Balance-sheet of the Congress: understanding the historical situation and preparing for the future

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Balance-sheet of the Congress: understanding the historical situation and preparing for the future
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I want to welcome the serious work of preparation expressed in the Balance-sheet of the 24th Congress. Intrinsically it is a very strong statement of where we are today and of the orientation of the ICC’s necessary work in the coming period.
The first thing to say is that focusing on the current pandemic of SARS-Cov-2 and continuing to draw wider lessons from this is the correct approach to take. Future pandemics and serious medical emergencies will be a feature of capitalism as long as it lasts; for example, the spread of malaria into the northern hemisphere is becoming a real threat with global temperature rising and where in sub-Saharan Africa 90% of global malaria cases are still responsible for nearly half-a-million deaths per-annum (2016 figures). But it is necessary to concentrate on the present pandemic because of the destruction that it’s already caused, where its roots lay, the lessons that it has exposed and the continuing threat, along with other moving parts of decomposition that it poses to the working class and humanity in general.

In Britain, following the murderous sacrifices imposed on the weak and vulnerable by the bourgeoisie on behalf of its economy at the beginning of the pandemic (an ideology of “herd immunity” which has never gone away despite vaccination) more sacrifices are demanded by the British state which has clarified, quantified and calibrated its policy of “an acceptable number of deaths” faced with the demands of the economy and profitability. While the British state has been particularly ruthless with the number of deaths (along with democratic USA and the totalitarian regimes) all states have, more or less acted the same and the working class everywhere has been kept in the firing line and under the cosh.

Why is it important to keep the present pandemic to the fore of analysis? Because it is a very significant feature of the advancing decomposition of the capitalist system, part of the coagulation of the effects of the decay of society and the threat that it holds and for elements of the communist left to talk about capitalist growth as if it indicates a fundamental health of the system rather than its demise, seems at least a long way off the point of what is necessary in the circumstances.

This predictable and deadly virus, comes alongside the COP21 “summit” whose hot-air was more than matched by the fumes and greenhouse gases generated by large-scale military manoeuvres taking place not far away on the Russian border; tornado’s now capable of gouging out a 200 mile corridor of devastation in the USA as the ecological crisis of capitalism goes to another level; economic crisis and the generalisation of every man for himself along with the waves of refugees and “displaced”. Against fantasies about “return to normal” all these elements come together and it is necessary for communists to confront this reality.

The historical decadence of capitalism has accumulated all its contradictions and synthesised them into a final stage of an accelerating decomposition.

The bourgeoisie is increasingly ineffective and chaotic because of the fundamental demands and the very nature of its system. This pandemic is not an isolated “health crisis” but one significant indication among and following others of the global crisis of capitalism. It is hardly credible that the analysis of the ICC is seen as “apocalyptic” by elements of the Communist Left showing that despite their Marxist basis they are unable to use it in order to look reality in the face.

The serious instabilities and uncertainties that lay ahead will affect the working class and its struggle and in this lays the danger of the proletariat being overwhelmed by the generalisation of barbarism. The “victory of capitalism/death of communism” is wearing thin and the other side of this is the proletariat as the source of all productions and wealth and, explicitly from the pandemic, the only and most “coherent” force in society and finding and strengthening itself through the struggle is key. For revolutionaries, debate and discussion is fundamental for the way forward and polemics with other groups are an essential part of this.

Balance-sheet of the Congress: understanding the historical situ

The text "Balance sheet of the Congress: Understanding the historical situation and preparing for the future"(24th International Congress of the ICC,International Review 167) and the contribution of Baboon reminded me of the closing words of Rosa Luxemburg in a speech to the Founding Congress of the Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (Spartakusbund) (Communist Party of Germany (Spartacus League)), made on December 31, 1918, Our Program and the Political Situation :
" For I hope that, as in my own case, so in yours also, the description of the difficulties of the accumulating tasks will paralyze neither your zeal nor your energy. On the contrary, the greater the task, the more will we gather all of our forces. And we must not forget that the revolution is able to do its work with extraordinary speed. I make no attempt to prophesy how much time will he needed for this process. Who among us cares about the time; who worries, so long only as our lives suffice to bring it to pass. It is only important that we know clearly and precisely what is to be done; and I hope that my feeble powers have shown you to some extent the broad outlines of that which is to be done. "

