The Energy Crisis and the Tasks of the Proletarian Revolutionaries

Image description: New York City during a recent blackout.


THE ENERGY CRISIS AND THE TASKS OF THE PROLETARIAN REVOLUTIONARIES

By Edith B.

The danger of a great catastrophe and of famine is imminent. All the newspapers have written about this time and again. A tremendous number of resolutions have been adopted by the parties and by the Soviets of Workers‘, Soldiers‘ and Peasants‘ Deputies — resolutions which admit that a catastrophe is unavoidable, that it is very close, that extreme measures are necessary to combat it, that ‚heroic efforts‘ by the people are necessary to avert ruin, and so on.

Everybody says this. Everybody admits it. Everybody has decided it is so.

Yet nothing is being done.

[…]

Yet the slightest attention and thought will suffice to satisfy anyone that the ways of combating catastrophe and famine are available, that the measures required to combat them are quite clear, simple, perfectly feasible, and fully within reach of the people‘s forces, and that these measures are not being adopted only because, exclusively because, their realisation would affect the fabulous profits of a handful of landowners and capitalists.

And, indeed, it is safe to say that every single speech, every single article in a newspaper of any trend, every single resolution passed by any meeting or institution quite clearly and explicitly recognises the chief and principal measure of combating, of averting, catastrophe and famine. This measure is control, supervision, accounting, regulation by the State, introduction of a proper distribution of labour-power in the production and distribution of goods, husbanding of the people‘s forces, the elimination of all wasteful effort, economy of effort. Control, supervision and accounting are the prime requisites for combating catastrophe and famine. This is indisputable and universally recognised. And it is just what is not being done from fear of encroaching on the supremacy of the landowners and capitalists, on their immense, fantastic and scandalous profits, profits derived from high prices and war contracts (and, directly or indirectly, nearly everybody is now ‚working‘ for the war), profits about which everybody knows and which everybody sees, and over which everybody is sighing and groaning.

And absolutely nothing is being done to introduce such control, accounting and supervision by the State as would be in the least effective.“

THE IMPENDING CATASTROPHE AND HOW TO COMBAT IT
V. I. Lenin
October 1917

A new phase of the ongoing global capitalist economic crisis of overproduction, which began with the overextension and destruction of supply lines during the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic in the winter of 2019-20, has begun — a new global energy crisis, which began to hit the world economy hard in September. This new energy crisis has first hit China and the U.K., and is now beginning to affect other countries very hard. Power prices are rising by hundreds of per cent while it is becoming hard to buy clothing, firewood and other necessities. Switzerland is soon to be hit by this crisis. The World Economic Forum writes:

As we head into the final quarter of 2021, a global energy crisis is sending shockwaves through economies and industry sectors around the world. In addition to the immediate shortages and price hikes, this crisis could also foreshadow the fallout from a badly handled energy transition.

Energy is vital to almost every aspect of modern life. From keeping the wheels of industry turning to powering the internet, heating and lighting people‘s homes, to keeping transport moving, so much of what we rely on is energy-dependent. Energy shocks are therefore likely to ripple through an economy and be felt by almost everyone. When the price of gas and electricity goes up, so too will the prices of many other things.“1

This new global energy crisis hit China first. CNN writes:

A growing power supply crunch in China is triggering blackouts for households and forcing factories to cut production, threatening to slow the country‘s vast economy and place even more strain on global supply chains.

Companies in the country‘s industrial heartlands have been told to limit their energy consumption in order to reduce demand for power, state media has reported. And supply has been cut to some homes, reportedly even trapping people in elevators.

An ‚unexpected and unprecedented‘ power cut hit three northeastern provinces on Monday, according to the Global Times, a state-run tabloid. The newspaper reported Tuesday that power rationing in Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning provinces has ‚resulted in major disruptions to the daily lives of people and business operations‘.

Power shortages have also hit the southern province of Guangdong, a major industrial and shipping hub. Local officials said Monday that many firms are trying to reduce demand by working two or three days per week.

China‘s State Grid Corporation said Monday that it would ‚go all out to fight the tough battle of power supply‘, making every effort to secure residential consumption.

