Revolution or War n°16

(Biannual - October 2020)

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A Few Comments of Discussion and Reflection about the ICT Text

As we said in the preamble, the article by the comrades of the ICT clearly reaffirms the historical alternative of revolution or war, and this, for us, is the essential point that distinguishes the groups of the Communist Left that remain faithful to its lessons and, more broadly, to Marxism. Among the various contributions and points of interest and discussion, we wanted to note and return to the thesis that in "the prospect of global imperialist conflict", that is, if the proletariat failed to oppose it, "the current USA-China rivalry will be the axis around which any conflict will take place". This is a question all the more important because it breaks with past schemas of classical, historical imperialist configurations that had prevailed in the history of capitalism and previous world wars. Such a case, a US imperialist bloc opposed to a Chinese one, would see for the first time in history no country of the historical European centre of capitalism, and thus of the proletariat, playing the leading, imperialist role of a military bloc. This deserves our attention for a few comments and reflection, if only because such a scenario would partially and relatively set new conditions, and even potentialities, of the international proletariat’s response to the march to generalized war and its outbreak. It would also require the communists to take into account this new imperialist configuration for their understanding of the course of events as well as the definition of their general and particular orientations of their militant intervention within the inevitable class confrontations.

The last decade has indeed seen a rise in China’s power on the world stage not only as an industrial and commercial power, but also as an imperialist and military power. The article provides a series of facts that support and verify the reality of China as a world imperialist power and the main, if not the only, serious military rival to the U.S. in the long run. It seems that only China can really respond to America’s economic, commercial and political unilateralism and diktats and can impress, or even push Trump back from time to time. No other historical capitalist power, no western European powers, nor Russia, appear to be capable to dispute even at least the US leadership. The leading European industrial and economic power, Germany, for instance, seems to be powerless, even panic-stricken, in the face of the now predictable Trump and all willing to give in to any American ultimatum that would target its industrial exports, of automobiles for example, to the United States.

For our part, our Theses on the historical situation written in 2013 (Revolution or War #1), rejected the possibility of a China that could aspire to become the head of the imperialist bloc opposed to the American bloc which, in all likelihood, will bring together the other major Anglo-Saxon powers in the event of a 3rd World War. They are already doing so in local conflicts and rivalries. This was the profound significance of Brexit, for example. Our theses maintained the prospect of an increasing imperialist polarization, leading to the blocs formed and necessary for the war, between the USA and a continental Europe grouped around Germany. In 2003, the war in Iraq launched by Bush had seen a clear-cut fracture between the USA and Great Britain on the one hand and continental Europe, Germany and France joined by Russia and China on the other. The polarization was clear and sharp and the rest of the world had had to position itself behind one side or the other. Today, the situation is reversed and the imperialist tensions arising from the Covid-19 crisis see a Europe caught between America and China, incapable of displaying a truly autonomous imperialist policy and above all capable of polarizing and mobilizing behind it as in 2003.

Our theses of 2013, already debatable at the time of course, seems today apparently not very credible in the face of the emergence of China on the one hand and in the face of the difficulties, hesitations, divisions, contradictions, even fears, that the main continental European bourgeoisies seem to be experiencing, to even minimally display and develop united and autonomous imperialist policies. Moreover, no country, not even France, even though it has nuclear weapons, has a military defence capable of competing even for a few days or hours with US nuclear fire. And the reluctance of many European countries to commit themselves to a European defence of their own, including in the framework of NATO, which French President Macron declared to be ’brain-dead’ before the Covid-19 crisis, does not argue in favour of the emergence of a minimum common military power in the short or medium term. Far from it. No doubt this is an issue for the major European bourgeoisies, German and French in the first place, which the historical rupture caused by the outbreak of the crisis and the new imperialist requirements it imposes will force them to confront seriously if they want to maintain themselves as leading imperialist powers in the coming confrontations. As the article by the comrades of the ICT notes, even China, though much more powerful today, is not capable of competing directly and head-on with the United States militarily. From this point of view, it still remains a regional rather than a global military power despite the increasing speed of development of a powerful navy. The only imperialist power that could possibly pose a military threat is still Putin’s Russia, which inherited nuclear weapons from the former USSR. The rapprochement of economic and imperialist policies between Merkel and Macron, the recovery plan for which they are campaigning in the European Union, in the face of the crisis may initiate a firmer ’European’ imperialist assertion, but the road to the establishment of a European defence with the capacity to compete at a minimum is still long, including in the case of a rapprochement and an alliance with Russia and even China. The assertion of our 2013 theses therefore seems to be contradicted. At least at first glance. However, in our view, the question remains open, including within the IGCL itself. We invite and encourage all groups of the Communist Left and all sympathizers and readers to reflect on this question, to develop their arguments, to comment on the different positions, including criticizing our position contained in our Theses on the International Situation of 2013 on this point.

