13th Congress of Revolution Internationale

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Resolution on the International Situation

During the last year, the evolution of the international situation has fundamentally confirmed the analyses contained in the resolution, adopted by the 12th Congress of the Ice in April 1997. In this sense the resolution published below is simply a complement to its predecessor. It does not repeat those analyses, but verifies them and provides the updates demanded by the situation today.

The economic crisis

1) One of the points of the preceding resolution which has been confirmed most clearly is the part on the crisis of the capitalist economy. Thus, in April 97 we said that:

 

"Among the lies which have been spread far and wide by the ruling class to buttress belief in the viability of its system, a special place has been given to the example of the South East Asian countries, the "dragons" (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore) and the "tigers" (Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia) whose current growth rates (sometimes in double figures) are the envy of the western bourgeoisies .... The debts of most of these countries, both external and at state level, has reached considerable levels, which subjects them to the same dangers as all the other countries ... Though they have up till now represented an exception, like their big Japanese neighbour, these countries cannot indefinitely escape the contradictions of the world economy which have transformed other 'success stories' into a nightmare, as in the case of Mexico" (point 7).

It took only four months for Thailand's difficulties to inaugurate the biggest financial crisis' since the 1930s, a financial crisis which spread to all the South East Asian countries and which required the mobilisation of more than $140 billion (much more than double the already exceptional Mexican loan in 1994/95) to prevent a much larger number of states declaring themselves bankrupt. The most spectacular case was obviously South Korea, a member of the OECD (the "rich man's club"), which could no longer make any repayments on a debt of more than $200 billion. At the same time, this financial collapse shook the biggest country in the world, China, whose "economic miracle" was also being boasted about not long ago, as well as the second economic power on the planet, Japan itself.

 
2) The difficulties currently being experienced by the Japanese economy, which for decades has been the "best pupil in the class", do not just date back to the financial crisis which swept over South-East Asia in the second half of 1997. In fact, Japan has been a "sick man" since the beginning of the 90s, with a concealed recession which numerous "recovery plans" (five since October 97, following a number of others) have not been able to overcome, and which has today become an open recession (the first for 23 years). At the same time, the Yen, which for years was the star currency, has suffered a 40 % loss of value against the dollar over the past three years. Finally, the Japanese banking system is more and more revealing its fragility with a huge proportion of dubious debts, representing 15 % of Japan's annual GNP, even though this country is the "world's savings bank", not least with its hundreds of billions of dollars in US treasury bonds. The world bourgeoisie's nervousness about Japan is perfectly justified. It is clear that a collapse of the Japanese economy would be a real cataclysm for the entire world economy. But in addition, the fact that the most dynamic economy in post-war history has been stuck in the mud for 8 years has a very particular meaning: it is an indication of the level of gravity reached by the capitalist crisis over the past 30 years.

3) Marxists have to see beyond the speeches of the "experts" of the ruling class. If we were to believe them, the conclusion would be that things are going in the right direction for capitalism since they have announced a recovery for the world economy, and the repercussions of the Asian financial crisis have appeared less devastating than certain people might have thought a few months ago. Today, we are even seeing the world's main stock exchanges, beginning with Wall Street, beating all their records. In reality, recent events do not at all contradict any of the analyses made by marxists concerning the gravity and insoluble nature of the present crisis of capitalism. Behind the financial collapse of the "tigers" and "dragons", and the languorous illness of the Japanese economy, lies the astronomical indebtedness into which world capitalism has been sinking more and more with each day that passes.

 

"In the final analysis, far from enabling capitalism to overcome its crises, credit merely extends their force and gravity, as Rosa Luxemburg showed by applying marxism. Today the theses of the marxist left (...) at the end of the last century remain fundamentally valid. No more than before can credit enlarge solvent markets. However, faced with the definitive saturation of the latter (...), credit has become the indispensable condition for absorbing commodities, substituting itself for the real market" (Point 4).

" ... it has been mainly through the use of credit, of growing debt, that the world economy has managed to avoid a brutal depression like the one in the 1930s" (Point 5).

