As social, economic, or military processes develop, strategic points are reached that determine the next stage of development. Militarily, these connected series of strategic points are referred to as a "line of march." Philosophically, they are called nodal lines or points. In war, as in revolutions, it is of the utmost importance that we understand the totality of the line of march, since what humans think and do determine who and what benefits from the struggle at these critical junctures. The political line of march is no mechanical thing. It is the unity of the spontaneous development of the productive forces and a development of consciousness that reflects it. Roughly, that line is through and from economic struggles and its corresponding consciousness to and through the political struggle to the assumption of political power with its corresponding consciousness. The development of the productive forces only forms the context. Progress along the line of march depends upon the development of consciousness.

Since "war is politics with guns," it is sometimes easier to illuminate political processes by military examples. The well-known "Battle of the Bulge" or Bastogne during WWII is such an example. The German plan was to split the American Army from the British, take Antwerp, cutting allied supply lines, and force them to surrender. The road to Antwerp lay through the town of Bastogne. It had to be taken in order to take Antwerp. The decision to fight a crucial battle there was not subjective. However, the conduct of that fight and its outcome was. The doctrinaire decision of the Germans to concentrate their tanks, which allowed the Americans to concentrate their artillery against them, was decisive to their defeat.

Plan to defeat rulers' strategy

What does such an example imply for the League today? First, the goal of revolutionaries – the democratization of the economy and reorganization of society – cannot be achieved by simply fighting back against social injustice. No war was ever won by simply defending. As in war, the first requirement is that the participants understand and agree upon not simply the goal, but the strategy to achieve it. Next, revolutionaries must take into account every aspect of the objective economic process and have some estimate of the social impact and political possibilities of each stage of its development. When these possibilities are clear they are presented as a political program that reflects the objective character of the line of march to the strategic goal. Understanding and formulating our strategy is not enough. In politics, as in war, an understanding of and plan to defeat the enemy strategy is essential.

A century and a half ago the German philosopher, Frederick Engels, wrote that life consists of motion and motion consists of eating from the environment and excreting all that is useless. This does not apply solely to the physical aspects of life. It applies equally to intellectual development. We are living in a new environment and must get our tactical understanding from it and not simply from strategically oriented books.

New possibilities

We are now at a very advanced and critical juncture. The government 's move to, at least temporarily, nationalize a section of private industry in the interest of the entire capitalist class is of tremendous political significance. That significance lies in this reality: The world defender of private property has had to publicly admit the social character of the modern means of production. By taking over the functions of the corporations and trusts of the capitalist class, it has implicitly admitted that the capitalist class is now a superfluous and useless drag on social development. They have handed us a tremendous propaganda weapon, but it is useless unless we understand and use it.

The propagandists for the ruling class have created as much confusion as possible around the terms socialism and communism. They present these economic categories as political categories. This confusion makes a tower of Babel out of any discussion about change. They present the “social democracy” of Europe as socialism. Social democracy is the nationalization of any sector of the economy that will facilitate the stability of the capitalist system. For example, WWII showed the British state that the deplorable health of the working class not only threatened their ability as soldiers but also as workers. At the end of the war the entire health system was nationalized. The workers benefited from it, but the wage labor system continued and it helped stabilize the system. Soviet socialism arose as a way to rapidly industrialize an essentially agricultural country. It could be compared to a gigantic corporation (the state) where all essential aspects of production – land, labor and capital – were organized under one plan of production. This plan included not only state owned production but the production from cooperative and collectively owned enterprises. Workers were paid for what they did and hourly-wage labor did not exist. This form of socialism was summed up as “From each according to their ability and to each according to deeds.”

Clearly, in an epoch of globalized, increasingly labor-less production with means of production capable of instantly glutting a commodity market, neither capitalist social-democracy nor Soviet style socialism will work. Communism is planned production with the means of production owned by the people.

Tasks of Revolutionaries

Revolutionaries have long argued that the introduction of new ideas was the indispensable next step to revolution. New ideas cannot arise without a new situation. Ideas are not simply abstractions. Like everything else, they arise as form and content. The concrete form of the American revolutionary idea is at last emerging. We must understand it, grasp it, and turn it against our enemy.

The move to nationalization is our Bastogne. The capitalists, incapable of managing their own affairs, must have it to prevent the current crisis from spinning completely out of control. We revolutionaries absolutely must have it in order to politicize the struggle. Nationalization shifts the economic struggle against individual corporations into a political struggle against the state. The capitalists understand this better than we do and they are moving very rapidly to place nationalization on a base favorable to them. This includes "temporary nationalization" which means that the public will forever resuscitate failed corporations and then hand them back to private owners. Another plan is to nationalize the financial sector, which will guarantee the flow of money no matter the loss since the public will pay for it.

Like it or not — ready or not — the battle is joined. Revolutionaries must take up this struggle to guarantee that nationalization is in the interests of the people. The next stage of history will be determined by its outcome.

This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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Editorial: Outcome of nationalization will determine the next stage of history