Internal debate in the ICC on the international situation

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MH
Internal debate in the ICC on the international situation
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The publication of these discussion texts is obviously very interesting in the context of earlier criticisms of the 23rd Congress resolutions on this forum and the debate on the balance of class forces, with the ICC’s response to my own critique.

I don’t want to comment in detail on the latest texts. I don’t think I agree with everything comrade Steinklopfer says and I don’t disagree with everything the ICC says in response; the format of comments on amendments makes it difficult sometimes to see the main lines of argument, but I do want to make a couple of points to start off a discussion.

First, this internal debate confirms that disagreements were raised at the congress itself about some of the same issues raised by close sympathisers and ex members of the ICC, and that disagreements have continued to be expressed about positions adopted by the Congress inside the organisation.

Second, these disagreements go well beyond an analysis of the international situation to include the balance of class forces, the ICC’s position on decomposition, perspectives for the future and, underlying all of these, the question of the Marxist method.

Some of these disagreements have a marked similarity with my own critique of the positions adopted by the 23rd Congress; specifically:

  • that the ICC’s emphasis, as part of its position on decomposition, on the tendency towards chaos and the near impossibility of blocs re-forming, risks underestimating the danger of a new global imperialist war in the current period, in particular of a confrontation between the US and China;
  • that the ICC’s position on decomposition underestimates the significance of the partial defeat of the post-‘68 upsurge of struggles that took place in the 1980s and the resulting change in the balance of class forces prior to the fall of the Stalinist regimes.

This doesn’t prove of course that either I or comrade S is correct!

Following on from this,  it's worth pointing out that neither the ICC nor comrade S refers to the critical balance sheet of strengths and weaknesses drawn up at its 21st Congress in 2015. One of the specific weaknesses identified was the organisation’s slowness to recognise the setbacks suffered by the workers’ struggles in the 1980s and its underestimation of the effects of globalisation/neoliberal policies  (see Report on Class Struggle). The 23rd Congress continued to insist that the regression in the revolutionary perspective of the workers’ struggles only began in 1989, ie. with the fall of the Stalinist regimes. 

To return to my first point, the ICC’s earlier response to my own criticisms and the issues raised by comrades on this forum must now be seen in the context of the wider disagreements expressed within the organisation at the Congress itself and after, so I think the political significance of these disagreements, and how we should characterise them, is one issue for discussion, and in this context I certainly think comrade S’s criticisms of the ICC’s method, as expressed in the congress resolutions, are as important to consider as disagreements on imperialism and the balance of class forces.

jk1921
I was going to hold off

I was going to hold off commenting on these texts for awhile, but since MH has gotten it started:

I agree with MH regarding the importance on publicizing these debates within the ICC and that they do in fact reflect similar concerns put forward here in the past regarding these issues. At some point, it would be useful to make a more comprehensive statement, but briefly: I find the controversy over whether or not the tendency towards "everyman for himself" is a cause or a feature of decomposition difficult to follow as it seems rather metaphysical in its search for prime movers and first causes, although it seems there are those (perhaps MH) who see more fundamental methodological issues at stake there.

That said, there do appear to be two different conceptualizations of a number of issues at play in the debate. I will say that I think I find myself closer to the ICC in its rebutal to Steinklopfer's assessment of the tendency towards new imperialist blocs forming. I think the counter tendencies agains this in decomposition will outweigh the pressure towards the formation of new blocs, especially if one of those blocs is around China. I would even go further and say that I think both sides overstate the "rise of China" and that we do really seem to have gotten a hold of the underlying tendencies around this phenomenon. When the ICC says the rise of China is a "function of decomposition," it is not entirely clear what is meant, even if it is clear that this is supposed to serve as a qualification suggesting that there is an underlying weakness in the phenomenon--although this seems never to be developed. Is it the fact that Chinese growth in the current period is conditioned on a global restructuring directed and primarily controlled by the west and especially the United States? It is not said.

On the other hand, I find myself closer to Steinklopfer on the question of the balance of class forces and the social situation at the moment, as I do not share the ICC's broad optimism that whatever social movements we are seeing today, albeit in contorted, recueprated and mutated forms, reflect an underlying subterreanan tendency towards the development of consciousness. On the contrary, I think the situation is quite a bit worse than either side imagines, with decomposition increasingly splitting society into competing "culture war" camps, such that what might look like promising developments on the social front are actually just moments in this logic.

Moreover, I don't think either side has a very convincing explanation for the rise of populism or what it means. Here, I fear that there is a tendency by the ICC to more or less take over the anti-populist analyses (even while correctly stating that anti-populism offers no real alternative for humanity); instead of attempting to situate it in a more global and historical context, as a kind of  "defense mechanism" of the national state against the tendencies towards globalization (itself an attempt to deal with the historic crisis of accumulation) and its resulting political problems, i.e. the fracturing of the national polity. Still, I don't find Steinklopfer's assertion that populism is a moment in the preparation for inter-state war very convincing. The ICC is right here that whatever its underlying meaning, as a result of decomposition, it is ultimately incapable of serving in that role (or even in the one I have ascribed to it above) as it too becomes just another moment in the culture war deterioration of bourgeois political and intellectual life.

MH
on blocs and populism

I'd like to respond to some of jk's comments.

On the likelihood of new imperialist blocs forming - for Steinklopfer this appears to be not just a question of our exact assessment of the current situation but also of basic method; if there is a definite tendency today towards “each against all” at the level of imperialist conflicts we need to see this is only one pole of a contradiction, the other being a continual tendency towards bipolarity.

S is clearly frustrated at what he sees as the ICC's inability to fully grasp these two opposing poles of the contradiction in its analyses, and sees it as a sign of a tendency towards dogmatism.

In fact the ICC itself is led to acknowledge the existence of this bipolar tendency in its own resolution where it refers to the hostility of India and Japan to China which is driving them towards a convergence with the US (IR 164, p.8); fear of China is surely a factor potentially enabling a new US bloc to cohere.

Not only that but it is possible to argue that China, due to its size, position dominating the Eurasian landmass, level of technological development and openly hegemonic appetites, constitutes a ‘bloc’ in itself; the ICC has in the past pointed out that a new global imperialist war need not necessarily take precisely the same form as the past - something I think it now tends to forget...

On the question of populism - yes I tend to agree that Steinklopfer exaggerates the extent to which it is a preparation for war; while we can see populism as a foundation for the rise f Nazism in Germany after WW1, for example, the conditions today, especially in the major capitalist powers, are surely different; it is hard to see how Trump’s ‘America First’ policy (if you can call it that) could form the basis of a serious military strategy to defend its economic interests, which are global, and not least attract foreign allies. 

I’d like to come back on the question of the causes of decomposition and the ICC's method.

MH
decomposition causes and effects

jk921 wrote:
I find the controversy over whether or not the tendency towards "everyman for himself" is a cause or a feature of decomposition difficult to follow as it seems rather metaphysical in its search for prime movers and first causes

Agreed. If you see decomposition as simply “an advanced phase in the decay of the mode of production” (Alf) you could argue it is superfluous to identify a specific cause at all, while if you see it as caused primarily by a change in the balance of class forces (a ‘stalemate’) this implies that a future change in the balance of class forces could – what? At least slow it down? But if it is the result of some centrifugal tendency in capitalist society this seems to me to imply it is independent of the balance of class forces or at least further removed from its effect.

But in a sense I don’t think this is the main issue, afaics S basically argues that the 1980 Polish mass strike was the high point of the post-68 wave of struggles, after which it declined, mainly because the working class in the west was unable to step into the breach and develop its own revolutionary perspective. This seems pretty uncontroversial to me but the ICC continues to insist the wave was only defeated in 1989; up until then it was, despite setbacks, still advancing. Not only that but its eventual defeat was due to the effects of decomposition, ie. not to any weaknesses in the struggles themselves.

This obviously has implications for our view of how serious things are today. If you underestimate the failure of the struggles of the 1980s, and emphasise instead the impact of an event outside the direct struggle – the collapse of the blocs – then I think you risk underestimating the difficulties facing a recovery of struggles in the current period; this seems to be precisely what S is warning against.

jk1921 wrote:
I do not share the ICC's broad optimism that whatever social movements we are seeing today, albeit in contorted, recuperated and mutated forms, reflect an underlying subterranean tendency towards the development of consciousness. On the contrary, I think the situation is quite a bit worse than either side imagines

I tend to agree. And I don’t think the ICC’s position is consistent: if you think the working class suffered a defeat because of the effects of decomposition, and if decomposition can't be stopped, then surely the conditions for any recovery of the struggle today must be significantly worse than in 1989? Ironically the ICC accuses S of falling into “deep pessimism” but you could argue he is simply being more consistent in applying the ICC’s own position. 

jk1921
MH wrote:

MH wrote:

Agreed. If you see decomposition as simply “an advanced phase in the decay of the mode of production” (Alf) you could argue it is superfluous to identify a specific cause at all, while if you see it as caused primarily by a change in the balance of class forces (a ‘stalemate’) this implies that a future change in the balance of class forces could – what? At least slow it down? But if it is the result of some centrifugal tendency in capitalist society this seems to me to imply it is independent of the balance of class forces or at least further removed from its effect.

The issue of "centrifugal" vs. "centripetal" tendencies in society today is interesting. There is a certain interpretation of the theory of decomposition that would see pretty much everything today as influenced by centrifugal forces--the pulling apart of society under the weight of the rot resulting from either class to impose its solution to the crisis. This would tend to see pretty much everything today as a function of a downward spiral into darkness--the rise of all kinds of reactionary ideologies, a step backwards in social-cultural progress, etc. (there is a tendency in the ICC to see populism this way).

