Editorial: The "anti-terrorist" war sows terror and barbarity
The intensification of the US offensive aimed at maintaining its world leadership has led it to unleash a new war in Afghanistan, and to deploy troops there, on the pretext of a world struggle against terrorism. As we will show in the article that follows, this military escalation and its conclusion today in a crushing American victory, far from bringing any kind of stability to the world is, on the contrary, the precursor of new wars and new massacres. Since the article was written, the situation has worsened in the Middle East, which is the object of this brief introduction.
The victorious US offensive failed to provoke the slightest hostile reaction from the Arab countries, and has seriously weakened Yasser Arafat, who now stands accused of a benign tolerance towards Palestinian terrorism. In its wake, Israel has put the PLO leader's back to the wall and unleashed a new storm of violence in the occupied territories. Tsahal has answered the blind terror exercised against the Israeli population with an equally blind violence whose principal victim is the civilian population, children included. Ever since the Oslo accords, the US has criticised - condemned even - successive Israeli governments' policy of deliberately sabotaging the peace process. For the US, it was necessary at all costs to limit the exacerbation of tension between Israel and the Palestinians, since this was liable to crystallise a growing hostility towards Israel throughout the Arab world. Such a situation would inevitably have backfired on the US, given that they could not abandon the Israelis who are their main military ally in the region. But above all, it would have provided an opportunity for certain European countries to play their own hand by supporting this or that diplomatic solution in favour of this or that national fraction of the bourgeoisie - no matter which solution, provided it opposed that of the US. Today the situation is different: the USA has just gained an enormous ascendancy over the rest of the world, and intends to push this advantage as far as possible. By accepting entirely the Israeli offensive in the occupied territories, the US is demonstrating with brutal clarity the inability of anybody - and in particular of the European countries - to provide the slightest support for an alternative to American policy in the Middle East. That said, the present situation will be no more stable than the "Oslo peace": on the contrary, it can only lead to an increase in tension, especially through the development of a profound feeling of hatred towards Israel and the United States.
The United States has today succeeded in completely sidelining the European powers (France, Britain, Germany) on the world arena. It allowed its main rivals no role whatever in the Afghan conflict, allowing them no more than the privilege of running the side-shows inherited from the defeat of the Taliban. The Europeans had intended to position themselves in Afghanistan, as they had done in Kosovo, by means of a UN contingent. It is clear now that this contingent will only operate under American control, and will be nothing but an auxiliary to the new power that they have set up in Kabul.
Obviously, all the second and third-rate powers whose ambitions are thwarted by the success of the world's greatest power will not remain inactive. On the contrary, they will do everything they can to put spanners in the works of US policy, in particular by exploiting all the local tensions stoked up by the American presence. In fact, this reassertion of the American world order has done nothing to appease the existing tensions in the world, as we can see already from the renewal of hostilities between the two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan. Since the terrorist attack by an Islamic group on the parliament building in Delhi on 13th December, tensions between the two countries have risen to a pitch rarely reached before (India, for example, is evacuating civilians from the border with Pakistan to make room for minefields).
Moreover, while the smoke of battle may have obscured momentarily from view the dramatic aggravation of the economic crisis, it has done nothing to diminish its reality. Today, the recession is official in Japan, it is under way in the US and Germany, while growth has fallen dramatically in Europe at the very moment that the Euro's arrival is being fêted. The world situation is well illustrated by the sudden collapse of the Argentine economy, which has just gone bankrupt after four years of recession, with all that that means for the proletariat: unemployment, poverty, and the reappearance for the first time since the end of Spanish rule, of the spectre of famine. The situation in Argentina - a country which forty years ago took pride in belonging to the exclusive club of "developed countries" - reveals the future that capitalism holds for us.
Argentina and Afghanistan reveal clearly the threat that we are facing: economic collapse bringing unemployment, poverty and hunger in its wake (see the article in this issue), and an explosion of military slaughter, destruction and barbarity.
8th January, 2002
The United States has responded to the barbaric bloodbath of the Twin Towers with an "anti-terrorist crusade" that is creating and will create new and worse bloodbaths. The main victims are the workers, peasants, and people of Afghanistan who, since the 7th of October, have suffered a terrible rain of bombs and the unleashing of furious struggles by the local armies.