 

4) The most significant characteristic of the economic convulsions presently hitting Asia lies not so much in their immediate effects on the other developed countries as in the fact that they expose the total impasse facing the capitalist system today, a system forced into a permanent headlong plunge into debt (which will be further aggravated by the loans granted to the tigers and dragons). At the same time, the convulsions which have hit the "champions of growth" with such force are the proof that there is no recipe that will enable any group of countries of escape the crisis. Finally, because the financial storms are on a much greater scale than any of those in previous years, they reveal the continuing deterioration of the world capitalist economy.

 

Faced with the failure of the dragons, the bourgeoisie has shown, by mobilising enormous amounts of money on both sides of the Atlantic and the Pacific, that despite the trade war between its different national fractions it is determined to avoid a situation similar to that of the 1930s. In this sense, the spirit or "every man for himself", which is so much a part of capitalist society in decomposition, is being limited by the necessity for the ruling class to avoid a general debacle that would drag the entire world economy into a total disaster. State capitalism, which developed with capitalism's entry into its phase of decadence, and particularly since the second half of the 1930s, has had the aim of guaranteeing a minimum of order between the different capitalist factions within -national frontiers. After the disappearance of the imperialist blocs that followed the collapse of the Russian bloc, the continuation of a concerted economic policy between the different states has made it possible to preserve this kind of "order" on an international scale[1]. This does not call into question the continuation and intensification of the trade war but allows it to be fought under certain rules that will allow the system to survive.

In particular, it has allowed the most developed countries to push the most dramatic expressions of the crisis towards the peripheral areas (Africa, Latin America, countries of the former Eastern bloc), even though the origins of the crisis lie at the heart of the capitalist system (Western Europe, USA, Japan). It also makes it possible to establish zones of relative stability, which is one reason behind the establishment of the Euro.

 

5) However, the application of state capitalist measures, all the co-ordination of economic policy between the most developed countries, all the "salvage plans" cannot save capitalism from a growing bankruptcy, even if they do enable it to slow down the pace of the catastrophe. The system may go through short-lived remissions, as has happened many times in the past, but after the "recovery" there will be new open recessions and more and more financial and economic convulsions.

 
Within the history of the decadence of capitalism, with its spiral of crisis-war-reconstruction-renewed crisis, there is also a history of the crisis which began at the end of the 60s. Throughout this period we have seen an ineluctable degradation of the situation of world capitalism, which has been expressed in particular by:

- a fall in average growth rates (for the 24 OECD countries: 5.6% between 1960 and 1970; 4.1% for 1970-80; 3.4% for 1980-90; 2.9% for 1990-95);

 

- a general and dizzying rise in debt, particularly state debts (for the developed countries this now represents between 50 and 130% of a year's production);

 

- a growing fragility and instability of national economies, with increasingly brutal bankruptcies of industrial or financial sectors; - the ejection of ever-growing sectors of the working class from the productive process (for the OECD, 30 million unemployed in 1989, 35 million in 1993, 38 million in 1996).

 

And this process can only inexorably continue. In particular, permanent unemployment, which expresses the historic bankruptcy of a system whose reason for existing was to extend wage labour, cannot fail to grow, even if the bourgeoisie goes through all sorts of contortions to hide it and even if, for the moment, it has achieved a certain degree of stabilisation at this level. Alongside all sorts of other attacks - on wages, social benefits, health, working conditions - it will more and more be the principal way that the ruling class makes the exploited pay for the failure of its system.

Imperialist tensions

6) While the different national sectors of the bourgeoisie, in order to prevent the world economy from exploding, have managed to obtain a minimum level of co-ordination in their economic policies, things are very different in the domain of imperialist relations. The events of the past year fully confirm the resolution of the 12th congress of the ICC: "this tendency towards 'every man for himself', towards chaos in the relations between slates, with its succession of circumstantial and ephemeral alliances, has not been called into question. Quite the contrary" (point 10).

 

"In particular, since the end of the division of the world into two blocs, the USA has been faced with a permanent challenge to its authority by its former allies" (Point 11).

