The 8th Congress of the ICC: the stakes of the Congress

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The International Communist Current has just held its 8th Congress. With the delegations from the ICC's ten sections, delegates from the Grupo Proletario Internacionalista (GPI) of Mexico, and from Communist Internationalist (CI) of India also took part in the Congress. Their active and enthusiastic participation brought a new breath of energy and confidence to our discussions, from the periphery of capitalism where the proletarian struggle is most difficult, where the conditions for militant communist ac­tivity are least favorable; their presence gave the tone to the whole Congress. The GPI dele­gation was mandated to seek its militants' entry into our organization; their candidature was dis­cussed and accepted at the Congress opening session. We will come back to this later.

This Congress was held at a moment of rapid historical acceleration. Capitalism is leading humanity to disaster. Every day, living condi­tions for the vast majority of human beings worsen dramatically; hunger riots proliferate; for billions, life expectancy is declining; all kinds of catastrophes claim thousands of vic­tims, and wars, millions.

The situation of the working class through­out the world, including in the rich developed countries of the northern hemisphere, is also getting constantly worse; unemployment is ris­ing, wages falling, job and living conditions worsening. The working class has not remained passive and as it resists, step by step, the at­tacks against it, it is developing its struggle, its experience, and its consciousness. The dy­namic of developing workers' struggles has been confirmed most recently in the massive strikes this summer in Great Britain and the USSR. In both East and West, the international proletariat is fighting back against capital.

It is clear what is at stake: capitalism is leading us towards a still more brutal collapse into economic disaster, and to a 3rd World War. Only the proletariat's resistance is preventing today, and can prevent tomorrow, the unleash­ing of another world-wide holocaust: only the development of its struggle can open humanity's way to the revolutionary perspective of commu­nism.

We will not enter here into the Congress' de­bates on the international situation. We refer our readers to the resolution adopted by the Congress, and to its presentation in this issue of the International Review. Suffice it to say that the Congress confirmed the validity of our previous orientations, and their acceleration, in the three aspects of the international situation: the economic crisis, inter-imperialist tensions, and the class struggle. It reaffirmed the valid­ity and the immediacy of the historic course to­wards class confrontations: recent years have not put this perspective in question; despite its weaknesses and difficulties, the proletariat has not suffered any major defeats which could overturn this course, and capitalism's road to world war remains blocked. More particularly, the Congress confirmed, against the lies and propaganda of the bourgeoisie but also against the doubts, hesitations, lack of confidence and skepticism currently reigning amongst the groups of the proletarian political milieu, the continuing reality of the wave of workers' struggles which has been developing on an international level since 1983.

The GPI and CI were both formed around, and on the basis of, our general analyses of the present period; and specifically of the recogni­tion of a historic course towards class con­frontations. The interventions by the Indian delegate, and by the ICC's new militants in Mexico, were thus fully integrated into the demonstration by the whole Congress of its confidence in the proletarian combat, and in its struggles today. The Congress' ability to do this was vital, and the resolution it adopted an­swered this need clearly. It also, as the reader will see, went further in clarifying the different characteristics of the present period, and de­cided to open a debate on the question of social decomposition.

Defense and reinforcement of the revolutionary organization

This general understanding of what is at stake historically today is the framework wherein rev­olutionary organizations, which are both a prod­uct of the world proletariat's combat and active participants in it, must mobilize, and prepare to take part in their class' historic struggle. Their role is vital: on the basis of the clearest possible understanding of the present situation and its perspectives, it is down to them, today, to take on the vanguard political struggle within the workers' struggles.

This is why the perspectives for our organization's activity drawn up by the Congress are one with our analysis of the present historical period. After evaluating positively the militant work accomplished since the 7th Congress, the resolution adopted on our activities reaffirmed our existing orientation:

"The activities of the ICC in the coming two years must be in continuity with the tasks un­dertaken since the revival of class combats in 1983, tasks outlined at our two previous Congresses in 1985 and 1987 which give priority to intervention in the workers' struggles, to active participation in orienting the struggle, and showing the need for a greater and more long-term militant commitment faced with the perspectives:

- of new integrations coming out of the present wave of class struggle, in the first place the constitution of a new territorial sec­tion, which in the short term is one of the most important issues facing the ICC;

- of a more important role for the organization in the process leading to the unification of workers' struggles (...)

The organization's most recent experience has allowed us to highlight several lessons which must be fully integrated into the perspectives for our activities:

- the need to fight for the holding of open mass meetings, which aim right from the start to widen the struggle, to spread it geographically ( ... )

- the need for unitary demands, against demagogic attempts to outbid everyone else, and against sectional particularities;

- the necessity of not being naive faced with the action of the bourgeoisie on the ground, so as to be able to foil the maneuvers aimed at recuperating the struggle by the unions and the coordinations that are develop­ing today;

- the need to be in the forefront of inter­vention in the constitution and the action of the struggle committees (...)."

In the present period, intervention in the workers' struggles determines every aspect of a revolutionary organization's activity. To carry out their tasks of intervention, revolutionaries need solid centralized political organizations. The question of the political organization and its defense has always been a central one. Communist organizations are subject to the pressure both of bourgeois, and of petty-bour­geois ideology, which appears in individualism, localism, immediatism, etc. This pressure is still stronger on today's communist groups, due to the effects of the social decomposition that af­fects the whole of capitalist society. As the resolution on activities emphasizes:

"Bourgeois society's decomposition, in the ab­sence of any perspective of an immediate way out, exerts its pressure on the proletariat and its political organisations (... )".

This increased pressure on communist groups makes the question of the defense of the revo­lutionary organization still more crucial. This was the second element of the Congress' discus­sion on our activities. The resolution reaffirms that, against this danger, "the ICC's greatest strength lies in its international, unified, and centralized nature". In this sense, the Congress required of all the organization, all its sections and all its militants, to strengthen the ICC's organizational fabric, its collective work, its international centralization, to develop a more rigorous functioning and a greater militant commitment. The object is to counter today's particular effects of decomposition on revolu­tionary political groups, such as localism, indi­vidualism, or even destructive activities and maneuvers.

Revolucion Mundial's constitution as a section of the ICC

Confidence in the proletarian struggle; confi­dence in the role and intervention of revolu­tionaries; confidence in the ICC; as we have said, this is what was at stake in the Congress. The presence of the delegate from CI, the can­didature of the comrades from Mexico, as well as their interventions during the debates, were all illustrations of their own confidence on these three levels which placed these comrades in the same dynamic as the rest of the Congress. Apart from the various texts and resolutions it adopted, the Congress' clearest demonstration of confidence was its adoption of the resolution integrating the comrades of the GPI into the ICC, and the formation of a new section in Mexico. Here are the most important extracts:

"1. A product of the development of the class struggle, the Grupo Proletario Internacionalista is a communist group which was constituted ­with the ICC's active participation - on the ba­sis of the ICC's political positions and of its general orientations, in particular that of inter­vention in the class struggle ( ... )

2. The GPI's first Congress saw the ratification by all its militants of ( ... ) the political class positions developed by the group. In close collaboration with the ICC, it opened up a pro­cess of political reapropriation and clarification, and drew out the main lines for establishing a coherent political presence by the group in Mexico.