China was hit by a similar power crunch in June, but the situation is getting worse because of a perfect storm. Its industries are facing huge pressure from soaring energy prices, and from Beijing to tackle carbon emissions.

The world‘s biggest polluter is trying to meet a pledge that its carbon emissions will peak before 2030. That requires its provinces to use less fossil fuel for each unit of economic output, for example by burning less coal to generate power. At the same time, demand for Chinese-made goods has surged as the global economy emerges from the pandemic. The result: not enough power to go round.“2

The U.K. was hit next, likely due to its large reliance upon Chinese imports. The Guardian writes:

The UK‘s wholesale energy markets have reached record highs in recent weeks. The trouble stems from a global surge in demand for gas following a cold winter that left gas storage facilities depleted, plus a rebound in post-lockdown energy demand across Asia. A race to refill gas stores before the return of colder temperatures has now caused market prices to surge.

The global gas grab is a major concern because half of the UK‘s electricity is generated in gas-fired power plants. There has also been a higher than normal demand for gas power in recent months following a series of nuclear reactor outages and the recent shutdown of a major power cable that brings in electricity from France.

The UK has also had one of its least windy summers since 1961, meaning wind power has been low. Experts fear the situation will become worse as colder temperatures draw in.“3

Moreover, the effects on the people will be disastrous:

The market highs will lead to some of the most expensive winter energy bills in the past 10 years, and drive an extra half a million people into fuel poverty.

The energy regulator, Ofgem, said last month that default energy tariffs would climb by 12.5% on average to take account of the fast-rising energy market prices between February to July. The further rise of the energy markets since then means it is expected to raise energy bills again from April.

Even fixed-rate energy deals are becoming more expensive. Many one- to two-year deals are now priced above default tariffs in anticipation of rising costs in the future.

[…] Energy experts at Barina Partners have said there may only be 10 suppliers left by the end of the winter, from 70 at the start of the year.“4

The World Economic Forum and other bourgeois economic analysts are bound to represent the new crisis from the point of view of the monopolist bourgeoisie. That ruling class cares nothing for the lives and deaths of billions of working and poor people all over the world — it cares only for profit margins. Currently, their profits are being disturbed, but their houses will stay warm. For the rest of us, it is a quite different story. Hence, the bourgeoisie are currently attempting to calm the people in various countries. In Switzerland, the bourgeois politicians initially only wanted to warn us that:

Due to the lack of an electricity agreement with the EU, Switzerland could run out of electricity in the foreseeable future if large power plants fail at home and abroad.“5

Because of this, about 30,000 companies have now received or will receive before the end of November pamphlets from the Federal Government encouraging them to waste less energy. Moreover, the Swiss State is building about 2,000 new, smaller gas power plants in order to gain more energy independence — as we will see later, this move is incredibly counterproductive. Nonetheless, the Swiss bourgeoisie is attempting to portray the energy crisis as being only „in the foreseeable future“. Federal President Guy Parmelin said as much according to nau.ch:

In Switzerland, in the worst case scenario, less electricity could be available from 2025. Guy Parmelin is already warning companies about this.

[…]

In Switzerland, in the worst case scenario, less electricity could be available from 2025.

[…]

This would mean, for example, that factories could produce less, public authorities and service providers such as banks would have to reduce their offerings, or means of transport that depend on electricity, such as trains or streetcars, could only operate to a limited extent.‘“6

However, the truth is quite different. Other countries than the U.K. and China are already being hit hard by the energy crisis. According to the Danish newspaper Information, analysts of Danish Energy (a branch organization of capitalists) stated:

We must say it like it is: It will become more expensive to be a Dane in the next period of time. It will become more expensive to get electricity, it will become more expensive to warm up one‘s house, and it will become more expensive to transport oneself around. We can‘t get around that.“7

China has chosen to handle the problem in a different way. Having access to large internal deposits of oil (such as in Taching) and coal (such as in Inner Mongolia), the authorities have decided to increase black energy production:

China has ordered its coal mines to ramp up production in a bid to ease a power crisis, as the country struggles to balance its need for electricity with efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

Authorities in Inner Mongolia, China‘s second largest coal-producing province, have asked 72 mines to boost production by a total of 98.4 million metric tons, according to state-owned Securities Times and the China Securities Journal, citing a document from Inner Mongolia’s Energy Administration. The order, which was approved on Thursday, took effect immediately, the state media outlets said.

