18th Congress of the ICC: Towards the regroupment of internationalist forces
At the end of May, the ICC held its 18th international congress. As we have always done, and as is the tradition in the workers' movement, we are presenting readers with the main elements of this congress, since they are not just internal matters but concern the working class as a whole.
The resolution on the ICC's activities adopted by the congress says:
"The acceleration of the historic situation, unprecedented in the history of the workers' movement, is characterised by the conjunction of the two following aspects:
- - the extension of the most serious open economic crisis in the history of capitalism, combined with the exacerbation of inter-imperialist tensions and, since 2003, a slow but progressive advance in the depth and extension of maturation within the working class;
- - and the development of an internationalist milieu, which is particularly obvious in the countries at the periphery of capitalism.
This acceleration takes the political responsibility of the ICC to a new level, making the highest demands in terms of theoretical/political analysis and intervention in the class struggle, and work towards the searching elements."
The balance sheet that we can draw from the 18th international congress of our organisation must therefore be based on its capacity to live up to these responsibilities.
For a really serious communist organisation, it is always a delicate thing to proclaim that this or that aspect of its activities have been a success. For several reasons.
In the first place, because the capacity of an organisation that struggles for the communist revolution to be up to its responsibilities can't be judged in the short term but only in the long term. Its role, while always anchored in the historical reality of its day, for the most part consists not so much of influencing this immediate reality, at least not on a large scale, but of preparing for the events of the future.
In the second place, because for the members of such an organisation there is always the danger of painting things in rosy colours, or being excessively indulgent towards the weakness of a collective body to which they have devoted so much energy and which they have the permanent duty of defending from the attacks levelled at it by all the defenders of capitalist society, open or disguised. History provides us with numerous examples of militants devoted to the communist cause who, because of a "patriotism of the party", have not been able to see the weaknesses, the slidings, even the betrayals of their organisation. Today, among those who defend the perspective of communism, you can find quite a few who consider that their group, whose members can often be counted on the finger of one hand, is the one and only "international communist party", the organisation which one day in the future the masses will rally round, and which, deaf to all debate and criticism, considers other groups of the proletarian milieu to be fraudsters.
Conscious of the danger of these kinds of illusions, and with the prudence that necessarily goes with this, we can still affirm without fear that the 18th Congress of the ICC was indeed up to the responsibilities announced above, and created the conditions for us to continue in the right direction.
We can't here go into all the reasons supporting this affirmation. We will only underline the most important ones:
- - the fact that the congress began its wok by ratifying the integration of two new sections in the Philippines and Turkey;
- - the presence at the congress of four groups of the internationalist milieu;
- - the open attitude towards the outside, which was illustrated in particular by the presence of these groups;
- - the willingness of the congress to look lucidly at the difficulties and weaknesses which our organisation has to surmount;
- - the fraternal and enthusiastic ambiance in which the congress did its work.
The integration of two new territorial sections
Our press has already given an account of the integration of the new ICC sections in the Philippines and Turkey (the responsibility of the congress was to validate the decision to integrate them taken by our central organ at the beginning of 2009). As we wrote then: "The integration of these two new sections into our organisation thus considerably broadens the ICC's geographical extension." We also made two points about these integrations:
- - they are not the result of a hurried "recruitment" which is the fashion among the Trotskyists and even, unfortunately, among certain groups of the proletarian camp, but, as is the practice of the ICC, are the result of a whole work of discussion over several years with the comrades of the EKS in Turkey and Internasyonalismo in the Philippines;
- - they are a clear refutation of the accusations of "Eurocentrism" often thrown at our organisation.
The integration of two new sections is not something that happens frequently for our organisation. The last integration of a new section took place in 1995 with the section in Switzerland. This is why the arrival of these two sections (which took place shortly after the constitution of a nucleus in Brazil in 2007) was felt to be very important and positive by all the militants of the ICC. It confirms both the analysis our organisation has been putting forward for several years with regard to the potential contained in the development of class consciousness in the current historic situation, and the validity of the policies we have adopted towards the groups and elements moving towards revolutionary positions. And this was all the more the case in that delegations from four groups of the internationalist milieu were present at the congress.
