18th ICC Congress: Resolution on the International Situation
1) In March 1991, following the collapse of the eastern bloc and the victory of the coalition in Iraq, President George Bush Senior announced to the US Congress the birth of a "New World Order" based on respect for international law. This new order was going to bring peace and prosperity to the planet. The "end of communism" meant the definitive triumph of liberal capitalism. Some people, like the "philosopher" Francis Fukayama, even predicted the "end of history". But history, the real one and not the propaganda version, soon made these fraudulent claims look ridiculous. Instead of peace, the year 1991 saw the beginning of the war in ex-Yugoslavia, leaving hundreds of thousands dead in the very heart of Europe, a continent which had been spared the scourge of war for nearly half a century. Similarly, the recession of 1993, then the collapse of the Asian "tigers" and "dragons" in 1997, then the new recession in 2002, which put an end to the Internet bubble, visibly dented illusions in the prosperity announced by Bush Senior. But it is typical of the bourgeoisie to forget today what it was saying yesterday. Between 2003 and 2007 the official speeches of the main sectors of the bourgeoisie again had a euphoric tone, celebrating the success of the "Anglo-Saxon model" which was providing exemplary profits, vigorous growth rates and even a significant reduction in unemployment. There were not enough words to sing the praises of the "liberal economy" and the benefits of "deregulation". But since the summer of 2007 and above all since the summer of 2008 this fine optimism has melted away like a snowball in the sun. All of a sudden, words and phrases like "prosperity", "growth", "triumph of liberalism" were discretely dropped. At the grand banqueting table of the capitalist economy there now sat a guest they thought they had banished forever: the crisis, the spectre of a new great depression comparable to the one in the 1930s.
2) In the words of the most responsible representatives of the bourgeoisie, of all the economic specialists, including the most unconditional torchbearers for capitalism, the present crisis is the most serious the system has been through since the great depression which began in 1929. According to the OECD, "The world economy is in the midst of its deepest and most synchronised recession in our lifetimes". Some have no hesitation in saying that it is even more serious than that, arguing that the reason why its effects are not as catastrophic as in the 1930s is that, since that time, the world leaders, strengthened by experience, have learned to face up to this kind of situation, notably by avoiding a general rush towards "every man for himself": "While some have dubbed this severe global downturn a ‘great recession', it will remain far from turning into a repeat of the 1930s ‘Great Depression', thanks to the quality and intensity of government policies that are currently being undertaken. The Great Depression was deepened by terrible policy mistakes, ranging from contractionary monetary policy to beggar-thy-neighbour policies in the form of trade protection and competitive devaluations. In contrast, this recession has broadly elicited the right policy."
However, even if all the sectors of the bourgeoisie admit the gravity of the present convulsions of the capitalist economy, the explanations they give, even though they often diverge among themselves, are obviously incapable of grasping the real significance of these convulsions and the perspective they announce for the whole of society. For some, the responsibility for capitalism's acute difficulties lies in "financial madness", in the fact that since the beginning of the 2000s we have seen the development of a whole series of "toxic financial products" which have permitted an explosion of credits without any guarantee that they could be repaid. Others say that capitalism is suffering from an excess of "deregulation" on an international scale, an orientation that was at the core of the "Reaganomics" which was set in motion at the beginning of 1980s. Still others, in particular the representatives of the left wing of capital, consider that the underlying cause of the crisis lies in the fact that income from wages is insufficient, obliging working people to get into debt to meet their most basic needs. But whatever their differences, what characterises all these interpretations is that they consider that it is not capitalism as a mode of production which is at fault, but this or that form of the system. And it is precisely this premise which prevents all these interpretations from going to the roots of the real causes of the present crisis.
