Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Some comments on "Preparing for Revolution"

 Dear readers,

As we have explained, the organizers of this blog are loosely affiliated with the Workers' International Network (WIN).  We have general agreement with the documents published at the top of this blog; The Future International and Preparing for Revolution.  We have received some comments on the Preparing for Revolution document which is a discussion document and we welcome a healthy exchange of ideas over its contents. 

We would like to encourage our readers to read these documents and share their thoughts on them as well as on comments already made, hopefully we will have more. Unfortunately there is a comment length limit and we are trying to find out if we can increase it but we publish the comments below sent to us by Stephen Morgan.  If you would like to respond and your comments are short enough please do so here or on the document above. If they are longer send them to us and we'll see what we can do.


I would like to give some more information to reinforce the arguments in the WIN Preparing for Revolution and Future International documents and also raise a few differences in emphasis with some statements which concerns the “new and old” working class and de-industrialization. At the end of this document I will suggest a few adjustments or edits. I have uploaded it and it is also attached in pdf.

Let me say first of all that I agree with the analysis put forward. I particularly welcome the shift away from the Anglo-centric character of many documents published by the CWI in the past. Another thing is that I think the style of writing makes the ideas is very clear and much more readable and understandable for new youth and workers entering the revolutionary movement.

I also want to say that I agree with the strong emphasis in the documents on the key role of the working class in the developing countries and China in particular. The document excels in the way it explains the quantum shift, which has happened in class relations globally and there is absolutely no doubt that the spectacular growth of the working class in these countries means they will now play a - or the- leading role in the victory of the world socialist revolution.

I think that there is also no doubt about the startling scale of de-industrialization in the older advanced capitalist countries, which the documents explain has contributed to throwing back of the consciousness of the proletariat in the advanced countries. I agree that it is important to emphasize this as a new trend in the development or “de-development” of capitalism compared to the post-war boom.

Where I think the problem lies is that some of the sentences used to emphasize the changes worldwide,  could lead to an underestimation of the role which the working class could still play in the advanced capitalist countries and their importance for the world revolution.

In fact, while at the same time as being lifted by the document, at the end, I also felt a little deflated or  disheartened because of the impression I got from certain points of emphasis or overemphasis. Despite the excellent description of recent events in Greece and upheavals in other countries, the general impression made on me was that the European working class could no longer play a leading role in the world revolution.

I am exaggerating the point a little, but I came away with a certain feeling that the centre of the world revolution is only in China and whatever happens elsewhere is something of a sideshow. It seemed to be that China would decide everything and until a new International has mass forces in that country, we are simply building up support on the fringes, until the success of the Chinese revolution opens the chance of creating socialist states around the rest of the world.

This is not so much a rational critique as such, but more a description of my subjective feelings, which may be particular to me and not to others. Let me make it clear; I don't think that this is what the document wants to purvey, at all, but I do think that some paragraphs could be rearranged and a few more added to make sure that somebody else, who reads it for the first time, doesn't come away with the same initial impression which I had. I am worried that without a few amendments, the document could leave the way open for a misunderstanding about the situation and the excellent possibilities for the building a new International in advanced countries.

I will quote a few sentences, which I think, when put together, are responsible for leaving a wrong impression in my mind. example, in the “Preparing for Revolution” document, it talks of

“organic changes in the composition of the working class, which have demolished entire communities and partly eroded their militant traditions;” (page 15 - the New International)

Page 14 “the specific weight of the industrial proletariat in society has been eroded.”

Page 13 “The heavy battalions of the industrial working class are no longer to be found for the most part in their traditional strongholds”

Page 12 “The productive industrial hard core of the proletariat has largely disappeared in the traditional metropolitan countries,

Page 13 “The old "metropolitan" countries are no longer necessarily the theatre of world history.”

Page 9 “rapidly de-industrialising countries;” and “the erosion of industrial communities in their traditional strongholds;”

P14 “In a sense, it is in the factories of China, and their nascent underground trade unions, that the future salvation of humankind is being forged right now.” “Preparing for Revolution”

P14 “It is there (China) that we will find the birthplace of the future International.”

To be fair, in most of the sentences the statements are qualified with words like “partly,”  “largely,” “for the most part,” “In a sense.” “no longer necessarily” and in one or two paragraphs in the document, the interpretation is qualified even more. However, I don't think that it has been enough to counterbalance the potentially wrong impact the statements could leave, when taken collectively.

