International Situation (resolution)
1) The resolution on the international situation from the 6th Congress of the ICC in November ‘85 was placed under the heading of the denunciation of a whole series of lies put forward by the bourgeoisie in order to mask what's really at stake in the present period:
-- "the myth of an amelioration in the situation of world capitalism, incarnated in the ‘success' of the American recovery in ‘83 and ‘84";
-- "making people believe that there is an attenuation of imperialist tensions: Reagan's speeches in ‘84 were presented as being more moderate, ‘holding out a hand' to negotiations with the USSR, and this had its equivalent in the line of diplomatic seduction being pushed by the newcomer Gorbachev";
-- campaigns to spread the idea "that the proletariat isn't struggling, that it has given up defending its class interests, that it is no longer an actor on the international political stage" (International Review 44).
If at the time these lies were based on a semblance of reality, eight months later this same reality has openly refuted all the previous campaigns, confirming once again that the ‘80s are indeed years in which the historic bankruptcy of capitalism, its barbaric and decadent nature, are being revealed in all their nakedness, and in which the real stakes of the period we're living through are being made more and more clear.
Moreover, the speeds with which events have shattered the lies of ‘85 illustrate another fundamental characteristic of these years of truth: the growing acceleration of history.
Thus the present resolution does not seek to repeat the work of the previous one in demolishing the whole inanity of what the bourgeoisie is saying. It seeks to use the November resolution as a point of support, to complement it by showing that the last 8 months have confirmed its orientations, by underlining this acceleration of history, and also to draw out the main lessons of the experience of the working class in the recent period.
The acceleration of economic collapse
2) The resolution of the 6th ICC Congress pointed to the limits of the US ‘recovery' and of America's capacity to act as a ‘locomotive' for the economies of the other countries in its bloc:
" ... it was mainly the phenomenal indebtedness of the third world in the second half of the ‘70s which allowed the industrial powers to temporarily boost their sales and relaunch production:
-- after 1982, it was the even more major debts of the USA, both external...and internal...which allowed that country to reach record growth rates in ‘84, just as it was, its enormous commercial deficits which momentarily benefitted the exports of a few other countries (such as West Germany) and thus the production levels...
In the final analysis, just as the astronomical indebtedness of the third world countries could only result In a catastrophic rebound shock, in the form of unprecedented austerity and recession, the even more considerable indebtedness of the American economy can only lead, under the threat of an explosion of its financial system....to a new recession both of this economy and the other economies whose external markets will be subject to a severe shrinkage." (ibid)
The evolution of the situation in recent months constitutes a concrete illustration of these limits:
-- the US federal budget deficit, which made it possible to create an artificial demand for US enterprises ($380 billion in ‘83 and ‘84) will simply have to be reduced (Congress has even adopted legislation in order to underline the urgency of and for this measure);
-- even more important, the 30% fall in the dollar over a few months (a fall deliberately organized by the authorities) means that the US is determined to reduce drastically its now astronomic trade deficit (which has put it at the head of the most indebted countries in the world) and thus to reconquer both its internal and external markets.
This latter fact thus signifies an intensification of the trade war against the competitors of the US (which are also its allies) - Japan and Western Europe. The latter will see their own markets collapsing, without this bringing new health to the US economy because it will mean a general restriction of the world market. Similarly, this fair in the dollar means that these countries will get their debts repaid at a rate 30% less than their initial value.
3) Similarly, the fall in the dollar in no way implies a respite for the countries of the third world. If on the one hand their 1000 billion dollar debt (most often to be paid in dollars) will be partially reduced, the revenue from their exports which is used to reimburse this debt will be amputated even more, since it's also expressed in dollars. Furthermore, their situation can only be aggravated by the often considerable fall in the price of raw materials which, under the pressure of generalized overproduction, characterizes the present period, since raw materials are generally their main if not their exclusive export. This situation is particularly spectacular and dramatic with regard to the most crucial of all raw materials, oil (the collapsing price of which shows that the price rises of ‘73 and ‘79 were based solely on speculation and not on any kind of ‘shortage'). Countries like Mexico and Venezuela, already incapable of coping with their phenomenal debts when they were selling oil at $30 a barrel, will be plunged into total bankruptcy by the $15 barrel. Thus there will be an intensification of the hellish and permanent barbarism which reigns in the third world, which the November ‘85 resolution presented as one of the most eloquent indices of the downfall of the world economy.
