Revolution or War n°18

(May 8th 2021)

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Warning to our English speaking readers :
We could not translate several articles of this issue by an English speaking comrade. Thus, there can be some unease to read them and, more important, some political mistakes. In that case, or any doubt or questioning, we refer the comrades and readers to the French version.

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US Capitalism’s Offensive and Alternative Revolution or War

“Now, after just 100 days, I can report to the nation: America is on the move again. Turning peril into possibility. Crisis into opportunity. Setback into strength. (…) After 100 Days of rescue and renewal, America is ready for takeoff. We are working again. Dreaming again. Discovering again. Leading the world again. We have shown each other and the world: There is no quit in America. 100 days ago, America’s house was on fire. We had to act. (…) In another era when our democracy was tested, Franklin Roosevelt reminded us—In America: we do our part. That’s all I’m asking. That we all do our part. And if we do, then we will meet the central challenge of the age by proving that democracy is durable and strong. The autocrats will not win the future. America will. The future will belong to America.” (Biden’s Address to the Congress, April 28th 2021)

Since March 2020, the inability of capitalism to date to curb the global pandemic of covid 19 and the depth of the global economic crisis have provoked a multitude of dramatic consequences, gigantic events and reactions unthinkable only yesterday, of all kinds, which make everyone dizzy and predict a tragic future. Just as they provoke anxiety, disarray, impotence and passivity among the masses of proletarians. How can we understand what is happening? What are the facts, forces and factors that dominate and determine the course of events? How, in the face of the dramatic conditions that capital is beginning to impose, and will impose even more, can the proletarians of all continents and countries orient themselves and must they respond? How can we resist the attacks of today and the multiplied attacks of tomorrow? What reflections, what analyses, what orientations, even what slogans, can and must communist groups develop and put forwards?

"The conscious fraction of the proletariat must reject the method of crude empiricism which consists in mechanically recording the facts or in advocating or ’letting happen’ experiences which will be assessed afterwards. Instead, it must rely exclusively on a rigorous interpretation of the facts based on the contradictory movement of evolution – (dialectics) – an interpretation which often appears to be no more than an ’a priori’ thesis, a ’schema’, but which, in reality, is merely the application of the Marxist method of investigation." (Communisme #21, journal of the Belgium Fraction of the International Communist Left, December 1938)

One year after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the open economic crisis, the historical rupture no longer poses a question and everyone has understood, if only empirically, that there will be no turning back, that the 2020 Covid and crisis episode is not and will not be a parenthesis. Attached to Marxist theory and principles, the main groups of the Communist Left knew that the rupture was historic and brutal, as we announced in March 2020, and that a new period was opening. From what could appear as an ’a priori’ thesis, a ’schema’, and which was only our attempt to apply the Marxist method of investigation, we could affirm – and most communist groups could do the same – that the outbreak of the crisis could only be a factor of misery and of increased and generalised attacks on the proletariat on the one hand ; and of exacerbation of imperialist rivalries on the other hand, in which the sanitary stakes, the race for vaccines – after that for masks, respirators and other materials necessary to treat in the emergency – would be object and factor of those rivalries too.

No need to be Marxist to understand – bourgeois economists have also pointed it out – that the monetary policies, the mass printing of paper money, the avalanche of liquidity issued by the central banks – around three trillion dollars –, were only meant to prevent any panic and blockage of the financial system and cascading bankruptcies; just as the maintenance of wages despite the lock-down – in Europe – or the cheques sent by Trump to American households, causing the explosion of budget deficits already in bad shape, was only intended to prevent any social reaction to the stopping of a large part of production and to ensure both a minimum income for the unemployed, confined workers, and the momentary survival of many small and large companies. As a result, world debt has increased by $24 trillion in 2020, reaching $281 trillion and raising the world debt/GDP ratio to 355%. Public and private debts, already abysmal, are therefore exploding. The balance sheet of the US central bank – to mention just one – now stands at $7.4 trillion, up from $580 billion in 1999 [1]. Every month it injects – using Quantitative Easing policies, the current version of money printing – $120 billion to buy back government bonds subscribed by private banks and financial funds, a commitment made to ensure that the latter continue to finance the exploding deficits – privatising the gains, socialising the losses as some have pointed out. The US deficit reaches 17% of US GDP by 2020, a level only similar to those of the Second World War (20-25%).

