War economy and crisis in East Germany
The territory of the present day GDR was fearfully decimated as a result of World War II; its cities reduced to rubble. Food supply, industry and transport had almost completely collapsed by the end of 1945. The Russian ‘liberators’ from Hitler’s fascism began in the Soviet Occupation Zone with the removal of industrial capacity to Russia, and the occupation of all key positions in the East German economy through Soviet Shareholding Companies. The USSR did not relax this iron grip over the East German economy until the early fifties. The industrial capacity of the Soviet Occupation Zone fell through the war and occupation to less than half the level of 1939.
However, the post war reconstruction followed with staggering speed. By 1959 the GDR had reached the ninth rung on the international ladder of industrial production. By 1969 the GDR with its 17 million inhabitants had achieved a higher industrial production than the German Reich of 1936 with its population of 60 million. Just as the ‘Economic Miracle’ of post war West Germany and other western countries became the basis for myths about the development of a crisis free capitalism, the ‘affluent society’ etc, so also was the post-1945 reconstruction boom in the GDR and other countries of the Eastern Bloc used as a proof of the socialist or non-capitalist nature of these economies. For Marxists of course, the ability to accumulate capital fast has never been a proof of socialism -- quite the contrary. Today the reappearance of the world wide economic crisis of capitalism is proving, if not to the Stalinists and Trotskyists, then certainly to the working class, the capitalist nature of the eastern bloc countries.
We have chosen to examine the unfolding of the crisis in East Germany for the following reasons:
-- because this is the most advanced national capital in the Eastern Bloc where the crisis is supposedly hardest to find
-- because, as we point out below, the Eastern German, along with the Czechoslovakian economy, is a cornerstone of the entire Russian war economy, so that the development of the crisis there is of particular significance
-- because the ability of the class struggle in Eastern Europe to bar the road to war, to throw a spanner in the war economy hinges upon the development of the crisis and of workers’ resistance in East Germany (and in Czechoslovakia). Nowhere in the Russian bloc is the working class so concentrated as in these countries. Moreover, the situation of these two countries bordering directly onto Western Europe, poses the possibility of spreading the struggle across the ‘Iron Curtain’.
For revolutionaries today it is no longer enough to know that there is a capitalist crisis in the countries of the East. More than that it is essential that we understand:
-- the way in which the crisis deepens
-- the exact stage which the crisis has reached in the Russian bloc as a whole, and in each of the national capitals
-- the perspectives for its future development
-- the effects which the crisis is having and will have on
1) the unfolding political crisis of the bourgeoisie
2) the development of the class struggle of the proletariat
3) the behavior of the other social strata, and especially of the huge peasant masses.
The development of the crisis
The open world-wide death crisis of capitalism, in manifesting itself today in East Germany, imperils not only the political stability of the local bourgeoisie, but also the militaty preparedness of the Russian war machine. The GDR is not only the most important supplier of heavy industrial goods to the Russian war economy, it also acts as Moscow’s gendarme on the western frontiers of its bloc.
It is now admitted in East Berlin that the GDR, as much as any other major national capital today, is suffering from the effects of a slowing down of the growth rate of the economy. The high rates of expansion of the fifties and sixties are a thing of the past. This stagnation signifies that the phase of reconstruction following the Second World War is now being followed by general open crisis. The turning point came with the crisis years 1969 and 1970, during which production was badly interrupted by seizures in the economy. Through an even more energetic intervention of the state in the economy; conjunctural development and through the stimulation of exports, it was possible to overcome the bottlenecks and disequilibriums of those two years, and to reach an average expansion of the national income of around 5.5% over the next years. Despite this recovery, there was every sign that the general growth rate was slowing down, so that the 1976-80 5 Year Plan actually reckons from the beginning with a slowing of economic expansion. Already in 1971, and for the first time, less economic investment had been planned. What is certain is that the rate of growth of the national income in the course of the present 5 Year Plan has continually sunk.
“Already before the second oil crisis had taken effect (growth rates) had reached a level where the ‘Neues Deutschland’ now no longer wanted to publish figures on it any more. At best there could be a 4 before the comma, and even then only on paper.” (Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger, 21/22, July 1979).
