This short essay is a study of modern politics. Since the end of the Cold War, and the crisis of 2008, modern politics has been in a state of crisis, change, and rapid development. Indeed, the overall development of politics has only become more and more shaped by crisis in the decade since 2008, especially in the Capitalist states. In this period of crisis and difficulty for modern politics we, on the Left, must look for new politics. We must look at the reality of modern politics and we must change modern politics. The only solution to the current problem of modern politics is to replace modern society with Socialism — with a politics based on the liberation of humanity. If the future is to be a Socialist future, we must find a way of achieving working-class politics — by overcoming the problems of modern politics.1
The crisis of 2008 has changed modern politics. Much of the stability which shaped the politics of the Capitalist states of the 1990s and 2000s has collapsed with the reality of the crisis. This means that there are now dangers — but also opportunities — for the Left. The shift to the Right, since the crisis of 2008, points to the major dangers facing the Left today, while the reality of the crisis of 2008 also points to the major opportunities for the Left to struggle for a better world and for Socialism. The world, today, is facing so many crises that it is impossible to see, yet, which direction modern politics will go — either to the Left or to the Right. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 in modern politics it has been the Right which has dominated most politics, but the failure of the Right to solve the current crises of the world, today, suggests there are opportunities for the Left. Workers, across the world, are currently struggling again, on a level which we have not seen since the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the Neo-Liberal period. This means that the Left, while facing the threat of the Right, also has the opportunity, today, to push for its own politics — to push for Socialism.2 The Left must struggle, through modern politics, to achieve Socialist politics.
Modern politics is defined by social struggle. Modern politics is defined by class struggle. Modern politics is the struggle between Capitalism and Socialism. Modern politics is the reality of the struggle between the capitalist class and the working class. Modern politics is the reality of the struggle of revolution and social revolution. Modern politics emerged, alongside modern society, with the development of the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution. This reality of modern politics, the struggle between Capitalism and Socialism, is a product of history, politics, economic development, social development, economic revolution, social revolution, and class struggle. Modern politics, since 1789, has produced a struggle which gives rise to the struggle between Capitalism and Socialism — a struggle which ensures the transition from Capitalism to Socialism. All of the major political developments in modern politics, since the rise of Capitalism, in the 1800s and the 1900s, have been based on the political struggle between the capitalist class and the working class. This reality of modern society, producing both modern politics and modern class struggle, is a reality of history and of historical development. Specifically, the development of all modern society has been the result of class and class struggle. The political struggle of the 20th century, and the current 21st century, is the political struggle for Socialism. In order to understand modern politics, we need the politics of Socialism and the ideas of Socialism. Marx, as one of the great thinkers of modern politics, showed that the main basis of politics is class struggle — emerging from the antagonism between classes and the struggle between classes. Marx showed that the historical, social, economic, and political reality of class and class struggle, alongside economic development, and social development, gives rise to modern politics and modern political struggle. In previous periods of history, the class struggle resulted in ancient society, feudal society, and capitalist society. For Marxists, the modern reality of modern politics is class struggle – specifically the struggle between the capitalist class and the working class. Indeed, if we look at most of modern politics, and most of modern history, we can see that Marx was correct when he said that the history of class society is the history of class struggle. In our times, modern politics is essentially the politics of the struggle between Capitalism and Socialism. Modern politics is the politics which is shaping the modern world today — in a period of crisis. These politics will determine the future of our times and the future of humanity. If we can understand the reality of modern politics, then the Left has a chance to fight for a better politics — a politics of Socialism. This need for better politics, emerging out of modern politics, is shown by the reality of our times — as a time of crisis. Modern politics, in the end, will result either in Socialism or Barbarism.3 We must, as a human species, choose Socialism.