The figure is equivalent to about 30% of China‘s monthly coal production, according to recent government data.“8

At the same time, Chinese factories are reaching a standstill, as the lack of electric power is causing machines to stop working, sending millions of workers out on the streets in cities like Kwangchow, Peking, Hongkong and Shanghai, or in the enormous ghost towns which were being built as part of the Chinese housing market bubble. According to CNN:

A government survey of manufacturing activity released Thursday fell to 49.6 in September, down from 50.1 in August. Any reading below 50 indicates contraction — and in this case, it was the first time the official survey showed activity shrinking since the Covid-19 pandemic began.“9

The article continues:

A boom in construction and manufacturing drove much of China‘s economic recovery this year, and continues to play a vital role in growth.

But that work requires tons of power and thus massive amounts of coal. Power shortages began to bite in June but have worsened since then as coal prices have soared and China‘s provinces have tried to meet Beijing‘s targets to reduce carbon emissions.

The worsening power crunch has triggered blackouts for households and forced factories to cut production — a threat to the country‘s vast economy that could place even more strain on global supply chains.“10

Undoubtedly, the Chinese economic crash fueled by the lack of power will affect the entire global economy, leading to related crashes everywhere — not to mention a shortage of clothing, electronics, food, etc.

Other countries, such as Denmark and Switzerland, have little to no options for domestic resource extraction to make up for the loss in green energy and energy imports. Thus, having no or few nuclear power plants, such countries (which constitute the majority of countries) are forced to become even more desperate at the international bargaining tables — a situation which Russian imperialism is utilizing to the best of its ability. Russia, which like the United States and China is an imperialist superpower and normally the economically weakest of the three, but which has now found itself in a position of economic strength due to its gas reserves, is using the present energy shortage to force approval of its Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project through in Germany:

[…] Russia has been accused of slowing gas supplies to Europe to encourage a faster approval process for its Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that runs under the Baltic Sea to Germany. Gazprom denied the accusation to CNN last month, but on Thursday, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said explicitly that gas prices would cool if Berlin certified the project.“

We have already clearly seen that the Swiss monopoly capitalists, who rule this rotten old State, have done everything possible to sabotage Switzerland‘s energy supply. As examples, I would like to mention Switzerland‘s recent withdrawal from the European Union‘s energy sharing programme as well as the outphasing of Switzerland‘s nuclear power plants, which began in May 2017.

It is the ABC of political economy that a lower supply in the face of higher demand leads to higher prices. At a time when the global economy faces a decade-long period of restructuring to green energy instead of black energy, at a time when we are witnessing global disruption of supply lines and at a time when climate change is causing the destruction of our energy infrastructure in both Switzerland and the world — at such a time, what kind of short-sighted, profit-blinded pigs would decide to undermine our energy supply? The only solution left open now is not the cleaner and safer nuclear power, but rather the black energy of coal, oil and gas, as China‘s energy restructuring and Russia‘s newfound position of strength already has shown. Switzerland will be forced to rely on this black energy in order to stay alive. At the same time, the Swiss people will be facing higher prices and shorter supply of energy for heating, lighting, cooking, washing, etc. For the working class and the poor and lower-middle peasants as well as the impoverished small bourgeoisie of this country, this development could prove fatal.

According to Money Week, „gas and electricity prices have risen by more than 250% so far this year. And they‘re likely to go higher still“11. Kwasi Kwarteng, U.K. Secretary of Business and Energy, had to pledge in front of the House of Commons on the 20th of September that there would not be any „three-day working weeks or a throwback to the 1970s“12 — this fact in itself should be extremely concerning, especially for those who, like myself, do not particularly like to place our trust in the empty promises of bourgeois politicians. Let‘s take a look at just how bad the energy crisis in the U.K. currently is, since the situation in Great Britain precisely shows what is to come for the Swiss people — even as Swiss news choose to stay ominously silent on the topic of the energy crisis. Again in Money Week, we could read on September 24th:

