Twenty years ago one of the most important events of
the second half of the twentieth century occurred: the collapse of the
imperialist bloc of the East and of the European Stalinist regimes, including
the principal one: the USSR.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 unleashed a huge campaign about the collapse of communism and the triumph of capitalism. The real development of the world situation, above all the present economic crisis, is showing that what happened in 1989 was actually a moment in the collapse of the world capitalist system.
Since we wrote the article ‘Are we reliving a crash like 1929?', the media has already changed its tone, no longer playing down the extreme gravity of the present economic crisis or its similarities with 1929. But it is important to put all the current talk about ‘the end of capitalism' into a clear perspective.
A century ago we heard much the same message. In 1898 Ivan Bloch published The War of the Future in St Petersburg. He said that war was bound to become obsolete, as it was too costly, too murderous and so complicated that it was impossible to win. However, such views did not stand uncorrected. In 1901, in exile in Siberia, the revolutionary Leon Trotsky had a more accurate view of what capitalism was, and what it had in store.
The fall of the Berlin Wall led to a media orgy on a scale not seen before in this century. For 3 days there was an almost uninterrupted flow of images, showing nearly 3 million East Germans crossing the wall and invading the West of the city of Berlin. In this first phase there was no need for propaganda. The images spoke for themselves; the bourgeisie’s message was directly attached to them and hammered home implicitly: "This historic day marks the total and definitive victory of democracy over totalitarianism", "People of the world, rejoice in this glorious day when capitalism has demonstrated its absolute superiority over the socialist regimes".
Fifteen years ago, in 1989, the 'Soviet' imperialist bloc fell apart. This event, which was basically the fruit of the world economic crisis of capitalism, was to have immediate and extremely important repercussions on the life of this social system. The working class should recall that at that moment the leaders of the world bourgeoisie promised us a new epoch of peace and stability: the collapse of Stalinism would mean the end of barbarism. The bloody evolution of the real world would soon show exactly the opposite. Right from the start of the 1990s, barbarism more and more became a permanent fact of life, generalising itself across the planet, from the weakest parts of the capitalist system to the most advanced industrialised countries. The new epoch we saw was actually one in which capitalism entered into the final phase of its decline - the phase of decomposition. In place of an imperialist conflict which had been contained inside the iron corset of the competition between the US and Russian blocs, a new military logic came to the fore, a logic in which each capitalist country would defend its interests outside of any stable alliance under the rule of a dominant imperialism - the result being an accelerating slide into chaos.
Up until the collapse of the eastern
bloc in 1989, the alternative posed by the workers’ movement since the
beginning of the century - war or revolution - clearly summarised what was at
stake in the situation: through a dizzying aims race, the two rival blocs were
preparing for a third world war, the only response that capitalism can have to
its economic crisis. Today, humanity is confronted, not with a ‘new world
order’ as they claimed in 1989, but with a world disorder in which chaos and
barbarism has been developing everywhere...
Stalinism has been the
spearhead of the most terrible counter-revolution that the proletariat has
undergone throughout its history: a counter-revolution which made possible
World War II, the greatest slaughter of all times, and which plunged the whole
of society into a hitherto unparalleled barbarism. Today, as the economies of
the so-called "socialist" countries collapse and with the de facto
disappearance of the imperialist bloc dominated by the USSR,
Stalinism as a political and economic form of capitalism and as an ideology is
in its death-throes. One of the working class' greatest enemies is dying; this
will not make life any the easier for it, quite the contrary. As it dies,
Stalinism is doing capitalism one last good turn. This is what we propose to
demonstrate in the following article.
The recent events in countries under Stalinist
regimes, the confrontations between Party bosses and repression in China, the
nationalist explosions and workers' struggles in the USSR, the constitution of
a government led by Solidarnosc in Poland, are events of great historical
importance. They reveal Stalinism's historic crisis, its entry into a period of
acute convulsions. In this sense, they demand that we reaffirm and update our
analysis of these regimes' nature and, of the perspectives for their evolution.