Andra riffiga texter  —

Interview with Per Henriksson

Against the Wage no. 2, Friday, August 19, 2005

Against the Wage is trying to open up a discussion among Communist-activists and against the wage labour system of the working class movement around the world. This is a step towards opening a much-needed study of the difficulties and barriers of the movement to achieve the unity, agreement and militancy of the internationalism of workers against the capitalist system. Against the Wage has arranged some interviews with a number of worker-activists and communists around the world with this goal in mind.

1. With respect to the organizing of the workers movement do you think workers need two different apparatus? One being a container for an economic struggle and the other one containing a political struggle? How do you see the party specifically Lenin’s party?

No. I don’t see the use of different types of organizations along the separation between ‘economical’ and ‘political’ struggle, since class struggle is social. Lenin’s notion of the party was fitted to the ascending capitalism in Russia, applied from the capitalist apologist Kautsky. The notion that the working class cannot by itself obtain a revolutionary consciousness, but merely a trade-unionist consciousness, and therefore is in the need of a middle class vanguard pary is one expression of the defeat of an immature proletariat, of an immature capitalism (i.e. a capitalism not yet consolidated in a world-wide scale; not yet really dominating the workers and ‘society’, but merely formal). The actual or real movement and struggle of the working class produces its own organization as content and not merely as form. Thus a variety of different organizations are produced and defeated (including recuperated into capitalist instruments) during the course of history (= class struggle). These organizations are both ‘practical’ and ‘theoretical’, even if on the immediate level there appear, partly due to the capitalist division of work, schematically more ‘practical’ and more ‘theoretical’ organizations and other initiatives.

2. During last two centuries (19th and 20th), the working class movement in both Europe and North America has had two different directions within its own struggle. In the 19th century, the movement, in general, had carried the flag of socialism which was a struggle against capitalism and the wage system. However, in the 20th century, we witnessed how the workers movement fell into the course of syndicalism, social democrat, Russian communism, Euro-communism, or generally speaking reformism or social bourgeois. The socio-economic context of these two different directions has emphasized the bourgeois imperialist production, the defeat of the October revolution, the emergence of social democracy and the welfare state. Without a doubt, these are factors that have had a huge impact on the workers movement around the world during the 20th century. But the main point here is that these factors have changed, social democracy has shifted from centre to the right where many brutal policies have been implemented on the poor. The welfare state has shifted to the point where huge cutbacks are made and which is taking away all of the workers’ achievements such as unemployment security, welfare and disability assistance. Russian communism has collapsed. Global capital unleashed all its brutality on the workers where starvation and unemployment have become the norm and so on. All of this misery is occurring yet there is still no emergence of the western working class force against capitalism and the wage system. You as a communist, how do you see this current situation? And what essential component(s) is/are lacking here for the emergence of this workers movement?

The current situation, both globally and in Sweden where I live, indeed appear as rather unsatisfactory for a communist like me. And indeed it is – for the protagonists of the ‘old’ workers’ movement, part and parcel of the capitalist system and (therefore) with no perspectives of the future. At best, they long for a past gone forever (the post-world war II era) with its ‘class compromise’ based on the accumulation of capital, and, however defeated, proletarian class struggle. What is pretty obvious, is the fundamentally undermining of the objectivist and determinist perspective of orthodox ‘Marxism’ – the objective conditions are ripe, but still no sign of any overt revolutionary proletarian movement (at least not if measured by the yardsticks of the ‘old’ worker’s movement). The communist movement is really “now hidden” (Marx) and ‘faceless’, however not dead, not at all (the latter since we still live under the pressure of capitalist exploitation).

What is lacking is impossible say, short of general explanations such as the absence of a generalized proletarian class struggle in all domains of our proletarian experience. The ‘refusal’ of the working class today often lacks a perspective of the future (i.e. a communist, and even a revolutionary, perspective). Indeed, what is certainly not missing is a vanguard party, or a ‘proper’ trade union apparatus. As I said before, the class struggle, as it is waged (and not-waged) at this historical situation, is its own organization.

3. Related to the above question, for you and the worker radical left in Canada what kind of activities and essential tasks are on your agenda? What do you say about the current working class struggle? its daily demands? Syndicalism as an alternative to be organized? Expectations as well as the horizons of the working class movement? And what kind of social practices are you carrying out at this moment?

