With capitalism at an impasse, the working class alone carries the hopes of the future

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An overview of the international situation reveals the accentuation of barbarism and global chaos. The disturbing series of terrorist attacks during the summer, striking once again at the heart of the capitalist world, alongside the missile-rattling over North Korea and the endless wars in the Middle East, illustrate this tragically.

 

The impasse of an entire mode of production

Whichever party is in power and whatever their security measures, their promises empty when they claim to want to improve our daily lives and security. In fact, their behaviour is dictated by totally conflicting objectives: ensuring the exploitation of wage labour to the maximum in times of economic crisis and defending their imperialist interests through military and police operations which claim most of their victims among the civilian populations. It all confirms the historical impasse of a bourgeois ruling class that has run its course, but which is willing to do anything to maintain its privileges and its obsolete mode of production. Each and every day, corruption, increasing tensions between bourgeois cliques, mounting unemployment and poverty are the major elements of a chronic economic crisis, an expression of a capitalist mode of production whose prolonged agony now threatens the human species. In spite of the desperate attempts of the ruling class to create more lucid, responsible and presentable factions, as was the case in France with the successful effort to put Macron in power, the discredit suffered by the traditional parties is often leading to the formation of governments by elements least suited to defending the higher interests of capital: there is an inability to implement real global and coherent policies, to have a profound vision of the long term, beyond instant profit and return on investment.

This phenomenon is fueled by "populism", a product of capitalist decomposition which has become insidiously embedded in society. In many countries the ruling class has gradually lost control of the political machinery it has used for decades to try to curb the most harmful political effects of a bankrupt capitalism. The state and the most conscious factions of the bourgeoisie are attempting to react and with some success, as we just underlined in the case of Macron, but this can only delay or slow down the process, and cannot really stop it. On the contrary, the situation will continue to worsen. And indeed, since Brexit and the election of Trump, the total unpredictability of the situation has only given a boost to the dynamics of "every man for himself" and to the growing barbarism. Throughout the world, the politicians at the hub of major decisions tend to express the darkest aspects of human behaviour. We see the actions of a manipulative and paranoid Putin, while Erdogan pursues a personality cult in Turkey, a diehard Maduro clings to power at any cost, willing to "burn" everything in Venezuela, in the Philippines Duterte directs death squads ready to kill any opponent and openly boasts about it, and North Korea’s Kim-Jong-Un displays the traits of a real psychopath ... the list is too long to continue. The most striking thing of all is that the world's leading power, the United States, is now led by a personality like Trump, a narcissist steeped in brutality and known for his unpredictability. In Britain, too, the Brexit vote then the semi-defeat of Theresa May in the last general election makes the future of the EU very uncertain. How do we explain the simultaneous appearance of so many and sadly similar personalities, in what was previously the preserve of a few "banana republics"?

For us this is not all the fruit of mere chance, but a product of the current historical period. The phase of decomposition of the capitalist mode of production stamps its mark on the history and the personality of men. It defines their limits by almost dictating their actions, their displays of impotence, of blindness, of irresponsibility, of immorality, their thirst for repression and terror. From among the most remarkable reflections of the workers' movement on the subject, we look back to the writings of Trotsky: "Certain elements of similarity of course are accidental, and have the interest only of historic anecdotes. Infinitely more important are those traits of character which have been grafted, or more directly imposed, on a person by the mighty force of conditions, and which throw a sharp light on the interrelation of personality and the objective factors of history"[1]  Using a marxist theoretical framework, subtly outlining the portraits and the crossed destinies of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and King Louis XVI of France, Trotsky perfectly depicted the imprint of historical decline on these famous figures of the aristocracy:

"Louis and Nicholas were the last-born of a dynasty that had lived tumultuously. The well-known equability of them both, their tranquillity and “gaiety” in difficult moments, were the well-bred expression of a meagreness of inner powers, a weakness of the nervous discharge, poverty of spiritual resources. Moral castrates, they were absolutely deprived of imagination and creative force. They had just enough brains to feel their own triviality, and they cherished an envious hostility toward everything gifted and significant. It fell to them both to rule a country in conditions of deep inner crisis and popular revolutionary awakening. Both of them fought off the intrusion of new ideas, and the tide of hostile forces. Indecisiveness, hypocrisy, and lying were in both cases the expression, not so much of personal weakness, as of the complete impossibility of holding fast, to their hereditary positions."[2]  And he adds: " The ill-luck of Nicholas, as of Louis, had its roots not in his personal horoscope, but in the historical horoscope of the bureaucratic-caste monarchy. They were both, chiefly and above all, the last-born offspring of absolutism."[3]

