1) By the late 1960s, with the exhaustion of the post-war economic boom and in the face of deteriorating living conditions, the working class had re-emerged on the social scene. The workers' struggles that exploded on an international scale put an end to the longest period of counter-revolution in history, opening a new historical course towards class confrontations, thus preventing the ruling class from putting in place its own response to the acute crisis of capitalism: a Third World War. This new historical course had been marked by the emergence of massive struggles, particularly in the central countries of Western Europe with the May 1968 movement in France, followed by the "hot autumn" in Italy in 1969 and many others such as Argentina in spring 1969 and Poland in winter 1970-71. In these massive movements, large sectors of the new generation who had not experienced war once again raised the perspective of communism as a real possibility.
In connection with this general movement of the working class in the late 1960s and early 1970s, we must also highlight the international revival, on a very small but no less significant scale, of the organized communist left, the tradition that remained faithful to the flag of world proletarian revolution during the long night of counter-revolution. In this process, the constitution of the ICC represented an important impetus for the communist left as a whole.
Faced with a dynamic towards the politicisation of workers' struggles, the bourgeoisie (which had been surprised by the May 1968 movement) immediately developed a large-scale and long-term counter-offensive in order to prevent the working class from providing its own response to the historical crisis of the capitalist economy: the proletarian revolution.
2) Because of the break in political continuity with the workers’ movement of the past, the tendency towards the politicisation of the 1960s was manifested in the emergence of what Lenin called a “political swamp”: a milieu of confused groups and elements, and at the same time a zone of transmission, situated between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. At the moment of its greatest extension, this area of politicisation comprised mainly young and inexperienced people, many of them students Already in the first half of the 1970s, the result of the decantation within this zone was that:
- the left of capital succeeded in winning over a large part of these young elements involved in the process of politicisation
- frustration and disappointment led many of them, strongly marked by the impatience and “radicalism” of the petty bourgeoisie, towards partial struggles or the violent, minority actions of terrorism (the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany, Red Brigades in Italy, then Action Directe in France)
- the layers of the swamp striving towards proletarian positions tended to gravitate in the direction of autonomism and workerism, or towards defending the myth of ‘self-management’.
Moreover, The “critical” adherence of the main leftist groups (Trotskyist and Maoist) to the counter-revolution and their organisational practice and intervention as crypto-Stalinist sects, but also the mindless activism of the autonomist milieu and the cult of violence of the terrorist micro-groups destroyed a large part of this new generation in the process of being politicised. This destructive work helped to deform and discredit the real revolutionary movement of the proletariat. Parallel to this extremely negative role played by the pseudo-radical component of the swamp and the groups of the extreme left, the bourgeoisie developed a wide-scale and long-term political counter-offensive against the historic revival of the class struggle. This political counter-offensive of the bourgeoisie initially consisted, at the beginning of the 1970s, in setting up the "alternative” of bringing the left to government in the main Western countries. The aim was to herd the working class back to the electoral fold by sowing the illusion that the programme of the left parties would make it possible to improve the living conditions of the exploited masses. This first wave of struggles, which had developed since the late 1960s, was therefore exhausted during these "years of illusions".
3) But with the worsening of the economic crisis in the second half of the 1970s, a new wave of workers' struggles had emerged, also involving the proletariat in some Eastern European countries (notably in Poland in the summer of 1980).
Faced with this resumption of class combat after a short period of reflux, the bourgeoisie had to modify its strategy aimed at hindering any politicisation of the proletariat through its economic struggles. Thanks to a judicious division of labour between the various bourgeois factions, right-wing parties in government were appointed to carry out economic attacks against the living conditions of the proletariat, while the left-wing parties in the opposition (supported by the unions and leftists) had the responsibility of sabotaging workers' struggles from the inside and diverting them onto the terrain of electoral mystifications.
The mass strike in Poland in August 1980 revealed that the proletariat, despite the leaden weight of the Stalinist regimes, was able to raise its head and spontaneously recover its methods of struggle, including sovereign general assemblies, the election of strike committees responsible to these assemblies, the necessary geographical extension of the struggles and their unification beyond corporatist divisions.