3. One year later, the GPI's second Congress -- like the ICC -- drew up a positive balance­-sheet of this process of political clarification. In fact, the group had:

- acquainted itself with, confronted, and taken position on the different currents and groups of the political milieu, defended the programmatic, theoretical, and political positions of the ICC,

- developed the same orientations as the ICC, of intervention in workers' struggles and in the proletarian political movement,

- assumed a political presence at both a lo­cal and an international level,

- maintained a lively, intense and fruitful internal political life.

4. The GPI's second Congress has success­fully confronted and overcome the group's councilist weaknesses, which were expressed in the process of political clarification:

- on the theoretical level by the unanimous adoption of a correct position on class con­sciousness and the party,

- on the political level by the unanimous demand for the opening of the process of it militants' integration, to which the ICC reacted favorably.

5. Seven months later, the ICC's VIIIth Congress evaluates this process of integration positively. The comrades of the GPI have unanimously, after in-depth discussion, pro­nounced their agreement with the ICC's Platform and Statutes. Apart from this, the GPI has, since the opening of this process, assumed the tasks of a true section of the ICC, by a regular and frequent correspondence, by taking posi­tions in the ICC's debates, by intervening in the class struggle, and ensuring the regular publication of Revolucion Mundial ( ... ).

6. The VIIIth Congress of the ICC ( ...)j, con­scious of the difficulties for the organization of integrating a group of militants in a relatively isolated country, considers that the process of the GPI comrades' integration with the ICC is drawing to a close. Consequently, the Congress pronounces itself for the integration of the GPI militants into the organization, and their con­stitution as the ICC's section in Mexico".

Following this decision by the Congress, the Mexican delegation declared, as it had been mandated to do, the dissolution of the GPI. Needless to say, from this moment on, the dele­gates intervened in the Congress as delegates of Revolucion Mundial, the new section in Mexico, and as full members of the ICC. The high degree of political clarity expressed in its preparation for the Congress, and its delega­tion's energetic and important participation in the debates shows that the formation of the new section represents a considerable reinforcement of the ICC both politically and in terms of its presence on the American continent.

A reinforcement of the proletarian political milieu

This dynamic of political clarification, militant commitment, and regroupment, with the ICC in particular, is not unique to the comrades of RM. At the Congress' closure, the delegate from CI, a group with which we have been in close con­tact for years, posed his candidature to our organization; we have accepted this candidature. This integration and the publication of Communist Internationalist as the ICC's organ in India opens the perspective of our organization's political presence, and its 12th section, in a country (and in the Asian continent) where revolutionary forces are all but non-existent and where, despite a great combativity as we have seen in India particularly, the proletariat is dispersed and lacking in historical and politi­cal experience.

Nor, it should be said, is this process of movement towards and integration in the ICC something peculiar to the countries of the pe­riphery. We have witnessed, and taken part in a renewal of contacts and a dynamic towards militant commitment in Europe, where the ICC and the major communist groups and currents are already present.

But let us be clear about one thing: however enthusiastic we may be over this increased mil­itant strength, there can be no question, for us, of triumphalism. We are all too aware of what is at stake historically, of the proletariat's diffi­culties and the weakness of revolutionary forces.

These new integrations are a success for the ICC, which since its foundation has claimed and worked to be a real international pole of politi­cal reference and regroupment. They confirm the validity of our political positions in the pe­riphery and the developed countries of every continent; they confirm the orientation of our intervention towards the proletarian political movement. But, and we are extremely aware of this, they also give us new and greater respon­sibilities: on the one hand, we must make these integrations a complete success; on the other, our militant responsibility towards the world proletariat is increased.

The emergence of elements and political groups in countries of the periphery (India, Latin America), the appearance of a new gener­ation of militants, are the product of a historical period and of today's workers' struggles. Moreover as we have seen, it is essentially on the basis of a more or less clear recognition of the historic course towards class confrontations, and of the reality of the present wave of struggles, that these groups have been formed.

The question of the course of history is the central one "separating" the groups of the pro­letarian political movement. Over and above their existing programmatic differences, this is what determines today the various groups' and currents' dynamics: either towards intervention in the struggle and in the revolutionary move­ment, towards discussion and political con­frontation, and eventually regroupment; or to­wards skepticism at the struggle, refusal and fear of intervention, retreat into sectarianism, dispersal, discouragement, and sclerosis.

The recognition of the development of the workers' struggle, and revolutionaries' readiness to intervene in them, lies at the basis of revo­lutionary groups' ability to confront their re­sponsibilities: within the struggle itself, of course, but also towards those elements and groups that appear throughout the world, and towards the need to develop centralized and militant organizations capable of acting as poles of reference and regroupment.

In our opinion, the strengthening of the ICC represents a strengthening of the entire prole­tarian political movement. These are the first real and significant regroupments for a decade, in fact since the formation of the ICC's section in Sweden. They mark a break with the prolif­eration of splits, dispersion, and loss of militant forces. For all proletarian political groups, for all emerging revolutionary elements, this should be an element of confidence in the present situ­ation, and a call to militant sense of responsi­bilities.

History is accelerating on every level

Already, we can make a positive evaluation of the 8th Congress. It reaffirmed our confidence in today's workers' struggles, and our convic­tion that they will develop during the coming period; it reaffirmed our orientation towards intervention in these struggles. The Congress strengthened further the ICC's international and centralized nature with a view to its defense. It integrated new comrades, and formed a new section and new publications: Revolucion Mundial, and Communist Internationalist. This was a truly "world" Congress, with the partici­pation of comrades from Europe, America, and Asia.

History is accelerating.

The Congress was able to take its place within this historic framework. The 8th Congress of the ICC was a product of this his­torical acceleration; we have no doubt that it will also be a moment and a factor within it.

The international Situation

 

Presentation of the resolution

We're publishing here the Resolution on the International Situation adopted by the 8th Congress of the ICC. This Resolution is based on a very detailed report which is too long to publish in this Review. However, given the synthetical character of the Resolution we judged that it would be useful to precede it with some extracts, not from the report itself, but from the presentation made on it at the Congress, extracts which we have accompanied with a number of statistics taken from the re­port.

Usually, the report for a congress looks at the evolution of the situation since the preceding congress. In particular, it examines the extent to which the perspectives drawn up two years before have been verified. But the present report doesn't limit itself to examining the past two years. It attempts to make a balance-sheet of the whole 1980s, the years we've called the 'years of truth.'

Why such a choice?

Because at the beginning of the decade, we an­nounced that it was going to be a turning point in the evolution of the international situation. A turning point between:

* a period in which the bourgeoisie was still trying to hide from the working class - and from itself - the gravity of the convulsions of its system;

* and a period in which these convulsions would reach such a level that the ruling class could no longer hide the fact that capitalism had reached a dead-end: a period in which this fact would become plain to the whole of society.

