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Capitalism Means War: The Only Alternative is Class War

We reproduce the statement that the Internationalist Communist Tendency has published for May 1st. When the imperialist tensions and conflicts between great powers aggravate dangerously all around the world, as in Ukraine, when the crisis of capital sows still more misery and sufferings, when it sharpens increasingly the economical and imperialist rivalries between national states, when the working class is presented as submitted and passive in front of the crisis and war, the ICT reaffirms with strength – basing itself on capitalism’s and proletariat’s history of the 20th Century – the unique historical alternative that capitalism offers to humanity : Capitalism Means War: The Only Alternative is Class War. The reaffirmation of this alternative is of first importance since it is hidden and denied by the capitalist class even though it already prepares itself for generalized war; and since it is today questioned within the Communist Left itself [1].

In these conditions, the disagreements of analysis – in themselves important – we have with the ICT, about the theoretical explanation of Capital economical dead-end, about the process of polarization of the imperialist alignments and about the dynamic of the proletariat’s struggle seem of secondary importance in our opinion. As well, the emphasis which is made by this text about the question of fascism seems to us to underestimate the fact that the genuine danger for the proletariat, the main ideological weapon that the bourgeoisie has utilized – in particular to drive the proletariat to defeat and to the two imperialist world wars of the 20th Century -, is still utilizing and will utilize, has been, is and will remain the democratic mystification (whose the so-called fascist danger is just an element) in order to force the proletariat to give up its class ground for the defence of the bourgeois... democratic state.

Nevertheless, the ICT clearly defends the perspective of class fight and revolution as unique alternative to capitalism and inevitable generalized imperialist war. Here is why we join its call to the proletariat and to the revolutionary minorities to regroup around the internationalist groups of the Communist Left.

The IGCL, May 2014.

Since January this year our rulers have been making a song-and-dance about commemorations for the 100th anniversary of the First World War. Needless to say the imperialist causes of the mass slaughter are less remembered. Instead, there are lamentations over a vague “catastrophe of the century” spun together in a thick web of nationalist myths. By any stretch of the imagination this is no longer just about political history. Meanwhile even bourgeois commentators have begun to point with embarrassment to parallels with the present convulsions of world history. In truth, there are many indications that our rulers’ international power poker is once again experiencing a fateful dynamic. The First World War was the first global contest in capitalism’s imperialist stage. It was a war unlike any previously. This war was not merely about adjusting state boundaries. It was a total war, a guerre a outrance, a fight to the death between competing imperialist powers determined to annihilate the economic, as well as military, capacity of their rivals. It began on a wave of national euphoria whipped up by the competing imperialist powers to get workers to fight for the fatherland or “king and country”. It was to cost the lives of over 20 million people. It would only be ended by the working class revolutions in Russia and Central Europe. Although the international wave of revolutionary uprisings ended the war, regrettably it did not put an end to capitalism whose bestial appetites were a long way from being satisfied. The Stalinist counter-revolution in Russia, the rise of Fascism and the World economic crisis of 1929 were only steps of the fateful developments which finally fed into the Second World War with its more than 70 million victims. All this should be kept in mind when looking at the events in Eastern Europe, and especially in Ukraine.

Crisis and War

Seldom has anyone been as wrong as the political scientist Francis Fukuyama, who predicted the “end of history” after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. Far from leading to a new “era of peace and development” (George Bush senior), the multi-polar world order which arose in 1989 led to a continual sharpening of imperialist conflicts and tensions. Across the world, the pack was re-shuffled, as the urge to win a place in the imperialist power structure opened up. Against this background, the conflict in Ukraine is a significant moment in a long chain of warlike confrontations (Kosovo, the Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, Syria, etc.). Putin’s takeover of Crimea is an unmistakeable response to western manoeuvres to take Ukraine into their bloc. In the case of Ukraine we get down to the nitty gritty. It plays a key role in the plans of both Washington and Moscow. For years Russia has assiduously worked to embrace its former satellite states more closely through trade agreements, as well as trying to create an economic space with its own security and military policies in a so-called Eurasian Union. Due largely to its geo-strategic control of important raw materials and energy routes, Russia would become a formidable counter-weight to the USA and the EU. Of course, in the present confrontation, there is much lamentation over “territorial integrity” and “national self-determination” but it is hard to hide the fact that the Ukraine conflict is primarily a concrete imperialist power struggle, conducted on both sides with increasingly desperate measures. In capitalism’s imperialist phase, every demand for “national rights”, no matter under what pretext, what political banner or with what justification, is necessarily part of the inter-imperialist power game.

However, it is not just in Europe that imperialist contradictions collide ever more implacably. Without forgetting the agonies of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Gaza, Mali or the Central African Republic, to name but the most obvious, the fiercest arms race since the end of the Cold War has broken out in Asia. China has increased its arms spending eightfold in the last twenty years but its Pacific (or less pacific?) “neighbours” are trying to keep up. Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Japan are all massively increasing arms spending whilst India has overtaken China as the world’s largest arms importer, as well as the world’s largest builder of warships. The USA, which must defend its claim to hegemony as a military superpower against a growing number of challengers, spent a whopping $640bn on its defence budget in 2013 alone. This has not, however, prevented the aspiring superpower China from pulling out all the stops to outstrip the USA, especially in the Pacific region. The enmity displayed in the disputes over even the smallest territories, like, for example, the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, is evidence of the sharpness of inter-imperialist confrontations in a world where permanent arms build-ups and militarisation are the essential precondition for state sovereignty.

Against All Nationalist Ideology!

