Since it reached the stage of imperialism in early 20th century, capitalism has developed a global system of workings and global relations on the basis of the law of combined and uneven development. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, with the collapse of the bureaucratic regimes in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, huge markets such as Russia and China became integrated into capitalism, making the system global in the full sense of the word. This development brought forth a discussion that revolved around this new stage of capitalism.
It happened many times in history. When the rulers felt themselves confident about their power and order, they tended to fall in the illusion that their power and order would last forever and regarded all kinds of anti-system critical approaches with contempt. Other modes of production aside, there are countless examples in capitalism that confirm this. A striking example in this respect is the period beginning with 1980 and, especially, the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Today, numerous indications point to the fact that capitalism is suffering an existential crisis. Marxism explains that there can be no capitalism without crises. This is vindicated by the current state of global economy. The upper echelons of finance capital seek to postpone the crisis and save the banks and credit institutions, which only makes the crisis more destructive.
The form of establishment of the bourgeois order in Turkey has completely different characteristics than the development process of the bourgeois order in the Western European countries, where the classic examples of bourgeois revolutions are seen. In France, for instance, bourgeois development began yet in the feudal society, and the rising bourgeoisie, on the basis of private property, established its order by carrying out its own revolution in the following years. However, the historical development line of the Ottoman Empire, that the Republic of Turkey emerged out of, does not resemble that of France.
With the July 15 coup attempt and the ensuing state of emergency introduced by Erdoğan’s rule in the name of suppressing it, the bourgeois order in Turkey has become altogether authoritarian and repressive. In fact, the events that have unfolded since the parliamentary elections of 7 June 2015 demonstrate that we have entered a chaotic era that leads the masses to huge illusions or deep suspicions and fears.
On the occasion of 100th anniversary of the founding of the Third International (Comintern) we are re-publishing The Question of International by Elif Çağlı. The Third International was founded in March 1919 on the basis of the conception of Bolshevik organising and struggle shaped under Lenin’s leadership.
Venezuela is under threat of a military intervention and a coup staged by the US imperialism. In many writings in which we analysed the situation in Venezuela since Chavez came to power we said that so called "Bolivarian revolution" is not a revolution but a bourgeois reform programme and that it actually formed an obstacle to a workers revolution. We insistently pointed to the fact that those socialist tendencies that disregarded this fact and treated Chavez and the Bolivarian regime as "socialist" created optimistic expectations and underestimated the mounting threat. While praising Chavez, they denied the tendency of proliferation of the flames of imperialist war, and, just because those flames are far away from them, put forward views that said a Third World War was unlikely. The following article by Elif Çağlı written in 2006 demonstrates that, with a correct attitude, one can correctly identify dominant tendencies marking the reality and the period, no matter how disturbing they are, and brings light to what is happening today.
The question of transition is directly linked with the fact that capitalism in its imperialist stage is the age of proletarian revolutions. This question expressed by Lenin was brought up in order to win the mass of the working class to the cause of the proletarian revolution and advance the struggle to this end. That Lenin brought up the question of transition was a clear response to the conception of revolution in stages which was once a controversial issue among Marxist ranks.
The principles marking the Bolshevik political organisation (an organised and disciplined functioning on every level, based on democratic centralism) are cornerstones of the Leninist conception of party. The goal of such a party is essentially to arm vanguard workers with communist consciousness, and try to drive the working class into struggle. Building revolutionary kernels within the working class that able to adapt to any circumstances, organising workers’ circles with various functions under the leadership of vanguard workers, making the revolutionary workers movement organised even at the level of sympathizers… all constitute the essence of the Bolshevik way.
Without grasping the meaning and significance of the objective and subjective conditions of the revolution, together with their dialectical interaction, it is impossible to develop a revolutionary strategy that will lead the working class to victory. The distortions that have emerged, and will continue to emerge, from this question can be lumped into two opposite categories. On one end lies the one dimensional interpretation of the objective condition of revolution, and hence an overestimation of the capacity of the working class for a spontaneous revolt.
In the book Bonapartizmden Faşizme [From Bonapartism to Fascism] and many articles in Marksist Tutum both Bonapartist regimes and fascist regimes and developments in that direction in Turkey have been examined at length. Here, building upon what we have said before, we will briefly touch upon some important issues to bring light upon the actual situation in Turkey.
