Ex-USSR: It is not communism that is collapsing – capitalism is rushing headlong into chaos

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A torrent of chaos and decomposition is sweeping the world, and has laid low the crumbling walls of one of world capitalism's main bastions. The world's second imperialist power, whose nuclear arsenal alone could have destroyed the whole planet, the "land of the great lie" where the cynical perpetrators of the greatest anti-communist massacre in history have ruled for decades in the name of communism, the ultimate model of the most statified form of capitalist exploitation, has collapsed in convulsions following a still-born coup d'état.

Notwithstanding the hysterical lies of the ruling order's hired propagandists, it is not communism that is dying in the USSR, but Stalinism, and its death-throes are plunging a whole section of capitalism into ever-growing chaos. The violent tremors that are shaking the biggest country in the world are not even the birth pangs of a new, rejuvenated "democratic bourgeois revolution" of capitalism, but a sundering of this world order's weakest links. Just as in Yugoslavia, drowning in blood under the pressure of its nationalist antagonisms, the devastating breath of capitalist decomposition offers no perspective but a headlong decline into chaos.

A government that no longer knows what are its powers, nor whom it is governing; a country which does not know where its frontiers are, because it is exploding into autonomous republics; an army 4 million strong, with 30,000 nuclear warheads, but whose command is completely paralyzed by the threat of an 80% cut in numbers and hardly knows whose orders to obey; a moribund economy strangled by conflicts between its constituent parts, its organs of decision paralyzed. This is the state the USSR finds itself in after the "conservatives'" failed coup d'état, and the triumph of the "forces of democracy".

The coup undertaken by the nomenklatura's conservative fractions, nostalgic for the lost grandeur of empire, had long been denounced as an imminent threat by "reformist" leaders such as Shevardnadze and Yakovlev. Now it has happened. The determining element which forced the "conservatives" to undertake such a desperate adventure seems to have been the signature of the new "Union Treaty", planned for 20th August, which would have been an irreversible step in the USSR's breakup[1]. But the coup was no more than a ludicrous fiasco whose main result was to strengthen the hand of the "reformists", and allow them to regain the offensive. The stalinist straitjacket, or what was left of it, was torn apart in a few days, and the chaos which the old state power had had so much difficulty reining in went completely out of control.

After the disintegration of the Eastern bloc, stalinism is now collapsing at the very heart of its one-time empire. The hurricane which the USSR's weakness unleashed on the stalinist fortresses of central Europe, from Warsaw to Bucharest and from Berlin to Prague, has returned with a vengeance to strike the centre, in Moscow and Leningrad themselves. But here the phenomenon is clearer and of greater significance. In the countries of Eastern Europe, the political upheavals which accompanied the overthrow of stalinism were strongly marked by local specificities: anti-Russian feeling, the idea that all that need be done was to get rid of Russian domination for everything to work better, the fact that stalinism was not the result of a local counter-revolution, but imported by Russian tanks, the active presence of pro-Western political and economic forces impatient for the fruits, however tattered, of the decomposing empire: all this undoubtedly attenuated the anti-stalinist specificity of events. By contrast, Russia is the cradle of Stalinisn, as well as the scene for the 1917 October Revolution. Here, the full extent of stalinism's putrefaction appears in all its sordid reality.

As a result, the ideological campaign that was launched two years ago with the aim of presenting the collapse of stalinism as the bankruptcy of communism, marxism, and the class struggle has plumbed new depths of ignominy.

The bourgeoisie all over the world has taken a delight in showing the "crowds" in the "socialist fatherland" destroying the statues of Lenin, Marx, and Engels: workers spitting on the images of those who declared the possibility of a world without classes or exploitation; the memory of the greatest revolution ever undertaken by the exploited classes utterly deformed from being identified with the stalinist counter-revolution, and trodden under foot in the same streets where the workers in arms once "shook the world"; the bourgeois press indulging in the luxury of full column headlines declaring that "communism is dead!".

Stalinism has been riddled with falsehood since its inception. It could only die, drowned in lies.