The presence of internationalist groups
In the balance sheet we drew up for our previous international congress, we underlined the importance of the presence, for the first time in decades, of four groups from the internationalist milieu, from Brazil, Korea, the Philippines and Turkey. This time again there were also four groups present. But this wasn't a simple rerun since two of the groups who had been at the previous congress have since become sections of the ICC, and we now had the pleasure of welcoming two new groups: a second group from Korea and a group from Central America (Nicaragua and Costa Rica), the LECO (Liga por la Emancipacion de la Clase Obrera), which had taken part at the "meeting of internationalist communists" in Latin America, called on the initiative of the ICC and the OPOP, the internationalist group from Brazil with whom we have maintained fraternal and very positive relations for a number of years. This group was again present at our congress. Other groups who took part in the meeting in Latin America were also invited to our congress but were not able to send delegates because Europe is now more and more becoming a fortress towards people not born in the very narrow circle of the "rich countries".
The presence of groups of the internationalist milieu was a very important element in the success of the congress and in particular in the ambience in which the discussions took place. These comrades showed a good deal of warmth towards the militants of our organisation and raised a number of questions, notably with regard to the economic crisis, in ways which we are not so familiar with in our own debates, something which could only help to stimulate reflection within our organisation.
Finally, the presence of these comrades was an added element in the whole process of opening out which the ICC has taken up as one of its key objectives over the last few years - opening both towards other proletarian groups and towards individual elements moving towards communist positions. In particular, when you have people from outside the organisation present at a meeting, it is very difficult to fall into the trap of reassuring ourselves with nice stories. This opening out also manifests itself in our reflections and preoccupations, notably with regard to research and discovery in the realm of science. This was made concrete by the fact that a member of the scientific community was invited to one of the sessions of the congress.
The invitation of a scientist
To celebrate "Darwin Year" in our own way, and to give voice to the development within the ICC of a growing interest in scientific questions, we asked a researcher who specialises in the evolution of language (the author of a book entitled Why we talk: the evolutionary origins of language, published by OUP) to make a presentation of his work to the congress, which are obviously based on a Darwinian approach. The original reflections of Jean-Louis Desalles on language, its role in the development of social ties and of solidarity in the human species are connected to the discussions we have been having in the ICC, and which are still going on, on the subject of ethics and the culture of debate. The presentation by this researcher was followed by a debate which we had to limit in time because of the constraints of the agenda, but which could have gone on for hours since the questions raised evoked a passionate interest on the part of the comrades present.
We would like to thank Jean-Louis Desalles who, while not sharing our political ideas, very cordially agreed to give up some of his time to enriching reflection inside our organisation. We also want to welcome the very warm and convivial responses which he made to the questions and objections raised by ICC militants.
The discussion on the international situation
The work of the congress examined the classic points always treated by our international congresses:
- - the analysis of the international situation;
- - the activities and life of our organisation.
The resolution on the international situation which we are publishing in this issue of the International Review is a sort of synthesis of the discussions at the congress about the present state of the world. Obviously it cannot take into account all the aspects looked at in these discussions (either at the congress or in the preparatory reports). It has three main aims:
- - to understand the real causes and stakes of the present, unprecedented aggravation of the economic crisis of the capitalist system in the face of all the mystifications which are put about by the system's defenders;
- - to understand the real impact on imperialist conflicts of the accession of the Democrat Barak Obama to the presidency of the world's leading power, since this is being presented as a new element in these conflicts and a hope that they can be attenuated;
- - to draw out the perspectives for the class struggle, notably in the conditions created by the brutal attacks which the proletariat is facing as a result of the violence of the economic crisis.
On the first aspect, understanding what's at stake in the present crisis of capitalism, we need to underline the following aspects:
"The present crisis is the most serious the system has been through since the great depression which began in 1929...Thus, it is not the financial crisis which is at the origin of the current recession. On the contrary, the financial crisis merely illustrates the fact that the flight into debt, which made it possible to overcome overproduction, could not carry on indefinitely... In reality, even though the capitalist system is not going to collapse like pack of cards, the perspective is one of sinking deeper and deeper into a historical impasse, of plunging more and more into the convulsions that affect it today".
Obviously this congress could not make a definitive response to all the questions raised by the present crisis of capitalism. On the one hand, because with every day that passes we are faced with new ramifications of the crisis, obliging revolutionaries to follow the situation very closely and to carry on discussing the significance of these new elements. On the other hand, because our organisation is not homogenous on certain aspects of the analysis of the crisis. This is not at all in our view the sign of a weakness in the ICC. In the whole history of the workers' movement, there have been debates within a marxist framework on the question of the crises of the capitalist system. The ICC has recently been publishing some aspects of its internal debates on this question, seeing that these debates are not the private property of our organisation but belong to the working class as a whole. Furthermore, the resolution on the perspectives for our organisation's activities adopted by the congress explicitly calls for the development of debate on other aspects of the analysis of the crisis, so that the ICC can be as well armed as possible to provide clear answers to the questions posed to the working class and to the elements who have committed themselves to the fight to overthrow capitalism.
