The Covid-19 crisis opens a new era, because it carries with it a whole bundle of historical contradictions. Humanity can no longer live as before, it faces a challenge which consists in finding its place in the Biosphere. It can no longer simply continue to carry the capitalist mode of production, which very clearly leads to destruction in all areas. There is the need for a break.
We can imagine that this is not simple. It involves a great determination in the face of capitalist corruption, an ability to look to the future, a sense of involvement to make things turning in the right direction. Without a sufficient ideological level, without an adequate cultural reading, we cannot turn off, carry this rupture, we are caught up by the old era and its values.
With the Covid-19 crisis, a double phenomenon has unfolded. On the one hand, there was an effect of surprise, of fear, of anguish, in the face of an event that seemed incomprehensible given the capitalist claim to propose a stable world. What is unfolding then seems therefore incomprehensible, calamitous, a catastrophe and there is a headlong rush in social-Darwinist reasoning, that the weak must perish.
However, on the other hand, there was and there is a sense of understanding that a whole period has ended. With the confinement, the closing of the borders, the partial shutdown of activities, the cessation of capitalist triumphalism … all of this has dialectical been a breath of fresh air as well. It was finally the proof that capitalism could not perpetuate itself without knowing blockages, that it is not able to swallow up private life and the whole of society, and even the planet, without being stopped by something. Capitalism appears to be outdated.
What arises as an alternative is Socialism or barbarism. Either there is an awareness, a going beyond old values and the affirmation of Communism – whether at the level of society or in relation to nature. Either there is an identitarian, national withdrawal, an escape in the spirit of concurrence, competition, with an acceptance of the disaster and the attempt to take advantage of it to dominate others.
Either popular democracy, with the working masses deciding the orientations of society on a basis of sharing, cooperation, compassion, refusal of hierarchies, unification of social and productive forces, or militarism and the quest for a national savior, leading to fascism and imperialist war.
Either the bourgeoisie is politically put aside, its state dismantled, its state apparatus liquidated, with popular power around the working class, or the upper bourgeoisie takes control of the state and pushes capitalism to participate in the imperialist battle for the redistribution of the world, mobilizing in a nationalist and militarist manner.
This alternative does not arise formally. It will take time before it arises at all levels of society. On the side of popular democracy, we do not get out of capitalism easily, whether in terms of mentalities or the establishment of new forms of production. There are many obstacles, such as the workers’ aristocracy, a social layer bought by the capitalists, or even the nefarious influences of a petty bourgeoisie seeking to abuse the masses to negotiate with the bourgeoisie.
On the Reaction side, it is difficult to get the country from political liberalism, ideological relativism, generalized individualism… to the same values, but nested in an aggressive “collective” project requiring participation in “the national effort”. Capitalism in its liberal form and capitalism in its fascist form are both the same and not the same; the transition from one to the other is not smooth.
It goes without saying that what is decisive here will be the general crisis of capitalism and more precisely the forms it will take. We can already see that the economic dimension of the crisis is terribly deep, that it surprises by its expression, that it strikes almost by surprise this or that sector. Unemployment, precariousness, brutality in everyday life, anxiety for maintaining its social existence… all of this can be the breeding ground for fascism, while the bourgeoisie necessarily seeks an exit through capitalist rationalization and imperialist war.
Conversely, the prolonged nature of the situation contributes to reflection, to awareness. And we can even see, in a relative way, that people who had turned their backs on the values of the dominant way of life, who did not trust the capitalist pretensions, who sought an alternative way of life … suddenly found themselves having a certain value, instead of appearing as mere freaks as before.
Obviously, it is most often elementary steps, of withdrawal, while it is not only a question of realizing that the pace imposed by capitalism is unbearable. If we stop at that, we do not see that capitalism has had its day and that it is not a question of slowing down history, human activity in general, but quite the contrary of accelerating it. It is not about making a hippie approach triumph in order to “calm”, “frame” or “roll back” capitalism, but rather to have an active humanity, protagonist of new choices, allowing a new development. You have to live up to the times.
Nevertheless, we can thus already read behaviors, attitudes, positions that pass into the universal, the planetary dimension, in opposition to the cynical, individualist, nihilist values of capitalism. The common denominator of all is that it is considered that we “can’t do the same anymore”. The refusal of nuclear power or of hunting, the requirement of a high standard in health, the detestation of waste or religious divisions, the affirmation of the sharing of cultural goods, whether for music , films or images in general… Such phenomena, whether they are aware of it or not, come tendencially into conflict with the 24 hour a day demands of capitalism.