When we examine the necessary conditions for a successful proletarian revolution as a whole, we must speak of three principal premises. The first one is related to the general conditions of production across the world. Productive forces must reach a certain level of development that would allow socialism to replace capitalism. Secondly, a class that possesses both the intention and capability to carry out such historical transformation must come into existence. That is to say, the position occupied by the working class in the economy must allow it to launch such a radical change. And thirdly, the working class must be prepared to carry out the revolution. While the first two conditions involve the objective basis for the overthrow of capitalism and the building of socialism, the last one corresponds to the subjective factor of the revolution. In order not to drift towards voluntarism or spontaneity on the question of revolution, one must properly grasp the objective and subjective factors of proletarian revolution.
The main distinguishing feature between reformist and revolutionary tendencies in the workers’ movement lies in the question of whether or not there is will, tenacity and preparedness to heighten the organised class struggle against the bourgeoisie. The idea that capitalist crisis will somehow be followed by a new period of economic recovery, where measures to improve workers’ rights will be back on the agenda, is an utterly pacifist, conciliationist and reformist notion.
The relationship between the economic crises of capitalism and the struggle of the working class should not be interpreted in a mechanical manner. Rather, it must be analysed on the basis of the dialectical relationship between various objective and subjective factors that determine the actual course of events. Economic crisis does not automatically lead to an upsurge of the revolutionary struggle of the working class. The mutual interaction between economy and politics has a much more complex nature. The way workers respond to crisis is determined by various factors such as the political and organisational level of the workers’ movement, its general mood, its determination to combat, or exhaustion. Under unfavourable circumstances, the working class may suffer setbacks in the face of economic crisis, allowing bourgeoisie to heave a sigh of relief.
Capitalist economy inherently contains seeds of crisis. However, it would be utterly erroneous to argue that crises will spontaneously lead capitalism to its destruction. Unless it is overthrown through a revolution of the working class, it can continue to exist, going through new periods of booms and crises. Some assert that the ongoing crisis will mark the end of capitalism. This idea was also put forward during previous crises. While it seems very difficult for capitalism to overcome the deep crisis it is currently engulfed in, and moreover that capitalism becomes weaker with time in terms of overcoming its crises, it would be erroneous to link the collapse of capitalism with the prophecy of a final crisis.
Under conditions of confusion and demoralisation created by the collapse of the Soviet Union, workers’ movement suffered a major setback in terms of the level of class consciousness and organisation. This allowed the world bourgeoisie, which was on the verge of a crisis, to breathe a deep sigh of relief. The capitalist class seized the historic opportunity with both hands, stepping up its neoliberal economic policies that had already been in progress. This represented an all-out attack against the gains made by the working class and plundering of social funds. It was owing to this all-out attack that capitalism secured a temporary recovery throughout 1990s.
Mass organisations of the working-toiling classes are of great importance and carrying on work in these organisations in a revolutionary way plays a key role in class struggle. It is an essential part of the task of fulfilling revolutionary strategy and tactics to create such organisations and conduct a correct work within them. A successful organising that provides the ground for fulfilling this task can only rise above historical tradition, principled attitude and experience. The path to take in organisational area has been developed by contributions of Marx and Engels and other revolutionary leaders, but illuminated principally by Lenin and the Bolsheviks in his leadership. What happened as a result of the bureaucratic counter-revolution that altered the nature of the Bolshevik Party and the Soviet power after Lenin’s death is a completely different matter.
In addition to its ordinary working mechanism named industrial cycles, capitalist economy is also characterised by non-cyclical, more prolonged upward and downward fluctuations that involve far more complex factors. This type of fluctuations is nothing more than a combination of different economic and political events capitalism has been through. Such periods of capitalist development, each having its distinctive characteristics, still contain industrial cycles that consist of boom and crisis phases. Therefore, the existence of such long-term fluctuations does not invalidate the Marxist analysis of industrial cycles.