3) In fact, only a global and historical view of the capitalist mode of production allows us to understand the present crisis and the perspectives that flow from it. Today, and this is what is hidden by all the economic "specialists", the reality of the contradictions which assail capitalism is coming out into the open: the crisis of overproduction, the system's inability to sell the mass of commodities which it produces. This is not overproduction in relation to the real needs of humanity, which are very far from being satisfied, but overproduction in relation to solvent demand, demand backed by the ability to pay. The official speeches, as with the measures adopted by most governments, have focused on the financial crisis, on the failure of the banks, but in reality what the commentators call the "real economy" (in contrast to the "fictitious economy") is in the process of illustrating this fact: not a day passes without the announcement of factory closures, massive lay-offs and bankruptcies of industrial enterprises. The fact that General Motors, which for decades was the biggest company in the world, can only survive thanks to massive support from the American state, while Chrysler had to openly declare bankruptcy and has come under the control of the Italian firm FIAT, is a significant sign of the deep problems affecting the capitalist economy. Similarly the fall in world trade, the first since the Second World War, evaluated by the OECD at -13.2% for 2009, shows the difficulty companies have in finding buyers for their products.
This crisis of overproduction, so evident today, is not a mere consequence of the financial crisis as most of the "experts" would have us believe. It resides in the very mechanisms of the capitalist economy, as marxism has shown for a century and a half. As long as the capitalist metropoles were conquering the globe, the new markets obtained in this way made it possible to overcome the temporary crises of overproduction. When this conquest was completed, at the beginning of the 20th century, these metropoles, particularly the one which had arrived late at the concert of colonisation, Germany, had no other recourse than to attack the spheres of influence of the other powers, provoking the First World War even before the crisis of overproduction had fully manifested itself. The latter was actually expressed in a clear way by the 1929 crash and the great depression of the 1930s, which pushed the main capitalist countries into a headlong flight into militarism and a Second World War which easily outdid the first when it came to massacres and barbarism. All of the measures adopted by the great powers in the wake of the Second World War, in particular the organisation of the main components of the capitalist economy, in the area of currency (Bretton Woods) and in the adoption of neo-Keynesian policies, as well as the positive benefits that decolonisation brought in terms of markets, enabled world capitalism for nearly three decades to give the illusion that it had finally overcome its contradictions. But this illusion suffered a major blow in 1974 with the outbreak of a violent recession, especially in the world's leading economy. This recession was not the beginning of the difficulties facing capitalism because it came after those in 1967 and the successive crises of the pound and the dollar, two key international currencies in the Bretton Woods system. In fact, it was towards the end of the 1960s that neo-Keynesianism was proving its historical bankruptcy, a point underlined at the time by the groups that were to constitute the ICC. This said, for all the bourgeois commentators and for the majority of the working class, it was the year 1974 which marked the beginning of a new period in the life of post-war capitalism, notably with the re-appearance of a phenomenon which many believed had been definitely eliminated in the developed countries: mass unemployment. It was at this point that the phenomenon of the flight into debt accelerated very noticeably: at that time it was the countries of the Third World which were at the forefront of the flight into debt and for a time acted as the "locomotive" of the recovery. This situation came to an end at the beginning of the 1980s with the debt crisis, the inability of the countries of the Third World to repay the loans they had been given so that they could act as an outlet for the production of the big industrial countries. But this did not at all halt the flight into debt. The USA began to take up the baton as the "locomotive" but at the price of a considerable increase in its trade deficit and, above all, of its budget deficit, a policy which they were able to undertake thanks to the privileged role of its currency as a world currency. Although Reagan's slogan at the time was "the state is not the solution, its the problem", in order to justify the liquidation of neo-Keynesianism, the American Federal state, through its huge budget deficits, continued to act as the essential agent in national and international economic life. However, "Reaganomics", initially inspired by Margaret Thatcher in Britain, basically represented the dismantling of the "welfare state", i.e. an unprecedented attack on the working class which helped to overcome the galloping inflation which had affected capitalism since the 1970s.