No need to be Marxist to understand that these generalised debt measures, the same as those adopted during previous crises, but not on the same scale as the last one in 2008, which broke all records, do not solve the crisis and will not resolve it. They merely postpone it, with increasing difficulty, and multiply its consequences and future devastation. Above all, it is highly significant that this gigantic production of paper money sees its greatest share directed into the financial and speculative sphere instead of the productive sphere. Here too, many bourgeois economists recognise that the law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit makes this profit insufficient in relation to capital as a whole in production, while the financial and speculative sphere offers higher returns. We don’t have the space here to reproduce all the graphs of the main economic indicators linked to the generalised indebtedness of world capitalism and which express the growing and yawning gap between real goods production and the mass of capital. All of them, deficit, money stock in circulation, present the same curve since the 1960s, increasing, accelerating, exponential, then abrupt wall, as the one of the US federal debt that we reproduce here.

Economic Research, Federal Reserve of Saint Louis

On the other hand, only the communist groups applying the Marxist method of investigation, which often appears to be nothing more than an a priori thesis, a schema – to use the formula of Communism – could announce that the historical rupture taking place before our eyes and the capitalist impasse, in addition to the drastic deterioration of the living conditions of the proletariat and the aggravation of the economic and imperialist competition between capitalist powers, meant above all that the ’a priori thesis’ carried by Marxism and the Communist Left was becoming the determining factor of the situation. That the historical alternative and the perspective of generalised imperialist war dictated the course of events arising from the crisis. In agreement with the Internationalist Communist Tendency, at least with its platform updated in 2020, we affirm that "Once again the question of imperialist war or the proletarian revolution is being placed on the historical agenda and imposes on revolutionaries throughout the world the need to close ranks. In the epoch of global monopoly capitalism no country can escape the forces which drive capitalism to war. Capitalism’s ineluctable drive towards war is expressed [2] today [we underline] in the universal attack on the working and living conditions of the proletariat." This fundamental thesis, the expression today of the tendency towards generalised imperialist war, which belongs to the international Communist Left and which is always – more or less clearly – defended by its pro-party forces, cannot be reduced to a mere declamation of principle. It is, and must be, the compass for identifying the basic tendencies of the current historical course amidst the multiplication of events of all kinds and in all apparent directions and the hurricanes that are looming.

US Capitalism Leads the Imperialist Ball

At first, and influenced by the media campaigns, it was believed that China was at the heart of the new situation, that it was the central and dynamic factor and actor, since democracies had had their day, according to its president Xi Jinping. Was it not succeeding in controlling the pandemic on its soil as well as its largely proletarianised population, reducing the former and repressing the latter? Re-opening its economy before all the others, using and abusing of its dominant position in the production of goods suddenly presented as essential, initially the production of masks and others, to develop its imperialist power and its ideological discourse? Were the other so-called democratic powers, starting with Trump’s US, not sinking into the health and economic crisis without being able to provide an answer? Totally powerless? In short, isn’t China emerging from the covid 19 crisis as the real world’s leading power? Realising the Chinese dream advocated by Xi Pinjing in opposition to the American dream [3]? In fact, and very quickly, the whole weight, axis and energy of the world and historical situation has shifted, been articulated and powered around and from the initiatives of the American bourgeoisie.

It soon became clear that the core of capital’s response to the world situation was defined by the US bourgeoisie’s determination to defend its position as the leading imperialist power in opposition to China at all costs, up to and including the ultimate consequences of war; and this on all levels, domestic – towards its proletariat in particular –, political, economic and imperialist. In so doing, by going on the offensive in all directions, US capitalism, historically in decline but having the dollar, the US Army and the mystification of democracy, and the Biden government are leading and imposing on the whole capitalist world, in particular on the other imperialist powers, its priorities, its lines of confrontation, its terrain and its timing on the economic, imperialist and military levels. It is stepping up its military pressure and provocations against China and Russia. It traps the main European powers, Germany and France in the first place, between their aspiration – itself contradictory – to more European sovereignty and autonomy and the obligation to choose a side that cannot be other than behind America. The more American capital exacerbates the economic, imperialist and military antagonisms with China – and secondly with Russia – the more it forces the Europeans, if only by locking them into the NATO tutelage, to fall in line behind it.

First Trapping the American Proletariat between Racism and Anti-Racism...