Along with the present and future slaughter of so many people, housing, industry, fields, hospitals and means of communication are being destroyed; starvation, disease and looting have struck the population. Thousands and thousands of refugees who have tried to cross the frontiers with neighbouring countries have been brutally treated by all: the military, the gangsters controlling roadblocks and the frontier guards.
This is a new hecatomb that has been inflicted on thousands and thousands of human beings. Afghanistan has suffered 23 years of war. It has suffered war under every form of capitalism: first there was the capitalism of the so-called "socialism" of the old USSR; followed by "Islamic" capitalism in its various forms - the Mujahadeen, the Taliban - and now the "most capitalist" capitalism of all, that of the world's greatest power. This infinite barbarity of the system has torn away its deceitful mask of dignity, culture, rights, progress and exposed its true face: that of a dying organism that causes ever increasing wars, destruction and hunger?.
"Shamed, dishonoured, wading in blood and dripping in filth, thus capitalist society stands. Not as we usually see it, playing the roles of peace and righteousness, of order, of philosophy, of ethics -as a roaring beast, as an orgy of anarchy, as a pestilential breath, devastating culture and humanity - so its appears in all its hideous nakedness" (Rosa Luxemburg, The Junius Pamphlet: the crisis in the German Social Democracy. Merlin Press Publication, page 6. This was written against the First World War in 1915.)
Each nation for itself and chaos everywhere
The United States has made it clear that the "anti-terrorist" campaign will not be limited to Afghanistan. The Secretary of Defence has announced "10 years of war", whilst President Bush in his fireside radio chat on Saturday 24th November, declared that "We will face difficult times ahead. The fight we have begun will not be quickly or easily finished. Our enemies hide and plot in many nations. They are devious and ruthless. Yet we are confident in the justice of our cause. We will fight for as long as it takes, and we will prevail", making it clear that "the United States' army will have to be active in different areas of the world".
Why these plans for war? Are they really a defence against terrorism? In the Editorial of the last issue of the International Review we denounced this "anti-terrorist" cover. Terrorism - all the diverse forms of terrorism are alien to the proletariat1- is part of the current activity of all states and forms an increasingly important weapon of war.
Is it simply an operation to conquer the oil fields of Central Asia, as some groups of the proletarian political movement think? We cannot develop here the analysis that is contained in the "Report on Imperialist Conflicts" to our 14th Congress published in International Review n°107 where we say that: "If during the early stage of imperialism, then at the beginning of decadence, war was seen as a means to re-divide the markets, it has now become above all a way of imposing yourself as a great power, to defend your rank against the rest, to impose your authority and save the nation. Wars no longer have an economic rationality, they cost more than they can gain."
The real aim of this chain of military operations by the USA, begun in Afghanistan, is politico-strategic.2 It is a response to the growing challenge to its world leadership that has increased since the Kosovo war, and whose leading protagonists are the European powers - Germany, France - followed by all kinds of regional, local powers and even warlords such as Bin Laden.
In our previous Editorial we put forward the general premises of our analysis: the present military crisis is an expression, not only of the decadence of capitalism, which extends from the beginning of the 20th century, but as we have shown also of the terminal phase of decomposition, which clearly manifested itself in 1989 with the collapse of the old Soviet bloc. The most characteristic feature of this final phase of capitalism's decadence is the enormous disorder that is seen as much in the relations between states as in the form taken by the imperialist confrontations between them. Each nation state tries to take advantage of the situation, without accepting even a minimum of discipline. This is what we characterise as each nation for itself, which is leading to, and at the same time worsening, the general state of imperialist chaos throughout the world. A situation that we foresaw more than ten years ago at the time of the collapse of the old Soviet bloc: "The world appears as a vast free-for-all, where the tendency of "every man for himself" will operate to the full, and where the alliances between states will be far from having the stability that characterised the imperialist blocs, but will be dominated by the immediate needs of the moment. A world of bloody chaos" (International Review n°64 "Militarism and Decomposition", page 12).