The German Institute for Economic Research reckons with a yearly real reduction in the capital productivity of industry in the GDR of 1% “a scale which corresponds almost exactly to the West German one” (See DDR Wirtschaft, DIW). Apart from this, the Stalinist leaders are blaming their factory managers for the increasingly crass under-utilization of productive capacity. This is caused, not by lack of demand, but by the general and deteriorating economic chaos. Older machinery has to be put in mothballs because there isn’t enough capital available to modernize, to repair or to replace it. Repair services are hard to come by. In particular, there is a shortage of spare parts. The dominant shortage of capital is only exacerbated by the necessity to invest as much surplus value as possible in heavy industry, since this leads to a dramatic disequilibrium throughout the economy, to a deteriorating organization of secondary production, to the turning out of faulty and often unusable end products, to a lessening of exports activity. What we are dealing with here are results of the well-known anarchy of capitalist production, of capitalist crisis.
This stagnation of the economy is reflected in the results of the 5 Year Plans. Efforts at expansion are being planned more and more modestly, and even then are not fulfilled. The present 5 Year Plan ending now was already doomed to failure some time ago. The gigantic control apparatus of the ‘planned economy’ is less and less able to master the chaos. During the year 1978, leading functionaries of the ruling party, the SED, including Honecker and Stoph, mentioned these problems during speeches on the economic situation. The present 5 Year Plan, for example, is being hampered by misinvestment to the tune of billions of marks, it was admitted. Apart from that, the authorities are being forced to take up the fight against a growing black market, not only in consumer goods or the currency market (where the West German mark is now the second currency of the GDR -- some say the first), but also in raw materials and energy. The big state owned companies are engaged in the bitterest competition against each other for possession of these highly valued goods, and exchange or buy/sell raw materials and spare parts feverishly, in order to be able to meet their plan figures. This development is accompanied by massive investment outside the plan, the scale of which is becoming a major problem for the ‘planners’.
The post-war capitalist crisis of the world economy arrived unmistakably in the GDR at the end of the sixties. The massive state-directed expansion of heavy industry, in order to supply Russia with capital goods, led to an overextension of capacities, to overinvestment in certain sectors; all in all to a seizure of the economy in face of a sharpened scarcity of capital. The supply of raw materials and manufactured goods from the neglected branches of industry did rise at a similar pace. There followed a spate of bottlenecks and a swift increase of debts abroad. The goals of the 5 Year Plan 1966-70 had to be reduced. The state intervened, replacing the famous New Economic System of the reconstruction period with a firmer state guidance of the economy.
Negative trade balance sheets in East and West
The GDR has always been known as a big exporter within Comecon, and achieved between 1960-73 an accumulated trade surplus of around 3% of total imports. During this period East Germany built up a trade surplus of 9% with Comecon and 23% with the West. This rosy balance sheet didn’t survive long under the hammer blows of the world crisis. In order to keep its own economy going, and in face of the growing total debts of the Comecon in the West (well over 50 billion dollars), the USSR was forced to shove the burden of the crisis onto the broader shoulders of its allies. In 1973 the USSR raised the prices of a whole series of its exports of raw materials and energy sources. These measures hit the GDR, which possesses very few raw materials of its own, particularly hard. The accumulated ttrade surplus of the GDR of 5.7 billion valuta mar marks for the period 1960-73 was followed in the two years 1974-75 alone, by a balance of trade deficit of 7.3 billion valuta marks. The export prices of the GDR rose from 1972 to 1975 by about a quarter. Up until the end of 1979, GDR owed West Germany alone 2.6 billion marks, itself only a portion of its sixteen billion mark debt in the West Der Spiegel notes that the GDR has even more debts in the west than Britain! (Spiegel, 16.1.78).
In face of these problems in the west, the portion of foreign trade of the GDR taken by the other Comecon countries has risen to 73.5%. In particular, exchange between the GDR and the USSR has risen. This development is an essential factor in the strengthening of the Russian bloc against the west. Whereas trade between the USSR and the Western industrial countries has expanded at crawling pace, trade between the West and the other Comecon countries has tended to stagnate or even decline. The East European satellites, and especially East Germany, are being tied more firmly to the USSR.
East Berlin’s balance of trade with Russia is also causing worries. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung observed “During 1977 a negative balance of trade of 3 billion Valutamark with the Soviet Union has arisen. With this, the GDR has achieved the relative and absolute highest negative trade figures of any country of the Eastern Bloc with the Soviet Union” (FAZ, 5.7.78). An additional difficulty for the East Germans is created by the competition of Western industrial powers, especially West Germany, on the Russian market. In order to meet this challenge, East Berlin has for example been forced to buy steel and semi-manufactured goods in the West, in order to fulfill its contracts with the Russians on time or at a competitive quality.
What’s happened to the ‘economic miracle’?
