and  the  “monarchofascist” neocolonial regime. It is equally wrong to diminish or erase the national-democratic dimension of the second cycle revolutions as if they were  “not pure class revolutions” or even “nationalist-bureaucratic revolutions” ( as Agis Stinas or Castoriadis  have presented them in Greece ) or not to realize that a certain version of totally  submitting class antagonism to national –antifascist antagonism was an important  aspect of revolutionary  defeat in Greece, France and Italy.

The cases of Italy  and France , described in details by F.  Claudin in the 2nd Vol. of his major work “Crisis of the Communist movement” ( “From the Komintern to the Kominform”), have much in common with the Greek experience –with the definitive exception that a general armed confrontation , a general civil war was avoided[44].  For one more time,  the leadership of the national CPs not only retreats from the perspective of class general confrontation and revolution but imposes its influence on all the parts of the party and its armed fighters , that are inclined to sharpen the conflict ( Pons 2001 on the case of  P. Secchia  and  other radical wings of the PCI). To our opinion, the  main strategical  attitude of the European CPs , not without strong resistances,  is stabilized after the WW II towards a reformist/counterrevolutionary  direction, a specific reformism, connected with the strategical interests of the Stalinist Soviet Union. But is it enough to understand the cancell of    revolutions just in the light of the CPs’   strategy ?  No, the reformist direction of the Communist leadership is interfeeding with reformist and  postwar peace attitudes inside the antifascist fighters , inside the popular classes of Italy, in reference to the non continuation of war, the enjoyment of foreign relief after the Marshall Plan etc. It is under question whether the popular classes in Italy and France  could have supported the prolongation  of war and destruction for some more years.  The CP might have seized  by arms the North of Italy , which was not liberated against the German forces until the April 1945.  They might have been confronted with an American  armed intervention and a  bourgeois coalition with strong peasant and petty bourgeois  influence in the South and in the “mezzogiorno”. They might have to  solve  politically the problem of breaking with  “antifascist unity” and “national unity”. They might have to cooperate with Yugoslavia,  a case impossible after the rupture in the Yugoslavia-Soviet Russia relations in 1948 .  They might have caused , as Claudin insists, a break in the will of the Allies’ army to intervene military against an antifascist enemy.  The  odds  were not impossible , they were nevertheless extremely difficult.  It is welknown that after the Greek civil war ( 1946-1949), many communists in Europe blessed the “happy” peaceful outcome  in Italy and cursed the “Greek anomaly”. The outcome was  supposed to be  a “full success” of Palmiro Togliatti’s strategy. This debate ( was the civil war exrerience positive or negative for Greek communism? )   took place – in an altered form – in the interior of Greek Communist Left as well for years,  and prepared the  division of  the  CP of Greece  (KKE)  into two parts , a proSoviet and a proto-Eurocommunist wing, in February 1968.

  • The third revolutionary cycle ( 1965-1980)

The third cycle, the last cycle of the century,  is the cycle of the long “1968 movements” in the metropolies  and the victories of combined  national-social liberation movements in the periphery of capitalism. The red-blue flag of the Vietkongs  with the yellow star  in the metropolies of imperialism ( USA, France, Italy, Germany)  and  in their own country.  The new coalition in the metropolies is composed of radical labour class, labour and student youth, radicalized middle and intellectual strata, radical intellectuals, diverging  cultural and sexual groups. In the metropolies, the cycle culminates in the difficult  convergence of striking  workers and rising  students in France in May-June 1968 ( “French May 1968” , an important  crisis of bourgeois hegemony with an aftermath until the first half of the 70s ), in the workers’ , students’ and city youth’s uprising in Italy between 1967 and 1980  ( “Hot Autumn”, “long “Italian May”[45]) and in the Portugal revolution of 1974-1975. Many minor  youth uprisings in the metropolies, a large antiimperialist , antiracist and  radical anticapitalist  youth movement in the USA, democratic and   anti-dictatorship/antifascist  movements in Greece, Spain, Portugal ( including the  November 1973 mass uprising of the people of Athens against  the military dictatorship). A surrounding of victorious  anti-imperialist  wars and revolutions in the periphery , a major anticolonial and anti-imperialist revolutionary   fight  (Vietnam-Indochina’ s anti-imperialist-socialist  victory of 1975, Algeria 1954-1962, Cuba 1959-1962, revolt of Arab nationalism, Panafrican revolutionary  movements, the violently   repressed   Chilean experiment of peaceful transition to socialism by  S. Allende and the Popular Unity  ).  The infuencial -all over the world- proceding of the controversial Cultural Revolution in China  ( 1966-1976) and the intervention of millions of people into  an internal revolutionary  class struggle , weaved with heavy  interbureaucratic conflicts but not restricted to them[46].  Serious conflicts in the Eastern  “socialist” bloc, culminating in  the crash of the Prague spring Communist  reform experiment in August 1968 and the  establishment of the rule of  “limited sovereignship for the states of the Warsaw pact” by  secretary  of the Soviet Union  CP L. Breznev and the  USSR. A split in the biggest Western   European CP : the birth of the Manifesto-PDOUP  group in Italy ,  intensely influenced by the evolution of radical Maoism and cultivating   a  version of Gramscian Leninism.

 War, international or just global,  determines all the three  cycles and their emergence ; There is a certain dialectic of war and revolution[47].  The end of World  War One  for the first cycle , the  suffering and the end of World War Two for the second wave , the anticolonial wars, especially the Vietnam War,  for the third wave.  The  Vietnam war intervenes symbolically , even  in a not direct form,  into western societies, destructs the cohesion of their populations and divides the public opinion. It strenghens  the gap between classes, racial and cultural groups  and generations. It provokes forms of national hegemonic crisis, even not responding to classical revolutionary situations . Is is also interfeeding with a major crisis of the social organizational form and  function of capitalist production in the metropolies , with a general attack of the mass worker on  Taylorism and the alienating fragmentation of labour activity in the factory.  Crisis of Fordism-Taylorism signifies an attack of labour class on technological and technical-scientific  power,  as it was then perceived and realized.   One major difference of the  third cycle :  it does not produce even one partial or total victory in the advanced or semi-advanced  capitalist countries.  An outcome that shows that  a very important change in social attitudes has already occured  since 1945[48], in the form of  an emerging attitude of individualism-narcissism  (effects of consumering ? effects of an effective social control by the Ideological Apparatuses of the State ? effects of transformation in labour class culture, relating to mass culture  ?)  . At the same time, the people who rise against capital are not  coordinated by a revolutionary party or parties.  In the first cycle,   Marxist parties in the West lead  successful ( Russia) or  unsuccessful social revolutions, in the second cycle , the revolutionary party form  moves from the West to the periphery of  capitalist metropolis ( Greece, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria etc) or the periphery of capitalism, where they succeed to  make  a revolution without  significant or lasting   popular organs/instruments  of power,  in the third cycle the traditional Left parties and unions of the metropolis ( CPs, SPs, Confederations of Labour)  are classical enemies of the revolution dynamics  and demand its  imminent stop-others with a violent and repressive confrontation  (CPF in France), others with methods of persuasion or confusion (PCI in Italy)  .  The councils and committees’  forms, apparent especially in the Italian factories of the North between 1967 and 1972,  have only weak and limited  political organizations of the extreme Left behind them : these organizations achieve their maximum , which is  extremely lower than the needs of revolution in a complicated and  very flexible  capitalist state at the end of the 20th century.  The biazed  transformation of factory uprising to  minority backed   armed struggle in the middle of the 70s ( the so called “Left Terrorism”) shows the deep radicalization of the revolutionary wing in a situation that  had common points with a revolutionary or prerevolutionary situation;  it also shows the grade of class and cultural  despair and a sense of “being betrayed” by the PCI and its Historical Compromise project,    that fed a heroic armed struggle of some thousands of people  without a real perspective of  political victory. Even a militarized popular war has to possess  large population and territory bases , so that it can retreat to them, whenever  this development is needed ( “the fish inside the water” like president Mao’s famous quotation )  and a state much more disorganized than the Italian imperialist-metropolitan  state of the 1970s.  The cohesion  and efficiency of modern capitalist states and “civil societies”  in the metropolis makes it extremely difficult and not plausible  to  sustain a situation of long popular war and a  long division of the territory- you have to win quite early at the  socio-political  level , to crash politically  early  the cohesion and function of the  military- security  apparatuses   and not be led to  a pure “ long military confrontation”.  The Brigatti Rossi lost the effects of  unity and  discrepancy between the political and military level very soon, copying and applying  the periphery experience in a very mechanist manner.    All  this is valid  and necessary,  if -or as far  of- we accept that the social revolution is still a plausible option ( more analytically at the end of this study).