This distinction between the two periods would obviously have its repercussions on all aspects of the world situation. In particular it would underline exactly what was at stake in the struggles of the working class.

For the present congress, which is the last congress of the '80s, it is thus important to verify the validity of 'this general orientation we adopted ten years ago. In particular it is im­portant to show that this orientation has in no way been refuted, above all in the face of doubts and fluctuations which exist in the pro­letarian political milieu and which lead to an under-estimation of what's at stake in the pre­sent period, especially the importance of the struggles of the working class.

On the economic crisis

It is vital that this congress arrives at a real clarity on this subject. In particular, even be­fore drawing out the catastrophic perspective for the evolution of capitalism in the years ahead, it is necessary to emphasize the gravity of the crisis right now.

Why is it necessary to make such a balance­-sheet?

1) For one obvious reason: our capacity to draw out the future perspectives for capitalism depends closely on the validity of the frame­work we use for analyzing the past situation.

2) Because, and this too is obvious, a cor­rect evaluation of the present gravity of the crisis will to a large extent determine our ca­pacity to pronounce on the real potential of the current struggles of the class, particularly in response to the under-estimations which exist in the political milieu.

3) Because there have been tendencies within the organization to under-estimate the real seriousness of the collapse of the capitalist economy, based on a one-sided interpretation of the figures usually provided by the bourgeoisie, such as 'Gross National Product' or the volume of the world market.

Such an error can be very dangerous. It could lead us to get trapped in a view similar to that of Vercesi1 at the end of the '30s, when he claimed that capitalism had hencefor­ward overcome its crisis. This view was based on the growth of the crude figures of produc­tion without any concern for what was being produced (in reality, mainly weapons) or without asking who was going to pay for it.

It's precisely for this reason that the report, as well as the resolution, base their appreciation of the considerable aggravation of the capitalist crisis throughout the '80s not so much on these figures (which on their own seem to indicate that there's been 'growth', particularly in these last few years), but on a whole series of other elements which, taken together, are much more significant. We refer to the following elements:

- the dizzying growth in the debt of the un­der-developed countries, but also of the main world power as well as the public administra­tions of all countries;

- the continuous rise in arms spending, but also in all the unproductive sectors such as, for example, the banking sector - and this to the detriment of the productive sectors (production of consumer goods and the means of produc­tion);

- the acceleration of the process of creating industrial deserts, which has meant the disap­pearance of whole chunks of the productive ap­paratus and thrown millions of workers into un­employment;

- the enormous aggravation of unemployment throughout the '80s and, more generally, the considerable development of absolute pauperization within the working class of the most ad­vanced countries.

On this latter point, it's worth making a comment that will help denounce the present campaigns of the bourgeoisie about the impend­ing improvement of the situation in the USA. The figures given in the report show that there's been a real impoverishment of the working class in this country. But we also draw the attention of the congress to the report by the US section at its last conference (see International Review 64). This report clearly shows that the bourgeoisie's figures indicating a so-called drop in unemployment to the level it was in the '70s are in fact an attempt to mask a tragic aggravation of the situation: the real level of unemployment is three times higher than the official level;

- finally, one of the most basic expressions of the worsening convulsions of the capitalist economy is provided by the increasing number of calamities hitting the under-developed coun­tries: the malnutrition and famine which claim more and more victims, the catastrophes that have turned these countries into a true hell for hundreds of millions of human beings.

In what way should we consider these differ­ent phenomena as highly significant manifesta­tions of the collapse of the capitalist economy?

As far as generalized debt is concerned, we have here a clear expression of the underlying cause of the capitalist crisis: the general satu­ration of markets, lacking real solvent outlets for the realization of surplus-value, production has to a large extent been poured into fictitious markets.

We can take three examples:

1. During the 1970s, there was a consider­able increase in imports by the under-developed countries. The commodities purchased came mainly from the advanced countries, which made it possible for production there to revive for a while. But how where these purchases to be paid for? Through the loans taken out by the under-developed countries from their suppliers (see table 1). If the buying countries were re­ally reimbursing their debts, we could consider that these commodities had really been sold, that the value they contained had effectively been realized. But we all know that these debts will never be reimbursed2. This means that, globally speaking, these products haven't been sold against a real payment, but against promises of payment, promises that can never be kept. We say globally speaking, because the individual capitalists who effected these sales may have been paid. But this doesn't alter the real problem. What accrued to the capitalists has been advanced by the banks or states which for their part will never be reimbursed. This is the true significance of all the present negotiations (designated by the term 'Brady plan') which aim to make major reductions in the debts, of a certain number of under-developed countries, beginning with Mexico (in order to avoid a situ­ation where these countries openly declare their bankruptcy and cease all repayments). This 'moratorium' on a part of the debts means that, from now on, it is officially envisaged that the banks or the lending countries will not recover the whole of what they've loaned.

Table 1. Total debt of under-developed countries (in billions of dollars)

 

1970

1975

1980

1985

1988

Current debt

70

170

580

950

1320

Mean annual increase for the period

 

20

82

74

123

(Source: Banque mondiale, 1988)

 

2) Another example is the explosion of the USA's foreign debt. In 1985, for the first time since 1914, America became a debtor vis-as-vis the rest of the world. This was a considerable event, at least as important as the USA's first trade deficit since the first world war (1968) and as the first devaluation of the dollar since 1934 (1971). The fact that the planet's' main economic power, which for years had been the world's financier, should now find itself in the situation of some under-developed country or a second-rate power, like France for example, says a lot about the degradation of the whole world economy and represents a new stage in its collapse.

By the end of 1987, the net foreign (the total of debts minus the total of credits) of the USA had already risen to 368 billion dollars (or 8.1% of GNP). The world champion of foreign debt was no longer Brazil; Uncle Sam had already gone three times better. And the situation isn't about to improve, because the main cause of this debt, the deficit in the balance of trade remains at a considerable level. What's more even if this deficit were to be miraculousl y reabsorbed, the USA's foreign debt would continue to grow to the extent that, like any Latin American country, the states must continue to borrow in order to pay back the interest on its debts. On top of this, the balance between American investment abroad, and foreign investment in America, which was still 20.4 billion dollars in the black in 1987 - a fact which limited the financial consequences of the trade deficit - went into the red in 1988 and has continued to slide since then (see table 2).

On the basis of these projections, the external debt of the USA is thus is destined to grow very considerably in future: it's due to reach 1000 billion dollars in 1992 and 1400 billion in 1997. And so, just like the debts of the third world countries, the American debt has no chance- of being reimbursed.