Aside from the reality of periodic crises that break out on the basis of industrial cycles, the changes in the pace of capitalist development over long periods have continuously preoccupied Marxists as well. There have been many debates concerning the fluctuations in the curve of capitalist development that have been identified to occur over the course of decades. In these debates there have been certain conceptions developed in an effort to deepen the understanding of the workings of capitalism, without drifting away from basic tenets of Marxism. But there have also been other interpretations that are at variance with foundations of Marxism, leading to various misconceptions. The analysis of “long waves” that will be discussed below belongs to the latter category. Let us underline an important point to prevent any misunderstanding regarding the target of criticism. To be able to comprehend concrete fluctuations in the curve of capitalist development, it is of importance to analyse long periods with different characteristics. There is nothing to criticise about it. What deserves criticism, however, is the type of “long waves” theory which, in effect, is used in place of periodic long cycles, as seen in the case of Kondratiev.
Marxism explained that the basic determining factor of a mode of production is, in the last analysis, the economic base. With this achievement the need and importance of studying productive forces and production relations that constitute the base in order to understand the traits of different modes of production came to light. Every single mode of production, or in other words, every single socio-economic formation, is consisted of the unity of the economic base and ideological superstructure rising above the economic base, which encompasses diverse realms such as state, politics, law, culture, religion. To grasp his unity in a correct way with diverse economic-ideological-political-social aspects it is necessary to approach the relationship between the base and superstructure in a dialectical manner.
Capitalism makes the mankind suffer hell. The reign of a handful capitalists makes billions of people all over the planet suffer in the grip of hunger, poverty and deprivation, unemployment, incredible inequality and injustice, bloody wars, oppression and torture, endless decay and alienation. The only force that can save mankind from this swamp and lead it to socialism is the working class which is said to be “extinct”. The truth is that, the billions who strive to survive through selling their labour force in return for a wage, i.e. the working class, still have nothing to lose but their chains. But they have a world to win!
Under present conditions where the working class has no revolutionary international organisation, there is no other way of struggle than to labour and work out revolutionary Marxist solutions and try to carry them over to international platforms. Therefore it is inevitable to get involved in various experiments to solve the question of international organisation of the working class. It must be kept in mind that all great revolutionary advances could be successful thanks to revolutionary class attitude, which means plunging into actual work without being intimidated by difficulties and daring to experiment.
The struggle for the creation of the international organization of the working class requires intransigence in principles and flexibility in tactics. Neither opportunism pursuing short term so-called political achievements nor sectarianism unwilling to see and accept anything other than its own small organization can be of any use for this struggle. The reality we face today in the issue of building the revolutionary international organization of the proletariat puts very important responsibilities and tasks over the shoulders of the internationalist communists. Those who are self-confident will continue revolutionary efforts in every field undertaking these responsibilities and tasks. Those who are not intimidated will move forward. All big problems in history have been resolved this way.
Although such experiences are pleasing in themselves since they carry forward the mass of the class, they are by no means enough for the working class to break the chains of wage-slavery and achieve freedom. Conditions of emancipation can develop depending on the quality and quantity of the distance taken by workers towards political consciousness and organisation. In this respect, it has a vital importance to make sure that at least the vanguard elements of the class are capable of answering the questions such as “what kind of organisation?” or “what kind of a unity?” in a way to carry forward the struggle.
The importance of theoretical struggle on national question springs essentially from the need to take a correct political attitude based on Marxist foundations in the face of the liberation struggle of oppressed nations. Marxism is not an impressionist or positivist philosophy limiting itself only with interpreting the world, but an integral world view which strives to change the world and develops in an inextricably dialectical relationship with revolutionary practice.
The process of the capitalist development of Turkey is a rather belated process with respect to the West. This historical delay flows from the peculiar socio-economic structure upon which Turkish capitalism developed. For this reason, in order to understand the peculiarities of Turkish capitalism, it is necessary to have an overview of the economic and social history of the Ottoman Empire that forms the historical background of modern Turkey today.
The wave of popular uprisings that started in Tunisia and continued with Egypt embracing North Africa and the Middle East has reached a new phase. Though one needs to analyse the situation in Egypt in the aftermath of Mubarak’s overthrow, there is no doubt that the process of mobilisation of millions and Mubarak’s eventual step-down in itself is already a serious source of inspiration in the eyes of other Arab peoples. New upsurges of mass movement that are taking place especially in Yemen, Bahrain and Libya are a demonstration of this fact. Whatever the short term results of this mass wave of revolt it is clear that there is a new era in this region unfolding and that nothing will be the way as they were so far. The social-political struggles to take place in this region in the period ahead and the kind of regimes to be established will be the focus of attention for revolutionaries as well as bourgeois political realm.