The Italian case of “1968”  is the case with the strongest aura of social-class   revolution, at least revolution  under preparation. Not only that : only in this country  major  social overthrow might have proceded  under different circumstances and  implemented  strategies . An uprising of the mass worker in the factories of the North, a mass worker  mostly  migrated  from the South of Italy,  leads to important tactical victories  in 1969-1970 , improving working relations at standards very high for advanced capitalism ( the “Statuto dei Lavoratori” in 1970) . The labour and student youth develops multiple forms of revolt-resistance  and of doubting ruling moral values and traditional forms of representation. Gender, feminist  and moral critique is spreaded and  exceeds the limits of political organizations or even “breaks” them (the case of  the organization Lotta Continua in 1976, “broken” by its feminist wing). Political expectations are divided between the  large electoral rise of the CP and a more radical formation of political life through  not institutionalized class struggle. The disillusionment  from  the experiment of Historical Compromise, the non representation in that project, the rejection of official  communist   disciplines,  the memories of the 1945-1948 cancelled revolution are the sources of the armed struggle experience. It is leading in 1978 to a no way out and to the rise of the exceptional state repression (antiterrorist laws in the so called Italy ‘s “lead years”).   However, the size of actors and   supporters of armed struggle , measuring some tenths of thousands,  the longetivity of  armed   struggle ( from 1970 to the middle of the 1980s) , the large number of political prisoners in 1980  ( around  15.000) , the development of semi-legal not armed  revolutionary organizations with a measurable influence ( operaist organizations, PDUP-Il Manifesto, organizations of Autonomia, dispersed  individual arm struggle etc)   prove that Italy has reached  in its long  “1968”the closest analogy with what was once known as  a revolutionary situation in the advanced capitalist world : the measure of state repression and  Far Right terrorism   responded to the  described situation. A second  uprising happened in the years 1977-1978 , based on  marginalized radical  youth and the Autonomia political and organizational forms  :  the so called “social worker”.  The end of Italian radicalism and of the vehemence of Italian workers’ movement took the form of the great defeat of the FIAT strike/reconstruction  in 1980 and the beginning of  a wide reconstruction of industry and economy  to a  neoliberal and postmodern direction. The final  failure of the labour movement after the “Hot Autumn”can also not  be attributed  exclusively  to the non existence of a  revolutionary party.  Here, as always in the West of the 20th century,, the first radical mass  moves of the labour class were soon  followed by  a division between those who expected an institutional exit and success ( blocked and manipulated  by the strategy of  Historical Compromise) and the minority which tried the revolutionary road, leading to isolation.   However , organizations like the BR were illegal mass parties  or mass nets with a strong social influence, not just criminal bands, as the authorities described them. There was a lack of political ability to unify and coordinate the revolutionary wing. Soon,  political radicalization was frustrated in favour of military (and also militarist ) radicalization.  The ambiguity of the labour attitudes and choices , the impact of the reforms, the illusions of electoral change, interfed  with the absence of an organized political centre, something like  a”vanguard party” or “parties”. Why did the operaist and other  extraparliamentry  Marxist organizations  not  develop to such a form ?

The “French May” is a considerably different phenomenon. Its two dimensions were soon to depart one from the other. An anticapitalist  dimension in the short term , unifying the revolted mass worker, the radical youth, the radical intellectuals and the new social movements against capitalism , as it was and performed after the war , consisting  a conservative and patriarchal ideological formation as a condition for class rule. An anticapitalist dimension, that really transformed  the reformist and anticapitalist Left, so that its form after May 1968  underwent a  serious alteration. An anti-imperialist youth  movement as well since the Algeria war and the beginnings of the 60s. .   The organizations of the Far Left are also transformed ; after a first period of “expecting the real revolution” ( until 1973[49]) they adapt to a long class  struggle in the frame of Fifth Republic institutions. Also, the  reformist  Left  ( Communist and Socialist) organizes its road to government , taking advantage of the cultural products of May : liberation of morals, originality  and creativity in expression, new social movements, grassroot  democracy, “autogestion”  etc). The Mitterand experiment is a very specific  fruit of the May experience.

The second dimension, finally the dominant dimension , is a deep cultural reformation of the elits and of the standards of economic and social hierarchy, a reorganization of every day life, , a “construction” of  a more tolerant, global  and liberal capitalism opposed to the conservative, patriarchical, nationalist and rascist  capitalism until the end of the sixties . It is the partial  inclusion of a cancelled revolution inside the reconstruction of capital. It is about  the adoptation of new productive  forms by capital, the partial substitution of large factory Taylorism by  small groups with special skills , working horizontally , and the formation of a new type of industrial management, based in networks, networks ‘ relations  and informal power  relations[50].   Antiauthoritarian capitalism , capitalism longing for individual autonomy and  a kingdom of  informal and flexible relations is the essence of these high influential transformations.

It is about the rise of collective identities concerning  body, sex politics and  sex orientation experience , gender and “social construction” of sexuality,  multicultural  and post-ethnic forms of  social existence , the products of the new social movements. In the decades after May 1968, this tendency does not anymore respond – mainly – to  a richer and diversed  quality of revolution ( a more catholic and universal revolution, opposing to various forms of oppression)  but, on the contrary, to  the cultural tranformation of the elits and the middle strata to the direction  of a postnational cultural liberalism and  moral relativism[51]. So the moment of the fight against exploitation is separated from the moment of fighting for personal  liberty and for cultural autonomy and social renewal.   The philosophical discourse on postmodernism ( Lyotard, Baudrilliard etc)  is also a central  mental byproduct of the May developments- it is not accidental that  its basic  supporters are not Old Time   conservative liberals of the Raymond Aron type   but Left or ex Left   liberals (  Classical Postmodernists,  New Philosophs, The Rocard  Second Left in the PSF after 1978, Third Way socialdemocrats, ex UltraLeft  personalities like  Henry Weber, Daniel Cohn-Bendit or Alain Geismar,    etc)  .  Where May  1968 failed as  a social revolution, it succeeded as a  spiritual movement for the renewal  of capitalism. All the basic cultural fragmentations inside the social movements, all  the forms of an eloquent breaking of class  unity are products of both processes :  material capitalist reconstruction of capitalist production and cultural support  of the division of original   class unity into  an asterism of collective and individual identities, diverse and diffuse , competing and  at the same moment cooperating with the reconstructed  rule of capital.  If the French May had  not existed, the capital should have invented it. This is not to say that initial  positive  socio-economic gains of May 1968 for labour class  were not important; this is not to say  that  gained  liberal and cultural advancements and liberties  are themselves negative or useless  ( for example women’s liberation and social emergence  or the respect for homosexuals and the  gradual abolition of discriminations against them) ; it is to say that a certain articulation of these advancements with a restructuring of classes after 1980 led to a more flexible , so a more powerful hegemonically,   form of cultural and ideological capitalist domination on the modern, more  fragmented, divided and confused, labour class.

There is also a third dimension of the French  May 1968, especially stressed by R. Debray : “revolution” as a spectacle in the Guy Deborian sense ,  as a dramatization of  conflict , without proportionally serious social consequences, a reference to the tradition of insurrection by a generation and a society,   that cannot complete insurrection and transform it to revolution, that cannot even implement a violent insurrection. The new dynamics with the clothes of the old (“The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”) , liberalism with the phrases and the slogans  of labour revolution .  This is the opinion of Regis Debray , 10 years after May 1968, expressed in an article of his  in New Left Review (New Left Review I/115. May –June 1979 “A modest contribution to the rites and ceremonies of the tenth anniversary”).

The last events that can be  described as  classical revolutionary  in the course of the past century are two forgotten  revolutions in the  year  1979 : the Santinistas antiimperialist revolution of 1979 in Nicaragua  , a successful  revolution soon contained by the interventions of American imperialism   under the Reagan USA neoconservative administration- and the very peculiar and distinct Iranian  revolution in 1979. The Iranian   democratic revolution was not  from the beginning a theocratic and reactionary social movement. It included many different tendencies, social and ideological, democratic,  Islamic religious of various forms, nationalist, patriotic  and antiimperialist , socialist-communist tendencies. It was developed in forms of independent organs of the masses ,  mass street  fighting and insurrection, civil war and violent overthrow of the Shach  regime. It stood closer  to a traditional revolution of the popular classes by the use of   civil insurrection in the big cities. Nevertheless,  the victory of the revolution was soon appropriated by a coalition of the “reformed” and antiimperialist  wing of the capitalist class and the different formations of Siite  Islamic theocracy. It is forgotten that it started as a genuine – not socialist- democratic  popular revolution.