Table 2. US Foreign debt (annual figures in $ billions)

 

71-75

76-80

81-85

1986

1988

1990

Current account

 

-5

-56

-139

-132

-108

Balance of trade

Balance of investment

 

-26

-74

-144

-121

-89

Revenue

 

 

 

23

-3

-20

(Source: OCDE, decembre 1988; après 1987, les valeurs sont estimees)

 

3) The third example is that of the budget deficits, the astronomical accumulation of debts by all states (see tables 3 and 4). At the last Congress, we already pointed out that it was to a large extent these deficits, and particularly the federal deficit of the USA, which had permitted a timid revival of production in 1983.

And it's the same problem again today. These debts will also never be reimbursed, except at the price of even more astronomical debts (table 3 shows that simply the interest is already more than 10% of state expenditure in most of the advanced countries: this is already becoming a major item in national budgets). And the production bought through these debts, which is to large extent armaments, will also never really be paid for.

Table 3. Evolution of net national debt

 

1980

1985

1987

United States

19.7

27.8

30.3

Japan

17.3

26.8

25.9

West Germany

14.3

21.9

23.0

France

14.3

23.8

26.6

Great Britain

47.5

46.6

43.4

Italy

53.6

80.9

89.1

Average 7 major countries

22.0

31.4

33.4

Belgium

68.9

110.5

116.7

(Source: OCDE, decembre 1988)

 

Table 4. Interest payments of the Central Administration (percentage of expenditures)

 

1980

1985

1987

United States

8.7

13.2

13.3

Japan

10.3

17.2

17.7 (*)

Italy

14.8

17.3

18.7 (*)

(*) 1986.

(Source: OCDE, decembre 88)

 

In the final analysis, during these years, a good part of world production hasn't been sold but simply given. This production may correspond to goods that are really made, but it's not a production of values, ie of the only thing that interests capitalism. It hasn't allowed a real accumulation of capital. Global capital is reproduced on an increasingly narrow basis. Taken as a whole, capitalism hasn't grown richer. On the contrary, it has grown poorer.

And capitalism has grown all the more poor for the fact that we've seen a spectacular growth in armaments3 and unproductive expenditure in general (see table 5).

Table 5. Growth in military spending according to official figures (in billions of 1986 dollars)

 

1980

1987

% growth

United States

194.5

275.2

41.5

Japan

15.2

20.5

35.2

Italy

11.2

13.9

25.5

United Kingdom

23.5

27.0

15.0

France

26.1

29.0

11.2

Spain

6.5

7.2

10.3

West Germany

21.6

22.5

4.2

East Germany

3.5

5.4

52.2

South Korea

3.7

5.3

44.1

Taiwan

3.3

4.7

40.4

(Source: SIPRI, Yearbook 1988)

 

Arms can't be counted in the 'plus' column in the general balance-sheet of world production ­on the contrary, they have to go in the minus column. Contrary to what Rosa Luxemburg wrote in The Accumulation of Capital in 1912, and to what Vercesi said at the end of the '30s, militarism is not at all a field of accumulation for capital. Armaments may enrich the individual capitalists who sell them, but not capitalism as a whole since they can't be incorporated into a new cycle of production. At best, when they're not used, they constitute a sterilization of capital. And when they are used, they result in a destruction of capital.

Thus, to get a real idea of the evolution of the world economy, to get some idea of the real values produced, you'd have to subtract from the official production figures (GNP for example) the figures for the debts in the period under consideration, as well as the figures corresponding to arms expenditure and all the unproductive expenses. In the case of the USA, for example, in the period 1980-87, merely the growth in the state's debt is higher than the growth of GNP; 2.7% of the GNP for the growth of debt, 2.4% for the average yearly growth of GNP itself. Thus, for the decade just ending, if you merely take into account the budget deficits, you can already see that there's been a regression in the main world economy. A regression that in reality is much more significant, because of:

1) other debts (foreign debt, debts of particular: enterprises, of local administrations, etc);

2) enormous unproductive expenditure.

In the last analysis, even if we don't have exact figures enabling us to calculate on a world scale the real decline of capitalist production, we can conclude just from the preceding example how real this global impoverishment of society is.

It's only in this framework - and not by seeing the stagnation or fall in GNP as the manifestation par excellence of the capitalist crisis - that we can grasp the real significance of the 'exceptional rates of growth' that the bourgeoisie has been rejoicing about these last two years. In reality, if we subtract from these formidable 'rates of growth' everything appertaining to the sterilization of capital and to debt, we would have a plainly negative growth rate. Faced with an increasingly saturated world market, a rise in production figures can only correspond to a new rise in debts - one even more considerable than the previous increases.

It's by seeing the real impoverishment of the whole of capitalist society, the real destruction of capital throughout the 80s, that we can understand the other phenomena analyzed in the report.

Thus, the creation of industrial deserts is a flagrant illustration of this destruction of capital. Table 6 gives us a concrete, statistical picture of this reality, which involves the blowing up or demolishing of newly-built factories, the transformation of certain industrial zones into eerie landscapes of desolation and ruin, and above all, massive redundancies for the workers. For example, this table shows us that in the USA, between 1980 and 1986, jobs fell by 1.35 million in industry while growing by 3.71 million in the hotel and restaurant sectors and 3.99 million in the financial-insurance-business sectors. The so­called 'reduction in unemployment' which the American bourgeoisie talks about so much has in no way meant an improvement in the real productive capacity of the American economy: in what way is the 'reconversion' of a skilled metal worker into a hot-dog seller something positive for the capitalist economy, not to mention for the worker himself?

Similarly the rise in real unemployment, the absolute impoverishment of the working class and the sinking of the under-developed countries into a state of total deprivation (for an impressive tableau of this, see the article in IR 57, 'Economic Balance Sheet of the 1980s: the barbaric agony of Capitalism') are manifestations of this global impoverishment of capitalism, of the historic impasse of this system4, an impoverishment which the ruling class makes the exploited and the poverty-stricken masses pay for.

Table 6. Development of employment by sector of the economy (in millions and percentage variation)

 

1974

1980

1987

1987/80

GERMANY

 

 

 

 

Mines, etc

0.26

0.23

0.21

-8.1%

Industries

9.62

8.99

8.25

-8.2%

Construction

2.18

2.09

1.73

-17.2%

Commerce, hotels, etc

4.3

4.28

4.15

-3.1%

Finance, assurances, etc

0.69

0.74

0.83

+11.5%

GREAT BRITAIN

 

 

 

 

Mines, etc

0.36

0.36

0.21

-42.1%

Industries

8.03

7.08

5.40

-23.8%

Construction

1.69

1.62

1.53

-5.5%

Commerce, hotels, etc

4.47

4.82

5.06

+5.0%

Finance, assurances, etc

1.62

1.84

2.61

+41.9%

UNITED STATES (*)

 

 

 

 

Mines, etc

0.72

1.07

0.81

-24.9%

Industries

20.42

20.84

19.49

-6.5%

Construction

5.15

5.82

6.55

+12.4%

Commerce, hotels, etc

20.62

24.40

28.11

+15.2%

Finance, assurances, etc

8.56

11.60

15.60

+34.4%

 

(Source: OECD, national accounts, 1988)

(*) 1986, not 1987

 

This is why the so-called 'growth' the bourgeoisie has boasted about since 1983 has been accompanied by unprecedented attacks on the working class. These attacks obviously aren't the expression of some deliberate 'wickedness' on the bourgeoisie's part, but rather of the authentic collapse of the capitalist economy over the course of these years. A collapse which the bourgeoisie has managed to prevent from appearing too openly, in the form of an overt recession, by playing tricks with the law of value, by strengthening state capitalist policies at the level of the blocs, and by diving headlong into debt.