Regarding the "new element" provided by the election of Obama, the resolution replies very clearly that:
"the perspective facing the planet after the election of Obama to the head of the world's leading power is not fundamentally different to the situation which has prevailed up till now: continuing confrontations between powers of the first or second order, continuation of barbaric wars with ever more tragic consequences (famines, epidemics, massive displacements) for the populations living in the disputed areas".
Finally, with regards to the perspective for the class struggle, the resolution, like the debates at the congress, tried to evaluate the impact of the brutal aggravation of the crisis:
"The considerable aggravation of the crisis of capitalism today obviously represents a very important element in the development of workers' struggles. At this very moment, in all countries of the world, workers are being faced with massive lay-offs, with an irresistible rise in unemployment. In an extremely concrete manner, in its flesh and bones, the proletariat is experiencing the incapacity of the capitalist system to ensure the basics of a decent life for the workers it exploits. What's more, it is more and more incapable of offering any future to the new generations of the working class, which represents a factor of anxiety and despair not only for them but also for their parents. Thus the conditions are maturing for the idea of overthrowing this system to develop on a significant scale within the proletariat. However, it is not enough for the working class to perceive that the capitalist system is at a dead-end, that it has to give way to another society, for it to be able to take up a revolutionary perspective. It also needs to have the conviction that such a perspective is possible and that it has the strength to carry it out...For consciousness of the possibility of the communist revolution to gain a significant echo within the working class, the latter has to gain confidence in its own strength, and this takes place through the development of massive struggles. The huge attacks which it is now facing on an international scale provides the objective basis for such struggles. However, the main form this attack is taking today, that of massive lay-offs, does not initially favour the emergence of such movements... This is why, in the coming period, the fact that we do not see a wide-scale response from the working class to the attacks should not lead us to consider that it has given up the struggle for the defence of its interests. It is in a second period... when we are more likely to see the development of broad struggles by the workers".
Discussions on the activities and life of the ICC
A report was presented on the main positions put forward in the discussions going on in the ICC. An important focus of these discussions over the past two years has been the economic question - this article has already referred to the divergences that this question has raised.
Another focal point for our discussions has been the question of human nature, which has given rise to an animated debate, fuelled by numerous and rich contributions, This debate, which is far from being complete, has shown an overall agreement with the orientation texts published in the International Review - "Confidence and solidarity in the struggle of the proletariat" (111), "Marxism and ethics" (127) and "The culture of debate: a weapon of the class struggle" (131). As soon as they are ready, these discussions will be published to the outside, in conformity with the traditions of the workers' movement. We should note the recent expression of a profound disagreement with these three texts on the part of a comrade of the Belgian/Dutch section ("recent" relative to the publications of these texts which have been around for a while now), who considers that they are not marxist (see below).
Concerning the activities and life of the organisation, the congress drew up a positive balance sheet for the preceding period despite a number of weaknesses:
"The balance sheet of the last two years' activities shows the political vitality of the ICC, its capacity to be in phase with the historic situation, to be open and to be an active factor in the development of class consciousness, its will to involve itself in initiatives for common work with other revolutionaries... On the level of the organisation's internal life the balance sheet of the activities is also positive, despite the real difficulties which exist mainly at the organisational level and, to a lesser extent, on the level of centralisation" (Resolution on activities).
The congress devoted part of its discussions to examining the organisational weaknesses that persist in the ICC. These are not specific to our organisation but are the lot of all organisations of the workers' movement, which are permanently faced with the weight of the dominant bourgeois ideology. The real strength of these organisations has always been to confront these pressures in a lucid manner in order to fight against them, as was the case in particular with the Bolshevik party. This was the spirit that animated the congress debates on this question.
One of the points discussed in particular was the weaknesses which affected our section in Belgium/Holland, where a small number of militants resigned recently, largely in the wake of accusations made by comrade M. For some time, this comrade has been accusing our organisation, and particularly the permanent commission of its central organ, of turning its back on the culture of debate, a question which was discussed at some length in the previous congress and which we see as a necessity for any revolutionary organisation to be able to live up to its responsibilities. Comrade M, who defended a minority position on the analysis of the economic crisis, considered himself to be the victim of "ostracism" and felt that his positions were being deliberately discredited by the ICC which was unable to discuss them. Given these accusations, the central organ of the ICC decided to set up a special commission, whose three members were chosen by comrade M himself, and which, after several months of interviews and examining several hundred pages of documents, came to the conclusion that this was not the case, The congress could only regret that comrade M as well as some other comrades who followed him did not wait for this commission to reach its conclusions before deciding to leave the ICC.