I think for me this is a little too one-sided. These centrifugal tendencies do exist, but there are also centripetal tendecies towards a kind of reconstruction of bourgeois society around the multi-cultural metropole with an accompanying ideology of "neoliberal progressivism" that doesn't nealty fit this narrative. This results from the underlying tendencies of capitalism itself as much as decomposition, I think. So maybe it is better to conceive of the main feature of this period as something more like "polarization." Of course, the "progressive" side of that--represented today by liberal anti-populism, but also by a semi-populist new social democracy, can itself become an active factor in a kind of decomposition in its tendency towards various forms of extremism--identitarianism, conspiracism, anti-institutionalism, etc. that ultimately does not really escape the centrigugal tendencies. Perhaps it is useful to think of the issue of the opposition between the tendencies towards "every man for himself" and bloc formation in the same way?

Alf
Just a point of clarification

In order to make sure we don’t discuss at cross purposes, I want to take up one point in MH’s last post.

“But in a sense I don’t think this is the main issue, afaics S basically argues that the 1980 Polish mass strike was the high point of the post-68 wave of struggles, after which it declined, mainly because the working class in the west was unable to step into the breach and develop its own revolutionary perspective. This seems pretty uncontroversial to me but the ICC continues to insist the wave was only defeated in 1989; up until then it was, despite setbacks, still advancing. Not only that but its eventual defeat was due to the effects of decomposition, ie. not to any weaknesses in the struggles themselves.

This obviously has implications for our view of how serious things are today. If you underestimate the failure of the struggles of the 1980s, and emphasise instead the impact of an event outside the direct struggle – the collapse of the blocs – then I think you risk underestimating the difficulties facing a recovery of struggles in the current period; this seems to be precisely what S is warning against”.

I think that MH tends to repeat the same misinterpretation that we already replied to in the response to S, where we indeed emphasise that the third wave of struggles since 1968 stagnated – even before the collapse of the blocs – above all because of a “weakness in the struggle itself”:

“While the ICC noted many important advances in this wave of struggles (the tendencies towards self-organisation and the confrontation with rank and file unionism in France and Italy, for example), this vital step of politicisation was not taken, and the third wave began to run into difficulties. At the 8th congress of the ICC in 1988, there was an animated debate between those comrades who felt that the third wave was moving forward inexorably, and what was then a minority who stressed that the working class was already suffering from the impact of decomposition in terms of atomisation, loss of class identity, the ideology of every man for himself in the form of corporatism etc – all of which were the result of the inability of the class to develop a perspective for the future of society”. 

 

The last point is key. The onset of decomposition is not an event outside the class struggle but the product of a social stalemate, one side of which is the proletariat’s difficulties in raising its defensive struggles to the political level.

MH
are there political differences or not?

Alf wrote:
I think that MH tends to repeat the same misinterpretation that we already replied to in the response to S, where we indeed emphasise that the third wave of struggles since 1968 stagnated – even before the collapse of the blocs – above all because of a “weakness in the struggle itself”:

 

“While the ICC noted many important advances in this wave of struggles (the tendencies towards self-organisation and the confrontation with rank and file unionism in France and Italy, for example), this vital step of politicisation was not taken, and the third wave began to run into difficulties. At the 8th congress of the ICC in 1988, there was an animated debate between those comrades who felt that the third wave was moving forward inexorably, and what was then a minority who stressed that the working class was already suffering from the impact of decomposition in terms of atomisation, loss of class identity, the ideology of every man for himself in the form of corporatism etc – all of which were the result of the inability of the class to develop a perspective for the future of society”. 

 

The last point is key. The onset of decomposition is not an event outside the class struggle but the product of a social stalemate, one side of which is the proletariat’s difficulties in raising its defensive struggles to the political level.

I appreciate Alf’s clarification, and I’m all for avoiding talking at cross purposes, but I’m left wondering; if so much of this is down to ‘misinterpretations’, what exactly was the point of the ICC publishing this as an "internal debate"?

Comrade S is clearly convinced there are real differences; they talk about “major divergences” at the congress on a range of issues. The ICC on the other hand seems to be quite conciliatory in its response, attempting to smooth over differences between opposing positions - even to the extent of taking issue with the views of its own congress amendments commission.

So there seem to be real differences here, even about whether there are real differences. What is anyone outside the organisation meant to make of this?

jk1921
MH wrote:

MH wrote:

I tend to agree. And I don’t think the ICC’s position is consistent: if you think the working class suffered a defeat because of the effects of decomposition, and if decomposition can't be stopped, then surely the conditions for any recovery of the struggle today must be significantly worse than in 1989? Ironically the ICC accuses S of falling into “deep pessimism” but you could argue he is simply being more consistent in applying the ICC’s own position. 

Accusing someone of "pessimism" does not seem a proper critique in itself. It is a characterization of an analysis that says nothing about the underlying validity of the analysis itself--its method, metrics, reasoning, rigor, etc. It seems more like a description of a mood than a political orientation. I have suggested that the ICC has shown a "broad optimism" in its evaluation of a number of social movements. Of course, this does not apply to any that have shown a populist orientation (Yellow Vests, etc.) which are dealt with by dismissing them as not belonging to the proletariat, but to some other class (petty bourgeoisie), which the working class gets mistakenly drawn behind. Are they are not seen then as the result of the weaknesses of the proletariat, but as products of decomposition? Is there even a distinction to be made here?

But I think where I see the premature optimism is in the idea that the emergence of politicized elements interested in the communist left is in some way proof of a subterreanean maturation of consciousness. The idea that the existence of a miniscule minority of revolutionaries can serve as their own proof of the validity of their theory seems self-referential and rife with circular logic--espeically when we are talking about the very small numbers we see today. This phenomenon could be down to any number of things. We need a different metric to break out of the opposition between "deep pessimism" and "broad optimism."

jk1921
Alf wrote:

Alf wrote:

The last point is key. The onset of decomposition is not an event outside the class struggle but the product of a social stalemate, one side of which is the proletariat’s difficulties in raising its defensive struggles to the political level.

This is right. Decomposition does not come ex nihilio from the economic base, but is a result of the political stalemate between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Neither side can put forward their historic solution to capialism's crisis--world war or world revolution. But, I think it is also the case that the two sides are not equal in the stalemate. While the bourgeoisie had not been able to put forward its historic solution or world war, it has other measures it can take to try to blunt the effects of the crisis on accumulation and gain the upper hand in the class struggle. For the last 30 odd years, this has been done by the switch from Keyensian-Fordist demand mangement to neo-liberal, just-in-time, flexible accumulation. The results of this strategy on the class struggle have not been negligible in the bourgeoisie's favor, even allowing for--according to some (ICT) something like the "recomposition of the proletariat."

Still, it is also the case that this had not done away with the historic crisis and it has not really arrested the tendencies ascribed to decomposition and may even be accelerating it--the splintering of society into two hostile blocs, ideological and political instability, the questioning of historic instiutions, the emergence of populism and extremist identiarianism, etc. The proletariat, on the other hand, has no other cards to play, other than to develop its struggle through the subterreanean maturation of consciousness. But has the bourgeoisie's neo-liberal strategy hampered that? What are the relative weights of the switch to neo-liberalism vs. decomposition is explaining the balance of class forces today?

KT
Taking a position

A brief taking of positions on the debates and positions of the Congress texts:

  • On the level of inter-imperialist tensions.

If the dichotomy between centrifugal tendencies, “every man for himself” and its opposite, the tendency towards the formation of new blocs, towards a new “bi-polarity”,  is a false one because both tendencies exist simultaneously and historically, this does not mean that one or other of these tendencies is not the more dominant. It seems evident to me that the tendency towards every ‘man for himself’ is and has been for some decades the over-arching tendency – despite early efforts (First Gulf War) to maintain the former Western bloc. Comrd S acknowledges this reality but asserts that this could change. His amendments want to reflect this possibility. For the majority of the ICC, such an emphasis would detract from the reality of the present dynamic – would point in one direction when all the action is in another - and it was rejected, a position I agree with. Despite the attempts of China to advance and develop its imperialist options, it’s the still-dominant USA which is the main disrupter of international relations, dismantling the old bloc structures, while China’s rise is tending to repulse potential allies. In this sense, I agree with the following explanation and perspective of the majority:

In this situation, the danger of war reflects this process of fragmentation. We certainly cannot rule out the possibility of military clashes between the US and China, but neither can we discount increasingly irrational outbreaks pulling in India against Pakistan, Israel against Iran, Iran versus Saudi Arabia, etc. But this is precisely the meaning, and the terrible threat, of every man for himself as a factor aggravating decomposition and endangering the very future of humanity. We continue to think that this tendency is not only far in advance of the tendency towards the reformation of blocs, but is in direct conflict with it.

  • On the level of the class struggle

The rise of populism is not a sign of a preparation for global war as cmrd S asserts but a sign of prolonged social blockage to which neither of the major classes can present a solution.

A proletariat disoriented, discombobulated, shorn of its class identity and facing increasing atomization is certainly and worryingly a candidate for mobilization for war. But it is absolutely not the same thing as saying such a position has already been reached. Indeed, part of the rise of populism – which is not, like fascism in the 1930s and 1940s, the product of a physical defeat and political mobilization of the proletariat – is fueled by the combative but directionless anger against the status quo, against elites, and so on. The fact that this too – and its ‘liberal’ opposition - is a blockage towards the reformation and widespread assimilation of proletarian class consciousness does not in itself indicate that this process is unattainable and that global war is on the agenda.