This gigantic struggle of the working class in Poland revealed that it is in the massive struggle against economic attacks that the proletariat can become conscious of its own strength, affirm its class identity which is antagonistic to capital, and develop its self-confidence.
But the defeat of the Polish workers, with the founding of the "free" trade union Solidarnosc (which benefited from the support of the trade unions of Western countries) also revealed the very strong weight of democratic illusions in a country where the proletariat had no experience of bourgeois democracy. The defeat and repression of Polish workers opened a new period of retreat for international class struggle in the early 1980s.
4) Nevertheless, despite its depth, this retreat was short-lived. In the first half of the 1980s, faced with the worsening economic crisis, the explosion of unemployment and the new attacks on the living conditions of the proletariat in the central countries, a third wave of struggles emerged. Despite the defeat of the long miners' strike in Great Britain in 1985, this wave of struggles was marked by the erosion of the left in the opposition, a growing discrediting of trade unions (as witnessed in several countries, including Scandinavia, by the sporadic spontaneous strikes that broke out outside and against repeated union manoeuvres). This third wave of workers' struggles was accompanied by an increase in abstention rates in the elections.
In order to avoid being surprised as in May 68, and to paralyse the whole dynamic of confrontations with trade unionism, the bourgeoisie developed a third strategy: that of strengthening its apparatus for controlling the working class through the deployment of base unionism, led by the groups of the extreme left of capital. Faced with the rise of militancy, notably in the public sector, the bourgeoisie strengthened its union and para-union forces. The aim of this policy was to prevent any extension of struggles beyond corporations or sectors, to sabotage the class identity of the proletariat through setting up divisions between “white collar” and “blue collar” workers, and to block any tendency towards the self-organisation of the working class.
5) It was the British bourgeoisie (the most intelligent in the world), with the policies of the “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher, which sounded the key-note for the strategy of the ruling class in other central countries, aimed at stopping the dynamic of the class struggle.
Thanks to the sabotaging role of the miners’ union, the ruling class had imprisoned the workers in a long, exhausting sectional strike, totally separated from other sectors of production. The crushing defeat of the miners’ strike dealt a savage blow to the whole working class in this country. This success of the ruling class in Britain served as a model for the bourgeoisie in other countries, notably in France, the country in Europe where the proletariat had traditionally been very combative. The French bourgeoisie, inspired by the example of the Iron Lady in blocking the dynamic of the class struggle, set out to lock up the workers in corporatism, taking full advantage of the tendency towards “each for themselves” (which was one of the first phenomena of the decomposition of capitalism).
In 1986, since the most traditionally combative and experienced sectors of the French proletariat had since May 68 confronted union sabotage on a number of occasions (in the mines, steel, transport, car industry…) the bourgeoisie could only use such a strategy by setting up “coordinations” aimed at taking on the baton from the discredited main union confederations.
In Italy, where the proletariat had fought very important and massive struggles (in particular the “Hot Autumn” of 1969), the bourgeoisie also used the same policy of corporatist containment, by recuperating the education workers’ coordinations after 1987.
In France, despite the defeat of the railway workers’ strike in 1986 (thanks to the sabotaging work of the “coordinations” in the SNCF), two years later, in 1988, the workers’ militancy exploded once again in another part of the public sector, the hospitals. Faced with a deep and general discontent towards the unions, and the potential danger of this massive struggle spreading to the whole public sector, the ruling class again reinforced its strategy for boxing up and dividing the working class. The French bourgeoisie was able to make use of a hospital sector which was still inexperienced and politically more “backward”, the nurses, in order to keep any push towards unification stuck in the hospitals, sabotaging any possibility of the movement spreading to other parts of the public sector.