[…] four retail suppliers of gas and electricity have collapsed this month because they were unable to supply energy at the prices they‘ve agreed […]. Or to take another, two big industrial fertiliser plants shut down last week, as they can‘t be operated economically at current gas prices. That means that supplies of carbon dioxide (a by-product of the ammonia production process) have dried up, in turn causing disruption in a range of crucial sectors including the production, packaging and supply of meat, other fresh produce and drinks. It is also needed by hospitals and the nuclear power industry. This week a government subsidy (in the tens of millions) persuaded CF Industries, owner of the plants supplying 60% of the UK‘s CO2, to restart production of the gas at one plant. But both sides made clear this was a temporary fix (a three-week deal for now) to a long-term problem.

[…]

Sharply rising global demand and severely constrained supply have seen wholesale gas prices surge sixfold over the past year, and they have doubled in the past two months. On Monday this week, they jumped 16% in a day. This is partly to do with Covid-19: demand fell last year, but has bounced back as countries emerge from the pandemic, creating a demand spike. Countries are also trying to cut their use of coal, and switching to less polluting gas. Weather patterns have played a role too. Global demand was high during the cold and prolonged northern hemisphere winter, especially towards the end of the season — causing storage levels to fall. In a normal year, stocks would be replenished through the summer. But this year, the heatwaves across the northern hemisphere (but not in the UK) kept energy demand high as supply problems worsened.“13

Analyzing the causes for the U.K.‘s vulnerability to the energy crisis, the same bourgeois economists write:

Several reasons. First, it uses a lot of gas (about 40% of its energy mix), including for electricity generation. So the gas price rise affects the whole energy sector. Second, domestic gas production has slumped 28% this year due to pandemic project delays and maintenance, according to consultancy Wood Mackenzie. Third, Britain‘s strength in renewables (accounting for 25% of consumption) has played against it over past few months, which has seen one of the least windy period across Europe for decades. That means gas-fired power plants have taken up the slack, accounting for up to 60% of electricity generation. And fourth, the UK‘s uniquely low gas storage capacity has left it exposed if the supply crunch lasts through the winter and into next year.“14 (My emphasis.)

Now, when looking at the situation for Switzerland this coming winter, we should see if the same reasons apply for us. According to Wikipedia:

Apart from hydroelectric power and firewood, the country has few indigenous energy resources: oil products, natural gas and nuclear fuel are imported, so that by 2013 only 22.6% of primary energy consumption will have been covered by local resources.

[…]

Thanks to the high share of hydroelectricity (59.6%) and nuclear power (31.7%) in electricity production, Switzerland‘s per capita energy-related CO2 emissions are 28% lower than the European Union average and roughly equal to those of France.

Following the earthquake that struck Japan in March 2011 and the Fukushima nuclear accident, the Federal Council announced on 25 May 2011 a phase-out of nuclear energy scheduled for 2034.

[…]

Most of the energy produced within Switzerland is renewable from Hydropower and biomass. However this only accounts for around 15% of total overall energy consumption as the other 85% of energy used is imported, mostly derived from fossil fuels.“15 (My emphasis.)

All of the four reasons for why the U.K.‘s economy is being affected by the energy crisis so badly also apply to the Swiss economy. Firstly, Switzerland is very dependant on fossil fuels such as oil and gas — gas accounting for 10% and oil for 38.2% of energy used. Secondly, Switzerland imports these energy sources. Thirdly, Swiss energy production relies heavily on green energy. Here, the question of energy storage (the fourth reason according to Money Week) is particularly glaring: Switzerland is incapable of storing its own produced green energy, since the storage capabilities are only now being developed in a plan until the year 2050!16

With the high reliance on imported black energy, the domestic reliance on green energy, the withdrawal from the E.U. power-sharing grid and the out-phasing of nuclear power all put together, Switzerland is facing a very long and very cold winter. Energy prices may rise by several hundred per cent, leading already impoverished and working households to absolute economic ruin or even freezing to death.