Again, the countries of the Russian bloc beginning with the USSR itself whose main export is raw materials just like the under-developed countries, will also see the deterioration of an already deplorable economic situation, and will once again have to give up the hope of buying from the west the modern industrial equipment they so sorely lack (which will in turn reduce the outlets of their western suppliers).
4) As regards Western Europe whose grave economic situation was underlined by the November resolution, the fall in the price of raw materials, notably oil, will not bring any hope of improvement. Contrary to the smug declarations which present these price reductions (in conjunction with the fall of the dollar) as a ‘shot of oxygen' because of the cuts in inflation and trade deficits they are supposed to bring about, what really lies in store is a further worsening of the whole situation. One the one hand, countries like Britain, Norway or Holland are direct victims of the fall in oil prices (and of natural gas whose price is linked to that of oil). On the other hand, and above all, all the western European countries who export an important part of their production to the third world countries and in particular the oil producing countries, will increasingly see the markets in these countries closing down as the latter's' financial resources run dry. Rather than ‘oxygen', what's really contained in the fall in price of raw materials and of oil is a dose of poison gas. What's more, behind the facade of euphoria, the bourgeoisie of the western European countries is aware that there is an extremely bleak economic prospect opened up by the joint effect of the growing closure of the US market (because of the fall of the dollar and the protectionist measures taken by the Americans), the anemia in the COMECON market and the running out of the ‘fabulous' contracts with the OPEC countries. The official - thus under-estimated - figures already indicate that 11% of the labor force cannot be employed. It's precisely because it doesn't have any illusions that in all the western European countries the bourgeoisie is pushing through brutal austerity measures (like the ones taken by the Martens government in Belgium), in order to preserve as best it can its already weak competivity in the face of the terrible economic war which is going to be unleashed by the recession now gathering pace.
In these vital centers of capitalism, which contain the biggest and oldest concentrations of industry, and thus of workers, the only short-term perspective is therefore a new and considerable deterioration of the economic situation with all the terrible attacks on the working class this implies. This deterioration cannot fail to have its repercussions on countries which hitherto have been in a stronger position, such as the USA and Japan.
The intensification of imperialist conflicts
5) As the ICC, along with all the marxists, has always stressed (and this was repeated in the November ‘85 resolution), the collapse of the economic infrastructure of capitalist society can only lead to a headlong flight towards generalized imperialist conflict. Hardly six months after the great ‘show' of the Geneva summit, the embraces of the Reagan and Gorbachev duet have been completely forgotten (as the November resolution said they would). Just as quickly as he abandoned it during his electoral campaign, Reagan has returned to his diatribes against the ‘evil empire', denouncing with renewed vigor Russia's ‘violation of human rights' and its ‘war-like intentions'. Forgotten also are his hypocritical proposals about arms reductions, as can be seen most recently by the abandonment of SALT 2 by the White House. Here is a striking confirmation of the offensive of the US bloc with its aim of "completing the encirclement of the USSR, of depriving this country of all the positions it has been able to maintain outside its direct area of domination" (ibid). At this level, a particularly significant expression of the general acceleration of history brought about by the economic disintegration of capitalism was the US bombardment of two major cities in Libya as well as the main military bases of this country. This was a new illustration of the fact that "one of the main characteristics of this offensive is the western bloc's more and more massive use of its military power" (ibid).
6) While the American raid of April ‘86 was not directly aimed against the USSR or one of its strategic positions, in that Libya has never been part of the eastern bloc, behind this spectacular action is the global offensive against the Russian bloc. The aim of the raid was:
-- to confirm forcefully and unambiguously that the from now on the Mediterranean is an American ‘mare nostrum' (on the eve of the raids, Russia prudently removed its ships from the Libyan coast, which clearly indicates that it has given up contesting the USA's total hegemony in this region);
-- to serve as a warning to all countries (and not only Libya) who, without belonging to the eastern bloc, show too much independence or an insufficient degree of subordination vis a vis the USA.
