To all those who have no frontiers: to the proletariat of Ecuador and Colombia

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We have received from Ecuador a position about the military tensions with Colombia following the incursion of its troops onto Ecuadorian territory on the 1st March, when they attacked the FARC. We are publishing the complete text here along with our commentary in order to animate and contribute towards an internationalist discussion.

To all those who have no frontiers: to the proletariat of Ecuador and Colombia

At midnight on the 1st March, Colombian armed forces entered Ecuadorian territory, hunting down and killing more than 23 guerrillas, leaving three women injured; amongst the dead was the number 2 of the FARC. This act of war, killing and massacre has unleashed the "diplomatic crisis" between the two countries; but what is the fundamental cause? First of all, everyone knows that the FARC have been coming and going from Ecuadorian territory for some time. For example, the city of Lago Agrio, which according to the inhabitants has practically become "a resting place for guerrillas and paramilitaries", until now had not been a place of conflict. Is it not strange that the areas which the FARC has controlled for some time on Colombian territory have not been recaptured by the army of this country? Likewise is it not strange that there are Colombian and North American sectors that live from the good business of war and control of drug trafficking?

In order to fully understand this conflict it is necessary to see that it is inescapably linked to the enormous crisis of the international capitalist system. The first reaction to this crisis was the 1st World War, it then spread with the 2nd and the unending wars which have continued since, causing more death and destruction than the 1st and 2nd World Wars combined. This crisis has not been overcome and amongst those affected North America prominently stands out. The economy of this country has entered into a phase of crisis which is unprecedented in its history since its foundation; as often happens with the tricks put in place by capitalist interests, war is a means for trying to absorb this crisis through blood and fire. Therefore is it not strange to see the en bloc pronouncements of the left of capital in favour of so-called "national sovereignty", "territorial inviolability", etc? No, the reality is that the leftists do not represent the interests of the proletariat but the layers that oscillate between the top and the bottom of society. They are always flirting with the most sickening nationalist tendencies. Opposed to this the world proletariat has no fatherland or nation. Our sovereignty as individuals is daily trodden under foot by capitalism's oppression and exploitation. And there is the alarming, widespread worsening of poverty, unemployment, falling wages. Therefore we can have nothing to do with the slogans that divide up the unity of the world proletariat. For our Colombian brothers and sisters there is one enemy, the bourgeoisie of Uribe (President of Colombia) is the same as the bourgeoisie of Correa (President of Ecuador), but we need to clarify about some of the differences, such as the posture of the FARC.

The movement towards the right in the 1980's and spreading into the 1990's was a violent strategy for imposing certain mechanisms aimed at allowing capitalism to emerge from its crisis. However, what was called neo-liberalism did not work. More than that, it generated a process of crisis that produced large scale reactions by various sectors of society. These reactions dominated a number of "social movements" which had the aim of opposing the implementation of "neo-liberalism", i.e. the privatisation of everything and a process of the monopolisation of trade, production, circulation and services, in favour of the world's enormous capitalist emporiums. These social movements had nothing to do with "anti-capitalism"; rather they were the most moderate expressions of the logic of the capitalist system, and never put the system as such in doubt. The move towards the right in Latin America meant a process of accumulation for certain exclusive sections of the bourgeoisie, leaving many sectors of the same class on the outside, some of which ended up being ruined whilst others simply survived on the margin of profit that the market allowed. The ideology of these sectors was increasingly soaking into these social movements, with their speeches about "new democracy", "participation", "equality" etc. This led to these "progressive bourgeois" sectors setting themselves up as political reference points for many of the socially excluded sectors and turning themselves into governments characterised by nationalism, anti-imperialism, the socialisation of certain benefits for the population, the reactivation of the productive apparatus etc; all with the aim of consolidating a local and regional market that would allow these displaced sections of the bourgeoisie, to recuperate the process of accumulation. This could only mean control through the state, with Constitutional Assemblies as the main legal tool. Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia are living examples of this. In none of these countries will we encounter a proletarian process of organisation. Rather this is avoided at all costs, since for these sectors proletarian organisation is an anachronism. The dominant ideology is the same: bourgeois, with the qualification that this has not been designed by Washington, but by the intellectuals of the capitalist system, dressed up as socialists or progressives. These bourgeois nationalists and their "human face" are the norm in countries such as Ecuador, and Correa is a representative of this tendency.

