Only the international working
can take humanity out of this barbarism
The 'new world order' announced less than two years ago by President Bush goes on accumulating horrors and corpses. Hardly had the massacre in the Gulf finished (ie those provoked directly by the coalition, because the massacre of the Kurds is still going on), when war began to flare up in Europe itself, in what used to be Yugoslavia. The horror that was uncovered when the Serbian army took Vukovar illustrates once again what lies were all the speeches about the 'new era' of peace, prosperity and respect for human rights which was supposed to accompany the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in Europe and the disappearance of the old eastern bloc.
At the same time, the independence of Ukraine and, even more, the constitution of a 'commonwealth' of states comprising the Ukraine, Russia and Bylorussia have underlined something that has been evident since the summer: the USSR no longer exists. What's more, this has not prevented the different bits of this ex-country from decomposing even further: today the Russian Federation itself, ie the most powerful republic of the former Soviet empire, is threatened with a break-up.
Faced with the chaos that the planet is sinking into more and more, the most advanced countries, and particularly the most powerful one, the USA, try to present themselves as islands of stability, as guarantors of world order. But in reality these countries themselves are not safe from the deadly convulsions shaking human society. In particular, the most powerful state on earth may be taking advantage of its enormous military superiority to emphasize its role of world policeman, as we have just seen with the Middle East 'peace' conference, but it can do nothing about the inexorable aggravation of the economic crisis, which is at the root of all the convulsions that humanity is now experiencing.
The barbarism at loose in the world today highlights the huge responsibility that lies on the shoulders of the world proletariat, a proletariat that is currently faced with an unprecedented campaign of maneuvers aimed at diverting it not only from its historic perspective, but also from the defense of its most basic interests.
In this Review we have regularly analyzed the evolution of the situation in the former USSR. In particular, since the end of summer 1989 (ie, nearly two months before the fall of the Berlin Wall), the ICC stressed the extreme gravity of the convulsions shaking all the so-called 'socialist' countries. Today, every day that passes further illustrates the breadth of the catastrophe which is unfolding in this part of the world.
The ex-USSR sinks into the abyss
Since the aborted putsch of August 1991, events have precipitated more and more in the former USSR. The departure from the 'Union' of the Baltic countries now seems to belong to the distant past. Today, it is the Ukraine that has become independent, ie the second republic of the Union, with 52 million inhabitants; the 'granary' of the Union which also made up 25 % of its industrial production.
Furthermore, this country has on its territory a considerable quantity of the old USSR's atomic weapons. By itself it has a capacity for nuclear destruction more than that of France and Britain combined. In this sense, Gorbachev's decision on 5 October to reduce the 'USSR's' tactical nuclear weapons from 12,000 to 2,000 was not simply the response to the similar decision adopted by Bush a week before, nor the simple concretization of the disappearance of the imperialist antagonism which had dominated the world for four decades, ie the one between the USA and the USSR. It also represented a move of elementary precaution aimed at preventing the republics which now hold these weapons, and Ukraine in particular, from using them as an instrument of blackmail. It is for the same reason that the Ukrainian authorities have for the moment refused to hand over these weapons.
And it hasn't taken long for events to show how justified were the anxieties of Gorbachev and the majority of the world's leaders about the problem of the proliferation of nuclear weapons. For at the beginning of November, we saw the conflict between the central authority of Russia and the autonomous republic of Checheno-Ingushia which had just announced its own 'independence'. In response to Yeltsin's decision to declare a state of emergency to be imposed by the special forces of the KGB, Doudev, an ex-general of the 'Red' Army turned small-time 'independentist' potentate, threatened to carry out terrorist actions against the nuclear installations in the region.
What's more, faced with the threat of bloody confrontations, the troops sent to carry out the repression refused to obey, and in the end it was the Russian Parliament which saved Yeltsin's skin by annulling his decision.