I do agree it is well worth highlighting the staggering decline of British capitalism and the degeneration of its Labour leaders. When the document talks of the way in which monetarism and the domination of finance capital has “demolished entire communities and partly eroded their militant traditions,” it is correct and especially true  for the UK.

I come from South Wales, which, along with Lancashire and the Walloon area of Belgium, was the first industrialized region in the world. It was founded on mining, metal working and steel. Even in my Grandfather's day, the region had over a quarter of a million miners, out of a total population of about 2 million. This was besides metal, steel and manufacturing industry.

Today, apart from a steel plant and a few large manufacturing sites, nothing is left. Thatcher put the final nail in the coffin. It was devastating. When I go home, I get a hollow feeling, a sense of emptiness, an awareness that something is missing, which was at the core of our culture and can never come back. 

Furthermore, to give an example of how the political consciousness of the workers has fallen back and their militant traditions eroded, in 1920, the South Wales Miners' Federation voted to affiliate on bloc to the 3rd International. In the 1930s, they sent a contingent of 300 miners to fight as a brigade in the Spanish Civil War. I remember that as late as the final miner's strike of 1986, the last pensioners, who had scabbed on the 1926 General Strike, were still spat at on the street. Therefore, from personal experience, I agree entirely with the document in its points about this in Britain.

However, although Europe has suffered similar processes to the UK, it has not been on the same scale in most countries. During the early 80's a record came out in the UK called “Ghost Town”. It described the decline of the inner cities, the loss of jobs and increasing violence. It shot to Number 1. It is, indeed the case that the term “ghost town” could be equally applied to areas of Northern France, Southern Belgium or Easter Germany.

However, it is still much less prevalent in other European countries. While France closed some 30% of its industry, others like Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ireland actually expanded industry and jobs and improved their main cities and manufacturing centres - mostly as a result of EU financing. And in some other northern countries, like Austria, (West) Germany, Switzerland and Finland, the economic decline has had much less of a devastating effect. This is also the case for the Scandinavian countries, but I would prefer comrades living there to give us a more accurate picture, since Sweden, in particular, went through a severe economic crisis in 1990-93. 

Thatcherite monetarism was not applied evenly across Europe. Not all countries followed it to the same degree and some continued with a largely Keynesian economic policies. It is only now that workers on the continent are facing a sort of “Euro-Thatcherism.” and the Spanish miners struggles have clear parallels to the miners' strike in Britain in 1985-86. But, Spain has not suffered the same industrial decline as the UK, its industrial centres are more intact and their militant traditions have been maintained. Mining in the north has been reduced drastically, as elsewhere in Europe, but the violence of the battles in Asturias, for example, are an indication that the lessons and traditions of the Spanish Civil War have not been entirely lost.

If we compare Spain to the country in the 1930s, it is enormous changed and the working class has been enormously strengthened. In the interwar period, 57% of the population were peasants and 20% worked in industry, much of which was small scale at the time. Now, 30% of the workforce are employed in industry and agricultural accounts for only 5.3% of sectoral employment. The percentage has not come down since 1990. Furthermore, the communities and traditions of the working class appear not to have faced the same devastation as the UK.

Its main industrial regions of Barcelona, Biscay, Madrid, Navarre and Oviedo still produce over half the country's industrial output. Catalonia, which was the bedrock of the Spanish Revolution remains Spain's economic powerhouse and one of Europe's most important industrial regions. Some 85% of companies are still located in Barcelona, which was the fortress of the revolutionary proletariat in the 1930's.

The situation looks similar for neighboring Portugal. Before the War and even into the 1960's it was essentially a developing country. In the 1930's 70% of the population were illiterate. Even at the time of the 1974 Revolution, 40% of the population couldn't read or write. Today, only 10% of the population work in agriculture, compared to 44% in 1974 and 30% of the workforce are employed in industry. The industrial bastions of Lisbon-Setúbal and Porto-Aveiro-Braga in the north appear not only to be intact, but to have expanded in the last 30 years.

Italy too has gone through a transformation, which led it to outstrip France and Britain as manufacturing countries in the 1990s. At the height of the revolutionary crises of 1918-1921, agriculture employed 59% of the working population, while industrial employment stood at 24%. Today, 32% of the work force are in industry and only 5% in agriculture. The “Old Industrial Triangle" of Milan-Turin-Genoa, which is the backbone of Italian industry, is still an area of intense industrial and machinery production.