During the 1990s, one of the locomotives of the world economy had been the Asian "tigers" and "dragons", which had experienced spectacular rates of growth but at the price of considerable debts, leading to major convulsions in 1997. At the same moment, the "new" and "democratic" Russia also found itself in a situation of cessation of payments, cruelly disappointing those who had been counting on the "end of communism" to get the world economy going in a lasting way. In turn, the Internet bubble at the end of the 1990s, in fact a form of frenzied speculation on "hi-tech" companies, burst in 2001-2, ending the dream of a revival of the world economy through the development of new information and communication technologies. It was then that debt went through a new phase of acceleration, thanks to the astronomical loans doled out in the sphere of construction in a number of countries, in particular the USA. The latter had accentuated its role as "locomotive of the world economy", but at the price of a colossal rise in debt, especially in the American population, based on all sorts of "financial products" which were supposed to avoid the risk of loans not being repaid. In reality, the broad extension of dubious loans in no way changed their nature as a Sword of Damocles hanging over the head of the American and world economy. On the contrary, it resulted in "toxic debts" accumulating in the capital of the banks and was at the origin of their collapse after 2007.
4) 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. Sooner or later, the "real economy" would take its revenge In other words, what was at the basis of the contradictions of capitalism, overproduction, the incapacity of the markets to absorb the totality of the commodities produced, had come back onto the scene.
In this sense the measures which were decided in March 2009 at the G20 in London, a doubling of the reserves of the International Monetary Fund, massive support by the states for a banking system in perdition, an encouragement to the latter to put in motion active policies of stimulating the economy at the cost of a spectacular leap in budget deficits, can in no way solve the basic problem. The only "solution" the bourgeoisie can come up with is... a new flight into debt. The G20 could not invent a solution to the crisis for the good reason that there is no solution. Its main task was to avoid a descent into "every man for himself" like the 1930s. It thus aimed at restoring a minimum of confidence among the main economic agencies, knowing that in capitalism this is an essential factor in the operation of credit, which is at the very heart of the system. Having said this, the insistence on the importance of the factor of "psychology" in economic convulsions, the focus on talk and theatrical gestures in the face of material realities, illustrates the fundamentally illusory character of the measures available to capitalism in the face of its historic crisis. In reality, even though the capitalist system is not going to collapse like a 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. For more than four decades, the bourgeoisie has not been able to prevent the continual aggravation of the crisis. Today it is facing a situation which is far more degraded than the one it faced in the 60s. In spite of all the experience it has gained in these decades, it can only do worse, not better. In particular, the neo-Keynesian measures put forward at the G20 in London (going as far as nationalising the banks in trouble) have no chance of restoring any "health" to capitalism, since the beginning of its major difficulties at the end of the 1960s were precisely the result of the definitive failure of the neo-Keynesian measures adopted at the end of the Second World War.
5) Although the brutal aggravation of the crisis was quite a surprise for the ruling class, it was not a surprise for revolutionaries. As we said in the resolution on the international situation from our last congress, even before the beginning of the panic of the summer of 2007: "Right now, the threat to the housing boom in the US, which has been one of the motors of the US economy, and which raises the danger of catastrophic bank failures, is causing considerable disquiet amongst the economist." (point four).
This same resolution also threw some cold water on the great hopes being placed in the "Chinese miracle":
"far from representing a breath of air for the capitalist economy, the 'miracle' in China and a certain number of other third world countries is yet another embodiment of the decadence of capitalism. Furthermore, the extreme dependence of the Chinese economy on its exports is a source of considerable vulnerability to any retraction of demand among its present clients, something which can hardly fail to happen seeing that the American economy is going to be obliged to do something about the colossal debts which currently allow it to play the role of locomotive for global demand. Thus, just as the 'miracle' of the double figure growth of the Asian tigers and dragons came to a sorry end in 1997, the current Chinese miracle, even if it does not have identical origins and has far greater assets at its disposal, will sooner or later be confronted with the harsh reality of the historic impasse of the capitalist mode of production." (point 6).
The fall in the growth rate of the Chinese economy, the explosion of unemployment that this has provoked, with the return to their villages of millions of peasants who had been enrolled into the industrial centres but who are now being forced back by unbearable misery, is fully confirming this vision.
In fact, the ICC's capacity to predict what was going to happen does not lie in any particular merit of our organisation. Its only "merit" lies in its faithfulness to the marxist method, in its will to permanently put it into practice in its analysis of the world situation, in its capacity to resist firmly the sirens proclaiming the "definitive failure of marxism".
