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Impossiblism

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Soviet cogitations: 1128
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 30 Aug 2008, 18:12
Party Member
Post 08 Mar 2015, 18:26
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impossibilism

In short, this is the idea that striving to improve the conditions of the working class under capitalism is counter-productive as it only goes to dull their revolutionary fervor and instead makes them tolerant of the status quo. Marx attacked measures to improve the conditions of the working class in 1850 - 'However, the democratic petty bourgeois want better wages and security for the workers, and hope to achieve this by an extension of state employment and by welfare measures; in short, they hope to bribe the workers with a more or less disguised form of alms and to break their revolutionary strength by temporarily rendering their situation tolerable.'

To me it makes perfect sense in theory and essentially explains why the working class, especially in the developed world, are not and have not been revolutionary. I also think that communist parties that focus on trying to improve conditions for workers under capitalism have a tendency to become reformist and attract reformists as a result of thee policies. At the same time, a communist party operating under capitalism can't exactly come out and say "lower wages!, privatize healthcare!, cut social security!" etc.

Thoughts on this conundrum?
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Soviet cogitations: 3618
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 22 Oct 2004, 15:15
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Politburo
Post 09 Mar 2015, 09:57
It sounds like a very doctrinaire approach. It completely discounts the possibility of further radicalisation through practical struggle for concrete demands. I recall that parties advocating "Impossibilism" in some way also say that socialism can only come into existence when the majority of the working class understands and consciously wants socialism, and that they need to vote for this in an enabling act of some kind. At the very least, that is the logical consequence if all concrete struggles are verboten.

But how can the majority of the working class ever "understand" socialism when socialism is simply an abstract theory, a utopian society with no referentiality to anything in real life? When and where are they supposed to learn this consciousness, then? Are the "Impossibilists" happy to simply wait until the day the majority of the workers suddenly find out about their theoretical texts, somehow decipher them, and accept them to be true and act accordingly?

In that case, all I can say to them is that it's going to be a long wait. How can socialism ever be fully "understood" except in the process of building it? The real impossibility in this doctrine is not the impossibility of reforms leading to socialism, but socialism itself. Certainly, the opposite is also false: they're right to say that simply accumulating social-democratic reforms will not bring about socialism either. But they simply swing the pendulum the other way and are just as wrong.

I also don't think the decontextualised snippet from Marx is an endorsement of "Impossibilism". Here Marx is correctly arguing against subordinating the proletarian movement to the demands of petty-bourgeois democrats, and pointing out that these are bribes. He is clearly not saying that all practical reforms should be bitterly fought against, like some shit Russian anarchist arguing that "we" should make the situation of the working class as unbearable as possible to "trick" them into revolting. He is arguing that, in the context of a bourgeois-democratic revolution, the working class should organise itself independently of them, arm itself, wrest as many concessions from the democrats as possible, and push them to the extremes. Quite practical and quite different from some Impossibilist dogma.
Soviet cogitations: 1128
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 30 Aug 2008, 18:12
Party Member
Post 09 Mar 2015, 19:46
Quote:
It sounds like a very doctrinaire approach. It completely discounts the possibility of further radicalisation through practical struggle for concrete demands.


But do we ever see such further radicalisation as a result of the working class achieving reformist demands? Usually they become content with the new-found luxuries their lives get (surplus income, social security, etc.).

Quote:
I recall that parties advocating "Impossibilism" in some way also say that socialism can only come into existence when the majority of the working class understands and consciously wants socialism, and that they need to vote for this in an enabling act of some kind. At the very least, that is the logical consequence if all concrete struggles are verboten.


Well I don't see how the working class will lead a socialist revolution if they don't overwhelmingly want socialism. That doesn't mean they all need to be experts on Das Kapital etc...

Quote:
But how can the majority of the working class ever "understand" socialism when socialism is simply an abstract theory, a utopian society with no referentiality to anything in real life?


Well it shouldn't be presented as utopian, but as a logical conclusion to the limits of the capitalist system and a fundamental improvement of society based around a new mode of production and distribution.

Quote:
When and where are they supposed to learn this consciousness, then?


When did the bourgeoisie learn their consciousness to instigate their revolution? I suppose through practical struggle with the aristocracy. The trouble is, the bourgeoisie under feudalism had no chance of making the feudal system work for them because they could never become aristocrats. The system was too inflexible. Thus the bourgeoisie had the impetus to overthrow feudalism. The problem with capitalism is that it is flexible enough to grant significant concessions to the proletariat in order to dull their revolutionary fervor while maintaining the status quo. Proletarian class struggle victories only serve to make the proletariat more petty-bourgeois in their mindset.

Quote:
I also don't think the decontextualised snippet from Marx is an endorsement of "Impossibilism". Here Marx is correctly arguing against subordinating the proletarian movement to the demands of petty-bourgeois democrats, and pointing out that these are bribes. He is clearly not saying that all practical reforms should be bitterly fought against, like some shit Russian anarchist arguing that "we" should make the situation of the working class as unbearable as possible to "trick" them into revolting. He is arguing that, in the context of a bourgeois-democratic revolution, the working class should organise itself independently of them, arm itself, wrest as many concessions from the democrats as possible, and push them to the extremes. Quite practical and quite different from some Impossibilist dogma.


I never said it was an endorsement. I agree with you largely on this but your point about the working class organising separately from the petty-bourgeoisie is difficult. This is because the petty-bourgeoisie and the proletariat can appear very similar in a lot of their goals and, as I said, the more the proletariat achieves, the more their mindset becomes petty-bourgeois.
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Soviet cogitations: 14444
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 10 Sep 2006, 22:05
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Philosophized
Post 10 Mar 2015, 10:39
I think there is a tipping point though. Like there is only so much that can be gained in appeasement dressed as reform, which is considered a temporary tribute at best by those that enact it. The US for instance has been aggressively dismantling its social services ever since Reagan (which really was just an intensificiation of an already declining system) which is now described as the "destruction" of the sham "middle class". I think we just need to keep advocating worker's betterment because our ineffectuality at this point can only lead to an increased degradation of worker's power.

I guess from an impossiblist point of view a weak left is a requisite component.

Also this'ing no. 14.
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Soviet cogitations: 208
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 30 May 2009, 19:37
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Pioneer
Post 11 Mar 2015, 02:23
gRed Britain wrote:
In short, this is the idea that striving to improve the conditions of the working class under capitalism is counter-productive as it only goes to dull their revolutionary fervor and instead makes them tolerant of the status quo. Marx attacked measures to improve the conditions of the working class in 1850 - 'However, the democratic petty bourgeois want better wages and security for the workers, and hope to achieve this by an extension of state employment and by welfare measures; in short, they hope to bribe the workers with a more or less disguised form of alms and to break their revolutionary strength by temporarily rendering their situation tolerable.'


I think what Marx criticised was the tendency to be content with small gains and mistaking socialism with social security, for the purpose of preserving the capitalist system. For example, recently, the Vietnamese bourgeois want to revise the meaning of socialism. The Prime Minister even outright said that socialism is not an abstract thing but basic social security for everyone. *Facepalm* this enemy of people... What Marx advocated was the proletariat must have its own political goals (achieving Dictatorship of the Proletariat), instead of following the capitalist class and content with whatever they give us.

"Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step." - Lao Tzu
"Stalin brought us up — on loyalty to the people, He inspired us to labor and to heroism!" Soviet Anthem 1944.
Let's work hard and do valorous deed!
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