The New World Disorder

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"The new world disorder": this is what the English-speaking press is now calling the ‘new world order' that ex-president Bush bequeathed to his successor. The panorama is terrifying and catastrophic. The list of misfortunes hitting humanity is very long. The bourgeois press and television make this clear enough. They might like to hide the facts, but if they tried it would discredit them totally. But since they must still serve the ideology of the bourgeoisie, they separate the numerous tragic events taking place, they refuse to see the link between them, the common root: the historic impasse that capitalism has reached, the putrefaction of this social system, which explains the multiplication of imperialist wars and the brutal aggravation of the world economic crisis with all the ravages that it brings. To recognise the unity between all these characteristics of capitalism today, to recognise that they are all getting worse together and that they mutually influence each other, would be to expose the fact that capitalism is leading us into endless barbarism, that it is dragging the whole of humanity into a bottomless pit.

Recognising the link, the unity, the common cause behind all these elements of capitalism also serves to accelerate the development of consciousness about the historic alternative facing humanity today. For there is indeed a single alternative to this irreversible catastrophe: to destroy this society and build a radically different one. And there is one social force capable of taking on this task: the working class, which is both an exploited class and a revolutionary class. It alone can do away with capitalism, put an end to all these catastrophes and give birth to communism, a society in which men will no longer be led to kill each other but will be able to live in harmony.

No words are strong enough to denounce the barbarism and scale of the murderous local conflicts that are bloodying the whole planet. No continent is spared. These conflicts are not the inevitable result of ancestral hatreds; they are not the result of some natural law which determines that men are always evil, always looking for confrontation and war. This barbarous slide into imperialist war is not a natural fatality. It is the product of the historic impasse that capitalism has reached. The decomposition which is hitting capitalist society, the lack of any hope or perspective except individual survival, or membership of armed gangs in a war of each against all, is responsible for the explosion of local wars between populations who, for the most part, lived together harmoniously, or at least lived side by side, for decades or even centuries.

The putrefaction of capitalism is responsible for the thousands of deaths, killings, rapes and tortures, the famine and the deprivation decimating whole populations, men, women, and children. It is responsible for the millions of terrified refugees, forced to flee their houses, their villages, their regions, no doubt for good. It is responsible for the splitting up of families, for forcing parents to send their children away in the hope that they will escape the horrors, the massacres, the death, or the forced conscription, usually without any hope of seeing them again. It is responsible for the gulf of blood and revenge which is going to separate populations, ethnic groups, regions, villages, neighbours, parents. It is responsible for the daily nightmare in which millions of human beings are forced to live.

The decomposition of capitalism is also responsible for throwing out of capitalist production, or any productive activity at all, hundreds of millions of men and women, crammed together into the huge slums that now surround the mega-cities of the ‘third world'. The luckiest of them may from time to time find a super-exploited job which hardly manages to feed them. The others, under the whip of hunger, are compelled to beg, steal, to engage in all kinds of petty trafficking in order to get a pittance; they are pushed inexorably into the twilight of alcohol and drugs; they are forced to sell their own small children as virtual slaves to work in mines, in innumerable small workshops, or as prostitutes. Perhaps the worst of all this is the increasing number of abductions of street children, who are then killed because their livers or their eyes can be sold on the market. With all this material and moral degradation, which affects millions of humans beings, is it so astonishing that there are so many adults, adolescents, and even children of ten or less who are ready for any kind of horror or infamy, who are ‘free' of any morality, any values, any respect, for whom the lives of others are nothing because their own lives have been worth nothing since they were small children; that they are ready to become mercenaries in any guerilla group or street gang, led by any chief, general, colonel, sergeant, mafia boss; that they should stoop to torture, murder, systematic rape in the service of ‘ethnic cleansing' and other horrors?

There is a cause for this growing madness. There is something responsible for it: the historic impasse of capitalism.

Capitalism's decomposition aggravates local wars and conflicts

The decomposition of capitalism is responsible for the frightful wars that are spreading throughout the territory of the ex-USSR, in Tadjikstan, Armenia, Georgia...it is responsible for the endless confrontations between militias that used to be allies in Afghanistan, and who now take turns flinging their missiles and shells across the streets of Kabul. It is responsible for the continuation of the war in Cambodia, for subjecting the country to blood and fire. It is responsible for the dramatic proliferation of wars and ethnic conflicts throughout the African continent. It is responsible for the renewal of ‘small' wars, if we can use the term, between armies, guerillas and mafias in Peru, Colombia, in Central America. While the populations of these areas have nothing, these armed gangs, whether formally part of the state or not, have considerable stocks of weapons, as often as not the fruits of the drugs trade, which is expanding all over the world, a trade that they control and practice themselves.