The events of 19th-24th August in Moscow, which marked the final downfall of stalinism, are themselves cloaked in falsehood: as to the nature of the confrontations, presented as a "popular revolution"; as to what was at stake in the fighting, presented as a "struggle against communism"; lies as to the future, presented as a world where (after a few inevitable upheavals and sacrifices) peace and prosperity will reign thanks to the miraculous virtues of free competition and the electoral games of bourgeois democracy.

A popular revolution?

"We have won! Thanks to the Muscovites, and especially the youth, the coup d'état has been defeated, democracy has beaten reaction, and the USSR has been saved" (Yeltsin[2]).

"What we are seeing today is a true popular revolution. At last, liberty has triumphed" (Yakovlev[3]).

This is how the events in Moscow are presented by Yeltsin and Yakovlev, two figureheads of the bureaucratic "reformers". And this is the same tale that has been taken up by all the international media: against an attempted coup d'état by those elements most attached to the old stalinist forms, the "people" and the workers of Moscow rose as one, behind the great Yeltsin. Some journalists have gone one better, and even call the events a "new 1789 French revolution", and Yeltsin "a new Danton".

What is the truth? What part was played by the millions of proletarians in Moscow's suburbs? Who defeated the coup?

The image of Yeltsin on the day of the coup, standing on a tank denouncing the putsch's illegality and calling for a general strike, has been published ad nauseam all over the world. What is less known, is that Yeltsin's call to the workers of Moscow and the USSR was hardly followed, and that the mobilization in the demonstrations were timid, to say the least.

"If there's no heating this winter, then neither Gorbachev, nor Yeltsin, nor Ianaev will heat my home! In my opinion, they're all playing the same game, and the loser will be the people, as always". Such remarks, on the very day of the putsch and from an ordinary Russian "woman in the street"[4] well reflect the two dominant emotions among Russian workers: anxiety faced with a terrible decline in living conditions, and a profound distrust, born of decades of experience, of anything to do with the world of the Nomenklatura and its apparatchiks[5]. The preponderance of such ideas largely explains the low level of "popular" mobilization in response to Yeltsin's appeals.

It is more than likely that had the confrontations been more violent - for example, had the army really attacked the Russian parliament - then the workers in Moscow and elsewhere in the USSR would have played a larger part. Illusions in democracy, nationalism, and the virtues of "market capitalism" still weigh heavily on workers who anyway think that "there can't be anything worse than stalinism". But this time, with the exception of the mines (where Yeltsin controls an influential trade union), and of some large enterprises in big cities like Moscow, there was no massive "popular" mobilization (to the extent that this bourgeois term includes the working class).

Contrary to the official fairy-tale, the coup d'état was not defeated by a "popular revolution", but by the disrepair of the entire political apparatus, and the divisions within the ruling class. The soldiers in the tanks that protected the Russian parliament had not broken with the military hierarchy to fraternize with the demonstrators: they were obeying the orders of General Lebedev, who himself came under the command of the air force chief Shaposhnikov[6] who had gone over to the Yeltsin camp. If the military offensive against the Russian parliament never happened, this was not, as Ianaiev afterwards claimed, to avoid a bloodbath, but because high-ranking officers in both the army and the KGB refused to obey their superiors. The 300 cars and buses used to make barricades around the parliament building were not seized from the Moscow traffic: they were supplied by banks, enterprises, and the Moscow stock exchange. The Russian parliament's telephone links were kept open, not by decision of the telephone workers, but because the American company Sovamer Trading kindly made available its own telephone links through Finland[7].

