Organic Crisis and Class Struggle

From a theoretical point of view, we have defined the situation after the 2008-09 crisis as the development of trends toward an “organic crisis” in several countries, including imperialist powers such as the United States and Great Britain. In poor or semicolonial countries such as Brazil or South Africa, this organic crisis has had clear manifestations. Venezuela has been the most extreme example of this.

Among the “classical” terms used by revolutionary Marxists to analyze situations, we have incorporated Antonio Gramsci’s concept of “organic crisis” to explain such intermediate situations between nonrevolutionary and prerevolutionary or openly revolutionary situations. resulting from the social and political consequences of the 2008 crisis, which are characterized by the development of elements of crisis in bourgeois hegemony but without the prevalence of class struggle and mass political radicalization as a general trend (although intense radicalization processes have taken place, such in the Arab Spring). These situations are largely the result of the fact that the bourgeoisie was able to avoid a catastrophic scenario similar to the crisis of 1930 by using state intervention, and so the crisis dragged on for several years.

The current international situation is primarily characterized by this organic crisis. The political expression of this is the crisis of the traditional bourgeois parties (the “extreme center” in the words of Tariq Ali), which have been the primary agents of neoliberal austerity and offensives.

The material basis of this crisis is the polarization resulting from the obscene concentration of wealth and inequality that became more profound with the 2008-09 crisis. According to a report by Credit Suisse, 0.7% of the global adult population owned 50.1% of the world’s wealth in 2017, while 70% of the global population of working age owned only 2.7%. 

This has set the stage for the emergence of new “populist” political phenomena, both on the right (xenophobic European parties) and on the left, as expressed in the rise of neo-reformist groups with mass support, such as Podemos, Syriza, Momentum in the British Labour Party, DSA in the United States, Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise, the Frente Amplio in Chile, etc. The latest instance of this crisis was the election in Italy, where the two leading parties were the Northern League (known as the League) and the Five Star Movement.

This does not mean that there have been no bourgeois attempts to find a right-wing solution to this crisis (Macron’s En Marche or Spain’s Ciudadanos could be examples of this) or capitalist legislative offensives such as labor or pension reforms, although there is a contradiction in that the governments trying to apply them are generally weak and these plans have already been met with resistance. Even if these reforms pass (such as the labor reform in Brazil), this is a senile, nonhegemonic neoliberalism that tends to increase social and political polarization, which could eventually create more favorable conditions for the development of intense processes of class struggle and political radicalization.

Our use of the term “organic crisis” is thus diametrically opposed to those who use it to designate a chronic crisis without distinguishing shifting power relations or developing situations, or to those who use it to deny the prospect of revolution by arguing that the ruling classes always find a “reformist” (in the best of cases) or a Bonapartist solution to the crisis. On the contrary, in our view the term “organic crisis” implies attempts by the bourgeoisie to overcome it, which include attacks against workers, Bonapartist and eventually counterrevolutionary shifts, as the example of Trump makes clear – as well as the response from the masses and the prospect of independent historical action by the exploited, creating the conditions for the development of classical prerevolutionary or revolutionary situations.

From Left Voice

Sumanasiri Liyanage,

Tel: 00094-71-8230-439

“Pity the land that needs heroes” – Bertolt Brecht

 “What’s important is that the action took place, when everybody believed it to be unthinkable. If it took place this time, it can happen again.”  – Jean-Paul Sartre

“If democracy is a continuous struggle against simplification of the world, then nationalism is a continuous struggle to undo complexity, a will not to know certain matters, a chosen ignorance, not the ignorance of innocence.” -John Keane