Presentation to two online meetings about the war in the Ukraine and the resulting social situation, held in the English language early in September 2022.
To begin this presentation, we would first like to go over the causes of this war, which we have already developed in our previous public meetings and in our press:
- the United States wants to maintain and revive its role as the leading power in the world;
- this is why they tricked Russia into invading Ukraine, saying that in case of invasion they would not intervene;
-following the invasion, they have unleashed a campaign to support Ukraine by forcing European countries to line up behind them;
- the immediate objective is to weaken Russia significantly, both militarily and economically, and to do this they are counting on a long war, which will exhaust Russia on both counts;
- in this way, they also weaken China by weakening its most important ally, and issue a warning to China about what it can expect in case of an invasion of Taiwan (the US having said that it would defend Taiwan's independence);
- finally, they forced European countries to fall in line behind them, which is not exactly the ambition of these countries (notably France and Germany).
Today, after 6 months of war, it appears that none of this has been put into question: the war continues, and it is highly likely that it will continue for many more months, if not years. Indeed, Russia cannot end it without signing its own death warrant as a major player on the international scene. And even if it succeeded in gaining total control of the Donbass, it would have to maintain a strong military presence there to face the "partisan" war that the Ukraine, with the help of the USA, would wage against it. The US, on the other hand, has an interest in the continuation of the war in order to go as far as possible in its objective of bleeding Russia dry. On the Russian side as well as on the US side, the cost, the material damage, the deaths and the devastation do not matter: the war must go on to the end.
The recent NATO summit (which announced the will to intervene all over the world); the provocation towards China through Nancy Pelosi's trip to Taiwan; the assassination of the leader of Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in Kabul; Biden's trip to Saudi Arabia: all this confirms this will of the USA to impose itself as the only global power, whatever the cost.
This war therefore fully confirms the framework of analysis that the workers' movement has developed on war in decadence, and which the ICC, in continuity with this, has developed on war in the final phase of decadence, the phase of decomposition:
- there is no longer any economic rationality for war, on the contrary. In the ascendancy of capitalism, if there could be wars without a dominant economic aim (i.e. with mainly political aims), most of them were aimed at expanding the control of wealth and markets. In decadence, war itself has more and more become an economic aberration. Because beyond the horrific direct effects of military operations, this war has important repercussions on the global economy: the acceleration of the recession, the increase in inflation, and the growing difficulties in maintaining the globalisation that had allowed for a certain level of economic growth. It has consequences on the social level, with the famines it causes due to the lack of cereals on the market, with the wave of refugees fleeing directly from the war or its economic consequences, environmental consequences, with the ecological destruction in Ukraine (not to mention the danger of nuclear accidents with the bombing of areas containing nuclear power stations); finally, because it implies a race to increase military expenditure (Germany adding 100 billion to its military budget, France, Italy and Japan increasing their budgets), and therefore a development of the war economy, i.e. the tendency to subject the economy to the demands of war;
- war in decadence and decomposition is thus marked by total irrationality: no party to the war and no power involved will gain anything from it, on the contrary. All that will be left of Ukraine is a wasteland and the enormous expenses incurred will be irrecoverable. Even if there were markets to be recovered, shale gas to be sold, how many years, decades, centuries even, would it take for the profits to compensate for the expenses incurred in the war? Western aid to Ukraine now amounts to more than 75 billion dollars, and counting!
- finally, the fundamental characteristic of imperialist relations in the phase of decomposition is verified here again: the development of every man for himself. Beyond the immediate success obtained by the USA, its will to remain the only leader of the world is and will be challenged not only by China and Russia, but also by its current "allies" who do not want to give up defending their own interests on the imperialist level. Turkey is already doing so in an open way, but also the increase in military spending by Germany, France, and perhaps Japan, are a clear sign that these countries are not giving up their own ambitions, which means an exacerbation of imperialist tensions. Today, the alignment of the great European powers behind the United States is a forced, conjunctural alliance, which has not at all extinguished the will of each of these countries to take their place on the imperialist scene.
This war is part of a series of phenomena: the warlike tensions all over the world, the pandemic, climate change, uncontrollable fires and the strong nuclear threat contained in this war... these phenomena are not isolated and conjunctural, they express the fact that capitalism is in a specific period of its decadence, a further stage marked by the general decomposition of society which carries within it the threat of the annihilation of humanity. The only future that capitalism promises to humanity is one of chaos, misery, famine and despair. And ultimately, extinction.
This is what is at stake in the current historical situation, and revolutionaries have the duty to make the proletariat see this. We have tried to do this with our web and paper press, with an international leaflet distributed in all the countries where it was possible, with physical and online public meetings and with the appeal to the proletarian political milieu that gave rise to the Joint Declaration of three groups of the internationalist milieu, available in our press.
The response of the working class
But it would be illusory to think that the proletariat can, today, fully hear our calls and respond on its own class terrain to the war (which would mean developing the revolution).
First of all, because war is not a favourable terrain for the working class. We see this with the Ukrainian proletariat, which is suffering the worst consequences of the war, because it has suffered a major political defeat, being dragged behind the bourgeoisie in the "defence of the fatherland". It is also a clear confirmation that the proletariat of the peripheral countries is not the best equipped to resist the weight of the nationalist, democratic and warlike ideology of the bourgeoisie.
Thus, the Russian proletariat has not managed to oppose the war either: even if it has not been totally dragged behind its own bourgeoisie, it does not have enough strength to actively demonstrate its hostility to the war.