Since its beginnings capitalism has contained an insoluble contradiction between the character of its production, that tends to be social and world-wide, and its mode of appropriation and organisation that is necessarily private and national. This contradiction is set in capitalism's genes, generating confrontation and destruction. This tendency was less visible in the ascendant period of capitalism since it was dominated by the dynamic towards the formation of the world market, which objectively unified the planet by subjecting territory and trade throughout the world to capitalist relations of production.3
With the decadence of capitalism, the wars between all the states, the battle of each national imperialism to escape from the growing contradictions of the capitalist regime at the cost of its rivals, have acquired a murderous virulence. The result was two world wars between two rival imperialist blocs, a paroxysm of hatred and "each against all". However, during the "Cold War" that followed (1945-1989) this universal antagonism was contained by the iron discipline imposed by the blocs, founded upon the bloc leaders' military supremacy, strategic and political blackmail and economic subordination. The disappearance of the blocs after 1989 let loose the expression of the national imperialist interests in all their chaotic and destructive fury: "the fragmentation of the old bloc structures and disciplines unleashed national rivalries on an unprecedented scale, resulting in an increasingly chaotic struggle of each against all from the world's greatest powers to the meanest local warlords. This has taken the form of a growing number of local and regional wars?The wars characteristic of the present phase of capitalist decomposition are no less imperialist wars than the wars of previous phases of decadence, but they have become more widespread, more uncontrollable, and more difficult to bring to even a temporary close" ("Resolution on the International Situation from the 14th congress of the ICC" in International Review n°106, page 8). The phase of the decomposition of capitalism has clearly shown that "The reality of decadent capitalism, despite the fact that imperialist antagonisms have given the impression that it is divided into two monolithic units, is the tendency towards the dislocation and disintegration of its components. The tendency of decadent capitalism is towards schism, chaos, from which arises the essential necessity of socialism in order to make the world one unity" (Internationalisme, Gauche Communiste de France, "Report on the International Situation", January 1945).
The biggest loser in this situation is the United States. Its national interests are identified with the maintaining of a world order built for its benefit. The United States is forced to play the world sheriff, faced as it is with the imperialist designs of its main rivals (Germany, France, Britain etc), challenged by numerous states with their own regional ambitions and even by its most loyal allies (the case of Israel is a good example, with its increasingly open sabotage of the "Pax Americana" since 1995); it has to make repeated displays of strength, banging its fist on the table, as we saw with the Gulf War or Kosovo and now in Afghanistan.
However, the present "anti-terrorist campaign" has much more ambitious aims. In the Gulf, the USA limited itself to an overwhelming demonstration of power in order to bring its old allies to heel. In Kosovo it again exhibited its immense military power, although its "allies" pulled a fast one with their "peace plans" with which each one gained its own zone of influence and frustrated the US's plans. Today the US has inflicted a crushing humiliation on its "allies", keeping them hanging about on the sidelines of its military operations, and establishing itself in stable military positions in the crucial area of Central Asia.
The US' first demanded its "allies'" "collaboration", which has meant them standing on the sidelines cheering on the advancing Rambos. France's attempt to send a contingent of soldiers under the guise of "humanitarian aid" has been blocked by the USA in Termez on the Uzbek frontier. Germany's offer of 3,900 soldiers has been "officially" scorned. Great Britain, which from the beginning appeared as an active partner in the operation, has suffered a humiliating rebuke. Blair's efforts to present himself as "commander in chief" have been answered by the immobilisation for over a week of the 6,000 British troops awaiting deployment. This marginalisation has been a bitter blow to these countries' standing on the international stage. But the second event is more important. For the first time in history, the United States has established itself in Central Asia, and it plans to stay there, not only in Afghanistan but also in the two neighbouring ex-soviet republics (Tajikistan and Uzbekistan). This is an open threat to China, Russia, India and Iran. However, its scope is far more profound: it is a step towards an authentic encirclement of the European powers - a new edition of the old policy of "containment" that the US used against Russia. From the high mountains of Central Asia it will exercise strategic control over the Middle East and its oil supplies, which are crucial for the European nations' economies and military action.