In order to break the movement in the hospital sector, the manoeuvre of the bourgeoisie consisted in offering the nurses on their own a kind of bribe (a wage increase of 350 francs a month, unblocking a billion francs already held in reserve for this purpose), whereas other categories in the hospitals who had mobilised for the movement got nothing! This defeat of the working class, given the historic tendency towards “each for themselves” could only be inflicted on the proletariat thanks to the dirty work of the self-proclaimed “nurses’ coordination” which had been set up straight away with the help of the CFDT. This semi-union organ succeeded in derailing the anger of the nurses onto the rotten ground of defending their “status” of “Bac plus 3” in order to justify the re-evaluation of their wages, when their movement had originally broken out against the lack of personnel and the degradation of conditions affecting everyone in the hospitals, “white collar” as well as “blue collar” (see our pamphlet, Bilan de la lutte des infirmières: les coordinations, la nouvelle arme de la bourgeoisie. In the other countries of Europe, including in Germany (notably in the car industry), this manoeuvre by the bourgeoisie consisted of granting wage increases to one category of workers in the same enterprise, with the aim of dividing the workers, aggravating competition between them, sapping class solidarity and setting them against each other.
But worse still with this strategy of dividing the workers and encouraging “each for themselves”, the bourgeoisie and its tame unions were able to present defeats of the working class as victories.
Revolutionaries must not underestimate the Machiavellianism of the bourgeoisie in the evolution of the balance of class forces. This Machiavellianism can only continue with the aggravation of attacks on the exploited class. The stagnation of the class struggle, then its retreat at the end of the 80s, resulted from the capacity of the ruling class to turn certain manifestations of the decomposition of bourgeoisie society, especially the tendency towards “each for themselves”, against the working class.
6) Since the retreat of the first wave of struggles, it has been essentially democratic illusions (fuelled by the bourgeoisie's counter-offensive and trade union sabotage) that have been the main obstacle to the politicisation of the working class struggles.
As highlighted in the article in International Review n°23, "The struggle of the proletariat in the period of decadence", the working class is confronted with several factors which make the politicisation of its struggles difficult:
- The true nature of the proletariat both as an exploited class, dispossessed of all property, and as a revolutionary class, has always meant that class consciousness cannot advance from victory to victory but can only develop unevenly towards victory through a series of defeats, as Rosa Luxemburg argued.
In the period of decadence:
- the working class can no longer maintain permanent mass organizations, political parties and workers' unions, to defend its interests;
- there is no longer a "minimum" political programme as in the ascendant period, but only a "maximum" programme. Bourgeois democracy and its national framework is no longer an arena for the political action of the proletariat;
- the bourgeois state has learned to intelligently use the former workers’ political parties, which betrayed the proletariat, against the politicisation of the working class.
In addition, in the current period:
- the bourgeois state has learned to slow the pace of the economic crisis and to plan its attacks in concert with the trade unions by deploying all possible means to avoid a unified response by the working class and a re-appropriation of the final political goals of its struggle against capitalism.
- all the forces of capitalism have worked to block the politicisation of the working class by preventing it from making the link between its economic struggles against exploitation and the refusal of workers in central countries to allow themselves to be mobilised behind the bourgeoisie's war policy. A particularly significant manoeuvre in the early 1980s was the pacifist campaign against Reagan's “Star Wars" programme. As the third wave of struggles began to wear out in the late 1980s, a major event in the international situation, the spectacular collapse of the Eastern bloc and the Stalinist regimes in 1989, dealt a brutal blow to the dynamics of class struggle, thus changing the balance of forces between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the benefit of the latter in a major way. This event loudly announced the entry of capitalism into the final phase of its decadence: that of decomposition. When Stalinism collapsed, it did one last service to the bourgeoisie. It allowed the ruling class to put an end to the dynamic of class struggle which, with advances and setbacks, had developed over two decades.
Indeed, insofar as it was not the struggle of the proletariat but the rotting of capitalist society on its feet that put an end to Stalinism, the bourgeoisie was able to exploit this event to unleash a gigantic ideological campaign aimed at perpetuating the greatest lie in history: the identification of communism with Stalinism. In doing so, the ruling class dealt an extremely violent blow to the consciousness of the proletariat. The bourgeoisie's deafening campaigns on the so-called "bankruptcy of communism" have led to a regression of the proletariat in its march towards its historical perspective of overthrowing capitalism. They were a major blow against its class identity.