The real protagonists of events in Moscow were two fractions of the ruling class. Five years of hesitant perestroika have only succeeded in creating profound divisions amongst the apparatchiks, as well as a new layer of enterprise managers who are no longer directly integrated into the state structure. The so-called "conservative" camp, represented by Genady Ianaiev, Pugo, Yazhov, and the other conspirators, consists of that fraction of the nomenklatura which resists the dismantling of the old Stalinist organizational forms, because they see in them a suicide both for themselves and for the empire[8]. Like its "reforming" rival, this fraction is recruited throughout every state institution, for the entire state machine is split from top to bottom: the military-industrial complex, the KGB, the army staff, and above all in the gigantic apparatus of the CPSU. The opposing fraction, whose most flamboyant spokesman is Boris Yeltsin, also springs from the same bureaucratic cesspit, as the putsch itself revealed. Amongst others, it includes the representatives of the "alternative economy" and the leaders of the new economic structures. As Arkady Volski, one of the reforming clique's most representative members, recently stated "In the USSR, the non-state sector of the economy is much larger than is generally thought"[9]. The creed of this gathering of businessmen and repented apparatchiks is to destroy the rigid stalinist machine, to try to save the machine of exploitation itself, and with it their own position as exploiters.

What we have just seen is thus not a "people's revolution" against "reactionary putschists", but a confrontation between two cliques of the same reactionary class, long since condemned by history and infested to the core with divisions and treachery, desperately trying to keep afloat their inexorably sinking "ship of state".

Only the venal stupidity of the ruling class' hired hacks could see a "popular revolution", a "new fall of the Bastille", in the Moscow events or a "new Danton" in the Russian president. The bourgeois heroes of 1789 had the historic stature of men taking part in the revolutionary birth of a new society. By comparison, Yeltsin's apparatchiks are nothing but historic midgets, offspring of the stalinist nomenklatura which is one of the most monstrous and degenerate forms of the capitalist class, confronted with the impossible task of maintaining an "order" in a state of complete putrefaction.

A combat against Leninism?

But the biggest, most gigantic lie, the cornerstone of the whole gigantic edifice of propaganda erected since the collapse of stalinism in the USSR, is the idea that the putschist thugs of Genady Ianaiev are "the last defenders of communism". The same communism whose principles were defined by Marx and Engels. The communism for which the Russian proletarians fought, with Lenin and the Bolshevik party at their head, alongside their class brothers in Germany, Hungary, and Italy.

Only ignorance, and decades of totalitarian lies, scientifically organized and propagated in every country in the world, still gives credit to the identification of stalinism and communism. The most elementary confrontation between the reality of stalinism and communist principles immediately reveals the enormity of the falsehood.

The starting point for the 1917 Russian Revolution was the struggle against war, in other words the struggle against the militarization of the working class under the national flag. Unlike the whimpering pacifists, who as always dreamed of peaceful capitalist nations, the revolutionary struggle against war was fought under the banner of Marx' and Engels' Communist Manifesto: "The workers have no fatherland! Workers of all countries, unite!". Over and over again, the Bolsheviks proclaimed: "The revolution is only a detachment of the world socialist army, and the success and triumph of the revolution which we have accomplished depends on the action of this army. This is a fact which none of us forgets (...) The Russian proletariat is aware of its revolutionary isolation, and it sees clearly that a vital precondition and a fundamental premise for its victory is the united intervention of workers of the whole world" (Lenin, 23rd July, 1918). From the start, the communism of marxists, both in the struggle and as an objective, has never been imagined as anything other than worldwide. By contrast, stalinism as a current was born historically with the rejection, after Lenin's death, of internationalist principles and with its becoming the spokesman for the theory of "socialism in one country". It wallowed in the most abject patriotism and nationalism. During World War II, Stalin took pride in his "democratic" allies' compliments for his "military genius", and in the USSR's 24 million corpses slaughtered on the altar of imperialism.

Communist society is defined by the abolition of wage labor and all forms of exploitation. Stalinism will go down in history a regime where capitalist exploitation reached an unprecedented degree of intensity and barbarity. In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels wrote: "The old bourgeois society, with its classes and class conflicts, gives way to an association where the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all". In Russia, the "free development" of the state bourgeoisie, the nomenklatura, took place at the price of the direst poverty for the workers.