Covered by the "anti-terrorist coalition" and having marginalised its European "allies" America can now pursue its military villainy in other countries. Iraq is in its sights. There is talk of intervention in Yemen and Somalia. These new bloody acts will not have as their objective the "tracking down of terrorists" but rather the strategic encircling of its European "allies".
As we said in the Editorial to the last issue of the International Review we do not know if the authors of the crime of the Twin Towers were Bin Laden and his friends, but we do know that the United states has been the main beneficiary, as the selfsame Bush pointed out directly in his fireside chat of 24th November: "the evil the terrorists intended has resulted in good they never expected. And this holiday season, Americans have much to be thankful for" (see www.whitehouse.gov).
United States: the arsonist fireman
When analysing the Kosovo war, our 13th Congress, held in April 1999, underlined that: "The present war, with the new destabilisation of the European and world situation that it represents, is another illustration of the inescapable dilemma confronting the USA today. The tendency to "every man for himself" and the more and more explicit assertion of their imperialist pretensions by the ex-allies of the USA increasingly forces the later to display and use its enormous military superiority. At the same time, this policy can only lead to a still greater aggravation of the chaos that reigns already in the world situation" (International Review n°97: "Resolution on the International Situation", page 3).
The virulence of this contradiction has not diminished, but worsened over the last 10 years. The American godfather's overwhelming displays of military power have clipped its rivals' wings and pulled them into line. But the effects have been short lived. After the Gulf War Germany dared to break Yugoslavia into pieces in order to gain access to the Mediterranean via the Adriatic. America's aims in the Balkans were frustrated as soon as the bombing in Kosovo stopped. The politicians in Washington have tried every possible method to contain this situation but have failed, not because they are incompetent, but because the evolving conditions of decomposing capitalism have worked against them. Pounding the table may intimidate the other gangsters for a while, but they are soon up to their old tricks again. First of all, there are the diplomatic intrigues, the sordid manoeuvres, followed by the game of destabilising this or that country, this or that zone. Later on, there are agreements with the local warlords, finally there are the operations of "humanitarian intervention". All of this is reproduced on a regional scale by the states of the second or third division, generating between them all a bloody jumble of criss-crossing influences. This vicious cycle does nothing but create ruined societies, starvation and mountains of bodies. The great powers, who present themselves as firemen, are in reality arsonists who treacherously and under cover of darkness sprinkle petrol everywhere.
The situation has turned the United States into the principal fire-bomber. Real firemen may light fire-breaks to bring a blaze under control. America's fire-breaks only fan the flames it is trying to extinguish. The contradictions of its position in this period of the historical decomposition of capitalism leaves America no choice but to light them. This is a contradiction that reveals the profound gravity of the world situation. The United States, the first guarantor and beneficiary of the "World Order", at the same time undermines its efforts to defend itself through its devastating military operations.
In the First and Second World Wars, it was the powers that had gained least from the great imperialist share-out of the 19th century (especially Germany) which upset the existing state of affairs, thus putting "world peace" in danger. During the period of violent competition between the USSR and the United States from the 1950s to the 1980s, the weaker Russian bloc always played the destabilising role whilst the Americans could allow themselves the luxury of appearing as being "under attack" or as the "guarantor of the world order". The US then adopted a more offensive policy - though appearing to remain on the defensive - notably via an arms race which its soviet rival was unable to take up due to its own economic and political weakness, and which eventually led to the latter's collapse. However, today, as an expression of the descent of capitalism into barbarity we have the absurd situation where the United States, the principle beneficiary of the world order and its overwhelmingly dominant power, is the one who undermines it most of all.
The present "anti-terrorist" campaign will inevitably follow the same route, the only difference being that the doses of destruction and chaos that are being prepared will be qualitatively and quantitatively more serious that those resulting from previous operations.
There will be no "peace and reconstruction" in Afghanistan, only the foundations for new military convulsions. The Northern Alliance is an agglomeration of warlords and tribal fractions that have momentarily solidified against a common enemy. But the division of power, their internecine feuds and the fires that will be fuelled by the foreign godfathers (Russia, Iran, India) will lead to the kinds of violent confrontations that we have already seen after the taking of Kunduz where the "allied" troops of Dostum and Daud have already clashed. The relegation of the factions based on the Pashtun majority, or at the least the vantage points seized by the other factions at their expense, heralds the ferocity of the confrontations to come. The USA, which has no interest in occupying the whole of Afghanistan4, has deployed its troops in Kandahar to back the Pashtuns and to counter the weight of the Northern Alliance.
