Revolution or War n° 1

(February 2014)

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Theses on the Historical Situation - July 2013

adopted at the constitutional Conference of the IGCL - November 2013

Introduction to the theses

These theses have been written in order to open a discussion between two elements adhering to the programmatic heritage of the Communist Left that will ultimately participate in the foundation of a new group within it. In fact, this combination between FICL and CIK means the dissolution of the two groups in order to establish one that will immediately fall on the international terrain, rather than on a local one, with the desire to encourage discussion within the elements of the Communist Left, as well as participate in the development of the proletarian program. For when we see the need for a proletarian program we also see the need for an international and internationalist class Party: And here it’s necessary to point out that it is sorely missing in facing the major attacks of the capitalist class on the working class, during a global imposition of austerity measures, and this during a time when the proletariat is increasingly opposing these measures throughout the globe, here preventing the bourgeoisie from decisively imposing its warlike tendencies, it nevertheless, is unable to carry out its historical responsibility, as the level of class consciousness that it animates remains too low.
Now then, to be able to participate in the consolidation and development of the proletarian program a first step must be to lead with, a debate between elements that share Marxist positions with the aim of encouraging consolidation around them. This is a method the FICL and CIK have used to in the past year, finally, concluding positively with the creation of a new group. We believe this is an important step because it is not a question here of one group adhering to the another (e.g. GIS TCI) but two groups deciding it was better to dissolve in order to establish a new ‘organ’. A prospect for an even broader grouping –from within the partidist current - corresponding to the GIGC.
At last, here we present our guiding document - the Theses on the historical situation –the basis for our discussions. This has enabled the serious exchange, agreement on the basics as well as on the need for a new group. The news we find at the heart of theses written in July 2013 may have evolved but its essence remains the same: the decadence of capitalism, permanent bourgeois war and the temporary inability for either class to explicitly impose its program at present. Today we live with the irreversible and definitive bankruptcy of the capitalist system - the shock of the open crisis of 2008 was its confirmation. The only ‘solution’ for the world bourgeoisie is generalized war. However to achieve this goal, it will be necessary (as in the two previous world wars) not only to prepare the next war, but, that in order to do this, it will be necessary to defeat the proletariat. And this necessarily requires a major class confrontation.
This is what awaits us today.
December 2013

Theses on the Historical Situation - July 2013

1) ’The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles’ (Communist Manifesto, 1848). Recent years, especially the first part of 2013, have come to verify this first principle of Marxism, the revolutionary theory of the working class. 2013 has seen a consistent sharpening of workers actions; and the chain of affected countries grows longer, spreading to every continent, from Europe to Asia: Spain, Greece, Portugal, Turkey to China; Africa: Egypt, South Africa; the Americas: Brazil... This dynamic of struggles and revolts is the working class response to the increasingly severe attacks that the bourgeoisie of all countries are compelled to inflict simultaneously in an intensified manner following the terrible shocks of capitalism’s open crisis in 2008, the so-called “subprime crisis”, which has only grown and deepened without an end in sight. It is urgent for capitalism to shift the weight of its crisis onto the working class, just as there is an urgency for each national capital to defend its interests against the others in increasingly exacerbated competition, due to the evolution of the crisis itself, which can only lead to even more brutal and barbaric imperialist rivalries leading up to their ultimate expression - imperialist world war. Capitalism’s only perspective for humanity gives us the following choice: generalized imperialist war or communist revolution.

The decadence of capitalism is marked by growing contradictions inherent in its nature, by a permanent crisis. The crisis finds two antagonistic social forces present, the bourgeoisie, class of capital, living on surplus value, and the proletariat whose interests as the exploited class push it to oppose its exploitation, leading to the only historic possibility of overcoming its exploitation, competition, and of commodity production: a society of freely associated producers. The crisis acts on these two antagonistic historical forces in a different fashion: it pushes the bourgeoisie toward war and the proletariat toward the struggle against the degradation of its conditions of existence.” (International Review #15 of the ICC, 1978, The course of history).

2013: as the deadline approaches, the historical alternative increasingly materializes for billions of human beings and the social classes involved. As the working class also bears the burden of preparation for generalized war, its resistance against the effects of the economic crisis simultaneously tends to oppose the logic of war. And thus the course of class struggle is in massive confrontation with this. These clashes will be as decisive for the exploited class, and at the same time the revolutionary class, because depending on whether it will come out of it defeated or not, the dynamics of the class struggle of the new relation of forces will turn towards one or the other term of the historical alternative. The working class holds the keys to this historical dilemma.