The reader may question the importance of such a discussion. Let us reassure her/him, it is of a secondary nature and does not call into question the political homogeneity of our group, nor the unity of view that should prevail among the forces faithful to the traditional lessons and positions of the Communist Left regarding the historical alternative of revolution or war. He/she can also question its interest from a militant point of view, from the point of view of the struggles of the proletariat. In our opinion, it is due to the fact that the understanding of the very conditions, and the anticipation if possible, of the development of imperialist rivalries not only can allow the political vanguards of the proletariat to keep the compass in the turmoil of events, here imperialist rivalries and conflicts, but also to apprehend the dynamics of the relation of forces between the classes as well as possible. Indeed, the proletariat is not only confronted with a class war led by the bourgeoisie to make it pay for the crisis of capitalism but also to make it pay and sacrifice itself even more for imperialist and military policies, for the preparation of the generalized war. The question of imperialist war, like the crisis, is a factor of proletarian struggle and consciousness. Concretely, and without abstract speculation, the European, American and Chinese proletariats, to limit us to them here, do not have the same historical experience, nor the same political capacities, in the face of war and class struggle. The ’success’ or the state of progress of the imperialist affirmation of this or that national capital and the implementation of economic, social and political state policies, serving this objective and with a fundamentally and brutally anti-proletarian character, will not express exactly the same international and historical balance of power between the classes according to the countries where they take place. Would the situation of China playing today the role of 1930s Germany on the imperialist level have the same significance from the point of view of international class struggle as the defeat of the German proletariat then? We don’t think so.

From this point of view, the article of the ICT only affirms, rightly but insufficiently in our opinion, the historical responsibility of the proletariat without defining its concrete terms and conditions. The crisis that is breaking out and exacerbating capitalist contradictions and imperialist rivalries is forcing the world bourgeoisie in all countries to redouble its massive attacks against the proletariat to a point that our generations have never known. International capital is launching into massive economic and political confrontations against the international proletariat. So the question is not: will there be class confrontations, struggles and strikes? They will inevitably take place and, no doubt, simultaneously on a world scale. The real question is: will the proletariat succeed in resisting the bourgeois offensive, avoiding the political and ideological traps and dead-ends and defeats in order to assert its own perspective and class autonomy? This is already the question before it, particularly in the U.S., but not only, with the anti-racist and democratic demonstrations in which the left and leftist forces, from the Democratic Party to the radical Anarchist phrase passing through the Black Lives Matter, widely reported by the U.S. and international media, are already trying to drag it down following the murder of G. Floyd by the Minneapolis police. The ability of the U.S. and international bourgeoisie to turn the legitimate outrage and revolt at the violence of its own police into a defence and support of the state and democratic mystification, while at the same time drawing along many young people in revolt, says a lot about the risks to the proletariat of any concession or conciliation to these bourgeois-democratic themes whatever radical the language may appear. In an immediate way, it has allowed for the moment to divert the attention of the proletarians from the unemployment which explodes and from the exploitation and working conditions for those who still have a job, which are getting worse; and from the fight against capitalist exploitation in the time of the coronavirus and the crisis. Without being the only one, the degree of adhesion or rejection by the US proletariat in particular, and more generally by the international proletariat, of these campaigns on the democratic and state terrain will also be an element in being able to appreciate the capitalist dynamic toward generalized war and the conditions of imperialist polarization. This is why to reflect and try to determine today how the imperialist polarization tends to develop, keeping away from any schematism of course, is the responsibility of the party in the making if it wants to really become the party of the proletarian vanguard, the one called to lead the struggles of the revolutionary class.

RL, July 2020