The decomposition of capitalism is responsible for the break-up of Yugoslavia and for the chaos that has come out of it. Workers who used to work together in the same factories, who struggled and went on strike shoulder to shoulder against the Yugoslav capitalist state, peasants who cultivated land next to each other, children who went to the same school, the numerous families which are the fruit of ‘mixed' marriages, are now separated by an abyss of blood, of killings, of torture, of rape and plunder.

"The fighting between Serbs and Croats left some 10,000 dead. The fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina several tens of thousands (the Bosnian president has spoken of 200,000), 8,000 of them in Sarajevo...It is estimated that in the territory of ex-Yugoslavia there are two million refugees and victims of ‘ethnic cleansing'" (Le Monde des Débats, February 93).

Millions of men and women, of families, are seeing their hopes ruined, with no possible compensation, with no perspective ahead of them except despair, or even worse, blind revenge.

Imperialist antagonisms exacerbate local conflicts

It is necessary to denounce with the utmost rigour the bourgeois lie that this period of chaos is purely temporary, that it is the price that has to be paid for the death of Stalinism in the eastern countries. We communists say that chaos and wars are going to develop and multiply. The phase of capitalist decomposition can offer neither peace nor prosperity. On the contrary, even more than in the past, it can only exacerbate the imperialist appetites of all capitalist states whether powerful or feeble. All of them are caught up in the war of each against all. There is not one conflict in which imperialist interests are absent. It is said that nature abhors a vacuum. It is the same with imperialism. Each one, no matter how strong or weak, is unable to leave a single region or country alone, for fear that a rival might grab it. The infernal logic of capitalism inevitably compels the various imperialisms to intervene.

No state, whether large or small, weak or powerful, can escape the implacable logic of imperialist rivalries and confrontations. It is just that the weakest powers, in order to defend their particular interests as best they can, have to line up according to the evolution of global imperialist antagonisms. They all participate in the rampaging development of local wars.

This period of chaos is not temporary. The evolution of global imperialist alignments around the main world imperialist powers, the USA of course, but also Germany, Japan, and, to a lesser degree, France, Britain, and Russia [1], China, throws oil on the fires of local wars. In fact, it is the old western imperialist powers at the very heart of world capitalism which are doing most to fan the flames of local wars and conflicts. This is the case in Afghanistan, in the Asiatic republics of the ex-USSR, in the Middle East, in Africa (Angola, Rwanda, Somalia) and of course in ex-Yugoslavia.

In Yugoslavia, the growing difficulties of the US in imposing its leadership over the other powers

Ex-Yugoslavia has become the focal point in global imperialist rivalries, the place where, through the terrible war that has been going on, the imperialist stakes of the present period are being played for. If the historic impasse of decadent capitalism, its phase of decomposition, is responsible for the break-up of Yugoslavia (as it was for the break-up of the USSR), and for the aggravation of tensions between the peoples who used to be part of it, it is the imperialist interests of the great powers which are responsible for the outbreak and dramatic intensification of the war. Germany's recognition of Slovenia and Croatia provoked the war, as the Anglo-Saxon press repeats often enough in hindsight. The USA, of course, but also Britain and France, consciously pushed Serbia - which was only waiting for the chance - to dole out military punishment to Croatia. And from there on, the divergent interests of the imperialist powers we have mentioned determined the whole slide into military barbarism.

The atrocities committed on all sides, and especially the disgusting policy of ‘ethnic cleansing' undertaken by the Serbian militias in Bosnia, have been cynically used by the media propaganda of the western powers to justify their political, diplomatic and military interventions, and to hide their divergent imperialist interests. In fact, behind the humanitarian speeches, the great powers are confronting each other and have kept the fire going while pretending to be firemen.

Since the end of the cold war and the disappearance of the imperialist blocs that went with it, the allegiance owed to the USA by powers like Germany, France and Japan, to mention only the most important, has also disappeared. Inevitably, a country like Germany is destined to pose as an alternative pole of imperialist attraction to the US pole. Since the end of the Gulf war, these powers have more and more defended their own interests, putting the USA's leadership into question.

