In the face of a mad rush towards chaos and war, the world-wide development of the class struggle

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All the calamities generated by capitalism - exploitation, misery, unemployment, climatic disasters and war - are weighing more and more heavily and dramatically on the life of society, and in particular on the exploited class and the world's poor. The deadly conflict in Ukraine, for example, looks set to last until both sides are exhausted, while the more recent and particularly barbaric conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas carries the risk of uncontrolled escalation of war in the region. After 30 years of paralysis in the face of the bourgeoisie's attacks, our class is beginning to resist new, more violent attacks through often massive struggles. This other dynamic, at work since the Summer of Anger in 2022 in the UK, illustrates the existence in society of two opposing and antagonistic poles:

On the one hand, an infernal spiral of convulsions, chaos and destruction, increasingly driven by imperialist war and the general militarisation of society, combining their effects with those of the decomposition of society[1] , the economic crisis and the ecological crisis. All these factors do not act independently of each other, but combine and interact to produce a "whirlwind effect" (the existence of which the most far-sighted members of the world bourgeoisie cannot fail to recognise[2] ) which concentrates, catalyses and multiplies each of the effects of the various factors involved, causing devastation on an even higher level.

On the other hand, stimulated by a wave of economic attacks leading to a considerable deterioration in its living conditions, the working class is fighting on its own class terrain with determination and often en masse in the world's main industrialised countries.

The dynamics of the first pole - capitalism's spiral of convulsions - can only lead to a dramatic sinking of humanity into misery, chaos and warlike barbarity, or even to its disappearance in the not-too-distant future if nothing is done to reverse the course of events. The second pole, on the other hand, is that of the opening up of another perspective for humanity, driven by the development of the class struggle. Thus, if the working class is capable of developing its struggles to the level of the bourgeoisie's attacks, but also of raising their politicisation to the level of what is at stake in history, then, after the first world revolutionary wave of 1917-23, the prospect of the overthrow of capitalism on a world scale will open up once again.

The convulsions of capitalism

a. The rising tide of social breakdown

This is the product of a situation where, in the 1980s, faced with a deepening economic crisis with no way out, the two fundamental and antagonistic classes of society confronted each other without succeeding in imposing their own decisive response (that of world war for the bourgeoisie, that of revolution for the proletariat). The inability of the ruling class to offer the slightest perspective for society as a whole, and the inability of the proletariat to openly assert its own, led to a period of generalised decomposition, of society rotting on its feet as the contradictions of capitalism in crisis deepen[3] .

A further worsening of the crisis could only give greater impetus to all the ravages of the decomposition of society that has been going on for 25 years, to the increasing fragmentation and dislocation of the social fabric, to such an extent that some of its expressions are now clearly part of this desolate landscape: the degradation of thinking, the explosion of mental and psychological illnesses, the development of the most irrational and suicidal behaviour, the irruption of violence into every aspect of social life, mass killings carried out by unbalanced people, harassment in schools and on the Internet, savage settling of scores between gangs, etc.

None of the global factions of the bourgeoisie has been spared the decomposition of its system, as shown by the rise of populism with the arrival in government of aberrant figures such as Trump in the United States, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Milei in Argentina, etc. In some countries, the rise of populism to power is synonymous with no less aberrant choices, irrational from the point of view of the interests of the bourgeoisie itself, with possible global repercussions. For example, if Trump returns to power in the next US elections, he is likely to withdraw financial and military support for Ukraine - although this war was originally intended to weaken Russia and thus deprive China of possible Russian military support in a likely future military conflict between the US and China. Similarly, it is foreseeable that Trump in power will only encourage Netanyahu to go on the offensive everywhere, risking a regional conflagration that would require Uncle Sam to become heavily involved in the region to defend its hegemony.

b. The climate crisis is the result of capitalism's over-exploitation of nature

Recent events leave no room for doubt or relativisation when it comes to the consequences of ecological damage on the habitability of the planet and the survival of many species, including, ultimately, the human species: catastrophic massive flooding in Pakistan; temperatures rising this summer to over 40 degrees in the countries of southern Europe; pollution that forced schools to close in India for the Christmas holidays in November, causing respiratory problems in 1 in 3 children; the current pneumonia epidemic among children in China; famines in Africa, etc.