This profound retreat in consciousness and class struggle has manifested itself in a decline in the workers' fighting spirit in all countries, a strengthening of democratic illusions, a very strong revival of the trade union grip and a very great difficulty for the proletariat to return to the path of massive struggles, despite the worsening of the economic crisis, the rise in unemployment, precariousness, and the general deterioration of its living conditions in all sectors and all countries.
Moreover, with the entry of capitalism into the ultimate phase of its decadence, the proletariat now had to face the miasma of the decomposition of bourgeois society that affects its ability to find the way back towards its revolutionary perspective. On the ideological level, “The different elements which constitute the strength of the working class directly confront the various facets of this ideological decomposition:
- solidarity and collective action are faced with the atomisation of ‘look out for number one’;
- the need for organisation confronts social decomposition, the disintegration of the relationships which form the basis for all social life;
- the proletariat’s confidence in the future and in its own strength is constantly sapped by the all-pervasive despair and nihilism within society;
- consciousness, lucidity, coherent and unified thought, the taste for theory, have a hard time making headway in the midst of the flight into illusions, drugs, sects, mysticism, the rejection or destruction of thought which are characteristic of our epoch”. (Theses on decomposition, International Review 62)
With the retreat of its revolutionary perspective and class identity, the proletariat has also largely lost confidence in itself and in its ability to effectively confront capitalism in the defence of its living conditions.
7) One of the objective factors that aggravated the loss of class identity of the proletariat was the policy of relocation and restructuring of the productive apparatus in the main countries of Western Europe and the United States. Many large concentrations of workers were dismantled with the closure of mines, steel mills, automobile plants, etc, sectors where the working class had traditionally led massive and very combative struggles. This industrial desertification was accompanied by the strengthening of the ideological campaigns about the end of the class struggle, and therefore of any revolutionary perspective. These bourgeoisie campaigns have been able to develop thanks to the Stalinist or social democratic parties which, for decades, have identified the working class only with the "blue collar" workers, thus masking the fact that it is wage labour and the exploitation of labour power that defines the working class. Moreover, with the development of new technologies, the "white collar" proletariat is much more dispersed in small production units, making it more difficult for massive struggles to emerge.
In such a situation of retreat of the class consciousness of the proletariat and the move away from any revolutionary perspective, the tendency towards every man for himself and the competition to survive in the midst of the growing economic slump tend to dominate.
The increase in unemployment and precariousness has also highlighted the phenomenon of the "Uberisation" of work. By using an internet platform to find a job, Uberisation disguises the sale of labour power to a boss as a form of "individual enterprise", while reinforcing the impoverishment and precariousness of these "entrepreneurs". The “Uberisation” of individual work is a key factor in enforcing atomisation, and increasing the difficulty of going on strike, because the self-exploitation of these workers considerably hinders their ability to fight collectively and develop solidarity against capitalist exploitation.
8) With the bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers bank and the financial crisis of 2008, the bourgeoisie was able to push one more wedge into the consciousness of the proletariat by developing a new ideological campaign on a global scale, aimed at instilling the idea (put forward by the left-wing parties) that it is the "crooked bankers" who are responsible for this crisis, while making it appear that capitalism is personified by traders and the power of money.
The ruling class was thus able to hide the roots of the failure of its system. On the one hand, it sought to pull the working class into defending the "protective" state, since bank rescue measures were supposed to protect small savers. On the other hand, this bank rescue policy has also been used, particularly by the left, to point the finger at governments seeking to defend bankers and the financial world.
But beyond these mystifications, the impact of this campaign on the working class has been to reinforce its powerlessness in the face of an impersonal economic system whose general laws appear to be natural laws that cannot be controlled or modified.
9) The unleashing of imperialist conflicts in the Middle East, as well as the absolute misery of the impoverished masses of the countries of the African continent, have resulted in an increasing flow of refugees into the countries of Western Europe. On the other side of the Atlantic, the sinking of capitalism into decay has also been illustrated by the exodus of waves of migrants from Latin American countries to the United States.