In the marxist conception, the struggle for communism goes through a phase of "dictatorship of the proletariat", whose first precondition is the massive and active participation of all workers in wielding political power. In 1905, the workers in Russia spontaneously created the "finally discovered form" of this dictatorship (the Soviets, councils of delegates elected and instantly revocable by factory and district committees); in 1917, the Soviets took power. Stalinism only developed on the corpse of these organs, keeping only their name to disguise the institutions of the totalitarian dictatorship of capitalism[10].

Stalinism is not the negation of capitalism, but capitalism statified to the point of absurdity[11].

Today's "conservative" nomenklatura is not the last expression of communism, but like the "reformist" fraction, the direct heir of the stalinist executioners who massacred all the real protagonists of the communist October revolution[12].

The conflict between cliques of bureaucrats in the USSR has nothing to do with "communism". The real antagonism only concerns how to manage the exploitation of the workers and peasants of the USSR: poverty and scarcity under the heel of stalinism, or poverty and unemployment under the whip of the "businessmen".

The only part that the exploited classes can play in this conflict is that of cannon fodder. To join the "democratic" or the "conservative" forces is to run head first into a massacre, and to desert the only struggle which can offer a way out of capitalism's nightmare: the revolutionary struggle of the world proletariat against all the fractions of the exploiting class.

On the way to prosperity, peace, and freedom?

Prosperity?

The economic question lies at the heart of the "victors'" democratic lies: before the putsch, Yeltsin did not hesitate to promise that he would bring the country out of disaster in "500 days".

And with good reason. The USSR's economic situation has been getting consistently worse during the five years of perestroika, with an abrupt acceleration since the beginning of 1991[13]. During the last six months, domestic production has fallen by 10%; imports have fallen by 50%, and exports by 23.4%. By August 1991, inflation had already reached an annual rhythm of 100%. On the financial level, the USSR was no longer able to repay its debts. At the beginning of September, Volski declared that the USSR was "on the brink of financial collapse"[14] - while the oxygen of Western capital, its masters made more and more uneasy by the advancing chaos, has become more and more rarified. The economy is suffering from the effects of political and social instability: the conflicts between republics, and between national groups within the republics, end up in a state of mutual strangulation in wars where economic pressure (eg blocking lines of communication) is constantly used as a weapon; institutional and political instability (accompanied since the putsch by a constant fear of purges) leads to a complete paralysis of the bureaucracy in the decision-making centers of the economy. Famine looms this winter.

The economic crisis is indeed at the centre of the situation in the USSR. It is no accident that the first organ of central power created by the "victors" has been a "Committee for economic management", nor that this same committee has been given the job of forming a new government for the USSR, or what is left of it.

But what of the future, now that the "500 day man" is in power? Now that Yavlinsky, the author of Yeltsin's famous plan, is a member of what serves as a government, his proposal has become a... 5-year plan. Its content? "Shock therapy", "Bolivian-style" as the IMF experts say: "real prices", which means an explosion of inflation (inflation is expected to reach 1000% in four months); a faster privatization of the economy[15], which will mean redundancies for the workers in enterprises considered uncompetitive (unemployment is expected to rise to 30 million by 1992); an increase in the number of people living below the poverty line, to the tune of 170,000 every month.

This is the future that is forecast. The reality will certainly be far worse: bloody civil wars between and within the republics, and the consequent exodus of civilian populations, can only aggravate the disaster. The much proclaimed emergence from the quagmire will not happen in 500 days, nor in 5 years, not just because of the world's dramatic economic situation, but also because the chaos into which the USSR is plunging will make it impossible to master the economic machine.

Freedom?