For its part the extreme right, linked to the imperialist interests, faced with the fear of annihilation or being replaced by other bourgeois forces, has had to adopt an apocalyptic discourse, and arm itself with the best technology of assassination, without being able to resolve the conflicts that these horsemen of death have set in motion. However, this crisis is reaching its end. The wars in Iraq, Palestine, and throughout the Middle East, as well as in Colombia, have produced nothing other than ruin, and it is the same for sectors of the bourgeoisie such as Uribe. Certain sectors dominated by the left have taken advantage of this panorama and the lack of proletarian organisation in order to make pronouncements in the name of the proletariat.

The proletariat has never asked them to represent it; their liberation will be the work of their own hands, or it will not be. These supposed representatives of the proletariat are nothing but the most frightening, congealed forms of state capitalism, which is as rancid and rotten as the rest of the capitalist system

For this reason the petty-bourgeois interests of the FARC are not an alternative for the Colombian proletariat. To gain socialism nationally, in one country? This is already a failure. A boss who will be the emperor of the Colombian government until he dies? One party and those who do not agree with it to get a bullet? Putting all private means of production under the control of the state? The spirit of marxism has never been, nor ever will be, based on the falsification of revolutionary theory, through these supposed revolutionary initiatives.

"Workers of the world unite" is still as valid today and tomorrow as yesterday.

Our comments

We want to salute and support this rapid taking of position on events in the region, which is clearly situated on the proletariat's internationalist terrain. The text expresses the courage of these comrades, who faced with the orgy of nationalist declarations, and even the mobilisation of troops towards the frontier with Colombia, have responded with the defence of the interests of the working class, denouncing the calls for defence of the homeland from the government and the leftists.

Internationalism is the fundamental principle of the proletariat. Throughout the history of the workers' movement, its defence and has been a key element of the revolutionary struggle; rejecting it has been synonymous with betrayal. The Social Democratic parties who, faced with the First World War, supported the military initiatives of their respective national bourgeoisies, as much through pacifism in the abstract as defending war in the concrete, betrayed the cause of the proletariat and incorporated themselves into the ranks of the bourgeois state; afterwards these same parties massacred the revolutionary struggles, for example, in Germany. Following on from them, the Stalinist CP's and the Trotskyists (already without Trotsky), faced with the Second World War, lined up the workers behind the war in the name of the "defence of the USSR" and democratic anti-fascism.

The left fractions who remained loyal to internationalism responded to the treason of these currents by putting forwards the revolutionary programme during the worldwide wave of struggles between 1917 and 23. Placing themselves at the head of the proletarian insurgency against war and for the revolution, they formed the Communist International. Then, faced with the death of International, through its transformation into an instrument of the imperialist policy of the Stalinist state in the USSR, and the treason of the CPs, the communist left remained loyal to internationalism, denouncing both gangs in the Second World War and supplying the programmatic bases for a new revolutionary perspective, in particular by drawing up a critical balance sheet of the degeneration of the Russian Revolution.

Therefore it is not strange that today internationalism - and the search for references in the positions of the communist left - are a characteristic feature of those revolutionary elements which are emerging in different parts of the world.

The comrades in Ecuador have clearly inscribed themselves in the defence of internationalism: "Our sovereignty as individuals is daily trodden under foot by capitalism's oppression and exploitation. And there is the alarming, widespread worsening of poverty, unemployment, falling wages. Therefore we can have nothing to do with the slogans that divide up the unity of the world proletariat."

Confronted with the call to struggle against the proletariat in uniform of the enemy nation, the comrades call, as did Lenin and the Bolsheviks in 1914, for turning their guns on the national bourgeoisie: "For our Colombian brothers and sisters there is one enemy, the bourgeoisie of Uribe (President of Colombia) is the same as the bourgeoisie of Correa (President of Ecuador)".

In this case, the defence of internationalism has the added merit that the countries that are claiming to have been attacked (Ecuador) or questioned (Venezuela) by the Uribe government (backed by the USA), present themselves as "peoples'" governments, as "the socialism of the 21st century", saying that workers have reason to support their initiatives against US imperialism. Faced with this, the comrades have clearly shown what the reality is: "In none of these countries will we encounter a proletarian process of organisation. Rather they are avoided at all costs, since for these sectors proletarian organisation is an anachronism. The dominant ideology is the same: bourgeois".

Elements for discussion

In the analysis that this text makes of these events, their underlying causes and consequences, there are some elements that we think provide material for a discussion, which are questions about which the present proletarian elements and groups can reflect.