Faced with these manifestations of the decomposition of capitalist society, a new danger has emerged for the proletariat: populist ideology based on a rigorous “identitarian” policy of de-solidarisation, advocating, in face of the worsening crisis, when ”resources” and ”opportunities” are shrinking, that ”native” populations can only avoid the worst at the expense of other parts of the non-exploiting population. This policy manifests itself in protectionism, the stigmatisation of immigrants as "profiteers on the welfare state" and the closing of borders to waves of migrants.
The increasingly open rejection of traditional bourgeois parties and "elites" has not led to a politicisation of the proletariat on its class terrain but a tendency to seek "new" men in the electoral fields of bourgeois democracy. These "new men" are largely populist demagogues and adventurers (like Donald Trump). The rise of far-right parties in several European countries, as well as the rise to power of Trump in the United States, elected with many votes from workers in the "rust belt", reveals that some fringes of the proletariat (particularly those affected by unemployment) can be poisoned by populism, xenophobia, nationalism and all the reactionary and obscurantist ideologies that emanate from the foul putrefaction of capitalism.
The tendency towards the individual “looking after number one” and the dislocation of society has also manifested itself in the danger of certain sectors of the proletariat being recruited behind national or regional flags (as was the case during the independence crisis in Catalonia in 2018).
10) Because of the current great difficulty of the working class in developing its struggles, its inability for the moment to regain its class identity and to open up a perspective for the whole of society, the social terrain tends to be occupied by inter-classist struggles particularly marked by the petty bourgeoisie. This social layer, without a historic future, can only be a vehicle for illusions in the possibility of reforming capitalism by claiming that capitalism can have a more "human face", can be more democratic, more just, cleaner, more concerned about the poor and the preservation of the planet.
These inter-classist movements are the product of the absence of any perspective which affects society as a whole, including an important part of the ruling class itself.
The popular revolt of the "Yellow Vests" in France against the "high cost of living" as well as the international movement of the "Youth for Climate" are an illustration of the danger of inter-classism for the proletariat. The citizen revolt of the "Yellow Vests" (supported and encouraged from the beginning by all parties of the right and the extreme right) revealed the ability of the bourgeoisie to use inter-classist social movements against the consciousness of the proletariat.
By releasing a package of 10 billion euros to deal with the chaos accompanying the Yellow Vests demonstrations, the French bourgeoisie and its media were able to insidiously instil the idea that only inter-classist citizens’ movements and petty bourgeois methods of struggle can push the government back.
Faced with the acceleration of economic attacks against the exploited class, and the danger of the resurgence of workers' struggles, the bourgeoisie is now seeking to erase class antagonisms. By trying to drown and dilute the proletariat in the "population of citizens", the ruling class aims to prevent it from regaining its class identity. The international media coverage of the Yellow Vest movement reveals that it is a concern of the bourgeoisie of all countries.
The youth movement for the climate, although expressing a global concern about the threat of the destruction of humanity, has been totally diverted onto the terrain of partial struggles that can easily be recuperated by the bourgeoisie and are very strongly marked by the petty bourgeoisie. “Only the proletariat bears within it a perspective for humanity. In this sense, the greatest capacity for resistance to this decomposition lies within its ranks. However, this does not mean that the proletariat is immune, particularly since it lives alongside the petty bourgeoisie which is one of the major carriers of the infection…During this period, it must aim to resist the noxious effects of decomposition in its own ranks, counting only on its own strength and on its ability to struggle collectively and in solidarity to defend its interests as an exploited class” (Theses on decomposition)
The struggle for the class autonomy of the proletariat is crucial in this situation imposed by the aggravation of the decomposition of capitalism:
- against inter-classist struggles;
- against partial struggles put forward by all kinds of social categories giving a false illusion of a "protective community";
- against the mobilisations on the rotten ground of nationalism, pacifism, "ecological" reform, etc.
In the balance of forces between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, it is always the ruling class that is on the offensive, except in a revolutionary situation. Despite its internal difficulties and the growing tendency to lose control of its political apparatus, the bourgeoisie has been able to turn the manifestations of the decomposition of its system against the consciousness and class identity of the proletariat. The working class has therefore not yet overcome the deep setback it has suffered since the collapse of the Eastern bloc and the Stalinist regimes. This is all the more so since democratic and anti-communist campaigns, maintained over the long term, have been regularly updated (for example on the occasion of the centenary of the October Revolution in 1917).
