Revolution or War n°16

(Biannual - October 2020)

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Capitalist Crisis and Bourgeois Offensive Against the Proletariat

The capitalist crisis is here and now. Six months after the explosion of the pandemic and the crisis, the historical rupture is verified and is no longer in doubt, even for the most skeptical. The capitalist world is beginning to crack everywhere to the point that social revolts of all kinds and the threat of war are multiplying.

The economic crisis, expression and determining factor of the historical impasse of capitalism, can only deepen and worsen. No ’V’ or ’L’ shaped recovery, so much debated by bourgeois economists, is in sight. The lockdown and paralysis of more than half of world production was not a simple parenthesis that, once closed, would see a normal recovery of the economy, a return to the situation before. Proof if proof were needed that the Covid-19 pandemic was not the cause of the crisis. It only precipitated it and gave it some very special characteristics. Just as it can still hinder today the so-called economic recovery that the bourgeoisie hopes for without really believing in it. It is all very well to speak of recovery and revival, but the reality is that the open economic crisis is only just beginning.

The Economic Recession Is Only Beginning

After an unprecedented drop in world GDP in the first half of 2020 [1], this recovery remains very timid. According to the bourgeois economists and media, global GDP will take some time to recover to its 2019 level in the unlikely case that no financial, stock market or speculative crisis breaks out in the meantime, blocking the international financial system and causing the generalized debt market to collapse. "Overall, this would leave 2021 GDP some 6½ percentage points lower than in the pre-COVID-19 projections of January 2020" (IMF [2]). Another unprecedented feature: no region, continent or country, including China, has been spared by the fall in GDP. Today, while work has resumed and the recovery should be vigorous to make up for the two months of paralysis if capitalism ’were in good health,’ "the economic recovery remains sluggish in the United States" (lapresse.ca, August 28th 2020); in Germany, "industrial production grew by only 1.2% in July, while the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) was expecting a 4.5% increase. The production index remains 11.4% lower than in July 2019" (La Tribune, Sept. 7th 20); and in France, "the National Institute of Statistics, however, confirmed its forecast of a contraction of GDP of about 9% for the whole of 2020, predicting that ‘at the end of the year, economic activity would still remain below its pre-crisis level’ of about -4%" (idem, Sept. 8th 2020) [3]. There is no doubt that the future economic data of the entire world capitalist economy, and of the various countries, will confirm the absence of a recovery such as would allow us to envisage a way out of the crisis, or even to erase, or at least alleviate, the dramatic effects of the crisis and the amount of the bill that will be presented to the international proletariat.

Unemployment exploded because of the widespread lockdown, but the end of it also did not allow a return to the previous employment situation. Far from it. In the United States, "we’re still more than 11 million jobs down from where we were in February" [4] while the layoff plans, which are multiplying all over the world, are for the most part still to be implemented. The consequences are already terrible despite the state measures of partial employment urgently put in place by the various countries according to their historical ’tradition’, as social security coverage is stronger in Europe than in America or Asia, for example. The queues at soup kitchens and similar initiatives have exploded. Housing evictions for non-payment of rent or mortgage payments are beginning to multiply, particularly in America and Great Britain. The end of temporary income support to unemployed workers at the end of July in connection with the Cares Act passed in March in the United States, and which provides $600 per week in benefits to the unemployed, will throw millions more proletarians out on the streets, jobless and homeless. Added to this catastrophe are the more than 800,000 deaths to date and the millions of Covid-19 patients, many of whom are having the greatest difficulty recovering, which the capitalist health systems have been unable to prevent and treat due to the lack of means, or even minimum health coverage in many countries. Needless to say, these deaths and illnesses mainly affect the poorest social classes. With the worsening crisis, how many more deaths and illnesses are still to come?