Modern politics is revolutionary politics. Indeed, revolution is a key part of modern politics. The modern reality of modern politics, since 1789, has produced the reality of revolution and social revolution as a major part of the progress and liberation of humanity. Indeed, revolution is the motor of history — the locomotive of history according to Marx — which pushes society forwards in development, due to the reality of class struggle. Indeed, modern politics first really emerged with the French Revolution of 1789.4 These economic struggles and political struggles give rise to modern political revolutions and modern social revolutions — such as bourgeois revolutions and workers’ revolutions. Bourgeois revolutions result in the development of Capitalism. Workers’ revolutions result in the development of Socialism. It is these two types of revolution which define modern politics and modern class struggle. The best examples of bourgeois revolutions are the English Revolution, the American Revolution, and the French Revolution. The best examples of workers’ revolutions are the Paris Commune and the Russian Revolution. Today the most revolutionary form of revolution is the working-class revolution — the workers’ revolution to achieve Socialism. While Capitalism managed to hold back Socialism, during much of the 19th century and much of the 20th century, the political reality of our own times remains the struggle for Socialism. The modern product of modern politics remains, quite clearly, in the early 21st century, based around the dynamic of class and class struggle — resulting in the need for the revolutionary transformation of society, from Capitalism to Socialism.
The political struggle, of our times, requires better solutions. We cannot go into the future by simply repeating the politics of Neo-Liberalism — which has dominated modern politics since the 1980s. Instead, we must find a way to transform modern politics and shift politics itself towards the Left and towards real social liberation. The politics of Socialism, specifically the politics of Socialist Humanism, remain the best form of politics for achieving this type of shift. Indeed, the politics of Socialism and the politics of Socialist Humanism, are the only politics which can overcome the crisis. If we simply allow Capitalism to develop, as it has done, we shall find that the reality of crisis, since 2008, has produced nothing but barbarism. The reality of ecological decline, imperialism, the threat of the Far-Right, and the threat of war and barbarism, shows the need for better politics and better Left politics.5 Modern politics need to be transformed — from Capitalist politics into Socialist politics.6
Modern politics is dominated by crisis. It is quite clear that Capitalism has no solutions — to the crisis of today. We cannot know, exactly, if the politics of today, the politics of crisis, will lead to revolution or counter-revolution. Indeed, the politics of the crisis of the 1930s, after the Great Depression, led to the rise of the Right, and of Fascism, rather than the rise of the Left, and of Socialism. If the Left is to triumph, in the coming decades, it must really engage with the reality of crisis — specifically the reality that crisis can produce unpredictable and unintended results. We might be on the verge of a new generation of Left Revolutions and Socialist Revolutions — or we might be facing a new period of Right politics and Capitalist triumph. We might also be facing the reality of ecological collapse — if Capitalism is not overcome within the 21st century. Whatever happens, the Left, especially Socialists, must continue to struggle — both for humanity and for a better world. Unless we struggle, we will achieve nothing, and if we do not struggle the reality of the world will only be a reality of barbarism. We cannot accept a world of barbarism. We must achieve a world of Socialism.7
The politics of the Left are Socialist politics. The Left needs to be driven by the specific politics of Socialism. Socialism is about the emancipation of each and the emancipation of all — following on from the ideas of Marx and Engels.8 Socialism is about the free development of each and the free development of all. It is about the freedom and liberation of every man, every woman, every child, every nationality, every race, every sex, every gender, every class, and every person. We can only achieve Socialism via the economic, political, social, and intellectual struggle of the working class — the only class which can create Socialism and a better world.9 The specific reality of working-class politics has been the basis of every major advance by the Left in the last two centuries. Of course, the Left can make advances, here and there, based on other social forces, but the real basis for social progress, towards democracy, liberation, and Socialism, can only come from the workers. The struggle of modern politics, in the end, is the struggle to achieve the unity of the working class, in every society, and in every country, in order to achieve Socialism. This will require serious politics from the Left — politics which can overcome the crisis of modern politics.
1. P. Anderson, Spectrum, (2005)
2. P. Anderson, Spectrum, (2005)
3. R. Luxemburg, The Crisis of German Social Democracy, (1915)
4. E.J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848, (1962)
5. N. Bobbio, Left and Right, (1996)
6. R. Miliband, Marxism and Politics, (1977)
7. E.P. Thompson, Socialist Humanism, (1957)
8. K. Marx and F. Engels, The Communist Manifesto, (1848)
9. K. Marx and F. Engels, The Communist Manifesto, (1848)
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This post was written by R.G. Williams