And finally, even if the proletariat of the Western countries is the one that has the greatest potential to oppose the war, the war also brought a moment of paralysis, in addition to the impact of the pandemic, which had interrupted the tendency towards the revival of combativity shown by the struggle against the pension reform in France and the strikes in different countries (USA, Italy, Iran, Spain).
Even today, the situation shows that the main ally of the working class in its historical struggle is the crisis. And the war in Ukraine, which follows the Covid pandemic, is producing devastating effects at this level: inflation, an economy turned towards war which requires increases in productivity, an ever-increasing debt etc. The bourgeoisie will have no choice but to attack the working class and is already preparing for it. The working class of these countries, already under enormous pressure to pay the bill for the pandemic, already directly affected by inflation, will suffer massive new attacks.
But the proletariat of the Western countries is not defeated, it is not ready to accept the sacrifices that the economic crisis of capital imposes on it (and obviously even less the sacrifices that a war directly involving these countries would imply). It had shown this before the pandemic, it had shown this at the end of 2021, it is beginning to show this again through a series of strikes and demonstrations that are developing in several countries, some of them unprecedented in their scale for several years, which show that the accumulated anger is beginning to be transformed into a will to struggle.
These strikes and demonstrations have developed in several countries: the United States, Spain, last autumn and winter, France, Germany, Belgium this summer, and in others they are expected: France, Italy. A hot autumn is being prepared everywhere.
But first it is the working class in Britain that is telling us that the working class is beginning to react with determination to the consequences of the crisis. This massive movement called "The Summer of Discontent", in reference to the "Winter of Discontent" of 1979, involves workers in more and more sectors every day: the trains, then the London Underground, British Telecom, the Post Office, the dockers of Felixstowe (a vital port in Britain), the dustmen and bus drivers in different parts of the country, Amazon, etc. Today transport workers, tomorrow health workers and teachers.
All the journalists and commentators note that this is the biggest working class movement in this country for decades; you have to go back to the huge strikes of 1979 to find a bigger and more massive movement. A movement of this scale in a country as important as the UK is not a "local" event, as we said in our leaflet published at the end of August, it is an event of international significance, a message to the exploited of all countries.
These strikes are a response to decades of attack, and decades of apathy on the part of the British working class, which was not only paying for the disarray that hit the working class worldwide with the collapse of the Eastern bloc and the "death of communism" campaigns that followed it, but also the heavy defeat of the miners in the mid-1980s. In particular they are a response to the loss of purchasing power caused by inflation and wage stagnation. Today's struggles are indispensable not only to defend ourselves against the attacks but also to regain our class identity on a global scale, to prepare the overthrow of this system, which is synonymous with misery and catastrophes of all kinds.
All over the world, the working class is living in a situation where inflation is eroding its purchasing power, where it is suffering from floods and droughts caused by climate change, the casualisation of work, etc. Today, the proletarians of the Western countries are being asked by their governments for new sacrifices, to cope with inflation and the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, while they increase military spending for their imperialist ambitions. This is also what the proletarian strikes in the UK bear the seeds of, even if the workers are not always fully aware of it: the refusal to sacrifice more and more for the interests of the ruling class, the refusal to make sacrifices for the national economy and for the war effort, the refusal to accept the logic of this system which is leading humanity towards catastrophe and, ultimately, to its destruction.
If the current struggles in the UK herald this revival of combativity and all the potential that this contains, we must not forget all the obstacles and traps that stand in front of the class and that the bourgeoisie puts forward to prevent the development of this potential.
On the ideological level, with:
- nationalist ideological hype to support one side against another, under the banner of the "defence of democracy" against "autocracies";
- pacifist ideology in the face of destruction and death;
On the level of the struggles themselves:
- the danger of interclassist struggles (the crisis also affects petty-bourgeois layers);
- the sabotaging action of the left-wing parties and above all of the trade unions. The great majority of the current strikes have been called by the trade unions, which thus present themselves as indispensable for organising the struggle and defending the exploited. The unions are indispensable, yes, but for the defence of bourgeois order and for organising the defeat of the working class. We know that the unions mobilise to prevent the class from fighting autonomously, their task being precisely to control and sabotage the workers' combativity. By taking the lead, these servants of the bourgeois state aim to avoid being overwhelmed by the workers' anger.
Today we must avoid the danger of getting carried away and falling into activism. We must be clear that the working class does not have the immediate capacity to end the war. It is a slow and bumpy process that will involve confrontation with trade union sabotage, with the impossibility of the bourgeoisie to concede significant improvements to the living conditions of the proletarians, and also with the repression of the bourgeois state. It is through this process that the proletariat will be able to advance in its consciousness. And, increasingly, faced with all the different manifestations of the bankruptcy of the system (and thus also with the question of war), the proletariat will be obliged to reflect on the necessity for a head-on confrontation with capitalism.
Revolutionaries have an essential role to play in this process, by denouncing the war, by highlighting the central responsibility of capitalism in the situation and its consequences, by insisting on the necessity for the working class to oppose the sacrifices imposed by the ruling class .
What the workers' movement declared in 1907 at the Stuttgart Congress of the Second International remains totally relevant: "revolutionaries have the duty to use with all their strength the economic and political crisis created by the war to stir up the deepest popular strata and to hasten the downfall of capitalist rule", Proletarian internationalism is a principle which must be defended without concession: "no support for one side or another, proletarians have no fatherland".
This slogan must permeate our intervention from today, without any illusion about its immediate impact within a profoundly disoriented proletariat, but without the slightest doubt about the fact that the alternative today remains "socialism or the destruction of humanity" and that there is no force other than the working class that is capable of stopping capitalism’s plunge into chaos and barbarism.
ICC, September 2022