2) To date and since 2008, workers’ struggles demonstrate a significant and massive fight-back in all countries. However, they are far from being able to impose a balance of forces sufficient to force the bourgeoisie and its state to retreat, even minimally, even in one country, against their increasingly brutal attacks on working class living and working conditions. Up to now, workers’ struggles, diverse and varied as they’ve been, remain marked by a weakness at the political level, essentially, that is, at the level of class consciousness. Particularly, even when these movements do not fall directly on the bourgeois terrain, as the weakest amongst them do - as manifested through the various democratic demands of the movements in Tunisia in 2011 and in Egypt or even with the likes of the “indignados” in Spain - they remain incapable of a political fight-back against state forces, especially against those active and present within the ranks of workers, such as the unions and the parties of the Left, in order to be able to take charge of the struggle to spread, unify and generalize.

This is one of the signs of how limited class consciousness is amongst the working masses. In particular, the fact that any hope or the “vague idea” of “another possible society”, communism that is, has largely been erased from workers’ consciousness, does not allow sustenance or guidance for essential political class struggle, including so called immediate and daily “economic” struggles against bourgeois state forces. The revolutionary perspective of communism, the only perspective to entail the destruction of the capitalist system, is essential for the working class to finally adopt and develop the only truly effective methods to ensure success of the daily struggles and working class demands. Indeed these methods, defined and determined by “historical” slogans of workers insurrection, of the destruction of the capitalist state and the dictatorship of the proletariat, definitively break with the capitalist system in terms of content, means, shape and purpose for each episode or moment of working class struggle, however small or limited.

3) The communist minority, in its small numbers, its lack of influence in the class and its dispersion is another tangible sign of this weakness. In fact, products and historical factors of the working class struggle, communist groups and organizations, as with the communist party when it exists, are the highest expressions of class consciousness, and consequently must be the political vanguard of the working class; “from a theoretical point of view, they have the advantage over the rest of the proletarian mass in understanding the conditions, the functioning and general goals of the workers’ movement.” (Communist Manifesto). Conscious bearers of the communist perspective, organized accordingly, they are a guarantee of the direction and the means leading to this revolutionary future. And the reality of their influence and of their presence, and especially the real existence of the party, is in turn an expression within the working class of the reality of this balance of power between the classes and the degree of extension of class consciousness. But as reflection or product of an historical relation of forces between the classes, the highest expressions of class consciousness must become an active and primary factor of this consciousness and of the evolution of this balance of power in assuming and in struggling for the political direction of their class.

The class struggle requires concerted agitation, illuminating the various stages of the struggle from a single point of point of view in channeling the proletariat’s attention over the tasks that interest it as a whole. This cannot be realized without a centralized political apparatus, that is, outside of a political party.” (Resolution on the role of the Communist Party in the proletarian revolution, the 2nd congress of the Communist International, 1920).

This is why it is now this political minority’s particular responsibility to reach out and unify its forces, not simply to influence current working class struggles as far as possible, but especially to be ready to participate in the formation of the international and internationalist class party.

The decadence of capitalism: imperialist war and permanent crisis

4) The outbreak of the 1st World War in 1914 marked a radical change in the life of capitalism. “The contradictions of the capitalist world system which were hidden deep within it have burst forth with tremendous force in a single huge explosion - the great imperialist world war. (...) A new system has been born. Ours is the epoch of the breakdown of capital, its internal disintegration, the epoch of the Communist revolution of the proletariat.” (The Platform of the Communist International, 1919). For nearly a century now, the 2nd world war and the permanence of local imperialist conflicts throughout the 20th century as the succession and the nature of increasingly devastating economic crises have largely verified this observation of Marxist theory that “At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or - this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms - with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution.” (Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Karl Marx). Capitalism has then entered its phase of historical decline, in its decadent phase.