Thus we have seen the continuation and even the aggravation of Israel's lack of discipline in relation to its American patron, a lack of discipline illustrated recently by the failure of the Middle East mission by the negotiator Dennis Ross who was not able to do anything to re-establish the Oslo peace process, cornerstone of the Pax Americana in the Middle East. The tendency already noted in preceding years has thus been fully confirmed:

 

"Among other examples of this contesting of American leadership we can mention the loss of a monopoly of control over the situation in the Middle East, a crucial zone if ever there was one" (Point 12).

 

By the same token, we have seen Turkey taking its distance from its "great ally" Germany (which it has blamed for preventing it entering the European Union), while at the same time trying to establish, for its own reasons, a special military cooperation with Israel.

Finally, we have seen the confirmation of another point noted by the 12th congress:

 

" ... in company with France, Germany is exerting heavy diplomatic pressure on Russia, whose main creditor is Germany and which has not drawn any decisive advantages from its alliance with the US" (Point 15).

 

The recent Moscow summit between Kohl, Chirac and Yeltsin put the seal on a "Troika" which involves two of the USA's main European allies during the Cold War period, plus the power which, had demonstrated its allegiance to the world's gendarme for several years after the collapse of the Eastern bloc. Although Kohl claimed that this alliance was not directed against anyone, it is clear that these three thieves have got together behind America's back.

 
7) The most striking expression of this challenge to US leadership was the lamentable failure of the "Desert Thunder" operation in February 1998, which had aimed at inflicting a new "punishment" on Iraq and, behind Iraq, on the powers supporting it, notably France and Russia. In 1990-91, the USA led Iraq into a trap by pushing it to invade another Arab country, Kuwait. In the name of "respect for international law" they managed to rally behind them, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, nearly all the Arab states and all the great powers, including the most reticent ones like France. The "Desert Storm"operation allowed the USA to prove that it was the one and only "world cop", and this was to open the door 'to the Oslo accords, despite the ambushes it was soon to encounter in ex- Yugoslavia. In 1997-98, it was Iraq and its "allies" which laid a trap for the US. Saddam Hussein's restrictions on the visits to the "presidential sites" (which did not contain any installations contravening UN resolutions, as has just been shown) led the superpower into a new attempt to assert its authority by force of arms. But this time around it had to give up the whole enterprise in the face of resolute opposition from nearly all the Arab states and from the great powers, except for Britain who (timidly) supported it. And so the little brother of "Desert Storm" was very far from being the "Thunder" it was supposed to be. It was more like a damp squib and the world's leading power was not even spared the affront of seeing the General Secretary of the UN going to Baghdad in the personal jet of the French president and meeting the latter before and after his mission. What was supposed to be a punishment for Iraq, and France in particular, ended up as a diplomatic victory for these two countries. The contrast between the outcomes of "Desert Storm" and "Desert Thunder" is a yardstick of the current crisis of US leadership, a crisis which was not lessened by the semi-failure of Clinton's African tour at the end of March, the purpose of which had been to consolidate US advances made at the expense of France through the overthrow of the Mobutu regime in 1996. What this trip showed above all is that the African states, and especially the most powerful one, South Africa, increasingly intend to play their own game independently of the tutelage of the great powers.

8) Thus, recent months have fully confirmed what we said earlier:

 

"As regards the international policy of the USA, the widespread use of armed force has not only been one of its methods for a long time, but is now the main instrument in the defence of its imperialist interests, as the ICC has shown since 1990, even before the Gulf war. The USA is faced with a world dominated by "every man for himself", where its fanner vassals are trying to withdraw as much as possible from the tight grip of the world cop, which they had to put up with as long as the threat from the rival bloc existed. In this situation, the only decisive way the US can impose its authority is to resort to the area in which they have a crushing superiority over all other stales: military force. But in doing so, the US is caught in a contradiction:

- on the one hand, if it gives up using or extending the use of its military superiority, this will only encourage the countries contesting its authority to contest even more;

 

- on the other hand, when it does use brute force, even, and especially when this momentarily obliges its opponents to rein in their ambitions towards independence, this only pushes the latter to seize on the least occasion to get their revenge and squirm away from America's grasp.

