Movement of thought

September 8, 2009

ERNST FISCHER: THE REVOLUTION IS DIFFERENT

Filed under: Politics — movementofthought @ 7:56 am

This article is a summary of Ernst fischer’s book – ‘The Revolution is Different’, which is very relevant today. Imperialism is ridden with crisis after crisis. But revolutionary movement is also facing acute ideological-crisis. This piece of work is helpful to some extent to understand the broader ideological-political aspect of this debate…………………. – Editor

Summary: Ernst Fischer’s latest book, a collection of ten questions and answers relating to modern communist theory and practice, has just appeared in West Germany. In Die Revolution ist anders, the Austrian theoretician expresses his conviction of the necessity for dynamic development in the sphere of “leftist politics.” The following report surveys several of the questions and answers in this volume. Ernst Fischer, the doyen of progressive Western Marxist theoreticians, proclaimed at the time of his expulsion from the Communist Party of Austria (KPOe) in October 1969 that he would “continue to champion outside the Party that which is no longer possible within the Party.” [1] This month, his latest contribution to this crusade was published by the West German Rowohlt Verlag: a volume entitled Die Revolution ist anders (The Revolution is Different) in which Fischer replies to ten questions addressed to him by a Bremen school class. The dominant theme of Fischer’s answers is his oft-stated conviction that the potentials of leftist politics have been smothered by the dogmatism of their Soviet variation and by the projection of a Soviet hegemony upon the rest of the communist world. [page 2] The first question posed to Fischer by the pupils reads: “Do you see a parallel between your expulsion from the Party and the removal from all his significant Party offices of the important French Marxist Roger Garaudy?” Fischer’s affirmative answer is given in terms of the process of normalization. Moscow and its allies, he says, consider the following situation “normal”: The communist parties must support the Russian great power policies, approve of and justify every diplomatic or military action, not permit any criticism of dogmas or methods. Neither Fischer nor Garaudy adhere to these rules of the game, of course, and this represents the common denominator of their expulsion from their respective CPs and, not incidentally, of their being damned by the East. But they are not the only ones to be effected by this Soviet Weltanschauung. Introducing the reason behind these “rules,” Fischer says: As absurd as it is, I assume that their fear of a leaflet on the Red Square, of a critical article in a communist journal, of communism without censorship, is not faked, but rather genuine. They fear nothing as much as an autonomous revolutionary movement. Here Fischer touches on what is to be a main theme in his answers to the more theoretical questions which follow: the necessity of autonomy from Soviet state interests and their corollaries at the party level. The Possibilities of Leftist Politics Fischer devotes the most time to answering the second question: “What possibility do you see for leftist politics in the capitalist countries?” Defining “leftist” in general terms (someone who encourages expanding democratic rights, supports the weak against the strong, aspires to improved social security, who struggles against poverty and for equal educational opportunities, et.al.), Fischer then moves on to the basic Marxist issue of the class struggle and class consciousness. His thesis is that: The structure of the industrial society and, with it, of the working class, has, since Marx analyzed them, changed so fundamentally, that not only the preconditions but the possibilities of revolutionary politics as well are thoroughly different from 100 or 50 years ago. [page 3] For example, Marx’ classification of “productive” and “commercial” workers is no longer applicable; today, one must include those in the service sector and “a myriad of intermediate and transitional levels.” Likewise, the ratio of rural to urban population (and related professions) has shifted tremendously since Marx’ days. Under present conditions, Fischer concludes, the intellectuals, for example, have become true members of the working class. Thus, as Antonio Gramsci would have it, a new historical bloc must be formed between the workers, in the classical sense, and the intellectuals. The phenomenon of class consciousness, Fischer asserts, is likewise a very different matter today from what it was 50 years ago. As the clearly identifiable classes of the past have disappeared, so too has the possibility of developing an identification with a particular class position. Instead, Fischer says, it is a matter of developing a “social consciousness,” a consciousness of one’s society “in contrast to the consciousness of those who are interested in their profit, their power, their lack of responsibility.” While Fischer embraces the classical Marxist assumption of the presence of system-related conflicts in the capitalist order, he notes that that order has learned to cope with its problems in such a manner that a revolutionary �lan no longer prevails among the workers. This lack of revolutionary impulse within the workers, he says, is aggravated by the lack of a socialist model; Yugoslavia is too underdeveloped a country; the socialist democracy which was evolving in Czechoslovakia in 1968 was put down from outside; the suppression of every freedom of opinion in the Soviet Union and other “socialist” countries, this deformation of a great idea, serves the profit economy more than does any reactionary propaganda. The degree to which the Soviet Union has suffocated this revolutionary leftist potential in the Western world is then stated, with direct reference to the Prague Spring. Since Stalin’s time, in Fischer’s estimation, it has been normal procedure in the Soviet Union; to invent theoretical reasons, after the fact, for political decisions which contradict the nature of socialism. Brezhnev is no different, proclaiming after the attack on socialist Czechoslovakia, which contradicted all the basic principles of socialism, that it was the duty of proletarian internationalism to subordinate the autonomy of individual socialist states to the over-all interests