In particular, it was a sign to Syria that it had to get on more effectively with implementing the deal drawn up with it in exchange for the removal of the western task force from Lebanon in 1984 - a deal stipulating that Syria, along with Israel, should act as a ‘gendarme' in the Lebanon, notably by disciplining the pro-Iranian factions. But above all the message carried by the F-111s was once again for Iran. The reinsertion of Iran into the US bloc constitutes the main objective of the present stage of the western offensive. And indeed it seems that the message got through: its recent diplomatic rapprochement with France (which made a gesture by pushing dissident Iranian leader M. Radjavi out of the country, while still maintaining full military support for Iraq), indicates that the Tehran regime is beginning to understand where its interests lie.
However, the function of the American raid wasn't limited to the question of imperialist strategy. With all the media noise that accompanied it, notably around the ‘denunciation of terrorism', this operation was also a contribution to all the ideological campaigns aimed at diverting the working class from the struggles which it is obliged to launch in response to the intensification of the attacks on its living standards.
Because, for the bourgeoisie of all countries, more important than the problem of commercial antagonisms between nations, more important than the imperialist confrontations between the blocs, is the problem posed to it by the huge stores of combativity, which exist in the proletariat, notably in the central countries of capitalism, and which constitute the key to the present world situation, the determining element in the current historic course.
The acceleration of the class struggle
7) If there is one sphere where the acceleration of history is being expressed in a particularly lucid way it's that of the development of the working class struggle. This "is expressed in particular by the fact that the moments of retreat in the struggle (as in 8I-82) are getting shorter and shorter, whereas the culminating point of each wave of combats is situated at a higher level than the previous one" (6th Congress resolution point 15). Similarly, within each of these waves, inevitable "moments of respite, of maturation, of reflection" (ibid, point 11) are themselves more and more short-lived. Thus the whole recent campaign about the ‘passivity' of the working class, based on an apparent drop in combativity in 1985, has come to grief against the formidable movements which took place in April and May in Belgium. These struggles, which followed widespread movements in Scandinavia and particularly Norway (and, given the low level of workers' struggles in this region in the past, this indicates the depth of the present wave of struggles), constitute a striking confirmation of what was said in the 6th Congress resolution, (point 11):
"...the present moments of respite...which the class may go through are limited in time and space; and although the bourgeoisie does everything it can to turn the workers' efforts of reflection into a wait-and-see, passive attitude, the situation remains characterized by an accumulation of discontent and of potential combativity which can explode at any moment."
But what the movement in Belgium expresses especially is the limitation of the bourgeois policy which, in 1985, allowed it not to extinguish the workers' combativity, but to disperse its manifestations into a series of isolated struggles carried out by a more limited number of workers than in the first phase (‘83-‘84) of the third wave of struggles since the historic resurgence of 1968, which began with the massive public sector strikes in Belgium in September ‘83.
8) This policy of dispersal was based essentially on the dispersal of the economic attacks themselves, on a careful planning which staggered the attacks in time and space. This was made possible by the slight margin of maneuver granted by the effects of the American ‘recovery' of ‘83-84, but this also posed the objective limits of the policy since this respite of the capitalist economy could only be short-lived. What's more, this policy contained a number of other limitations:
-- to the extent that, in the most advanced countries, a considerable part of the price of labor power is made up of all sorts of social benefits (social security, family allowance, etc), any reduction of this part of the wage could only be done in a global manner, to the detriment of all workers and not of those in this or that sector;
-- in these same countries, an enormous proportion of workers (often the majority) depend on a single ‘boss', the state, either because they work in the public sector, or because they are unemployed and need state subsidies for their very survival. Thus the field of application of this policy is limited essentially to a particular sector of the class, those who work in the private sector (which explains to a large extent the efforts of many governments to ‘reprivatize' the economy as much as possible).