The presentation of the three revolutionary cycles  allow us to take some results , concerning the fate of revolution in the 20th century and its potential return in the 21st century :

  • All the revolutions of the 20th century happened under the weight  and the effects of big wars, mostly world wars, leading to a national crisis and the loss of national hegemonic ability by  the ruling classes. Peace and  social normality are not favourite conditions for a revolutionary crisis. Even the Spanish revolution was  a product of the after WWI  conjuncture and of the conditions heading to the next world war.  The May 1968 uprisings were deeply connected with the antiimperialist  wars in the periphery, mostly with the Vietnam war  and the effects of the French- Algerian war of 1954-1962). Portugal revolution was the effect of a lost colonial war  in Africa.

-The long time  adoption of the factory or more generally  production discipline in capitalism is not really favourable for the perspective of revolution : In Spain and in Russia, even in some parts of the German revolution ( Launa in Saxony-Thuringia, see K.H. Roth- Angelika Ebbinghausen 1973 )  the revolutionary workers had not been submitted to  factory discipline for many generations. They discended directly  from  peasants, artisans and unemployed popular classes and were  hostile to large scale production and discipline. In the case of the third cycle, the resistance to Taylorism and the put of factory discipline and socialization of work under trial were  defining options of the rebellion.  Resistance to factory discipline and alienation, even in the modern postfactory forms of labour organization ,  forms of a  “negation of work”  are essential for the rise of a revolutionary mood, even if we do not agree with the “negation of work” of the Autonomist theory .  This dimension is also related to the need of a critical stand to social technology and science and not to an admiration of the so called “productive forces” ( opposition to gradualism-economism—exelictisism in Marxist theory).

-Revolutionary events are events of exceptional form in the long time class struggle. They appear more clearly  in the short time struggle, deeply influenced by the long term economic, social, political and cultural  tendencies,  national and international, and the short term  strategies and combinations/articulations  of contradictions, as they do happen in a certain conjuncture.  

 – The existence of a distinct, relatively autonomous- not absolutely “ deformed by mass culture” – labour culture is essential for the cause of revolution or social transformation. The modern  (after 1945)  advance of mass society does not exclude the potentiality of revolution; however is a disabling and not a favourite  factor. So, it would not be wrong to conclude that the reduction of a distinct labour identity signifies the end of the classical epoch of revolutions ( 19th and 20th century), which is a negative condition for revolution  and not a positive one , like some theorists of Autonomism propose[52]. The “age of revolutions” was not only a period, when  the  social antagonists clashed repeatedly and violently on the subject of state  power but also a specific historical period of capitalism, when  the revolutionary phenomenon culminated and became universally  dominant and definitive in social and political life, became a defining international-universal movement, a socialist internationalization   confronting the imperialist  internationalization  of capitalism from 1880 to 1980  (see also Nolte 1987, Traverso 2016, Sotiropoulos 2017 etc).  A distinct labour class culture is both national and international. It can never develop without keeping  and maintaining   specific national characteristics[53].  (Communist Manifesto : workers have no country but they have to obtain political power and organize themselves as  a nation).      

-Revolutions and more generally victories of the labour movement always have relied on  social and political  alliances. The abstract  “scheme”  class-against class ( as in the period 1929-1933 in Germany) led to disasters.  Social coalitions cannot  always appear or be realized   as  political coalitions of parties. On the other hand, the insistence on coalitions only “from below” (like the ficticious or at least  imaginary  German  Rotfront around the KPD   in 1929-1933)  is sometimes the base for no coalitions at all and for a dogmatic sectarianism. In most  modern societies,  the large part of society  is composed of waged labour. However, waged labour in the broad sense  includes not only the working class : it includes  petty bourgeois salaried strata, new middle class,  intellectuals and  a minority of salaried capitalists  (managers, financiers etc) . The role of unemployed people , marginalized middle class and  peasants  (especially in the periphery and semi-periphery societies) is also very important. Workerist Stalinism, Trotskyism and Operaism-Autonomia   usually tend to be  exclusively for a labour alternative  ( although  Autonomism understands labour in an extremely wide and specific  sense) , even if their supporters express it in the traditional  United Front discourse . For the  Autonomists,  labour is the negative of capital and the first material for rioting, the self-abolition of its identity a presupposition for a successful revolution.    Modern  Trotskyism, on the other hand,  usually substitutes the class-social  coalition with a coalition of mythological  labour class with the diverse and diffuse  identities’ groups and  the  pro-migrant movements.

-As we have already noted, labour class has a vertical  social stratification and  also, in the postmodern world,   many cultural fragmentations. It is not an absolutely  homogenous class and it develops very different, one from the other part of it , social and political practices.   Its social cohesion is not given but always constructed or deconstructed  with the means of political and cultural  struggle.     

the revolutionary  Marxist political organization remains helpful and  necessary, as long as the perspective of revolution remains an open perspective. Does it mean that the party  of today is  or should be  a  true copy of the hierarchical  Leninist party of 1902 or of 1917  ? Not at all.  Social and cultural differentiation of labour leads more propably  to a constellation of organizations and forms of political action , cooperating one with the other, than to the singularity of one “wise” party of the vanguard , that knows all that is to know.   Nevertheless , the party-organization  moment is one only of the vehicles-instruments  of class consciousness, of class hegemonic struggle . Sometimes, the political  struggle experience itself, as Luxemburg already puts it at the beginning of the 20th century, referring to the political general strike,  is many times more valuable than the correct political party  line, often submitted to Byzantine and undemocratic  processes of forming.  Not always is it the party that leads to victory or its absence that leads to the defeat.  The factors of victory and defeat   vary and are not always the product of the “wise generals” of revolution. The strategy of the class belongs to the class as  a whole, its tactics only depend on its specific social and political organization.   

4. A class without a unified/unifying  class consciousness ?  Considerations on the “blurry”  class consciousness of the modern working class  ( after 1980) and the “party” form.

Let us speak plainly. The errors committed by a truly revolutionary movement are infinitely more fruitful than the infallibility of the cleverest Central Committee, Rosa Luxemburg  : “Organizational Questions of the Russia Social Democracy” (aka – “Marxism or Leninism”) , 1904.     

Antagonistic and revolutionary class consciousness  of the labour class has dropped  and been reduced dramatically  in the West ( advanced capitalism)  in the four decades since 1980.  Even the word “revolution” is used In a  “cheap”  manner,  foreign to  the tradition of  social and political revolution  (revolution in  technology, communication, commerce, health services, personal relations  etc).  Revolution is in every day speech  a  “novelty”  of some kind.  The notion of  social revolution has retreated in the conscience of workers and other popular classes-but not vanished totally.  Whatever we  choose to call or define  the present  phase of capitalism  (monopolist-imperialist, late monopolist, postkeynesian, postmodern,   totalitarian or neoliberal capitalism, globalization etc) , the quantitative and  qualitative perception of working class  differs in a significant manner from its perception and existence in the period until the 68 movements. Waged labour and  the working class as its most important  part  has as a percent of the  total population increased  in advanced capitalism ( 70 to 90 %[54]). Modern labour class is statistically  much wider and more potent   than the traditional industrial labour class : it includes workers  in the  production and circulation of commodities, workers of services and of production of the not material commodities, workers in transport, public service workers and civil servants, who haven’t got   the privilege of directing other persons, land workers, scientific workers in  technological sectors like microelectronics or biotechnology  etc. Even if some categories are not linked with the production of commercial values but with social and common goods  and  use-values, they are exploited not via surplus-value : they produce surplus- labour in the not commercial sector of the national economy, in the sector of social reproduction of capital and labour force .  Transformations  of labour class are not just technical; they happened in an environment of large labour defeats in the West ( Italy, Britain, Germany at the end of the 70s and the beginning of the 80s) , in a international environment sealed by the fall of the USSR  in 1991 and the US-Western  Unipolar moment ( Charles Krauthammer 1991 ) .

A wider working class is not necessarily more proletarian than the traditional  narrower class- or even equally proletarian .  Most sociologists of the last decades,  varying in their political beliefs,  tend to accept that the consciousness and the sense of belonging to a unified class with common class interests has  weakened and not become stronger.  Technological and  intensely specialized workers  or bank assistants do not identify themselves with migrant workers, who handle “dirty” and manual jobs and stay at the bottom of labour hierarchy. Strawberry field labourers , janitors and bank assistants belong to the same class, but their perception of labour class is not common at all.   Transferring a big portion of industry installations to the periphery and to China is a tendency that  contains culturally, to some extent,    the traditional proletarization of the advanced world.