(From the "comfort" of being able to look back, we know by now that many militants of the KPD(S), many delegates at the founding congress of the party, severely underestimated the task of the party, that they severely overestimated their own strength and the strength of the working class at that time, and that they seriously underestimated the strength, the cunning, the cruelty, the machiavellism of the enemy (d. i.e., not only the bourgeoisie in Germany, not only the Freikorps and the official and non-official intelligence services, but also the social-chauvinists and the international bourgeoisie) and that they did not know "clearly and precisely what is to be done”.)
I put this comment in brackets, not because the lessons from this experience are not important, not relevant.
They certainly are, also for the struggle of today and tomorrow.
I put my comment in brackets because the subject of the "Balance sheet of the Congress: Understanding the historical situation and preparing for the future" and the contribution of Baboon, as the title says, are about the understanding of the current historical situation and preparing for the future.

The thoughts in this post

The thoughts in this post were triggered by the thread

"Balance-sheet of the Congress: understanding the historical situation and preparing for the future".

But actually this contribution fits also or even more in the thread

"Corona Virus: More evidence that capitalism has become a danger to humanity".

For that reason, I place it in both threads.


Does this not mean back to "normal", not back to "as before" i.e. as before corona, also means that we"will have to learn to live with the virus", even with widespread epidemics, even with global epidemics=pandemics ?

And does that also mean that the working class and its communist vanguard will have to learn to fight in a situation of epidemics and pandemics?


Of course, such a situation is not entirely new.

Just think of the situation in the 19th century when the working class had to fight in the midst of cholera, typhus, etc.(Note 1)

And think also of the international revolutionary wave of 1917-1923, which developed partly in the midst of the so called "Spanish flu"(1918-1920) (from which, as one of the many millions, for example Yakov Sverdlov, Bolshevik and chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee from 1917 to 1919, also died)(Note 2)

But neither of the two situations can really be compared with the situation today.

In the 19th century, high mortality at a young age was seen as "normal", there was, as far as we can judge now, much more fatalism, also accompanied by a much greater impact of religion, also in Western Europe ("It is the will of God", "Man chooses, but God disposes").

Medicine and health care were also often still very primitive and ignorant.

Just think of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis's (1818-1865) efforts to implement simple hand hygiene among medical and paramedical staff during births and thereby significantly reduce the deadly maternal fever, or of Louis Pasteur's (1822-1895) pioneering work (vaccines, pasteurisation of food), or of the ignorance of the danger of radioactive radiation, which caused many researchers to die of leukaemia (including Marie Curie (Maria Skłodowska) (1867-1934). 

Measures to combat diseases such as typhus, cholera, etc. were only taken when not only the working class, but also the bourgeoisie felt threatened (sanitation of urban neighbourhoods (not only for health reasons (Note 3)), overflowing of water courses , sewers, household waste collection, disinfection, vaccination, etc.).


And the so-called “Spanish flu” in 1918-1920 involved a war situation (Note 4), an already very weakened population, a society reorganised by the war, not to say disrupted, and large movements of large numbers of people (especially soldiers, first during the war and then returning home after the war).

In the international revolutionary wave of 1917-1923, especially in the ex- Tsarist empire in 1917 and Germany in 1918, we read about crowds, about halls or squares full of people, packed together, about lively and often heated discussions, about the extension of the struggle across the borders of company departments, of companies, of sectors, of municipalities, of regions, of states and even of continents.