A remark on this question of 'recession.' In the interests of clarity, the resolution uses the term 'open recession' to mean the stagnation or fall in the capitalist indicators themselves, which reveals openly the reality that the bourgeoisie tries to hide, and to hide from itself: the collapse of value production.

This collapse, as the report shows, continues even during moments the bourgeoisie counts as phases of 'recovery.' It's this last phenomenon which the resolution describes as 'recession.'

To conclude this part on the economic crisis, we must underline once again that the considerable aggravation of the crisis of capitalism, and of attacks against the working class, throughout the '80s, is an unambiguous confirmation of the perspective we drew up ten years ago. Similarly, we have to underline that this situation can only get considerably worse, on a world scale, in the period ahead, because capitalism today is in a total impasse.

On the imperialist conflicts

On this question, which hasn't raised any major debates, the presentation will be very brief and will limit itself to reaffirming a few basic ideas:

1) It's only by basing oneself firmly on the framework of marxism that one can understand the real evolution of imperialist conflicts: beyond all the ideological campaigns, the aggravation of the capitalist crisis can only lead to an intensification of the real antagonisms between the imperialist blocs.

2) A manifestation of this intensification, the offensive of the US bloc, and the success it has achieved, enable us to explain the recent evolution of Russian diplomacy and the USSR's withdrawal from various positions it could no longer hold onto.

3) This diplomatic evolution therefore in no way means that we're beginning to see an attenuation in the antagonisms between the great powers - on the contrary; nor that the conflicts which have ravaged the numerous points on the globe are now going to disappear. In a whole number of places, wars and massacres continue and can intensify from one day to the next, bringing in their wake an increasing toll of corpses and calamities.

4) In the present pacifist campaigns, one of the decisive elements is the necessity for the whole bourgeoisie to hide from the working class what's really at stake in the present period, at a time when its struggles are developing and deepening.

The evolution of the class struggle

The essential aim of the presentation here is 'to make explicit the overall balance sheet of the class struggle in the '80s.

In order to provide the broad outlines of this balance sheet, to see how far the movement has come, we have to see briefly where the proletariat was at the beginning of the decade.

The beginning of the 1980s was marked by a contrast between:

* on the one hand, the weakening of the proletarian struggle in the big working class concentrations of the advanced countries of the western bloc, in particular of western Europe, following the main battles of the second wave of struggles (1978-79);

* on the other hand, the mighty confrontations in Poland in the summer of 1980, which were the culminating point in this wave. This weakening of the struggle of the decisive battalions of the world proletariat was due to a large extent to the strategy of the left in opposition which the bourgeoisie adopted right from the start of the second wave. This new card of the bourgeoisie surprised the working class and in some ways broke its élan. This is why the combat in Poland took place in a general context that was unfavorable, in a situation of international isolation. This situation obviously made it easier to derail the struggle onto the terrain of trade unionism, of democratic and nationalistic mystifications, and, consequently, facilitated the brutal repression of December '81.

In turn, the cruel defeat suffered by the proletariat in Poland could only aggravate, for the time being, the demoralization, demobilization and disarray of the proletariat in other countries. In particular, it made it possible to polish up the image of trade unionism both east and west. This is why we talked about a reflux, a defeat for the working class, not only at the level of its will to fight, but also at the ideological level.

However, this reflux didn't last long. From the autumn of '83, a third wave of struggles began to develop, a particularly powerful wave which showed that the combativity of the proletariat was intact, and which was characterized by massive and simultaneous struggles.

Faced with this wave of workers' struggles, the bourgeoisie in many places adopted a strategy of dispersing its attacks, with the aim of fragmenting the struggles; this strategy was accompanied by a policy of immobilization by the unions wherever they had lost most credibility. But from the spring of '86, the generalized struggles in the public sector in Belgium, as well as the railway workers' strike in France that December, showed the limits of this strategy, owing to the considerable aggravation of the economic situation which compelled the bourgeoisie to carry out increasingly frontal attacks. From this point, and for a whole historic period to come, the essential question posed by these experiences of the class, and by the very nature of the capitalist offensive, was that of the unification of struggles. That is to say a form of mobilization not limited to a simple extension, but one in which the working class takes direct charge of extension through its general assemblies, with the aim of forming a united front against the bourgeoisie.

Faced with these necessities and potentialities of the struggle, it's obvious the bourgeoisie doesn't remain inactive. It deploys in a still-more systematic manner than before the classic weapons of the left in opposition:

- the radicalization of the traditional unions

- the use of base unionism

- the policy which entails these organs going one step ahead of the struggle in order to defuse it.

But also, especially where trade unionism is most discredited, it is using new weapons like the coordinations, which complete or precede the work of the unions. Finally, in numerous countries the poison of corporatism with the aim of trapping the workers in a false choice between 'extension through the unions' and 'self-organized' isolation in one trade.

For the moment, this collection of maneuvers has succeeded in disorienting the working class and impeding the movement towards the unification of struggles. This doesn't mean that the dynamic of the movement has been put into question, since even the radicalization of bourgeois maneuvers is, just like all the present media campaigns, pacifism and the rest, a sign of the growing potential for wider and much more conscious combats.

In this sense, the overall balance sheet we have to draw up for the '80s is not one indicating a stagnation of class struggle, but one indicating a decisive advance. This advance can be gauged in the contrast between the beginning of the 80s, which saw a momentary strengthening of trade unionism, and the end of the period, in which, as the comrades of World Revolution put it, "the bourgeoisie is maneuvering to set up 'anti-union' structures in the struggles of the working class."

The report also makes explicit the historical framework in which the proletarian struggle is unfolding today, a framework which explains the slow pace of its development, and the difficulties faced by the proletariat, difficulties which the bourgeoisie systematically exploits in its various maneuvers. A number of elements advanced here have already been evoked in the past (slow rhythm of the crisis itself, though this is tending to accelerate today), the weight of the break in organic continuity with the past workers' movement and the inexperience of the new generations of workers). But the report makes a particular point on the question of the decomposition of capitalist society, something which has given rise to numerous debates in the organization.

It was indispensable to raise this question for several reasons:

a) First, it's only recently that this question has been clearly brought out and made explicit by the ICC (though we had already identified it in relation to terrorist attacks in Paris in the autumn of '86).

b) It's important to examine to what extent a phenomenon that affects the revolutionary organizations (and which is particularly underlined in the activities report) also weighs on the class whose avant-garde these organizations are.