***

Observing social evolution over the past 30 years, It’s hard not have some sympathy for the approach of comrd S: a proletariat displaying only sporadic resistance and few episodes of class organization and consciousness; the descent of large parts of the planet into war and decay; the rebound of decomposition onto the very heartlands of capital: how is it possible to overstate the proletariat’s submission and capital’s march to destruction through war? Yet a misinterpretation of reality in the early 1950s – at the time of the Korean War – by the comrades of the communist left around Internationalisme led, for the best of motives but with disastrous results for the organization of revolutionaries, to the dismemberment and dispersal of a precious proletarian force. The same theoretical error, albeit in different circumstances, should not be repeated today.

Finally: what to make of the publication of this discussion? Difficult, really: there’s little to compare it to. No other organisation  of the proletarian milieu devotes anything like as much time and energy to publishing and polemicizing with sympathisers voicing different analyses and, crucially, dissenting members as the ICC. It’s a sign of the organisation’s life and vigour.

baboon
Some comments on the

Some comments on the discussion

I think that it's the stalemate between the two major classes and the lack of perspectives therefrom that is responsible for decomposition and not the phenomenon of each against all and centrifugal tendencies that S. suggests are the "major cause of decomposition". "Each against all", and its variations "devil take the hindmost", "look after number one", "survival of the fittest", "dog eat dog", etc., is a fundamental tenet of capitalism which has existed since its beginnings, through its progressive phase and into its decadence and shows it whole destructive nature within the system's decomposition. It applies as much to its own class from the beginning of capitalism and is integral to the very nature of the system. Within decomposition each for themselves becomes a further symptom of decay rather than a cause. In capitalist decomposition each for themselves and centrifugal tendencies dominate all areas of society and particularly within the breakdown of international relations: the wars in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Azerbaijan, the "Lebanisation" of countries (including Lebanon), further developments of terrorism, the insane Turkish push for a "New Ottoman Empire" and the historical weakening of US imperialism, which the removal of Trump will do little to mitigate,  are all expressions of the putrefaction of capitalism. "Each for themselves" is not a prime cause but a symptom that becomes a further active factor in the general decay. Decomposition is a "conclusion" a "synthesis" of decadence.

I also don't think that populism is "needed" by the bourgeoisie in order to mobilise for a global war and it appears to me that on the contrary this phenomenon further undermines any attempt by capitalist states to mobilise for major warfare - as the reply says. From a global point of view wars between major countries or contingent "blocs" ("bi-polarisation") is not entirely ruled out but the wars of decomposition are just as deadly on many levels. Populism itself is a factor that generally goes against the bourgeoisie's "solution" for mobilising the population for war and is not a persepctive as such for the bourgeoisie.

I agree with the ICC response in the discussion that S. has a valid point (against the Amendments Commission) regarding the relationship of the the class struggle of the 1980's and the 1989 collapse of the Soviet Union and the campaigns arising from that. In 1980 the defeated workers' struggles in Poland posed the question to the working class in the major metropoles about raising its game to the required levels in order to keep the momentum of class struggle alive and well. Though it tried it failed and the miners' strike in GB showed how the unions mainained their grip on the class and led it to a significant international defeat through the means of corporatism. The class wasn't just running on the spot as S. says but was knocked off its feet. The significance of the defeat of the miner's strike was underestimated and, in WR, the BT strike afterwards (also a corporatist trap) was seen by some as the uninterrupted tide of the third wave. Revolutionaries, from their intrinsic nature, tend to look on the bright side which comes from the perspectives of the workers' movement and, while there's always hope, the dynamic of the 80's favoured the descent into decomposition. In the late 80's, prior to the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, there were very significant struggles in Yugoslavia involving extension, self-organisation (the unions were fundamentally Stalinist) and mass gatherings across corporatist boundries of workers. But it was too little, too late and the die had already been cast; look at ex-Yugoslavia a few months later as it expressed another major defeat for the working class by falling into the base barbarity. The cacophony that followed the collapse of the Eastern Bloc drove that defeat home forcibly. Decompositon didn't begin in 1989 - terrorism, war within blocs, social effects were all outlined by the ICC and I don't think that the ICC's position on it underestimates the defeat of the post-68 revolutionary wave though there were undoubtedly problems dealing with this and in the aftermath there have been some continuing overestimations of social movements around the world. But the fundamentals of the class struggle are still intact and come from a proletariat that has in the first place to fight for its life and its living conditions.

 

Incidentally, Shakespeare knew a thing or two about class struggle and decomposition. His stories set in Rome details  the rise and fall of the Empire and its decomposition. In "Coriolanus" the class struggle between the plebeians and patricians is central to the tale; this would have been resonant for Shakespeare given that the decade in which he was writing the story similar corn riots were taking place in England. In the book, at the end of a speech by the tyrant Coriolanus (Caius Martius) dismissing the plebeian cause with contempt and denouncing the patriarchs and senators for their opportunism towards it, Shakespeare gives a succinct and poetic description of decomposition in general:
".......... By Jove himself,
It makes the consuls base, and my soul aches
To know, when two authorities are up,
Neither supreme, how soon confusion
May enter 'twixt the gap of both and take
The one by th' other."
(Act 3, Scene I)

baboon
A couple of points: first on

A couple of points: first on the Resolution on the balance of class forces and a bit on "each for themselves":

1. I want to reiterate a few points on the ICC's Resolution on the balance of force between the classes and return to the questions surrounding the elements of workers' struggles leading up to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

One of the first points that the Resolution makes is on the area of the working class coming out of the counter-revolutionary period in the late 1960's and the conditions that it faced. Not only did it have to face the left of capital, leftism and the extreme left, which activated itself very quickly, but the post-68 "impatience" coming from the swamp and infecting the revolutionary left. I believe that this impatience had a negative weight on the ICC that lasted for a long time expressing itself in different areas of its activity. At the same time the period showed that the working class was very much back on the scene which included the reanimation of militant and revolutionary forces - however weak. The workers' struggles did continue and deepen, confronting and to some extent calling into question the role of the trade unions. The culmination of this wave of struggle came with the mass strike in Poland in 1980 whose defeat posed a direct question to the working class of the democratic heartlands of capital. The western bourgeoisie, entirely present during this wave both internationally and nationally waging its side of the class war, deployed its trade union weapon - specifically corporatism in Britain, France, Germany and Italy - and brought the wave of struggle to an end (more on this below). The Machiavellianism and organisation of the bourgeoisie prevailed by the middle of the 1980's.

Class confidence and militancy, already shaken, took a further blow with the 1989 collapse of the eastern bloc and the identification of Stalinism with the communist perspective. The bourgeoisie took a while to adapt to the collapse of the eastern bloc but when it did the campaign around the "death of communism" was overwhelming. It wasn't that individual workers who had some idea about communism were suddenly disabused by this campaign of identification; it was that this was a global attack on the fundamental and historical nature of a proletarian perspective that had reverberations at all levels. The bourgeoisie, in the midst of the monumental change and crisis in the international situation, found its global campaign and, intelligently, turned the situation to its further advantage.

Apart from its ideological attack of some scale and on top of it, the bourgeoisie drove home its economic attacks with its dismantling of the "old" industries, "outsourcing", Uberisation and further cuts in the social wage. Despite some notable movements of the class, the struggle against the CPE in France, some strike movements and the Indignados movement in Spain, the weight of decomposition favoured the attacks of the ruling class - and the Resolution here makes the point that the bourgeoisie is constantly on the offensive against the working class; the following decades saw a further retreat by the proletariat. Again the Resolution makes the point that whatever the difficulties of the bourgeoisie it still takes the class struggle very seriously and not only do these difficulties present no opening for workers' struggles, the bourgeoisie effectively uses these difficulties to further disorientate the workers' struggles and consciousness. Into this vacuum created by the "New World Order" of decomposition, comes the predominance of inter-classist movements: the gilets jaunes, climate movements, BLM, etc., along the grounds of the petty-bourgeoisie with their absence of real perspectives or a return to reactionary ideas in which the proletariat is diluted as citizens of democracy.

Whatever the strength of its manoeuvres, whatever use it makes of its divisions and those imposed by decomposition, the margin of manoeuvre afforded to the bourgeoisie by its state capitalist attenuation of the worsening economic crisis is gradually (without overestimating it) being reduced so that more frontal attacks have to be made on the class on a wider scale. Herein lays the potential for the workers' struggle to begin to fight back and herein will lay the bourgeoisie's weapon of choice, the trade unions and particularly their arm of corporatism.

The Resolution, taken with the excellent and sober Report on the economic crisis, gives the main lines of the future development of the class struggle but it does have a residual weakness that we need to address: if it's understandable that during the latter part of the 1980's a certain over-enthusiasm was maintained in the ICC for the continuation of the (third wave of) struggle, maintaining this position over 30 years later in a resolution can only cause confusion regarding some of the lessons of the time. While it overwhelmingly gives a precise analysis the Resolution on the balance of class forces is prone to maintain some of this confusion. After arguing that the unions, specifically corporatism, undid the working class struggle of the 80's, it's a confusion to say that the workers continued to unmask the unions and maintain the wave of struggle at the time. In point 4, it argues that a continued discrediting of the trade unions was taking place in this third wave. Point 5 argues that there was a retreat in class struggle "at the end of the 80's and in point 6, it argues that the "third wave of struggle, began to fade out in the late 80's. These expressions tend to continue to obscure the crushing defeat that the class struggle received with the defeat of the miners' strike in GB and the deployment and success of the same weapon by the bourgeoisie of all the major capitals. The collapse of the eastern bloc didn't cause this defeat; the trade unions did along with the inability of the proletariat to overcome those barriers which left it even more disorientated and wide open to the ideological assault by the bourgeoisie coming from the "victory of capitalism". It wasn't the "death of communism" that defeated the class struggle in the 1980's - though this is a card that the bourgeoisie is not finished with - but the trade unions and the left acting in conjunction with the naked strength and power of the state.