It was only from this understanding of the course of events that it was really possible to apprehend the full extent of American capital’s first response of a domestic political order, that is to say, vis-à-vis the North American and... international proletariat [4]. But above all, much more importantly, it was only from the a priori thesis of imperialist war or proletarian revolution "as the element-factor of the immediate situation", that it was possible to grasp the scale and the danger of the ideological and political offensive launched against the proletariat from the racist murder of G. Floyd by the police. Without this compass, it was not possible to understand why and how Trump was to be re-elected before the pandemic and why the US bourgeoisie changed horses with it and the anti-racist campaign following the murder of G. Floyd. Why it became necessary for the American bourgeoisie to wear out the Trump card to the point of the buffoonish farce of the pro-Trumpist invasion of Capitol Hill. Why it was necessary to put Biden, the Democratic Party, and with them left-wing, even leftist, politics and language into power. And how the political operation could be carried out in the wake of and thanks to the anti-racist campaign and demonstrations. And all this to put in place a new team, a Democratic one, grasping the real stakes of the new historical situation, the extent of the American decline in the face of a China which has become a world imperialist power, capable of mobilising, as far as possible, the whole of the proletariat in the defence of American capital; in concrete terms, to make it accept the preparation for the imperialist confrontation.

… Then behind the ’Social’ Recovery Plans...

It is only from this understanding of the course of events dictated by the historical alternative that it is possible and necessary to apprehend the meaning of the trillion-dollar stimulus plans that Biden is putting on the table – over 5 trillion! Many bourgeois media and intellectuals do not hesitate to compare them to Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s. Except that they only see the state capitalist measures of the New Deal as the answer to and the so-called overcoming of the 1929 crisis. Not only do they ignore the limits of these measures from the point of view of the crisis itself, which was no more overcome or resolved in the late 1930s than the 2008 crisis was before 2020. But above all, they totally ignore the real historical significance of the New Deal, as well as of the popular fronts in Western Europe, or of the measures of state capitalism taken by the Nazi German and Fascist Italian states: the preparation of the Second World War both on the ideological and political level, the control, submission, repression and enlistment of the proletariat, and on the economic level, the development and explosion of the war economy and of arms spending.

Whatever dimension of the post-covid recovery that the trillions of dollars – and to a lesser degree the more modest stimulus packages adopted by the other capitalist powers – might provoke, if only to compensate for the unprecedented global recession that has just occurred, it will be minimal and insignificant. Apart from the fact that it will be done on the backs of the workers, it will not solve the basic contradiction, the overflow of capital and the overproduction which results from it. Only a massive destruction of value, that is to say of capital and productive forces, a hundred times more devastating than the Second World War, can "solve" the contradiction... unless capitalism is finally destroyed by the revolutionary proletariat.

It is only from this understanding of the course of events dictated by the historical alternative that it is possible to grasp the objective of Biden’s American Jobs Plan. “It creates jobs to upgrade our transportation infrastructure. Jobs modernizing roads, bridges and highways. Jobs building ports and airports, rail corridors and transit lines. (…) It creates jobs replacing 100% of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines (…). It creates jobs connecting every American with high-speed internet (…) It creates jobs by building a modern power grid...” (Biden’ Address) What is the purpose and historical significance of this policy of major public works, which is typical of state capitalism and whose discourse, including the mass creation of jobs, refers explicitly to Roosevelt’s New Deal? Readers will forgive us for repeating the NATO quote we made in the previous issue. "We need robust infrastructure and systems. Power grids, ports, airports, roads and railways. Our deterrence and defence depend on it. For example, for large operations, around 90% of military transport relies on civilian ships, railways and aircraft. Our digital infrastructure is also fundamental, not just to our ability to communicate. (...) So decisions on investments, on supply chains and on ownership are not only economic or financial decisions. They are critical to our security." [5]

… And Finally behind Biden ’President of the Workers’! [6]

It is only from this understanding of the course of events dictated by the need to prepare and draw the American proletariat into the war effort that it is possible to grasp the purpose of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act. “The American Jobs Plan is a blue-collar blueprint to build America. (…) And that’s why I’m calling on Congress to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act – the PRO Act — and send it to my desk to support the right to unionize. By the way – let’s also pass the $15 minimum wage.” Just like the New Deal, which saw Roosevelt impose recognition of the union right in the workplaces, thereby integrating unions into the war effort and making them permanently anti-worker organs of the state apparatus [7]. Neither Trump nor the Republican Party could carry the left-wing, even leftist, language necessary for this offensive against the proletariat. And without the anti-racist, democratic campaign in the wake of the racist police killing of G. Floyd, it would have been difficult to get... 81 million voters behind Biden and get them to sign up for such drastic and supposedly socialist measures.

Only from this understanding of the course of events is it possible to grasp the purpose of the American Families Plan: the development of kindergartens, free or nearly free health care for children depending on family resources, twelve weeks of parental leave, financial aid per child raised, the development of Obamacare, etc. “In the 21st century, anything that helps people work and lead productive or fulfilling lives counts as infrastructure. That includes investments in people, like the creation of high-paying union jobs or raising wages for a home health work force that is dominated by women of color.” (New York Times, 5 April [8]) It’s not just a matter of strengthening the adherence of proletarian families to the economic and imperialist defence of US capital, but above all of putting everyone to work: "I could not be going to work if I had to take care of my parents." (idem) The slogan of the President of the workers? "So, let’s get to work."