What has just happened in Belgium confirms that all these limits are beginning to be reached, that the bourgeoisie is now obliged to mount its attacks in an increasingly massive and above all frontal manner, that the main tendency in the struggle isn't dispersal but the overcoming of wave this dispersal. This is particularly clear when you consider that the measures which provoked this terrific response from the class:
-- were forced on the bourgeoisie by the almost total absence of any economic margin of maneuver, by the urgent need to adapt the economy to the perspective of an unprecedented intensification of the trade war that the coming recession is going to bring about. It is no longer possible for the attacks to be staggered or put off;
-- concern all sectors of the working class (private, public, unemployed) and threaten all elements of workers' wages (the nominal as well as the social wage).
It's even more clear when you see that practically all sectors of the working class participated massively in the movement, not just in a simultaneous way, but with increasingly determined attempts to seek solidarity from other sectors, to unify the struggles.
9) Just as the strike in the public sector in Belgium in ‘83 announced the entry of the world working class, and particularly the workers of western Europe, into the first phase of the third wave of struggles, the phase marked by massive movements and a high degree of international simultaneity, the recent strikes in this same country announce the beginning of a third phase in this wave; after the second phase marked by the dispersal of the struggles, this new phase is going to exhibit more and more tendencies towards the unification of struggles. The fact that in both cases it's the working class of the same country which has been in the front line is not without significance. Despite the small size of the country, Belgium is a resume of the fundamental characteristics of all the countries in Western Europe;
-- a developed national economy in a catastrophic situation, and one which is extremely dependent on the world market (70% of production is for export);
-- a very high level of unemployment;
-- very strong industrial concentrations in a limited area;
-- old established bourgeoisie and proletariat;
-- a long experience of confrontation between the two classes.
Because of this, the battles which have just taken place in this country can't be seen as a flash in the pan, an event with no European or world-wide significance. On the contrary they augur what awaits the other countries of Western Europe, and more generally the main advanced countries, in the period ahead. This applies particularly to the main characteristics of the coming struggles, most of which have been identifiable since the beginning of the third wave;
"-- a tendency towards very broad movements involving large numbers of workers, hitting entire sectors or several sectors simultaneously in one country, thus posing the basis for the geographic extension of the struggle;
-- a tendency towards the outbreak of spontaneous movements showing, especially at the beginning, a certain bypassing of the unions ...
-- a progressive development, within the whole proletariat, of its confidence in itself, of its awareness of its strength, its capacity to oppose itself as a class to the attacks of the capitalists." (6th Congress Resolution, Point 10).
-- the search for active solidarity and for unification across the boundaries of factory, category and region, in the form of street demonstrations and in particular of massive delegations from one workers' centre to another, a movement which takes place through a growing confrontation with all the obstacles erected by trade unionism, and during the course of which, "the necessity for self-organization is being imposed more and more on the workers in the great capitalist metropoles, notably in western Europe." (ibid, point 13).
10) This necessity for and tendency towards the active search for unification, going beyond the simple extension of struggles, constitutes the major trait of the third phase of the third wave of struggles. This trait (which hadn't yet been indentified at the 6th ICC Congress at the beginning of November ‘85) derives from the bourgeois policy of dispersing struggles based on the dispersal of its economic attacks (an element noted at the beginning of ‘86 in the editorial of International Review 45).
By the very fact that it is following a bourgeois offensive which aimed to break the élan of the third wave of struggles, and that it expresses the attempt to overcome the difficulties posed by this offensive, this trait introduces into the third wave of struggles a general dimension of the highest importance, comparable in significance to the other characteristic of this wave which we identified from the beginning: "the growing simultaneity of struggles at an international level, laying the basis for the future world-wide generalization of struggles." (IR 37, first quarter of ‘84). However, though of comparable importance, these two characteristics don't have the same significance from the standpoint of the concrete development of workers' struggles and the intervention of revolutionaries within them. International simultaneity, despite its historical dimension as the prefiguration of the generalization of the future, is today much more an objective fact deriving from the simultaneity of the bourgeoisie's attacks in all countries than a deliberate approach taken in hand in a conscious manner by the workers; this is notably due to the systematic policy of the black-out carried on by the bourgeoisie. By contrast, the tendency towards the unification of struggles, while having a historic significance as a step towards the mass strike and thus towards the revolution, also constitutes an immediate element within the present proletarian combats, an element which of necessity the workers have to take up in a conscious way. In this sense, if the international simultaneity of struggles poses the bases, the historic framework for their future world-wide generalization, in so far as this generalization can only be a concrete act, the concrete road that leads to it necessarily passes through the tendencies towards unification. This is why in their intervention revolutionaries must stress the whole importance of this push towards unification. And this is all the more so because it's in this process that the class will be forced to develop its self-organization through repeated confrontations with the union obstacle.