On the domestic front, sharpened world competition is reflected in more and more aggressive nationalist propaganda and rhetoric. The idea of the nation always was and continues to be a key ideological prop for all bourgeois domination. It masks the class character of the capitalist system and encourages the idea that the existing conditions are an expression of the common interests of the people. In the name of “national competitiveness” sacrifice is preached, social security is cut and the thumbscrews of exploitation are tightened, while “national security” serves to legitimise the apparatus of surveillance and repression, and the locking up of unwelcome oppositionists. The often invoked defence of “national values” or “national culture” has always been the easy way to reinforce racism and action against anyone who does not conform to the dominant sexual morality.

Reactionary ideologies always feed on social decomposition, atomisation and growing insecurity. From the Front National in France to the Jobbik Party in Hungary the racist right is on the rise, and is searching for votes with a dangerous mixture of racism, anti-Semitism and social demagogy. In Greece, the fascist “Golden Dawn” has become a threat to the very existence of immigrants and, thanks to its supporters in the police and army, it has obtained important positions of power in the state apparatus. However, the fascists do not stand outside the presently constituted nationalist and authority structure of bourgeois society. They are an integral part of it. Nazis embody neither protest nor opposition against the dominant conditions but, on the contrary, sharpen the content of the ideologies which our rulers spread daily. For this reason, it is nonsense to want to fight the Nazis in order to defend democracy. The notion of the defence of democracy boils down to accepting, spreading and finally succumbing to the myth of the state as a class-neutral entity. Resistance to fascism has to be part of a comprehensive anti-capitalist struggle for the overthrow of all forms of bourgeois domination. This however demands that conditions be seen as a whole.

Crisis and Class Composition

It is now seven years since the speculative bubble burst and threw the world economy into the vortex of recession. But, in defiance of all the prognoses and incantations for a prompt recovery, the crisis has only got worse. The debt mountain grows higher, instability increases and financial speculation is running at full speed. In the meantime, you can happily bet on the next bubble bursting. All this is down to a deep structural crisis of the system, which has been growing for decades (in fact, since the end of the Bretton Woods system in 1973). Capitalism finds itself at the end of an accumulation cycle, from which, in the end, it can only escape through a massive devaluation of capital. In capitalism’s early days, a few failures and bankruptcies would suffice. The successful capitalists bought up the losers at bargain prices and the system could start again. Today, however, despite the restructuring of the 1980s, the mass of capital in the world is so great that only a massive devaluation of capital can fire up accumulation again and lead the system out of crisis. Such a devaluation would demand such a massive annihilation of capital that it could only be effected by the physical destruction of a global war. Even if the political and diplomatic pre-conditions for such a war do not yet exist today, the danger is virulent and grows daily. In the face of this challenge the working class finds itself on an almost hopeless seeming defensive. For decades, capital has banked on compensating for its falling profit rate through comprehensive restructuring of the production process (e.g., through the introduction of microelectronics) and the massive increase in the rate of exploitation. Jobs are shifted to low-wage countries, where people toil in sweatshops for starvation wages, while workers in the traditional centres of capitalism are forced to swallow wage cuts and worsened working conditions. Across the world, there is a merciless competition to push down wages using methods of exploitation which remind one of the 19th century. Temporary part-time jobs with so-called “zero-hour” contracts (which, for example, affect over a million people in Britain, who have to be at the bosses’ disposal around the clock for any type of work), mini-jobs and fake self-employment are just a few examples of the creativity used to enslave the working class to capital. The working class has clearly suffered a loss in its degree of organisation and unity. The manifold fragmentation and lines of division alongside the spread of precarious conditions of employment place great challenges to the development of collective defence.

Autonomous Class Struggle!

But this is not just about structures. On the contrary the revival of an effective working class fightback is about a political understanding of the struggle’s aims and perspectives. We will only be able to resist austerity if we understand all resistance to the ruling class’s attacks on our living conditions is part of our worldwide struggle. This requires the clear rejection of all nationalist ideologies and every attempt to subordinate our class’s concerns to any fraction of the bourgeoisie. At the same time, it is necessary to understand that even those victories we achieve will only be temporary. It is becoming ever more obvious that humanity only has a future if there is a change in the mode of production. The sole solution is a society in which money, exploitation and profit have been eliminated and in which production stands in harmony with humanity and the environment, a society in which production is for the satisfaction of human needs and not for profit. By this we mean communism! Such a social alternative will not take shape by itself. It can only be fought for by a social movement consciously Capitalism Means War: The Only Alternative is Class War doing away with relations of domination. There is a long road In front of us. Nevertheless, those who have understood the need for a new society must take the first steps in order to unite themselves as communist minorities in an international and internationalist organisation. Such a communist organisation is not a government in waiting, but an indispensable instrument to give the struggle for a new society a clear political perspective. This struggle will have to be fought everywhere the working class challenges capitalism. But it is not just a question of simply fighting this or that aspect of capitalism, but, on the contrary, fighting the system as a whole. The contradictions of capitalism will not disappear. They lead to increasing inequality, exploitation, murderous wars and the destruction of the environment. It will not be easy to free the planet from this plague. But everyone who joins the struggle for a new internationalist class organisation brings us a step closer to our aim: An “association of the free and equal” in which “the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”.

For a classless and stateless society!

May Day Statement of the Internationalist Communist Tendency.

Tendance communiste internationaliste , 1 May 2014.

(Published on : 1 May 2014)



[1For instance, see the ICC theories on decomposition and its 15th international Congress in 2003 : “but in contrast to the 68-89 period, when the outcome of these class contradictions could only be world war or world revolution, the new period opens up a third alternative: the destruction of humanity not through an apocalyptic war, but through the gradual advance of decomposition” (Resolution on International Situation, point 17, International Review #113, we underline).