2. On "each for themselves": the above Resolution, incidentally, describes this phenomenon as a product of decomposition. The Report on the economy states categorically in a couple of places that it is the pure product of decomposition. But I think that the Report on the pandemic gives a much more accurate, comprehensive and satisfying description: "The tendency towards "Everyman for himself" has always been a feature of the competitive nature of capitalism and its division into nation states". The placing of this at the heart of capitalism itself - and its subsequent development along the different stages of capitalism - helps to eliminate all the confusions that this phrase has engendered.

Each for themselves wasn't just a tenet of ascendant capitalism; it was one of its main dynamics. It facilitated the ruthless expansion of the system as it gobbled up the weaker or weakening elements of its own class while expanding, as Marx said, in "muck and blood". Its ruthless drive to cover the globe was a major feature of expanding capitalism and laid the material basis for the development of the communist perspective for the first time in history.

With decadence each for themselves takes on another form, expressed through the nation state in imperialism which is first of all the 1914 announcement and emblem of capitalist decadence long before the open effects of the economic crisis of 1929. After the First World War, the bourgeoisie tried to revert to the laissez-faire ideas of everyman for himself (in some ways) but this did not fit with the new period and ended in the disaster autarky and World War II. After the war the major developments of state capitalism were generally put in place to attenuate the innate tendencies of each for themselves that are natural to capitalism and capitalist competition. State capitalism, in part, is an attempt by the state to protect capitalism from itself and as such it is ultimately doomed to failure.

With decomposition, everyman for himself, a fundamental element of capitalism, explodes as the ability of the ruling class to avoid problems recedes along with the growing tendency of a loss of control and a certain irrationality. It is competition with its divisions and fractures which is destroying capitalism and though the bourgeoisie will try to prop it up all sorts of centrifugal forces are engendered, unleashed and exacerbated. Each for themselves is fundamental to all the periods of capitalism; decomposition brings it to new, dangerous levels.

MH
on the balance of class forces

baboon wrote:

...if it's understandable that during the latter part of the 1980's a certain over-enthusiasm was maintained in the ICC for the continuation of the (third wave of) struggle, maintaining this position over 30 years later in a resolution can only cause confusion regarding some of the lessons of the time. While it overwhelmingly gives a precise analysis the Resolution on the balance of class forces is prone to maintain some of this confusion.

 

(...)

 

Point 5 argues that there was a retreat in class struggle "at the end of the 80's and in point 6, it argues that the "third wave of struggle, began to fade out in the late 80's. These expressions tend to continue to obscure the crushing defeat that the class struggle received with the defeat of the miners' strike in GB and the deployment and success of the same weapon by the bourgeoisie of all the major capitals.

I agree. The Resolution on the balance of class forces includes a good description of the evolution of the class struggle since the late 1960s but in my view, despite clearly identifying some of the key factors in the bourgeoisie’s strategy, it does not draw the obvious conclusion that by the mid-1980s the wave of workers’ struggles was  defeated; not, as the Resolution argues, by the effects of decomposition, but by a concerted  counter-offensive of the bourgeoisie in which the trade unions played the key role. The crushing defeat of the GB miners’ strike is the prime example; to remind ourselves, the Thatcher government literally came to power with a plan to take on and defeat the working class (The Ridley Plan) and in this as with other things the British bourgeoisie led the way for the entire ruling class. 

baboon wrote:
The collapse of the eastern bloc didn't cause this defeat; the trade unions did along with the inability of the proletariat to overcome those barriers which left it even more disorientated and wide open to the ideological assault by the bourgeoisie coming from the "victory of capitalism". It wasn't the "death of communism" that defeated the class struggle in the 1980's - though this is a card that the bourgeoisie is not finished with - but the trade unions and the left acting in conjunction with the naked strength and power of the state.

Yes. I agree. You can see that; I can see that; comrade S could clearly see that, hence their amendments at the 23rd Congress. Other comrades outside the ICC seem to have little problem seeing it. So the question raised is: why does the ICC today appear to have such difficulty in seeing it, even after clearly recognising its own previous weaknesses of immediatism and activism at its 21st Congress? 

KT
Different view

I don’t share the main thrust of Baboon’s criticisms of the Resolution nor the following points made by MH. I think both under-estimate the disorienting effect of the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the use made of this event by the bourgeoisie. I think they ignore the reality of the very major struggles that took place long after the ‘mid-1980s’ and which were not waged behind the leadership of bourgeois institutions but against them, unlike like the movements of the 1930s, showing tendencies towards self-organisation and extension across swathes of the planet, including simultaneous strikes in European and Scandinavian countries, confronting base unionism in the process. Comrades who’ve forgotten these movements can re-acquaint themselves with them via the ICC press of the time, which, in my view, and with the benefit of 30 years hindsight, could present them somewhat uncritically. That’s not the case with the present Resolution, in my opinion.

Certainly, what the ICC describes as the ‘third wave of struggles’ (1982-1988) following the crushing of workers’ movement in Poland failed to reach the necessary unification but above all politicization to push back the attacks of the ruling class and we’re still suffering from this reality. Certainly, the bourgeoisie - which is always ‘in charge’ and on the offensive save for exceptional moments (revolution, the ‘surprise’ of May ’68, etc) - consciously deployed its forces to confront the proletarian rebellion of the late 60s. They didn’t wait for Mrs Thatcher but first put their left parties in power, to head off the struggles, then in opposition, to take up the leadership of them: all this long before the frontal attacks of the Eighties and the reorganization of the world economy of the 1990s-2000s. But it was the collapse of the Eastern Bloc - product of a pre-existing process of decomposition - which definitively and almost instantaneously and for many years since, quelled the proletarian upsurge, robbed the proletariat of it’s revolutionary perspective.

Different appreciations of the strengths and weaknesses of the class struggle are inevitable and necessary. But some homogeneous view of the underlying dynamics is necessary. In this sense, comrade S does in no way “see it” in the same way as MH: Although the whole organisation shares the same analysis of decomposition as the terminal phase of decadent capitalism, when it comes to applying this framework to the present situation, differences of interpretation come to light. What we all agree on is that this terminal phase was not only inaugurated by, but has its deepest roots in the inability of each of the two main classes of capitalist society to implement their opposing solutions to the crisis of decadent capitalism: generalised war (the bourgeoisie) or world revolution (the proletariat)” Comrade S, Divergences with the International Situation Resolution at the 23rd ICC Congress.

MH
re-evaluating our analysis of the class struggle in the 80s

 

At its 21st Congress the ICC recognised the organisation had been slow to see that the workers’ struggles were ‘getting bogged down’ in the late 1980s and had underestimated the impact of certain defeats, including that of the UK miners’ strike.

So I think the real questions to be addressed here are, firstly, do the positions adopted at its 23rd Congress demonstrate that the ICC has been able to redress these self-identified weaknesses? And secondly, in the light of more recent discussions, do we think it went deep enough in identifying these weaknesses?

And more importantly, do we believe, with over 30 years hindsight, that it may be necessary to critically re-evaluate our view of the class struggle in this period?

The ICC identified three waves of struggles since the historic resurgence of the proletariat in the late ‘60s; the second wave came to an end with the defeat of the mass strike in Poland but a third began in 1983 with public sector strikes in Belgium “and this was confirmed over the next few years via the British miners’ strike, the struggles of the railway and health workers in France, rail and education sectors in Italy, massive struggles in Scandinavia, in Belgium again in 1986, etc” (Report on class struggle, my emphasis).

The fact that this ‘third wave’ was supposedly “confirmed” by the British miners’ strike should immediately make us cautious since this struggle, despite its enormous and prolonged militancy, was clearly set up in advance by the British bourgeoisie as part of a conscious strategy to defeat the working class and ended in a crushing defeat. Without going into the detail of all the struggles in this period, I think the significance of this 'third wave' needs to be re-examined in the context of the bourgeoisie’s longer-term strategy to prevent the politicisation of the workers’ struggles. In this context, the report actually refers to the defeat of the miners’ strike “reinforcing the bourgeoisie’s commitment to going ahead with the dismantling of ‘old’ industries” – without drawing out the reasons for this commitment.

So, despite a recognition of its slowness to see the workers’ struggles were getting ‘bogged down’ in the late 1980s and underestimation of the impact of ‘certain’ defeats, I think the ICC’s 21st Congress still showed a certain hesitation in drawing out all the implications of the crushing defeat of the British miners for the whole wave of workers’ struggles and the resulting balance of class forces.

Has it been able to redress these weaknesses?

The 23rd Congress resolution on the international situation recognised the “stagnation of the class struggle, then its retreat at the end of the 80s– but attributed this to the effects of decomposition rather than the counter-offensive of the bourgeoisie or the inability of the working class to develop a revolutionary perspective to its struggles.

In the subsequent internal debate on this question, comrade S argued that the ICC was still underestimating the significance of the retreat of the upsurge of struggles in the 1980s and the resulting change in the balance of class forces prior to the fall of the Stalinist regimes, specifically arguing in a rejected amendment that: “Already before the world historic events of 1989, the class struggle was ‘treading on the spot’ at the level of combativeness and regressing in relation to the revolutionary perspective”. 

In its response the ICC refers to the ‘third wave’ “running into difficulties”, but again affirms that this was due to the effects of decomposition.

“Bogged down”, “stagnating”, “running into difficulties’, even “retreating” – are we seeing in the ICC’s use of all these terms a reluctance to talk plainly and openly about a defeat of the workers and the fact that its class enemy had gone onto the offensive?

Finally we come to the resolution on the balance of class forces, which begins with a very clear statement on the bourgeoisie’s development of a “large-scale and long-term counter-offensive”, aimed above all at preventing the politicisation of the workers’ struggles against the capitalist crisis after ‘68.