11) One of the components of this movement towards self-organization, and one which has already manifested itself in recent struggles, was expressed very clearly in the combats in Belgium: the tendency towards the spontaneous upsurge of struggles, outside any union directives, a tendency which we pointed to at the very beginning of the third wave. The following points should be made about this tendency:
1. It is an aspect of one of the general characteristics of the class struggle in the period of decadence, one identified long ago by revolutionaries: "The kind of struggles that take place in the period of decadence can't be prepared in advance on the organizational level. Struggles explode spontaneously and tend to generalize...These are the characteristics which prefigure the revolutionary confrontation." (‘The Proletarian Struggle in Decadent Capitalism', IR 23).
2. However, spontaneous movements don't necessarily express a higher level of consciousness than movements which are called by the unions:
-- on the one hand, many struggles which begin spontaneously are easily taken over by the unions;
-- on the other hand, the systematic occupation of the social terrain by the left in opposition often leads the unions to put themselves in the forefront of movements which have a strong potential for the development of class consciousness;
-- finally, in certain historical circumstances, notably when the left is in government, as was frequently the case in the ‘60s and ‘70s, spontaneous or even wildcat strikes may be no more than a simple translation into practice of the unions' overt opposition to any struggle, without this expressing a high level of consciousness in the class.
3. However, the fact that the tendency towards the multiplication of spontaneous struggles is developing when the bourgeoisie has placed its left forces in opposition, when these forces have been radicalizing their language to a very marked degree, gives the spontaneous struggles of today a very different significance to that of the struggles mentioned above. It reveals in particular a growing discrediting of the unions in the eyes of the workers. This discredit, resulting from the maneuvers in which the unions present themselves as the ‘vanguard' of the struggles, even if it doesn't automatically result in a development of consciousness about the real nature of the unions and the necessity for self-organization, does create the conditions for such a development.
4. One of the major causes of this tendency towards spontaneous struggles resides in the accumulation of an enormous discontent which often explodes in an unexpected manner. But here again, one of the reasons for this accumulation of discontent is that the discrediting of the unions prevents them from organizing ‘actions' whose aim is to serve as a safety valve for the workers' anger.
Thus, by expressing an overall maturation of combativity and consciousness, notably at the level of a growing understanding of the role of trade unionism and of the necessity to struggle, the present development of spontaneous movements is fully inscribed in the historic process which leads to revolutionary confrontations.
12) This discrediting of the unions, the growth of which is a condition - not sufficient, but certainly indispensable - for the development of consciousness in the class, is going to broaden to a significant degree in the present phase of class struggle. The central contribution the unions and the left have made over many years to the bourgeoisie's policy of dividing the class, of derailing and exhausting its struggles, already explains the considerable distrust the workers have right now in the unions. The beginning of the third wave of struggles already expressed a certain wearing out of the left in opposition after this card, put into use after 1978-79, had been largely responsible for the premature grinding down of the second wave and the disarray which accompanied the defeat in Poland in ‘81. But the period in which the bourgeoisie was able to disperse its attacks made it possible, in most countries, to avoid a too obvious deployment of the left and the unions. During this period it was the right and the private bosses who were in the front line of the strategy of dividing workers' struggles, in that this strategy was based above all not on the maneuvers of the left but on the way the direct attacks were themselves carried out. The unions' job was merely to accentuate the dispersed character of the struggles which derived from the very nature of the attacks they were responding to.
