Some Unanswered Questions
I went back to an old post and found these questions by Wiser Man Than I directed towards yours truly. Talk about pointed, these questions, formed after some of his reading, are the crux of some of the most controversial issues discussed by Marxists since he wrote his thesis. First:
"Labor reform, as opposed to revolution, is counter intuitive. Is my understanding correct and do you agree with Marx on this one?"
First, I assume you are referring to Marx's belief that reform in general was counter productive, which opens up the whole can of worms of "left wing" communism, of unions or even 'progressive" politics in general. Are Marxists waiting for or encouraging such a crisis or rupture that the revolutionary consciousness is released like a magic gas? Wouldn't any relief directed toward the working class just delay such a crisis? Must the poor suffer even more before gaining "salvation"?
It is true that many early Marxists interpreted the economic formulations of Capital as deterministic "proof" that capitalism simply created the conditions for it's own demise (over accumulation, decline of profit + class conflict = socialist revolution). When world revolution did not occur and the Soviet Union turned into a dictatorship of bureacratism, several competing narratives emerged to explain capitalisms resiliancy and some did a closer reading of Marx's work on political economy to see what the others had missed . While Gramsci developed the concept of hegemony, some delved off into Marxist philosophy,(the Frankfurt School) to see if the answers lie in a psychological or sociological terrain. One of the more interesting synthesizers was Mandel,(who I am currently reading) who revived the work of Kondratieff and the concept of economic "long waves" and insisted on an "open Marxism" which could assimilate the new objective, concrete, conditions of the specific historical moment in it's analysis. (techno innovacion,social forces, CLASS CONCIOUSNESS, monetary system, ideology etc etc.. In other words, a complex matrix which included rate of profit, but much ,much more. Marx could not see these "waves" of course,because he wrote at the end of the very first one.
Having discarded the strictly "determinist"aspect of Marxist theory, we are still left with the practical question, to reform or not to reform? In light of the theory of "waves" I think we must look at all efforts towards reform and judge them by their organizing possibilities. Are they radicalizing in their methods, do they have an internal logic which makes clear the necessity of ending capitalism or not? Seen in this way, anti-war organizing only makes sense if it looks to the cause of wars in general and looks to "end the next war". Anti-poverty reform is valuable if it awakens people to the ultimate cause of poverty, the wage and profit system. Human rights struggle only has value to the extent it makes clear the issue of economic justice, in other words, if in each case it points to systemic and structural cause and enhances class consciousness. Our union organizing only makes sense if we point out our ultimate goal is to end the need for unions.
Working for progressive candidates only makes sense if at the same time you reminfd voters they cannot vote for a democratic economic system.
This in part answers Wisers other great question "Is socialism inevitable, Is revolution required for that which must eventually arise anyway?" Here it is a question of defining "revolution" and opening a territory for new models and forms of resistance. On one end we have the Bolivarian Revolution which hopes to work in a constitutional and democratic framework, we have the Cuban revolution, with it's authoritarian and statist tendency and we see innovative revolutionary practices such as workers councils, the occupied factory movement , collectives, Paracons, and other horizontally organized social experiments. I think it important to remember that historically speaking , the same conditions which hold promise for socialist revolution also provide openings for extreme right wing movements such as fascism and nazism or left wing abberations such as Stalinism. So, no, socialism is far from inevitable. It requires an amazing amount of work and sacrifice.