On October 24-26, Marxists from all over Sweden gathered for a Marxist Weekend School in Gothenburg under the title "In Defence of Marxism!" The School was organised by Avanti, Swedish section of the International Marxist Tendency, who are fighting for the ideas of genuine, revolutionary Marxism in the Swedish Labour Movement and youth. In total, more than 30 people participated in discussions about Marxism and how we can fight for it today. The mood was enthusiastic, which was clearly visible both during the sessions and after.
That the ideas of Marxism are getting a bigger echo is apparent. Many shared personal experiences of how more and more people are increasingly critical of the capitalist system and are looking for revolutionary ideas. At the same time, the leaders of the international working class movement have never been so far to the right as they are today. As Marxists we always have to study and discuss in order not to adapt and to be able to give answers to the questions posed by workers and youth. This Weekend School was therefore dedicated both to Marxist theory as well as to the situation in the world today.
The enthusiasm was not least apparent during the collection for the International Marxist Tendency which was held on the Saturday night. An amazing 26.417 SEK was collected (around 2850 Euro) were collected, and this money will be donated to the international struggle of the IMT to build a revolutionary Marxist alternative.
Perspectives for World Revolution
The School began on the Friday evening with a meeting that was organised by Avanti (IMT Sweden) in collaboration with Marxist Students in Gothenburg where 28 people participated. Ylva Vinberg from Gothenburg introduced the discussion about the crisis of capitalism and the development of class struggle we've seen in one country after the other since 2011. She explained that the economic crisis that started in 2008 is no regular a cyclical recession, but an organic crisis of capitalism, and therefore is not solvable within the confines of capitalism. The root cause of the crisis is overproduction, which is inevitable under capitalism. All over the world, capitalists are not investing enough for consumption to take off, for the simple reason that they cannot sell what they are already producing.
This is the most serious crisis of capitalism in history. Like a terminally ill patient, capitalism stays alive by an injection of public funds, while the working class is under increasingly heavy pressure. This is already having an effect on the consciousness of millions of workers and youth worldwide, who are beginning to move into struggle, against the poor living conditions offered by capitalism. People are being pushed into activity and are reaching increasingly radical conclusions. What we are witnessing is the beginnings of the world revolution.
After the discussions, many stayed and wanted to know more. Many were clearly inspired and wanted to discuss how to organize and fight for a Marxist alternative.
The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State
The Saturday started with a discussion on Engels’ book the Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State. Fredrik Albin Svensson from Uppsala led off the discussion and thoroughly explained how class society with its state and many different kinds of oppressions could arise. For the absolute majority of human history, in the period that Marx called "primitive communism", there was no oppression. Everyone had to share both resources and the workload in order to survive. Men and women in a hunter-gatherer society did have a division of labour, where men mainly hunted and women mostly took care of children and gathered, but both forms of labour were equally respected.
Once humans learned to keep herds and develop agriculture, it was possible to produce a surplus. This lead to the rise of privileged groups within society and eventually to classes. At the same time families were created out of the previous collectives. And because it was in the male sphere that the surplus was created, men assumed a dominant position within the families. Men became the last guarantee for the position of the family in the newly formed hierarchy.
With this new order between men and women, incredibly brutal oppression against women arose. Marxists do not say that the oppression of women is any less brutal than class oppression. The question is not whether or not sexual harassment is worse than bad working conditions. The question is how to best fight all forms of oppression – and we do that as a class, because it is as a class that we have the potential power to challenge the bourgeoisie, who are in the last instance basing themselves on and using all forms of oppression in capitalism. We have to abolish private property and build a workers' state, where we can transform the unpaid labour of women into public works – and thus for the first time in thousands of years free women from the slavery of the home, together with the emancipation of humankind as a whole.
The Russian Revolution
The next discussion was about the Russian Revolution in 1917, which was lead off by Ylva Vinberg. The key to understanding the Russian Revolution is that the Russian bourgeoisie entered the scene too late, was too small and bound to the feudal landowners and imperialism to be able to lead a bourgeois revolution as had been the case in, for example, Britain and France. The peasantry was also not in a position to lead a successful revolution by themselves.
Instead the task fell upon the working class, but in their struggle against the feudal Tsar they inevitably came into conflict with the emerging bourgeoisie – and were therefore driven to take power from the bourgeoisie. That they were able to overthrow the tsar and then also the bourgeoisie was due to the fact that they – unlike the working class in subsequent revolutions – were led by a revolutionary Bolshevik party which in turn was led by Lenin and Trotsky. The working class was small and relatively weak, but had enormous support in the form of millions of peasants who staged an insurrection, backing the working class. They took power and managed to defeat 21 invading armies, including the main imperialist powers, plus the White army.