This event, apart from underlining the real danger represented by the huge nuclear forces distributed throughout the USSR at a time when this former power is falling to pieces, also highlights the degree of chaos in which this part of the world now finds itself. It's not only the USSR which is about to disintegrate: it's the ex-Union's biggest republic, Russia itself, which threatens to explode, without having any way of imposing order - except through veritable bloodbaths whose outcome is in any case entirely uncertain.
This tendency towards the dislocation of Russia itself is also expressed by the dissensions now developing within the 'reforming' clique now at the head of this republic. Thus, the measures of 'wildcat' liberalization announced by the Russian president at the end of October led the mayors of the two biggest cities of the country to put up their shields. Gavril Popov, the mayor of Moscow, declared that "he bore no responsibility for the liberation of prices", and his colleague in St Petersburg, Anatoli Sobchak accused Yeltsin of "wanting to starve Russia". In fact, these conflicts between politicians about economic matters simply reveal the total impasse facing the former Soviet economy. All these political leaders, beginning with Gorbachev, continue raising the alarm about the threat of famine in the winter ahead. On 10 November Sobchak: warned: "We have not set up sufficient food reserves, and without them the big Soviet cities and the main industrial centers simply won't be able to survive"
On the financial level, the situation has also become a nightmare. The central bank, the Gosbank, has been forced to turn out masses of funny money, which has resulted in a devaluation of the rouble by 3 % every week. On 29 November, this same bank announced that the salaries of its functionaries would not be paid. At the origin of this decision was the refusal by the majority Russian deputies at the Soviet parliament to authorize the 90 billion roubles of credit demanded by Gorbachev. The next day, Yeltsin, in order to be able to mark a further step in his struggle for influence against Gorbachev, promised that Russia itself would take care of paying these salaries.
In fact, the bankruptcy of the central bank doesn't only result from the refusal by the republics to pay their taxes to the 'centre'. They themselves are incapable of collecting the funds needed for their own functioning. Thus, the republics of Yakutia and Buratia, which belong to the Russian Federation, have for several months been blocking their deliveries of gold and diamonds which had formerly helped to fill the coffers of Russia and the Union. The various enterprises are also less and less paying their dues, either because their own coffers are dry, or because they consider (as is the case with the more 'prosperous' private enterprises, that 'liberalization' means the end of all fiscal responsibilities.
Thus, the ex-USSR is caught in an infernal spiral. Both the reforms and the political conflicts that derive from the economic catastrophe can only further aggravate this catastrophe, which will lead to a new headlong rush into new stillborn 'reforms' and clashes between cliques.
The governments of the most advanced countries are well aware of the scope of this catastrophe; it is quite clear to them that its repercussions do not stop at the borders of the former USSR. It is for this reason that urgent plans have been drawn up to supply this region with basic necessities. But there is no guarantee that this aid will reach its destination because of the incredible corruption that reigns at all levels of the economy and because of the paralysis of the entire administrative and political apparatus (faced with political instability and the threat of being kicked out, the main concern of most of the 'decision-makers' is to ... not take any decisions), and the total disorganization of the means of transport (lack of spare parts, of fuel, and all the troubles that regularly affect the various territories).
In order to loosen the financial strangulation of the ex-USSR, the G7 agreed to a year's delay in the repayment of the interest on the Soviet debt, which now stands at 80 billion dollars. But this will be like putting a plaster on a wooden leg because in any case all the credits simply disappear down a huge hole. Two years ago there were all sorts of illusions floating around about the 'new markets' that were being opened up by the collapse of the Stalinist regimes. Today, when one of the expressions of the world economic crisis is a sharp crisis of liquidity, the banks are more and more reluctant to place their capital in this part of the world. As a French banker recently deplored: "We don't know whom we are lending to nor whom to ask for the repayments".
