[OPE] Revival of Kautskyian social-democracy?

From: Dave Zachariah <davez@kth.se>
Date: Tue Nov 10 2009 - 15:26:33 EST

Mike Macnair recently wrote an interesting book in which he argues for
an independent working-class organization that follows a Kautskyian
'strategy of patience', trying to go back to the principles that made
early social-democracy successful and find an updated form.

Here are some thoughts, I would be interested to here what list members
think. Admittedly, the analysis is somewhat restricted to the advanced
capitalist countries.

Macnair sums up the strategic line as follows:

    "Until we have won a majority (identifiable by out votes in election
    results) the workers' party will remain in opposition and not in
    government. While in opposition we will, of course, make every
    effort to win partial gains through strikes, single issue campaigns,
    etc. including partial agreements with other parties not amounting
    to government coalitions, and not involving the workers' party
    expressing confidence in these parties."

While I'm sympathetic to his general argument I think there are a couple
of significant differences under present conditions that require serious
thinking about the revival of an analogous strategy:

   1. The existence of large reformist parties with working-class roots
      (e.g. present day European social-democracy) that will continue to
      win a significant section of workers.
   2. The lack of a growing core of industrial workers, which had strong
      workplace bargaining power. The political power of the
      Scandinavian social-democratic parties rested on mass trade unions.
   3. The lack of affiliated independent working-class organizations.
      What cemented the class basis of the Scandinavian labour movement
      was the fact that it could provide the working-class with things
      that neither the state nor market could, including educational and
      recreational activities. This has partly been undermined by the
      very success of social-democratic reforms.

Even if a mass movement could take off, the Kautskyian strategy could
not be copied straight away because under present conditions it would be
unlikely to win support beyond the size of say Die Linke in the short to
medium term due to the existence of a large reformist party. But if it
would be intransigent about legitimizing the existing institutions and
pushing the entire political spectrum leftwards it would be worthwhile.
Indeed this is what some populist far-Right parties have done quite
successfully in the opposite direction.

I do however see two possible areas where space for a revived mass
movement could open up:

   1. Supra-national trade union struggle that pushes towards political
      unification of the working-class on a supra-national level. Such
      unification project seems to be underway in South America but
      would be very relevant to the counter the current form of European
   2. Gaining relevance within the 'precariat', i.e. the growing mass of
      workers with precarious forms of employment, part-time, semi-legal
      etc. Of course, a problem here is that this section of the service
      proletariat has a relatively weak bargaining position, but an
      independent working-class organization could provide forms of

//Dave Z
ope mailing list
Received on Tue Nov 10 15:31:48 2009

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