6) The confirmation of the validity of marxism does not only apply to the question of the economic life of society. At the heart of the mystifications that were being peddled at the beginning of the 90s was the idea that a new age of world peace was dawning. The end of the Cold War, the disappearance of the eastern bloc, which Reagan had presented as the "Evil Empire", were supposed to put an end to the different military conflicts brought about by the confrontation between the two imperialist blocs since 1947. Faced with this mystification about the possibility of peace under capitalism, marxism has always underlined the impossibility for bourgeois states to go beyond their economic and military rivalries, especially in the period of decadence. This is why we were able to write back in January 1990 that "The disappearance of the Russian imperialist gendarme, and the coming disappearance of the bloc between the American gendarme and its former 'partners', is going to open the door to a whole series of more local rivalries. These rivalries and confrontations cannot, in the present circumstances, degenerate into a world conflict...On the other hand, because of the disappearance of the discipline imposed by the presence of the blocs, these conflicts threaten to become more violent and more numerous, in particular, of course, in zones where the proletariat is weakest". The world scene soon confirmed this analysis, notably with the first Gulf war in January 1991 and the war in ex-Yugoslavia in the autumn of the same year. Since then, there has been no let up in bloody and barbaric conflicts. We cannot enumerate all of them but we can note in particular:
- - the continuation of the war in ex-Yugoslavia, which saw, under the aegis of NATO, the direct involvement of the USA and the main European powers in 1999;
- - the two wars in Chechnya
- - the numerous wars that have continually ravaged the African continent (Rwanda, Somalia, Congo, Sudan, etc);
- - the military operations by Israel in Lebanon and, most recently, in Gaza;
- - the war in Afghanistan, which is still going on;
- - the war in Iraq in 2003 whose consequences continue to weigh dramatically on this country, but also on the initiator of the war, the USA.
The direction and implications of US policy have long been analysed by the ICC:
"the spectre of world war no longer haunts the planet, but at the same time, we have seen the unchaining of imperialist antagonisms and local wars directly implicating the great powers, in particular the most powerful of them all, the USA. The USA, which for decades has been the 'world cop', has had to try to carry on and strengthen this role in the face of the ‘new world disorder' which came out of the end of the Cold War. But while it has certainly taken this role to heart, it hasn't at all been done with the aim of contributing to the stability of the planet but fundamentally to conserve its global leadership, which has been more and more put into question by the fact that there is no longer the cement which held each of the two imperialist blocs together - the threat from the rival bloc. In the definitive absence of the 'Soviet threat', the only way the American power could impose its discipline was to rely on its main strength, its huge superiority at the military level. But in doing so, the imperialist policy of the USA has become one of the main factors in global instability."
7) The arrival of the Democrat Barak Obama to the head of the world's leading power has given rise to all kinds of illusions about a possible change in the strategic orientations of the USA, a change opening up an "era of peace". One of the bases for these illusions resides in the fact that Obama was one of the few US senators to vote against the military intervention in Iraq in 2003, and that unlike his Republican rival McCain he has committed himself to a withdrawal of US armed forces from Iraq. However, these illusions have quickly come up against reality. In particular, if Obama has envisaged a US withdrawal from Iraq, it is in order to reinforce its involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Furthermore, the continuity in US military policy is well illustrated by the fact that the new administration brought Gates, who had been nominated by Bush, back to the post of Secretary of Defence.
In reality, the new orientation of American diplomacy in no way calls into question the framework outlined above. Its objective is still the reconquest of US global leadership through its military superiority. Thus Obama's overtures towards increased diplomacy are to a significant degree designed to buy time and thereby space out the need for inevitable future imperialist interventions by its military, which is currently spaced too thinly and is too exhausted to sustain yet another theatre of war simultaneously with Iraq and Afghanistan.