However as soon as it's narrowing margin for economic maneuver compels the bourgeoisie to give up its dispersed approach and attack in a frontal manner, it can only carry on its policy of dividing the workers (a policy it will continue until the revolution) through the left and the unions. But this more open contribution to the bourgeois strategy of division can only result in further unmasking of the unions' real function. The numerous maneuvers undertaken by the unions in the recent struggles in Belgium (notably the cutting up of days of action sector by sector), their efforts to cut into pieces the workers' response to the government's measures, the clear development of consciousness among the workers about the divisive role of the unions, constitute a first concretization of this general tendency towards the discrediting of the left and the unions, which is a feature of the present phase of the development of the class struggle.
13) The workers' growing distrust in the left and the unions is, as we've seen, rich in potential for massive outbreaks of proletarian struggle, for the development of the workers' self-organization and class consciousness. In particular, the coming period will see clear tendencies towards the formation within the class of more or less formal groupings of workers seeking to counteract the paralyzing influences of unionism and reflecting on the more general perspectives of the struggle.
It is for this reason that the bourgeoisie will more and more put forward the weapon of ‘rank and file' or ‘militant' unionism - as was shown in the struggles in Belgium recently - trying, with its ‘radical' language, to lead back into the union prison (whether the existing trade unions or trade unionism as such) those workers who have been trying to break out of it. In this situation it's important to be able to distinguish what expresses the vitality of the class (the appearance of groups or committees of combative workers engaged in a process of breaking with the left and the unions) from the bourgeoisie's attempts to bloc this process (the development of rank and file unionism). This is all the more true in that at the beginning of such a process the elements of the class who have embarked upon it may adopt positions which appear to be less advanced than those of the leftists and rank and file unionists who specialize in ‘radical' phraseology. Thus it is up to revolutionaries not to have a static view of these two kinds of phenomena which appear during the course of struggles but to consider, on the basis of an attentive study, the dynamic of each particular phenomenon in order to be able both to combat with the greatest vigor every ‘radical' maneuver of the bourgeoisie but also to encourage and push forward the still embryonic efforts of the class to develop its consciousness, and not to sterilize these efforts by confusing them with bourgeois maneuvers.
14) One of the other lessons of the recent combats in Belgium, which confirms what marxists have always defended against the Proudhonists and Lassaleans, and more recently against the modernists, is that the working class not only can and must struggle for the defense of its immediate interests in preparation for its struggle as a revolutionary class, but that it can also push back the bourgeoisie on this level. While the decadence of capitalism makes it impossible for the capitalists to accord real reforms to the working class; while phases of acute crisis - like the one we're going through now - compels them to attack the workers more and more brutally, this in no way means that the working class has no choice between immediately making (or preparing) the revolution and massively submitting to these attacks without any hope of limiting them. Even the when the situation of a national capital seems to be desperate, as is the case with Belgium today, when it seems that the situation doesn't permit the attacks on the class to be attenuated the bourgeoisie still retains a small margin of maneuver which allows it to momentarily - even the cost of worse difficulties in the future to put aside some of these attacks if they encounter a significant level of resistance on the part of the working class. This is what happened in Belgium with the ‘re-examination' of the measures affecting the Limburg mines and the shipyards, and the delay in applying the Martens government's austerity plans.
In the final analysis the urgency and gravity of capital's attack depends on the degree of the saturation of the market. But while the latter tends to become more and more total, this saturation never reaches an absolute point, and so the economic margin of maneuver available to each national capital, while tending more and more towards zero, never reaches such a limit. It's thus important that while revolutionaries must show that the perspective is more and more towards the collapse of capitalism and thus that it is necessary to replace it with a communist society, they must also be capable of pushing forward the immediate struggle by showing that it ‘pays' and that it ‘pays' all the more if it is conducted on a broad scale, in a unified manner, that the more the bourgeoisie is confronted with a strong working class the more it will be compelled to attenuate and delay its attacks.
15) Another thing confirmed by the April-May events in Belgium is the growing importance of the struggle of the unemployed, the capacity of this sector of the working class to integrate itself more and more into the general combat of the class, even if this phenomenon has as yet only appeared in an embryonic form in this period. Along with the appearance and development in recent years of numerous unemployed committees in the main countries of western Europe, this is a confirmation of the analysis which holds that:
-- unemployment will be "an essential element in the development of workers' struggles right up to the revolutionary period...