The break-up of Yugoslavia and the growing influence of Germany in the region, particularly in Croatia, and thus in the Mediterranean, represents a reverse for the American bourgeoisie in strategic terms [2], and it is also a bad example of its capacities for political, diplomatic and military intervention. It goes in the opposite direction to the lesson that it delivered via the Gulf war.

"We failed" said Eageleburger, Bush's Secretary of State. "From beginning to end, to right now, I am telling you I don't know any way to stop it (the war) except with the use of military force" (International Herald Tribune, 9.2.93). How is it that American imperialism, which was so prompt to use an incredible armada against Iraq two years ago, has not up till now resorted to massive military force?

Since last summer, each time the Americans were on the point of intervening militarily in Yugoslavia, when they wanted to bomb Serbian positions and airports, the rival European powers threw a spanner in the works. Last June, Mitterand's trip to Sarajevo, in the name of ‘humanitarian intervention', allowed the Serbs to lift the siege of the airport while at the same time saving face in front of the USA's threats to intervene; the sending of French and British soldiers within the UN force, then the reinforcement of the latter, then the Vance-Owen negotiations with all sides of the conflict - all this removed the justifications and, above all, considerably weakened the guarantee that a US military intervention would be successful. On the other hand, they aggravated the fighting and the massacres. as we have seen with the Vance-Owen Plan, which has been used by the Croats to reopen the war against Serbia in Krajina.

The hesitations of the new Clinton administration about supporting the Vance-Owen Plan, which has been devised in the name of the EC and the UN, reveal the USA's difficulties. Lee Hamilton, the Democrat president of the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, summarised succinctly the problem facing US imperialist policy:

"The underlying fact here is that no leader is prepared to intervene massively in the former Yugoslavia with the kind of resources we used in the Gulf to throw back aggression, and if you are not prepared to intervene in that fashion then you have to deal with less forceful means and work within them" (International Herald Tribune, 5.2.93).

Following Hamilton's realistic advice, Clinton has seen reason and finally decided to support the Vance-Owen Plan. Like any good poker player, he has also decided to play the card of humanitarian intervention and to air-drop food supplies to the famished populations of Bosnia [3]. At the time of writing, the food containers dropped in the countryside still have not been found! Apparently, the ‘humanitarian' air-drops are as accurate as the ‘smart bombs' used against Iraq. Their actual result has been to intensify the war around the besieged cities. The number of victims has increased dramatically, with thousands of men, women and children fleeing desperately in the snow and the cold, under fire from artillery and snipers. But for the American bourgeoisie, the important thing is to begin imposing its military presence in the area. Moreover, its rivals are not fooled. "faced with the renewal of the fighting, and for humanitarian reasons", of course, the German and Russian bourgeoisies are openly talking about intervening themselves, about participating in the air-drops and even sending ground troops. The population's purgatory has a long way to go.

Imperialism leads to military confrontations

All the proposals of the American leaders confirm it: the US is more and more going to be compelled to use military force - and thus to exacerbate conflicts and wars. Humanitarian campaigns were the justifications for the displays of force that it carried out recently in Somalia and Iraq. These ‘humanitarian' displays were aimed at reasserting US military power in the eyes of the world, and, as a consequence, the impotence of the European powers in Yugoslavia. They also had the aim of preparing a military intervention in Yugoslavia viv-a-vis other rival imperialisms (as well as in front of the American population). As we have just seen, up till now the results have not measured up to their hopes. On the other hand, famine and military confrontations between rival factions continue in Somalia. Regional imperialist tensions in the Middle East are getting sharper, and the Kurds and the Shiites are still subjected to the terror of the various states in the region.

US imperialism's growing resort to the military card has the consequence of pushing its rivals to develop their own military strength. This is the case with Japan and Germany, who both want to change the Constitutions they inherited from the defeat of 1945, which restrict their capacities for armed intervention. It also has the consequence of stoking up the rivalries between the USA and Europe on the military level. The formation of the Franco-German army corps was a manifestation of this. In Yugoslavia, there is a real political battle going on to decide whether ‘humanitarian intervention' will be carried out under the command of the UN or NATO. In a more general sense, "a critical situation is shaping up between the Bonn government and NATO" (Die Welt, 8.2.93). This is confirmed by the former French president Giscard d'Estaing, who says that "defence is the sticking point in Euro-American relations" (Le Monde, 13.2.93).

