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#6: Revolution or Resistance

Kritik und Praxis (Berlin) // Reform or Revolution

In answering the question of “Reform or Revolution”, Rosa Luxemburg saw “the idea of transforming the sea of capitalist bitterness into a sweet socialist ocean by adding social-reformist lemonade bottle-by-bottle” as something both tasteless and fantastic. With her critique of Bernstein and the reformist fraction of Social Democracy in 1899/1900, Rosa Luxemburg opened a debate that eventually produced two political camps, each of which claimed the sole right of leading the working class. By today, the question “Reform or Revolution” almost sounds impious; both historical titans have shrunken and become touching old men.

In answering the question of “Reform or Revolution”, Rosa Luxemburg saw “the idea of transforming the sea of capitalist bitterness into a sweet socialist ocean by adding social-reformist lemonade bottle-by-bottle” as something both tasteless and fantastic. With her critique of Bernstein and the reformist fraction of Social Democracy in 1899/1900, Rosa Luxemburg opened a debate that eventually produced two political camps, each of which claimed the sole right of leading the working class. By today, the question “Reform or Revolution” almost sounds impious; both historical titans have shrunken and become touching old men.

Unlike its antipodes – Social Democracy and Communism – capitalism has emerged from the fray looking refreshed and rejuvenated. In need of constant crisis, it now forces billions of people into squallor and war. The current “modernizations”, designed to ward off the crisis’ effects, are in the process of eroding the achievements of reformed capitalism. Since the idea of domesticated product-society – an idea that inspired both revolutionaries and reformers – has proven inappropriate for overcoming capitalism, anti-capitalism once again faces the question of how to think a society without a market and without a state?

The success of the new anti-capitalist movement does not really depend on all of the refined means of appropriating power through propaganda. Left wing criticism does not only need to prove that today’s mainstream points of reference – liberalism and conservatism – have always fallen short of emancipation’s final goal. Instead, it needs to decompose their increasingly repressive dogmata, whose stability stems from the hopeless affirmation of utopia’s failure.

Even if a critical examination of the reasons for this failure is inevitable, the most important challenge for the new anti-capitalist movement lies in formulating a critique that points beyond capitalism. However, it must do so without continuing to rely upon the proclaimation of critical independance and exteriority.

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