-- the unemployed workers will more and more tend to be at the front line of the class struggle." (6th Congress resolution, point 14).
A further point confirmed by the recent period concerns the organization of the unemployed: what has been shown by the Gottingen conference in Germany in ‘85, by the experience of a number of unemployed committees like the one in Toulouse in France, is that, fundamentally, the organization of the unemployed follows the same pattern as that of the rest of the class: it arises and centralizes itself in the struggle and for the needs of the struggle. Even if unemployed committees can exist in a more durable manner than strike committees, any attempt to maintain the life of such organs, to give them a centralized structure outside of such needs, can only lead them to become something very different from unitary organizations of struggle: in the best of cases, workers' discussion groups, in the worst, new trade unions.
16) Finally, the struggles in Belgium confirm something that revolutionaries have been saying since the historic resurgence of the proletariat at the end of the ‘60s, and more particularly with the considerable acceleration of history that has taken place in the ‘80s: because the crisis leaves less and less respite to the bourgeoisie, and because the latter is obliged to leave less and less to the working class, the present generation of workers is accumulating a wealth of experience in the struggle against capital, and "this accumulation of the experience of struggle by the proletariat, as well as the proximity between each experience, is an essential element in the coming to consciousness of the whole class about what's really at stake in its struggles." (6th Congress resolution, point 15).
Thus it's clear that in Belgium the workers were able to struggle on such a wide scale in Spring ‘86 because they had drawn and conserved many lessons from the struggles waged three years before. This is a phenomenon which will tend to generalize and intensify in all the central countries of capitalism, and is key to the enormous and untapped potential for the struggle in these countries, a potential which must not be underestimated by revolutionaries. And this is all the more true in that, in contrast to what happened in the past, in ‘74-75 when the recession hit a class in momentary retreat, or in ‘81-82 when it intersected with a proletariat still suffering the effects of the defeat in Poland in 1981, the recession opening up today is going to meet up with and further intensify an already mounting class movement. Nevertheless, it would be false and dangerous to imagine that, right here and now, a straight road to the revolutionary period has opened up. The working class is still far away from such a period. In order to reach it there has to be a whole transformation within the proletariat, which will turn the exploited class which it is within capitalism - and through its struggles as an exploited class - into the revolutionary class capable of taking charge of humanity's future. This indicates the scale and difficulty of the road it still has to go down, notably at the level of undoing the whole pressure of the dominant ideology which weighs on it, of overcoming through repeated and increasingly conscious confrontations, the many traps and mystifications which the bourgeoisie, its left and its unions, set and will continue to set against its struggles and the development of its consciousness. Though historically doomed, the bourgeoisie, like a mortally wounded wild beast, will continue to defend itself tooth and nail to the very last, and experience shows just how capable it is of inventing new traps aimed at undoing the proletariat or at least slowing its advance.
This is why it's important to underline the uneven character of the working class struggle, to remember the lessons already drawn by Rosa Luxemburg from the battles of 1905 in the Russian Empire, in particular the fact that the mass strike which marks the opening up of a revolutionary period, is "an ocean of phenomena", of apparently contradictory elements, of multiple forms of struggle, of advances and retreats during the course of which the flame of struggle seems to go out, while in fact the class is preparing for even vaster combats.
Despite their limitations and even if they are still far away from the mass strike (which is still a long-term perspective in the advanced countries), the recent struggles in Belgium, with their various ups and downs, confirm the necessity to remember the uneven nature of the class movement, remind us not to bury a struggle when it meets its first setback, to remain confident in all the potentialities which can be contained within it but which may not be immediately expressed.
If revolutionaries have to show their class the whole importance and potential of its present struggles, they also have to show the length and difficulty of the road ahead, not to demoralize the class, but on the contrary to struggle against the demoralization which threatens after every setback. It's up to revolutionaries to express to the highest degree the qualities of a class which bears the future of humanity: patience, a consciousness of the immense scope of the tasks to be accomplished, a serene but indestructible confidence in the future.