Even for the most optimistic bourgeois politicians, it is difficult to imagine how the situation of what was once the world's number two power can be redressed, whether on the political or the economic level. The independence of each of the republics, presented by the different local demagogues as a 'solution', a way to avoid going down with the rest of the ship, can only further aggravate the difficulties of an economy which for decades was based on an extreme division of labor (certain articles were only produced in one factory for the entire USSR).
In addition, the independence of the republics brings with it all the particular demands of the various minorities spread all over the territory (there are now 40 or so 'autonomous regions' and even more ethnic groups). We can already see what lies in store for the whole territory of the ex-USSR when we look at the bloody confrontations between the Armenians and the Azeris over High-Karabakh, between Ossetians and Georgians in South Ossetia, between Kirghizes, Uzbeks and Tadjiks in Kirghistan. And the Russian populations spread throughout the Union (for example 38 % of the population of Kazakhstan, 22% of Ukraine) run the risk of paying the price of all these expressions of ‘independence'.
On top of which Yeltsin has warned that he considers himself the 'protector' of the 26 million Russians living outside Russia and that it is necessary to reexamine the question of Russia's frontiers with certain other republics. We heard similar talk not long ago from the Serbian leader Milosevic: we only have to look at the present situation in Yugoslavia to understand what sinister reality lurks behind all that, and this time on a far vaster scale.
Barbarism in Yugoslavia and antagonisms between the great powers
In just a few months, Yugoslavia
has descended into hell. Every day the television news sends us images of the
unspeakable barbarism which is being unleashed a few hundred kilometers from
the industrial metropoles of Northern Italy and Austria. Entire towns
destroyed, dismembered bodies littering the streets, mutilation, torture; a
huge slaughterhouse. Not since the Second World War has a European country seen
such atrocities. The horror which up till now seemed to be reserved for the
countries of the 'third world' is now reaching the zones immediately next to
the heart of capitalism. This is the 'great progress' that bourgeois society
has just realized: creating a Beirut-on-Danube one hour away from Milan and
Vienna. The hell that the least well-established countries have lived through
for decades was always an atrocity, a source of shame for humanity. The fact
that this hell is now at our gates is not in itself more scandalous. However,
it is the undeniable sign of the degree
of putrefaction reached by a system which for forty years managed to push onto the peripheries the most abominable aspects of the barbarism that it engenders. It is an evident expression of world capitalism's entry into a new phase, the last phase, of its decline: that of the general decomposition of society.
One of the illustrations of this decomposition is the total irrationality of most of the political forces involved.
On the side of the Croatian authorities, the demand for independence is not based on any possibility for improving the position of the national capital. You only have to read the map for example to see the extra difficulties that will arise when this 'nation' accedes to its 'independence', owing to the position and form of its frontiers. Supposing that Vukovar and Dubrovnik were rebuilt, which today seems rather unlikely, and came back to Croatian hands, you couldn't get there via Zagreb (unless you wanted to travel another 500 kilometers) - you'd have to go via Sarajevo, the capital of another republic, Bosnia Herzegovina.
As for the 'Federal' (ie Serb) authorities, the attempt to subdue Croatia, or at least to conserve inside a 'Greater Serbia' the control of those Croat provinces inhabited by Serbs, does not give rise to great hopes on the economic front: the cost of the present war and the destruction it has brought about can only plunge the country further into a total economic shambles.
Since the beginning of the massacres in Yugoslavia, the media's professional purveyors of fine feelings have been wailing that 'something ought to be done!' It's true that the horror doled out to the Kurds of Iraq doesn't sell as well as it did a few months back. However, 'concern' has gone well beyond the confines of the 'charity business' because the European Community has organized a special conference, the so-called La Haye conference, to put an end to the war. After about twenty derisory cease-fires and numerous voyages by the negotiator Lord Carrington, the massacres have just gone on and on. In fact, Europe's powerlessness to end a conflict whose absurdity is obvious to everyone is a flagrant illustration of the dissensions between the states that make it up.
