Submitted by International Review on
1. The 5th Congress of the ICC, in its resolution on the international situation, affirmed that "the crisis which is now hitting the metropoles of capitalism with full force will compel the proletariat of these metropoles to express the reserves of combativity which have not as yet been unleashed in a decisive way" and that "the crisis is showing itself to be the best ally of the world proletariat". What was only put forward at the time of the Congress, without sensing how imminent it was, has now become a reality. Since the middle of 1983 the working class has come out of the retreat marked by the defeat in Poland and has embarked upon a new wave of battles against capitalism. In less than six months, countries like Belgium, Holland, France, the USA, Spain and to a lesser extent Germany, Britain and Italy have seen important or significant class movements.
2. The present resurgence of struggle expresses the fact that, in the present period of an inexorable and catastrophic aggravation of the crisis of capitalism, in a context of a historic course towards class confrontations, moments of retreat by the proletariat are and will more and more be short-lived. What is being shown by this resurgence is that today partial defeats and the momentary disorientation that they permit or provoke cannot decisively hold back the capacity of the proletariat to respond in a growing manner to the increasingly violent attacks mounted by capital. It shows once again that since 1968 it is the working class which holds the historic initiative, which on a global level has gone onto the offensive against a bourgeoisie which, despite a step by step defense of its interests and a massive deployment of its anti-working class arsenal, does not have a free hand to put forward its own response to the crisis: generalized imperialist war.
3. The present wave of struggles has already announced that it is going to be broader and more important than the two waves which preceded it since the historic resurgence of struggle at the end of the ‘60s: that of 1968-74 and 1978-80.
The main characteristics of the first wave were:
-- that it announced in a loud and spectacular manner (notably with May ‘68 in France, ‘rampant May' in Italy, the confrontations in Poland) the end of the period of counter-revolution, the beginning of a new period dominated by the confrontation between the two major classes in society;
-- that it surprised the bourgeois class, which had lost the habit of seeing the proletariat as a major actor in the life of society,
-- that it developed on the basis of an economic situation which, relatively speaking, had not deteriorated very much, leaving space for many illusions in the proletariat, notably that of the existence of a ‘left alternative'.
The second wave had the following distinctive elements:
-- it was based on a much more advanced degradation of the capitalist economy and on much more severe attacks on the living conditions of the class;
-- it took place at the transition between two moments in the development of the historic situation: the ‘years of illusion' and the ‘years of truth';
-- it saw the bourgeoisie of the advanced countries reorientate its strategy in the face of the proletariat, replacing the card of the left in power with that of the left in opposition;
-- with the struggles of Poland 1980, it saw the emergence for the first time in more than half a century of that decisive weapon of the class in the period of decadence: the mass strike;
-- it culminated in a country on the periphery belonging to the most backward bloc, which demonstrated the capacity of the bourgeoisie of the metropoles of capital once again to put up considerable lines of defense against the workers' struggle.
The present wave of struggles has its source in the wearing out of the factors which led to the post-Poland retreat:
-- the vestiges of illusions from the 1970s which have been swept away by the very deep recession of 1980-82;
-- momentary disarray provoked by the move of the left into opposition and by the defeat in Poland.
It is emerging:
-- after a long period of austerity and mounting unemployment, of an intensification of economic attacks against the working class in the central countries;
-- following several years of using the card of the left in opposition and all the mystifications associated with it.
For these reasons, it is going to carry on with increasingly powerful and determined battles by the proletariat of the metropoles of capital, the culminating point of which will be at a higher level than either of the first two waves.
4. The characteristics of the present wave, as have already been manifested and which will become more and more discernable are as follows:
-- a tendency towards very broad movements involving large numbers of workers, hitting entire sectors or several sectors simultaneously in one country, thus posing the basis for the geographical extension of the struggle;
-- a tendency towards the outbreak of spontaneous movements, showing, especially at the beginning, a certain bypassing of the unions;
-- the growing simultaneity of struggles at an international level, laying the basis for the world generalization of struggles in the future;
-- a progressive development, within the whole proletariat, of its confidence in itself, of its awareness of its strength, its capacity to oppose itself as a class to the attacks of the capitalists;
-- the slow rhythm of the development of struggles in the central countries and notably of their capacity for self-organization, a phenomenon which results from the deployment by the bourgeoisie of these countries of a whole arsenal of traps and mystifications, and which has been shown again in the most recent confrontations.
5. In contrast to 1968 and in continuity with what happened in 1978, the present revival is in no way faced with an unprepared bourgeoisie. It is going to come up against the complete gamut of responses that the bourgeoisie has already made to the combativity and consciousness of the proletariat, responses which it will be continually perfecting:
-- the international solidarity of the bourgeoisie, which has been manifested particularly in the use of the black-out or distortion of the meaning of struggles by the media;
-- organization of campaigns of diversion of various kinds (pacifism, scandals, etc) ;
-- division of labor between different sectors of the bourgeoisie: right and left, left and leftists, union leaders and base unionism;
-- the posing of bourgeois demands during struggles (defense of the national economy or of this or that sector of the economy, or of unions ‘threatened' by the bourgeoisie) ;
-- false calls for extension and generalization through the unions, aimed at preventing a real extension;
-- selective and ‘intelligent' use of repression with the aim both of demoralizing workers and creating points of fixation that derail combativity from its initial objectives.
6. The need to take into consideration and to denounce the considerable means and obstacles set in motion by the bourgeoisie should not, however, lead to a lack of confidence in the capacity of the proletariat to confront and overcome them. These obstacles are the reason for the slow and progressive development of struggles in the metropoles (which does not exclude the possibility of sudden accelerations at certain moments, notably in cases where the bourgeoisie has not been able to put its left forces in opposition, as in Spain and especially in France). Because of this, the central countries will continue to differ from the countries of the periphery (Eastern Europe and, above all, the Third World) which may go through explosions of anger and despair, violent and massive ‘hunger' revolts which don't have their own perspective and which will be subject to ferocious repression. However, the permanent and increasingly intensive and simultaneous use by the bourgeoisie of the advanced countries of all these means for sabotaging struggles will necessarily lead to them being used up:
-- black-outs and falsifications will lead to a absolute lack of confidence in the bourgeois media;
-- campaigns of diversion will more and more show their real face in the light of the reality of social struggles;
-- the most radical contortions of the left and the leftists, the unions and base unionists, by leading struggles to impasses and defeat will result in a growing distrust towards these forces of capital, as is already being shown in the present period, notably through a clear tendency towards de-unionization (in terms of membership and of the involvement of workers in the life of the unions);
-- the use of repression, even if it will be ‘moderated' in the advanced countries in the coming period, will in the end lead to a growing consciousness of the need for a direct and massive confrontation with the state.
In the final analysis, capitalism's total economic impasse, the growing misery into which the system plunges the working class, will progressively wear out all the mystifications which up to now have allowed the bourgeoisie to maintain its control over society, notably the mystification of the ‘welfare state'. While it would be false to expect in the coming period to see sudden ‘qualitative leaps' or the immediate, emergence of the mass strike in the central countries, it is on the other hand necessary to underline the tendency towards confrontations which have already begun to take on a more and more massive, powerful and simultaneous character.
In this sense, as has already been said, "the crisis is showing itself to be the best ally of the proletariat."