And about militants coming together from all over the world (for instance on the first congress of the 3rd International in 1919 (with besides militants from Russia, from former parts of the tsarist empire (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania & Belorussia, Turkestan, Ukraine) and a number of groups of migrants in Russia (British,Bulgarian,Chinese,Czech,French,Korean,Swiss & Yugoslav) also militants from Germany,Austria,Poland,Netherlands,Hungary,Bulgaria (and/or the Balkans? ,Switzerland,France,Sweden,USA,Turkey and Persia) (Note 5)

And also later on there were similar images : in May-June 1968 in France with lively, massively attended discussions in the auditoriums of the universities and in factory halls, with wall-posters, etc. ; in August 1980 in Poland with, for instance, the talks with the Stalinist government did not take place "en petit comité", not behind closed doors, but at the "Lenin shipyard" in Gdansk, the very heart of the mass strike, with loudspeakers so that the workers outside could follow everything and with microphones so that the workers could also intervene in the talks.


How very different is the struggle, is the coming together in "corona times" , in times of epidemics and pandemics, because that means face masks, keeping one's distance, working at home on the computer for very large parts of the working class, testing, vaccinating, corona passes, repeated closure of pubs and restaurants (= meeting rooms), travel restrictions, etc., etc.

But even in "corona times" the workers' struggle is not impossible, as has already been demonstrated by the struggles of the working class itself in the USA, in Italy and in other countries (in which it also makes full use of the technological possibilities that capitalism offers it).

(On the workers' struggle see the ICC press)

And also the communist minority, first and foremost the ICC, has proven that it can maintain contacts and discussion especially through the internet and e-mail (although this can always be improved), it can not only organize public meetings on-line (in different languages, in different countries)(Note 6).

It can even hold its congresses (including its 24th International Congress).

Unlike in much of the 19th century, there is today, for example, the telephone, photography and film, and unlike the waves of struggle in 1968-1974, 1978-1980 and 1983-1989(?), there is widespread mobile phone and smartphone and last but not least the Internet.

How important these things are (especially the Internet) we have certainly experienced in these "corona times".


I can't remember who said it (Marx?)

"Mankind never sets itself tasks that it cannot handle".

I also think that the more autonomous (i.e. the more autonomous from trade unions, bourgeois political parties, etc.), the more conscious the struggle is, the more "coronaproof" it can be.

This is because the health measures will then be implemented by the working class itself and are not something that is pushed through from above, first and foremost in the interests of the capitalist economy, with all the connotations of bourgeois ideology and all the scepticism and distrust (to a large extent justified), but where the interests of the health of the workers and even of the entire population come first.


Note 1 See for example Friedrich Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England

written 1844-1845, Engels speaks explicitly about tuberculosis

and typhus, about mortality among the proletariat, more particularly among the little children, and also about the drunkenness.

Note 2 See Discussion Forum “Corona Virus: More evidence that capitalism has become a danger to humanity” 14 March, 2020 #9 d-man)).

Note 3 For example, the sanitation (including the tearing down of narrow, winding streets) of Paris by Hausmann at the behest of Emperor Napoleon III in 1853-1870 was also there to make it easier to put down barricade rebellions such as that of June 1848.

It did not stop uprisings, see the Paris Commune of 1871.

Suppression by machine guns and cannon may have been "easier".

Note 4 The name "Spanish flu" itself has its origins in WW 1.

In neutral Spain there was no war censorship and it was there that the first reports of the disease appeared in the press.

Note 5 There is, for example, the testimony of Marc Chrik ("Marc, Part 1: From the Revolution of October 1917 to World War II",International Review no.65 - 2nd quarter 1991,, there are the testimonies in the books of John Reed "Ten Days That Shook the World " and in Trotsky's "History of the Russian Revolution").

Note 6 In addition to its disadvantages and limitations, such as the need to have equipment and know-how to use it properly, an on-line meeting has the enormous advantage that people from different places (countries and even continents) can discuss with each other without having to make sometimes long and expensive journeys.

This is especially true for the "big" languages (English, Spanish, French, etc.).

If I have understood correctly the ICC already held on line public meetings(in English and Spanish/ Portuguese) with participants from different continents.