The repulsive hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie has no limits. All the American military interventions, or those done under the cover of the UN - Somalia, Iraq, Cambodia, Yugoslavia - have been carried out in the name of humanitarian aid. All of them have served to rekindle and aggravate horror, war, massacres, the flight of refugees from fighting, misery and famine. They express and raise to a new level imperialist rivalries between small, medium, and above all the great powers. All of them are being pushed to increase their expenditure on arms, to reorganise their military forces in order to deal with new antagonisms. This is the real meaning of the ‘duty of humanitarian intervention' which the bourgeoisie goes on about. These are the results of the campaigns on humanitarian aid and the defence of human rights.

Decomposition and the sharpening of imperialist rivalries are the product of capitalism's economic impasse

At the origin of the historic impasse of capitalism, which is provoking this horrifying spread of imperialist slaughters, is the system's inability to overcome and resolve the contradictions of its economy. The bourgeoisie is completely unable to solve the economic crisis. A bourgeois economist presents this contradiction while expressing his worries about the future of the inhabitants of Bangladesh (and the future of capitalism as well):

"Even if by some miracle of science enough food could be produced to feed them, how could they find the gainful employment needed to buy it?" (M F. Perutz from the University of Cambridge, cited in the International Herald Tribune, 20.2.93).

First of all - what an asshole! To claim today that it is impossible, except by some miracle, to feed the population of Bangladesh (and, we would say, of the whole world) is scandalous. Capital itself proves this, by paying farmers in the industrialised countries to limit their production and not to cultivate growing tracts of land. There is no underproduction, but an overproduction of goods. Not an overproduction of goods, of food, in relation to human needs, but, as underlined by our eminent university professor (who is both impotent, because he cannot resolve the contradiction, and hypocritical, because he argues as though there were not immense productive capacities around today), it is an overproduction resulting from the fact that the greater part of the world population can't buy the goods. From the fact that the markets are saturated.

Today, world capitalism means millions of human beings dying because they can't afford any food, and hundreds of millions not getting enough to eat when the main industrial powers, the same ones that are spending billions of dollars on their imperialist military interventions, compel their farmers to reduce their production. Not only is capitalism barbaric and murderous, it is also totally irrational and absurd. On the one hand, overproduction leads to the closure of factories, to throwing millions of workers out of work, and the abandonment of cultivatable lands; on the other hand there are hundreds of millions of individuals with no resources and tortured by hunger.

Capitalism can no longer resolve this contradiction as it did last century by conquering new markets. There are none left on the planet. Neither, for the moment, can it get on with realising the only ‘perspective' it can offer society, a third world war, as it has been able to do on two occasions since 1914, in the two world wars that left tens of millions dead. On the one hand, since the disappearance of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact, the imperialist blocs necessary for such a holocaust are not there; on the other hand, the population, and especially the proletariat, of the main western imperialist powers, is not ready to make such a sacrifice. Since capitalism is stuck in this situation, it is literally rotting on its feet.

In this situation of a historic impasse, economic rivalries sharpen as much as imperialist rivalries. The trade war is aggravating as are imperialist wars. And the disintegration of the USSR, which marked a very important step in the dramatic development of generalised chaos at the imperialist level, also marked an important step in the acceleration of competition between all capitalist nations, and especially between the great powers. "With the collapse of the Soviet threat, the economic disparities and disputes among the rich countries are getting harder to handle" (Washington Post, cited in the International Herald Tribune, 15.2.93). Hence the impossibility of so far closing the GATT talks, or the disputes and threats of protectionism between the USA, Europe and Japan.

Capitalism is bankrupt and the trade war has been unleashed. The recession is ravaging even the strongest economies, the USA, Germany, Japan, all the European states. No country is spared. It forces each one ruthlessly to defend its own interests. It is an added factor in the tensions between the big powers.