The presentation won't go back over what's said in the report. We will limit ourselves to putting forward the following points:

1) For a long time the ICC has been saying that the objective conditions in which workers' struggles are developing today (capitalism's plunge into an economic crisis that hits all countries simultaneously) are much more favorable to the success of the revolution that the conditions that lay at the origin of the first revolutionary wave (le, the first imperialist war).

2) Similarly, we've shown that the subjective conditions are also more favorable to the extent that today there are no bi g workers' parties, like the Socialist parties, whose betrayal within the decisive period itself could, as in the past, throw the proletariat into disarray.

3) At the same time, we've also pointed to the specific difficulties and obstacles encountered by the present historical resurgence of class struggle: the weight of the organic break, the distrust of politics, the weight of councilism (see in particular the resolution on the international situation adopted by the 6th Congress of the ICC).

It was important, therefore, to say - in accord with what we've written about the difficulties encountered by the organization ­that the phenomenon of decomposition is a real weight in the present period and will continue to be so for some time to come; that it constitutes a very serious danger that the class will have to face up to if it is to protect itself from it and find the means to turn it back against capitalism.

While it is necessary to be aware of the gravity of this phenomenon, that obviously doesn't mean that all aspects of decomposition are an obstacle to the development of consciousness in the proletariat. The objective elements which clearly expose the total barbarism that society is sinking into can only increase the workers' disgust for the system and thus contribute to the development of class consciousness. Similarly, at the level of ideological decomposition, elements like the corruption of the bourgeois class, of the collapse of the traditional pillars of its ideological domination also contribute to an understanding of the bankruptcy of capitalism. But on the other hand, all the elements of ideological decay which weigh on the revolutionary organization also weigh, and still more heavily, on the class as a whole, making all sorts of difficulties for the development of the class struggle and of class consciousness.

But this observation should in no way be a source of demoralization or skepticism.

1) Throughout the '80s, despite this negative weight of decomposition, which has been systematically exploited by the bourgeoisie, the proletariat has still been able to push forward its struggles in response to the aggravation of the crisis which, as we've so often said, has once again shown itself to be 'the best ally of the working class.'

2) The weight of decomposition is a challenge that has to be taken up by the working class. By struggling against its influences, particularly by strengthening its class unity and solidarity through collective action, the proletariat itself will be forging the weapons for the overthrow of capitalism.

3) In this combat against the weight of decomposition, revolutionaries have a crucial role to play. Just as the recognition that this weight affects our own ranks isn't something that should demoralize us but, on the contrary, should strengthen our vigilance and determination, the recognition that the working class itself is encountering these difficulties should also lead to greater determination and conviction In our intervention in the class.

To conclude this presentation, we'd say that the discussion on the international situation should not only lead to greater clarity in our ranks but also:

- to a greater confidence in the validity of the analyses upon which the ICC was formed and has developed, and in particular our confidence in the development of the class struggle towards increasingly profound and generalized confrontations, towards a revolutionary period;

- to a greater determination to carry out the responsibilities which the proletariat has conferred on us.

 

Resolution on the international situation

1) The acceleration of history throughout the 80s has highlighted the insurmountable contra­dictions of capitalism. The 80s have been years of truth.

Truth about the deepening of the economic crisis.

Truth about the aggravation of imperialist tensions.

Truth about the development of the class struggle.

As reality appears more and more clearly, the ruling class has nothing but lies to offer: "growth", "peace" and "social calm".

The economic crisis

2) During this decade, the living standards of the working class have been subjected to the strongest attack since the war:

- massive development of unemployment and temporary work

- attacks on wages, reduction of buying power

- amputation of the social wage.

While the proletariat of the industrialized countries has suffered from growing impoverishment, the majority of the world population has found itself at the mercy of famine and ra­tioning.

3) The bourgeoisie, against all the evidence that the exploited of the world feel in their bones, is singing hymns to the new-found "growth" in its economy. This "growth" is a myth.

This so-called "growth" in production has been financed by a frenetic resort to credit and through the gigantic trade and budget deficits of the USA, in a purely artificial manner. These credits will never be repaid.

This indebtedness has essentially been used to finance arms production - ie , it is capital earmarked for destruction. While whole branches of industry have been dismantled, those sectors which show the strongest rates of growth are those concerned with arms and unproductive activities in general - services like advertising and banking, or pure waste sectors, such as the drug market.

The ruling class has only been able to main­tain the illusion of economic activity through the destruction of capital. The false "growth" of the capitalists is really a recession.

4) In order to arrive at this "result", gov­ernments have had to resort to state capitalist measures to an unprecedented degree: record debt, war economy, falsification of economic fig­ures, financial manipulations.

Contrary to the illusion that privatization represents a dismantling of state capitalism, the role of the state has been reinforced. Under the imposition of the USA, there has been a devel­opment in international "cooperation" between the Western powers, ie a strengthening of the imperialist bloc.

5) Within the eastern bloc, "perestroika" corre­sponds to a recognition of economic bankruptcy. State capitalist methods Russian style - the state's total grip over the economy and the omnipresence of the war economy - have resulted in nothing but a growing bureaucratic anarchy in production, a gigantic waste of wealth. The USSR and its bloc are bogged down in economic underdevelopment. Gorbachev's new economic policies will not change this.

In the east as in the west, the capitalist cri­sis is accelerating while attacks on the working class are intensifying.

6) No state capitalist measure can lead to a real revival in the economy, or even all such meth­ods put together. They are a huge fiddle vis-a-­vis the laws of the economy. They aren't a rem­edy but a factor aggravating the disease. Their massive utilization is the most obvious symptom of the disease.

As a consequence, the world market has be­come more and more fragile: growing fluctuation of currencies, frenzied speculation, crises on the stock exchange without the capitalist economy coming out of the recession it dived into at the beginning of the 80s.

The weight of debt has grown terribly. At the end of the 80s, the USA, the first world power, has become the most indebted country in the world. Inflation has never disappeared: it has continued to knock at the doors of the industrialized countries, and, under the inflation­ary pressures of debt, it is now going through an irreversible acceleration at the heart of de­veloped capitalism.

7) At the end of the 80s, state capitalist policies are revealing their impotence. Despite all the measures taken, official growth rates are irre­sistibly declining and announce the open reces­sion that's coming, while the index of prices slowly rises. Inflation, which has been artifi­cially hidden, is about to return in force to the heart of the industrial world.

During this decade, the ruling class has fol­lowed a policy of putting things off till tomor­row. This policy, even when used more and more massively, is reaching its limits. In the immedi­ate it will be less and less effective, while the practice of stealing from the future will eventu­ally have to be paid for. The years ahead will be years of a further plunge into economic cri­sis, when inflation will increasingly go hand in hand with recession. Despite the international tightening of control by the state, the fragility of the world market will keep growing: there will be more and more bankruptcies in industry, commerce and in the banks themselves.

The attacks against the living conditions of the proletariat and humanity in general can only be dramatically accentuated.