These dissensions are in no way circumstantial or secondary. They hide definite and antagonistic imperialist interests. In particular, the fact that, since the beginning, Germany has been in favor of the independence of Slovenia and Croatia is not fortuitous. For Germany this is a precondition for its gaining access to the Mediterranean, whose strategic importance does not have to be demonstrated. For their part, the other imperialist powers who do have a presence in the Mediterranean have no interest in seeing Germany's return to this zone. This is why, at the beginning of the Yugoslav conflict, the USA, Britain and France (not to mention the USSR, the traditional 'protector' of Serbia, but which today has other things on its plate) came out in favor of keeping a unified Yugoslavia.
Thus the Yugoslav tragedy has shown that the 'new world order' is synonymous with the sharpening of tensions, not only between national and ethnic groups in regions like central and eastern Europe, where the late development of capitalism has prevented the formation of viable and stable nation states, but also between the oldest capitalist states, states set up a long time ago and which up till recently were allies against the Soviet imperialist power.
The chaos into which the planet is now falling is not the simple product of the peripheral countries of capitalism. It also involves, and will more and more involve, the central countries, to the extent that it has its origins not in problems specific to the underdeveloped countries but above all in a world-wide phenomenon: the general decomposition of capitalist society, which can only be aggravated by the irreversible crisis of its economy.
The Middle East conference: America affirms its leadership
With the world tipping over into chaos, the leading power has to play the role of gendarme. Quite obviously, the USA has its own interests in taking up this task. The one which profits the most from the present 'world order' is the one most interested in preserving it. The Gulf war was an exemplary police action aimed at dissuading all other countries be they small or great, from taking any part in destabilizing the situation. Today the 'peace conference' in the Middle East is another wing of American strategy, complementary to war. After demonstrating that they are ready to 'maintain order' in the most brutal possible manner, the USA must now prove that it alone is capable of regulating the conflicts which have bloodied the planet for decades. And here the question of the Middle East is obviously one of the most significant.
It is indeed necessary to underline the considerable historic importance of this event. It is the first time in 43 years (since the partition of Palestine by the UN in November 1947 and the end of the British mandate in May 1948) that Israel finds itself sitting at the same table as the totality of its Arab neighbors, with whom it has already been involved in five wars (1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982).
In fact, this international conference is a direct consequence of the collapse of the Russian bloc in 1989 and of the Gulf war of the beginning of 1991. It has been possible because both the Arab states (including the PLO) and Israel can no longer play on east-west rivalries in order to advance their interests.
The Arab states which have tried to confront Israel have definitely lost their Soviet 'protector'. Because of this, Israel has been deprived of an advantage that won it the unfailing support of the US - it could act as the main gendarme of the US bloc in the region against the pretensions of the Russian bloc.
However, although the question of the Middle East, because of itS historic and strategic importance, gives a particular importance to the Madrid conference, which is to be continued in Washington this December, its significance goes well beyond the problems of this part of the world. The US is not only asserting its authority towards the countries of this region, but also, and above all, the other great powers which are being tempted to play the card of 'independence' from the US.
In Madrid, because the UN had no place (at Israel's request, but this suited the Americans very well), the only, other great power present, apart from the US was ... the USSR (if we can refer to it as a 'great power'!). The simple fact that Bush proposed Gorbachev as co-president of the conference, when the latter is the discredited 'ruler' of a country that hardly exists any more, was a real slap in the face for those-countries which still have some ambitions in the Middle East. This is notably the case with France (which has been definitively kicked out of the Lebanon) and even Britain (the main power in the region up to the Second World War and the ex-protector of Palestine, Egypt and Jordan). Things aren't so bad for the UK because it cannot conceive of defending its imperialist interests outside the framework of an alliance with its American big brother. But for France, its further proof of the second-rate role the US wants to give it despite (and partly because of) its efforts to have an independent policy.