With the phase of decomposition of capitalism, we are seeing a new dimension because the last two fundamental classes in history, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, in their reciprocal confrontation, have not as yet succeeded in affirming a clear perspective for society, in giving a visible meaning to our future. Our epoch also finds its own "offspring" of Louis XVI and Nicholas II. It is in many ways a caricature of what went before: today’s bourgeois leaders offer us only the smell of a scorched earth. Society is blocked, humanity is enclosed in the tragic prison of the immediate, thus plunging the world into everyman for himself, theft, chaos and growing barbarism.

Populist policies worsen the world situation

Since the election of Trump, the world situation has deteriorated considerably. Because of the particular historical context, this despotic and megalomaniac business leader, animated by a sort of sly, obscurantist, "anti-elite" revolt coming from within civil society, is being pushed to break with the traditions and codes of the established order.

The consequences can be sharply illustrated. We have seen Trump's foreign policy pour oil on the fire by entering into a game of military “stakes-raising” with North Korea, highlighting in the background a real and increasingly tense and dangerous stand-off with China and other Asian powers. Another significant example, among many, is Trump's conduct in the Middle East, challenging the traditional US policy through brutal diplomatic shifts, particularly against Iran, also throwing oil into this highly inflammable region. As a result, the United States, a declining power, appears even less "reliable", especially when they themselves are drawn into the dynamics of military tensions, driven to accelerate the spiral of war. This is the case in Mosul, where the war between the US-led coalition and Daesh has produced 40,000 civilian deaths, so quietly announced by the media. While the stated aim was to "fight against terrorism", the outcome was the opposite: an increased wave of attacks, such as the tragic events in Barcelona, and the resurgence of a flow of refugees trying to flee war and misery in peril of their lives. The latter are either driven back to camps or face death in the Mediterranean. This total absence of a political vision, this stalemate in a logic of war, will only generalise the violence and the mechanisms of revenge, spreading the cancer of jihadist ideology and terrorism towards new geographical zones.

These tensions and military conflicts in Asia and the Middle East are not unique. In the same vein, Trump's announcements of a possible US military intervention in Venezuela only hardened Maduro's position: instead of easing the situation, the latter using this US threat to justify his policies in the name of anti-imperialism. With regards to the domestic politics in the United States, Trump's wayward declarations and political actions have sharpened differences within the upper echelons of the state, and further discredited the government, for example, with the President's sympathy for the most extreme right-wing gangs following the recent incidents in Charlottesville, Virginia. All this weakens the image of the United States and especially of its head of state across the world.

But these worsening political and military tensions are not the only expressions of the historical impasse towards which capital and its corrupt leaders are driving us. The decisions taken also fuel the commercial war, despite alarm bells like the financial crisis of 2008. The strengthening of protectionism and "everyman-for-himself" in the economic sphere, the policy of "America First", will only plunge the world further into global crisis, mass unemployment and social deprivation. The worsening trade war also brings with it an increasingly irresponsible attitude to the protection of nature. Trump's statements, surpassing the bold claims of the oil lobby, reveal his cold casualness towards the threat of global warming. His ironic view of the Paris agreements (COP 21) shows clearly the increasing folly and vandalism of the ruling class in the face of a looming ecological catastrophe.

In short, what we can observe is that the ideological superstructures of bourgeois society, which are affected by the impasse of the capitalist mode of production, themselves act as material forces of destruction. The lack of perspective affecting society also constitutes a serious hindrance for the only class capable of posing a revolutionary alternative, the proletariat. Its loss of class identity and the propaganda seeking to distort and attack its revolutionary traditions oblige the proletarian political milieu and revolutionary organisations like the ICC to have a very great sense of responsibility. Because it bears a programme rooted in the whole historical experience of the workers' movement, the revolutionary organisation is indispensable for enabling the working class to reconnect with its past, in particular the wave of international struggles of the 1920s, and within that the combat of the Bolshevik party which resulted in the victory of Red October. With the centenary of the Russian Revolution of 1917, it is important to reconnect with the fundamental lessons of this irreplaceable experience. By appropriating this past experience critically, in a spirit of struggle, the proletariat will be able to prepare a future worthy of the human species.

WH, 28 August 2017

 



[1]              Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, Volume 1,

                https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1930/hrr/ch06.htm

 

[2]     Ibid.

 

[3]     Ibid.