However, as the ICC has often underlined, there are two different options within the bourgeoisie for pursuing this goal:
- - the option represented by the Democratic Party which is trying as much as possible to associate other powers to this project;
- - the majority option among the Republicans, which consists of taking the initiative for military offensives and imposing itself on other powers at whatever cost.
The first option was taken up by Clinton at the end of the 90s in ex-Yugoslavia, where the US managed to get the main powers of western Europe, in particular Germany and France, to cooperate in the NATO bombing of Serbia to force it to abandon Kosovo.
The second option was typically the one used in unleashing the Iraq war in 2003, which took place against the very determined opposition of Germany and France, this time in conjunction with Russia within the UN Security Council.
However, neither of these options has been capable of reversing the weakening of US leadership. The policy of forcing things through, illustrated during the two terms of Bush Junior, has resulted not only in the chaos in Iraq, which is nowhere near being overcome, but also to the growing isolation of American diplomacy, illustrated in particular by the fact that certain countries who supported the US in 2003, such as Spain and Italy, have jumped ship from the Iraq adventure (not to mention the more discreet way Gordon Brown and the British government have taken their distance from the unconditional support that Tony Blair gave to the Iraq adventure). For its part, the policy of "co-operation" favoured by the Democrats does not really ensure the loyalty of the powers that the US is trying to associate with its military enterprises, particularly because it gives these powers a wider margin of manoeuvre to push forward their own interests
Today, for example, the Obama administration has decided to adopt a more conciliatory policy towards Iran and a firmer one towards Israel, two orientations which go in the same direction as most of the states of the European Union, especially Germany and France, two countries who are aiming to recover some of their former influence in Iraq and Iran. That said, this orientation will not make it possible to prevent the emergence of major conflicts of interest between these two countries and the US, notably in the sphere of eastern Europe (where Germany is trying to preserve its "privileged" relations with Russia) or Africa (where the two factions subjecting Congo to a reign of blood and fire have the support of the US and France respectively).
More generally, the disappearance of the division of the world into two great blocs has opened the door to the ambitions of second level imperialisms who are serving to further destabilise the international situation. This is the case, for example, with Iran whose aim is to gain a dominant position in the Middle East under the banner of resistance to the American "Great Satan" and of the fight against Israel. With much more considerable means, China aims to extend its influence to other continents, particularly in Africa where its growing economic presence is the basis for a diplomatic and military presence, as is already the case in the war in Sudan.
Thus 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. We also have to consider whether the instability provoked by the considerable aggravation of the crisis in a whole series of countries in the periphery will not result in an intensification of confrontations between military cliques within these countries, with, as ever, the participation of different imperialist powers. Faced with this situation, Obama and his administration will not be able to avoid continuing the warlike policies of their predecessors, as we can see in Afghanistan for example, a policy which is synonymous with growing military barbarism.
8) Just as the good intentions advertised by Obama on the diplomatic level will not stop military chaos from continuing and aggravating across the world, nor will it prevent the USA from being an active factor in this chaos; similarly the reorientation of US policy which he has announced in the area of protecting the environment will not stop its degradation from continuing. This is not a matter of the good or bad intentions of governments, however powerful they may be. Every day that passes demonstrates more and more the real environmental catastrophe menacing the planet: increasingly violent storms in countries which have hitherto been spared by them; droughts and heatwaves; floods and the bursting of flood barriers; countries threatened with sinking into the sea... the perspectives are increasingly sombre. This degradation of the environment also bears with it the threat of an aggravation of military confrontations, particularly with the exhaustion of supplies of drinking water, which is going to be one of the stakes in future conflicts.
As the resolution adopted by the previous international congress put it: "Thus, as the ICC has shown for over 15 years, the decomposition of capitalism brings with it a major threat to humanity's existence. The alternative announced by Engels at the end of the 19th century, socialism or barbarism, has been a sinister reality throughout the 20th century. What the 21st century offers us as a perspective is quite simply socialism or the destruction of humanity. These are the real stakes facing the only force in society capable of overthrowing capitalism: the world working class."