And apart from France, Germany is an indirect target here. Even if the latter has for a long time had no interests (apart from economic ones, of course) in this region, the slap given to the country it was banking on to advance its own interests will also hit home. Furthermore, the role given to Europe at the Madrid conference - the presence, as an observer, of the foreign minister of the Netherlands - says a lot about how the US aims to deal with the European states or any alliances between them in world affairs. All they'll get is a walk-on part.
Finally, holding the conference on the Middle East at a time when, day after day, the European states were showing their powerlessness in the face of the Yugoslav situation once again underlines that the only gendarme capable of ensuring any order in the world is Uncle Sam. While the latter is offering a 'solution' to one of the oldest and most serious conflicts on the planet, 10,000 km away from its own territory, the European states can't even do a policeman's job on the other side of their borders.
Thus, through the Middle East conference, the USA has affirmed the message of the Gulf war: 'world order' depends entirely on American power, on its enormous military (and also economic) superiority. All countries, including the ones trying to play their own game, need this gendarme. Their interest is thus to facilitate the policies of the world's first power.
Having said this, the discipline that the leading power is still managing to impose should not obscure the catastrophic situation which the capitalist world is in today, and which can only get worse. In particular, the method employed to guarantee this discipline itself generates new disorders. We have already seen this with the Gulf war with all its catastrophic consequences for the region (especially as regards the Kurdish question), and we are now seeing it with Yugoslavia, where the maintenance of American authority has meant plunging the country into fire and blood.
As marxists have always affirmed, there is no place in decadent capitalism for any 'Universal peace'. Even if they are blunted in the Middle East, tensions between rival bands of capitalist gangsters will only rise up somewhere else. And this is all the more true because the economic crisis of the capitalist mode of production, which in the final analysis is at the root of imperialist confrontations, is insoluble and can only get worse. Which is exactly what we are seeing today.
Aggravation of the crisis and attacks on the working class
While Bush celebrates his diplomatic and military triumphs, his 'internal front' gets worse and worse, in particular through a new aggravation of the recession. For several months, the American bourgeoisie, and with it the entire world bourgeoisie had been dreaming that the open recession which began to get going before the Gulf war would be of short duration. Today everyone is disappointed: despite all the efforts of the governments (who continue to pretend, while doing the very opposite, that you shouldn't intervene in the economy and that the laws of the market should be allowed to rule), the economy is still stuck in the mud and there's no sign of any way out. What we are really seeing is a new and considerable aggravation of the capitalist crisis. Already, numerous sectors of the bourgeoisie have been sent into a panic.
This aggravation of the crisis can only lead to intensified attacks on the working class. Right now, these attacks being unleashed all over the world: massive lay-offs (including the high-tech sectors, such as computers), wage freezes, the erosion of social benefits (retirement pensions, unemployment allocations, sick pay, etc), the intensification of work rates: it would take too long to make a list of all the different attacks in various countries are now feeling the impact of the crisis in their flesh and blood.
These attacks obviously create a lot of discontentment within the working class. And, in many countries, we are seeing a good deal of social agitation. But what is significant is the fact that, in contrast to the big struggles which marked the mid-80s, and which were subjected to an almost total black-out by the media, the present agitation is being dealt with in a spectacular manner by all the media. In fact we are at present seeing a vast maneuver by the bourgeoisie of most of the more developed countries, aimed at undermining the possibility of real class combats.
For the working class, there is no identity between anger and combativity, or between combativity and consciousness, even if there is a link between them. The situation in the former 'socialist' countries demonstrates this to us daily. These workers are today confronted with living conditions, with a level of poverty that has not been seen for decades. However, their struggles against exploitation are limited in breadth, and when they do develop, they fall into the most gross traps laid by the bourgeoisie (notably the trap of nationalism, as with the Ukrainian miners' strike in Spring 1991).