5) Since then, the cyclical crisis characteristic of capitalism in its ascendant phase, each “cycle being divided into a succession of periods of moderate activity, prosperity, overproduction, crisis and depression”) [translated from: Crises et cycles dans le capitalisme agonisant, Bilan #10, Mitchell, 1934, organe de la Fraction de gauche du PC d’Italie], has been replaced by a permanent crisis characterized by a cycle of crisis-war-reconstruction-new crisis. Each new “rotation” of the cycle is characterized by a new “open economic” crisis deeper and wider than the last and by a new, even more devastating and barbaric imperialist war. In the period of decline, “the breaking point of the cycle is [no longer] the crisis, “momentary and violent solution of the existing contradictions, violent eruptions which for a time restore the disturbed equilibrium” (Marx)” [ibid] but the generalized imperialist war. The determinant of this vicious cycle is the “period of war” which imposes its dynamics on all the other periods of the cycle.

6) Imperialist war thereby determines all the characteristics that capitalism in decline had to adopt. The first of these characteristics, which really hasn’t let up since, is the increasing state stranglehold over all society and particularly in the economic field. The needs of the war effort leading to and during the 1st World War imposed on capital the development and the domination of state capitalism.

The cycle particular to the period of decadence has persisted since the crisis of 1929 to the Second World War, from post war reconstruction to new crisis, from the late 1960s, until today. The extent of the destruction from 1939-1945 largely explains the length of the period of reconstruction - of the so-called “Glorious 30”. Similarly, the development of state capitalism largely explains the “slow” development of the crisis since the late 1960s. Indeed, it’s by “state” measures which in fact allow them to cheat with the law of value, which the major imperialist powers have managed to postpone and avoid in time - from the 1970s till now - and wheree - in the historic heart of capitalism towards all continents of the capitalist periphery, where we see the first and the most obvious manifestations of the crisis boomeranging back to strike the major imperialist powers today.

7) State capitalism is not a factor for overcoming capitalism’s economic impasse, but rather its expression and, ultimately, an aggravating factor thereof. “As a matter of fact, the sporadic violent intrusions of the state into the economy only serve to compete with the pernicious activity of speculators in increasing the chaos of capitalist economy during its epoch of decline. A transfer of the principal branches of industry and transport from the hands of individual trusts into the hands of the ‘nation’, i.e., the bourgeois state, that is, into the hands of the most powerful and predatory capitalist trust, signifies not the elimination of the evil but only its amplification”. (Manifesto of the 2nd Congress of the CI, 1920).

The most successful model of state capitalism wasn’t the former USSR, nor Mao Tse-tung’s China, but the North American model. The best in successfully merging private and state capital, the United States became the most successful state capitalism. Even the Reagan years (1980s) - with the advocacy of “economic liberalism” - manifested a growing state control over all the workings and all levels of society, starting with the economic dimension - through the Federal Bank, credit, debt, the use of the dollar - and the incredible growth of militarism, especially in weapons production during those years, on its behalf and under its direction. state capitalism is above all the expression of the only prospect that capitalism has to offer since the beginning of the 20th century precisely because of its inability to resolve and overcome its economic impasse: that of imperialist war and the massive destruction of productive forces. And in this respect, too, the United States is its most successful expression.

8) The essence of “state capitalist” measures which allowed it either to postpone or displace the consequences of the crisis, were political rather than economic in nature, even if they were intended as a response to the economic consequences of the crisis. The war, an expression of dominant imperialism and its ideal political response as its only answer, demonstrates the absence of any solution to capital’s crisis. Thus the measures adopted since the late 1960s, which largely consisted, in addition to massive attacks against labor value, that is against the working class, in a generalized and massive development of indebtedness to artificially prop up the capitalist economy, have come to strike back violently at the historic heart of capitalism in 2008, leaving the principal imperialist powers with a mountain of generalized debt that will never be paid. These state measures, aimed to address the contradiction between the productive forces and capitalist relations of production, have only postponed the contradiction and further aggravated it. Its break-up can only lead to massive destruction through generalized imperialist war of excess productive forces that capitalist relations cannot contain.

9) The crisis that erupted in 2008 and the answers provided by capital are a summary of the economic policies of state capitalism since the 1970s. The fact that the last 5 years summarize the previous 40 years, the same trajectory, the same process, illustrates the extent and severity of the current crisis - the impasse in which capitalism is at the economic forefront: cheating with the law of value but only momentarily, increasingly being overtaken.