Inter-imperialist tensions

8) The 1980s opened with the fall of the Shah's regime in Iran, resulting in the dismantling of the west's military front line to the south of Russia, and the invasion of Afghanistan by the troops of the Red Army.

This situation, spurred on by the economic crisis, pushed the American bloc into launching a wide-scale imperialist offensive aimed at con­solidating its own bloc, disciplining small recal­citrant imperialisms (Iran, Libya, Syria), ex­pelling Russian influence from the peripheries of capitalism and imposing a quasi-blockade on the USSR, smothering it in the narrow limits of its own bloc. In the final analysis the aim of this offensive is to strip the USSR of its status as a world power.

9) In the face of this pressure, incapable of keeping up with the arms race and of modernizing its obsolete weapons to the necessary level, incapable of winning the proletariat's ad­herence to its war effort, as can be seen from the events in Poland and the growing unpopu­larity of the Afghan adventure, the USSR has had to retreat.

The Russian bourgeoisie has been able to take advantage of this retreat by launching, under Gorbachev's guidance, a major diplomatic and ideological offensive on the theme of peace and disarmament.

The USA, which has to deal with the growing discontent of the proletariat inside its own bloc couldn't then appear as the only war-like power and has in turn taken up the refrain of peace.

10) Having begun with the bellicose diatribes of the bourgeoisie, the 80s are ending with enor­mous ideological campaigns about peace.

Peace under capitalism in crisis is a lie. The bourgeoisie's speeches about peace serve only to camouflage imperialist antagonisms and the intensifying war preparations, to hide from the working class the true historic stakes, war or revolution, to prevent the workers becoming conscious of the link between austerity and the war preparation and lulling the class into a false sense of security.

The disarmament treaties have no value. The weapons put on the scrapheap only constitute a tiny part of the arsenal of death that belongs to each bloc and are mainly the obsolete ones. And, since trickery and secrecy are the rule in this domain, nothing can really be verified.

The western offensive continues as the USSR is trying to profit from the situation by reduc­ing the technological gap and modernizing its weapons while creating a mystifying aura of po­litical innocence.

The war goes on in Afghanistan, the western fleet is still massed in the Gulf, weapons still talk in the Lebanon etc ... The budgets of the armies continue to swell, if necessary fuelled in a discrete manner. Even more destructive weapons are in the pipeline for the 20 years ahead of us. Nothing has fundamentally changed despite all the soporific sermons, and the spiral of war is going to accelerate.

In the west, the USA's proposals to reduce its troops in Europe simply expresses the bloc leader's insistence that the European powers make a greater contribution to the overall war ­effort. This process is already under way with the formation of 'joint armies', the plan for a European air fighter, the renovation of the Lance missiles, the Euclid project, etc. Behind the famous 'Europe of 1992' is a Europe armed to the teeth in order to confront the other bloc.

The present retreat of the Russian bloc con­tains the seeds of tomorrow's military face-offs. The perspective is the development of imperial­ist tensions, the intensification of the militarization of society and a Lebanon-style decomposi­tion, particularly in the countries most affected by inter-imperialist conflicts and the less industrialized countries, like Afghanistan today. In the- long term this process will also take place in Europe if the international development of the class struggle is not enough to become an obstacle to it.

11) As long as the bourgeoisie doesn't have a free hand to impose its 'solution' - generalized imperialist war and as long as the class struggle isn't sufficiently developed to allow its revolutionary perspective to come forward, cap­italism is caught up in a dynamic of decomposi­tion, a process of rotting on its feet which is experienced at all levels:

- degradation of international relations be­tween states as manifested in the development of terrorism

- repeated technological and so-called natural catastrophes

- destruction of the ecosphere

- famines, epidemics, expressions of the generalization of absolute pauperization

- explosion of "nationalities", or ethnic con­flicts

- social life marked by the development of criminality, delinquency, suicide, madness, indi­vidual atomization

- ideological decomposition marked among other things by the development of mysticism, nihilism, the ideology of 'everyone for himself', etc ...

The class struggle

12) The mass strike in Poland lit up the 1980s and showed what was at stake in the class struggle for the period. The deployment of the bourgeois strategy of the left in opposition in Western Europe, union sabotage and military re­pression against the workers in Poland, resulted in a short but difficult retreat by the working class at the beginning of the decade.

The western bourgeoisie took advantage of this situation in order to launch a redoubled economic attack (brutal development of unem­ployment), while accentuating its repression and waging media campaigns about war, aimed at furthering the retreat by demoralizing and terrorizing the workers, and getting them used to the idea of war.

However the 80s have above all been years of development of the class struggle. From 1983 on, under the whip of a succession of austerity measures, the international proletariat rediscov­ered the road of struggle. In the face of mas­sive attacks, the combativity of the proletariat was demonstrated in massive strike movements on all continents and above all in Western Eu­rope; at the heart of capitalism where the most experienced battalions of the world working class is concentrated.

Thus the workers struggle sprang from one continent to another: South Africa; Korea; Brazil; Mexico, etc and in Europe: Belgium 83; British miners 84; Denmark 85; Belgium 86; French rail­way workers 86; Spain 87; West Germany 87; teachers in Italy 87; hospital workers in France 88, etc.

According to the bourgeoisie, the truth of the class struggle doesn't exist. With all its strength it tries to hide it. The statistical fall in strike days lost in comparison to the 70s which has been used to fuel the ideological campaigns aimed at demoralizing the working class, does not take any account of the qualita­tive development of the struggle. Since 1983, short and massive strikes have been more and more numerous, and despite the news blackout imposed on them, the real development of work­ers' militancy has bit by bit made itself felt.

13) The wave of class struggle which has devel­oped since 1983 poses the perspective of the unification of struggle. This process is characterized by:

- massive and often spontaneous struggles linked to a general discontent affecting all sec­tors

- a tendency towards a growing simultaneity of struggles

- a tendency towards extension as the only way of imposing a rapport de force on a ruling class that is united behind its state

- to realize this extension, increasing moves by workers to take charge of the struggle themselves against union sabotage

- the appearance of struggle committees

This wave of struggle not only expresses the growing discontent of the working class, its in­tact combativity, its will to struggle, but also the development and deepening of its conscious­ness. This process of maturation is taking shape on all aspects of the situation confronting the proletariat: war, social decomposition, the im­passe of capitalism, etc, but it is taking shape more particularly on two points which are es­sential since they determine the proletariat's relationship to the state:

- distrust towards the unions is developing all the time; internationally through repeated confrontation with these forces of control and a tendency for workers to leave the union

- the rejection of the political parties of the bourgeoisie is intensifying as can be seen for example, by continuous struggles during elec­toral campaigns and a growing abstention from elections.

14) Far from the way the state media try to minimize the question, social convulsions are a central and permanent preoccupation of the ruling class in the west as in the east. First, because they interfere with all the other ques­tions on an immediate level, secondly because the workers' struggle bears the seeds of a radical challenge to the existing state of affairs.