Is war a solution to the capitalist crisis?

The first question to ask is whether imperialist war has an economic rationality and can it help capitalism in general, or some countries in particular, to offload and ameliorate the weight of the economic crisis[1]. The text by the comrades from Ecuador rightly states that the 1st and 2nd world wars and the localised imperialist conflicts since are the ultimate expressions of the crisis of the capitalist system. They then say:

"as often happens with the tricks put in place by capitalist interests, war is a means for trying to absorb this crisis through blood and fire"

To consider whether war can absorb the crisis, first of all it is necessary to see what war we are talking about, because for the workers' movement the wars of the 19th century, the 20th century and now are not the same. In the 19th century war was able to carry out the function of extending and consolidating the world market, thus pushing forward the development of the productive forces. Therefore revolutionaries supported some of the wars that expressed these potentialities. This is why Marx on behalf of the General Council of the 1st International wrote to president Lincoln, to show its support for the North faced with the South's war of secession from the USA in 1864, or favoured Germany at the beginning of the Franco-Prussian war in 1870[2].

The wars of the 20th century, begun by the 1st World War, expressed another dynamic, the stagnation of capitalism, the fight to the death between the different national capitals for the world market. Thus, the attitude of revolutionaries faced with these wars, as we have already said, was to denounce them and to struggle for the transformation of imperialist war into class war. These wars are the expression of the endless crisis of capitalism, as the Communist International said. It saw the 1st World War as the opening of the period of capitalism's decadence, of wars and revolutions. They did not expresses the alleviation of the crisis, but a step deeper into the abyss.

This problem was posed in depth by the French Communist Left in its 1945 report on the international situation:

"In the epoch of ascendant capitalism, wars (whether national, colonial or of imperial conquest) represented an upwards movement that ripened, strengthened and enlarged the capitalist system. Capitalist production used war as a continuation by other means of its political economy. Each war was justified and paid its way by the opening of a new field for greater expansion, assuring further capitalist development.

"In the epoch of decadent capital, war, like peace, expresses this decadence and greatly accelerates it.

"It would be wrong to see war as negative by definition, as a destructive shackle on the development of society, as opposed to peace, which would then appear as the normal and positive course of development of production and society. This would be to introduce a moral concept into an objective, economically determined process.

"War was the indispensable means by which capital opened up the possibilities for further development, at a time when such possibilities existed and, could only be opened up through violence. In the same way, the capitalist world, having historically exhausted all of the possibilities of development, finds in modern imperialist war the expression of its collapse. War today can only engulf the productive forces in an abyss, and accumulate ruin upon ruin, in an ever-accelerating rhythm, without opening up any possibility for the external development of production.

"Under capitalism, there exists no fundamental opposition between war and peace, but there is a difference between ascendant and decadent phases of capitalist society (and in the relation of war to peace), in the respective phases,. While in the first phase, war had the function of assuring the expansion of the market, and so of the production of the means of consumption, in the second phase, production is essential geared to the means of destruction, ie to war. The decadence of capitalist society is expressed most strikingly in the fact that, while in the ascendant period, wars had the function of stimulating economic development, in the decadent period economic activity is essentially restricted to the pursuit of war.

"This does not mean that was has become the aim of capitalist production, since this remains the production of surplus value, but that war becomes the permanent way of life in decadent capitalism." ( ‘Report on the International Situation', Gauche Communiste de France, International Review 59 page 17).

These wars of the period of decadence do not express the development of the productive forces, but their pure destruction, beginning firstly with labour power, the proletariat killed at the front, and the workers in the rearguard targeted both whilst as work in the factory and in their houses by the bombers, let alone the destruction of the productive apparatus.

If in the 1870 war between Germany and France, the main winner was Germany, whose development meant that by the end of the 19th century it had become a world power, this did not mean that France was impeded in its very important industrial development in the last decades of the 19th century, as can be seen by the organisation of the Universal Expositions of 1878, 1889 and 1900 in Paris.

In the First World War, by contrast, a third of the male population was killed or seriously injured, while European production fell by 30%; and all of this despite the theatre of military operations being relatively small compared to the 2nd World War. In that war the number of dead war was nearly four times more, some 50 million, with the considerable growth of victims amongst the civilian population as a result of the bombing of cities such as Hiroshima or Dresden. Entire nations were laid waste, such as Germany, with all their infrastructure destroyed. Of the "victorious" countries, the USA was only spared from similar destruction because it was thousands of kilometres from the front, whilst the "USSR" paid for its "victory" with 20 million dead and important material destruction. This in turn contributed to the economic backwardness that was at the root of its collapse as a world power in 1989.