Subjected to the laws of capitalism, nature will be less and less able to shelter and feed the human race: fish stocks are threatened not only by industrial overfishing, but also by ocean warming; soil exhaustion and water shortages - resulting from persistent drought - are considerably reducing yields, particularly in tropical and subtropical areas. In the Horn of Africa, more than 23 million people are acutely food insecure and 5.1 million children suffer from acute malnutrition. And the worst is clearly ahead of us, as the environment approaches a series of "tipping points" where the damage caused will become uncontrollable, leading to new levels of destruction. [4]

In the face of these disastrous prospects, major international conferences such as COP 28 in the United Arab Emirates are nothing more than discussion forums designed to give the illusion that "something is being done", while certain sections of the ruling class are becoming increasingly "realistic" by opting to adapt to inevitable global warming rather than try to fight it. In fact, the objective function of COP 28 (and of all the others that have preceded or will follow) is to maintain the mystification that capitalism can solve the climate challenge, while the inability of the various national bourgeoisies to put aside their rivalries is leading humanity towards oblivion.

Faced with those who have no illusions about COP-type deceptions, there are calls to fight for the planet from groups that are often critical - even radically critical - of the COP meetings or even of today's society, but which, in their programme, do not put forward the only solution to the climate problems: the overthrow of capitalism by the only force in society capable of doing so, the working class.

c. The cancer of war and militarism

War under decadent capitalism is plunging humanity into misery and threatening its survival, taking on proportions unequalled in human history. The two World Wars and the many 'local' conflicts that have continued since the Second World War are an edifying illustration of this.

There are currently 56 wars worldwide, involving 1.1 billion people (14% of the world's population). War is thus the most ‘dynamic’ component of the spiral of destruction ravaging the world.

While the carnage continues in Ukraine, Sudan, Yemen, Ethiopia, the South Caucasus and Nagorno-Karabakh, and war tensions persist in the Balkans, a new imperialist war zone, the one between Israel and Hamas, is making its brutal appearance, with its trail of destruction, mass emigration, and civilian deaths. The current wars in Ukraine[5] and the Middle East[6] are a dramatic confirmation of this dynamic, and, for now, are its high point.

These wars have already killed or wounded hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians. They are plunging large sections of the population into extreme poverty. Their impact extends beyond the borders of Ukraine, Russia and Palestine. For example, the damage caused to Ukraine's agriculture, or the blockade on that country's exports of agricultural products, has led to a worsening and spread of malnutrition throughout the world. What's more, the ferocity of the Israeli bourgeoisie is not leaving a single square metre of land in the Gaza enclave safe from the bombs (and from hunger and epidemics) and is causing a gigantic exodus of the Palestinian population.

The risks of collateral effects also threaten populations even far from the battlefields, with, for example in Ukraine, the possible emission of radioactive clouds from nuclear power stations damaged accidentally or deliberately during the fighting.

Not only do people suffer from war, but so does the planet. The war machine's need for oil, gas and coal is leading to an exorbitant increase in the consumption of fossil fuels. While the failure of COP 28 to commit to reducing fossil fuel consumption was rightly attributed to the veto by Saudi Arabia and other oil producers (which in reality merely concealed a veto by most states), what was deliberately left in the dark was the insatiable need for oil, gas and coal by armed forces (tanks, military vehicles, combat aircraft, ... all of which consume a lot of fuel) the world over, starting with the most powerful countries. A study[7] of the carbon consumption of the US armed forces as a whole (air force, army and navy) reveals that they alone "pollute and consume more fuel than most countries in the world". The armed forces of EU countries contribute more to the greenhouse effect than all the cars in Portugal, Norway and Greece put together, not to mention the 'carbon footprint' of the European military industry. We should also take into account the pollution of the soil and atmosphere in war zones as a result of the munitions fired. If all these considerations were carefully avoided in the discussions at COP28, it is precisely because capitalism is war, and the only way to get rid of war is to get rid of capitalism.

As for the economic cost of all wars (the destruction of economic and social infrastructures, spending on weapons, etc.), this is ultimately borne by the population, the working class in particular, through ever-increasing levies on national budgets.