Some socialdemocratic   sociologists, historians and political scientists have claimed in the 90s that  the labour subject has obtained a  positively diverse form  in the last decades[55] :  labour class is not anymore only masculine , it includes both sexes and a increasing proportion of women. It is divided between Third Sector, services’ sector  and  traditional industry, it has native members and migrant workers , it includes people of elementary education and academics , it has two speed  workers in the public and the private sector, in the secure and the precarious sector. Some waged strata, that once had a  consciousness of middle class  (for example lower public servants or lower office workers) have moved closer in their structural determination  to working class ; their consciousness has not always followed   their (new) objective  class interests  . The so called waged new middle class ( teachers in state schools, parts of bureaucracy , stand in the middle between traditional middle class  and traditional working class  and their form of class consciousness varies as well ( Callinicos- Harman 1987) .

How can all these strata work together and  mutually recognize each other as members or parts  of the same class?   Is it really possible ?    Also, the presence of multicultural environments in advanced countries for the last decades and the fragmentation of internal cultural or sexual  groups makes the  socio-political unification  of class  consciousness extremely complicated.  The problem of  a unified and distinct class consciousness is not a theoretical one ; In is not related to the fact of struggle ( even not unified subjectively workers fight against capital). It is related to the subjective identity of the class  in past and present , a common  passion for social  change and a common   feeling that the members of the class constitute a distinct social and political force with common interests and desires.  The loss of important instruments , representations and intermediations of the social class  is also an indication of the weakening  of its subjective identity.    

-Our first basic  assumption lies in the objective unification and the potential subjective unification of all these diverse strata to one and a singular working class of the 21st century, diverse and  not clearly homogenous but with common long term class interests. If socialism can still be achieved, this new working class will  potentially be  the epicentre    and the hegemon  of the revolutionary process.  We do not share  the hypothesis   that the non stabile  situation of class consciousness in class struggle  transforms labour class in toto to a wide petty bourgeois class, as  the “white and blue colars” ’ sociological theory has insisted for decades.

-Our second assumption is connected to our thesis   above that political  position of labour class  can potentially or eventually only lead to  social revolution; not as the fatal product of certainty and of iron mechanist History Laws of Dialectical Materialism  in the tradition of 2nd and 3rs International. The modern working class has many obstacles to override and is neither the “Messiah” nor the necessary Instrument of History, as  G. Lucacs  had once  put it with an extremely beautiful revolutionary vigor in “History and Class Consciousness”.  The alternative of social barbarism under a  capitalism that is not  likely to be overthrown or to be  surpassed    is not only present , but is grows more and more, as far as no  positive social  solution is  practically introduced and implemented .  Time is not unlimited: the material, social and moral  resources of humanity are running out. 

-Our third assumption is related to the problem whether social  classes can exist without  a clear  class consciousness for the long term-relying on the situation of the class in the last decades. .  We think as a possibility  that for a certain historical period the antagonistic  class consciousness of ruled classes can retreat and not essentially  signify  their social  role and presence. The reason may be, is mostly,  a  negative strategic outcome of class struggle.  The famous historian  GEM de St. Croix has supported the claim that slaves in the ancient Greek world  were not characterized  for centuries  by  a very constantly antagonistic  or revolutionary class consciousness[56].  They  were usually  passive, if we do not count the everyday molecular resistance as a major  antagonistic symptom.  This position contradicts the romantic position of Lucacs  in “History and Class Consciousness” that the absence of class consciousness is a synonym for the negation or non existence  of the proletariat. Of course, a  long duration of the absence of  radical class consciousness  will not avoid the problem of a deeper and permanent  change in the social nature of working class. Even the potentiality of radical thinking   and acting can  disappear ( or as H. P. Lovecraft once put it in his romantic  horror novels, “for the long term even the dead can really die”).

The topics  of  ( a problematic) class consciousness and   ( a problematic) political representation of labour class are strongly connected with the rise  or the fall of the “labour class centrality” in the anticapitalist struggle. Postmodern Left is inclined to abandon workers’ centrality, even if its rhetorics express their doctrinary  fidelity to it ( too strong revolutionary rhetorics, too few revolutionary actions).   We do not underestimate the important role of “new social movements of 1968” ( already old in 2018)  as significant of a multiple road to liberation. On the other hand, “new  social movements” without  a  common ground with the centrality of labour exploitation, without the notion of a  binding social and national  community,  tend to move to a multiple universe of narcissist/individualist  nomadic  subjects , floating and communicating  inside the cosmopolis, like the  Negri-Hardt “Empire” describes,   and are submitted to a transformation into the   direction of cultural and “human rights” universal liberalism.  Labour centrality is not a matter of rhetorics,  of persuading that one or the other leftist group represents labour interests more trully. It is a matter of political research and  unifying political  political practice.   It is a matter of searching for new forms of organization and solidarity. It is not one more   “ collective or individual identity” culture :  Marxist or anarchist organizations  usually reject  or deny the problem of collapsing  middle classes or small property, of social alliances . This version of modern workerism leads to a repeated isolation of workers’ practices.

Traditional organization forms are not only surpassed but also inadequate. The labour unions are to be defended against capitalist aggression. Nevertheless , the social composition of second and third grade leaderships  ( federations and confederations of unions) , as experience has proven, cannot stand for a lasting and successful struggle. They are   symbols of impotence or of class  retreat  in front of neoliberal aggressive policies.

As far as it concerns the political  party.  Many  Marxist organizations in Greece and in Europe try to prove that they express the continuation of old Leninism or Marxism. PCG (KKE)  in Greece and smaller organizations of the Far Left move inside this paradigm. The truth is that they are just more or less convincing “matrixes” “false/virtual  realities”  of the traditional Party of a New Type.  They have nothing to do with the needs and the realities that formed the Party of a  New Type,  in  tsarist Russia 120 years before. But , even if the conditions were different, the Party of New Type is not a positive and  appropriate option for our world :

  1. It refers to a more homogenous- in technical and social composition and in class consciousness- labour class.
  2. It does not recognize, as we have already noted, the social, political and moral  autonomy of labour class, its own right to choose, to decide and to  take the consequences of its decisions. Leadership is understood as a strict  hierchical control and as a “caste” , separated by the large majority of workers.     The Party of a new Type , even in its prestalinist form,   attacks the principles and rules of a democratic and humanist Marxism.   The Russian experience has proven that the Party of a New Type  usually attempts to  adapt labour class needs  to its own needs and tends to identify the social-political  power of proletariat with the power of  the party of proletariat[57]. The Bolshevic consensus in  March 1921  ( 10th Congress) on establishing  a party dictatorship ( including all the central leaders of Bolshevism : Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Bucharin , Radek  etc )   is not to be  attributed mainly or only  to the needs of civil war and of maintenance of labour  power. Seeds of this decision  have been there from the beginning ( as  Rosa Luxemburg criticized the Bolshevics  already in 1904 in her brochure   “Organizational Questions of the Russian Social Democracy”, MIA, Luxemburg  Archive ).
  3.  The Party of a New Type has undergone to a long period of moral  attrition  : due to the “Existing  Socialism” forms  of government and  the centralist and   antidemocratic form of proSoviet communism as state parties in the East  and as oppositional  parties in the West.


5.The second decade of the 21st century : the defeat of “new  reformism” in  Greece/ Southern Europe as an objective defeat of European labour classes