The situation is obviously far less catastrophic in the 'advanced' countries, as regards both the attacks on living conditions and the mystifications that weigh on the workers' consciousness. However, it is necessary to show the difficulties which the proletariat in these countries is faced with, precisely because the enemy class is using all its means to use them and reinforce them.
As our publications have stressed on numerous occasions, the major events of the past two years have been amply used by the bourgeoisie to strike at the combativity and above all the consciousness of the working class. By repeating over and over again that Stalinism was 'communism', that "the Stalinist regimes, whose bankruptcy became quite evident, were the inevitable consequence of the proletarian revolution, the campaigns of bourgeois propaganda had the aim of diverting the workers from any perspective of a different society and of making them accept that 'liberal democracy' was the only viable model for society.
Even though it was a particular form of capitalism which collapsed in the eastern countries under the pressure of the general crisis of the system, all the media have continually presented these events as the 'triumph' of capitalism.
This campaign has had a real impact on the workers, affecting their combativity and above all their consciousness. Although this combativity began to pick up again in the Spring of 1990, especially as a result of the attacks that went with the beginning of the open recession, it was again hit by the crisis and war in the Gulf.
These tragic events certainly put paid to the lies about the 'new world order' announced by the bourgeoisie at the time of the disappearance of the eastern bloc, which was supposed to be the main source of military tensions in the world. The massacres perpetrated by the 'great democracies', by the 'civilized countries', against the Iraqi population allowed many workers to understand the falsity of all the speeches by these same 'democracies' about 'peace' and 'human rights' .
But at the same time, the great majority of the working class in the advanced countries, following a new round of bourgeois propaganda campaigns, submitted to this war with a strong sense of powerlessness, which considerably weakened its struggles. The August 1991 putsch in the USSR and the new destabilization it provoked, as well as the civil war in Yugoslavia, contributed in their turn to reinforce this feeling of powerlessness. The break-up of the USSR and the barbaric war unfolding in Yugoslavia are expressions of the advanced decomposition of capitalist society today. But thanks to all the lies spread by the media, the bourgeoisie has managed to hide the real cause of these events and present them as a further manifestation of the 'death of communism' or as a question of 'the right of nations to self-determination', in the face of which workers have nothing to do but be passive spectators trusting to the wisdom of their governments.
After suffering a barrage like this for two years, the working class was bound to experience a real disarray and a strong sense of powerlessness. And it is precisely this feeling of powerlessness that the bourgeoisie is trying to use and reinforce through a series of maneuvers aimed at nipping in the bud any rebirth of combativity. The strategy has been to provoke premature confrontations on a terrain chosen by the bourgeoisie itself, so that the struggle is worn down by isolation and winds up in a dead end. The methods used vary, but their common point of departure is the intense involvement of the trade unions. .
Thus in Spain the putrid terrain of nationalism was used by the unions (especially the Workers Commissions close to the CP, and the UGT close to the SP) in order to lead the workers into a state of isolation. On 23 October, they called for a general strike in the Asturias, where nearly 50,000 jobs were to go with the 'rationalization' plans in the mines and steel. The slogan for the strike was 'Defend the Asturias'. With a slogan like that, the 'movement' got the support of shopkeepers, artisans, peasants, priests and even football players.
Because of the anger and concern within the working class, the movement got a big following, but with such a demand it could only serve to imprison the workers in their particular provinces or even localities. We saw this in the Basque country where they were called upon to mobilize behind a motion of the provincial parliament to 'save the left bank of the Bilbao River'.
In Holland and in Italy, the unions used other methods. They called for a national mobilization with big street demonstrations as soon as they heard about the budget for the year 1992, which contains major attacks against social benefits, wages and jobs. In Holland the movement was a success for the unions: the two demonstrations of 17 September and 5 October were the biggest since the Second World War. It was an occasion for the union machines to strengthen their control over the working class in preparation for future struggles, in particular by derailing discontent onto the terrain of 'defending the social gains of Dutch democracy'. In Italy, whose proletariat is one of the most militant in the world and where the official unions are largely discredited, the maneuver was more subtle. It consisted mainly in dividing and discouraging the workers thanks to a division of labor between, on the one hand the three big union federations (COIL, CSIL, UIL) who called for a strike and demonstrations for the 22 October and, on the other hand, the 'base' unions, (the COB AS) who called for an 'alternative strike' for the ... 25 October.