The assertion of its military superiority by a superpower works in a very different way depending on whether the world is divided into blocs, as before 1989, or whether there are no blocs. In the first place, the assertion of this superiority tends to reinforce the vassals' confidence in their leader, in its ability to defend them, and is thus an element of cohesion around the leader. In the second case, the display of force by the only remaining superpower has the opposite ultimate result of aggravating "every man for himself" even more so when there is no other power that can compete with it at the same level. This is why the success of the present US counter-offensive cannot be considered to be definitive to have overcome its crisis of leadership. Brute force, manoeuvres aimed at destabilising its rivals (as in Zaire today), with their procession of tragic consequences, will thus continue to be used by this power, serving to accentuate the bloody chaos into which capitalism is sinking" (point 1 7).

 

While the US has not recently had the opportunity to use its armed might and to participate directly in this "bloody chaos", this can only be a temporary situation, especially because it cannot allow the diplomatic failure over Iraq to pass without a response.

Besides which, the capitalist world, on the basis of antagonisms between the great powers, has indeed gone on sinking into military barbarism and massacres, illustrated in particular by the situation in Algeria and, most recently, by the confrontations in Kosovo which have re-Iit the fires in the Balkans powder-keg. In this part of the world, the antagonisms between Germany on the one hand, and Russia, France and Britain, traditional allies of Serbia, on the other, will not give the Dayton peace accord a long respite.

Even if the Kosovo crisis does not degenerate immediately, it is a clear indication that there can be no solid and stable peace today, particularly in this region which, owing to its place in Europe, is the main flashpoint in the world.

Class struggle

9) "This generalised chaos, with its train of bloody conflicts, massacres, famines, and more generally, the decomposition which invades all areas of society and which in the long run threatens to destroy it, is the result of the total impasse which capitalist society has reached. But at the same time, this impasse, with the permanent and increasingly brutal attacks that it provokes against the class that produces the vast majority of social wealth, obliges the latter to react and thus raises the perspective of a revolutionary upsurge" (Point 19).

 

Provoked by the first expressions of capitalism's open crisis, the historic revival of the working class at the end of the 1960s put an end to four decades of counter-revolution and prevented capitalism from bringing about its own response to the crisis: generalised imperialist war. Despite moments of retreat, workers' struggles exhibited a general tendency to detach themselves from the grip of the state's organs of control, notably the trade unions. This tendency was brutally halted with the campaigns that accompanied the collapse of the so-called "socialist regimes" at the end of the 80s. The working class suffered an important reverse, both at the level of its militancy and at the level of its consciousness: " ... in the main capitalist countries, the working class has been brought back to a situation which is comparable to that of the 1970s as far as its relation to unions and unionism is concerned: a situation where the class, in general, struggled within the unions, followed their instructions and their slogans, and in the final analysis, left things up to them. In this sense, the bourgeoisie has temporarily succeeded in wiping out from working class consciousness the lessons learnt during the 80s, following repeated experience of confrontations with the unions" (Resolution on the international situation, 12th congress of the ICC's section in France, Point 12).

Since 1992, the proletariat has returned to the path of struggle but because of the scale of the retreat it has been through, and the weight of the general decomposition of bourgeois society, its consciousness is still being held back and the rhythm of this revival is very slow. However, its reality is being confirmed not so much by workers' struggles themselves, which for the moment remain very weak, but by all the manoeuvres which the bourgeoisie has been deploying for several years:

 

"For the ruling class, which is fully aware that its growing attacks on the working class will provoke wide-scale reactions, it is vital to get in the first blow at a time when combativity is still at an embryonic stage and when the echoes of the collapse of the 'socialist' regimes still weigh very heavy on the workers' consciousness. The aim is to 'wet the powder' and to reinforce to the maximum its arsenal of trade unionist and democratic mystifications" (resolution from the 12th ICC congress, Point 21).

 

This policy of the bourgeoisie was illustrated once again during the summer of 1997 by the UPS strike in the US which ended in a "great victory" for the trade unions. It has also been confirmed by the big manoeuvres which, in several European countries, have surrounded and continue to surround the question of unemployment.