We will  start with our “national” recent  political   experience : the big  turn or “betrayal” or strategic  withdraw of the Syriza party in Greece in  the summer of 2015. In a few weeks  in July and August 2015, the Left party that was elected some months before in order to cancel the neoliberal-Memoranda policies, determined by the EU leadership and the Greek capital, organized a referrendum against EU austerity, succeeded with a 62 % of the voting body against the creditors, and,  after that,  abandoned/betrayed  the popular classes’ interests and led to  a third and worse  pact of neoliberal policies  ( third Memorandum)  with the EU-IMF front.   The radical minority of Syriza ( about 40 %)  was coerced to leave the party; nonetheless,   Syriza was successfully  reelected in September 2015 .  The “moderate Syriza” has evolved in a long process between 2010-2012 , a process at the same moment relevant with  the anti-Memoranda social unrest ( strikes of 2010, squares’ movement of 2011, uprise of February 2012)  and with the defeat of the movements and their dynamics in 2012-2013, leading  finally to a pure electoral “Left” representation.  The new  “moderate” Syriza is at the moment  the “beloved child” of the EU-IMF-USA  front and the Greek capitalists. In the three years before the first victory of Syriza ( January 2015),  a moderate or “ripening”  course was followed , destroying month after moth the perspectives of a popular-social  rupture with the EU-eurozone  and  of a popular mobilization against capitalism- western imperialism. The logical result was the famous TINA  : there is no other applicable form of policies except the correctly   chosen by the capital in order to manage its financial collapse  and its social crisis. There is no special red line anymore  between Left and Right , or between Left and Centre.   Some comrades from the “ Far Left” or the KKE    claim that all had been said before the turn of Syriza,  that the Real  Class Parties   had prophesied  the disaster, that  the Syriza  systemic degeneration was “obvious” from   the beginning, that  the only existing  political  problem  responds to  the illusions produced by the rise of a then  left reformist party and not the embracement of the more radical parties by the people ( KKE, Far Left etc).  For one more time : why is it that the large popular masses embracing Syriza and its propopular programme  against the EU and capital reconstruction  remained in their largest part true to Syriza and did not choose  to move further to the  Left, either before the turn – listening to the   external “left critique  to Syriza” –    or just after the turn- although  having realized in fact  that Syriza was already their class enemy ?   The only credible answer is the reality that popular classes were in 2015 –for reasons of the long time and the short time politics-   not subjectively and objectively  prepared to confront  the strategy of ruling classes.  They were not prepared politically by the Left Wing organizations  (internal in Syriza or external) , they were not convinced that they had to make important every day sacrifices, they were not convinced   that the road of “rupture” would lead to a lesser  evil and to a long term positive  situation (finally, a despair situation)..  Of course , the ( majority)  leadership of Syriza deliberately avoided to prepare the people, as it had no rupture in mind, even since 2012.    The moral and cultural  preparation, in the form of a fight culture and a  great risk , has been proven as more than  necessary : it was one “strong” point  by the Syriza leadership a) to propagate that  the change would emerge without serious ruptures and without serious sacrifices before the “turn”, to promote a passive and “easy”” laicism b) to propagate-after the “turn”- that the sacrifices in a case of “breaking with the EU”  would be futile and in vain, whereas people would starve or turn to  uncontrollable riots (the “promise of chaos” effect) .  Obviously, this form of propaganda relies on the estimation that in our times people usually  avoid to take important risks, threatening their narcissist passivity,  even if their choice leads to the continuation of their social and economic misery.

So there are two “no way outs” : one by the “official Left” government – neoliberalism has no real  alternative. One by the Left to the left of Syriza, the radical Left  : we tried to persuade the people to follow our route  and not the dubious Syriza’s route. They were supported by the system, so we failed. So, the next time, you, the people,  will have to choose the correct horse.    The answer is :  how did you really  intervene with your programme and your practice to support a long time resistance and a united front tactics , absolutely necessary in case of the radical choice ?  The  -not simple-  answer is : unfortunately, neither  the Left Wing of Syriza nor the Left parties beside Syriza    responded to the political needs of the critical period 2010-2015 . So they both, “extra-Syriza” and “intra-Syriza” Lefts,  inherited the disaster. 




  1. Considering the exit from the “Left” paradigm

The defeat of labour class in Greece and in Southern Europe ( for  example, the expanse of the  Greek defeat to the non electability of the Spanish Podemos, the prosystemic policies of the Portugal “Bloco” of the Left   or the “Die Linke” in Germany etc) has deepened the ideological and moral defeat of “1989” . So, it is a not a final defeat,  but , neverheles, a strategic  defeat.   It is even something to doubt whether the continuation of  emancipatory politics has to remain connected with the general  notion of the “Left”. The ‘Left” in  Greece – at least the majority of the “Left”- is a political  coalition based on neoliberal capitalism, aggression against the labour class, the other popular classes and the immigrants, characterized by  moral and ideological  corruption and nepotism,  strict dependence  and control of public finance, economy and society by the imperialist German, European    and USA policies, following the NATO coalition in its international adventurism.  It is obvious that the lack of  efficient resistance to this “Left”  by the social opposition will transfer  the dissatisfied members of the popular classes to the Ultra Right nationalist or even semi -fascist formations, as all the last elections in Europe tend to prove ( France, Germany, Austria, Flanders,  Italy, Hungary  etc).  So, what would be the loss , if we really abandoned the deeply wounded and misunderstood notion of the “Left” ?  Not much, to our opinion.  Left is a notion that unites  Syriza with the Far Left,  liberal-non conformist  entrepreneurs  with corrupted trade unionists, that unites police chiefs and demonstrators,   Hilary Clinton’s  followers  with  Bernie Sanders , Jeremy Corbyn  with  the tradition of Marxism, that unites oppressed and oppressors, amici et hostes,  that unites Rosa Luxemburg with   Friedrich Ebert, Philip Scheidemann  and  Gustav Noske,  that is, with  her assassins.    The so called  (mostly Trotskyist)  “organizations of Anticapitalist Left” in Europe have not proved  that they are more part of the solution than they are part of the problem; in some fields, they are hardly something more radical  or revolutionary than the Extreme Left of  cosmopolitanism and universal liberalism, of the “no border” project or the NGOs. Especially, Trotskyist or postTrotskyist  organizations ( fortunately, not all of them) seem to have no problem at all at cooperating with the NGOs and their  cosmopolitan agenda. So, “after the Left”[58],  the central  notion is,  remains, Communism. A movement older than capitalism and potentially apparent after  its future  fall, change  or overthrow.

  1. 7. Communists/Marxists after the End of Enlightenment ?  A provisional  conclusion

So “what  is to be done”  in the first half of the 21st century, after so many and important defeats ? In a period, when the collapse of human civilization seems more plausible than the triumph of socialism  ( Fr. Jameson) ? We have no clear   recipes  “for the kitchens of the future” , only some clear thoughts on the present communist and emancipatory  movement. The ISIS movement in Near East, the breaking of functioning and in some cases powerful   national states by Western imperialism ( see Syria, Iraq, Lebanon,  Libya or Ukraine  ) the defeats of Socialism in the last decades, the rising  danger of a   World War  IV, the marginalization of broader social strata, the decline of bourgeois democracy, the rise of new dictatorships and of Bonapartist/ populist leaders in “democracies”  like Trump or  Putin,  the increasing size of the  refugees  and immigrants all over the world, the serious  climate crisis, they  are all possible symptoms of a coming Final  End for the positive and emancipator versions and values of the Enlightenment, of a transition to a period of neobarbarism, to a period of “New Dark Ages”, perhaps darker than the historic medieval period due to the destructive possibilities of modern technology. In this historical perspective, either capitalism would destroy human civilization  ( so it would prove to be  the material/factual  and not the historicist End of History)   or it would be succeeded by a new , barbarian,  class Mode of Production ( see the opinions of Immanuel Wallerstein on the matter, studying the possible exits from contemporary world crisis) .  So,  man, the human species,   would secure his unlimited control on nature and on the other men by destroying  technical and moral civilization ( already  foreseen in the “Dialectic of Enlightenment” by Adorno and Horkheimer, 70 years before).  If that development were verified, the old promise of socialism and communism, as renewed under capitalism and by the view of classical Marxism, would lose every significant historical importance. It would be over with scientific socialism-communism ,  at least it would be over with a realizable communism by an existent social subject.  The game  would be over for a strategic victory, we would  have to confess with the beautiful German phrase  :  “ Das Spiel ist aus”.

Some previews of that situation are existent in the process of breaking and fragmentizing traditional collective identities;  retreat from a  subjectively unified labour class with a unifying class consciousness, retreat from  national collective identities and  systematic defamation of the nation -state  in favour of Empires “without borders”,  retreat from forms of a collective existence like family or love partnership,,  not only from their oppressive implementation,  more and more  obscure and hybrid  forms   of gender or of sexual contact , intermixing live and dead capital in order to construct  a Frankestein type   human-machine, a new anthropological creature and form, artificial intelligence, possibly without limits.  These phenomena resemble more dystopias or sf  EOW  ( End of the World) stories than utopias with a “happy end”.  The destructive forces of civilization, the  famous Freudian Instinct of Death, seem to rise and to destroy gains of centuries.  The transformation of labour class to a  divided internally form of  Roman plebs could also  be the outcome of present reconstructions. As we know the demand for Justice and , more specifically, the demand for a society without class domination  and exploitation existed  in all the precapitalist formations, usually expressed through  religious or philosophical messianic-utopic ideas and theories. Even in the capitalist society the demand for communism has always had not only a scientific but also a messianic- passionated theological meaning, as the case of Walter Beanjamin, Ernst Bloch  and of many other theorists  shows. Even, an abstract eventuality of communism was not excluded in  the precapitalist societies, as many “communist” revolutions happened before the stabilization of capitalism in the 16th and 17th century ( see, for example, the “apocalyptic”revolutions in Germany and in Moravia). Revolutions and especially communist revolutions are not phenomena restricted to capitalism or more generally to modernity, although modernity has producted a  special form of revolutionary practice or of will/need/desire   for revolution.  The specific problem , which has to be examined, is the question whether the end of the   “classical age of revolutions” in capitalism responds to the total  vanishing of revolution and of the radical  Enlightenment ideas’ in late capitalism or not. Whether the case of a rebirth of revolution  in late capitalism is plausible or not. We do not have the material to give a final answer to the question, although we stand in favour for the “rebirth” version.