The eruption of the US housing crisis in 2008 - to give just one particular example of capital’s crisis - was the consequence of the creation of an artificial market to support economic activity. And then, financial speculation on debt securities - including securities speculating on the failure of individual repayment! - presented itself as an additional aggravating and explosive factor for private individuals ultimately unable to repay their loans. All this has created a financial bubble that eventually burst, jeopardizing not only the banks directly involved, but the international banking system since the entire financial system was engaged in speculation.

The fact that capitals tend increasingly to move not in the sphere of production but in the financial and largely speculative sphere, is a particular expression of one of the fundamental and insoluble contradictions of capitalism that Marxism highlighted: this phenomenon means that the general rate of profit which can only tend to fall - a drop that was considerably accelerated in the last two decades with the development of computers and the internet - compounded by the exacerbation of competition in markets, is largely insufficient to ensure the necessary process of the accumulation of capital. And this, despite the fact - it is even ultimately a factor - that the proletariat has seen its exploitation explode as well as the surplus value which is extorted by capital. The huge overall increase in labor productivity, one of the means that each capitalist uses to deal with the fall of their respective profits, only ultimately aggravated and accelerated the tendencial fall of the general rate of profit and thus exacerbated the contradiction.

10) The answer that capital brought to the 2008 crisis and to the risk posed by the crash of the global banking and financial system that would have brutally paralyzed the entire capitalist economy was a “political” response - again cheating with the law of value: States decided to bail out the banks, sometimes even nationalizing them, to avoid immediate disaster. An “economic” response - respecting the law of value - would have been to let the world’s leading banks fall in a cascade of bankruptcies. Only through state intervention could these measures be adopted, which do not even respect the economic laws of capitalism, itself.

But this response in turn only made things worse by pushing it to a higher, broader level –without even resolving the fundamental frailty of the banks, of which a number remain under threat of bankruptcy and dissolution. This has resulted in increasingly indebted states, of all states on every continent, that were already heavily indebted due to policies in force since the 1970s. Speculation then added to what was already in itself a problem, in turn contributing to its deterioration and acceleration, by “betting’ on state debts. The same process that led to the “subprime” crisis led to the “sovereign debt crisis”, in other words, the states themselves.

11) Today, in 2013, the recession which started in 2008 generalizes from countries at the heart of capitalism to those on the periphery. The so-called “emerging” countries see their economies “slow down”. With China presented as the new Eldorado that would lead the world into a new era of prosperity, the only serious question of concern to economists and other bourgeois ideologues is whether the economy will be in for a “smooth or hard” landing. Europe is in recession and the sovereign debt crisis in the European Union was primarily an opportunity for the German power to impose lasting and unchallenged political - in other words imperialist - leadership on continental Europe. The United States is engaged in a headlong rush into generalized debt and the emission of paper money - in one form or another - which shows both their particular weakness vis-à-vis the main imperialist rivals and the impasse of capital as a whole. Far from resolving or even mitigating the open and brutal crisis of capital, it asserts it - inevitably extending it to the entire world.

12) Only the communists are capable of denouncing this impasse and the politics - along with the propaganda - that goes with it. For, it is only the theory of the revolutionary working class that can highlight the insurmountable contradictions of capitalism and its historical impasse.

Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. (...) In these crises, a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity — the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce. (...) The bourgeois system has become too narrow to contain the wealth created within it. And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. That is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented. The weapons with which the bourgeoisie felled feudalism to the ground are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself.” (Communist Manifesto)

It’s Marxist theory, alone, that can unveil the bourgeoisie’s lies about the state of its economy, on its historic bankruptcy and the reality of its politics, in order to effectively oppose it as weapon and expression of class consciousness about the irreconcilable antagonism between capital and labour, between bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

Actuality of generalized imperialist war

13) As the crisis deepens, imperialist rivalries intensify and the imperialist axis, the lines of imperialist fractures tend to further emerge and to polarize. This polarization is determined by the need to shape imperialist blocs for generalized war. This dynamic of imperialist polarization was affirmed throughout the 1930s around Nazi Germany on one side with the old colonial powers on the other - with Britain, France, grouped around the United States. But the general configuration that imperialist blocs had set at the outbreak of war in 1939 - the USSR, for example, signing the Stalin-Hitler Pact (a 180 degree change of alliance) just a few days before the German invasion of Poland. That the imperialist blocs are not consolidated today in 2013, does not mean that generalized imperialist war is no longer one of the two terms of the alternative history, nor that it is not valid for capitalism, much less an issue for the working class.