Tightening the Containment Garrote around Rival China

No need to be Marxist to see where the course of events will inevitably lead capitalist society if the revolutionary proletariat does not put an end to it : “the mix of economic, military and technological strengths of the two superpowers carried more risks than the cold war with the Soviet Union [and] US-China tensions threaten to engulf the entire world and could lead to an Armageddon-like clash between the two military and technology giants” (Henri Kissinger, The Guardian, May 1st 2021 [9])

As soon as it took office, the Biden administration displayed an offensive diplomacy with direct language, calling Putin a killer and China a systemic adversary and "threatening global stability". In the wake of this, and in continuity with but accentuating Trump’s policy, US naval manoeuvres are responding to Chinese naval manoeuvres in the China Sea and around Taiwan, as are the military flights of each, bringing the forces directly face to face and risking an incident with dramatic consequences. The same is true of NATO manoeuvres on Russia’s borders, which also respond to Russian manoeuvres on Ukraine’s doorstep. The step that is being taken and the dynamics that accompany it are all the more dangerous because the American, Chinese and Russian powers have plenty of means to reach each other with nuclear missiles and an arsenal capable of destroying the planet several times over. All the more dangerous because the American economic, diplomatic and military pressure offensive is only the umpteenth application of the historical American doctrine of containment against emerging powers, particularly in Asia. This doctrine, which consists in strangling the rival little by little on the economic and geo-strategic levels, can only lead the latter to want to loosen the deadly grip by a sudden and brutal coup de force. Was this not the case with Japan and its savage attack on Pearl Harbour?

At the same time, and on this point breaking deftly with Trump, the scale and speed of the all-out US offensive led by Biden’s Democratic team – historically the left-wing political force of the US bourgeoisie is the most warmonger – is trapping the Europeans, Germany and France in particular, who aspired to an autonomy of sovereignty, i.e. autonomy vis-à-vis the US, by pushing them to choose between China or the US, between authoritarian and autocratic countries on the one hand, and democracies on the other. The emergence of a European imperialist pole around Germany as an alternative to the Anglo-Saxon American pole seems to be in jeopardy today, to the great displeasure of France, especially since the German bourgeoisie, marked by history, 1918 and 1945, does not dare to assume the world imperialist role that the strength and energy of its capitalism was destining it to play [10].

Historically, it is always the left-wing bourgeois parties, in the US the Democratic Party, that ’best carry’, prepare and pave the way for war. W. Wilson before 1917, Roosevelt before 1941...

Nevertheless, it is highly significant that the British and French armies, imperialist and military powers that have become secondary, but nonetheless important, both with nuclear weapons and significant projection capabilities, and with unique military experience and expertise, are adopting new military doctrines. "According to The Economist, there are other signs that the French armed forces are undergoing a transformation. In January, the general staff quietly set up ten working groups to examine the country’s readiness for high-intensity warfare. (...) The groups cover everything from ammunition shortages to societal resilience to whether citizens are ’ready to accept the level of casualties we haven’t seen since World War II’, says one participant. The spectre of high-end warfare is now so pervasive in French military thinking that the scenario has its own acronym: Hem, or hypothèse d’engagement majeur." (La lettre patriote [11], our emphasis and translation)

Whether on the economic, industrial and capital concentration-relocation, imperialist and military levels, the major world powers are being drawn ineluctably towards adaptation and preparation for a new imperialist world war. And the policies, rhetoric, aggressive diplomatic language and omnipresence in international organisations, huge stimulus and infrastructure plans, reaffirmation and strengthening of NATO, etc., pursued by Biden since his accession to power have accelerated the process and the awareness of imperialist rivals and allies about the US intentions and where they lead.

As we know, the only force that can slow down and then interrupt this process towards war and ultimately its ultimate cause, capitalism itself, is the revolutionary proletariat, the historical antithesis of the bourgeoisie and capitalism. At this time, when covid-19 continues to wreak havoc, when containment and social distancing measures are still in place and used by the bourgeoisie to prevent and stifle proletarian reactions to the crisis as long as possible, the revolutionary perspective seems more than remote, even illusory, or wishful thinking. With a few rare exceptions, and while an international anger and revolt seemed to assert itself at the end of 2019, just before the pandemic, the international proletariat has remained passive, disoriented, worried and certainly inhabited by a feeling of impotence. For a year now, the course of events, whose illustration and epicentre is given to us by the United States, has been expressing the political mastery of the bourgeoisie over the proletariat and seems to be leading the capitalist world towards the dramatic outcome of a generalised and devastating imperialist war.

