In some of the messages we received from our readers from different parts of the world, this second wave seems to be setting a turning point. In places where struggles seem to have receded after the first wave or failed to develop and gain momentum tamed by union control, the spectre of demoralization looms large. Some comrades even warn of the possibility that the epidemic could end up resulting in a ideological defeat of greater depth.
The ideological offensive
We cannot deny the facts. The demoralization that is emerging in some sectors is the result of a real ideological offensive. The daily media bombardment holds up unprecedented levels of obscenity. In Portugal or Spain, workers have disappeared from the narrative. The more than 700,000 workers who are still under temporary layoffs and the 3,700,000 who are unemployed, the basis of this 26% of the total population who already live in poverty, do not even exist as a recognized problem. TV routinely portrays farm owners, small business owners, and bar and store owners as workers fighting for the reopening of businesses. The social problem is summarized in the fact that, in spite of being freed from paying salaries and social security contributions, the state is not subsidizing small businessmen for paying the rents of their premises. If we are presented with the slaughter as a fact of nature -when it is a social fact and a result of policy decisions– why would they not present the rents of real estate investors as something as indisputable as the law of gravity. Of course, death has magically disappeared: yesterday there were 325 officially declared Covid deaths in 24 hours but one can look for them in vain in the vast majority of the media, they are not even on public TV.
The line between cynicism and obscenity was crossed long ago. In Germany, with 590 deaths a day, one still has to put up with Merkel’s theatrical act asking for a few more minor restrictions and lamenting the fate of the Christmas markets and hot wine. In the United States, the Biden Plan, announced as radical and miraculous, ended up being a call to wear masks and admitted that its main target was to avoid lockdowns during the peak of the pandemic. In other words, its main goal is to avoid stops or delays in production, so it forgoes any measures that could really reduce contagion.
And while workers are denied their most basic needs and their very existence, capital lives a green euphoria celebrating daily massive investments and rooting for a brutal income transfer at the expense of our earnings which they calculate will last at least until 2050. In France the attack on pensions is again in the forefront and in Spain the Austrian backpack and the labor reform are again the next frontier. Not to mention Brazil, where capital is recovering without the saturation of the ICUs even producing a single headline.
Now let’s put all this in the social context of the pandemic. Conversations and interactions between workers have been reduced even in the workplace and in the family. The few protective measures that we can adopt individually are further isolating and atomizing us. The power of the opinion industry is strengthened. More than ever, the visible social reality is the one reported by the media. And in it we do not exist and our fears do not exist either: unemployment is one of those things that happen to the vulnerable, the “workers” on the screen turn out to be bar owners who need to be helped to pay the rent, and everyone is protesting the restrictions as if they were lemmings angry about having to turn a corner on their way down the cliff.
The political vacuum, the absence of struggles powerful enough to impose the most basic universal human needs on the agenda, becomes a personal vacuum and collective impotence. The ideological machinery seems to be triumphant.
Three reasons against demoralization
1Not everything is gloomy at all. There are strikes in schools and hospitals all over Europe; powerful struggles and mobilizations all over North Africa; in different places in the Americas, despite the trade union’ s tricks, workers are getting some promising victories and in the Middle East we see the first signs of a new wave of strikes in the oil sector.
The bourgeoisie is clear about this, the insistence of Biden or Sánchez on social peace, the fact that they accept to temporarily sacrifice objectives that they consider to be urgent, such as labor reform, so as not to awaken the reaction of the workers, responds precisely to the fact that we are still far from a defeat. In fact, the global trend is towards an increase in combativeness and strikes throughout the world: we have gone from recording 317 strikes in May to more than 9,000 in November.
The apparent fracture between places and sectors in which workers mobilize and those in which they do not is no such thing. There are no different working classes with different interests nor parts of the working class defeated by the propaganda of the mass media. If the difference seems dramatic it is because in general, now and always, when workers are not in struggle we are just a blind force through which capitalism reproduces itself. Where social peace reigns, workers are only the raw material of exploitation, not a political class capable of setting the agenda. But that does not mean that we are defeated, it simply means that we are the exploited class and that we can only exist politically in confrontation with the impositions of the system.
2Despite a decades-long ideological campaign, communism is more present than ever. For a long time they tried to establish a false historical identity between communism and stalinism, that is, between the revolution and its executioners. Later, they tried to establish it between Marxism and identity politics, that is, between the class consciousness of the workers and the aspirations of different parts of the petty bourgeoisie to hold guaranteed positions in the state and the enterprises. Stripping the words of their meaning serves to confuse the debate, hinder discussions and delay the development of consciousness. But it does not transform material interests.
In every attack on living conditions, antagonistic interests reappear: saving lives or saving investments, fighting against discrimination or exacerbating particularisms, eliminating wars and scarcity or closing borders… And in every strike or struggle, however modest it may be, a radical dichotomy between universal human needs and the particular needs of capital is raised again. Consciously or unconsciously the possibility of organizing society and the production that sustains it to satisfy human needs becomes clear. A possibility opposed to artificially maintaining a series of cycles of accumulation which are becoming increasingly anti-human and anti-historical.
By asserting universal human needs instead of particular privileges, the workers’ struggles put communism on the agenda, in fact they already are communism here and now in the sense that they are a negation, the first step in overcoming this system.
3Atomization is neither irreversible, nor inevitable, nor ever total. Although socially it can only be confronted by a social movement, by the class in movement, the conscious individual can escape it if he understands in all its consequences that the passage to a decommodified and abundant society, without wage labor, states or borders, is as necessary historically as it is materially viable; and that only the working class can make it a reality because only workers defend universal interests.
From there, the will to critique (=demolish) the poisonous ideology with which the system encloses us, becomes the need to work and learn collectively so as to be useful to that historical movement that goes far beyond the individual. Individual resistance is transformed into collective contribution. The individual, permanently on the defensive against an atrocious present, becomes a person who projects the future onto the present through a different morality. The emptiness, the lack of vital sense, becomes its dialectical opposite: far from subsuming his personality in an alienating society, it makes of his contribution to the class, to the species, a liberating belonging already in the present.
Confronting this danger of demoralization means promoting struggles and organization. In the work place itself, reopening discussions and spaces in which to hold them; in the neighborhood, promoting solidarity networks of all kinds, there is no lack of needs, starting with creating alternatives to food banks and children’s entertainment which are now monopolized by companies and churches; and of course, joining the work of criticism and permanent propaganda which we are trying to sustain collectively and to which we invite you.