The economic irrationality of war during the decadence of capitalism is obvious: all belligerents lose. But what is most striking is that, with the period of decomposition, the irrationality of war also affects the strategic gains expected by all the belligerents, including the ‘victors’. Everyone loses out in this respect. And the war that has just broken out in the Middle East is already more irrational and barbaric than the one in Ukraine.

d. The ingredients for the next economic recession are there

The crisis of overproduction which reappeared in 1967, and whose first effects were at the origin of the international waves of class struggle, has since only worsened despite all the efforts of the bourgeoisie to slow its course. And it couldn't be any other way, because there is no solution to the crisis within capitalism. The only thing it can do, and which it has already used and abused, is to postpone the effects until later. So not only is debt, the main palliative to capitalism's historic crisis and already used on a massive scale, losing its effectiveness - thus further restricting the possibility of reviving the economy - but, what's more, the existence of this colossal accumulated debt makes capitalism vulnerable to ever more devastating convulsions.

After the open crisis of 2008, which marked the end of the ‘opportunities’ offered by globalisation, the even more obvious inability of the ruling class to overcome the crisis of its mode of production has resulted in an explosion of every man for himself in relations between nations and within each nation, with the gradual return of protectionism and the unilateral calling into question, on the part of the two main powers, of multilateralism and the institutions of globalisation. As a result, the bourgeoisie today finds itself more ill-equipped than ever to deal with the deepening of the current crisis and its possible brutal expressions, especially as the unity of action of the bourgeoisie at international level, which still existed at the time of the 2008 crisis, is de facto excluded.

The situation is made all the more serious by the fact that three factors are playing an increasingly important role in worsening the crisis: social breakdown, climate change and war. Indeed :

  • social breakdown is increasingly contributing to the disorganisation of production and trade;
  • Climate change is impacting agricultural production and productivity in the United States, China and Europe. Extreme rainfall and flooding are irreparably ruining entire regions or even states (such as Pakistan) by destroying vital infrastructure and disrupting the functioning of the industrial production system;
  • War represents a huge cost for the economy, due to the increase in unproductive expenditure (armaments) but also to the destruction caused by conflicts.

For all these reasons, the next open expression of the economic crisis promises to be more serious than that of 1929.

A new level of peril

All states are now preparing for 'high-intensity' warfare. Military budgets are rising rapidly everywhere, so that the proportion of national wealth devoted to armaments is back to the same level as - and even exceeds - that reached at the height of the confrontation between the blocs. Every national capital is reorganising its national economy to strengthen its military industry and guarantee its strategic independence.

The worsening of imperialist tensions and conflicts over the last two years shows that war, as an action desired and planned by the capitalist states, is becoming the most powerful factor in chaos and destruction.

a. The perpetuation of the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel/Palestine represents an enormous potential for amplifying war and chaos.

In Ukraine, both sides need to enlist more soldiers to maintain the current pressure on the fronts and the balance of military forces. This means more sacrifices on both sides and more repression of any expression of resistance to the demands of the state. It is already clear that the United States will not be able to maintain its financial and military support for Ukraine at its current level, and it is foreseeable that Europe will not be able, or even willing, to take over from the United States in this respect. This issue is likely to divide Europe, weaken it and possibly, in the long term, lead to its break-up, leaving a patchwork of imperialist tensions between its former members.

In the Middle East, after three months of conflict, nothing seems able to calm Netanyahu's imperialist aims, which unashamedly include the eradication of the Gazans. The massive US military presence in the region - justified by the fact that Israel has for decades been a strategic support for US imperialism in the Middle East - has so far prevented the enormous powder keg that is the Middle East from igniting, notably by pitting Israel against Iran, which is supported by its various militias in Lebanon and Yemen. The fact that the United States had to hastily assemble a naval force to secure maritime traffic on the Red Sea, affected by hostile fire from the Yemeni Houthis, is a serious indication of the explosive nature of the situation. The fact that a number of European countries have kept their distance from this American initiative speaks volumes about the difficulties that the United States may encounter in the future in this area[8] .