Just as the preoccupation of the ruling class is expressed in the central countries by an un­precedented development of the strategy of the left in opposition, it is also manifested in:

- the will of the western bloc's US leaders to replace the overt 'dictatorships' in the countries under their control by 'democracies' better equipped to deal with social instability by in­cluding a 'left' that is capable of sabotaging workers' struggles from within (the lessons of Iran have been drawn)

- the policies of the Gorbachev team which is doing the same thing in its bloc in the name of 'Glasnost' (here the lessons of Poland).

15) Faced with the discontent in the working class, the bourgeoisie has nothing to offer ex­cept more austerity and repression. Faced with the truth of the workers struggle, the bour­geoisie has nothing but lies and its capacity to maneuver.

The crisis makes the bourgeoisie intelligent. Given the loss of credibility in its political/union apparatus for controlling the working class, it has had to use this apparatus in a more subtle manner:

- first, by maneuvering its 'left' in close connivance with all the different parts of the state machine: a repulsive 'right' is thus used to reinforce the credibility of the left; the media, the forces of repression all play their role etc. The policy of the left in opposition has been strengthened in all countries, in spite of electoral vicissitudes

- then, by adapting its organs of social control in order to block and sabotage workers' struggles from the inside:

* radicalization of the classical trade unions

* increasing use of leftist groups

* development of base, rank and file union­ism

* development of structures outside the unions, which claim to represent the struggle: coordinations.

16) This capacity of the bourgeoisie to maneuver has up till now held back the tendencies towards extension and unification contained in the present wave of struggle. Faced with the dynamic towards massive struggles and exten­sion of the movements, the ruling class encour­ages everything that divides· and isolates the workers: corporatism, regionalism, nationalism. Faced with this dynamic, the bourgeoisie is ready to launch preventative actions in order to push the working class into struggle in un­favorable conditions. In every struggle the workers are obliged to confront a whole coali­tion of bourgeois forces.

However, despite the difficulties it is en­countering, the dynamic of the working class struggle has not been broken. On the contrary it is still developing. The potential combativity of the working class is not only intact, it is growing stronger. Under the painful spur of the austerity measures which can only get worse, the working class is being compelled to fight and confront the forces of the bourgeoisie. The perspective is the development of the class struggle. The weapons of the bourgeoisie, be­cause they are going to be used more and more frequently, are destined to be unmasked.

17) The apprenticeship the proletariat is ac­quiring about the bourgeoisie's capacity for maneuvering is a necessary factor in the devel­opment of its consciousness, of its strengthen­ing faced with the enemy in front of it.

The dynamic of the situation is pushing it to impose its force through a real extension of its struggles which is geographical extension against the divisions organized by the bour­geoisie which aim for a sectionalist, corporatist or regionalist imprisonment, against the propos­als for a phony extension made by the union­ists and leftists.

In order to achieve the necessary widening of its combat, the working class can only count on itself, and above all on its general, mass as­semblies. These assemblies should be open to all workers, must assume sole authority for the conduct of the struggle, the priority of which must be geographical extension. Flowing from this, the sovereign general assemblies must re­ject everything which tends to stifle them (calls to refuse entry to other workers, for example) and deprive them of their control over the struggle (eg organs of premature centralization that the bourgeoisie today has no hesitation about encouraging and manipulating or worse, those it imposes from the outside: coordinations, union strike committees). The future unification of struggles depends on this dynamic.

The lack of political experience in the pre­sent generation of the proletariat due to almost half a century of counter-revolution is a heavy weight. It is further reinforced by:

- the distrust and rejection of anything to do with politics, the result of decades of dis­gust with the political maneuvering of the bourgeoisie, in particular with those parties claiming to be part of the working class

- the weight of the surrounding ideological decomposition upon which, more and more, the bourgeoisie will base its maneuvers to reinforce atomization, ‘each man for himself', to undermine the growing confidence of the working class in its own strength and in the future its combat implies

The capacity of the working class, tomorrow, to confront the capitalist state, to overthrow it and open the door to the future, depends on its capacity, today, to reinforce its collective action, its unity and its class solidarity, to overcome its political weaknesses, draw the lessons of its struggles, to develop its political experience.

In this process towards unification, in the political combat for extension against the union maneuvers, revolutionaries have a vanguard, decisive and indispensable role to play. They are an integral part of its struggle. The capac­ity of the class to translate its combativity into a maturation of consciousness depends on their intervention. The future outcome of the struggle depends on their intervention.

18) The proletariat is at the heart of the inter­national situation. If the 80s are years of truth this truth is above all that of the working class. The truth of a capitalist system which is leading humanity to ruin through the barbaric decomposition already underway, at the end of which lies the apocalyptic war which the bour­geoisie is preparing more and more madly.

The 80s have shown what's at stake and what the proletariat's responsibilities are: so­cialism or barbarism, war or revolution! The future of humanity depends on its capacity to take up these responsibilities in the years ahead, to put forward its revolutionary per­spective in and through the struggle.

1 Vercesi was the main animator of the left Fraction of the Communist Party of Italy. His political and theoretical contribution to the Fraction, and to the whole workers' movement, was considerable. But at the end of the 30's he developed an aberrant theory about the war economy being a solution to the crisis, which disarmed and disoriented the Fraction when it was faced with the Second World War.

2 What's more the bourgeois ‘experts' themselves say this clearly:

"Practically no one thinks today that the debt can be reimbursed, but the western countries insist on elaborating a mechanism which would hide this fact and avoid such harsh terms as ‘cessation of payments' and ‘bankruptcy'" (W Pfaff, International Herald Tribune, 30 January 1989. What this author forgets to talk about are the real causes for this caution and prudery. The fact is that for the bourgeoisie of the great western powers to openly proclaim the complete bankruptcy of their debtors would be to recognize the bankruptcy of their financial system and, underneath that, of the whole capitalist economy. The ruling class today is a bit like one of those cartoon characters who continue running after they've gone over the edge of a precipice and who only fall when they realize where they are.

3 The relatively smaller increase in West Germany's military expenditure (if you compare it to that of its commercial rivals) is certainly connected to this country's ‘good' economic performance over the past few years.

4 The famines and the absolute impoverishment of the working class we've seen in recent years aren't new phenomenon in the history of capitalism. But apart from the sheer breadth they take on today (and which is comparable only to the situations created at the time of world wars), it's important to distinguish what pertained to the introduction of the capitalist mode of production into society (which indeed arose in "blood and filth", as Marx said, based as it was on the creation of an army of paupers and beggars, on the workhouses, on children's night-work, on the extraction of absolute surplus-value ...) to what pertains to the death agony of this mode of production. Just as unemployment today doesn't represent an ‘industrial reserve army' but expresses the incapacity of the capitalist system to continue one of its historic task - the generalization of wage labor - so the return of famine and of absolute impoverishment (after a period in which it was replaced by relative impoverishment) signals the total, historical bankruptcy of this system.