of the Warsaw Bloc [page 4] and, in order to preserve these over-all interests to move in, with armed force if necessary, so as to provide “fraternal aid” to the “true” communists. The principle of independence and equal rights of all the communist parties was thus overturned; the “over-all interests” always identical with the power-political interests of the Soviet Union justify the military suppression of any upstart party, as well as the division which Moscow has contrived of heroic illegal parties such as the Greek and Spanish [parties]. Fischer’s response to this situation is not resignation but an impulse toward renewal. Independent leftist groups, for example, are seen as potentially useful contexts for genuine revolutionary activity. Likewise, the trade unions are singled out as fertile ground for sowing the seeds of revolution. What is important in the final analysis is not, Fischer asserts, membership in a particular party or group, but the willingness to engage in total revolutionary commitment, and “always to put the over-all interest of the working class before one’s own prestige and leadership claims.” Dictatorship of the Proletariat? Examining the idea today of instituting a dictatorship of the proletariat, Fischer turns first to the Paris Commune (“rich with revolutionary tendencies, but not with experience as to how such a system further develops”), and then to the Soviet Union. With Stalin’s rise to power, “what had begun as a dictatorship of the proletariat became a dictatorship of great Russian chauvinists.” While this is often explained away by communist apologists as a manifestation of a “revolution of a specific sort” in the Soviet Union, Fischer asks if, in fact, there can ever be ‘any other sort of revolution than a specific one, under specific circumstances. For example, in general in the modern industrial society, the revolution which wins in one blow and considers a dictatorial regime necessary to secure this victory has become unlikely. [page 5] Developing this thesis, which bears strong resemblance to Roger Garaudy’s assessment of revolution in modern society, [2] Fischer sees the factor of power as having become not only more concentrated but more complicated. Therefore, “in the highly organized industrial society, an organized force is necessary so that the revolutionary movement does not miss its chances.” The question is, however, what sort of force this should be. Fischer assumes that “the demand for a dictatorship, whether it is called a dictatorship of the proletariat or an educational dictatorship or whatever, encourages the dictatorial and paralyzes the democratic tendencies”: Thus, from the Very beginning it is a matter of guaranteeing the members [of such a force — lg] a maximum of democratic decision among alternatives, of encouraging forms of direct democracy, democracy from below, control from below, the possibility of calling leading comrades to responsibility, and limiting the apparat and constantly renewing it. In addition to this politically motivated insight, there exists a second “behavioral” reason for questioning the viability of a dictatorship of the proletariat, the basic thesis of which is: the revolutionary party or society or confederation must anticipate through its example the society to which it aspires. The contradiction between this basic thesis, founded in historical materialism, and “dictatorially structured parties which…are only good for setting up dictatorial regimes” is evident. In the final analysis, Fischer concludes, it is necessary to recognize the risk which any regime runs of turning the corner to a dictatorship, and therefore not to aim for a “dictatorship of the proletariat” as a euphemistic reformulation for dictatorship of a party, a power apparat., but rather in the revolutionary movement itself to secure a maximum of democracy, initiative and critical thought, of revolutionary “pluralism.” [page 6] Moscow and Peking Another reason why “the revolution is different” results from the lack of unity in the international communist movement and the tensions which accompany it. Fischer traces the roots of this conflict to the opposition of Yugoslavia to Moscow’s rule, Palmiro Togliatti’s theory of “unity in diversity,” through the Sino-Soviet split, to the effects which the “attack on Czechoslovakia” had on the Western parties: it “led to the split of the Greek and Spanish CPs, to the collapse of the KPOe, to the expulsion of communists who did not recognize Moscow as the supreme authority.” The tension within the international movement arises, in Fischer’s estimation, from the fact that the idea of a “communist ‘world party'” was a fallacy from the very beginning, bearing no relation to different situations in various countries and continents, and promoting “Russian great power policy and proletarian internationalism as synonyms.” Comparing China and the Soviet Union, Fischer concludes that: What is ?? today in the Soviet Union is no longer, as it once was, world history, but merely world politics; what is happening in China is world history, the dawning of socialism in the “Third World.” While hardly an appropriate candidate for the label of “Maoist,” Ernst Fischer cannot conceal his respect for what he calls an “impressive attempt not to conform to the ‘Establishment’ [i.e., Moscow], not to regard the given as the necessary and to jump beyond the present.” Here, as throughout this book of questions and answers on the modern communist situation, the “spoiler” in international Marxism emerges as its first proving ground, the Soviet Union. As he says elsewhere in the book, [3] the military attack on Czechoslovakia in 1968 was the end of the last illusions about the Soviet Union as socialism’s “guiding light.” But Ernst Fischer and the other Western communists who share his assessment of the state of world communism today are continuing, without that “guiding light,” their pursuit of the elusive ideal of democratic socialism

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1 Comment »

  1. ur politicaly very sound person….if u right more abt class struggle and controdiction of indian societies…it will be very helpful for understand indian struggle and latest politics.chandrapal@aakhar.org

    Comment by chandrapal — September 8, 2009 @ 11:14 am | Reply


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