Our previous issue of the International Review was entirely dedicated to the significance and implications of the outbreak of Corona Virus. We highlighted the historical relevance of this event, the most important since the collapse of the Eastern bloc in 1989, as well as its significance as a new stage in the downwards spiral of capitalism in the current phase of its decadence, that of decomposition. We also looked at the implications of the pandemic for the economic crisis – that a considerable acceleration of the economic crisis is leading to an even deeper recession than that of the 1930s – and its effect on the class struggle, creating increased difficulties for the working class because of the disruptive effects decomposition has on the daily life of society. This event makes it clear that the rhythm of development of the class struggle, compared to that of decomposition, is not currently at a sufficient level for a victorious revolution of the proletariat to take place where it would have to build a new society on the ruins of the existing society, which has been ravaged by more than a century of capitalist decadence.
The present issue of the Review continues our intervention on the pandemic from different angles and it includes some other articles.
A first article, “The Covid-19 pandemic reveals the dilapidated state of world capitalism”, highlights the very great difficulties for the bourgeoisie faced with the first wave of contagion from the virus, and shows that the new waves have left the bourgeoisie in a desperate state, unable to contain the pandemic and its social consequences. And its unpreparedness when the pandemic broke out is symptomatic of capitalism, especially in the final phase of decadence: no real anticipation of the acknowledged threat of pandemics before one of them – Covid-19 – broke out; the health care systems neglected because they are unprofitable from a capitalist point of view; and an exacerbation of every man for himself between national factions of the world bourgeoisie and inside national frontiers too... and all of this in the midst of the global trade war made worse by the crisis. The social balance sheet, attributable to capitalism and not to the pandemic, is that millions of workers have been thrown out of employment worldwide and that widespread poverty has spread and worsened dramatically. Confronted with the dangers of contagion and the reality of unemployment and being plunged into poverty, large sections of the world's population, large masses living in very precarious conditions, are descending into the depths of despair.
In this regard, alongside this article, we are publishing a historical testimony, “Health Conservation in Soviet Russia” on how the proletariat of Soviet Russia showed an ability to deal with the health problem in the years 1918 and 1919, in extremely difficult conditions when the country was under attack on its own territory from the international coalition of the bourgeoisie, in the form of the white armies, whose objective was to weaken and destroy the power of the proletariat.
As this presentation shows, the ICC has made an important theoretical effort to understand the historical significance of this pandemic, which cannot be reduced to a mere endless repetition of the laws of capitalism, but is both an expression of and an aggravating factor in the current phase of the decomposition of capitalism. The situation in the United States has vividly confirmed the weight of decomposition on the life of capitalism, and in particular with the episode at the Capitol Building when “a mob attempted to violently prevent the democratic succession, encouraged by the sitting president himself – as in a banana republic as George W Bush recognised.” Our article “The US and World Capitalism on the road to nowhere” shows how the current political crisis of US democracy, symbolised by the attack on Capitol Hill, comes on top of the chaotic and self-destructive consequences of US imperialist policy, and shows more clearly that the US, which is still the world's most powerful nation, is today playing the leading role in the development of the decomposition of capitalism.
Also in this presentation of the Review we can point to the fact that in order to increase and sustain the audience for our intervention, we produced a leaflet, “The COVID-19 Pandemic: Generalised Capitalist Barbarism or World Proletarian Revolution”, which was physically distributed on the few occasions presented to us and which we have also tried distribute as much as possible on the internet.
It is evident that the Covid-19 virus could have been transmitted from animal to man particularly because of certain characteristics of the decomposition of capitalism: excessive deforestation, uncontrolled urbanisation, man and animals living in close proximity, making the transmission of viruses more possible, and poor hygiene standards... Confronted with all the aberrations of capitalism in its final phase, we think it is fitting to publish an article which shows what would be the approach taken by the dictatorship of the proletariat: “The communist programme in the phase of decomposition of capitalism: Bordiga and the Big City”, an article built on the basis of our own reflections and those prompted by an article by Bordiga entitled “The immediate programme of the revolution”, written in 1953. As our article says, Bordiga's text “retains considerable interest from its attempt to understand what would be the main problems and priorities of a communist revolution that would take place, not at the dawn of the decadence of capitalism, as in 1917-23, but after a whole century in which the slide towards barbarism has continued to accelerate, and in which the threat to the very survival of humanity is far greater than it was a hundred years ago”. In relation to the current pandemic, the article shows the limits of all existing health services, even in the most powerful capitalist countries, not least because they do not escape the logic of competition between national capitalist states. Faced with such a situation, there is a need for medicine, health care and research that is not controlled by the state, but truly socialised, and not national, but extending “beyond borders”: in short, a global health service.