The proliferation of local wars following the 2nd World War, proxy conflicts between the antagonistic imperialist blocs in Vietnam, Cambodia, the Middle East, and Africa, confirmed this, as have the wars following the collapse of the Russian bloc and the consequent disintegration of the opposing bloc, where the different powers, great and small, have pursued their own interests through a policy of everyman for himself[3].

On the other hand, contrary to what Rosa Luxembourg affirmed in her book The Accumulation of Capital (and this is one of the few criticisms we have of this book), the production and sale of armaments cannot serve as the stimulus for economic development. Unlike any other product, be they means of production or consumption, which are incorporated into production as constant and variable capital (replacing the worn out means of production, or labour power), the consumption of armaments simply means their disappearance. Therefore they do not contribute to the accumulation of capital, but its destruction.

Does the left of capital represent the interests of the middle classes?

The comrades write:

"Therefore is it not strange to see the en bloc pronouncements of the left of capital in favour of so-called "national sovereignty", "territorial inviolability", etc? No, the reality is that the leftists do not represent the interests of the proletariat but the layers that oscillate between the top and the bottom of society. They are always flirting with the most sickening nationalist tendencies".

First of all, this clearly states that the left of capital does not represents the interests of the proletariat; but what are the consequences of saying that they represent the interests of the middle layers?

The attitude of the proletariat towards these layers cannot be the same as towards the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie is the enemy against which it struggles: the proletariat has to destroy the bourgeois state, and it can not have confidence in any of its expressions without being dragged onto the bourgeois terrain.

However, the question of the middle layers is much more complicated. First of all we do not think that there are really any parties that represent the intermediate strata. In the decadence of capitalism parties[4] are expressions of the whole of the bourgeoisie and tend to identify themselves as clients of the different layers of the bourgeoisie, which use, develop and perpetuate the prejudices of the middle layers and the petty-bourgeoisie against the proletariat.

On the other hand, the intermediate layers do not form a homogeneous social body but are distinguished by numerous strata which often have opposing interests. There is a part of these layers that moves towards the bourgeoisie. However there are others that are being proletarianised and whose conditions are close to those of the proletariat.

This part is not the enemy of the proletariat, although they resist losing their privileges and pose all sorts of obstacles to the revolutionary programme. The dynamic of social relations is pushing these layers towards the proletariat. Faced with this, the proletariat has to display patience and show tolerance, in order to try and convince them and win them to the revolutionary cause.

Although in many cases it does not appear to be the direct vehicle of the bourgeois state, the left of capital is an expression of bourgeois ideology, of the bourgeois conception of the working class. Its integration into the bourgeois state is the fruit of its treason to the workers' cause and all the moral degradation, cowardice, resentment and falsehood that this carries with it.

Against this, the life of the proletariat is expressed by the search for clarity, frankness, fraternity and a willingness to discuss. Therefore we hope that these comments serve to contribute to the internationalist discussion that is emerging within the ranks of the proletariat today.

Comrades in Ecuador, please accept our warm support.

Communist greetings.

The ICC, 13.3.08.



[1] On this question there are different concrete approaches. Some says that war allows the sale of the arms of the main producer countries (the great powers), which thus can counter-act the effects of the crisis; others says that the victorious countries can enjoy the economic benefits through taking slices of the economy of the defeated country, or the raw materials from its soil, etc. Both explanations have been raised in relation to the war in Iraq: Cheney and the Neo-Cons are the heads of military industries, and will thus amass profits, and the USA can have the oil from the Iraqi refineries. We are not going to enter into a discussion of these concrete questions here, but only take up the general analysis of imperialist war and crisis

 

[2] As Marx and Engels argued, the abolition of slavery, through the struggle of the North, meant a great impetus to the development of capitalism in the USA and at the world level; likewise, Germany's war against France could serve to push forward the formation of the German nation

[3] It is not the aim of this article to illustrate the destruction wrought by these wars, but to pose the general problem in order to stimulate the discussion. Those interested in concrete information about these military conflicts and there true "interests" can consult our pamphlet: Nation or Class, and the articles on our website through searching using the name of the conflict

[4] Here we are not talking about the party of the proletariat that is formed in the pre-revolutionary situation and on an international scale.

 

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