The Unbridled Flight into Generalized Debt

And yet the states, especially the most powerful ones, have been quick to release trillions of dollars and euros to cope. The sums make one dizzy. A tiny part of this money has been dedicated to the immediate treatment of unemployment and business bankruptcies, particularly in Europe, in order to avoid a generalized social explosion. For the most part, these sums – for those already spent – were used, as in 2008 but on an unprecedented scale, to avoid a blockage of the financial system by preventing a succession of corporate bankruptcies and payment defaults. Finally, most of these sums will be used either for so-called recovery plans or to safeguard the financial system. In the first case, the states will be able to keep their hand in imposing the use of these funds and plans for the strengthening and concentration of each national capital in order to face international commercial and imperialist competition [5], even if it means sacrificing the so-called non-essential sectors for the defence of national capital. In the second, public funds, although indispensable to keep the financial system afloat, will end up being lost – for the benefit of a few, of course – in the financial sphere and speculation. In fact, most of the capital provided by the central banks and actually ’privatized’, and which are in permanent search for profits, prove insufficient, and will prove increasingly insufficient, to generate the necessary rates of profit obtained from the realization of the surplus value extorted from the proletarians in the sphere of production.

But where does all this money come from? Out of nowhere, if not, in the end, from the issue of paper money, from money printing. The phenomenon is not new and has been going on since the end of the Bretton Woods agreements, the dollar as the reference currency pegged to gold, in 1971 [6]. But from immediate and punctual remedy, printing paper money and inflation of currency have become the rule. The result is that from 35 dollars, an ounce of gold rose to 1000 dollars during the crisis of 2008 and has now, following the pandemic, reached 2000 dollars. The risk of a collapse of the international monetary system thus accompanies the risk of a collapse of the financial system. From being a remedy for the explosion of budget deficits and public and private debt [7], the constant historical decline – independently of one-off rises and falls in the gold price – of the currency in relation to gold becomes in turn a contributing factor of deficits and debt. Since the crisis of 2008, central banks’ policies of lowering interest rates – to the point of being negative! - and Quantitative Easing (QE), which consists mainly in buying back public debt largely from the financial sector, banks and private funds, and which represents in fact and in the end a ’socialization of losses and a privatization of gains’, have only made it possible to avoid a brutal credit crisis, its freezing, a credit crunch, and the sudden paralysis of the financial system. The slightest major bankruptcy, of an over-indebted bank or company, risking a pandemic of bankruptcies or the explosion of a speculative bubble, is today likely to reproduce the financial crisis of 2008 with much more devastating effects. The current monetary policies carried out by central banks, the issuance of money through the repurchase of public debt, the QE policy, etc., as well as the rebound of public deficits, are not an answer, impossible to find today, to the fall in profits from productive capital, which is causing capital to flee more and more from the sphere of production to the increasingly speculative sphere of financial products and investments of all kinds and ... in particular on the debt market. Today, as an expression of the impasse, debt feeds debt. As the 2008 Nobel laureate Paul Krugman says, "the 2008 financial crisis and the sluggish recovery that followed (...) demonstrated both that economic depressions are no time to obsess over debt and that slashing spending in the face of mass unemployment is a terrible mistake" [8]. In short, the result is that credit, originally a factor in accelerating the movement of goods and the accumulation of capital, has become a factor in slowing down and braking or even an obstacle, because of the excessive burden of debt and its magnitude on companies and states. Credit is no longer at the service of capitalist production, but capitalist production has put itself at the service of credit and debt in order to avoid sudden collapse.


Evolution of global debt in relation to world GDP from 2008 to 2018 (Source Bloomberg, https://www.lynalden.com/global-debt/). It is three times higher than the wealth produced! At the end of the first quarter of 2020, when lockdown was still far from being generalised, the ratio suddenly rose to 331%, with nominal debt reaching $253 trillion. At the end of July, it would already be 270 trillion...

The Ruling Class Wants To Make The Proletariat Pay The Bill... And Impose War On It.

The ever-widening gap between the value of the world’s production of goods and the issuance of paper money and debt must, sooner or later, be bridged in some way. Therefore, capital can only make the international proletariat bear the cost of the bill if it wants to keep its system afloat as a minimum. But this will not be enough to resolve its fundamental contradiction at the source of the existing gap. Having more forces and means of production than its social relations can absorb, capitalism is forced to make the surplus disappear and this can only be done, because of its dimension, at the price of a massive destruction of value, i.e. of capital and labour, concretely only at the price of a generalized imperialist war. As in 1914-1918 and 1939-1945, but on an even broader and deeper scale. More destructive.