To close this chapter of futurologic  possibilities and  potential catastrophs  or misfortunes with an option of optimism, reducing  pessimistic sorrow :  even in a space- time frame of “New Dark Ages”,  it would be valuable to be a communist and to participate in a plausible postmarxist   communist movement .  A communism without,  possibly, a happy communist end. A communist movement dedicated to the “lost” values of Democratic and Social Enlightenment and of social equality, to defend the poor, ruled  and oppressed against class domination and barbarism, to confront injustice and violence of the dominants with the violence and wisdom of the dominated.  A communist organization and collective identity would be, even at the factual  “End of History”,   really   irreplaceable.        


Selected  Bibliography ( English and German)

  1. Adorno- M. Horkheimer” Dialectic of Enlightenment” , Verso 1997.
  2. Althusser “For Marx”, Verso 2006. Especially the chapter “Contradiction and overdeterminism”.
  3. Althusser “On the Reproduction of Capitalism : Ideology and Ideological Apparatuses of the State” , Verso 2014.
  4. Arrighi “ The Long Twentieth Century- Money, Power and the Origins of our Times”, Verso 2010.
  5. V. Alba- S. Schwartz “ Spanish Marxism vs Soviet Communism- A History of the POUM”, Transaction Publishers 1988.
  6. P. Anderson “The Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci” , NLB, 1976.
  7. D. Belantis “ Left and Power – The “democratic road to socialism”, Athens 2014, Topos Books ( in Greek).
  8. D. Bensaid “An impatient life- a memoir”, Verso 2014.
  9. E. Bernstein “Die Voraussetzungen des Sozialismus und die Aufgaben der Sozialdemokratie” in English as   “Evolutionary Socialism“, MIA , Bernstein Archive, 1899.
  10. Ch . Bettelheim “ Class Struggles in the USSR 1923-1930”, Vol. 2, Monthly Review Press 1976.
  11. Ch. Bettelheim “Klassenkaempfe in der UdSSR, 1930-1941“, 3.-4. Band, Die Buchmacherei 2016.
  12. H. Bock “Syndikalismus und Linkskommunismus in Deutschland 1918-1923” , 1969.
  13. S. Bologna “ Class Composition and the Theory of the Party at the Beginning of the Workers Councils Movement’ ( Telos 13, Februry 1972).
  14. B. Bolloten “ The Spanish Civil War : Revolution and Counterrevolution” , University of Northern Carolina, 1991.
  15. L. Boltanski- E. Chapellot “ The new spirit of capitalism”, Verso  2007.
  16. Fr. Borkenau “The Spanish Cockpit- An Eye Witness Account to the Spanish Civil War”, ( 1938) , Phoenix 2000.
  17. F. Braudel “On History”, University of Chicago Press, 1980.
  18. G. Brennan “ The Spanish Labyrinth : An Account of the Political and Social Background of Spanish Civil War” ( 1943), Cambridge University Press 1988.
  19. P. Broue “The German Revolution 1917-1923” (1971) , Historical Materialism 2005.
  20. P. Broue – E.Temime “ Social Revolution and Civil War in Spain 1936-1939”, (1970s) , Haymarket Books 2008.
  21. A. Callinicos- Chr. Harman “The changing working class” , 1987, Bookmarks publishing.
  22. C. Castoriadis “Political and Social Writings 1955-1960”, Vol. 2 , “The political revolution against bureaucracy”, University of Minessota, 1988. .
  23. F. Claudin ‘The crisis of the communist movement”, Vol 1 “The crisis of the Communist International”, Vol. 2 “From Komintern to Kominform”, Monthly Review Pres 1975.
  24. B. Coriat “L’ atelier et le chronometre ”, Communa 1986 ( in Greek) .
  25. C. Crouch “Postdemocracy”, Polity Press 2004.
  26. R. Debray “A modest contribution to the rites and ceremonies of the tenth anniversary”,, NLR I/ 115 ( May –June 1979)
  27. R. Dunayevskaya : “Marxism and Freedom- from 1776 until today”, 2000, Humanity Press”
  28. G. Eley “Forging Democracy- the History of the Left in Europe 1850-2002”, Oxford University Press 2002.
  29. R. Fischer “Stalin and German Communism”, NY, 1949.
  30. O. Flechtheim “Die KPD in der Weimarer Republik”, Bollwerk Verlag- Karl Drot , 1948.
  31. D. Geary “European Labour Protest 1848-1939”, Palgrave Macmillan 1981.
  32. J. Gorkin “Canibales Politicos, Hitler y Stalin en Espana”, Quetzal ediciones, Mexico 1941. A rare  eye- witness position on the repression of the POUM by the GPU forces in 1937-1938.
  33. H. Gruber ”International Communism in the Era of Lenin”, Fawcett publications 1967.
  34. Chris Harman “ The lost revolution, Germany 1918-1923” , Bookmarks , London 1982.
  35. R. Hilferding “Finance Capital- A Study of the Latest Phase of Capitalist Development””, MIA , Hilferding Archive, 1910.
  36. H. Isaacs “The tragedy of  Chinese revolution” ,  MIA , Isaacs Archive, 1937.
  37. Fr. Jameson “Postmodernism- the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism”, Duke University Press 1992.

37.K. Kautsky “The road to power” , MIA, Kautsky  Archive, 1909.

  1. K. Kautsky “Terrorism and Communism”, MIA , Kautsky Archive 1918.
  2. V. I. Lenin “What is to be done?” (1902), “Essential works of Lenin : what is to be done and other writings” , Dover Publications 1987.
  3. V.I. Lenin “ One Step Forward-Two Steps Backward-The Crisis of our Party”, MIA, Lenin Archive, 1904.
  4. V.I. Lenin “The collapse of the 2nd International” , MIA, Lenin Archive, 1915.
  5. V.I. Lenin “Imperialism-the highest stage of capitalism” , MIA, Lenin Archive 1916. .
  6. V. I. Lenin “State and Revolution” (1917), Martino Fine Books 2011.
  7. V.I. Lenin “Left Wing Childishness and Pety Bourgeois Mentality” MIA, Lenin Archive, 1918.
  8. V.I. Lenin “The proletarian revolution and renegate Kautsky” , MIA, Lenin Archive, 1918.
  9. P. Levi (close friend, attorney and successor of R.  Luxemburg as chairman of the KPD  1919-1921) “Our  way against putschism ” , MIA, Levi Archive , 1924. An intense critique   of the KPD  March  Action in   1921 and its a posteriori  justification by the Communist International in 1921 . Levi moved in 1922 from KPD  to the USPD and later to the SPD, where he constituted a Left Wing fraction. He committed suicide in 1930.
  10. R. Lumley “States of Emergency – cultures of revolt in Italy from 1968 to 1978”, Verso 1990.
  11. R. Luxemburg “Mass strike: the political party and the labour unions”, (1906),  Harper 1971.  The rise of the subject “mass or general strike” in the 2nd International (period 1905-1907, period 1910-1911)  is described in  detail in J. Joll “The 2nd International 1889–1914” ,  Weidenfeld and Nicholson 1968.
  12. R. Luxemburg “ The Russian Revolution”  , MIA, Luxemburg Archive, 1918.
  13. E. Mandel “Late Capitalism”, Verso 1985.
  14. K. Marx “Poverty of Philosophy”, (1846) , International Publishers 1979.
  15. K. Marx “Grundrisse-Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy” , Penguin Classics , 1993.
  16. K. Marx “The Capital- A Critique of Political Economy” , Vol 1-3, Penguin Classics, 1992-1993.
  17. K. Marx “Precapitalist Social Formations” , Lawrence and Wishart , 1969.
  18. Karl Marx “The Civil War in France : The Paris Commune”, International Publishers 1989.
  19. A. Negri “Mass Worker and Social Worker” , Red Notes 1998.
  20. A. Negri “Domination and Sabotage-On the Marxist Method of Social Transformation” (1977) , in the collection “Books for Burning-between civil war and democracy in 1970s Italy” , Verso 2005.
  21. G. Orwell “Homage to Catalonia” , Penguin Classics, 2013.
  22. S. Pons “ Stalin , Togliatti and the Cold War in Europe”-pdf, 2001 ( the link in footnote 28)
  23. N. Poulantzas “Political Power and Social Classes”, NLB, 1976, Vol 1-2. .
  24. N. Poulantzas “Social Classes in Contemporary Capitalism”, Verso, 1978.
  25. V. Richards “Lessons from Spain” , 1957 , Eleftheros Typos 1995, (in Greek).
  26. K.H. Roth- Angelika Ebbinghausen ( Behrens) “Die andere Arbeiterbewegungund die Entwicklung der kapitaistischen Repression von 1880 bis zur Gegenwart”, 1973, Schriften zum Klassenkampf nr. 39 .
  27. Kr. Ross “May 1968 and its Afterlives” , University of Chicago Press, 2002.
  28. Sp. Sakellaropoulos “ Crisis and social stratification in Greece of the 21st century” , Topos 2014 ( in Greek).
  29. D. Sassoon “ One Hundred Years of Socialism- Te West European Left in the 2oth Century” Vol. 1 and 2, I.B.Tauris 2014.
  30. C. Schorske “ The German Social Democracy 1905-1917 – the development of the Great Schism”, Harvard University Press 1955.
  31. G. Sotiropoulos “Thirst for Justice- on the theory and history of revolution” , futura 2017 , in Greek.
  32. J. V Stalin “Questions of Leninism” , MIA, Stalin Archive.
  33. A. Thalheimer “A Missed Opportunity ? The Myth of German October and the Real History of October 1923”, MIA, Thalheimer Archive, 1931. August Thalheimer shared with Heinrich Brandler the leadership of KPD during the deep political and social crisis of 1923 in Germany. They both were expelled from the leadership of KPD  in autumn 1923 after the failure of the planned uprising  and from the party totally  some years  later. The cancellation oft he uprising in October 1923 was attributed tot hem, although all the whole  apparatus of Komintern was occupied with the preparation of the revolution between August and October 1923.
  34. R. Tosstorf “ Die POUM in der spanischen Revolution, ISP Verlag 2006.
  35. L. Trotski “Lessons of October” (1924) , Haymarket Books 2017.
  36. L. Trotski “Die permanente Revolution”, ( 1930) Fischer Verlag , 1980,