9) This capacity of the working class to put an end to the barbarism engendered by capitalism in decomposition, to bring humanity out of its prehistory and into the "realm of freedom", to use Engels' expression, is being forged right now in its daily struggles against capitalist exploitation. With the collapse of the eastern bloc and the so-called "socialist" regimes, the deafening campaigns about the "end of communism", and even the "end of the class struggle" dealt a severe blow to the consciousness and combativity of the working class; The proletariat suffered a profound retreat on these two levels, a retreat which lasted for over ten years. It was not until 2003, as the ICC has pointed out on a number of occasions, that the world working class returned to the path of struggle against the attacks of capital. Since then, this tendency has been further confirmed and in the two years since the last congress we have seen the development of significant struggles all over the world. At certain moments we have even seen a remarkable simultaneity of workers' struggles on a world scale. Thus at the beginning of 2008 the following countries were hit by workers' struggles at the same time: Russia, Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Rumania, Turkey, Israel, Iran, Bahrain, Tunisia, Algeria, Cameroon, Swaziland, Venezuela, Mexico, USA, Canada and China.
At the same time, we have seen some very significant workers' struggles over the past two years. Without trying to be exhaustive, we can cite the following examples:
- - in Egypt, in the summer of 2007, where massive struggles in the textile industry were met with active solidarity from a number of other sectors (docks, transport, hospitals, etc);
- - in Dubai, in November 2007, where the building workers (essentially immigrants) mobilised massively;
- - in France, in November 2007, where attacks against pensions provoked a very militant strike by railway workers, with examples of solidarity links being established with students who at the same moment were fighting against government attempts to accentuate social segregation in the universities; a strike that openly unmasked the sabotaging role of the big union federations, the CGT and the CFDT, obliging the bourgeoisie to refurbish the image of its apparatus for controlling the working class;
- - in Turkey, at the end of 2007, where 26,000 workers at Turk Telecom were on strike for over a month, the most important mobilisation of the proletariat in this country since 1991, and this at a time when the Turkish government was involved in a military operation in the north of Iraq;
- - in Russia, in November 2008, where important strikes in St Petersburg (notably at the Ford factory) showed the ability of the workers to overcome some very strong police intimidation, especially on the part of the FSB (the former KGB);
- - in Greece, at the end of 2008, where, in a climate of enormous discontent which had already been expressed before, the mobilisation of the students against repression received a profound solidarity from within the working class, with certain sectors going outside the official unions; a solidarity which did not remain inside the frontiers of Greece since this movement met with a very significant echo of sympathy in a number of European countries;
- - in Britain, where the wildcat strike at the Lindsey oil refinery at the beginning of 2009 constituted one of the most significant movement of the working class in this country for two decades, a working class which had suffered some cruel defeats in the 1980s; this movement showed the capacity of the working class to extend its struggles and, in particular, saw the beginnings of a confrontation with the weight of nationalism, with expressions of solidarity between British workers and Polish and Italian immigrant workers.
10) 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. And it is precisely on this level that the bourgeoisie succeeded in scoring some very important points against the working class at the time of the collapse of "really existing socialism". On the one hand, it managed to get across the idea that the perspective of communism is an empty dream: "communism doesn't work. The proof is that it was abandoned in favour of capitalism by the populations who lived in such a system". At the same time, it managed to create a strong feeling of powerlessness within the working class because it was unable to wage any massive struggles. In this sense, the situation today is very different from the one that prevailed at the time of the historic resurgence of the class at the end of the 60s. At that time, the massive character of workers' struggles, especially with the immense strike of May 68 in France and the Italian "hot autumn" of 69, showed that the working class can constitute a major force in the life of society and that the idea it could one day overthrow capitalism was not an unrealisable dream. However, to the extent that the crisis of capitalism was only just beginning, a consciousness of the imperious necessity to overturn this system did not yet have the material base to spread among the workers. We can summarise this situation in the following way: at the end of the 1960s, the idea that the revolution was possible could be relatively widely accepted, but the idea that it was indispensable was far less easy to understand. Today, on the other hand, the idea that the revolution is necessary can meet with an echo that is not negligible, but the idea that it is possible is far less widespread.