America needed Pakistan's support to intervene in Afghanistan, and in exchange Pakistan has been promised American support for those tribes able to counter-balance the Northern Alliance, Pakistan's traditional enemy and a barrier to its influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan needs this "zone of influence" to give it "strategic depth" in its bitter confrontation with India over Kashmir. The increased political influence of the Northern Alliance in the post-Taliban settlement is therefore a breach in Pakistan's defences against India.
India, China, Russia and Iran are furious about the installation of the Americans in Central Asia. While they have no choice but to line up behind the "anti-terrorist" front, all their efforts will be aimed at sabotaging the operations of Big Brother by any means, since they threaten their vital interests. They can do nothing else but respond with the meagre means at their disposal: intrigues, destabilising operations in crucial areas, supporting the most unruly factions.
In the Arab and Islamic countries, the American operation can only incite still further the hatred of broad sections of the population, accentuating the threats of destabilisation and pushing all the bourgeoisies of the area to increase their distance from the United States, as we have already seen in Saudi Arabia with its open shows of bad will.
In the same way, the Afghan operation has dealt a serious blow to the prestige of the "Arab cause", and is therefore a catastrophe for Arafat who has been greatly weakened. This helps Israel to push its Palestinian enemy onto the ropes with the consequence of aggravating the open war that it has been dragging out for years.
Japan has taken advantage of events to despatch a naval flotilla to foreign seas for the first time since the end of World War II,. This is for the moment no more than a symbolic gesture, but one which shows how Japanese imperialism intends to assert its own power, creating a new front of tension that adds even more fire to the world situation.
Germany, France and Great Britain, those most harmed by this present war, have to respond because the American manoeuvre poses a serious threat inasmuch as it is the beginning of a strategy of "continental encirclement" that could suffocate them. They have to counter-attack, perhaps in Africa, perhaps in the Balkans, and they have to accelerate urgently their military spending and plans for the creation of rapid deployment brigades within the framework of the famous "European Army".
In the end, not only will the United States be unable to stabilise the world situation in its favour; it is on the contrary contributing to its destabilisation.
Military instability and convulsions threaten the central countries
Since 1945 the central countries of capitalism (the United States, Western Europe) have enjoyed a long period of stability and peace within their borders. World capitalism as a whole has progressively sunk into a dynamic of wars, destruction, starvation? but the central countries have appeared as oases of peace. Now that situation is beginning to change. The Balkans Wars of the 1990s were the first warning. A devastating war brought instability to the gates of the great industrial concentrations. In this logic, the events in New York have a serious and profound significance far beyond their immediate impact. An act of war has directly struck the world's main power causing a massacre equivalent to a night of aerial bombardment.
We are not saying that war has begun or that it is about to happen in the world's great urban centres. We are a long way from such a situation for one good reason at least: the proletariat of these countries, despite all its difficulties, is not ready to fall into the moral degradation, physical suffering, real terror and the exhausting daily sacrifice that it would have to endure in a state of war. However, we cannot let this conceal the gravity of what has happened. A few months previously, analysing the underlying dynamic of the historical situation and drawing the lessons of the tendencies contained within it, our 14th Congress, in its Resolution on the International Situation stated that "the working class today thus faces the possibility that it could be engulfed by an irrational chain reaction of local and regional wars?This apocalypse is not so far from what we are experiencing today, the face of barbarism is taking material shape before our eyes. The only question remaining is whether socialism, the proletarian revolution, still remains a living alternative" (International Review n°106).
The attack on the Twin Towers has opened a period where instability, the bloody claw of terrorist actions unleashed directly as acts of war, threaten in a much more direct way the main industrialised states, which are less and less the "refuges of order and stability" that they appeared to be until now.5 It is an element of the situation that the proletariat must take account of since terrorism represents a new danger, not only physically (workers were the main victims of the attack in the Twin Towers) but above all politically since the state in the great "democratic" centres has taken advantage of the insecurity and terror generated by such actions in order to call on the population to close ranks around the "defence of national security" and offers itself as the "only guarantee" against chaos and barbarity.