As I said above, this resolution clearly identifies some of the key factors in this counter-offensive, clearly noting the “crushing defeat” of the miner’s strike in GB and the key role of the Thatcher government in defining the strategy of the ruling class in other central countries.

But then, in my view, it starts to get lost in the detail of struggles in the late ‘80s, especially in France, and loses the thread of its main argument about the “large-scale and long-term counter-offensive” of the bourgeoisie, instead moving on to talk about the effects of decomposition, the collapse of the blocs, the campaigns around the end of communism and the ensuing loss of class identity.

It actually identifies one factor in this loss of identity as “the policy of relocation and restructuring of the productive apparatus in the main countries of Western Europe and the United States” - but does not draw the surely obvious conclusion that this policy was a major plank in the strategy of the bourgeoisie to prevent the politicisation of the workers’ struggles against the capitalist crisis. Nor does it clarify why this policy was adopted in the first place or analyse the effect it had on the wave of workers’ struggles in the 1980s.

So at the very least I would argue that the analysis contained in the resolution, along with other texts on this question, is not complete and doesn’t draw all the necessary conclusions from its own arguments.

Comrades will have to draw their own conclusions as to whether and to what extent they believe the ICC has been able to redress its self-identified weaknesses or whether a more ruthless critique is still necessary. I believe there is still a need to ‘join all the dots’ to develop a more coherent understanding of the bourgeoisie’s “large-scale and long-term counter-offensive” against the politicisation of workers’ struggles, the connections between its various components (globalisation/neoliberalism/restructuring/de-industrialisation) and their role in the defeat of these struggles, before we can understand the impact of the subsequent collapse of the blocs.

MH
Addendum

As an addendum to my post above, the report on the class struggle at the 23rd Congress does identify the restructuring of capitalism (neo-liberalism/globalisation/’de-industrialisation’) as an anti-working class strategy, using the closure of mines in GB in the 1980s as an example. However, the fact that this is described as a “dimension of the undermining of class identity in the period of decomposition”, I think underlines my point that the role of such restructuring in the strategy of the bourgeoisie to defeat the workers’ struggles in the 1980s is not sufficiently emphasised.  

baboon
I can see the argument that

I can see the argument that an analysis of decomposition can be compromised by an undue emphasis on the defeat of workers' struggles in the 80's but there's also an argument that says that an underestimation of the defeat of the workers' struggles in the 80's and, more importantly, the way that it was effected by the ruling class, also underestimates a major component of the ruling class' response against the proletarian perspective then and that to come; that is the strength and organisation of the ruling class and its use of trade unionism and particularly its corporatist trap. The latter remains an "oven-ready" weapon of the ruling class. None of this underestimates the weight and disorientating effects of the epoch-changing effects of decomposition.

The argument for a continuation of the third wave of struggles (what I understand to be the third phase of the third wave) is rooted in the concept of an expanding and deepening class struggle towards the end of the 80's. There was a very significant development of struggle in Belgium during this period but that was contained and isolated by the ruling class. There were elements in some Nordic countries that showed struggles against the unions and other positive tendencies of extension. But this should be expected because the struggle of the proletariat is not switched on and off like an electric light. Even after the counter revolutionary defeat of the class in the 1930's (and, just to make it clear, I am not saying that this was the situation in the 80's) but after this resounding defeat, the workers continued to struggle - as it did during the global holocaust that followed. As for the many simultaneous struggles towards the end of the 80's, simultaneous struggles, if they remain at that level (which these did) easily become simultaneous prisons.

In almost all of the articles on the class struggle, resolutions, reports and so on, as well as articles in its territorial publications, particularly on struggles and outbursts in peripheral countries, the ICC puts forward the central importance of the struggle by the proletariat in Western Europe. Not only is this an analysis of the ICC but it is one that is shared by certain layers of the capitalist class - and the ICC has demonstrated often enough that this is an ingrained position of this class in decadence - and, at certain points in history, it acts accordingly along these lines. As the Resolution on the balance of class forces shows, from the early to mid-1980's the bourgeoisie of Western Europe prepared and acted on this basis with a deliberate policy to confront the proletariat. The template was fashioned by one of the most experienced elements of the ruling class - the British - and its success, not just against the miners, but the whole of the class, meant that this strategy was taken up immediately, with "local" adaptions by the ruling elements of Western Europe. The Resolution lays them out one after the other. Whatever residual elements of decisive proletarian struggle remained, whatever simultaneous struggles existed here and there, the proletariat of the central battalions of the working class suffered a profound defeat. The ICC position seems to be that the struggle of the proletariat shook off these defeats and carried on upwards exampled by a article in IR 53 which said:"Strikes in 1987 in Britain showed that the workers here had got over the massive defeat" whereas the BT strike showed the grip of corporatism stronger than ever; the position of S is that the proletariat was marking time which is broadly correct and my position is that after this assault of the bourgeoisie, the working class of the main centres of western Europe was bruised, bloodied and bowed and in no position to effectively re-enter the fight. Through the decisive action of the ruling class it had been taken out of the equation which, given its central position, was crucial to the outcome of the whole wave.

It is entirely natural for revolutionaries to be positive during and around any wave of struggle because there are always possibilities, but it's even more necessary - particularly with time - to make sober and realistic assessments with the benefit of hindsight particularly regarding the manoeuvres and Machiavellianism of the bourgeoisie.

 

The bourgeoisie of Western Europe worked hard to get a result and a result it got. There was no "confirmation of the course of history" as one IR article ("Capitalist convulsions and workers' struggles") put it at the time but a confirmation of the strength of the counter-offensive of the bourgeoisie which decomposition amplified further.

I don't think that any of this underestimates the change in period to one of decomposition that was signalled with the collapse of the eastern bloc, nor the further strengthening of the trade unions that came with it, nor the intact potential of the working class to take its struggle forward, i.e., the door remains open.

 

 

baboon
I want to expand on my post

I want to expand on my post above regarding the class struggle in the 1980's, beginning with Poland 1980.

As the strikes broke out and began to spread in depth and extent in Poland, inter-imperialist tensions were reaching new heights with the Russian bloc almost surrounded and NATO's strategy of "Forward Defence" constantly provoking the Russian bear. There was no sign at all in the capitalist centres of the proletariat supporting the national interest let alone imperialist war but tensions between the blocs were becoming sharper, more unpredictable and dangerous. These tensions melted away in the face of the actions by the workers in Poland and ceded instead to a unity of interest over the two blocs in order to jointly stand up to the proletarian threat. That in itself says everything about the importance of the struggles in Poland. As part of this international co-operation against the struggles of workers in Poland, the British bourgeoisie played a leading role with finance and propaganda followed by the dispatch of British trade union officials to this country. These links later proved very useful to the British ruling class as volumes of Polish coal were exported to Britain during the miners' strike in a classic example of trade unionism's "internationalism" and strike-breaking "solidarity".

Thus the British bourgeoisie were conscious, aware of the proletarian danger to themselves and wider bourgeois order and implicated in this significant counter-offensive against the workers in Poland from very early and this strategy was led by the newly elected Conservative government - with the left firmly in opposition. There was a small clique in the ruling party which could clearly see the way the wind was blowing and understood the necessity to confront the working class. This small clique comprised of some fairly pathetic individuals and less than notable politicians - but "Cometh the hour"....  They presented a clear vision to the rest of the ruling class and they built up and reinforced their connections to the intelligence services, the army, police, the media and the trade unions with a view to a frontal attack on the working class in Britain. Coal stocks were built up, the forces of repression were readied, secret deals were done with all the major trade unions and, at a time of the bourgeoisie's choosing, the miners' strike, which didn't need much provoking, was provoked on bourgeois terms.

Along with my comrades in WR and other militants associated with left communism we didn't just live through this strike but lived it. We were awestruck on occasions by the militancy, organisation and solidarity expressed by the workers and also affected by the response of the bourgeoisie; the strike was to be beaten by whatever force necessary and whatever the cost. We knew the stakes involved for the struggle overall and the defeat was felt viscerally - as it was for the whole class.

In the late 1980's, I got a job in the water industry which, five years earlier, in an industry more important to the daily running of the economy than the coal industry, a national strike was defeated in a sort of pre-run by the ruling class for the miners' strike. I was struck by how much rancour, bitterness and divisions still existed five years later among the workers about scabs, about who followed union instructions and who didn't, confusion about why and how the strike was defeated, a general disorientation which was assisted by a new aggressive management assault. I've been involved in defeats of strikes before and sometimes it's hard, sometimes bearable and sometimes, because of the élan of the action, very positive. But the acrimony and division of the workers in the water industry was something on a different level that I'd experienced before. Similar but greater rancour, divisions and bitterness marked the end of the miners' strike and also affected wider layers of workers; transport, rail, steel and power workers who had been corralled behind union barriers and, in the main, kept isolated from the miners' struggle. But the dynamics of associated labour, the necessity to work with each other in the productive process and rely on each other can mitigate against these divisions and I saw a general solidarity re-imposed among workers in the water industry rendering divisions and "old scores" less and less powerful as time went on. The defeat of the water workers' strike - a militant and economically powerful sector of the working class - followed by the more profound defeat of the miners needed time for wounds to heal but time wasn't on the side of these workers or the working class in general.

What could have regenerated the struggle of workers in Britain and beyond because the defeat of the miners' strike had world-wide ramifications? A movement within the proletariat in Britain was very unlikely and I think that ideas about the continuation of the third wave here - a position of the ICC - was optimistic, if it was understandable and necessary at the time. What was needed was a major step forward by other sections of the class and notably those of the other heartlands of Western Europe. There was certainly a highly significant response from the class in these areas but the bourgeoisie, generalising the success of the offensive against the British miners' strike, used the template of that defeat and applied it equally ruthlessly undermining the struggles in France, Germany, Italy, etc., mainly playing the corporatist card of trade unionism along with overt state repression. The working class, though it tried, could not answer the questions posed by the workers in Poland and thus, in my opinion, the third wave of workers' struggle turned into a distinct ebb.