In France the tactic was different. It consisted above all in imprisoning the workers in corporatism. Thus the unions launched a whole series of 'movements' which got a lot of coverage in the media; these movements took place at different times and had different demands: in the railways, air transport, urban transport, the ports, steel, the schools, social services, etc. There was a particularly repulsive maneuver in the health sector where the official unions, who are largely discredited, called for 'unity' between the different categories while the coordinations, which had already shown their true face in the strikes of Autumn 1988 cultivated corporatism and 'specificities', especially among the nurses. The government did its bit to 'radicalize' the movement through a well-publicized violent police attack on one of the demonstrations. The peak was reached when the workers of this sector were called on to demonstrate alongside liberal doctors, health managers and pharmacists ' for the defense of the health service'. At the same time, the unions, with the active support of the leftist organizations, launched a strike in the Renault factory at Cleon, ie the enterprise which is the 'beacon' for the French proletariat. For weeks they came out with all kinds of radical talk, while shutting the workers up in this factory, only to suddenly change their tune and call for a return to work even though the bosses had made hardly any concessions. And as soon as work started at Cleon, they launched a strike in another factory of the same group, at Mans.
These are only some examples among many, but they are significant of the general strategy of the bourgeoisie against the workers. And it is precisely because it knows that it has not had a definitive success with the campaigns of the past two years that the ruling class is using all these maneuvers based on the present difficulties of the working class.
And indeed these difficulties are not final. The intensification and increasingly massive character of the attacks which capitalism will have to unleash will compel the working class to take up the struggle again on a grand scale. At the same time, and this is what the bourgeoisie fears the most when it comes down to it, the evident bankruptcy of a capitalist system which is supposed to be enjoying its greatest triumph will undermine the lies that have been dished out since the death of Stalinism.
Finally, we know that there is going to be an inevitable intensification of warlike tensions, involving not only the small states on the periphery but also the central countries of capitalism, the countries where the strongest detachments of the proletariat are concentrated (the Gulf war was a foretaste of this). This process will deal heavy blows to the lies of the bourgeoisie and highlight the fact that the survival of capitalism is a grave threat to the survival of humanity.
It's a long and difficult road that awaits the working class. It is up to the revolutionary organizations, through their denunciation both of the ideological campaigns about the 'death of communism', and of the maneuvers aimed at leading the workers' struggle into a dead-end, to contribute actively to the future revival of struggles, to help the class take the road that leads to its emancipation. FM 6.12.91
 News of the formation of this 'commonwealth' came when this Review was being put together. So we have integrated this event at the last moment in note 6.
 See in particular nos. 66 and 67 of the IR.
 " ... however the situation in the eastern bloc evolves, the events that are shaking it today mean the historic crisis, the definitive collapse of Stalinism ... In these countries, an unprecedented period of instability, convulsions and chaos has begun, whose implications go far beyond their frontiers ... The nationalist movements (which) today are profiting from a loosening of central control by the Russian party ... their dynamic is towards separation from Russia. In the end, if the central power in Moscow does not react, then we will see the explosion, not just of the Russian bloc, but of its dominant power. The Russian bourgeoisie, which today rules the world's second power, would find itself at the head of a second-rate power, a good deal weaker than Germany for example." ('Theses on the economic and political crisis in the USSR and the eastern countries, IR 60).
 See the editorial in IR 67
 See the article on the recession in this issue.