"Freedom has triumphed at last" proclaimed the father of perestroika, Yakovlev, when it was certain that the putsch had failed. But the freedom he is talking about is the freedom of the new sharks: the converted apparatchiks, the businessmen, the black marketers, the leaders of the powerful mafia, in fact all the scum which has been raised, Reagan-style, to the rank of "hero" in the cult of "free enterprise". What does this "freedom" which "has triumphed at last" mean for the workers and poor peasants? What does freedom mean for the unemployed? What does freedom mean for those who spend most of their time in endless queues in front of empty shops? What does liberty mean when life is a daily struggle to survive in the midst of uncontrolled chaos? Liberty in wretched poverty is only a cynical lie. The only thing which will change for soviet workers, and then only in the industrialized zones, will be the introduction of a chaotic caricature of bourgeois democracy: instead of the gross falsification of stalinist propaganda, they will be treated to the sophistication of democratic falsehood (of elections, media, and trade unions), which lets its own professionals "criticize" freely, the better to stifle any real social criticism, and which encourages a "credible" network of trade union and political organizations within the working class, the better to sabotage its combats from within.

Peace in the USSR?

Even as the USSR withdrew from Afghanistan, and lost its control over Eastern Europe, nationalist conflicts began to explode within its borders. The peripheral republics began to arm themselves, and to proclaim their independence of the centre and the other republics.

The new conquerors also have a plan (though this time without any dates) to restore peace and harmony to the nation: the "Union treaties", which are supposed to give freedom to all and establish new, amicable, ties based on voluntary cooperation. Certainly, the impulsive Yeltsin did let slip a few explicit threats on the renegotiation of borders, but only to withdraw them immediately after.

The putschists intended to prevent the signature of the new Union treaty drawn up by Gorbachev and those republics willing to go along with him. The main effect of the putsch's failure and the triumph of the "democrats" has been to destroy what little coherence remained in the relations between the republics[16]. In the space of a few days, the map of the world has been redrawn, and nobody knows where it will stop: the three Baltic states have had their independence recognized by the Western powers, all the other republics have proclaimed their independence. In a few days, the USSR has ceased to exist.

Most of the republics aim to form, or to reinforce, their own political institutions and their own army. The already catastrophic degree of anarchy is becoming more and more widespread (13). The antagonisms between different republics are getting worse, for example between Armenia and Azerbaidjan over Nagorny Karabakh. And the same centrifugal tendencies are increasing the general disorder within the republics themselves. Minority populations, whether Russian[17], "national" or "ethnic", are all declaring their "autonomy", confronting each republic with the same problem that exists for the USSR as a whole. Moldavia is an especially good example: the new local authorities have declared their intention to integrate their region with the Romanian state, but are confronted with the active resistance of the "authorities" of the Dniestr region (where the majority of the population is Russian or Ukrainian), who are threatening the Romanian part of Moldavia with "economic sanctions"[18]; at the same time, the latter must contend with the Gaugauz region and its russified turkic population; in Georgia, Ossetians are subjected to a merciless repression by the local authorities; the tiny zone of Crimea, which is an integral part of the Ukraine, has proclaimed itself "autonomous", and declared that "Only the people of Crimea have the right to use and possess the land and its riches"[19].

There will be no return to peace in what was once the USSR. The underlying forces which are throwing all these nationalist antagonisms are the same that are plunging the entire planet into chaos. Economic paralysis, the development of poverty and the consequent disintegration of the social fabric, the explosion of antagonisms between different capitalist factions, this entire course of decomposition of the "capitalist order", has become irreversible in the USSR and everywhere else. It can only be stopped by the revolutionary action of the world proletariat.

World peace?

The promise of peace plays an important part in the gamut of mystifications of the "democratic forces". To announce the reduction of military spending thanks to a thawing in international relations is an effective propaganda argument, in the USSR even more than in other countries. By announcing their continued pursuit of Gorbachev's policy in this respect, the "reformists" are making the most of it.

This is an argument which in fact makes a virtue out of necessity: if Gorbachev's USSR has become less of a threat, it is because it has no choice in the matter. The days when the USSR could ensure its allies' victory in Vietnam against the USA are indeed long gone. The complete impotence of Gorbachev's government against the US diktat during the Gulf war is eloquent in this respect. On the international stage, the leaders of the Kremlin have been reduced to the status of beggars, kept waiting on the doorstep at the "great powers'" summits. Under such conditions, the USSR is hardly in a position to conduct an aggressive policy.