In fact the congress was able to see, notably in the discussion about our internal debates, that there is a real concern in our organisation to develop a culture of debate. And this was noted not only by the militants of the ICC, but also the delegates of the other organisations:
"The culture of debate in the ICC and its militants is very impressive. When I return to Korea, I will share my experience with my comrades" (one of the Korean groups)
"The congress has been a good opportunity for clarifying my positions; in many of the discussions, I encountered a real culture of debate. I think I must do a lot to develop relations between my group and the ICC and I have the intention of doing so. I hope that in the future we will be able to work together for a communist society" (the other Korean group).
The ICC does not practice the culture of debate once every two years on the occasion of its international congress. As the intervention of the OPOP delegation put it in the discussion on the economic crisis, it's part of the continuing relationship between our two organisations, This relationship is capable of getting stronger despite divergences on various questions, such as the analysis of the economic crisis: "In the name of OPOP I want to mark the importance of this congress. For OPOP, the ICC is a sister organisation, like the party of Lenin and the party of Luxemburg. That is to say that there are a whole series of divergent opinions and theoretical conceptions, but above all there is a programmatic unity as regards the necessity for the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the expropriation of the bourgeoisie and of capital".
The other difficulty mentioned in the activities resolution concerns the question of centralisation, It is with the aim of overcoming these difficulties that the congress discussed a more general text on the question of centralisation. This discussion, while being useful to the "old guard" of our organisation in reaffirming the communist conception of this question and making it more precise, was particularly important for the new comrades and sections which have recently joined the ICC.
One of the significant aspects of the 18th congress was the presence, noted by the "old" comrades with a certain surprise, of a number of "new faces", among which the younger generation was particularly well represented.
Enthusiasm for the future
The presence of a good number of young people at the congress was a factor making for dynamism and enthusiasm. Contrary to the bourgeois media, the ICC does not indulge in a the cult of youth, but the arrival of a new generation to our organisation - along with the fact that most of the delegates from the other participating groups were also young people - is extremely important for the perspective of the proletarian revolution. Like icebergs, they are the emerging tip of a deep process of developing consciousness inside the world working class. At the same time this makes it possible for bringing reinforcements to the existing communist forces. As the resolution on the international situation adopted by the congress put it:
"The road towards revolutionary struggles and the overthrow of capitalism is a long and difficult one... but this should in no way serve to discourage revolutionaries or paralyse their commitment, on the contrary!"
Even if the "old" militants of the ICC retain all their commitment and dedication, it's this new generation which will be called upon to make a decisive contribution to the revolutionary struggles of the future. And right now, the fraternal spirit, the desire to come together, to cooperate in exposing the traps laid by the bourgeoisie, the sense of responsibility - all these qualities, possessed in spades by the elements of the new generation at the congress - whether militants of the ICC or of the invited groups - augur well for the capacity of the new generation to live up to its responsibilities. This is something that was expressed by the young delegate from LECO, talking about the internationalist meeting in Latin America last spring: "The debate that is beginning to develop is bringing together groups and individuals who are seeking unity on a proletarian basis. This requires spaces for internationalist debate, contacts between delegates of the communist left. The radicalisation of youth and of minorities in Latin America, in Asia is making it possible for this pole of reference to be made up of a number of groups who are growing both numerically and politically. This gives us weapons to intervene, to confront the issues raised by leftism, ‘21st century socialism', Sandinismo, etc, The position adopted by the meeting in Latin America is already a proletarian weapon. I salute the interventions of the comrades which express a real internationalism, a concern for the political and numerical advance of the communist left on a world scale".
. See "Welcome to the new ICC sections in Philippines and Turkey", ICC online and World Revolution n° 322.
. See the article about this meeting on our website and in World Revolution n° 324.
. As we have already shown in the various articles we have published recently on Darwin and Darwinism.
. The reader who wants to get a better idea of his work can refer to his website http://perso.telecom-paristech.fr/jld/
. See in particular in this issue of International Review the discussion article "In defence of the thesis of Keynesio-Fordist state capitalism".
 See "17th congress of the ICC, the proletarian camp reinforced worldwide" in International Review n° 130 and "The culture of debate, a weapon of the class struggle" in International Review n° 131.
. This impression of the quality of the culture of debate at the congress was also noted by the scientist we invited, who sent us the following message: "Thanks again for the excellent interaction I had with the Marx community. I really experienced a very good moment"