Germany remains the industrial powerhouse and 4thlargest economy in the world. In 1980, 40% of the workforce was employed in industry. Today that figure has fallen, but still remains at an impressive 30%. The earlier figure was based on the old West Germany and given a reduction of 60% in industrial employment in East Germany, the new figure probably hides a less precipitous fall in the West.

German cities which were bastions of the revolutionary proletariat like Hamburg and Bremen remain strongholds of the working class and centres for the huge shipbuilding industry. Berlin has lost none of its radicalism and the cities of Dortmand, Duisburg and the Dusseldorf are at the core of traditional heartlands of heavy industry, where iron, steel and mining is concentrated around the Ruhrgebiet and Saarland - one of the most important industrial centres in the world.  Added to them is the automobile industry in the southwest around Stuttgart and in Bavaria, where BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Opel and Audi have their car plants. Plus, there are the chemical giants like Bayer, BASF, and Hoechst and manufacturers like Siemens and Bosch. I think it is fair to say that the German working class remains one the strongest and most decisive forces in Europe and the world.

The documents correctly stresses the size and importance of the proletariat in Eastern Europe. Figures for the size and weight of the working class in these countries, as a region, are the highest in the world. The Czech Republic has climbed to an amazing to 38% of the workforce in industry, close to the record of Germany in the post-war period. This makes it country with the highest specific weight of the working class in the world. Bulgaria, which was mostly an agricultural country, even under Stalinism, is now 4thwith 35%. In Croatia the percentage of the workforce in industry has grown from 25.4% in 2002 to 31%. Since 1999, in Poland the percentage of workers in industry has leaped from 22% to 29% and in Romania from 25% to 31%. The figure for Slovenia is 35% and Slovakia 29%. Of the Russian satellite countries, Ukraine has been stagnant, but remains at 32% and the Belarus share of the workforce in industry is 35%. Most of these countries are in the EU and part of Europe in all respects and, therefore, I think we should not count them differently.

From a political point of view, especially its historic role in European revolutions, I think we also have to count Russia as part of Europe, without forgetting the effect a new revolution there would also have on Asia and the world. The best figure I have the industrial workforce in Russia is 27.%, although I am a little surprised that it is not more.

Even excluding Russia, the European proletariat and the West European working class on its own, still represents a very large force on the arena of the world revolution. Its percentage of industrial workers is at least as important as the specific weight of the working class in Brazil and China. Indeed, the average percentage of the workers in industry in Europe is higher than these two countries. The latest figures I have, show 14% of the workforce to be in industry in Brazil, making it 98th out of the 120 and close to India, which also has a figure of 14%. Of course, the sheer size of the working class in China  gives it a global significance and in terms of percentage share in the economy, the industrial workforce  is 28%, just behind Germany with 30%.

Apart from Brazil, many other countries in Latin and Central America now have with large proletariats almost equal to Europe. In Mexico, for example, 24% of the workforce is in industry. Honduras 21%, Eucador 24%, Dominican Republic 24%, Puerto Rico 20%, Venezuela 23%, Argentina 23%, Chile, 23%. The working class is highly concentrated in some countries like Argentina, where half of all industry is situated around Buenos Aires. Mining remains a bedrock of Chilean society and recent student battles are an example of how the working class and youth can recover from the most brutal reaction and how the best revolutionary traditions can be kept alive.

Latin American stands out as the region of the world where socialist ideas still have mass support and are part of the consciousness of the working and much of the peasntry. The legasy of the dictatorships and hatred of US involvement has left a very strong anti-imperialist sentiment, which adds to the mass support for left-wing policies.

Furthermore, the growth of an industrial working class in many countries of Central America makes for an explosive mixture, given the continuing scale of poverty and huge inequalities of wealth. In my opinion, the workers of Southern and Central America are now the most advanced sections of the world proletariat and a key area of the globe for socialist ideas and revolutionary developments.

As regards S.E. Asia, I was a little surprised not to see a larger proportion of workers in industry given the effects of the Asian Tigers and the role of Japan, China and Australia. Nevertheless, the industrialization of Malaysia has been quite amazing and the country now has the second highest concentration of workers in the world, with 36% of the workforce in industry! Taiwan, at n° 2,  also has 36%. Indonesia is another key country, because of the size of its population, some 237 million, as well as being the largest Muslim country on Earth. Indonesia has the 4thlargest workforce in the world of 116,500,000 and 16% of them are in industry, making an industrial working class of some 18,500,000. Surprisingly, however, only 24% of the workforce is in industry in South Korea. While the Philippines has really enjoyed a regional economic spin-off and it industrial working class is still only 15% of the workforce.