The Russian revolution degenerated as a consequence of its isolation in backward conditions of extreme poverty, where a bureaucracy could rise above the working class. The Stalinist dictatorship that followed was no” real socialism”, but a caricature of socialism, and had very little in common with the real workers' democracy established in the first years of the revolution. On the contrary, it meant a fundamental break with it. In spite of the subsequent Stalinist counter-revolution and reaction, which did away with all the genuine workers’ democracy of 1917 and that preserved only the nationalised planned economy, the Russian Revolution still remains an inspiring example for everyone struggling for socialism today.
Fascism and Bonapartism
The last discussion of the day was lead off by Stefan Kangas from Gothenburg, who explained what fascism really is. It is a violent movement that is a physical threat against the working class struggle and its organizations. Starting off with the examples of Germany and Italy he explained that it has its basis in the petty-bourgeoisie. It was financed and supported by the ruling class, who from the beginning used them as support for the state police in attacking and threatening the working class movement. As the crisis of capitalism got more severe, the ruling class needed to destroy the independent workers’ organizations, and atomize the working class, and therefore rallied behind the fascists to give them power in order to destroy the working class organizations. This happened after the failure of the Italian revolution in 1918-1920 with Mussolini, after two failed revolutions in Germany with Hitler and in Spain when Franco took power after the Spanish revolution and the Civil War.
However, in order to destroy the working class movement, fascism has to win a mass basis in the form of an impoverished and increasingly desperate petty-bourgeoisie together with lumpen proletarian elements. But with the increased proletarianisation of the masses that the concentration of capital has led to in the past sixty years, there is no basis for fascism today as a mass force. Europe today is very different in its class composition than it was in the 1930s, and while the peasantry is all but gone, the working class is now the overwhelming majority. This is clearly seen also among such layers as teachers and students, who used to be among the core supporters of fascism, but today, on the contrary, are increasingly the most radical sections of society and the labour movement.
The most recent fascist attacks in Sweden show that the fascists can be a danger to individual left-wing activists and they can spread a feeling of fear. But we must not give in to this, and at all times maintain a sense of proportion. The reason they have room manoeuvre is precisely the passivity of the Labour leadership, who could easily stop these fascist sects in their tracks by mobilising a mass movement against them. We have to organise self-defence committees, and not trust the police to protect us, since they are clearly neglecting to even investigate crimes by fascists against the left. In the last instance, the threat of fascism can only be fought by waging a struggle against the capitalist system itself, that drives certain layers into the arms of reaction and fascism.
After the discussion on Fascism and Bonapartism, which was very much appreciated, there was a screening of the movie From Tsar to Lenin, which deepened the discussion on the Russian Revolution. During the evening the discussions continued during the fund raising party at the Weekend School.
On the Sunday the school continued with a discussion on the Spanish Revolution. Johan Nystedt from Piteå explained in his lead-off, among other things, the need for a revolutionary leadership that in a revolutionary situation can direct the enormous revolutionary energy of the masses into changing society. He quoted Trotsky, who said that the Spanish working class could have carried out a revolution ten times over if there had only been a Bolshevik party to lead them.
Just like Russia, Spain was a semi-feudal country when the revolution started. The peasantry had a considerable size and the working class was small, but it was at the same time much bigger and stronger than the Russian working class. The scale and audacity of the struggle and the revolutionary energy shows the incredible will to fight among the workers, who despite the treacherous role played by the leadership, who eventually betrayed the revolution, kept giving their lives to stop the fascists from taking over. It was not successful, however, and this again shows that to defeat fascism, the working class needs a revolutionary alternative to fight for.
Build the forces of Marxism!
Stefan Kangas lead off the last and probably most important discussion. The entire history of the international working class movement shows the crucial role played by the revolutionary leadership. In a revolutionary process there is not enough time for the working class to learn everything it needs to be able to take power from an organized and powerful ruling class – the knowledge and the organization has to be prepared beforehand.
We have to build a tendency within the mass workers’ parties of all countries, to be able to intervene in the coming events. With increased radicalization, we will see the mass organisations change, and also the emergence of a mass left wing and mass centrist currents. If the Marxists are present in sufficient numbers, such developments will be the road to building a mass revolutionary tendency as the first step towards building a mass revolutionary party.
Today the task therefore is to build the International Marxist Tendency. We're not yet in a pre-revolutionary situation in Sweden, and the crisis of capitalism has not yet hit us in full force. This gives us some time, but it is time we must spend well! The labour movement and the working class has to abandon reformism and find its road to revolutionary Marxism – and for that to happen we must build the forces of revolutionary Marxism today.
Avanti! - Swedish Section of the International Marxist Tendency