According to several weather forecasts, Switzerland will experience widespread freezing temperatures the coming winter. In Zürich, the people can expect temperatures around 0° C in December 2021. At the same time, the global economy is experiencing prolonged supply line problems, for instance with clothing and other necessities, such as toilet paper.17 Moreover, the high inflation rates on all sorts of products, ranging from luxury articles to the rotten fruit and vegetables most of us buy at Spar or Denner, are here to stay.18 It is also already taking place that British food prices are rising due to the energy shortage, which can also be expected to happen in Switzerland.19 All the while, Swiss authorities are implementing policies which make it harder for Swiss consumers to get access to low-price commodities from Germany and France by traveling across the borders.20 Can it then be said that the Swiss capitalist State is doing anything at all to help the people prepare for the coming energy crisis? Not at all. We must find our own solutions.

Finally, yesterday, the Swiss bourgeois monopolist media were forced to admit that an energy crisis is coming before the Federal Government is willing to warn. According to 20 Minutes:

Rising energy consumption, neighboring countries that are reluctant to export, and unsteady power from solar plants: that’s why authorities are warning of a power shortage.

[…]

The Swiss Federal Electricity Commission (Elcom) sounded the alarm back in June 2021 — not for the first time. The reason: In winter, there is a threat of an electricity shortfall in Switzerland.

How much electricity solar power systems supply, for example, is highly dependent on the weather. This becomes a problem especially in winter.

The demand for electricity will increase in the longer term due to the transformation of mobility, for example with e-cars.

The extent to which people will save energy consumption is unclear — the Federal Government has made no specifications in this regard.

How much hydropower can be expanded is an open question. Compromises on water protection or water rates are not foreseeable.

The existing nuclear power plants could be taken off the grid sooner than expected for technical and economic reasons.

And a weighty factor is the uncertain electricity imports from abroad. Indeed, neighboring countries are less and less willing to supply electricity to Switzerland. Germany, for example, is getting out of nuclear energy and coal-fired power. Austria has no nuclear power plants and will itself be heavily dependent. It is questionable whether Italy would supply electricity to Switzerland — or whether it needs it itself.“21

This statement has proved my prediction made above.

Yet, despite all of the international and domestic admittance (reluctant or not) that an energy crisis is already happening and will only worsen this coming winter, and despite the fact that everybody knows the simple solutions to this problem, nothing is being done by the capitalist governments to fix this situation or prepare the people against the energy crisis.

Indeed, it would be very simple to prevent mass freezing and starvation as a result of the energy crisis. I would propose the following to the Federal Government:

1) Immediate nationalization of all energy production, storage and distribution, so as to ration energy to all households for free, deprioritizing non-essential businesses.

2) Immediate reopening of all nuclear power plants and immediate start to building new ones, so as to prevent a worsening of the crisis and to prevent future crises, taking into account that the existing power plants are outdated and should be renovated as soon as possible.

3) Implement maximal prices, bills and rent, allow cross-border shopping without any limitation and with guaranteed return of sales taxes, no matter the price of the product, and implement easy-to-get and guaranteed welfare benefits for those with insufficient income.

However, the government is refusing to act. Therefore, the energy crisis has become our responsibility, the responsibility of the proletarian revolutionaries. We must develop the independent action of the masses, so as to not face a human catastrophe this coming winter.

It is completely necessary and most urgent to begin developing campaigns of agitation and propaganda in preparation for the energy crisis hitting the Swiss people, as it undoubtedly will this winter, and to support such campaigns with the establishment of neighborhood brigades to aid the workers and the poor with heating, clothing and food, so as to enable community connections to be built and a basis for common mass struggle to be founded.

In this question, we must agree on a specific line for how to fight the coming energy crisis; a line which takes into account the communist mass line and which completely rejects both economism and „Leftist“ phrasemongering. Taking this into account, I propose the following work programme:

1) Go to the revolutionary and progressive youth and mobilize them to fight against the inflation and price hikes, by raising the demand for nationalization and by concretely helping out the working and poor households in the neighborhood.

2) Go to the working class and poor neighborhoods and establish „serve the people“ brigades to help mobilize the masses of working and poor households against the energy crisis. The basis of this work is to help procure and distribute power, heating, food, clothing etc. to those who need it and in particular to build up community solidarity independent from the social aid programmes of the State, which serve to pacify us.