The post-war boom was actually made possible by the destruction of World War II and the subsequent dismantling of industry. It became necessary to put the advanced infrastructure and the highly skilled and disciplined work force of East Germany to work in order to fortify the Russian bloc. New, more developed capital goods, especially from the advanced industrial and still intact Czechoslovakian economy, were delivered to the GDR, and were paid for through an unimaginable exploitation of the defeated and prostrate East German proletariat. In this way, East Germany acquired the most modern industrial foundation in the bloc, set in motion by a working class which would not until 1953 be in a position to resist the capitalist terror.
It was the economic weakness of the Russian bloc as a whole which created the necessity for nationalizations across the board and state administration at every level of the economy. This brutal state capitalist control could help for a while in forcing the pace of reconstruction, without however resolving any of the contradictions of the system.
World Imperialism with its gas chambers and mass bombardments did German capitalism, in East and West, an unforgettable favor by slaughtering the unemployed and by liquidating a large portion of the petty bourgeoisie. Freed from these burdens, is it any wonder that capitalism in Germany would soon experience a new expansion?
In order to favor post-war economic development, the East German state moved against the remaining small farmers and small producers. Already the ‘Land Reform’ of September 1945 had expropriated all landowners who owned more than 100 hectares of land. The land was divided up among the poor farmers in such tiny uneconomic parcels that they were forced from the very beginning to join the state-led agricultural co-operatives. By 1960 there were hardly any independent farmers left. This crusade against the petty-bourgeoisie served not only to cheapen and rationalize the production of agricultural and manufactured goods, but also helped to meet the problem of a scarcity of labor power in heavy industry.
Even in the period of reconstruction the state had to struggle against the effects of the capitalist crisis, which under decadent capitalism becomes permanent in character. The drawing up of the 5 Year Plans, for example, was even at that time nothing but a crude attempt at managing the crisis. The essential aspect of the Plans is that the production of consumer goods and the expansion of private consumption always remain at the bottom of the scale of growth. The wage rises of the first 5 Year Plan 1951 were wiped out through a chronic shortage of consumer goods; a situation which prepared the way for the workers’ rising of 1953. The following Seven Year Plan 1959-65 was already declared a failure in 1962 and broken off. Instead of rising, the total economic growth rate declined (DIW, DDR Wirtschaft p.26). The Plan 1965-70 was supposed to overcome these problems through a forcing of exports. But what actually happened? Imports increased faster than exports! (ibid p.28). So much for ‘socialist planning’ in the GDR!
What measure are the bourgeoisie taking today to slow down the development of open crisis?
-- Especially since the end of the sixties, attempts have been made to stimulate growth through increased concentration (especially through the formation of combines). The share of nationalized concerns in the production of industrial goods rose from 82% in 1971 to 99% in 1972! During the 1970’s, entire sectors of the economy, such as agricultural machinery, the car industry, science and technology, were reorganized in giant combines. However, much of this concentration of industrial production takes place simply on paper, covering up for the very real weaknesses in the coherence of the economy.
-- The attempts to launch new export drives. We have already seen the ‘success’ of these efforts (see above).
-- To the degree that the above mentioned and other measures are being exhausted, it becomes all the more necessary to frontally attack the living standards of the working class. And even this hoped-for defeat of the proletariat can only be a prelude to the ‘solution’ of a third world war.
The GDR and the Russian war economy
The GDR itself, despite its economic capacity, possesses no significant war industry of its own. The NVA (National People’s Army, sic!) is equipped with Russian weaponry. In addition, the GDR invests only 22 million marks a year in military ‘development aid’ to third world countries, as opposed to the West German equivalent of 82 billion marks (Spiegel, 30.7.78). But East German industry is involved on a grand scale in the development of the Russian war machine. In fact, East German industry produces principally for the Russian war economy. That is to say, it produces directly or indirectly for the armed forces of the Warsaw Pact. The Russian war economy not only swallows up a lion’s share of the surplus value extracted within the USSR itself. It also burns up an important share of the wealth produced in the Eastern European countries. If it didn’t do this, it wouldn’t have the slightest chance of keeping up with the military development of the USA.