The struggle of the workers doesn't stop from one day to the next and particularly here from a wave of such force that had been building globally for nearly a decade. Strikes and unrest continued across the planet but none, nor indeed all, had sufficient weight to take the struggle forward on the grounds demanded by the situation and the questions posed in Poland. As the wave of struggles receded it left residual struggles, pools of resistance here and there but the dynamic was gone and these were isolated and dealt with one by one by the ruling class. If it was understandable and proper to continue to hope for a breakthrough in the struggle at the time, it's not a useful analysis over three decades later to say that this wave continued regardless of the reality.

Although strikes in Yugoslavia in the late 80's took on some of the dimensions of the mass strike and internationalist slogans came from the workers these were more like a last gasp given the absence of the proletariat of Western Europe. It was similar for the strikes in Russia at the time where hundreds of thousands of workers (mainly miners) took action from Siberia to Ukraine. Even this movement - not surprising given the situation of Russia - showed a loss of momentum from those earlier in the year. In the heartlands of Europe towards the end of the 80's, the trade union grip was stronger in every country and although there were still many strikes in many countries, they tended to be among the weaker elements of the working class. Such was the case in France, Italy, Britain and elsewhere. The idea of the trade unions for a 15-minute general strike in Britain in support of the "poor ambulance workers", "if the bosses agreed to it" seems to have epitomised the general weakening of the working class and the strengthening of bourgeois order throughout.

Defeats are a necessary part of the class struggle but there can be defeats in an upward trajectory or defeats in a downward spiral and movements in between. Whatever strikes and movements were going on in the late 1980's, the necessary generator for a step forward - the proletariat of Western Europe - had largely been shut down.  The strongest elements of the proletariat had been hobbled or given up in the face of the constant manoeuvres of the unions and their disorienting "struggle". It seems fairly clear that, whether you call it ebb, retreat, or defeat that the third wave of the class struggle was emasculated by the bourgeoisie and its unions before the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the deeper issues of capitalist decomposition that ithat latter event signalled.  The development of decomposition amplified this defeat of the third wave greatly and goes a long way to explain the position that the working class has found itself in since.

KT
What's at stake in the discussion

There’s little I’d disagree with in what Baboon’s written above, nor much MH has said about the defeat of the ‘third wave’ consciously devised and inflicted by the bourgeoisie, in particular, its union apparatus.

It’s what’s not written that’s the issue in my opinion. That and the erroneous conclusions drawn.

One merit of comrade S’s disagreements with the Resolution (the topic of this thread) is to insist on the importance of a political working class consciousness married to and attracted by the revolutionary perspective – the desire to change society with the proletariat the author of its own actions. It’s what made ’68 a ‘revolutionary re-awakening’ of a revolutionary class.

That perspective, that pole of attraction, that programme, is precisely what the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, - the ‘death of communism’ and the victory of capitalism, the end of history no less – erased like a black-out curtain thrown over the entirety of society at a global level. The most important difficulties encountered during the actual struggles of the third wave – the lack of politicization of the movements, the relative failures to escape from economism and corporatism – are what the collapse of 1989 cemented for decades at the level of the balance of forces between the classes.

However, apart from an under-estimation of the importance, the historic impact, of 1989, the real disagreement in this discussion (with MH certainly) is not about the 80s but the epoch that followed, the epoch right up until today. It’s the issue of the ‘stalemate’ between the major classes, neither of which has been able to impose its ‘solution’ for the future, world war or world revolution, according to the ICC. This is the origin of a new and (negatively) dynamic chapter in the period of capitalism’s decadence – that of its accelerating decomposition, the framework used by the ICC to analyse both 1989 as an event, and the period that followed. This is what’s being called into question, being labelled a ‘schema’, with alternative scenarios and implications still unfolding in the discussion.

MH
critically re-examining our understanding

There now seems to be a consensus here that the 1980s saw a definite offensive of the bourgeoisie against the working class which resulted in a partial defeat of its struggles prior to the fall of the Stalinist regimes. The question is: what are the implications of this for our understanding of the period after 1989?

Baboon, KT, along with comrade S, despite their disagreements with the position of the majority of the ICC on its analysis of the ‘third wave’ of struggles, all re-affirm their agreement with its position on decomposition.To be absolutely clear, I think the fall of the Stalinist regimes was the most significant event in the historic crisis of capitalism since WW2, with huge implications for the class struggle; the ideological campaigns around the ‘end of communism’ certainly affected the working class and the deep reflux in workers’ struggles continues today; I would argue in fact that clearly recognising the offensive of the bourgeoisie and the defeats of the 1980s makes it easier to understand the full effect of these events on the working class, which deepened its already existing retreat.

I also think the (positive) lesson of this discussion has been that we have to be willing to subject our existing understanding to a critical re-examination. The fact that the ICC still attributes the effect of the break-up of old centres of class militancy in the heartlands to ‘decomposition’, when this discussion has squarely located the cause as the offensive of the bourgeoisie, suggests to me that there is a need to subject our understanding of ‘decomposition’ to a similar critique, which will need to focus on the nature of the changes in global capitalism from the late 1970s.

 

MH
critically re-examining our understanding

dp

Forumteam
Some critical notes on the positions of MH and Baboon

 

We welcome the discussion on this thread and the contributions of the different comrades about the tendency of “each for himself” in relation to the stalemate between the classes; the (im)possibility of forming of new imperialist blocs in the phase of decomposition, the subterranean maturation of class consciousness in the present period. But in this contribution we will concentrate on the major defeat of the struggle of the mine workers inflicted by the British bourgeoisie and the consequences of this defeat for the third wave of the international struggle of the working class.

 

In one of his posts MH raises a valid question and that is: “do we believe, with over 30 years hindsight, that it may be necessary to critically re-evaluate our view of the class struggle in this period?” And our answer is yes! But there is still another question that is more important and that is: did the ICC use the right method to analyse the third wave of the international class struggle, given the knowledge it had in 1984-1985? In those years the ICC was not yet aware of the first manifestations of decomposition and of the restructuring (relocation) on a world scale that was about to begin, but not yet in full operation. Hindsight is a very nice thing, and we need to be able to make a radical critique of our errors, but we must not throw the baby out with the bath water.

 

1. Was the attack on the mine workers in the UK a set-up of the bourgeoisie?

According to MH “the British miners’ strike (…), despite its enormous and prolonged militancy, was clearly set up in advance by the British bourgeoisie as part of a conscious strategy to defeat the working class.”

We agree with MH that “the Thatcher government literally came to power with a plan to take on and defeat the working class”. After the winter of discontent (1978-1979) the British bourgeoisie prepared for an attack on the mine workers in which the whole arsenal of social control would play an important role. The ruling class in the UK was determined to defeat the mine workers and to put an end to any further the resistance by the working class in the UK, in which it only partially succeeded. As was affirmed twenty five years later, with the necessary distance, 1987 saw a nationwide strike of British Telecom workers. In February 1988, there was a real wave of struggles involving car workers, health workers, postal workers, seafarers, and others.” (Workers Groups: The experience in the UK in the 1980s (Part II); ICConline March 2013; https://en.internationalism.org/worldrevolution/201303/6523/workers-groups-experience-uk-1980s-part-ii).

 

In assessing the impact of the defeat of the mine workers we have to distinguish between a defeat of a particular sector of the working class in a certain country and a defeat inflicted on the working class internationally. To put it in other words: were the conditions favourable for the international bourgeoisie to bring about a decisive defeat of the third wave of struggles of the working class in March 1984? The answer is no! The third wave had just begun and when the bourgeoisie in the UK decided to close the mines, in 1983 or in earlier years the bourgeoisie, neither in the UK nor internationally, had any idea what the potential of this third wave would be and where this international wave would lead to. So, in 1984 the conditions were certainly not well-suited for the international bourgeoisie to provoke a pre-emptive struggle of one of the most combative battalions of the working class in order to inflict a decisive defeat to the whole strike wave. The strike of the mine workers ended in a defeat, but it did not mean that the whole world working class was defeated in 1985.

 

2. Was the defeat of the miners’ strike decisive for the outcome of the third wave?

MH tells us that “the ICC does not draw the obvious conclusion that by the mid-1980s the wave of workers’ struggles was defeated.” And Baboon is with him as he says that “it's not a useful analysis over three decades later to say that this wave continued regardless of the reality. (…) It's a confusion to say that the workers continued to unmask the unions and maintain the wave of struggle at the time. (…) The third wave of the class struggle was emasculated by the bourgeoisie and its unions before the collapse of the Eastern Bloc.”

 

With hindsight it is not difficult to make the statement that, despite the massive scale of the various struggles taking place internationally in a simultaneous way, the working class was not able to go beyond the unionist ideology in all its different forms and to raise the struggle onto a higher, political level. This is what the ICC had already concluded before: “The UK miners’ strike, whose defeat didn’t stop the wave but had a longer-term effect on working class self-confidence and not only in the UK.” (Report on the class struggle (2015); https://en.internationalism.org/international-review/201601/13787/report...

But the question is: was there still a potential within the working class to go beyond the unionism or had the die already been cast with the defeat of the miners ‘strike? According the ICC the potential to challenge the unions still existed as was explained in numerous articles in our press. Therefore the Resolution on the international situation of the 8th Congress could write that, under pressure of the workers’ struggle, the bourgeoisie was compelled to adapt “its organs of social control in order to block and sabotage workers' struggles from the inside: radicalization of the classical trade unions; increasing use of leftist groups; development of base, rank and file union­ism; and development of structures outside the unions, which claim to represent the struggle: coordinations.”