But is the proletariat ready to accept the level of casualties, that is deaths, we haven’t seen since World War II? This is the key to the historical drama that is being played out and which, visibly, also preoccupies the bourgeoisie’s think tanks. Because of the crisis and the urgency for each national capital, first of all the main powers, to defend itself against rivals at the risk of succumbing and disappearing, time is no longer on the side of the revolutionary solution. Far from it. A race against time has begun between, on the one hand, the dynamics pushing the proletariat to react to the crisis and the sacrifices that the preparation for generalised war imposes on it and, on the other hand, the increasing strangulation of rivals such as China by the US bourgeoisie and the brutal reactions of the latter to escape the garrote imposed on them. If the second is undeniably dominant and determines events, it is no less true that, along with the crisis itself, it also exacerbates class antagonisms as never before. Whatever the speed of the march to war, massive confrontations between the classes, the premises of which appeared just before the pandemic, are inevitable.

The question is not whether they will take place, but whether the proletariat will be able to rise to the level of the stakes during these confrontations. In particular, will it be able to fend off the ideological and political traps that will be presented to it, as we have seen with the anti-racist campaign in the US, as well as the sabotage of the unions and the left parties? The longer its response to the effects of the crisis is delayed today, including by simply defending its living and working conditions, the more capital will accelerate its race towards the imperialist abyss and reduce the space still open for the development of its struggles, for the generalisation of the mass strike, then the proletarian insurrection, the destruction of the capitalist state, the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the advent of communism.

RL, May 4th 2021

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Notes:

[1. "Since 2007 the balance sheet of central banks has grown very strongly. The Eurosystem’s balance sheet (i.e. the consolidated balance sheet of the European Central Bank and the national central banks) has increased more than fourfold, and those of the Bank of Japan (BoJ) and the US Federal Reserve (FED) by about six and eight times respectively over this period. 7,000 billion at the beginning of 2021, or more than 60% of GDP in the euro area." (Blog éco de la Banque de France, https://blocnotesdeleco.banque-france.fr/billet-de-blog/comprendre-la-croissance-du-bilan-des-banques-centrales, translated by us).

[2. The Italian version uses "è accompagnata dall’attacco universale..." ["is accompanied..."] and the French one "se matérialise." ["materializes today in the attack..."].

[5. Keynote speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Global Security 2020 (GLOBSEC) Bratislava Forum, we underline.

[6. The French newspaper Le Monde headlines its April 29th editorial with a thunderous « Joe Biden, le président des travailleurs » [Joe Biden, president of the workers] or still, April 28th, as « le révolutionnaire qu’on n’attendait pas » [the revolutionary we did not expect]

(https://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2021/04/29/joe-biden-le-president-des-travailleurs_6078490_3232.html

https://www.lemonde.fr/podcasts/article/2021/04/28/joe-biden-le-revolutionnaire-qu-on-n-attendait-pas_6078308_5463015.html.

[7. The process of integrating the unions into the bourgeois state apparatus accelerated during the 1930s both in the totalitarian countries, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and the Stalinist USSR, with a single union, but also under the New Deal and the Popular Front, with the recognition of unions in workplaces dating from 1936 in France. The experience of the strikes during the First World War and the international revolutionary wave that ended it had shown that the control and discipline of the proletariat were indispensable to production and the war effort. The reconstitution of trade unions by the states themselves after 1945, where they had disappeared during the 2nd World War, definitively closed the chapter of the trade unions as proletariat’s organ of struggle.

[9. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/may/01/us-china-doomsday-threat-ramped-up-by-hi-tech-advances-says-kissinger. H. Kissinger was the United States Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

[10. We cannot in the context of this article return to the European contradictions, as well as the German ones, which make the emergence of a European pole, which the opposition to the American war in Iraq in 2003 seemed to announce, appear to be very fragile and unlikely today, at least for the time being. It is, however, worth returning to this issue insofar as the IGCL adopted at its foundation Theses on the International Situation, written in 2013, which explained why China could not become a rival world power to the United States and why Europe around Germany was called upon to become one. A priori, and even if any dynamic can be reversed or interrupted, the current imperialist polarisation dynamic, which seems to be profound, invalidates our thesis of then. For now, the reader can refer to Revolution or War #16: Some comments on the ICT text.