The use of terrorism as a weapon in the struggle between states is not new. What is "new" is the widespread nature of the phenomenon in the last few years. The main states, and in their wake the smaller ones, have multiplied their relations with all kinds of Mafia and/or terrorists in order both to control all kinds of illegal but lucrative business, and as a way of putting pressure on rival states. The use of the IRA by the USA as a means of pressuring Great Britain or of the ETA by France to put pressure on Spain are significant examples. At the same time, all states have developed "special departments" in their armies and secret services: which prepare highly specialised troops for "guerrilla" actions, sabotage, terrorism etc.
The use of the terrorist weapon has accompanied a growing tendency in the war between states to violate the minimal laws that until now have been respected in the confrontations between them. As we say in the "Theses on the Decomposition of Capitalism" "The world situation is characterised by the increase of terrorism, the taking of hostages as a means of war between states in detriment to the 'laws' that capitalism has had in the past for 'regulating' the conflicts between fractions of the ruling class".6
The western governments' reaction to the 11th September has been the rapid reinforcement of their arsenal of state repression which unequivocally demonstrates that they have understood the danger. The United States has set the tone: introduction of identity cards, suspension of habeas corpus, secret military tribunals, "debating" whether to employ "moderate" torture in order to "avoid even worse events" and so on. With this policy it is developing weapons whose ultimate destiny will be to be used against the proletariat and revolutionaries, but what it reveals now is the growing threat of instability, chaos, underhand blows by rivals, that is unfolding in the central countries.
The cordon sanitaire against chaos, raised like a new Berlin Wall to protect the "great democracies", will become increasingly vulnerable. Bush has characterised the "anti-terrorist campaign" as "a long war, in many places on the planet, that will have visible phases and secret ones, that demands many means, some of which will be known and others not", and this demonstrates the level of convulsions and instability that is going to affect the central countries.
To gain a measure of the significance of these threats it is useful to refer to other historical periods. When Imperial Rome, in the first century AD, entered into decadence, the first stage was characterised by violent convulsions in its centre - Rome. This was the period of the "mad emperors" such as Nero, Caligula etc. The "reforms" of the emperors of the 2nd century - the period of great public works which gave rise to the most imposing monuments - pushed the convulsions to the periphery which declined into stagnation and fell increasingly prey to barbarian invasion. The 3rd century saw the return, like a boomerang, of chaos towards the centre, increasingly affecting Rome and Byzantium. The sacking of Rome was the culmination of this process. What until then had been impregnable fortress, fell like a house of cards to the barbarian hordes.
This same process is already been heralded as an unfolding tendency in present-day capitalism. Wars, starvation, ruins, which in the last decades have murdered millions of human beings in the under-developed countries, could end up becoming established with all their destructive force in the heart of capitalism, if the proletariat is not able to react in time by developing its struggle towards the world revolution. As Rosa Luxemburg declared nearly 90 years ago: "The triumph of imperialism leads to the destruction of culture, sporadically during a modern war, and forever, if the period of world wars that has just begun is allowed to take its damnable course to the last ultimate consequence. Thus we stand today, as Friedrich Engels prophesied more than a generation a ago, before the awful proposition: Either the triumph of imperialism and the destruction of all culture, and, as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration, a vast cemetery; or, the victory of Socialism, that is, the conscious struggle of the international proletariat against imperialism, against its methods, against war" (The Junius Pamphlet, page 16).
The working class response
Military escalation is accelerating. The period of fundamentally local wars, outside of the main industrial centres, is coming to an end. We are not talking about a situation of generalised war, of world war, but of a period defined by large-scale wars with world-wide implications and, above all, by their more direct repercussions on the lives of the central countries.
This evolution of the historical situation must make the proletariat reflect. As we said in the Resolution of our 14th Congress, the face of barbarism is becoming more precise, its contours more clearly defined, The barbarity of the outrage of the Twin Towers has as its counterpart the military campaign that the American bourgeoisie has imposed on the whole of society. Bellicose language has spread to American politicians of all tendencies. MacCain, Bush's former rival of in the Republican Party says "Let God take pity on the terrorists because we won't", the Secretary of Defence well known for his bellicose threats and his arrogant disregard for human life said of Kunduz "I want the Taliban dead or prisoners". A soldier fired by one of generalissimo Bush's speeches declared "after hearing the President I want to go and kill the enemy".