 

As was emphasizes in another article this adjustment of the policy of the leftists and the unions was made necessary because of the continuation of the attempt to extend the struggle (especially Belgium 1986); the attempt by workers to take the struggle into their own hands, by organizing general assemblies and elected, revocable strike committees (France 1986, Italy 1987 in particular)”. (“20 years since May 68: Class struggle: The maturation of the conditions for the revolution” https://en.internationalism.org/internationalreview/201211/5268/20-years-may-68-class-struggle-maturation-conditions-revolution).

 

Even ten years later the ICC reaffirmed this position in a polemic against the CWO. After the defeat of the struggle of the mine workers “The bourgeoisie did not just sit and watch, but organised a whole series of campaigns and manoeuvres. During 1985 (…) these manoeuvres could not help increasing still further the discredit affecting the unions in most of the advance countries, which was an important element in the development of working class consciousness.” (“The CWO and the Course of History: Accumulation of Contradictions”; https://en.internationalism.org/ir/089_cwo_historic_course.html) One of the expressions of this development of class consciousness was the attempts by a minority of workers in the UK to form workplace-based struggle groups. (See: “Workers’ groups: The experience in the UK in the 1980s” - Part I & II)

 

3. Was the third wave ended by the policy of the bourgeoisie – “the use of trade unionism and particularly its corporatist trap” - or by the collapse of the Eastern Bloc?

Baboon thinks that “the collapse of the Eastern Bloc didn't cause this defeat (…) It wasn't the "death of communism" that defeated the class struggle in the 1980's (…) but the trade unions and the left acting in conjunction with the naked strength and power of the state, which left the working class even more disorientated and wide open to the ideological assault by the bourgeoisie coming from the "victory of capitalism"

 

At first, the strike wave continued after the defeat of the miners’ strike by means of strikes in different parts in the world, to begin with the massive strike movement in Belgium. This reality was demonstrated powerfully in Belgium by a six-week movement of struggles (April-May 1986), the biggest since World War II, involving both public and private sectors, as well as the unemployed, paralysing the country’s economic life and forcing the government to retreat on a whole series of attacks it had prepared.” (“The CWO and the Course of History: Accumulation of Contradictions”; https://en.internationalism.org/ir/089_cwo_historic_course.html)

 

Further it is true that some years after the miners’ strike the third international wave slowly began to lose its strength and potential. At the one hand because of the exhaustion of the worker’s combativity since the class was running out of options, at the other hand the “each for himself” that became an ever more significant factor in preventing the strengthening of the workers’ reactions and which the bourgeoisie intelligently used against the workers’ struggle.

 

In the end, in the year prior to the collapse of the Eastern Bloc (1988), the class was beginning to “tread on the spot” because of its difficulties in grasping the political dimension of the struggle, its revolutionary perspective. These difficulties were the subject of debates within the ICC at the time. Most notably, at the 8th ICC Congress where those who were most aware of the tendency of the class struggle to “tread on the spot” were also those who were clearest about the negative impact of decomposition on the class struggle.

 

But if it is true that the third wave of struggle began to fade out, it was actually the collapse of the Eastern Bloc that definitively brought it to a close.  In the words of KT: “It was the collapse of the Eastern Bloc - product of a pre-existing process of decomposition - which definitively and almost instantaneously and for many years since, quelled the proletarian upsurge, robbed the proletariat of its revolutionary perspective.”

 

4. Was the historic course put into question by the defeat of the miners’ strike?

According to Baboon “the Resolution on the balance of class forces is prone to maintain some of this confusion. After this assault of the bourgeoisie, the working class of the main centres of Western Europe was bruised, bloodied and bowed and in no position to effectively re-enter the fight. The bourgeoisie of Western Europe worked hard to get a result and a result it got. There was no "confirmation of the course of history" at the time but a confirmation of the strength of the counter-offensive of the bourgeoisie which decomposition amplified further.”

 

The ICC called the1980s “the years of truth”. The dynamic of the third wave was towards decisive class confrontations, opening up the prospect of a revolutionary challenge to capitalism. And this position was defended by the ICC until the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. To suggest that such a dynamic actually no longer existed after the defeat of the miners’ strike in the beginning of 1985 (or earlier?) expresses a rather narrow vision that loses sight of the international dynamic of the struggle in those years.

 

It is true that the ICC was plagued by the tendency to underestimate both the capacity of capitalism to maintain itself despite its decadence and its open crisis” (Report on the class struggle (2015); https://en.internationalism.org/international-review/201601/13787/report...)  But there is also another point that we have to take into account if we want to make a critical balance-sheet of our weaknesses and that is the difficulties for the working class, caused by the organic break: the distrust and rejection of anything to do with politics, and the resulting fracture between the struggling working class and its political vanguard; the lack of political experience in the generation of the proletariat in the 1970s and 1980s, due to almost half a century of counter-revolution, and the lack of confidence of the working class in its own strength and in the future of its combats.

 

By emphasising the defeat of the struggle of the mine workers comrades actually tend to underestimate the impact of the campaign about the death of communism. KT is right “to insist on the importance of a political working class consciousness married to and attracted by the revolutionary perspective – the desire to change society with the proletariat the author of its own actions. It’s what made ’68 a ‘revolutionary re-awakening’ of a revolutionary class. That perspective, that pole of attraction, that programme, is precisely what the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, - the ‘death of communism’ and the victory of capitalism, the end of history no less – erased like a black-out curtain thrown over the entirety of society at a global level.”

 

5. Postscript

The last post on this thread by MH of 5 January seems to anticipate our reply. We agree that

  • “the (positive) lesson of this discussion has been that we have to be willing to subject our existing understanding to a critical re-examination.
  • “there now seems to be a consensus here that the 1980s saw a definite offensive of the bourgeoisie against the working class which resulted in a partial defeat of its struggles prior to the fall of the Stalinist regimes.
  • “the fall of the Stalinist regimes was the most significant event in the historic crisis of capitalism since WW2, with huge implications for the class struggle; the ideological campaigns around the ‘end of communism’ certainly affected the working class and the deep reflux in workers’ struggles continues today.”

But then the comrade writes that a clear recognition of “the offensive of the bourgeoisie and the defeats of the 1980s makes it easier to understand the full effect of the fall of the Stalinist regimes on the working class, which deepened its already existing retreat”. This is not the position of the ICC because such a vision tends to overestimate the impact of the defeats of the 1980’s. There were indeed partial defeats, but none of the defeats in the 1980’s is comparable to the collapse of the Stalinist regimes and the campaign on the death of communism. The defeats of the 1980’s increased the difficulties for the working class and seriously slowed down the dynamic of the international wave, but did not lead to a retreat as happened after the defeat in Poland in 1981. The collapse of Stalinist regimes on the other hand was an event of worldwide significance and provoked a complete rupture with the conditions that had dominated the world since WWII, including those on the level of the class struggle.

baboon
This is an important

This is an important discussion and it's good to have the opportunity to explore it further.

Firstly on decomposition: my support for the ICC's analysis of the decomposition of capitalism has been consistent and a matter of record since the Theses on Decomposition was first voted on. It has continued up to recently with a defence on this site of the position from the 23rd Congress insisting on capitalist decomposition coming from the social stalemate of the two main classes and from that the unprecedented effect that this had on class struggle due to the accumulated weight of all the contradictions of capitalism that exploded with such force and breadth. The collapse of the Eastern Bloc encapsulated the qualitative and extremely dangerous development in the decadence of capitalism that affected everyone and everything from the Grand Opening of Pandora's Box. None of this immunises myself against regressions on this issue but it does provide a firm base against them.

On to the class struggle in the 1980's and the lessons that we can draw from that:

 My position is that the workers' struggle internationally was ebbing before the collapse of the Eastern Bloc because of a significant defeat at its core - the proletariat of Western Europe. Not to see this means losing sight of the lessons of this defeat - if you don't see a defeat, if you see an ever-rising, strengthening continuous wave of struggle with a working class more or less overcoming the obstacles placed in its path, the lessons of that defeat can be minimised or distorted.

Was the ICC's analysis of the situation of the class struggle in the 1980's adequate at the time? One could quibble with this or that but the answer is overwhelmingly yes. Could the situation have opened up, could a step or steps taken by the class at any specific time resulted in a further surge of struggle strengthening the position of the proletariat in relation to the questions posed by Poland 1980? Yes of course they could and revolutionaries and revolutionary analysis at the time were clear about this. Nothing was written in stone at the end of the second wave of struggle and the beginning of the third and, at the mid-80's, the road was very much open to developments in the struggle of the proletariat.  The Forumteam text says that hindsight is "a very nice thing". It is not; it is an absolutely fundamental weapon of Marxism and always has been for understanding and drawing lessons from the past in order to understand the present and the future.

The Forumteam text continues: "In 1983 or earlier years, the bourgeoisie neither in the UK nor internationally had any idea of what the potential of this third wave would be and where this international wave would lead to". I would say that the absolute contrary was the case and that the bourgeoisie - represented in the first instance by elements of the British bourgeois and then followed by its class brothers elsewhere - understood too well the potential of the third wave of struggle and where this international wave was leading to and, much more than this, took the necessary steps to help to thwart it.