74.L. Trotski “Whither  France?” , MIA, Trotski Archive  1936.

  1. L. Trotski “Lessons from Spain-the last warning“, MIA, Trotski Archive, 1937.
  2. H. Weber” Die Wandlung des deutschen Kommunismus- zur Stalinisierung der KPD in der Weimarer Republik“,  EVA 1969.

– a first form of this study in Greek  was published in the website www.   on the  25.  of December  2015.  For the Greek text, see also  the  link :

[1]  Here we use the term “20th century”  literally. A more general  and permanent notion of the “Long Twentieth Century”  in G. Arrighi “The Long Twentieth Century- Money, Power and the Origins of our Times” , Verso 2010.  As it is known, E. Hobsbowm in his book “Age of Extremes” defines 19th century as a long century ( from 1789 to 1914)  and 20th century as a short century (1917-1991).

[2]  K. Marx “Precapitalist Social Formations”, Lawrence and Wishart,  1969.

[3]  N. Poulantzas “Political Power and Social Classes”,NLB 1976, Vol. I.

[4] “How noble the law, in its majestic equality, that both the rich and poor are equally  prohibited  from peeing in the streets, sleeping under bridges, begging in the streets and stealing their bread”.

[5]  See, among many, V.I. Lenin “Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism”, in Marxists Interner Archive, Lenin Archive, ( 1915-1916),   R. Hilferding “Finance Capital”, IN MIA, Hilferding Archive, 1910.

[6]  Cf. Benzamin Coriat “L’ atelier e le chronometre”, ( Greek edition) , 1986, especially   the works of the “Italian operaism” ( for example,  A. Negri “  Mass Worker and Social Worker” in ‘”Revolution retrieved”, London 1998, Red Notes etc).

[7]  See also the sincere  comparison by Lenin (1903)   of the  revolutionary party’s  internal discipline with the very positive large factory discipline  in his work “One Step Forward-Two Steps Backward-The crisis of our party ”, in  MIA, Lenin’s Archive,  chapter  Q. “The New Iskra- Opporunism in  Questions of Organization”.  Those who reject  the  positive and enforcing example of  factory discipline  look like   the German supporters of  “Edelanarchismus”.

[8]   Charles Bettelheim “Klassenkaempfe in der  UdSSR  1930-1941”,  3.-4. Band, Berlin 2016, Die Buchmacherei.  The 3.-4. Volumes of Bettelheim’s  “Class Struggles in the USSR” were recently published  also in Greek  (2017, editions  Koukida).

[9] See C. Castoriadis “Marxism and Revolutionary Theory” , First Chapter of the “Imaginary Institution of Society” (1964).  This text is the “turning point” for the departure of Castoriadis from Marxism.

[10]  Carl Schorske “ German Social Democracy 1905-1917-the Development of the Great Schism”, Harvard University Press, 1955.

[11]  P.Anderson “The Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci”, NLB 1976.

[12] See , among  many others, H. Gruber “International Communism in the Era of Lenin” , Fawcett Publications 1967, P. Broue “The German Revolution 1917-1923” (1971, Historical Materalism 2005). pp 227  et seq, 261 et seq   555  et seq,  Chr. Harman “The lost revolution : Germany 1918-1923”, Bookmarks 1982,  L. Trotski “ Lessons of October” (1924), 2017, Haymarket Books, H. Weber “ Die Wandlung des deutschen Kommunismus- zur Stalinisierung der KPD in der Weimarer Republik” , Europaeische Verlagsanstalt 1969,  R. Fischer “Stalin and the German Communism” , NY 1949, P. Levi  “ Our way against “putschism ” , MIA , P. Levi Archive ,  1924  etc

[13]  A. Thalheimer (1931) “A Missed Opportunity ? The Legend of German October and the Real History of October 1923” in MIA, Thalheimer Archive. ( In German : Eine vermisste Gelegenheit? Die Legende vom deutschen Oktober und die wirkliche Geschichte vom Oktober 1923”).

[14] See here the useful thoughts of G.Sotiropoulos ( 2017) “ Thirst for Justice – on the theory and history of revolution”, Futura, in Greek, pp. 79-83. .

[15] On the  basic difference between “ structural class determination” and “political class position”, as  a position,  taken in class struggle,  see in N. Poulantzas  “Social Classes in Contemporary Capitalism” , Verso 1978, Introduction, with the title  “What are the social classes, according to  Marxist theory” ? .

[16]  See ,among many, E. Laclau, Ch.Mouffe “Hegemony and Socialist Strategy-towards a radical democratic politics ”, Verso 2014.  Into  a   different (revolutionary) direction, also the  position of  G. Sotiropoulos (2017)  op.cit.  pp. 27-30. Sotiropoulos correctly differentiates between the historical and the theoretical conditions of revolution, its  abstract and  historically  concrete foundations.

[17]  Fernand Braudel “On History”, University of Chicago Press , 1980, pp.  24-38. Braudel

[18] See also the economic theory of the “long waves” of capitalist development in E. Mandel “Late capitalism”, Verso 1985, also his text “The Long Waves of Capitalist Development” . On the term “revolutionary cycle” and ‘revolutionary wave”, apart from the work of Mandel, see the political  works of T. Negri , especially of the workerist period” ( “Mass worker and social worker” etc) , also S. Tarrow  “Cycles of Protest: Between Moments of Madness  and the Pepertoire of Contention” , Social Science History 17: 2 1993 , pp. 28-307.

[19]  R.Luxemburg “ The mass strike : the political party and the trade  unions”, Harper 1971.

[20] See, also, on the subject,   R. Jacoby “Dialectic of Defeat-Contours of Western Marxism”, Cambridge University Press, 2002.

[21]  Sergio Bologna “Class Composition and the Theory of the Party at the Origin of the Workers Councils Movement ( Telos 13, February 1972) .  A very sophisticated critique to the  early scheme of Roth-Ebbinghausen, improving its extreme points – always inside the operaist theoretical  frame.  .

[22] See  C. Crouch “Postdemocracy”, Polity Press, 2004.

[23]  Here we use the term literally. A more general  and permanent notion of the “Long Twentieth Century”  in G. Arrighi “The Long Twentieth Century- Money, Power and the Origins of our Times” , Verso 2010.

[24] See also the referred work of G. Sotiropoulos (2017) , pp. 27, 145 et seq.

[25] Die permanente Revolution” , Fischer 1980 (1931) .

[26]  V. I .Lenin “The proletarian revolution and renegade Kautsky” , MIA, Lenin Archive , 1918, also L. Trotski  “ Terrorism and Communism” , MIA, Trotski Archive 1918, 1921.  These works answer to the works of K. Kautsky :Terrorism and Communism” and “The  Dictatorship of the Proletariat” , 1918.