14) The issue of imperialist war directly affects the development by extension of class consciousness in large masses of workers. “The preparation of imperialist war for capitalism entails the development of a war economy of which the working class, of course, bears the heaviest burden. Thus, it is already the struggle against austerity that hinders these preparations and demonstrates that it is not willing to endure even more of the terrible sacrifices that the bourgeoisie demands during imperialist war. In a practical sense, the class struggle, even with limited objectives, represents for the working class a break from the solidarity with “its” national capital, a solidarity that it is called on to demonstrate in war. As well, it expresses a tendency to break with bourgeois ideals like “democracy”, “legality”, “homeland”, pseudo “socialism”, the defense for which workers will be called upon to massacre their class brothers. Finally, it enables the development of its unity, indispensable for its capacity to resist, internationally, the settling of accounts between imperialist robbers.” (International Review #18, 1979, 3rd Congress of the ICC : The Historical Course).

15) Capitalist ideology serves us up with real imperialist fracture lines extending towards Asia and China in opposition to the United States and Western countries. This is not the case. Since the Second World War, China - even when considered a ‘third world country’ - has always been a regional imperialist power. And in its participation in the Second World War, and in all the imperialist conflicts that followed, it never ventured beyond Asia. The same goes for a power like Russia. Today, we can affirm that neither one nor the other can be candidates for leadership of a block - their opposition against American intervention in Iraq in 2003, for example, forced their alignment with Europe and showed their lack of autonomous, alternative political position throughout this major conflict in the first decade of the 21st century.

16) Since the war in Iraq, the oppositions and major imperialist contradictions emerge still further during conflicts and on major issues, with on one side the major European countries tending to unite around Germany - even though this process is not without internal contradictions and opposition in one country or another, even if this process is primarily the result of the evolution of an internal balance of power - and on the other side the United States which is assured of the support of the main Anglo-Saxon countries - especially “The European British Isles”.

The rest of the world, or rather the other capitalist countries, powerful or not, but all leading with an imperialist policy regardless of their size, find their claims increasingly constrained, especially in major conflicts, coming down in favour of one or the other of the two poles - as the example of the war in Iraq illustrates once again. This obligation is their only way to even consider the defense of their own imperialist interests, at the very minimum, in avoiding being caught between the two rivals. “Everyone for oneself” is not contradictory to the tendency of polarization and the formation of imperialist blocs - that is, the tendency toward a new imperialist order. Rather, it is one of the moments of this process toward generalized war just as peace is for capitalism only a moment in the drive to imperialist war.

17) From the perspective of the dynamic toward the constitution of imperialist blocs, the permanence of the two major blocs established with a configuration essentially frozen from 1950 to the late 1980s, with the Soviet Union on one side and the United States on the other as heads of the bloc, represent a kind of historical anomaly. Due to its particular history since 1917, Stalinized Russia found a place that it never even should have held. And, the other ensuing historical anomaly, Germany remained divided throughout this period, preventing it from finding its complete place in the imperialist game. The Stalinist degeneration of the October 1917 proletarian revolution thus had as an indirect consequence the shaking up of the ‘natural’ order - this is to say, historically - of imperialist rivalries.

Since the demise of the USSR and the end of the blocs stemming from the 2nd World War, the historic or “classic” imperialist fracture lines have reestablished themselves. Against the primary imperialist power of the United States, few imperialist powers are in a position to challenge the global supremacy of the American bourgeoisie. Since 1989, only Germany has emerged as an imperialist power with the capacity to establish itself as head of an up-and-coming imperialist bloc. An imperialist power perpetually challenging the established order and the supremacy, a consequence of its own history, the German bourgeoisie is realizing its old dream: to establish its leadership in all, or at least in the main continental European countries. And, as head of a European bloc, to compete for global imperialist supremacy.

18) The establishment of the “German-European” imperialist block is underway. But it is far from being able to compete with the American block on the military level, which for now makes a difference. Although particular, the situation of German capital and the contradictions and difficulties of the German bourgeoisie summarize the situation as well as those with which the capitalist world and the bourgeoisie as a whole are confronted:

- On one hand, and despite a war economy undiminished since the 1930s - another feature of state capitalism and capitalist decadence - the bourgeoisie must further intensify its war economy and military spending. This can be accomplished only at the cost of further growth in exploitation of living capital, the workforce, in short the working class (and of course a willingness to join up ideologically behind the bourgeois state) even as it has continued to see its living and working conditions - the value of its labour power - attacked and reduced as a result of the crisis.