I decided to try to make some calculations based on the figures I unearthed. However, I am no statistician, so if comrades find discrepancies, please point them out. I chose the top 100 countries with a working class of the same size as revolutionary Russia or more. I decided also to choose countries which play an important local or international role. There are some countries with higher concentrations of the working class, which are not included, but trust me these are small countries with special factors and little specific revolutionary weight like Liechtenstein, Gibraltar, the British Virgin Islands or Greenland. 

I found that on this basis, the average share of the industrial working class in the labour force worldwide is 22.5%. 52 countries equal this figure or have a greater percentage.

By region, the average percentage of workers employed in industry is ;

Asia is 23%,
Arab countries 21%,
Latin and Central America 21%,
Western Europe 22%,
Eastern Europe 29%,
Europe Total 25% (Russia incl 28%)
Others 16%,
World average 22.5%

“Others”  include developing countries like South Africa, Bangladesh and former Soviet republics. I have not included the US, because I found the way the statistics were broken down and presented made it difficult to calculate properly. I'd prefer to leave it to US comrades to add anything on that because I don't feel knowledgeable enough about the situation in the US and Canada to do so myself.

A few articles, which I have read make the point that the area around the region of North East USA and Southern Canada still remains one of the most important centres of industry and manufacturing in the world. Then there is Silicon Valley and I'd be interested to know about the situation in Pittsburgh and with the mining and oil industries. It certainly also appears that the traditions of radicalism in San Francisco and Oakland are intact!

The full statistics are below. I have tried to be as accurate and consistent as possible. One can Google and get some different results. Often, the same dates aren't available, some figures use industry as percentage of GDP, others exclude mining and construction from industry workforce, etc The figures here are industrial labor force including mining and construction and the principal sources come from Nation Master, Economy Watch and CIA Factbook..


1. Czech Republic 38.60
2 Malaysia 36.00
3Taiwan 35.90
4 Bulgaria 35.20
5 Slovenia 35.00
6 Belarus 34.70
7 Bosnia and Herzegovina 32.60
8 Ukraine 32
9 Tunisia 31.90
10 Croatia 31.30
11 Iran 31.00
12 Hungary 30.90
13 Italy 30.70
14 Singapore 30.20
15 Montenegro 30.00
16 Bangladesh 30.00
17 Germany 29.70
18 Poland 29.20
19 Lithuania 29.10
20 European Union 28.70
21 Portugal 28.50
22 Sweden 28.20
23 China 27.80
24 Russia 27.50
25 Austria 27.50
26 Slovakia 27.00
27 Turkey 26.20
28 Japan 26.20
29 South Africa 26.00
30 Latvia 25.80
31 Belgium 25.00
32 France 24.30
33 Sri Lanka 24.20
34 Spain 24.00
35 Peru 23.80
36 Korea, South 23.60
37 Switzerland 23.40
38 Mexico 23.4
39 Romania 23.20
40 Chile 23.00
41 El Salvador 23.00
42 Venezuela 23.00
43 Libya 23.00
44 Argentina 23.00
45 Albania 23.00
46 Estonia 22.70
47 Greece 22.40
48 Namibia 22.40
49 Dominican Republic 22.30
50 Iceland 22.20
51 Macedonia 22.10
52 Costa Rica 22.00
53 Palestine 22
54 Saudi Arabia 21.40
55 World 21.40
56 Ecuador 21.20
57 Norway 21.10
58 Australia 21.10
59 Honduras 20.90
60 Serbia 20.50
61 Cyprus 20.50
62 Pakistan 20.30
63 Vietnam 20.30
64 Denmark 20.20
65 Uzbekistan 20.00
66 Ireland 20.00
67 Jordan 20.00
68 Morocco 19.80
69 Thailand 19.70
70 Cuba 19.40
71 Puerto Rico 19.00
72 Nicaragua 19.00
73 New Zealand 19.00
74 Jamaica 19.00
75 Iraq 18.70
76 Paraguay 18.50
77 United Kingdom 18.20
78 Kazakhstan 18.20
79 Netherlands 18.00
80 Bolivia 17.00
81 Egypt 17.00
82 Finland 16.70
83 Syria 16.00
84 Israel 16.00
85 Cambodia 15.90
86 Philippines 15.00
87 Guatemala 15.00
88 Brazil 14.00
90 Uruguay 14.00
91 Turkmenistan 14.00
92 India 14.00
93 Algeria 13.40
94 Colombia 13.00
95 Tajikistan 12.80
96 Indonesia 12.80
97 Kyrgyzstan 12.50
98 Azerbaijan 12.10
99 Nigeria 10.00
100 Zimbabwe 10.00

I think we should add to the figures that because of historical factors and world culture, the success of socialist revolutions in the older capitalist countries like France, Germany or Japan would still have a massive political influence worldwide.