This does not mean that people have grasped the full scale of the disaster, nor that the process is not recuperable in itself with a modernization of capitalism. What there is here is a deep contradiction between, on the one hand the battle for existence, with the need to work in order to have a salary to live, to integrate socially, with also alienation making us appreciate what capitalism offers… and on the other, in a way not necessarily understood, a cultural, material, psychological need to breathe, to temporize, to stop incessantly running by following the desiderata of capitalism, to flourish by doing things differently, in a better way. To what extent this contradiction will be positive, in what form, that is the real basic question.
In any case, it is possible to say that the people who have grasped with satisfaction this break, this moment of pause in the capitalist machinery, represent the point of the emerging consciousness that we must put an end to all this, that we must change everything, that nothing is right anymore. Of course, we are still a long way from coming to the affirmation that we must destroy what destroys us, nevertheless a process has started.
Concretely, we can say that the great capitalist impetus founded on the collapse of Soviet social-imperialism and the integration of social-fascist China into the international division of labor is now over. What shatters is the capitalist consensus that was maintained between 1989 and 2020, based on a relative rise in the standard of living on a global scale, the absence of major wars across the world, technological modernization and better access to health.
This period between 1989 and 2020 was a crossing of the desert from the point of view of the communist strategic proposal, it was extremely difficult for the revolutionary vanguards around the world to experience. The thesis that capitalism goes to war seemed out of date; capitalism was expanding mass consumption and seemed to overturn the claim that exploitation leads to impoverishment. The way of life of the masses was changing, whether with computers, internet, cell phones, the reinforcement of cinema and television in everyday life. A vast petty-bourgeoisie was getting stronger in the imperialist countries, developing cultural activities that seemed fulfilling or at least entertaining.
The ground conquered with so much difficulty in the years 1960-1970, place of the engagements in the years 1980, literally evaporated in 1989. The collapse of Soviet social-imperialism allowed the Western imperialist countries to appropriate new markets, and through the integration of social-fascist China, capitalist production and consumption have been greatly enlarged.
In such a context, the reconstitution of the avant-gardes was a difficult struggle, requiring patience and tenacity. In France, the CPF (MLM) is based on a process born in the 1990s, with the affirmation of Maoism at the very beginning of the 2000s, for a major operation of ideological reconstruction of fundamental principles. In Belgium, a country with a similarly great revolutionary tradition, the process of aggregation of forces assuming the break with capitalism led in 2010 to the formation of the MLM Center.
But it is not just about reclaiming the Communist heritage. It is also about deepening, to be up to the challenges of the time. The animal question, in particular, arises with all its acuteness. In the background there is the contradiction between city and country, with humanity’s place in the biosphere as the backdrop to a battle for the future direction to be taken.
We do not understand people who say they want revolution, but who have no concrete, practical point of view on all the burning issues of our time and whose speech could be in 1980, in 1960, in 1930, or even in 1900. To imagine that one can lead a revolutionary policy while being completely out of date culturally is simply an aberration strictly equivalent to the petty-bourgeois fascinations for anything that appears as a new cultural or social phenomenon.
You have to be anchored in your time, in your society. Revolution is not a cosmopolitan process. What is called people’s war is not a technical concept, but a popular reality, with the people made up of concrete people, existing with their sensibility in a well-defined material reality. It is necessary both to be in phase with the people and to be a vanguard turned towards overtaking reality, there is the productive contradiction defining the communists.
This is all the more true at a time of crisis and when one says crisis it means revolution. What is ending is a time when revolutionaries were marginalized or corrupted by capitalist momentum. It was a time of relative neutralization of antagonisms. We can even say that, since the 1950s, the capitalist countries have experienced such a neutralization, the revolutionary wave being expressed mainly in Africa, Latin America and Asia. The people of the capitalist countries were crushed by capitalism and its values, they were integrated into its process, adopting the way of life that it demanded. We are now at the breaking point.
An authentic life is only possible in the fight for liberation and before that, it is in a socially isolated way that such an approach emerged, whether in the French “leftists” around May 1968, in violent workers’ initiatives. Italians of the 1970s, in the Berlin squats of the 1980s. There was a complete break between avant-gardes prisoners of their alternative style and the broad masses entirely cut off from their approach and even inaccessible by their disdain for what was not the traditional capitalist way of life. The situation changed with the onset of the crisis; the antagonistic stall with the 24 hours a day of capitalism takes on its meaning!
The project of recomposing the proletarian fabric by the democratic movement of the masses violently tearing up capitalist hegemony at all levels can resume its natural course. The need for Communism can be expressed again, sector by sector in the popular masses, posing as a strategic hypothesis addressed as broadly as possible.
This is a process in which we are only at the beginning. But our pride is to have prepared, to be on the front line in this start. And we have confidence in the victory of this process of overcoming the general crisis of capitalism, by the victory of the popular masses country by country in a prolonged process and the establishment, as final achievement, of the world socialist republic.
Marxist Leninist Maoist Center [Belgium]
Communist Party of France (marxist leninist maoist)