In this issue of the Review, we are continuing our series which was started on the occasion of the “100 years after the foundation of the Communist International in 1919”. The founding congress had been a real step forward for the unity of the world proletariat, nevertheless the method adopted at the time, privileging the majority viewpoint rather than the clarity of positions and political principles, did not arm the new world party. Worse still, it made it vulnerable to the opportunism rampant within the revolutionary movement. Contrary to what Lenin and the Bolsheviks had predicted, opportunism within the party deepened and, with the degeneration of the revolution, it ended up holding a dominant place, precipitating the end of the CI as a class party. This is illustrated in this third part of this series.
The last article published in this issue of the Review, “The difficult evolution of the proletarian political milieu since May 1968” is the continuation of a series of two, the first of which was published in International Review nº 163. It covered the period 1968-1980, which had seen the most important developments within the international proletarian milieu, following the events of 1968 in France. If the resurgence of the class struggle had given a significant impetus to the revival of the proletarian political movement, and thus to the regrouping of its forces, this dynamic had begun to face some difficulties from the beginning of the 1980s. Already at this time, the proletarian political milieu was going through a major crisis, marked by the failure of the International Conferences of the Communist Left, the splits within the ICC and the implosion of the Bordigist International Communist Party (Programme Communiste). The general failure of the class to politicise its struggles also meant that the very significant growth of the proletarian political milieu at the end of the 1960s and in the 1970s had begun to slow down or stagnate. In this second part, we highlight the negative impact on the evolution of the proletarian milieu of a number of factors, in particular the decomposition of society and the development of political parasitism.
The revolutionary minority, as part of the class, is not unaffected by the pressures of a disintegrating social system that clearly has no future and gives rise to a flight towards seeking individual solutions, a loss of confidence in collective activity and the mistrust of revolutionary organisations and despair about the future.
Moreover, in the early 2000s, the ICC had been faced with a serious internal crisis behind which was a clan comprising militants who slandered certain comrades and spread rumours that one member of the organisation was a state agent manipulating the others. This clan would give rise to a totally parasitic organisation, the “Internal Fraction of the ICC”, whose members were expelled from the ICC for behaviour unacceptable from communist militants, including the theft of the organisation's funds and the publication of sensitive internal information that could have put our militants at risk from the police.
Since then, this group, which subsequently changed its name to the International Group of the Communist Left, has provided new evidence showing it embodies a form of parasitism so despicable that it is impossible to distinguish its activities from those of the political police. Unfortunately, this situation has not produced an appropriate response from within the proletarian camp, one that expresses solidarity and the concern to exclude these practices (and those who engage in them), foreign to the workers' movement, from the proletarian camp.
The period 2004-2011 had seen the emergence of new forces seeking revolutionary answers to explain the impasse of the social order. The ICC reacted to these developments as broadly as was possible, which was absolutely necessary, as without passing on the legacy of the communist left to a new generation, there can be no hope of a movement towards the future party. But there were important weaknesses in our intervention at that time and, in particular, opportunist ones, illustrated in particular by the hasty integration of those comrades who were to form the Turkish section of the ICC in 2009 and would then leave the ICC in 2015. This example has provided a significant lesson from which the organisations of the communist left camp should be able to benefit in its future integrations, as should be the case with all the lessons of its experiences since the historic revival of May 1968.
Despite the very concrete dangers of this final phase of capitalist decadence, we don't think that the working class has said its last word or made its last response. A number of factors currently testify to a process of communist politicisation within a small but significant minority which is turning towards the positions of the communist left.
14 02 2021