10) Once again, it has been by co-ordinating its actions in different countries that the ruling class has been taking charge of the growing discontent provoked by the inexorable rise of the scourge of unemployment. On the one band, in countries like France, Belgium and Italy they have been launching big campaigns around the theme of the 35-hour week, which is supposed to be able to create hundreds of thousands of jobs. On the other hand, in France and Germany, we have seen, under the auspices of the unions and different "committees" inspired by the leftists, the development of movements of the unemployed, with the occupation of public places and street demonstrations. In fact, these two policies are complementary. The campaign around the 35-hour week, and the actual application of this measure as decided on by the left government in France, makes it possible:

 

- to "demonstrate" that you can "do something" to create jobs;

 

- to put forward an "anti-capitalist" demand, since the bosses have declared themselves to be opposed to it;

 

- to justify a whole series of attacks against the working class which will be the counter-part to the reduction in hours (intensification uf productivity and line speeds, wage freezes, greater "flexibility", especially through the calculation of working hours on a yearly basis.

The mobilisation of the unemployed by different bourgeois forces also has several objectives:

 

- in the short term, it creates a diversion for the sectors of the working class who are still at work, and above all, tends to make them feel guilty;

 

- in the longer term, and above all, it has the aim of developing organs for controlling the unemployed workers who, up till now, have been relatively less policed by specialised bourgeois organs;

 

In fact, through these well publicised manoeuvres, which have been displayed by the media internationally, the bourgeoisie proves that it is conscious:

- of its inability to resolve the problem of unemployment (which means it has few illusions about its system seeing "light at the end of the tunnel");

 

- that the present situation, marked by a low level of militancy among the workers at work and by the passivity of the unemployed, will not last for long.

 

The ICC has shown that, owing to the weight of decomposition and the gradual way that capitalism has put tens of millions of workers on the dole over the last few decades, the unemployed have not been able to organise themselves and take part in the class struggle (as they did in some countries during the 1930s). However, we also showed that even if they will not be able to constitute a vanguard of the workers' struggle, they will be led to join other sectors of the working class when the latter begin to move on a masive scale, bringing to the movement a powerful combativity resulting from their miserable situation, their lack of sectionalist prejudices and of illusions in the future of the capitalist economy. In this sense, the current manoeuvres of the bourgeoisie towards the unemployed show that it is expecting to have to deal with struggles of the whole working class, and is doing all it can to ensure that the participation of unemployed workers in these struggles will be sabotaged by appropriate organs of control.

11) In this manoeuvre, the ruling class has called upon the classical trade unions but also on more "left" elements of its political apparatus (anarcho-syndicalists, Trotskyists, "operaists" and "autonomists") because, faced with the unemployed and their immense anger, it needs a more "radical" language than that usually spoken by the official unions. This fact also illustrates a point that was already in the resolution of the 12th ICC congress: we are today between two stages in the process of the revival of the class struggle, a moment where the action of classical unionism which dominated in the years 1994-96, although far from being discredited, will have to be complemented in a preventive manner by a more "radical", "rank and file" type of unionism.

 

12) Finally, the continuation of bourgeois ideological campaigns:

 

- on communism, fraudulently identified with Stalinism (notably the noise made about the Black Book of Communism, which has been translated into several languages) and against the communist left, via the anti-revisionist propaganda;

 

- in defence of democracy as the only alternative to all the expressions of capitalist decomposition and barbarism are the proof that the ruling class, aware of the potential contained in the present and future situation, is already preoccupied with sabotaging the long term perspectives of the proletarian combat, the road towards the communist revolution.  

Faced with this situation, revolutionaries have the duty:

 

- to put forward the real communist perspective against all the falsifications spread far and wide by the defenders of the bourgeois order;

 

- to show the cynical nature of the bourgeois manoeuvres which call on the proletariat to defend democracy against the so-called "fascist" or "terrorist" danger;

 

- to denounce all the manoeuvres aimed at restoring strength and credit to all the union machinery whose function is to sabotage the future struggles of the class;

 

- to intervene towards the small minorities in the class who are raising questions about the crisis of capitalism and the ceaseless deterioration of living standards;

- to prepare to intervene in the ineluctable development of the class struggle.

 


[1] At the beginning of this period there was a tendency for these international organs of economic coordination and regulation to be boycotted, but the bourgeoisie very quickly drew the lessons about the dangers of "every man for himself".