Reflections on an Emancipatory Labour Internationalism …

Linked with Peter Waterman – England; with The Voice of the Turtle, with Surpassing the binary opposition between reform and revolution.

The Forward March of Labour Recommenced? (August 2003): excerpt: … Conclusion: science, critique, vision and recipe for revolution ‘Marxism’, says my old friend from the 1960s, Bertell Ollman (2003:82), ‘is an unusual, perhaps unique, combination of…science, critique, vision and recipe for revolution…with each of these qualities contributing to and feeding off the others.

I try to apply this to international labour studies, past, present, utopian speculative, and I fail.

His is a statement of such universalistic claim that it encompasses all time, all space, all critique, all vision, every aspiration for human emancipation. This is a Marxism returning to the Jewish messianic tradition from which it – but only in part -descends. As a Liberation Marxist (one who tries to liberate Marxism from the Marxists, from Marxism and from Marx) let me confine myself to The Revolution. This was, of course, part of the secular trilogy of 19th century socialism, which I above generalise as ‘emanicipation’.

I would like to suggest that the contemporary task of revolutionaries is to make the revolution unnecessary and, by this token, the counter-revolution impossible. I prefer the spirit of the radical-democratic British social workers of the 1970s or 80s, who declared themselves to be ‘in and against the state’.

Marxist-inspired revolutions have had miserable results, particularly in overcoming proletarianisation, particularly for internationalism. The remaining ‘revolutionary regimes’ are shackled by a paralysing fear of external invasion, of internal counter-revolution, of ‘the revolution betrayed’ by its own agents (such betrayal increasingly appearing as inseparable from the notion of revolution: there’s always one about to be betrayed by someone).

So surpassal of The Revolution appears as no bad thing. Particularly if this abandonment is extended also to The Evolution – currently represented in the UK by the Twin Tonys. The Evolution has suffered more from erosion than explosion or implosion.

But, like its own twin, The Revolution, it has clearly failed to de-proletarianise, to emancipate or empower those whose desires and hopes it so long ‘represented’. It has failed, signally, to warn or prepare them for, a GNC. It is failing to defend them, except by waving vaguely in the direction of Welfare Capitalism Past – or at least the myth of such.

Locked in a dance of death that gripped the international labour movement for 100 years or more, we can leave Insurrectionism and Reformism to bury each other.

Perhaps, today, those of us involved with ELI and EILSs are are at last ready to say, like the therapist to whom Philip Roth’s (1970) Portnoy has been revealing his sorely-divided soul and sexuality for several hundred pages, ‘Now ve may perhaps to begin?’ … (huge full long text).

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