- On the other hand, capitalism is facing an international working class that now tends to resist the increasing massive economic and ideological attacks that it suffers, and, for this reason, tends to rise against the increased development of war economies to oppose them objectively:

19)The contradictions of the world system, previously concealed within it proved with unprecedented force, in a formidable explosion: the great imperialist world war (...) But in the same measure, as in states separately, the anarchic processes of capitalist production were replaced by the capitalist organization, its contradictions, its competition, the anarchy, came to a sharp point in the world economy. The struggle between the greatest conquering states led, with rigid necessity, to the monstrous imperialist war” (Platform of the Communist International, 1919).

Only Communist groups armed with Marxist theory, and even more so with the communist party, when it is constituted, are able to reveal the inescapable nature of imperialist rivalries and their outcome in generalized war as the only capitalist response to the crisis. They alone are able to reveal the mystifications and lies, indeed the manipulations and provocations of the imperialist game. They are the only ones able to recognize the ideological and political traps - the democratic themes, terrorism or anti-fascism, etc. - designed to bind workers to the defense of the national state, whatever the pretext, democratic or ‘socialist’.

The historical course is towards massive confrontations between classes

20) Currently, in 2013, generalized imperialist war or proletarian revolution are the only two historical options. If for almost 70 years these two options, especially that of the proletariat, have never been posed in an immediate sense, as the “cold war” and its major crisis had been the predominant reality, the sudden acceleration of the economic crisis, beginning in 2008, rapidly brought home the immediate and concrete actuality of this historical dilemma.

21) Since 1968 - the end of post-war reconstruction and the resurgence of working class struggles - the dynamics of class struggles has seen different phases according to the changing balance of power between classes:

- the international proletariat, though it remained in great part subject to bourgeois ideology, nevertheless stopped adhering to the major themes of the latter and led many struggles against the effects of the crisis (late ‘60s to the early ‘70s, late ‘70s to the early ‘80s, particularly from 1984 to 1988) that were insufficient, however, to force back bourgeois attacks to any significant degree, much less to launch its revolutionary perspective.

- the bourgeoisie has failed for its part, and despite the success of its attacks, mainly on the economic level against the working class, to defeat it completely as in the 1930s, for example, and to subject it en masse to various ideological democratic and nationalist themes, preparing for generalized, imperialist war.

22) Capital’s biggest victory over the working class during this period resulted from the ideological and political offensive that the bourgeoisie instigated following the disappearance of the Eastern imperialist block and the collapse of the Stalinist USSR. These two events, which are in fact one, had two consequences:

  • the disappearance of the rival imperialist block, namely the Western bloc under US leadership;
  • a break in the dynamics of class struggle, which opened in 1968.

The dissolution of the USSR and the final end to the myth of Stalinist socialism - though already greatly weakened since 1968 - were exploited by the international bourgeoisie to launch massive ideological campaigns on the bankruptcy of ‘communism’, the victory of ‘democracy’ and of capitalism, at the dawn of a new era of peace and prosperity (G. Bush senior) and the “end of history”. These campaigns, lasting throughout the 1990s and even 2000, led to a strong decline in labor militancy, most notably in the 1990s, with an especially profound disorientation in the working class. With the demise of Stalinism, the bourgeoisie succeeded momentarily in erasing from workers consciousness the perspective of “another society”, of a possible alternative to capitalism.

This ‘disappearance’ - or the considerable weakening - of the communist perspective, whatever these perceptions and comparatively confused or mystified hopes were, impacted on the working class to the point where its struggles fell sharply in intensity and class content. The latter was marked by a resurgence of union method and ideology which had emerged, for the most part discredited during previous decades.

23) In 2001, besides an early imperialist polarization that the United-States provoked with their war policy following the 9-11 attacks, there was a marked shift in the dynamics of the class struggle. The working class in Argentina responded massively during the winter of 2001-2002 against the misery caused by the collapse of national capital. Following this, struggles have shown a slow trend toward recovery internationally throughout the 2000s, a trend that accelerated sharply following the 2008 economic crisis with the even more massive and brutal attacks that capital was forced to impose on the exploited class.