3) Demand of the government that it put an end to inflation and price hikes through the implementation of price boundaries; that it nationalize all production, storage and distribution of energy in the country; and that it reopen the nuclear power plants so as to guarantee the energy supply independent of the E.U. and other foreign powers. Accept no „aid“ from the superpowers of the U.S., Russia and China, since they will use it for political influence, as already seen with Nord Stream 2.

This work programme can be summed up in the following slogan: Against inflation and price hikes! Free energy for everyone!

The neighborhood brigades should be the organizational form for „serve the people“ work to mobilize the masses and build independent community solidarity. By developing this work, we will be able to aim for struggle committees, which can coordinate the work of various mass organizations in a neighborhood, as Chairman Gonzalo put forward in „May Directives for Metropolitan Lima“22. This will allow the revolutionary masses to prepare for an eventual revolutionary situation, the germs of which are already emerging now.23

It is absolute insanity to imagine that this energy crisis can be solved without nationalization of all energy production, storage and distribution in Switzerland and also without re-opening the nuclear power production facilities as quickly as possible. This line of action is the only possible way out of catastrophe for the Swiss people.

All proletarian revolutionaries should read and re-read this article. All proletarian revolutionaries should study materials which are relevant to the current situation, such as Lenin‘s „The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It“ and „The Fuel Crisis“ and Mao Tse-tung‘s „Be Concerned With the Well-Being of the Masses, Pay Attention to Methods of Work“, but also the development of the situation in the bourgeois news. And in particular, all proletarian revolutionaries must begin immediately to form a broad united front against the crisis which takes as its basis the deepest and broadest masses and as its most active element the revolutionary and progressive youth. We must demand that the Swiss government immediately acts. Moreover, we must take matters into our own hands to ensure the survival and propel the organization of our class.

AGAINST THE ENERGY CRISIS AND ITS PROFITEERS!

WORKERS AND POOR PEOPLE, UNITE AGAINST THE ENERGY CRISIS! NEIGHBORHOOD SOLIDARITY NOW!

FIGHT FOR THE IMMEDIATE NATIONALIZATION OF ALL ENERGY AND ENSURE ITS FREE DISTRIBUTION TO ALL HOUSEHOLDS!

BUILD NEIGHBORHOOD BRIGADES, AIM FOR STRUGGLE COMMITTEES!


1https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/10/energy-transition-risks-crisis/

2https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/28/economy/china-power-shortage-gdp-supply-chain-intl-hnk/index.html

3https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/sep/19/uk-energy-market-crisis-what-caused-it-and-how-does-it-affect-my-bills

4Ibid.

5https://www.toponline.ch/news/schweiz/detail/news/der-schweiz-droht-ein-strommangel-00167376/

6https://www.nau.ch/news/schweiz/guy-parmelin-ruft-zur-vorbereitung-auf-strom-mangellagen-auf-66024454

7https://www.information.dk/udland/2021/10/panikhoeje-energipriser-gavner-lige-sort-energi-kan-faa-forlaenget-levetiden

8https://edition.cnn.com/2021/10/08/business/china-coal-power-shortage-climate-intl-hnk/index.html

9https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/30/economy/china-factories-growth-intl-hnk/index.html

10Ibid.

11https://moneyweek.com/personal-finance/603892/how-to-cut-your-energy-bill-this-winter

12https://moneyweek.com/investments/commodities/energy/603885/whats-behind-britains-looming-energy-crisis

13Ibid.

14Ibid.

15https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_Switzerland

16https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=f2e0e015-51b1-47b8-ace5-252768602667

17https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2021-09-24/inflation-and-supply-shortages-mean-a-return-of-empty-shelves-and-panic-buying

18https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-10-09/central-bankers-spooked-by-signs-inflation-lingering-for-longer?srnd=premium-europe

19https://moneyweek.com/investments/commodities/soft-commodities/603867/soaring-energy-prices-are-driving-up-food-prices

20https://www.20min.ch/story/einkaufstouristen-sollen-ihre-waren-schon-ab-50-franken-verzollen-371183651481

21https://www.20min.ch/story/darum-droht-der-schweiz-ein-strom-blackout-403201899151

22„We concluded that a struggle committee was convenient. However, this is to undermine the old State in the cities and have the masses follow an organized directorship. It is a germinal basis that allows the management of power. […] Struggle committee to coordinate workers and masses in the neighborhoods and shantytowns, assuming functions […] 1st Struggle Committee: TO COORDINATE WORKERS AND NEIGHBORHOOD MASSES (SHANTYTOWNS).“ (May 1991.)