Foreign trade between the GDR and the USSR has increased five times over since the early fifties. With a 16% share in Russia’s foreign trade turnover, the GDR is not only the most important trading partner of the USSR overall. In particular, it is its most important supplier of capital goods. A good quarter of all Russian imports of machinery and spare parts come from the GDR. Whereas the other Comecon countries supply the USSR mainly with raw materials and semi-manufactured goods, only the GDR and Czechoslovakia are in a position to meet the demand of the Russian war economy with capital goods. The delivered installations and technology is used in the construction of railways, the development of energy sources, as well as directly in the production of tanks, lorries, warships, etc. There also exists of course direct co-operation in military production between Russia and its allies, such as for example the co-operation between the USSR and the famous Skoda Concern of Czechoslovakia in the production of armory, trucks and nuclear reactors. However the GDR has up to now been excluded from any large scale co-operation of this kind.
The economies of Eastern Europe are under constant strain, engaged as they are in a futile attempt to create a heavy industrial base comparable to that possessed by the American bloc. The strength of the war basis of the two blocs is not only to be measured by the present production of tanks or whatever, but also by the capacity of an economy to double or treble this production over a given period of time. The Russian bloc, no matter how effectively it produces, could never spew up as much armaments as the American bloc. The necessity to survive as a separate imperialist bloc has forced the Warsaw Pact to mobilize all available resources for the war economy, in order to remain competitive with the West at this one level. And so whereas we have on the one hand all the signs of a massive over-production in the industrialized West (too many workers, too much industry, etc), the crisis in the East takes the form of underproduction, because there is not enough capital and labor available to fuel the needs of the war economy. Whereas the result of the crisis of over-production in the stronger Western bloc is the cutting back of production in every field except the military, we can see that this exclusive development of the military sector has already been in force in the Russian Bloc for years.
This phenomenon of underproduction in the East is an expression of the division of the globe into rival military blocs -- it is a result of the universal shortage of markets. It proves that the fetters of the world market are blocking the development of the forces of production. The world market is too small to allow for the realization of all the capital which has been accumulated. After the second world war, the advanced countries of the American bloc, which had at their disposal the greater part of the world market, were able (for a variety of reasons which we cannot go into here) to initiate a certain development of the productive forces at the expense of the impoverishment of the rest of the world. As for the Russian Bloc, which got next to nothing out of the imperialist redivision of the world following WWII, only a development of the war economy was possible there. This necessity to expand an already considerable war economy from a position of economic and strategic weakness leads to a profound modification of the operation of the law of value within the Russian Bloc, so that the capitalist crisis there takes on different forms than in the West. These differences are seized upon by Stalinism and Trotskyism in order to ‘prove’ the non-capitalist nature of the Eastern Bloc countries. But none of these lies can hide the devastating effects of the capitalist crisis on the living conditions of the proletarians of Eastern Europe, Russia or China.
In order to develop heavy industry (the basis of the war economy), the Eastern European bourgeoisie must neglect every other branch of the economy. Alone this leads from crisis to crisis. For example, in the GDR only 36% of total gross capital investment falls to the non-producing sector as opposed say to 58% in West Germany. Such investment trends, by leading to an inevitable narrowing of the field of consumption and of the service sector, lead to a further shrinking of markets, to a lowering of the rate of profit, to a dramatic stagnation of the economy. Because the military sector produces neither capital goods nor consumer goods, but simply swallows up surplus value, without contribution to the renewal of the cycle of accumulation, it threatens to turn stagnation into collapse.
The possibilities open to the East German or to the Russian bourgeoisie cannot be seen as a choice between Stalinist ‘planning’ and a ‘market economy’. In fact, the only alternatives, seen abstractly, are between either a state-led, increasingly desperate strengthening of the war economy and its supporting industries -- which can only lead to further stagnation and chaos. Or else they have to slow down growth rates in these industries, in order to even out the general development of all economic sectors -- which would lead to an overall, somewhat ‘smoother’ stagnation. But in reality they cannot choose this second alternative, because it would amount to losing the most important competitive struggle with the American Bloc -- namely the arms race.
The Stalinist leadership has therefore no other alternative but to follow its previous course. And it must above all wage and win a new world war, in order to profit on its massive armaments investment program.
The situation of the working class under the war economy
East Germany has at present the highest rate of persons employed in the world (53.3% of the population). Whereas between 1950 and 1969 the number of East Germans of employable age dropped by 1.9 million, the actual number of unemployed rose by 700,000 -- by 10%. This increase was made possible by the integration of more women, but also of pensioners, into economic life. In addition, the GDR has only been able to attract a relatively small number of ‘guest workers’ from Poland, the Balkans, etc.
