There's no easy time to be a communist in a capitalist society of course, but 2012 has been extremely tough going.
2011 started with the popular overthrow of governments in Tunisia and Egypt, the near-general strike in Wisconsin, and continued with Occupy, big student demos and occupations, the Sparks electricians, a growing public sector struggle, and even the spontaneous elements of anti-state and anti-rich mobilisations in the summer riots. While all of these had important limitations, on what might be called the left there was a feeling that momentum was building, and a global reckoning with the bankers at their governments might be in the making.
This year, all that impetus has dissipated - or rather, it has been repressed in some cases, and misdirected in others. The new bosses in Tunisia and Egypt might not be exactly the same as the old bosses, but they have very similar material interests, and they are backed by the same imperial power. Liberals in Wisconsin were able to channel the anger at state Governor Walker in an attempt to replace him with a right wing Democrat - and even this eventually failed due to an understandable lack of enthusiasm. Occupy eventually collapsed under the weight of weather, police brutality and its general orientation away from the wider class. The student struggle also fizzled out due to its isolation in the face of government intransigence, and union tops sold out public sector pensions - largely contributing to a much-reduced London demo in October. The Sparks actually won - but that was back in February, and feels like a long time ago.
That's not to say there haven't been other promising struggles - the growing resistance in Greece, Spain and South Africa looks very positive. But by and large, 2012 has felt like banging our collective head against a brick wall.
In this context, it's no surprise that: a) The Commune have gone through a bit of a shakeup, and b) our first issue in a few months has a slightly inward-looking feel - looking at different forms of working class organisation. Some times it is useful to pause and take stock, and many of give huge amounts of our time and energy to various struggles, and putting so much in with little success can quickly lead to burnout.
So Simon Hardy of the new Anti-Capitalist Initiative argues that it is time for unity to be built on the left, and he has the model of SYRIZA - Greece's main opposition party - in mind. An interview with Michael Albert sets-out the perspective of his group - the International Organisation for a Participatory Society - based on self-management, equity/justice, solidarity, diversity, ecological stewardship and internationalism - all aims that communists would share. But also John Keeley examines the problems he sees in Albert's vision - particularly its throwing "the Marxist bath out with the Leninist bath water", and losing its "materialist foundations".
The Marx-Bakunin conflict is recalled by David Adam, who reveals that it wasn't the straight battle between "absolute liberty and authoritarianism" that is often painted. An understanding of this can have a bearing on the struggles of today if self-identifying Marxists and anarchists can find common ground.
Finally, Roy Ratcliffe offers his thoughts on the organisation question, arguing that we should not to attempt to substitute ourselves for the working class, and offer some kind of idealist blueprint or perfect example for others to follow, but to organise where we are, and:
"To my mind the task of revolutionary anti-capitalists is to work alongside such workers [in struggle] and convince them by discussion and by the results of their defensive and reformist struggles that the capitalist system holds no future well-being for themselves, their neighbours, their offspring or the planet."As I wrote in a recent blog article titled 'Why Isn't There A Working Class Movement in the UK?':
"Amidst the bankers' crisis, things will continue to get worse for our class in the UK, in Greece, Egypt, South Africa and around the planet. Working class people will increasingly feel they have little to lose from fighting, and everything to gain. Despite the machinations of the union hierarchies and fake left parties, a new working class movement must come, and sooner rather than later. What should it look like? Well that's a subject for another time... "That time will come in the next edition of The Commune. In the mean time, keep fighting. Our time is coming.