The size of the German proletariat today is the same as at the height of its industrialization in 1870 at the time of the 1st International. Although it climbed dramatically and has fallen by ¼ since it height in 1950, in some ways its specific weight is greater because of the atomization of the peasantry, which in 1870 employed  50% of the population compared to 2% today. I also think that the growth of the service industry cannot be compared to the negative effect of a large backward petty bourgeoisie and peasantry in society throughout Europe, though the document doesn't say that.

Therefore, I think we need to qualify statements like those below and make some edits based on the figures above and because we need to raise the sights of comrades to wealth of possibilities for and importance of building the International anywhere in the world and in the old world.
If it were possible to rearrange things, I would have preferred to have introduced some of the more negative aspects of developments in the advanced capitalist countries after the following paragraph from the Preparing for Revolution document, page 9;

“There has been a huge growth in the size and specific weight of the proletariat everywhere, most spectacularly in many of the former colonial countries, and a remorseless shrinkage in the petit-bourgeoisie, in the wake of monopolisation and the concentration of production in the hands of the super-corporations. The working class is far better educated than previously. Mass communications and the “information revolution” have made the present generation of working people incomparably better informed than their parents and grandparents. The world has drawn together and an international consciousness has arisen that would have been inconceivable before. All these factors have objectively strengthened the proletariat worldwide.”

This is “spot-on,” so to speak. There has obviously never been a more favorable time for building a new International, all over the planet. The objective situation and balance of class forces is something Marx and Engels could never have dreamed of when beginning the task of creating the 1st International. It is even far more favorable than the situations which the revolutionaries of the 3rd and 4th Internationals faced. Today there are 20 countries worldwide with the same size proletariat as Germany had at the time of the Industrial Revolution, 12 of which are in Europe. Imagine if Marx and Engels had looked about themselves and seen 12 “Germanies.” Clearly, it is a marvelous time to be a Marxist.

So below are suggested just a few edits for discussion:

Page 12 “The productive industrial hard core of the proletariat has largely disappeared in the traditional metropolitan countries,

Suggested edit “The  share of industry in the economy has been reduced in Europe, but the productive industrial hard core of the proletariat remains mostly intact”

Page 13 “The old "metropolitan" countries are no longer necessarily the theatre of world history.”

Suggested edit “The old "metropolitan" countries can still play a key role on the theatre of world history.”

Page 14 “the specific weight of the industrial proletariat in society has been eroded.”

Suggested edit “the specific weight of the industrial proletariat in society has been eroded, but is still higher worldwide than at any other time in history, including in many advanced countries. However, there are major exceptions like the UK, where de-industrization has gone much further and is a warning of the what is to come.”

P14 “In a sense, it is in the factories of China, and their nascent underground trade unions, that the future salvation of humankind is being forged right now.”

Suggested ADD ON  “Yet in the modern world, revolution can break out anywhere and as we saw in the Arab Spring, it can spread like wildfire across continents and influence new anti-capitalist movements like Los Indignados in Spain, the Wisconsin union battles in the US and Occupy movements all across the world.”

P14 “It is there (China) that we will find the birthplace of the future International.”

Suggested edit  “It may well be, that it is there (China) that we will find the birthplace of the future International. However, given the extremely favorable situations in the Americas, Asia or Europe, movements there could just as well provide us with the impetus to begin forming the organizational forces of world revolution”

Let me finish by reiterating the point, that I agree entirely that we should highlight the key role of China (not to do so would be like Marx ignoring Germany or Britain at the founding of the 1st International) and also pointing to the qualitatively new tendency towards de-industrialization and its negative consequences for political and class consciousness. Not to do that also would leave us theoretically and organizationally rudderless in the face of coming storms.

I hope that I am not guilty of nostalgia here or Eurocentrism and I don't want to twist the real situation, in order to try to rally the forces of a combat organization like the CWI has done. Nevertheless, I think that without qualifying things a little, we could face the danger of underestimating the urgency and importance of building the forces of a new International in the old advanced capitalist countries and their crucial role in the coming world revolution.

Stephen Morgan July 10th 2012

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