This increasingly severe shortage of labor power is a direct result of the war economy. The state is forced to push the price of the commodity labor power below the level necessary to ensure its renewal and expansion. This necessary level, as Marx explains, is not a-historic absolute, but is altered with the development of society. In a modern industrial society like the GDR, where the workers work under a brutal, automated, scientifically guided exploitation, it is an absolute ‘impossibility’ that such workers -- and among families where mostly both parents work, and have to clock up endless overtime and work extra shifts -- have to, on top of that, wait for hours in queues outside shops, or go off bargaining on the illegal black markets in order to acquire the necessities of life. It is an ‘impossibility’ that these workers have to live in tiny flats, often to eight or ten people under one roof because auntie and granny and the two married sons can’t get flats for themselves. It is equally an impossibility that in the big cities and urban sprawls, where the workers live in housing projects miles from their work or from anywhere else, that they have to go on waiting lists for years before they can get any kind of a decent car. It’s no wonder that people used try to escape to the West, as long as the postwar boom continued there, or that so few foreign workers want to go and work in the GDR, or that the East German workers can only afford very small families, despite all the ‘baby-boom’ propaganda of the state. The workers of the GDR know only want, because they have to carry the entire weight of the war economy, that bloody parasite, on their backs.
The price of the commodity labor power, like any other commodity, is determined by its average cost of production, and by the law of supply and demand. Here again the Stalinist state has to intervene, in order to keep the price as low as possible. This intervention in the laws of the economy has a military character. It is the law of the market which dictates that workers will go wherever they can sell their labor power at a higher price. But the East German bourgeoisie have solved this problem. They have constructed a wall along their western frontier and laid it with landmines, barbed wire and sentry posts, because the wages in West Germany are higher than in the East.
Or another example: Where there is a shortage of labor, wages generally tend to rise -- there is a sellers’ market. In order to put this law out of action, the state has made the changing of one’s job or place of residence as difficult as possible.
The attacks against the working class
The deepening of the crisis attacks the living standards of the working class from all sides:
-- Through an increase in the level of exploitation
-- Through a lowering of real wages, taking place in any of the following ways:
** The number of goods which are difficult or impossible to obtain, grows rapidly; it ranges from coffee and butter to housing and even electricity, which is being regularly cut off in many parts of the country.
**The quality of the goods available degenerates.
**Inflation is passed on in the form of open or disguised price rises and through the dismantling of state subsidies.
**Social services, medical treatment etc are reduced, thereby lowering the social wage. **Continuous interruptions in the process of production cause catastrophic falls in the wages of piece-rate workers.
**The ‘New Wage System’, introduced in 1978, converts a wage rise before tax into a wage cut after tax for the majority of workers, through an increase in the tax burden. The SED, as cynical as ever, appealed to all toilers to compensate for ‘possible’ loss of earnings through increased overtime.
**The increase in overtime work and the introduction of extra shifts. Therefore the lengthening of the working day is another feature of the present attacks on the working class. Here again, we posess no statistics on this development.
**There is a slow but sure development of unemployment.
It is a true paradox of the capitalist system that countries suffering from a shortage of labor power should also be hit by unemployment. We know for example that in China (a country where basic production is at such a primitive level that it suffers from labor shortages, despite its one billion inhabitants), there are around 20 million unemployed in the cities. We possess no exact figures for unemployment in the GDR, although it seems safe to assume that the numbers without work are considerably fewer than in the USSR or, say, Poland (600,000). Even when the unemployed in the GDR no longer have to fear landing in concentration camps, they are nonetheless criminalized by the state. They receive 1.20 to 2 marks a day plus 35 pence for every family dependant, all paid up by the ‘workers state’. Unemployment in the east is immediately caused by the shortage of capital and the subsequent breaking down of production. Much more significant in the eastern bloc than open unemployment is a development of hidden unemployment of enormous dimensions.
As a result of more and more frequent bottlenecks and clog-ups in production, significant proportions of the productive capacity are always out of action. This chaos leads to a permanent overmanning throughout the economy. This permanent hidden unemployment weighs upon the economy of the Russian bloc every bit as much as does open unemployment in the West. Whether in the East or in the West the real cause of unemployment lies in the inability of capitalism to really develop the productive forces.
Perspectives for the class struggle
It is not our intention here to attempt to set out in any detail perspectives for the future course of the crisis and the class struggle. What we want to do is simply to mention some of the most important implications of our analysis of the crisis, and of our estimation of the stage which the crisis has presently reached in the countries of the Russian Bloc. We would draw attention to the following:
-- The attempt to gauge the depth of the crisis purely along such traditional lines as the comparison of inflation rates and numbers of unemployed, which tend to indicate that the crisis is ‘younger’, less advanced, in the countries of the Russian Bloc, is in fact a fairly useless method, when it comes to measuring the crisis in the East as against the West.