This does not mean that the "reformers'" victory will bring peace with it: quite the reverse. It is impossible to measure all the consequences of the disintegration of the biggest country in the world. From the Baltic Sea to the North Pacific, a huge powder-keg is just waiting to erupt. As the "Russian bear" lets its prey slip, the greed of the surrounding countries, but also of the great powers, increases correspondingly. And even if the pickings are often bereft of any economic value, the permanent conflict of imperialism forces all countries, and especially the dominant powers, to do all they can if only to prevent their rivals getting stronger. Moreover, the USSR's political instability and centrifugal nationalisms will prove contagious.

The list of "trouble spots" created by the empire's collapse is a long one: Japan is demanding the return of the Kurile islands, seized by the USSR at the end of World War II[20]; the longest frontier in the world, between China and the USSR, is one of the planet's greatest military concentrations, and the object of a series of quarrels just waiting to spring to life; China itself, the last major bastion of stalinism, is also subject to the same internal political and nationalist tensions as the USSR; the enmity between India and Pakistan has been still further intensified; the frontier zones with Iran and Turkey are already seriously destabilized by the conflicts in the Caucasus (Azerbaidjan, Armenia, Georgia); and last but not least, the whole of Central Europe, from Romania to the Baltic, is a veritable jigsaw of nationalities (Romanians, Hungarians, Germans, and... Russians), riven with archaic nationalisms and ancient feuds, which will create still more centers of tension.

The tremors are already being felt well beyond the confines of the empire's frontier. The process of dislocation of the ex-Western bloc, begun with the collapse in the East, is bound to accelerate with the disappearance of the "common enemy", and the conflicting appetites for the shreds of the USSR. The effects have already spread as far as Cuba.

The fires of the Gulf war revealed the lie of the "peace" that our rulers promised after the destruction of the Berlin Wall.  The new promises of peace that are being made as the USSR disintegrates are no less hollow. The shockwave of the USSR's collapse is only beginning to make itself felt.

Yugoslavia

The bloody civil war in Yugoslavia is a crying demonstration of the destructive tendencies sweeping capitalism, and which the USSR's collapse has only served to accelerate. Yugoslavia's dislocation is partly a result of the movement of destabilization which began two years ago with the end of the Eastern bloc and of blocs in general. The defeat of the putsch in Moscow has also encouraged the separatism of the Croats. But this nationalist bloodbath is above all an expression of the destructive tendencies which are present throughout capitalism: the tendency to "look after number one", towards the dislocation of capitalism's organization under the pressure of the economic crisis, and to "settle" problems through military means[21].

As we go to press, the war is both spreading and intensifying: the "federal" army and Serb forces are starting new offensives against Croatia with naval blockades and aerial bombardments. The fighting has reached Zaghreb, which lives in constant fear of air-raids. In their turn, the Croat armies have launched a "general offensive". In Montenegro and Voivodina the federal government has called up its reservists. The slaughter has taken a qualitative step forward.

In this war, proletarians and peasants, unable to free themselves from the poison of nationalism are massacring each other for the sordid and absurd interests of the bourgeois cliques that rule them. The war is no longer limited to the "Third World": it is happening in Europe, only a few kilometers from Austria and Italy, which, like Hungary, are already receiving refugees from the civil war.

Combining cynicism and hypocrisy, the governments of Western Europe claim to play a "peacekeeping" role, when in fact some of them (Germany and Austria in particular) are directly supporting the Slovene and Croat separatists. The ceasefires "brokered" by the European powers have all collapsed, while the idea of sending a European peacekeeping force has only served to highlight the imperialist antagonisms between them (the opposition between Germany and Britain on this question, in fact conceals the fundamental and growing antagonism between US and German capital)[22].

This is the peace that the "pacifist reformers" and champions of the "new world order" have to offer us.

Yugoslavia is not "an isolated case". It is the future, not only for the USSR, but for the whole planet, unless the capitalist mode of organization is destroyed, unless the working class puts an end to a system which is plunging head first into suicide.