b. The limits of American global strategy

The backdrop to the current world situation is the US bourgeoisie's plan to halt China's expansion before it threatens US military and economic domination of the world[9] . Preventing this from happening will necessarily involve a military confrontation, the consequences of which would be disastrous for the world, even if the scale of such a conflict would be limited by several factors, in particular the absence of established world imperialist blocs and the fact that the American bourgeoisie will face certain limits in getting an undefeated working class to accept the consequences of war, a class which has recently demonstrated its fighting spirit in the face of economic attacks[10] . The war in Ukraine was entirely in the service of this perspective of the United States, which incited Russia to invade Ukraine[11] . But the fact that this conflict is dragging on beyond what was certainly expected by the United States, as well as the outbreak of war in the Middle East - against the grain of Uncle Sam's plans - are complicating the United States' task enormously, as the following passages from an article in the newspaper Le Monde highlight:  "Faced with new conflicts in Europe and the Middle East, and tensions in the Indo-Pacific, Washington must mobilise its forces on all fronts, exacerbating the vulnerabilities of its military apparatus at a pivotal political period. (...)"[12]

c. What kind of war could the current dynamic lead to?

World War III is not on the agenda in the current situation. Contrary to the rhetoric - wherever it comes from - pointing to the prospect of a Third World War, the current proliferation of conflicts is not the expression of a dynamic towards the formation of two imperialist blocs, a prerequisite for a Third World War, but confirms on the contrary the tendency towards ‘every man for himself’ in imperialist confrontations. The fact that we live in an essentially multipolar world is reflected in the multiplicity of conflicts under way around the world, as illustrated, for example, by the ambiguous relations between Russia and China. While Russia has shown itself very willing to ally itself with China on specific issues, generally in opposition to the United States, it is no less aware of the danger of subordinating itself to its eastern neighbour, as demonstrated by the fact that it is one of the main opponents of China's "New Silk Road" towards imperialist hegemony.

The multipolarity underpinning current imperialist conflicts should not, however, lead us to underestimate the danger of uncontrolled military conflicts erupting, as happened at the start of the war in Ukraine in 2022.[13]

d. World war is not on the agenda, but the destruction of humanity through mounting chaos is increasingly a real threat.

In the central capitalist countries, the bourgeoisie does not for the moment have the political and ideological means to maintain its control over the working class - which has not suffered physical and political defeat - with a view to a frontal and total military confrontation with another power, requiring the proletariat to bear the sacrifices necessary for the war effort.

That said, even in the absence of a world war between rival imperialist blocs, for which the conditions are not ripe, the current situation is full of perils that threaten humanity, including war. The number of local wars is on the increase, with increasingly damaging consequences for life on earth, which is at the mercy of the use of all kinds of weapons, including nuclear and chemical weapons.

The future belongs to the class struggle

Faced with the pole leading to the destruction of humanity stands the alternative pole of the class struggle of the proletariat. The former, with its accumulation of barbarity and mortal perils on an ever-expanding scale, appears like a Goliath, terrifying and disproportionate, faced with the David of a revival of the class struggle, less than two years old.

How can the proletarian David put an end to the downward spiral of convulsions, chaos and destruction of decaying capitalism? By following in the footsteps of the first worldwide attempt by the proletariat to overthrow capitalism in 1917-23. It was the Russian revolution of 1917 that put an end to the First World War. Conversely, the defeat and enlistment of the proletariat in the Second World War opened the door to an endless succession of wars (Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East). A clear lesson can be drawn from the period 1914-68: only the world proletariat can put an end to war, while its enlistment under bourgeois banners opens the door to the unleashing of militarism.

The period 1968-1989 is also rich in lessons. The historical re-emergence of our class, expressed in struggles such as May '68, the hot autumn in Italy, the mass strike in Poland, etc., halted the march towards the Third World War which, with its unbridled race for nuclear weapons, could have wiped out the planet. However, these workers' struggles went no further than constituting an obstacle to the march towards world war, because they were confined to the economic level without being able to become more politicised by questioning capitalism and understanding the historical stakes of the class struggle. As a result, they were unable to prevent capitalism from rotting on its feet and its consequences for all aspects of life in society, including the exacerbation of every man for himself at the imperialist level.[14]

The massive strikes in Britain in the summer of 2022, with their slogan "Enough is enough", were the first in a new international dynamic of class struggle, breaking with a whole period of 30 years of retreat.