11) Nevertheless, despite three decades of retreat of the class struggle, the bourgeoisie has so far failed to inflict a decisive defeat on the working class, as it did in the 1920s and 1930s. Despite the seriousness of the issues at stake in the current historical period, the situation is not identical to that of the counter-revolutionary period. The proletariat of the central countries has not suffered physical defeat (as was the case during the bloody crushing of the revolution in Germany during the first revolutionary wave of 1917-23). It has not been massively recruited behind national flags. The vast majority of proletarians are not ready to sacrifice their lives on the altar of defending the national capital. In the major industrialised countries, in the United States as well as in Europe, the proletarian masses did not join the imperialist (and so-called "humanitarian") crusades of "their" national bourgeoisie.
The proletarian class struggle is made up of advances and setbacks during which the working class strives to overcome its defeats, to learn from them and to return to the combat again. As Marx stated in the 18 Brumaire, "The bourgeois revolutions, like those of the 18th century, quickly rush from success to success, (...) Proletarian revolutions, on the other hand, like those of the 19th century, constantly criticize themselves, interrupt at every moment their own course, go back to what already seems to be accomplished to start it over again, mercilessly mock the hesitations, the weaknesses and miseries of their first attempts, seem to bring down their opponent only to allow him to draw new strengths from the earth and to recover again, formidable, in front of them, constantly retreat again before the infinite immensity of their own goals, until the situation is finally created making it impossible to turn back, and the circumstances themselves cry: Hic Rhodus, hic salta! " (The 18th Brumaire)
These "circumstances" which will create a “situation that makes it impossible to turn back" will be determined, in the first place, by the exhaustion of the palliatives which have so far enabled the bourgeoisie to slow down the collapse of the world economy. Indeed, in order for the conditions for the emergence of a period of revolutionary struggle to be created, it is necessary "that exploiters cannot live and govern as in the past. Only when ‘those below’ no longer want to and ‘those above’ cannot continue to live in the old way, only then can the revolution triumph." (Lenin, Left-wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder
The inexorable worsening of poverty, precariousness, unemployment, the attacks on the dignity of the exploited in the years to come, constitute the material basis which can push the new generations of proletarians to find their way back to the path of the struggles that were led by previous generations, in defence of all aspects of their living conditions. Despite all the dangers threatening the proletariat, the period of decomposition of capitalism has not put an end to the objective "circumstances" that have been the impetus for the revolutionary struggles of the proletariat since the beginning of the workers’ movement.
12) The worsening economic crisis has already revealed a new generation on the social scene, even if it is still very limited and embryonic: in 2006, the student movement in France against the CPE, followed five years later by the "Indignados" movement in Spain. These two massive movements of proletarian youth spontaneously rediscovered the methods of struggle of the working class, including the culture of debate in massive general assemblies open to all.
These movements were also characterized by solidarity between generations (whereas the student movement of the late 1960s, very strongly marked by the weight of the petty bourgeoisie, had often seen themselves as being in opposition to the generations which had been mobilised for war) .If, in the movement against the CPE, the vast majority of students fighting against the prospect of unemployment and precariousness, had recognised themselves as part of the working class, the Indignados in Spain (although their movement had spread internationally through social networks) did not have a clear awareness of belonging to the exploited class.
While the massive movement against the CPE was a proletarian response to an economic attack (which forced the bourgeoisie to retreat by withdrawing the CPE), the Indignados movement was essentially marked by a global reflection on the bankruptcy of capitalism and the need for another society.
Within this new generation, the class identity of the proletariat has not yet been recovered due to the lack of experience of this young generation, its vulnerability to the mystifications of "anti-globalisation" ideology and its difficulty in reclaiming the history and experience of the workers’ movement.