24) However, the dynamics of class struggle were hindered throughout the 2000s by the negative effects of anti-communist campaigns on working class consciousness. Therefore, the immediate struggles and mass mobilizations - including those developed after 2008 - failed to really free themselves from ideological and political horizons of capitalism.

Furthermore, on the few occasions where the working class began to directly confront the state and its political forces - as in Greece, for example - in order to paralyze the functioning of the state with its adoption of anti-working class measures, no proletarian political force, that is no communist organization or group, was able to crystallize this dynamic, to defend it, much less to assume political leadership by advancing orientations and watchwords that would allow this dynamic to develop and establish itself in opposition to the unions and parties of the Left. And this not on the immediate or local level and not generally or internationally, either.

25) It appears that the anti-communist campaigns after 1989 seriously affected the small - but nonetheless real - communist forces that managed to grow since the late 1960s. First, they were weakened in terms of militant conviction, since many were militants whose conviction and militant commitment waned due to the decline of workers’ struggles and especially their loss of confidence in the ability of the working class to fight for communism. Then, campaigns against communism favored the penetration of bourgeois ideology into the ranks of these minorities as a particularly aggressive and devastating political opportunism.

Historical materialism was dangerously weakened by the introduction of idealistic and ahistorical theories, with the substitution of general “human” value in reference to class criteria, to questioning that class struggles are the “motor of history”. Marxist principles, such as the strike as the working class weapon of struggle, were put into question. Communist positions were either revised, or abandoned, such as the historical alternative of imperialist war or proletarian revolution, such as the denunciation of anarchism as a bourgeois political current. Finally, the anti-communist campaigns favored the revival of the development of democratic ideologies - fetishization of assemblyism, “self-organization” and democracy in different variants such as the “Indignados” - and the apoliticism of anarchists and Councilists - with positions and anti-party politics, anti-organization, anti-dictatorship of the proletariat, including within the camp of the forces and communist groups of the Communist Left.

All this, on top of the theoretical and political splintering, favoured the fragmentation and dispersion of communist groups already affected by the organic break with communist organizations of the past - particularly with the Communist International and a large part of Left fractions which opposed its degeneration - and through sectarianism. Today, the forces of the Communist Left which are supposed to express class consciousness in the most consistent way, are very low in both “number” and direct influence only insofar as “quality” and unity. But the indispensable communist party must be constructed with these forces, the most dynamic of them in any case, under their impetus and initiative, acting as an active and, if possible, a central factor. Otherwise, with their absence, it may be based on theoretical, programmatic and political bases insufficient to face the tsunami caused by the violent storm that history presents.

A historical situation and a favorable dynamic for the proletariat

26) Today, the historic dynamic still plays in favor of the working class despite its significant weaknesses - principally the state of its political vanguard minorities, namely on the level of its class consciousness, and more generally on the level of the historic perspective of communism. The bourgeoisie, constrained by the urgency of its economic crisis, finds itself confronted almost simultaneously by the march to war and the class struggle, neither of which it can drive back. It finds itself in a fragile historical situation unparalleled in history, the question of war and crisis, as expressions of capitalism’s historical bankruptcy and as expressions of the need for its destruction, had never before been presented at once in the eyes of the world proletariat. It cannot wager either on peace or on prosperity to come, to mystify and weaken the working class. The crisis and the war - at least the preparation for the latter - requires the bourgeoisie to redouble its attacks, economic as much as ideological and repressive, against the world’s working class. This can only enlighten the latter on the failure of capital and its perspective of war, on the necessity to oppose and to ultimately destroy it.

It is in this sense that we say that the course of the class struggle, its dynamic, is approaching massive and decisive confrontations from the point of view of the historic alternative between the bourgeoisie and the working class.

27) The international working class returns to the classic weapons that it has developed throughout its history, despite attempts by the bourgeoisie to oppose it. It’s from its situation as an exploited class, from its places of work and production, that the proletariat finds the strength and energy to carry on its struggles. From this point of view, despite the enormous changes in capitalist exploitation of the past two decades - in particular the existence of a permanent mass of unemployed and to a large extent the spread of the productive forces related to advances in information technology - the class struggle remains fundamentally the same and retains the same forms, or more exactly the same dynamic: one that Rosa Luxemburg called the Mass Strike (1906) and that Trotsky described in his book “1905”, corresponding to the living conditions and working class struggle in the period of decadence, and particularly on the development of the totalitarianism of the bourgeois state.

