ICC Public Meeting in the Dominican Republic: On the Crisis of Capitalism
On June 25, a public meeting took place in the city of Santiago-the second most important city in the Dominican Republic-organized by the Internationalist Discussion Nucleus of the Dominican Republic (Núcleo de Discusión Internacionalista de la República Dominicana, NDIRD). This is NDIRD's second public meeting, to which the ICC was invited to give a presentation on the theme of "The Crisis and Decadence of Capitalism."
The meeting was opened by the NDIRD comrades, who discussed the importance of open, fraternal public meetings with the goal of disseminating the left communist perspective. The ICC's presentation was limited to 20 minutes, so that the largest amount of time was utilized for debate.
In total, more than 25 people attended the meeting. The presence of a significant number of young people (close to half of all attendees) is both noteworthy and characteristic of public meetings conducted in other parts of Latin American in which the ICC has participated. The attendees were sincerely interested on the theme of the meeting. The debate that followed expressed a genuine anxiety over the crisis of capitalism, and its effects on the working class and humanity as a whole.
Below is a brief review of some of the questions brought up during the meeting:
How do you explain the artificial markets created by high levels of debt?
A young woman asked this question in response to part of the presentation in which we stated that in order for capitalism to expand, it requires solvent markets; that is, it requires markets with the capacity to consume the commodities produced. Capitalism's entry into its decadent phase-a period that began around the time of the First World War-brought about the progressive diminishing of such solvent markets. To counter "this reduction of solvent markets outside of the capitalist sphere, the bourgeoisie began using credit as a palliative measure, a measure that has been heavily used from the 1960s on. Hence, a decadent capitalism created an artificial, credit-based market in order to survive." (Presentation).
For this reason, since the 1970s, countries on the periphery of capitalism-including Latin American states-began a process of massive indebtedness in order to be able to purchase the goods and services produced in the First World. That is how, in the last four decades of the last century, peripheral nations accumulated debts so massive they were practically impossible to repay, and which only continued to grow. Payments on these debts constituted a significant percentage of each nation's GDP.
An example, from recent history, of artificial markets is the rapid growth of the real estate market in the United States, which was based on the credit-based purchases of real estate. This ‘real estate bubble' burst, "When credit could not be repaid because of the worldwide crisis and mortgage interest rates began edging up, the credit system collapsed. At this point, what came to the fore were the internal contradictions of capitalism; of the saturation of solvent markets. This is at the same time a credit crisis and a palliative."
If the 1929 economic crisis was followed by a period of recovery, why are we not seeing the type of growth that took place later (in the 1950s and 1960s)?
The answer we gave to this question is that the 1929 crisis was the first great crisis of the period of decadence, the effects of which were felt in the 1930s, and which led to the Second World War. We also stated that the recovery that followed WWII was important, and was a product of Keynesian policies, the growth in productivity, and the more efficient exploitation of pre-capitalist economies in the periphery and of what was left of such economies in the industrialized world. While these measures worked for a while, by the 1960s they had become inefficient, as capitalism entered into another crisis. In response to the new crisis, the bourgeoisie resorted to the massive extension of consumer credit; this measure allowed capitalism to postpone a debilitating collapse of its economy, a collapse which we are now witnessing.
We submit that the current crisis will be more devastating that the Great Depression of 1929. As we argued during the presentation, the current crisis is a credit crisis. The only way out for the bourgeoisie is more massive levels of indebtedness, which will inevitably lead to an even greater crisis in the future.
What can the proletariat do, when its ranks are shrinking due to high unemployment?
This question was asked by one of the attendees, who was worried that in the "free trade zone" of Santiago, where there's a high concentration of factories and assembly plants, the economic crisis has brought about high levels of unemployment. We answered that one of the most painful aspects of the crisis of capitalism is the rapid growth in unemployment. This, however, does not mean the proletariat is disappearing, as there cannot be a bourgeoisie without the proletariat to exploit. A worker does not cease to be part of the proletariat because he/she is unemployed; in fact, we have been witnessing protests by the unemployed of some nations. In addition, the proletariat is not comprised solely of factory workers. Public sector employees, teachers, health care workers, etc., are also part of the working class, sectors of the proletariat that are by no means small or insignificant in Latin America.
Without a doubt, the economic crisis greatly affects the working class, who bear the brunt of the recession. But these are also the circumstances that lead them to the class struggle, in the Dominican Republic as well as abroad.
Why does the ICC talk about regional and local imperialism, when there's a worldwide crisis to discuss?
In our presentation we stated that the current economic crisis-which is also the next stage in the ongoing crisis of capitalism-has consequences that are not limited to the economy or the class struggle. It also informs nations' foreign policies. A constant variable in the history of capitalism has been the national bourgeoisies' fights over available markets. We do not expect the current crisis to change that. However, this crisis is taking place at a time when imperialist blocs have disappeared, evidenced by the fall of the Soviet bloc and the ongoing weakening of American imperialism. These circumstances have led to anarchy in foreign relations, in which each nation's bourgeoisie attempts to impose itself in regional and global geopolitics. Two recent examples are the pathetic attempts of Iran to set itself as a regional power in the Middle East; and Venezuela's use of crude oil and "21st Century Socialism" ideology to make inroads in the geopolitics of Latin America.
The international conflicts that have taken place after the fall of the Soviet bloc will only intensify as the crisis continues to unfold. The proletariat should avoid taking sides in such conflicts, as support for any of the national or regional bourgeoisies only benefit the ruling class.
Faced with barbarism, what type of prospect can humanity expect?
This question reflects in the most definitive manner what we wrote in the introduction to this piece: "expressed a genuine anxiety over the crisis of capitalism, and its effects on the working class and humanity as a whole."
The ICC argued that now more than ever, the future of humanity is being affected by the contradictions of capitalism. This calls for an answer from the only revolutionary class: the proletariat. Though the crisis creates more and more misery and pauperization, it also pushes the working class toward the class struggle. Of course, nowadays the conditions of struggle make things more difficult, as it is not clear how to conduct the struggle, or what to do when a factory closes its doors. Another obstacle is the proletariat's doubts about its revolutionary capacity. But as the crisis unfolds, particularly as the working class continues to experience further attacks on its living standards-with the full blessing of the state-we will see an international proletariat with renewed solidarity and a willingness to fight. In this context, the proletariat will develop its class analysis, and gradually will recover confidence in its strength.
The ICC, as a revolutionary organization, attempts to the best of its abilities to encourage the development of this dynamic. The choices we face are simply, socialism or barbarism-a barbarism that would destroy the entirety of humanity. Faced with such choices, groups such as the NDIRD, which hold an internationalist perspective, play an important role for the Dominican and international proletariat. Much like those of us who are here, who express doubts and ask questions in the context of internationalist analysis, we must debate with one another.
Expressed Interest for Discussion and Exchange
Despite the short time available for the meeting (approximately 1.5 hours), we were able to engage the attendees in debate, which took place at the same time as we all enjoyed a traditional Dominican drink.
Many of the attendees expressed enthusiasm for future opportunities to participate in similar public meetings. As one of the NDIRD comrades observed, the attendees demonstrated genuine interest for debate and for the internationalist perspective.
We warmly salute the coordination of this meeting, as well as the political and organizational abilities of the NDIRD. We encourage the NDIRD to continue to organize public meetings, and we pledge our support.
This meeting was a reassuring event, as it demonstrates that the internationalist perspective has the capacity to unite the proletariat of any country, however small it may be.
ICC, July 14, 2009.