Since then, major mobilisations have taken place in France, Germany, Canada, Denmark, the United States, Iceland, Bangladesh, Scandinavia, Quebec... most of them constituting, in the opinion even of the bourgeois media, a "historic event", marking a "break" with the previous situation in terms of massiveness and combativity. They are being led by a new generation of workers who have not been subjected to the steamrollering of the campaigns on the death of communism and the ‘disappearance’ of the working class developed by the bourgeoisie following the collapse of the Stalinist regimes; on the contrary, they are the product of a maturing of consciousness within our class, fed by a considerable worsening of the attacks of capitalism in crisis.[15]

In this respect, this renewal of the class struggle is comparable to the emergence of the class struggle in 1968, faced with the return of the open crisis of capitalism and carried by a new generation of the working class which had not, like its elders, been wiped out in terms of consciousness by the counter-revolution following the failure of the revolutionary wave of 1917-23. But the new generation is now faced with a much more difficult task than the '68 generation. At that time, the bourgeoisie had to mobilise its trade unions, its left wing and sometimes its extreme left. However, the level of politicisation achieved by the working class at that time proved insufficient to cope with a series of obstacles: democratic illusions in Poland, which were largely responsible for the defeat of the 1980 struggles, and the resurgence of corporatism in the countries of Western Europe, as a consequence of the impact on the working class of the development of the ‘every man for himself’ mentality in society. From now on, it will be up to current and future generations of workers to raise the politicisation of their struggles to a much higher level in order to direct them towards the revolutionary perspective of overthrowing capitalism. Revolutionaries have a fundamental role to play in this necessary awakening of consciousness.

The role and responsibilities of revolutionaries

For a political vanguard to be fully involved in the struggle of the working class and capable of guiding it, it is essential that it has been able to emerge from the process of confrontation of political positions initiated by the activity of the Communist Left and its intervention in struggles. In this sense, the organisations which belong to this current must assume such a responsibility, which is far from being the case today, preoccupied as they are with immediate recruitment, often at the price of opportunist concessions.

Sylunken (20/01/2024)


[1] " All these signs of the social putrefaction which is invading every pore of human society on a scale never seen before, can only express one thing: not only the dislocation of bourgeois society, but the destruction of the very principle of collective life in a society devoid of the slightest project or perspective, even in the short term, and however illusory” (“Theses on decomposition”, International Review 107).

[2] Cf. the report presented at the Davos Forum in January 2023, referred to in the Update of the Theses on Decompostion (2023) for the 25e ICC International Congress, International Review 170.

[4] The collapse of the system of ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream, an essential regulator of the planet's climate, could, if confirmed, radically alter the Earth's climate and considerably weaken the human species in the space of a few decades. The melting of the tundra and ice caps in the North and the decline of the Amazon rainforest (increasingly threatened by drought and forest fires) raise the frightening prospect that the forest will begin to emit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than it can absorb.

[7] A study revealing that the US armed forces pollute and consume more fuel than most countries in the world. It is based on another study published in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.

[8] "Although the United States announced in December that it had the support of more than twenty countries, reinforcements to the coalition have so far been extremely limited, sometimes amounting to no more than sending a few extra officers: three Dutch, two Canadians and around ten Norwegians. At the end of December, Denmark announced that it would be sending a frigate ‘before the end of January’, but this deployment required parliamentary approval. Italy also announced that it was sending a ship to the Red Sea at the end of December, before distancing itself from the anti-Houthi coalition. Like Paris and Madrid, which diverted a vessel already operating in nearby areas (the Gulf of Aden and the Strait of Hormuz), Rome wanted to retain autonomous command over its vessel." "Coalition anti-Houthists : les États-Unis en manque de renforts en mer Rouge" - Le Monde (January 12, 2024)

[9] Read the “Resolution on the international situation”, December 2023”, International Review 171

[11] Read the “Resolution on the international situation”, December 2023”, International Review 171 and the "Resolution on the international situation, 25th ICC Congress", International Review 170.

[13] “Resolution on the international situation”, December 2023, ibid.

[15] ibid


World-wide class struggle or capitalist devastation