The basic form of this movement is the strike. Its simplest and most potent cause lies in the rising prices of primary necessities. Not infrequently the strike arises out of isolated local conflicts. It arises as an expression of the masses’ impatience with the parliamentary Socialist mish-mash. It originates in the feeling of solidarity with the oppressed of all countries, including one’s own. It combines economic and political slogans. (...) It dies down, ceases, only in order again to resurrect itself, shaking the foundations of production, keeping the state apparatus under constant strain (...) for this chaotic strike is in reality the social-revolutionary roll call and the mobilisation of the international proletariat.” (Minutes of the 2nd Congress of the CI)

28) At the time of this writing - July 2013 - the latest developments in workers’ struggles confirm the existence of a dynamic leading to massive confrontations. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve been seeing an acceleration of the dynamics of the mass strike that has developed since 2008: Egypt, Turkey, Brazil, Spain, Portugal, and Greece are the countries that have seen the largest working class mobilizations in these last months and weeks. Since then, in addition to the emergence of struggles on every continent, every country in Europe, and especially all the Mediterranean countries - touching on the shores of Africa and Asia - have experienced massive struggles in one form or another, more or less asserted, relatively resolute in political terms, and essentially on working class terrain, as opposed to the bourgeois-democratic traps set up before in North Africa, in Spain with the Indignados... - but which have all seen workers occupy the streets in mass protest, sometimes striking, and even occupying their factories and workplaces, everywhere looking for solidarity and the unification of their movement, moving from economic to political demands, refusing repression and confronting state violence.

29) The most recent workers demonstrations, especially those in Brazil, seem to mark a milestone in the process of awareness, notably in breaking free from dominant ideology (nationalism, football...), in political confrontation with the bourgeois state and its political and union forces. Workers demonstrations in Brazil arose spontaneously, leaving parties of the Left and trade unions running along behind, unable to control them. Even better, many of the demonstrators opposed the participation and the presence of unions and parties of the Left. Better still, the day of action organized by trade unions that July 11thwas a failure, as the great mass of workers didn’t participate. Far from the apoliticism of the Indignados in Spain who went along with democratic mystification, this distrust of parties of the Left and the unions - despite these demands being openly on working class terrain, economically and politically - seems to show a willingness to take on the political struggle against bourgeois forces present and active within the working class.

The dynamics of the class struggle, its course toward massive class conflict, can only confirm and advance this tendency to independent affirmation of the working class as revolutionary subject, and raise working class struggles on the political terrain and toward its confrontation with the state.

30) Because they are the most consistent bearers on the theoretical, political and even organizational level, from the perspective of communism, communist groups are the only ones able to accelerate and crystallize this historical process - their current weakness and dispersion does not change this fact. Only they can present the historical alternative “war or revolution” and thus denounce capitalism and its perspective of imperialist war. Because they carry and put forth the perspective of workers’ uprising against the bourgeois state and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, they alone have the power to advance the appropriate methods for each step to clear the way on the path towards communism.

They are also the more capable in defending and struggling to affirm the class character and revolutionary potential of current battles through propaganda and active participation and agitation in workers’ struggles. Their watchwords, slogans and directions of struggle - armed with Marxist theory on capitalist economic crisis, on the bourgeois state and on the perspective of communism - must be turned into opportunities to theoretically and politically arm the entire working class in its confrontation and its political assault against the capitalist state and the political forces that defend it.

It is not simply to edify the masses, and even less to exhibit an intrinsically pure and perfect party, but in fact to obtain the best in the actual process. As we shall see later, it is by systematic propaganda and proselytism and especially active participation in social struggles, to shift a growing number of workers from the terrain of partial struggles for immediate interests to the terrain of the organic and united struggle for the communist revolution. But it is only when a similar continuity of program and leadership exists in the Party that it is possible not only to overcome the reluctance of the proletariat to trust it, but to channel and to more quickly and effectively use the new energies conquered in communal thought and action to achieve this unity of movement is an indispensable condition of the revolution” (Thesis on the tactics of the Communist Party of Italy - called “Rome Thesis” - 1922, translated by us).

IGCL, 7 November 2013.

(Published on : 18 January 2014)