Internationalism’s 2008 Territorial Conference
Anyone who has followed the ICC press in the last couple of years has certainly noticed the articles where we saluted the emergence of a new militants in the working class searching for political understanding and willing to take militant action to defend proletarian interests. This included articles assessing the mobilization of working class students in France in 2006 and the participation of new groups in the internationalist milieu at the 17th Congress of the ICC, to which four groups were invited, but only three were able to attend (the other couldn't participate because of visa problems). The participation of these groups in the work of the ICC reflects the fact that we have entered a new period in the development of the class struggle, both at the levels of combativeness and consciousness, which has broken with almost 15 years of retreat following the collapse of the Stalinist bloc and the confusions that event had sown, and the great effort by the ICC to open up to the new generation in the spirit of fraternal debate.
Internationalism itself, the ICC section in the US, has just completed its yearly territorial conference, at which some close contacts participated, along with delegates from sections of the ICC in Europe and Latin America. Far from representing the final product of a long work, this participation is just the beginning of a promising perspective for growing involvement of the new generation of internationalist comrades at our territorial conferences in the future. Their presence and contributions have inspired the section to pursue the work of opening the debates to our contacts and sympathizers, have instilled greater confidence among the comrades, and have enriched us with the learning experience of how to fruitfully and fraternally conduct debates.
The importance of the contacts' presence
The significance of the participation of these comrades in an internal moment in the life of the ICC cannot be overstated. Today's recovery of class combat is comparable to that of 1968. In both instances we see a deep reflection on the bankruptcy of the capitalist system, on the dead-end of this agonizing system, and a resurgence of elements attracted by left communist positions. In both instances, there is a break with periods of retreat in combativeness and consciousness: 1968 broke with the counter-revolution which had lasted around fifty years following the crushing of the revolutionary wave that began in 1917. Today, the class is leaving behind the retreat it suffered after the collapse of the Stalinist bloc. The presence of our contacts at the conference was really just the tip of the iceberg of this profound maturation. Because a territorial conference -which every section of the ICC holds regularly-- is a vital moment in the life of the ICC as a whole, this truly unprecedented event for Internationalism will contribute to the strengthening and expansion of the ICC presence in the US. We thus anticipate more and better for the future.
Preparing for the conference was as intense as it was politically invigorating, full of anticipation and questions regarding how to conduct an internal event in which non-members were to participate. The goal was to give the US section a clear orientation for its activities and intervention for the year to come. However, the presence of our contacts demanded that we assured their complete inscription in the debates, that their contribution would, in effect, help the section flesh out these orientations. To this end, the various reports were written in advance of the conference date and given to the participants, as well as several others who were ultimately unable to attend. This issue of Internationalism includes articles based on the reports and discussions at the conference (election campaign, economy, class struggle, repression). Readers will appreciate the depth of the analyses, so this report will not go into the details of those reports and discussions. Instead, we would like to make a balance of how the discussions went in order to learn and advance in the future, when we will have more and more comrades participating in our conferences.
Of the various discussions held -on the aspects of the national situation in the US -- the economic crisis, the class struggle, and the political strategy of the bourgeoisie, and the culture of debate - the latter was the one that drew the most comments and reflections by our contacts. We premised it by pointing out that the culture of debate and class consciousness are not the monopoly of any revolutionary organization, but belong to the proletariat as a whole. The class learns its historical lessons and pushes its consciousness forward through debate, as the experience of the general assemblies-the soviets-have demonstrated historically. Debate is a fundamental aspect of political development. In fact, it politicizes. We see the coming to consciousness as a process that goes from confusion to questioning to making mistakes to clarification through the widest possible collective debate conducted fraternally, while maintaining the unity of the organization. It is crucial that revolutionaries deepen on this question in the context of the present aggravation of the crisis, the consequent resurgence of class struggle, and the increasingly clear perspective that capitalism offers no future. The ICC has a tremendously important role to play, but we don't have all the answers. In the words of one of the contacts, "The development of ideas is facilitated by debate and by questions and criticisms posed with respect between the debaters that leads to clarification. Also, it can lead to a new formulation, combining elements within the comrades, and can lead to a new understanding, which could deepen clarification. This could deepen the discussion and clarity becomes more comprehensive within the context of sincere commitment to clarification."
The report on the economic crisis was welcomed with soberness. It was pointed out that the present recession reveals the vulnerability of a system that relies more and more on credit and massive state intervention to stave off economic disaster. While there was caution as to the use of the concept of ‘sudden collapse' and even "catastrophe", the question was raised as to how much and what margin of maneuver the bourgeoisie will be left with. The economic crisis and its plethora of attacks on pensions, jobs, working conditions, wages, and health benefits, is inevitably linked to the resurgence of the class struggle, because it lays bare the dead end of capitalism. Of course, this is what the bourgeoisie itself is watching, in the context of struggles that more and more are posing the question of solidarity and that show similar dynamic internationally. The beefing up of the bourgeoisie's repressive apparatus is seen as a response to the threat of future upsurges of class struggle. It is also the way for the bourgeoisie to face the manifestations of decomposition, such as the threat of massive immigration, but also terrorism.
As to the political strategy of the bourgeoisie, it was pointed out that there is at present quite enough homogeneity within the ruling class regarding the necessity to rectify imperialist policy to enable the US to intervene militarily in other theaters of operations without any precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, that any of the remaining three major candidates would be viable for the next term in power. In terms of which candidate can best revitalize the democratic mystification, badly in need of a face-lift, the answer was, quite obviously, Obama.
Finally, on imperialism, we acknowledge the impasse of the ruling class, lasting already several years, not on which strategy overall, but on how to implement it. Further, we reaffirmed that the more force the US uses to protect the vestiges of its hegemonic status, the more this results in a further decline of its legitimacy as a world power.
What is the balance sheet for the conference?
The conference was a tremendous learning experience on how to debate and address the points of the discussions. A conference at which contacts participate requires a special level of preparation, a fine tuning of how to pose questions so that the debates can go as deep as possible and an ability to listen for the divergences, hesitations, confusions, the real questioning that goes on within the class, and which our contacts themselves express.
In the words of one of the contacts, "I didn't think depth was reached on some issues, but there was a comprehensive view of the bourgeoisie's strategy and the culture of debate. It certainly opens us up to a deeper analysis on this. I like the way the meetings were held because everyone had a chance to speak and say their ideas, much more valuable than other left meetings that I have gone to. For example, in the trotskyist organizations I had the freedom to ask questions and then they jumped on me when I said something about nationalization that they didn't like. I am glad I came and met you folks and hope we can get together again."
Another comrade commented, "The afternoon started for me with a welcome and I want to say thank you for the invitation. I liked the diversification in the discussion, the different texts, there was something for everybody. I am more familiar today with the conditions of the world...something for the experienced and those less experienced. You made me aware of stuff that I don't think other organizations would share. Giving us the texts in advance was very valuable so I didn't come in here cold. I am aware of being a worker today, not just an American, or whatever brand of nationality or ethnicity or race, but a worker which is much bigger than the other categories. The understanding of consciousness is key. I would have liked to see younger people here in the future. I came in at a 3 and I'm leaving at an 8." For comrades of Internationalism, the conference marks a watershed moment in the effort to open to the fast growing internationalist milieu that surrounds us and which portends great possibilities for the left communist workers movement in the US. Ana, 4/11/08