-- The crisis -- and we are talking here about the historical crisis of decadent capitalism, as it has developed over the whole of the present century -- is actually more acute, at the present time, in the countries of the Russian Bloc than in the most advanced industrial nations of the West.
-- This in turn proves that even the total militarization of the economy, and the complete subjugation of economic life and of civilian society under the most direct, dictatorial control of the capitalist state, does not solve any of the contradictions of decadent capitalism whatsoever. These measures will lead to a modification of the forms under which the crisis appears, and they can even allow for a slowing of the pace of the crisis. But the state cannot stop the degeneration of capitalism.
The crisis in the West proceeds as a vast overproduction of commodities, followed by drastic cutbacks in production. In the East, the inability of the Russian bloc to compete openly on the world market accentuates the fall in the rate of profit to such an extent that the state has to syphon off capital from every other sector in order to ensure any kind of expansion in heavy industry and the war industries at all. This in turn leads to the clogging up of production at every stage, and therefore to massive falls in production, firstly in the realm of consumer goods (such as for example the present decline in agricultural production in the USSR, following the marked stagnation in this sector which has been evident for decades), but then to be followed by declining production in key industries as well (in 1979 Brezhnev himself had to announce stagnating or even declining productivity in the energy sector in Russia).
-- For the working class this will mean -- and in countries such as Poland, Russia and Rumania is already meaning -- the most brutal falls in its living standards, as the bourgeoisie is forced to let the consumer goods sector, the agricultural sector etc, go to complete rack and ruin.
-- It will also imply the necessity for the bourgeoisie to enact a complete militarization of the working class. It will mean creating a ‘task force’ of millions of workers who can be sent from one sphere of production to another, depending on where production is actually functioning at a given time, and depending on where bottlenecks have to be cleared away. The militarization of the labor force will allow for a certain easing of the awesome burden of hidden unemployment -- if workers go along with it of course! The ‘hidden’ unemployed will therefore become an open army of the unemployed, living way below the existence minimum.
These perspectives are not mere speculations about the future. In fact they project the quantitative development of tendencies unfolding before our very eyes. Thus, for example, the Polish oppositionists around the KOR have reported that a third of all industrial equipment in Poland is at the moment not being utilized. The result of this is of course chronic food shortages, regular break-downs in the supply of electricity to homes and even to industry, the shut-down of a considerable portion of public transport and other services etc. In Rumania, in Bulgaria, even in Hungary, it is the same story, more or less; in the GDR too, although not yet as extreme. In all of these countries workers are being mobilized for overtime and special shifts, but also for work in mobile brigades, where you can be used to build pipelines in west Russia today, and to dig out lignite in East Germany tomorrow. This is the beginning of the kind of militarization we have just mentioned.
The outbreaks of class struggle in Eastern Europe in response to the crisis since the late sixties (Poland ‘70 and ‘76, Czechoslovakia ‘68, Rumania ‘77 were the most notable of these) have been very powerful, but have all tended to remain sporadic and isolated in character, without evolving to a high level of politicization. It is understandable in view of the inexperience of the workers involved, the weight of fifty years of counter revolution, the severity of state repression, to name but a few of the factors involved. These struggles didn’t really go beyond the level of defensive fights against falling real wages and rises in the level of exploitation. But the class struggle of the 1980’s will have to go way beyond this level, because what we are being confronted with now -- and we can see this particularly clearly with regard to Eastern Europe -- is the collapse of human society under the weight of capitalist economic and social relations. Capitalism is no longer able to guarantee even the most basic prerequisites for the survival of human society in any shape or form. The food shortages and housing shortages of Eastern Europe -- we are seeing more and more of this in Western Europe as well! -- make this perfectly clear. The working class will be forced to pose the question of power in order to save society from total collapse to save it from capitalism. The deepening of the crisis is therefore creating the preconditions for the unification and the politicization of the class struggle against the capitalist crisis and the militarization of society. The depth of the crisis, and the workers’ response to it, will enable the proletariat to draw the vast masses of the peasantry and the non-exploiting strata behind it, as the Russian proletariat did in 1917.
The success of this struggle is not certain. It all depends on the ability of the proletariat in these countries to reappropriate the lessons of the past, and, in linking up with workers’ struggles in the west, to open its ranks to the political influence and the solidarity of the revolutionary movement now forming in the West.
Krespel, November 1979.