Brief Concluding Remarks on the Discussion Paper--The New Left in Europe
180) After 25 years, during which society was dominated by capitalist ideology, the tide has finally turned back towards the left. The apathetic and apolitical generation of youngsters from the pre-2007 boom, have now been replaced by a new left-leaning generation of anti-capitalist youth. Working people formally swept up in the false wealth of the property boom and unlimited credit, have swung back towards class struggle, under the onslaught on living standards and austerity measures.
181) This new wave of radicalized youth and more combatant workers have been the driving force behind the rise of the New Left. Because the old traditional workers' organizations lagged behind these changes in consciousness, the shift to the left in society found its expression in the growth of groups left groups like Podemos, SYRIZA, Die Linke and Front de Gauche, and, in Britain, in the left-wing surge behind Jeremy Corbyn in the LP.
182) However, following decades, when class consciousness and political understanding was thrown back, the re-awakening of the working class is only at its beginning. Working people have not yet become fully conscious of their role in society as a class and of the need to transform society along socialist lines. This lack of clarity has found its expression in the fuzziness and limitations of the political programmes of the new left formations, compounded by their largely middle class composition and leadership.
183) Despite their stinging criticisms of capitalism, the new left groups lack any theoretical clarity or clear socialist ideology. This leaves them rudderless in the face of changing events, and opens them up to bourgeois influences, which encourage a watering down of their programmes and more and more opportunistic policies. Moreover, not having been thrown up directly by the workers' organizations, they lack the sort of social ballast and class roots needed to give them any permanency. Nevertheless, the development of the New Left represents a quantum shift in class politics. But, at the same time, it is only harbinger of many surges to the left in the future.
184) There are too many unforeseeable variables to say definitively what the future of these new left formations will be. At the moment, support for the new left groups seems to have peaked, and even appears to be declining in some countries. If the economy continues to improve, and they shift further to the right, their vote could fall back below 5%, and some groups might even break up and disappear altogether.
185) On the other hand, the weak recovery in the world economy and the possibility of a new recession, combined with continuing austerity measures and right-wing policies of the traditional socialist parties, could allow them to maintain a certain level of support. A severe economic downturn could breath new life into them. New left splits in some traditional workers' parties could also occur. But, that might be tempered, if a new crisis also shifts the old socialist parties to the left.
186) What is sure is that this isn't going to be one smooth, meteoric surge towards a new mass socialist movement, but process which will more likely to zigzags in contradictory ways. As we have already seen the development of the New Left hasn't been uniform or synchronized internationally, but has taken on – and will continue to take on – many different forms, in different countries, at different times.
187) While there will be similarities and overlapping tendencies in how the left develops internationally, it is likely that new left movements in the future will manifest themselves in even more unique ways. However, at the same time, traditional paths for left-wing developments, through the old socialist parties, may re-arise in tandem with entirely new formations. Some of outlines of these processes may be foreseeable, while others cannot be predicted, and may appear suddenly from unexpected sources and in unpredictable places. Sudden and profound changes in class consciousness and political understanding, such as in Greece, can quickly throw up new mass left-wing movements.
188) If we look back on history, every single movement to the left since the beginning of the workers' movement has taken on unique and quite different features – Chartism in Britain in the first half of the 19th century; the communards of Paris in 1871; the 1st International; the creation of mass trade unions and the mass socialist parties at the end of the 19th century; mass anarchist movements in Southern Europe; the Communist parties in the 1920s, Stalinist societies; the mass left-wings in the traditional parties of the working class and their split-ways; and in the post-war period the overthrow of capitalism in the underdeveloped world by guerrilla armies and left-wing military coups. We also saw the mass Anti-Vietnam War protests and the Black Panthers in the US in the 1960s-70s, as well as other manifestations of left-wing currents in organizations, like the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the new phenomenon of the Green parties. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, we have already witnessed a dizzying kaleidoscope of left-wing currents not seen before in history.
189) As the economy rises and falls and the class struggle ebbs and flows, there will be victories and defeats, and advances and retreats for the working class and the left. There is no way of jumping over this process, because it is only through assimilating the lessons of triumphs and setbacks that new layers of workers and youth can draw the right conclusions about the need for revolution and the strategy, form and content of a socialist programme which can achieve that.
190) Therefore, socialists cannot afford to be dogmatic and schematic in their approach to building a new socialist movement. It may be possible to take a fixed position on a theoretical question or a political issue, but it would be disastrous to take a rigid and categorical standpoint on any unfolding and unfinished process. In particular, you can't simply impose a theory about how things will develop in one country onto another. That sort of blinkered and mechanical thinking will shipwreck any group or organization.
191) Consequently, revolutionaries need to be open-minded when it comes to analyzing events or anticipating future developments. Organizationally, they will have to be original and inventive in the ways they intervene in new left-wing currents and the labour movement in general. And they will need to find fresh and imaginative ways to put their ideas across and win support for a socialist programme.