Nevertheless, these movements had begun to lay the groundwork for a slow maturation of consciousness within the working class (and especially among its young highly skilled generations) about the challenges of the current historical situation
13) An essential characteristic of the development of the class consciousness of the proletariat has always been its capacity for subterranean maturation, that is, the ability to develop outside periods of open struggle and even in periods of major defeat. Class consciousness can develop in depth, in small minorities, without it spreading widely throughout the proletariat. The development of class consciousness should therefore not only be measured by its immediate extension in the class at a given time, but also through its historical continuity. As we stated in the article in International Review 42 "Internal debate: Centrist slidings towards councilism": "It is necessary to distinguish what is part of a continuity in the historical movement of the proletariat - the progressive elaboration of its political positions and its programme - from what is related to circumstantial factors - the extent of their assimilation and their impact in the whole class”
The existence and determined maintenance of the organisations of the communist left, under the difficult conditions of the decomposition of capitalism, expresses this underground capacity of class consciousness to develop its historical movement in a period of profound disorientation of the proletariat such as the one we are living today.
This subterranean maturation of the class consciousness of the proletariat is also manifested today through the emergence of small minorities and young elements in search of a class perspective and the positions of the communist left.
The organisations of the communist left must not ignore these small minorities, even if they appear to be insignificant. The process of decantation in the period of capitalist decomposition is much slower and more uneven than it was at the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 1970s.
Despite the deleterious effects of decomposition and the dangers facing the proletariat, "Today, the historical perspective remains completely open. Despite the blow that the Eastern bloc’s collapse has dealt to proletarian consciousness, the class has not suffered any major defeats on the terrain of its struggle (...) Moreover, and this is the element which in the final analysis will determine the outcome of the world situation, the inexorable aggravation of the capitalist crisis constitutes the essential stimulant for the class’ struggle and development of consciousness, the precondition for its ability to resist the poison distilled by the social rot. For while there is no basis for the unification of the class in the partial struggles against the effects of decomposition, nonetheless its struggle against the direct effects of the crisis constitutes the basis for the development of its class strength and unity" (Theses on Decomposition).
14) In the economic and defensive struggles of the proletariat "Now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers. This union is helped on by the improved means of communication that are created by modern industry, and that place the workers of different localities in contact with one another. It was just this contact that was needed to centralise the numerous local struggles, all of the same character, into one national struggle between classes. But every class struggle is a political struggle. And that union, to attain which the burghers of the Middle Ages, with their miserable highways, required centuries, the modern proletarian, thanks to railways, achieve in a few years.
This organisation of the proletarians into a class, and, consequently into a political party, is continually being upset again by the competition between the workers themselves. But it ever rises up again, stronger, firmer, mightier”(Communist Manifesto).
The "increase in the means of communication" allowing workers to "make contact" to "centralise local struggles" are no longer the railways, as in Marx's time, but the new digital telecommunications technologies.
In fact, if the effects of "globalisation", relocations, the disappearance of entire sectors of industry, the dispersion into a multitude of small productive units, the multiplication of small service jobs, precariousness and Uberisation of work have added to the blows to the class identity of the proletariat of the old industrial metropoles, the new economic, technological and social conditions in which the proletariat finds itself today contain elements favourable to the re-conquest of this class identity on a much larger scale than in the past. “Globalisation" and especially the development of the Internet, the creation of a kind of "global network" of knowledge, skills, collaborations in work at the same time as mass travel, create the objective bases for the development of a class identity on a global scale, especially for the new proletarian generations.
15) One of the main reasons why the proletariat has not been able to develop its struggles and consciousness to the level required by the gravity of the historical situation is the rupture of political continuity with the workers’ movement of the past (and especially with the first revolutionary wave of 1917-23). This rupture was illustrated by the weakness of the revolutionary organisations of the communist left current that had fought Stalinism in the 1920s and 1930s.
This means that an enormous responsibility lies on the communist left as a bridge between the former party that has disappeared (the 3rd International) and the future party of the proletariat. Without the constitution of this future world party, proletarian revolution will be impossible and humanity will end up being swallowed up by the barbarism of war and/or the slow decomposition of bourgeois society.
“Theoretically, the communists have over the rest of the proletariat the advantage of a clear understanding of the conditions, the march and the general ends of the proletarian movement as a whole" (Communist Manifesto).