(Well then, for me it’s Sweden…) Apart from acting in the everyday struggles and endeavours, I am part of (both inside and outside of the factory-gates – I have just been sacked after 8 years at a middle sized metal factory) an effort, together with (only) a handful of comrades, to produce communist theory for today in the form of a ‘theoretical’ journal, both based on past ‘personal’ experiences and the history of capitalism and class struggle. I’m also involved in a ‘factory newsletter’ sporadically and limitedly circulated where we, and our comrades, are present (which include the Internet). What is on our agenda is practical struggle and clarification of the communist perspective. The current working class struggle, as I said before, is really hidden and (partly therefore) hard to estimate. Its explicit demands do not really say anything about the desires of the proletarians in struggle – the real ‘demands’ are always made practically. Syndicalism – whether you mean unionism in general, or even so called ‘militant’ unionism, or historical syndicalism (such as the Spanish CNT and anarcho-syndicalism) – is a capitalist mode of organization of labour as a commodity (labour-power), and has nothing to do with revolution or communism. Nothing has changed with the unions, qualitatively, for the last 70 years. Some 90% of the workers in Sweden are ‘organized’ in unions, but it only means unemployment insurance and a formal right to the strike funds (funds not decided by the workers, but by the union apparatus, in the end Social democracy and… the State). The horizon of the future lies, as always, mainly in the youth. They have never considered a life as a wage-slave, or the Soviet brand of socialism, as the road to take. Some of their expectations from a life in capitalism were displayed at the EU Summit in Goteborg in 2001 where they rioted the Avenue and burned and smashed the windows of the ‘appearance’ of capital (indeed the appearance, but still…). One can also note the interest in communist theory and activities on the Internet where young people from the most remote villages are discussing, reading and writing about communism, Marx and class struggle of today and of the past. The practical outcome of this is yet to be seen!

4. During the 20th century Unionism has become not only the negotiator of capitalism and the working class but also has become a part of the social product of the system. Worker-activists should have what kind of organization? Around this issue what are they doing in general? And if you believe in council movement – what are the essential features of this movement and its relation to working class socialism? Do you think working class council organizing as a unionism or do you see it as an alternative in order to organize the social, political and production order?

Apart from being and taking part of the practical struggle of the workers (which in fact is the organization of the proletariat, as I said before), I think links and networks are vital for worker-activists and communists to communicate and circulate information and experiences, at least as a start. How, and if, it formalize in the near and relative distant future it is impossible to say, if one wants to escape formulas of the past history of class struggle. Organization of the workers in councils is ambiguous, since it is very closely tied to the class composition of 20th Century capitalism before WWII with its concentrated and large factories, and thus workers’ collectives. I think it is more likely to take the form of social soviets not tied to one specific factory, but organizing the entire class in an area. When it comes to structure and organize future, communist, production of the lives and means of subsistence of the future ‘men’, one might think of some sort of council organization, but given the notion of communist production as the disappearance of the enterprice form it is difficult to see whether the council form is adequate or not. It all depends on ones definition of the term. The council communism of the 1920s was tied to that specific historical era and cycle of class struggle, even if we may use some of its practical and theoretical experiences for our struggle today.

5. What’s the relation between your attempts as an activist for organizing the anti-capitalist movement of the working class and the unity of internationalism of the working class?

By taking part in this interview as an example, I and my comrades are trying to establish contacts and links with communists and revolutionary proletarians in other countries. We try to take part in different networks that circulate news and experiences form the class struggle in different countries and regions. We also translate the stuff we write in the ‘theoretical’ journal into (at least) English to make available our theoretical efforts.

6. Communism is an internal movement, spontaneous inside of the working class. Communism is not an idea at the end of an oppressive history and an ideal above the current working class struggle. The Proletarian must fight on a different front with the bourgeois, from fighting for a wage, or social welfare, to freedoms, political, civil etc. The working class during this battle with capitalism has its own directions and solutions. In fact, communism is a movement of abolishing the wage labour. What do you think has to be done in order to change the current rail of working class in Canada to the rail of anti-capitalism and anti-wage labour system, or in other words I mean, the emergence of working class communism from social democrat, and reformism?

Well, the proletarians (as a class, whereof I am but one part) has practically to find out and experience – and more and more they do, however often without being able to articulate it – the dead-end of reformism in all its brands. All class struggle, not the least the communist struggle and movement, starts from the needs of real ‘people’, and initially, when there is ‘room’ for it, they struggle for reforms (economical, but also political, etc), with or without a revolutionary perspective (most often the latter, quite natural, due to the fact at the dominating ideas are those of the bourgeoisie). From this a communist movement may evolve. It is always there, potentially, though. In many countries of the West, particularily so in Sweden, the political ‘face’ of capitalism is that of Social Democracy – so it goes without saying that it is no alternative for the proletarian struggle.

For communists and revolutionaries (as moments of the communist movement) it is vital with theoretical discussion and clarification, and to take part practically – in a conscious way – in the everyday struggle of the proletarian class. Theory for the sake of theory, as in the bourgeois sense of theory, is of no use; nor ‘practice’ for the sake of practice as in the (also bourgeois) vanguardist, activist, anti-intellectual sense, that at first sight may seem like a more preferable road to take, but in the end only is the opposite side of the bourgeois ‘theorist’s’ coin. This is reflected in what I said before, that there is no use of two separate sets of organizations (political and economical).

P. Henriksson, Sweden, August 2005
Andra riffiga texter  —