The end of the class struggle?

But is the proletariat capable of carrying out this gigantic task? The lynchpin of the deafening ideological campaign around the events in the USSR is to reply "no!" to this crucial question. Pushing their ignominy a step further, the bourgeoisie's ideologues, who had already announced two years ago the "end of communism", are now finding new arguments to tell us, not only that the final goal of communism has collapsed in the USSR, but that marxism and the very idea of the class struggle are dead. And if they occasionally recognize a difference between stalinism and the October revolution, it is only to describe the latter as "utopian", and to conclude that "the class struggle, even with the finest ideals can only lead to the gulag". The media repeat endlessly: "class struggle has come to an end".

After the "Third World" and the Eastern bloc, the Western industrial powers - less affected until now - are in their turn plunging into an open recession, heralding new and violent attacks against the living conditions of the entire world proletariat. And the world bourgeoisie expects us take its dreams for reality: a definitively beaten and apathetic working class, workers ready to slaughter each other in wars to defend "their nation", and to sacrifice themselves to save the profits of "their company".

This propaganda is based on the limitations of the workers in the East, mired in "nationalist" ideology[23] and illusions in "capitalist democracy, the source of well-being and freedom", and on the low level of combativity, especially during the last two years, among the workers in the West.

But for the proletarians in the East, the opening of a class perspective depends essentially on their class brothers in the Western powers. As long as Western workers have not shown clearly, in struggle, their rejection of capitalism and the democratic lie, the workers in the ex-stalinist countries will keep their illusions in the possibilities offered by the creation of "new democratic nations". The precondition for the workers in the East to overcome their ideological limits is essentially the same as the condition that could have prevented the October revolution from dying of suffocation: the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat in the central countries.

It is true that the Western, and especially European proletariat has suffered a retreat in its combativity, under both the weight of the new ideological campaigns and the confusion they have created, and the daily and ubiquitous repression of unemployment or the threat of unemployment. But it is neither defeated, nor apathetic, nor gangrened by nationalism and democratic illusions. The oldest proletariat in the world, because it has suffered at the forefront of two centuries of capitalist war, because it lives in the part of the world where the interdependence of the international economy is the most obvious, is the least subject to the mystifications of nationalism[24]. This is why, during the Gulf war, the governments of these countries did not take the risk of using conscripts, and used professional armies to conduct their massacres. The same is true for the democratic lie: after more than a century of experience, the general disgust for politicians, the high level of abstention at elections (unless the vote is... obligatory), the workers' rejection of the union machines, all demonstrate how worn out these mystifications are.

After reducing the proletariat of the "Third World" and the Eastern countries to misery, the Western bourgeoisie is now attacking the living conditions of this fraction of the world proletariat, more violently than at any time since the beginning of the 1980's. Even if conditions today, marked by the weight of ideological campaigns and the debilitating atmosphere of capitalist decomposition, make a proletarian mobilization more difficult at first, it is nonetheless inevitable as the bourgeoisie's attacks increase.

No, whatever the claims of bourgeois propaganda, the time has not come for an "end to class struggle", but on the contrary its intensification, and its development at a higher level. It is the struggle of the workers in the central countries which will open a perspective for the world proletariat, for it will sweep away the nationalist lies and the illusions in a "better capitalism". This alone will open the way to the decisive confrontations which will put an end to capitalism, not only in its stalinist form, but in all its forms.

RV, 20/09/1991



[1] Other immediate factors help to explain the putschists' decision: the violent acceleration of the economic crisis, especially since the beginning of 1991, and the fear of further destabilization as a result, especially during next winter; Gorbachev's improved relations with Yeltsin during recent months, which directly threatened the government positions conquered last winter by the "conservatives".

[2] Le Monde, 24/08/91

[3] International Herald Tribune, 23/08/91

[4] Liberation, 21/08/91

[5] The Russian workers know that today's anti-stalinist heroes are nothing but ex-stalinists, who owe their position today to their skill in navigating through the quagmire of the bureaucracy. They know that Yeltsin had no hesitation in flirting with the anti-Semitic Pamyat organization, that Shevardnadze used to be a three-star KGB general, and that Gorbachev's most powerful protector was Suslov, one-time favorite of Stalin.