23Lenin defines a revolutionary situation as follows: „To the marxist it is indisputable that a revolution is impossible without a revolutionary situation; furthermore, it is not every revolutionary situation that leads to revolution. What, generally speaking, are the symptoms of a revolutionary situation? We shall certainly not be mistaken if we indicate the following three major symptoms: (1) when it is impossible for the ruling classes to maintain their rule without any change; when there is a crisis, in one form or another, among the ‚upper classes‘, a crisis in the policy of the ruling class, leading to a fissure through which the discontent and indignation of the oppressed classes burst forth. For a revolution to take place, it is usually insufficient for ‚the lower classes not to want‘ to live in the old way; it is also necessary that ‚the upper classes should be unable‘ to live in the old way; (2) when the suffering and want of the oppressed classes have grown more acute than usual; (3) when, as a consequence of the above causes, there is a considerable increase in the activity of the masses, who uncomplainingly allow themselves to be robbed in ‚peace time‘, but, in turbulent times, are drawn both by all the circumstances of the crisis and by the “upper classes” themselves into independent historical action.“ („The Collapse of the 2nd International“, May-June 1915.) Lenin later clarified: „The fundamental law of revolution, which has been confirmed by all revolutions and especially by all three Russian revolutions in the 20th century, is as follows: for a revolution to take place it is not enough for the exploited and oppressed masses to realise the impossibility of living in the old way, and demand changes; for a revolution to take place it is essential that the exploiters should not be able to live and rule in the old way. It is only when the ‚lower classes‘ do not want to live in the old way and the ‚upper classes‘ cannot carry on in the old way that the revolution can triumph. This truth can be expressed in other words: revolution is impossible without a nationwide crisis (affecting both the exploited and the exploiters). It follows that, for a revolution to take place, it is essential, first, that a majority of the workers (or at least a majority of the class-conscious, thinking, and politically active workers) should fully realise that revolution is necessary, and that they should be prepared to die for it; second, that the ruling classes should be going through a governmental crisis, which draws even the most backward masses into politics (symptomatic of any genuine revolution is a rapid, tenfold and even hundredfold increase in the size of the working and oppressed masses — hitherto apathetic — who are capable of waging the political struggle), weakens the government, and makes it possible for the revolutionaries to rapidly overthrow it.“ („‚Left-Wing‘ Communism, an Infantile Disorder“, April-May 1920.) We already see how this situation can develop from conditions now in existence, as (1) the governmental crisis is increasingly being expressed and the limitations of bourgeois democracy are becoming obvious to the Swiss bourgeoisie (see the putschist speech by the SVP in Rapperswil, the repeated attempts by fascists to storm the Federal Parliament, the Federal Council‘s fascist policies, etc.), and as (2) the misery of the masses is growing (see the energy crisis). The third condition may well develop in the near future (the next two years or so). The beginnings of a new upswing in mass action (relative to the quiet past ten years or so) are already expressed in the riots in St. Gallen, the lower electoral participation, etc. However, it is not yet the case that there is „a rapid, tenfold and even hundredfold increase in the size of the working and oppressed masses“. We must therefore be vigilant that a revolutionary situation could emerge, but it would require that the masses „be prepared to die for“ the revolution, in which case we must be ready to conquer political power for the class and the people in areas where it may be possible, such as individual workplaces and neighborhoods — even if for only a short period of time — since we cannot allow the morale of the proletariat to be undermined by a lack of action on our behalf. At the same time, we should be aware that Switzerland is not yet experiencing „a nationwide crisis (affecting both the exploited and the exploiters)“ — instead, we are seeing experessions of putschist sympathies within parts of the ruling class (parts of the SVP) and threats to the existence of the people, but not yet a situation of attempted putsches or famine. But if such a crisis develops and if the masses become willing to fight to the death, they must get results. Otherwise, they will tell us: „We fought, but we got nothing out of it. Why should we fight again?“ We can not allow this to happen.