The economic crisis is pushing the proletariat to struggle

The economic bankruptcy of capitalism also has terrible consequences for the world proletariat. Here again, words or figures can't really convey the brutality of the attacks being mounted on the workers. The closure of enterprises, massive redundancies, are taking place all over the world. And especially in the main economic and imperialist powers, the USA, western Europe, even Japan; and in central sectors such as the automobile, aerospace construction, steel, and computer industries, as well as banks and insurance; in the public sector, etc. Just to give a slight indication of the redundancies being envisaged officially: 30,000 at Volkswagen; 28,000 at Boeing; 40,000 in the German steel industry; 25,000 at IBM, where there were already 42,900 in 1992...These massive cuts in the workers' ranks are being accompanied by wage reductions, drastic cuts in the ‘social wage' - social security, pensions, benefits of all kinds. For those ‘lucky' enough to keep their jobs, working conditions are getting worse and worse. Unemployment benefits are being considerably reduced, where they exist at all. The number of homeless, of families reduced to eating in soup kitchens, of beggars, has exploded in all the industrialised countries. The workers of North America and western Europe are experiencing absolute pauperisation, like their class brothers in the so-called ‘third world' and in eastern Europe did before them.

Just as imperialist conflicts are breaking out on all continents at the same time, with an incredible savagery, the attacks on the workers are falling harder than could have been thought possible not long ago, in all sectors, in all countries, and at the same time.

But unlike the wars and conflicts produced by the decomposition of capitalism, the economic catastrophe of capitalism and its consequences for the working class can give rise to a revival of hope, to the prospect of the communist alternative to this world of atrocity and misery.

Since the autumn of 1992, and the massive workers' reaction in Italy, the proletariat has started to fight again. Despite their weaknesses, the miners' demonstrations in then UK, the signs of anger in France, and the street demonstrations of steel workers in Germany, express the return of class combativity. Inevitably, the international proletariat is going to have to respond to the attacks against it. Inevitably, it will return to the path of the class struggle. But there is still a long way to go before it can present to suffering humanity the perspective of the proletarian revolution and of communism. Not only will it have to struggle of course, but it will also have to learn how to struggle. In the defence of its living conditions, in its economic struggles, in the search for an ever-widening unity, it is going to have to confront the manoeuvres and obstacles set up by the unions; it is going to have to uncover the divisive and corporatist traps laid by the ‘rank and file' unionists, and reject the phony radicalism of the leftists. It is going to have to develop its capacities for organisation, to regroup, to hold general assemblies open to all, workers and unemployed, to set up struggle committees, to demonstrate in the street and call for active solidarity. In short, it is going to have to wage a difficult and bitter political fight to develop its struggles and to affirm the revolutionary perspective. For the workers there is no choice but the political struggle. It comes directly from their conditions of life. It comes from their future, and the future of all humanity.

With the decomposition of capitalism, the chaos that goes with it, and particularly since the explosion of the USSR, imperialist wars have become more savage, more barbaric and at the same time more numerous. No continent has been spared. Similarly, the economic crisis is today taking on a deeper, more irreversible , more dramatic character than ever before, and it is hitting all the countries of the world. Combined together, they are dramatically aggravating the generalised catastrophe that the very survival of capitalism represents. Every day that passes is a another tragedy for hundreds of millions of human beings. Every day that passes is also another step towards capitalism's irreversible slide towards the destruction of humanity. The stakes are frightful: a definitive collapse into barbarism , with no hope of return, or the proletarian revolution and the creation of a world in which men can live in a harmonious community. Workers of all countries, take up the struggle against capitalism! RL, 4.3.93



[1] After the end of the USSR, will we now see the break-up of the Russian Federation? In any case, the situation there is deteriorating rapidly both economically and politically. Chaos is growing, violence and the rule of the mafia everywhere, corruption, brutal recession, poverty and despair. Yeltsin doesn't seem able to govern very much and his authority is more and more being called into question. The aggravation of the situation in Russia can only have grave consequences on the international level.

[2] Directly economic interests, the gaining of particular markets, is more and more secondary in the development of imperialist rivalries. For example, the control of the Middle East, and thus of its oil, by the USA, corresponds more to its strategic interests vis-a-vis the other great powers, Germany and Japan in particular, who are dependent on the oil supplies from this region, than to any financial benefits the USA might be able to draw from it.

[3] At the time of writing, it's still not clear who planted the bomb at the World Trade Center in New York. It is very probable that it is linked to the exacerbation of imperialist rivalries. Either it was carried out by a state which wanted to put pressure on the US bourgeoisie (as was the case with the terrorist attacks of September 86 in Paris), or it was a provocation of some kind. In any case, the crime has been used by the American bourgeoisie to create a sentiment of fear in the population, with the aim of making it rally round the state, and of justifying the military interventions to come.