"War is methodical, organised, gigantic murder. But in normal human beings this systematic murder is possible only when a state of intoxication has previously been created. This has always been the tried and proven method of those who make war. Bestiality of action must find a commensurate bestiality of thought and senses; the later must prepare and accompany the former" (Rosa Luxemburg, op. cit. page 20). The American bourgeoisie has been putting pressure on the proletariat and the American population through systematic campaigns of patriotic ardour, with carefully cultivated hysteria about the threat of Anthrax, with incredible rumours about "Arab" outrages etc in order to awaken the basest instincts and to catalyse the worst brutality. Its European brothers have been doing the same thing more discreetly, but with greater cynicism and sophistication.
We are not in the same situation that Rosa Luxemburg fought against in 1914, nor in that of 1939, when the mass of the proletariat was drawn into war. Today, the tendency of world society is towards the development of the class struggle of the proletariat and not towards generalised world war. The conditions for patriotic intoxication, for bestial hatred towards peoples designated as the enemy, for daily slavery under the military jackboot in the factory, in the office, in the street, for an acceptance of methodical and systematic murder for the "just cause" championed by the state, are not to be found today in the proletariat of the United States or any other of the central countries.
Does that mean to say that we can rest easy in our beds? Absolutely not! As we demonstrated in our report on the historic course adopted by our last Congress (see International Review n°107) in the present period, the terminal phase of capitalist decomposition, time is not on the side of the proletariat and the longer the working class' ability to gain the level of consciousness, collective strength and unity necessary for overthrowing the capitalist monster is delayed, the greater is the risk of the destruction of the foundations for communism and that the proletariat's capacity for unity, solidarity and confidence will undergo a relentless weakening.
The accumulation of events that has taken place over the last two months has revealed a sudden acceleration of the situation. They have concentrated three very important elements of the world situation:
- The acceleration of imperialist war.
- A violent and spectacular aggravation in the economic crisis with the avalanche of lay-offs, which are already much higher than in 1991-93.
- A cascade of repressive measures, in the name of "anti-terrorism", on the part of the "democratic" states.
Assimilating these events and drawing out the perspectives that they contain is not easy. While we have not been surprised, we have to confess that their virulence and rapidity has surpassed our expectations, and that we are far from seeing clearly all their implications. It is thus natural that a certain perplexity, combined with feelings of fear and disorientation, will dominate the proletariat for a certain time. This has happened before. For example, faced with the acceleration of the economic crisis with its procession of attacks, the proletariat has not immediately entered into struggle, due to an initial sense of bewilderment and surprise. Only later, when it has begun to digest events, has it begun to develop its struggles. This is what happened faced with the crises of 1974-75, 1980-82 and 1991-93.
However, the fact that the three elements (crisis, war and growing repressive apparatus) are present at the same time in so concentrated a form and in such enormous proportions, means that if the proletariat can develop its combativity and struggles in response to the central axis - the worsening of the crisis - this could be the premise for a very profound and global development of consciousness within the ranks of the proletariat.
The present wars, as they appear today, do not make it easy to develop a consciousness about their nature since the tangle of religious and ethnic fanaticism, characteristic of decomposition, as well as the proliferation of terrorist acts, are like trees that hide the forest of their real causes and the main culprits: capitalism and the great powers. Equally, the bourgeoisie is well prepared. It was not without reason that in our previous Congress we said "?in view of the degradation of the world situation the bourgeoisie is afraid that the class will discover those episodes which demonstrate that it is the class which holds the future of humanity in its hands: the revolutionary wave of 1917-23; the overthrow of the bourgeoisie in Russia, the ending of World War 1 through the revolutionary movement in Germany" ("Resolution on the International Situation" from the 13th Congress of the ICC, International Review n°97).