 The constitution on 8.12.91 of a 'commonwealth of states' by Russia, Ukraine and Bylorussia can only aggravate this situation. This erzatz Union which only regroups the Slav republics can only sharpen nationalism among the non-Slav populations, both in the other republics of the ex-USSR and in Russia itself. Far from stabilizing the situation, the agreement between Yeltsin and his acolytes will lead to further deterioration in a region of the world stuffed full of nuclear weapons.
 For our basic texts on the decomposition of capitalism see IRs 57, 62 and 64.
 As winter approaches, the situation of the Kurdish populations is even worse than it was after the Gulf war. But as the ruling class obviously doesn't know what to do about them, and as they are an encumbrance for the neighboring countries (notably for Turkey, which, even though it was one of the 'goodies' during the Gulf war, doesn't hesitate to use against them the same methods as Saddam Hussein, such as aerial bombing), it is preferable to suspend discretely all international aid and to withdraw on tiptoes with the advise that they should go back to their original homes, ie throw themselves into the arms of their executioners. The massacre of the Kurds by Hussein's soldiers was an excellent TV news story when it was a question of giving an after-the-event justification of the war against Iraq. This is one of the reasons that the 'coalition' prepared this massacre during the war by inciting these populations to rise up .against Baghdad, and then, after the war, leaving Saddam with the troops he needed to carry out his 'police operation'. But today the Calvary of the Kurds has lost all interest for the propaganda campaigns: for the 'civilized' bourgeoisie, it is better that they die in silence.
 See 'Towards the greatest chaos in history' in this issue.
 This doesn't mean that there will be a real 'harmony' between these other powers. Thus France, for example, which has ambitions about resisting US leadership, has formed, mainly against Britain, an alliance with Germany in the EC, the aim of which is to form a counter-weight to US influence and also to 'contain' the great power ambitions of its German ally (over which it at least has the advantage of the atomic bomb). It's also for this reason that France is the most ardent partisan of projects that allow the EC as a whole to assert a certain military independence: construction of a European space shuttle; constitution of a joint Franco-German division; strengthening of the diplomatic competence of the European executive; subjecting the Western European Union (the only European organism which has any military attributes) to the Council of Europe (and not NATO which is dominated by the US). And this, of course, is what Britain doesn't want.
 Having said this, even if Israel no longer has the same margin of maneuver as in the past, this country, which showed its 'sense of responsibility' during the Gulf war to the advantage of the USA, remains the essential pawn of American policy in the region: it has the most powerful and modem army (with more than 200 nuclear warheads) and is continually - mainly thanks to 3 billion dollars of US aid a year - strengthening its military potential. On top of this, it is managed by a regime which is much more stable than those in the Arab countries. This is why the USA isn't prepared to let go of what it's got by reversing its primary alliances, and all Israel's prevarications in response to the pressure by the USA prior to the Madrid and Washington meetings in recent months was more a way of raising the stakes vis-a-vis the Arab countries than the expression of a fundamental clash between Israel and the USA.
 Here we can see to what point the UN has become a simple instrument of US policy; it is given a big role when it comes to softening up recalcitrant allies (as during the Gulf war) but it's put on the shelf aa soon as it could be used by these same allies to playa role on the international arena.
 This is why, despite the disappearance of the western bloc (as a result of the collapse of its eastern rival) there is no immediate threat to this fundamental structure that the bloc set up, and which is totally dominated by the US - NATO. This was clearly expressed in the document adopted on November 8 at the NATO summit: "the threat of a massive and simultaneous attack on all of NATO's European fronts has been eliminated ... the new risks derive from the negative consequences of the instability which could be produced by the serious economic, social and political difficulties, including ethnic rivalries and territorial disputes, faced by a number of central and eastern European countries." In the world context of the disappearance of blocs, we are thus seeing a reconversion of NATO, which allowed Bush to say with satisfaction at the end of the meeting: "We have shown that we don't need the Soviet threat to exist".
 See 'France: the 'coordinations sabotage the struggle' in IR 56.