[6] Nezavissimaia Gazeta, 22/08/91. An article in the same issue declared that "The putschists' biggest problem was probably the elite troops".

[7] Liberation, 27/08/91

[8] See International Review no 60, September 1989, "Theses on the economic and political crisis in the USSR and the Eastern countries"

[9] A year ago, Arkady Volski founded the "Scientific and Technical Union", designed to bring together the country's main industrial managers; today, it claims to represent 60% of Soviet industry. This association, a sort of bosses' and bankers' union, along with the Union of businessmen and proprietors, is a veritable spearhead for the adepts of the market. Its role has grown constantly, during and since the putsch. It comes as no surprise that Volski should be one of the co-founders, along with Edward Shevardnadze and Alexander Yakovlev, of the "Movement for the union of the forces for democracy and reform".

[10] For an analysis of the nature of the October revolution and of stalinism, see our pamphlet Russia 1917, the start of the world revolution.

[11] Capital is possessed by the state, and managed by the bureaucracy. The nomenklatura's income is made up of surplus-value extorted from the workers. Profit is distributed, not in the form of dividends or private property, but in the form of "wages" and "perks".

[12] The persecution of the "old Bolsheviks", hunted down, deported, pushed to suicide, assassinated and shot down by stalinism; the monstrous Moscow trials of the 1930's, organized with the same methods as used by the Nazis and conscientiously broadcast by all the "democratic" media, putting on show the old Bolshevik leaders condemned to death after being forced to accuse themselves of the worst crimes: all this will remain forever one of the blackest and bloodiest pages of working-class history. When the GPU - the forerunner of the KGB - assassinated Trotsky in 1940, not one member of the 1917 Bolshevik central committee was left alive... except Stalin.

[13] See "The USSR in tatters" in the previous issue of the International Review.

[14] International Herald Tribune, 02/09/91.

[15] "Privatizing" the Soviet economy is altogether more difficult than in the other ex-Eastern bloc countries. Here, the whole of social life is oriented towards one goal: military power. What can it mean to "privatize" the only thing the economy is capable of producing: weapons, military and space research, millions of soldiers and their equipment, tanks, aircraft, warships, submarines, satellites, etc?

[16] The resulting chaos at the centre has been all the more dramatic in that the backbone of central power, the CPSU, has been outlawed. After five years of perestroika, the constitution had already become illegible, so much had it been modified and remodified following the twists and turns of the struggle for power amongst different fractions of the political apparatus. It is trodden under foot daily, both by the various republican governments declaring their independence, and by the central authorities completely incapable of following a coherent line. The day after the coup d'état, the central institutions plunged into the domain of the "temporary" without any idea whether they will ever emerge from it. And this is true both for the USSR as a whole, and for the republics, as they all try to establish some kind of rules in the midst of chaos.

[17] There are almost 25 million Russians living in the different republics of the USSR.

[18] The Dniestr controls almost 80% of Moldavia's gas and electricity supplies.

[19] International Herald Tribune, 6/9/91

[20] In theory, the USSR and Japan have been at war since 1945.

[21] See "Militarism and Decomposition" in the International Review no.64, October 1990.

[22] For an analysis of the war in Yugoslavia, see the ICC's different territorial publications (list on the back cover of this issue).

[23] There is a great difference at this level between the workers in the USSR's great industrial centers, who are less affected by the nationalist poison if only because they live in the empire's metropoles, and those in the USSR's peripheral republics or the countries of the ex-Eastern bloc, where "anti-Russian" feeling has been extensively used by the local ruling class to create a feeling of a "unity of national interest" between the exploited and their exploiters.

[24] This does not mean that it has been immunized for ever. The bourgeoisie takes every opportunity to try to infect it with the most abject "nationalism" against immigrant workers, or against the refugees flooding in from the East.