The Left that is in power in the majority of European countries, pushes towards war but at the same time toasts pacifism and looks for all kinds of justifications for its military excesses only too conscious of the fact that: "When and where has there been a war since so-called public opinion has played a role in government calculations, in which each and very belligerent party did not, with heavy heart, draw the sword from its sheath for the single and sole purpose of defending its Fatherland and its own righteous cause from the shameful attacks of the enemy? This legend is as inextricably a part of the game of war as powder and lead" (Rosa Luxemburg The Junius Pamphlet, page 31).
These obstacles can, however, be overcome by the proletariat since it has, in a global and historic sense, though not massively at present, the weapon of consciousness. "The bourgeois revolutions, such as those of the eighteenth century, storm quickly from success to success. They outdo each other in dramatic effects: men and things seem set in sparkling diamonds and each day's spirit is ecstatic. But they are short-lived; they soon reach their apogee, and society has to undergo a long period of regret until it has learnt to assimilate soberly the achievements of its period of storm and stress. Proletarian revolutions, however, such as those of the nineteenth century, constantly engage in self-criticism, and in repeated interruptions of their own course. They return to what has apparently already been accomplished in order to begin the task again; with merciless thoroughness they mock the inadequate, weak and wretched aspects of their first attempts; they seem to throw their opponent to the ground only to see him draw new strength from the earth and rise again before them, more colossal than ever; they sink back again and again before the indeterminate immensity of their own goals, until the situation is created in which any retreat is impossible, and the conditions themselves cry out: Hic Rhodus, hic salta!" (Marx, "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte", in Surveys from Exile, Vol 2 of The Pelican Marx Library, page 150)."For the ultimate triumph of the ideas set forth in the Manifesto Marx relied solely and exclusively upon the intellectual development of the working class, as it necessarily had to ensue from united action and discussion. The events and vicissitudes in the struggle against capital, the defeats even more than successes, could not but demonstrate to the fighters the inadequacy hitherto of their universal panaceas and make their minds more receptive to a thorough understanding of the true conditions for the emancipation of the workers" (Engels: "Preface to the fourth 1890 German edition of the Communist Manifesto", Marx and Engels Selected Works, Lawrence and Wishart, London page 33).
Rosa Luxemburg said of the international proletariat "Gigantic as its problems are its mistakes. No firmly fixed plan, no orthodox ritual that holds good for all times, shows him the path that he must travel. Historical experience is his only teacher; his Via Dolorosa to freedom is not only covered with unspeakable suffering, but with countless mistakes. The goal of his journey, his final liberation, depends entirely upon the proletariat, on whether it understands to learn from its own mistakes. Self-criticism, cruel, unsparing criticism that goes to the very root of the evil is life and breath for the proletarian movement. The catastrophe into which the world has thrust the socialist proletariat is an unexampled misfortune for humanity. But Socialism is lost only if the international proletariat is unable to measure the depths of the catastrophe and refuses to understand the lessons that it teaches" (op cit. page 7).
The bourgeois revolutions were much more conscious acts than the social process that brought slavery to an end and led to the feudal regimes. However, they were still dominated by the overwhelming weight of objective factors. The proletarian revolution, on the other hand, is the first in history where the determinant factor is its class-consciousness. This crucial feature of the proletarian revolution, that has been energetically underlined by Marxists as we have seen, is even more powerful and more vital confronted with the present historical situation of the decomposition of capitalism.
1 See International Review issues 14 and 15 for our position on "Terror, Terrorism and Class Violence"
2 See our article "Strategy or oil profits" in this issue.
3 It is thus absurd to talk about "globalisation" today. The world market was formed at least a century ago, and capitalism's objective capacity to unify the living conditions of the great majority of humanity has long since been exhausted. Concerning the real meaning of so-called "globalisation" see our article "Behind the 'globalisation' of the economy the aggravation of the crisis of capitalism" in International Review n°86.
4 It has learned from the trap that the Russians fell in to during the 1979-89 war.
5 As we have already said in the Editorial to International Review n°107 we do not know who is responsible for the outrage of the 11th September. However, that such a monstrosity has taken place reveals the advance of chaos and instability and their direct effects in the central countries
6 Published in 1990 in International Review n°62 and republished in International Review n°107.