[27]  Ch. Bettelheim “ Class Struggles in the USSR” Vol.  2  1923-1930, Monthly Review  Press 1976, Part 4, Chapters 1 and 2. Bettelheim opposes clearly  the Stalinist coercion of  all Soviet  peasants by the Soviet state  in 1928-1935  to the Maoist policies of supporting the workers- poorpeasants  alliance and not using administrative measures against  the peasants .

[28]  See about that unjust critique to Stalin,   C.L.R. James ‘World Revolution 1917-1936” , Chapter 7, “Stalin kills the German Revolution of October 1923” ( MIA, CLR  James Archive,  end of the 30s ). Stalin , as Broue shows, was not much interested in the German project of 1923  or optimistic about it. In spite of this, he  participated in all the attempts to prepare and support it  from the Soviet side. The Stalinist undermining of German revolution and resistance to the Nazis  happened much later.

[29]  See  H.M. Bock “Syndikalismus und Linkskommunismus in Deutschland 1918-1923”, Hans Adolf Hain Verlag 1969.  It is the most detailed history of the  left wing KAPD  party and the AAU anarchosyndicalist union.

[30]  Dick Geary  “The European Labor Protest”, Palgrave Macmillam 1981. Chapter 3 : Maturing and Organization 1890-1914.

[31]  There is an interesting  political sf novel  by the German  author Christian von Ditfurth with the title “Das Luxemburg Komplott”, focusing to the counterfactual that they do survive the armed attack of the Freikorps. Their political conflict with Lenin and the Soviet Union  seems to be the next major incident.

[32]  On the Popular  Front in France,  see  L. Trotsky “Whither France ?, 1934-1935, MIA, Trotsky Archive , ” F. Claudin “ La crisis de la moviemento communista  , Vol 1 and 2  , Ruedo Iberico, 1970,  F. Claudin ( English edition)  “The crisis of the Communist Movement” , Vol 1  “The crisis of the Communist International”, Monthly Review 1975,    J. Jackson “The Popular Front in France” , 1990 etc..

[33] Nevertheless, its libertarian, self-organizing  and direct democratic character and the  consequent conflict of Spanish revolutionaries  with Komintern and the USSR  has pushed many  important Marxist theorists of the 20th century( like G. Lukacs ,  L. Althusser, N. Poulantzas, A. Badiou etc) to totally ignore it or to set it aside from the modern revolutionary experience.

[34] See, among many, in P.Broue-E.Temime (1971) “Revolution and Civil War in Spain”, Haymarket Books 2008, Chapters 5 to 9.  , Fr. Borkenau “The Spanish Cockpit- An Eye Witness to the Spanish Revolution”,   G. Brennan “The Spanish Labyrinth- An Account of the Social and Political Background of the Spanish Civil War”  (1943) , Cambridge University Press , 1988, pp. 316 et seq, 321-322, and others.   Brennan belongs to the moderate Left, he is not sympathetic to the collectivizations. However, he  notes their  surprising  economic and technical success ( pp. 321-322).  For  the last decades’ bibliography , see  the colossal  work of Burnett Bolloten ( 1991) “The Spanish Civil War : Revolution and Counterrevolution”, University of Northern  Carolina Press, that also  rises the political  responsibilities and crimes of Stalinism .

[35] It has been pointed out by some authors of Autonomism that Spanish “self-direction”  of 1936-1937was a mode of self-discipline and self-submission of labour to capital. We disagree with the extremity of this position, as it leads to the result  that “self-direction”, if acceptable,   should lead under any circumstances, to a direct and immediate  communist negation of labour and of production.

[36] V. Richards “Lessons  of the Spanish Revolution”, 1957 .

[37] Broue-Temime  ( 2008) op cit, G. Orwell “Homage to Catalonia”,  F. Morrow “Revolution and Counterrevolution in Spain” etc.

[38]   Victor Alba-  Stephen Schwartz “Spanish Marxism vs Soviet Communism- A History of the POUM” , 1988, Transaction Publishers.

[39]  See for the term especially E.Nolte “Der europaeische Buergerkrieg 1918-1945- Nationalsozialismus und Bolschewismus”, Herbig 1987, 2000. The notion has been wider known in cycles of the Left  through the recent  book of Enzo Traverso “Fire and Blood-the European Civil War (1914-1945)” , Verso 2016. Traverso’s analysis, although “progressive” , is not as deep and historically detailed and founded  as Nolte’s one.

[40] See here some interesting thoughts on the revolutionary and counterrevolutionary dynamics of armed antifascism during the World War II  in G. Sotiropoulos( 2017) op.cit. pp 223-237 ( “homage to partisan struggle”).

[41] E. Mandel “Critique of Eurocommunism” , 1977.

[42]  See Cornelius Castoriadis “Political and Social Writings  Vol. 2 ,1955-1960”, University of Minessota, 1988, pp 57 et seq, “The Political Revolution against Bureaucracy” .

[43]  From the title of the  book of the formal secretary of EAM and cadre of KKE  Th. Chatzis “ The victorious revolution that was lost”, Athens 1978, 4 Vol. ( in Greek).

[44]  See also the recent  interesting article of S. Pons (2001) “Stalin, Togliatti and the Cold War in Europe”. The link : .

[45] See R. Lumley “States of Emergency-Cultures of Revolt in Italy from 1968 to 1978”, Verso 1990.

[46]  See for example the positions of the Ultra Left of the Cultural Revolution movement, as presented by  the Sengwulien movement in autumn  1967 in the text “Whither China?”  – J. Unger “Whither China? Yang Xiguang, Red Capitalists,  and the Social Turmoil of the Cultural Revolution”-pdf text,  in the net.

[47] See in G. Sotiropoulos (2017) pp. 190-195, who puts the interesting claim that the “desire for war” is , to a grade, a sociopsychological  replacement of the desire to make the revolution, areplacement useful and productive for the owning classes. .

[48] The importance of   “1945” for the evolution of labour class consciousness in the West has been stressed by  the French  Council Communist J. Camatte in his text “ About the revolution” ( February 1972, Invariance review ) , see Camatte Archive  in  MIA.

[49]  D. Bensaid “An impatient  life- a memoir”, Verso 2014.  See, also, D. Bensaid “Revolutionary strategy”, 1987.

[50]   L. Boltanski , Eve Chapellot “The new spirit of capitalism”, Verso 2007.  See also in Kr.Ross “May 1968 and its afterlives” , University of Chicago Press 2002.

[51]  F. Terzakis “Human Rights’ Ideology  (Dikaiomatismos) as  the senile disease of social movements” , newspaper Dromos of the Left , 17-10- 2017 (in Greek).

[52] See for example the theorists of Theorie Communiste ( TC) , expressed in Greece by the “Blaumachen” review (2006-2013). To their opinion, the destruction of  traditional labour collective  identity and  traditional labour organization  is very positive, as it moves the labourers from an ideological scheme of “socialist-labour state power” , that is,  from the reconstruction of capital by a workers’ initiative or institutionalization. The abolition of specific class demands signifies the emergence of  labour class as a “non subject”,  as a class negating directly  its own position in the capitalist society.

[53] N. Poulantzas “State, Power, Socialism” (1978), Verso 2014.

[54] See Al. Callinicos and Chris Harman “The changing working class” , 1987, 1989, Bookmarks Publishing.  Also the recent  important sociological  study of Sp. Sakellaropoulos  “Crisis and social stratification in Greece of the 21st century”, Athens 2017, Topos ( in Greek) , proving the substantial rise of waged labour in the population in the years 1991-2011.

[55]  Donald Sassoon  “One Hundred  Years of Socialism- the West European Left in the 20th century” , IB Tauris , 2014, 2nd part.    Ch. Mouffe and  Er. Laclau  “Hegemony and Socialist Strategy” , Verso 2001.

[56] Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World : From the Archaic Age to the Arab Conquests”, London 1981, Introduction. Also in E. Hobsbowm “Class consciousness in History”  in  Aspects in History and Class Consciousness, 1971.

[57] See  J.V. Stalin “Questions of Leninism”, Chapter “On the questions of Leninism” , 1926, Greek edition pp. 151-175.  Stalin  sincerely  claims that,  in all the basical points,  the dictatorship of the party is identical with the dictatorship of the working class. Stalin is not just a “corrupted  usurper” and  tyrant who degenerates Marxism, he codifies and sharpens elements , already apparent in Leninism ( also apparent in the Trotskyist version of  Marxism -Leninism).

[58]  Some important problems, concerning the notion of the “Left” and its historical and  political “uses” have been pointed out by  J. Cl. Michea in his book ‘Les  Mysteres de la Gauche.  De l’ ideal  des Lumieres  au triomphe  du capitalism absolu”  (2013) ( Greek edition, 2014, Enallaktikes Ekdoseis).