And this is where crisis and imperialist war combine to exacerbate antagonisms and class struggle. The bourgeoisie has no other choice, whether its capitalist leaders and governments are aware of it or not, than to present at the same time the bill of the crisis and the bill of the sacrifices necessary for the march to war, first of all those indispensable to privilege and develop the arms race, the production linked to it and militarism. From economic, the question becomes political. Its solution depends on the balance of power between classes, on the capacity of the bourgeoisie to subjugate the proletariat, mainly at the political and ideological levels. For force and repression are not enough, and may even accelerate proletarian anger and conscience against the state.

The United States, Epicenter Of The Bourgeois Offensive

It is exactly at this point in the historical course that we find ourselves. The capitalist ruling class is forced, pressed all the more by the economic catastrophe that is exploding today, to engage in massive confrontations against the entire proletariat. Recuperating and using legitimate emotion, anger and revolt in the face of the serial murders of blacks, but also whites, reds and yellows – since the category ’skin colour’ is imposed on us – it has launched its first large-scale offensive in the United States. It is there that the epicenter of the evolution of the relation of forces between the classes is now.

Colour and gender identity or class identity? The two are irreconcilable and opposed. The first denies and excludes the second. The first, which appeals so much to the petty-bourgeois students on university campuses, especially in the United States, is bourgeois, and its fate is the division and bloody defeat of the proletariat. Immediately, it diverts the exploited class from defending its living conditions in the face of the explosion of the crisis. The second is proletarian and its future is the unity of the proletariat and the exercise of its class dictatorship, i.e. the destruction of capitalism. It alone shows the way to the immediate response to the crisis. It is up to the proletarians of all countries not to allow themselves to be dragged behind democratic campaigns, whether in the name of any colour identity or otherwise, which can only divide them, subject them even more to capitalist exploitation and lead them to bloody defeats. It is up to the communist groups to make no concessions to this identity ideology spread by the forces of the left, by the leftists and anarchists, if they want to work positively for the workers’ struggles that are bound to break out in the face of the exploding crisis, for the historical struggle of the proletariat and the real regroupment, that is to say in political clarity, of revolutionaries and for the constitution of the world party of the proletariat.

The slogans of the hour? No to sacrifices! No to identitarianism, and to divisions based on skin colour and sex! Yes to proletarian class struggle! Yes to class identity and unity in the struggle against capital!

September 10th 2020

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Notes:

[1. More than 30% in the US and United Kingdom, 10 to 20% in Europe depending on the country.

[2. IMF, A Crisis Like No Other, An Uncertain Recovery, juin 2020, https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WEO/Issues/2020/06/24/WEOUpdateJune2020

[3. Canadian and French newspapers, translated by us.

[4. Paul Krugmann New York Times, Gross Domestic Misery Is Rising (Sept. 9, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/07/opinion/trump-economy-jobs.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage.

[5. "Boeing has been awarded a $22 billion Pentagon pharaonic contract (...). If we still had any doubts about it, Boeing is well and truly supported at arm’s length by the United States" (La Tribune, Sept. 14 2020), "The United States is investing heavily in quantum computing and artificial intelligence (...). Against the backdrop of the global race for ‘quantum supremacy’, while China is suspected of making huge investments in this field" (idem, August 8th 2020).

[6. It is in fact with the First World War and for its needs that the main powers at war, United Kingdom, France, Germany, suspend the convertibility of their currency into gold. This suspension will be reintroduced following the 1929 crisis until the dollar, the Bretton Woods agreements of 1944, is the only currency still linked to gold and the other currencies are defined in relation to the dollar.

[7. The phenomenon, peculiar to the historical period of decadence of capitalism, budget deficits, indebtedness, then depreciation of the currency against gold in an attempt to settle the former, arose during the First World War and for its needs, and developed throughout the 20th century, relaunched by the 1929 crisis, accelerated for the needs of the Second World War, then became permanent, and finally increased tenfold from the end of the period of reconstruction, at the end of 1960-early 1970, until its current explosion.

[8. New York Times, Coming Next: The Greater Recession, July 14th 2020.