I'm not going into this in great detail and many of the points here are included in the ICC press, amongst others, at the time. A clique in the Tory Party, allied with the intelligence services, along with senior elements of the trade unions and representatives of the BBC, went to Poland (or sent their advisors along with other international actors) in 1980 in order to directly subvert the struggles of the workers there. They didn't arrive there by chance or coincidence but through a deliberate thought-out strategy. Once successful in Poland, this strategy, which one can easily call a plot in respect of the British bourgeoisie, thickened, deepened and widened; the "enemy within" was going to be taken on in a ruthless and frontal assault at the time chosen by the ruling class. The idea that there was in existence at this time a relatively clueless ruling class defies all the evidence and tends, as it does elsewhere in the text, to underestimate the consciousness, Machiavellianism and organisation of the bourgeoisie faced with the growing wave of class struggle. Similarly "in 1984, the conditions were not well-suited to provoke a pre-emptive strike struggle (of the miners in Britain)". Well-suited or not that's what they did and that the bourgeoisie provoked the strike (it didn't need much provocation, it was going to happen anyway) in conditions and timing of its own choosing once it had the trade unions on side on one hand and the forces of repression complementing it on the other. That's undeniably what happened but was there a chance for the class to break out and intensify its struggle? Of course there was but it didn't happen in Britain and it didn't happen internationally. Despite its valiant efforts, very positive developments and sacrifices we can see, with hindsight, that the working class internationally was unable to rise to the questions posed by the proletariat in Poland.

The defeat of the miners' strike in GB was massive and had deep international ramifications which were extremely important. It wasn't just a defeat of one industrial sector (albeit a very important one) but the beginning of the hobbling of the class struggle with the success of the bourgeoisie's plans. The earlier water-workers' strike was ignominiously defeated by a combination of intransigent bosses backed by the state and a carve-up of three trade unions. After the miners' strike defeat proletarian communities were bloodied, bemused and devastated. Steel workers, just like electrical supply workers and railworkers were threatened with the sack (by the unions) if they attempted to join the miners' strike (and although there were some very positive developments in this respect they were easily repelled and the trade union barriers strengthened). I'm certain those workers harboured some sense of shame and guilt which further reinforced their disorientation and drove home the defeat. The text uses the example of the BT strike in the UK to demonstrate the continuing wave of class struggle but this strike was a sterile, soulless affair; a corporatist stitch-up that had few, if any, of the positive elements of a couple of years earlier. Internationally, despite "bright spots like Belgium or some Scandinavian countries, the story was similar: the working class in the centres hobbled by the nationally-adjusted strategies of the ruling class following the British example. Of course class struggle continued and showed in part some positive elements but all of these were nowhere up to confronting let alone overcoming the problem posed by the workers in Poland; the only wave gathering strength was that of bourgeois order dynamised by the trade unions and its corporatist card, which is a close relative of nationalism. The bourgeoisie "internationalised" its side of the class struggle more effectively than the working class.

This is not the analysis of the Forumteam contribution which sees the "unions continuing to be discredited in most of the advanced countries", an analysis which sees the wave of struggle gaining in strength and depth. So the position of the ICC is that, according to the text, the third wave continued with a revolutionary challenge to capitalism still in prospect. Or did it? The text also says that "With hindsight, it is not difficult to make the statement that (... the third wave) was not able to raise the struggle onto a higher political level" and the same text suggests that the struggle was exhausted, running out of steam, "beginning to fade out"  and treading water. Hindsight is all we are talking about and with hindsight the necessary conclusions should be drawn clearly and in my opinion that is one of an exhausted, beaten class struggle which require the necessary lessons to be drawn: the consciousness and Machiavellianism of the bourgeoisie; the primacy of the proletariat of Western Europe and the role of the trade unions with their weapon of corporatism. Seeing a continuous wave of proletarian struggle continually posing a threat to capitalism up to the collapse of the Eastern Bloc tends to undermine those lessons or at least bring some unnecessary qualifications to them.

The prospect for class struggle, for proletariat struggle remains open even in the difficult situation of capitalist decomposition. The proletariat can't fight against the effects of capitalist decomposition except one: the deepening economic crisis. The working class will not be able to use the divisions and weaknesses of a ruling class wracked by decomposition. But if the working class tries to take its struggle forward in any significant way - and we hope that it will based on an analysis of the class struggle historically - then a bourgeoisie with a loosening grip that was fighting each other like cats and dogs will absolutely unify and direct its forces against the working class. The working class and its revolutionaries underestimate their enemy - the capitalist state and its organisation against the proletarian threat in the first instance - at their peril. And that underestimation, in my opinion, is what the idea of an ever-deepening third wave of struggle does.

 

baboon
I want to return to a point

I want to return to a point raised by the Forumteam contribution that I intended to address more fully but missed it and that's the valid point that an undue concentration on the miners' strike in Britain could express a sort of localism which would prevent a more comprehensive understanding of the bigger, international picture. It would and it could but, again, how this is posed by the text represents an underestimation of the internationalisation of the bourgeoisie's counter-offensive against the working class in the 1980's.

My concentration wasn't on the miners' strike per se but on the role of the British bourgeoisie within it. This role can be dated back to British involvement in Poland 1980 as part of an international response by the ruling class. The continued and well-documented role of MI6 (along with the internally-based MI5) in the preparations for the miners' strike shows how the British bourgeoisie understood this as an international question of class struggle from the very beginning. From the late 1960's to the late 70's, harbingers of the mass strike were appearing here and there within a scattered but nevertheless very important upsurge in class struggle. Poland 1980 clarified what the ruling class already feared - a significant threat to their system from the working class. The British model for the defeat of the working class, already hatched over Poland, was one that represented the interests of the ruling class everywhere - but particularly in Western Europe.

The ICC's Resolution on the Balance of Class Forces clearly demonstrates how the "British model" was taken up by their homologues in various European capitals. I will speculate how this was implemented but it's not far from what happened:
Firstly the British would have warned them that this was a very dangerous situation, that Democracy, Freedom and the Nation State was under a serious attack and that decisive action had to be taken immediately and collectively. The British "model" should be followed and that involved very tough decisions being implemented by a small number of possible hands on the levers of decision-making. This had to include both internal and external intelligence agencies who could then consult each other through speeded-up channels. The muscle part of state repression had to beefed-up with the police given the means as well as carte-blanche to act in certain situations without causing a "blow-black". Most importantly, the unions had to be involved at the highest levels with a clear understanding of their role. To this effect, what might be called "second-tier" threats of sections of the working class had to be brought off by throwing money at the unions which controlled them: bonuses, 2/3 year pay deals and job guarantees for the near future underwritten by the state. The unions had to keep their workers isolated but token demonstrations were actively encouraged. Then, and only then, pick on one of the biggest threats and conduct a war of attrition; don't retreat, keep up the pressure and if this sector stays isolated they will be beaten. Throw the kitchen sink at it because this is a matter of Life and Death for the nation state.
 
In part the Resolution gives the detail of the "roll-out" of this plan in major European capitals and it details how the most militant sections of the working class in Western Europe were ground down in relatively quick time one after the other. The Resolution doesn't mention it, but with the 1988 defeat of the Krupp workers in Germany, I would say that, with hindsight we can see the international wave of struggle was brought to a halt and the working class was in no position to re-energise it. This view, in my opinion, then enables us to draw the lessons of what defeated that struggle, whereas the concept of a continuous wave of struggles eliminating obstacles and overcoming union sabotage obscures the lessons of that defeat.

baboon
A third post on this and I'll

A third post on this and I'll give it a rest for a while:

The suggestions from the Forumteam contribution above regarding the proletarian struggle at the end of the 80's "fading", "running out of steam", "exhausted", further muddies the waters and, with consistency, leaves out the forces of bourgeois order as an active factor in the struggle.

 Contrary to the basic position of the Forumteam that "In 1983 or earlier years, the bourgeoisie neither in the UK nor internationally had any idea of what the potential of this third wave would be and where this international wave would lead to" my position is absolutely the opposite and that is: from the very beginnings of the 1980's and throughout the decade, the bourgeoisie of Western Europe showed a consciousness of proletarian struggle, the urgent need to confront it - based on a very real threat to it and its system from a mortal threat - that, more or less, was similar to that exhibited by the bourgeoisie in Western Europe in 1918.

MH
Baboon, I agree with your

Baboon, I agree with your criticisms of the forumteam's intervention, which in my view demonstrates a continued underestimation of the bourgeois counter-offensive in the 1980s and a failure - despite its agreement on the need for a critical re-examination - to apply this to the ICC's own analysis at the time. 

I think your own critical re-examination of this period has made some really thought-provoking points which have encouraged me to do my own digging. This discussion really needs a new thread but I'll throw the following out there anyway and welcome any comments:

- the bourgeois counter-offensive in the 80s is based on the adoption by the US bourgeoisie of monetarist policies at the start of the decade which under the banner of attacking inflation mandated a massive frontal attack on working class wages and social welfare spending

- like the post-war structures and policies of 'Keynesianism', which were designed to manage the threat from the working class, this counter-offensive was organised at the level of the western bloc and led by the USA, followed by the UK

- the leading role of the UK bourgeoisie in this offensive is based specifically on the political links/affinities between the right wing faction around Thatcher and the US monetarist faction around Reagan under ideological cover of defence of 'free market' etc

- this offensive begins at the start of the 1980s especially in the UK and we can point to the steelworkers' strike (100,000 workers on strike, the longest strike in GB before the miners' strike), with the Tory government active behind the scenes, and which ends in massive closures and job losses. Undoubtedly a practice run for the miners' strike. 

So I think we have to re-assess the whole idea of a 'third wave' beginning in 1983.  How and when did it end is obviously an important question in the context of the ICC's position on decomposition. Your comments on the defeat of the German steelworkers' struggle in 1987-88 are very interesting and offer a compelling argument. But could it also be argued that struggles continued into the 90s, albeit defensive and isolated, because the bourgeois counter-offensive continued to grind down the class?