11) 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; in general, and this has been verified frequently over the past 40 years, moments of sharply rising unemployment are not the theatre of the most important struggles. Unemployment, massive lay-offs, have a tendency to provoke a temporary feeling of paralysis in the class, which is subjected to the bosses' blackmail: "if you're not happy, lots of other workers are ready to take your place". The bourgeoisie can use this situation to provoke divisions and even outright conflict between those who are losing their jobs and those who have the "privilege" of keeping theirs. On top of this, the bosses and the governments can then fall back on their "decisive" argument: "it's not our fault that unemployment is rising or that you're getting laid off. It's down to the crisis". Finally, when enterprises are being shut down, the strike weapon becomes ineffective, which accentuates the workers' feelings of powerlessness. In a historic situation where the proletariat has not suffered from a historic defeat as it had in the 1930s, massive lay-offs, which have already started, could provoke very hard combats, even explosions of violence. But these would probably, in an initial moment, be desperate and relatively isolated struggles, even if they may win real sympathy from other sectors of the working class. This is why, in the coming period, the fact that we do not see a widescale 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 it is less vulnerable to the bourgeoisie's blackmail, that workers will tend to turn to the idea that a united and solid struggle can push back the attacks of the ruling class, especially when the latter tries to make the whole working class pay for the huge budget deficits accumulating today with all the plans for saving the banks and stimulating the economy. This is when we are more likely to see the development of broad struggles by the workers. This does not mean that revolutionaries should be absent from the present struggles. They are part of the experiences which the proletariat has to go through in order to be able to take the next step in its combat against capitalism. And it is up to communist organisations to put forward, inside these struggles, the general perspectives for the proletarian movement and the steps it has to take in this direction.
12) The road towards revolutionary struggles and the overthrow of capitalism is a long one. Every day that passes shows the necessity for the system to be overturned, but the working class still needs to take a number of essential steps before it can achieve this:
- - the rediscovery of its ability to take control of its struggles since, at the present moment, the majority of struggles, especially in the developed countries, are still in the grip of the unions (in contrast to what we saw in the 1980s);
- - the development of its capacity to unmask the traps and mystifications of the bourgeoisie, which obstruct the road towards massive struggles, and the re-establishment of its self-confidence, since while the massive character of the struggles at the end of the 60s can to a large degree be explained by the fact that the bourgeoisie was caught by surprise after decades of counter-revolution, this is obviously not the case today;
- - the politicisation of its struggles, i.e. its ability to inscribe them in their historic dimension, to see them as a moment in the long, historical struggle of the proletariat against exploitation and for its abolition.
This step is obviously the most difficult to take, above all because of:
- - the rupture that the counter-revolution made between the past and present struggles of the class;
- - the organic break this situation also meant for revolutionary organisations;
- - the retreat in class consciousness after the collapse of the eastern bloc;
- - the deleterious weight of the decomposition of capitalism on the consciousness of the proletariat;
- - the capacity of the ruling class to give rise to organisations (such as the New Anticapitalist Party in France and Die Linke in Germany) whose task is to take the place of the Stalinist parties which have today disappeared or are moribund, or of social democracy which has for decades been discredited by its role of managing the crisis of capitalism. Precisely because they are new these parties are able to sustain major mystifications within the working class.
In fact, the politicisation of the proletarian struggle is linked to the presence of a communist minority within its ranks. The fact that the internationalist milieu is still very weak indicates the distance the working class still has to travel in order to engage in revolutionary struggles and give birth to its world class party, an essential organ without which the victory of the revolution is impossible;
The road is long and difficult, but this should in no way serve to discourage revolutionaries or paralyse their commitment. Quite the contrary!
. World Economic Outlook, Interim Report, March 2009, p.5.
. Ibid., p.7.
. See International Review n° 130 for this and subsequent quotes from the resolution.
. International Review n° 61, "After the collapse of the eastern bloc, destabilisation and chaos".
. International Review n° 130, "Resolution on the international situation", 17th Congress of the ICC, point 7.
. Ibid, point 10.