Report on the national situation from the section of the ICC in Germany
The development of the contradictions which are at present unfolding in Germany constitutes a fundamental key to the evolution of the situation globally. We are printing below a report of our section in this country which draws out the international dynamic and the different possibilities that it opens up.
The development of the German economy before economic and monetary union
Whereas at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s the world economy got into ever greater problems, the German economy was still in the midst of a boom. Many records of production, in particular in the car industry, were broken several years running. A new record balance of trade-surplus was again attained in 1989. The capacity utilization rate of industry reached its highest point since the early seventies. For many sectors, the lack of available skilled labor has been the principle factor in the past months preventing an expansion of production. Many companies have had to refuse new orders because of this.
This boom is not an expression of the health of the world economy, but of the tremendous competivity of West German capital - the law of the survival of the fittest. Germany has expanded brutally at the expense of its competitors, as its export surplus amply shows.
Germany's competitive position has been markedly strengthened throughout the 1980s. At the economic level, the main task of the Kohl-Genscher government has been to make an enormous increase in income available to the big companies in order to put through a tremendous modernization and automatization of the productive process. The result has been an incredible wave of rationalizations, comparable in its extent with that which took place in Germany in the 1920s. The main lines of this policy were:
- over 100 billion Marks saved through cuts in social spending and almost directly transferred to the hands of the capitalists through massive tax reductions;
- a series of new laws passed allowing companies to accumulate enormous reserves completely tax free, eg: the creation of private company insurance schemes, through which funds for investment accumulate;
The result has been that big capital today is 'swimming in money'. Whereas at the beginning of the 80s around two thirds of major companies' investments were financed through bank loans, today the top 40 businesses are capable of financing investments almost completely through their own means - a situation completely unique in Europe.
In addition to these financial means, the government has increased enormously the power of the bosses over their labor force - flexibility, deregulation, production around the clock in exchange for a minimal reduction of the working week.
There is no doubt that German industry is profoundly satisfied with the work of the Kohl government during the '80s at this level. At the beginning of 1990 the liberal industrial spokesman Lambsdorff proudly announced:
"West-Germany is today the world's leading industrial country, and the one which needs the least amount of protective measures".
For example, whereas all other EEC countries have taken radical protective measures against Japanese car imports, Germany has been able to keep the Japanese percentage of the German car market to a little over 20%, and in value terms exports more cars to Japan than Japan does to Germany.
The plans of the German bourgeoisie for the 1990s, before the collapse of the East
Despite this relative strength, the rationalization wave of the 1980s was supposed to be only the beginning. In the face of total global overproduction, of the perspective of recession, of the bankruptcy of the third world and of Eastern Europe, it was clear that the 1990s would pose a fight for survival for even the most highly industrialized countries. And this survival could only be at the expense of other industrial rivals.
In face of this challenge, West Germany is far from being so well prepared as would at first appear.
- The sector for the production of the means of production (machines, electronics, chemicals) is tremendously strong. Since Germany never had captive colonial markets, and being a classic producer of means of production, this sector has learned historically that survival is only possible through always being a step ahead of the others.
- Germany was initially much slower than the USA, GB or France, to develop mass production of consumer goods, and especially the car industry. It's essentially after the second world war, with the opening up of the world market for - German exports, while at the same time Germany was to a large extent excluded from the military sector, which allowed it to catch up and become one of the world's leading car nations. Today, in face of absolute overproduction, and with international competition in this area being the most intense, West Germany's extremely high dependence on the car industry (around one third of industrial jobs depend directly or indirectly on it) today opens up truly catastrophic perspectives for the German economy.
- The main area where Germany has suffered from the defeat in world war two has been the high tech sector which historically has been developed above all in connection with the military sector, and from which Germany has been largely excluded. The result is that today, despite its highly modern productive apparatus, Germany lags massively behind the USA and also Japan at this level.
The perspective for the 1990s was therefore to radically reduce the dependency of the German economy on the car industry, not of course by voluntarily surrendering sectors of this market, but by radically developing the high tech sector. In fact, the German bourgeoisie is convinced that in the 1990s it will either make the breakthrough to the leading high tech nations alongside the USA and Japan, or will completely disappear as a major and independent industrial power. This life and death struggle has been prepared for through the 80s, not only through the rationalization and the accumulation of enormous investment sums, but also symbolized through the formation of Europe's largest high tech company under the leadership of Daimler-Benz and the Deutsche Bank. Daimler and Siemens are supposed to be the twin spearheads of this offensive. This bid of German industry for world hegemony in the 1990s requires:
- absolutely gigantic investments, putting those of the 1980s into the shade, and implying in particular an even more massive transfer of income from the working class to the bourgeoisie;
- the existence of political stability both internationally (discipline of the US bloc) and internally, especially vis-a-vis the working class.
Collapse of the East: German war goals finally achieved
After the fall of the Berlin wall, the imperialist world trembled at the thought of a greater unified Germany. Not only abroad, in Germany itself the SPD (social democracy), the unions, the church, the media have all been warning against a new German revanchism, a danger apparently posed by Kohl's Oder-Neisse ambiguities. Such visions about a new Germany putting the frontiers of its neighbors in question, in the footsteps of Adolf Hitler, does not worry the German bourgeoisie very much. In fact, these warnings only serve to hide the real state of affairs: that with the course towards Europe '92 and the collapse of the Eastern bloc, the German bourgeoisie has today already achieved all the goals for which two world wars were fought.
Today, the triumphant German bourgeoisie has absolutely no need to put any frontiers in question in order to become Europe's leading power. The goals of German imperialism, already formulated before 1914, the establishment of a German dominated 'Gropraumwirtschaft' (large-scale economic and trade zone) in Western Europe, and the establishment of a German dominated reservoir for cheap labor and raw materials in Eastern Europe, is today practically a reality. This is why all the fuss about the Oder-Neisse border in fact only hides the real victory of German imperialism in Europe today.
But it should be clear: this victory of German imperialism, for which today the liberal foreign minister Genscher and not the right wing extremists are the best representatives, does not imply that Germany can today dominate Europe in the way Hitler had envisaged. There is no German-led European bloc presently being formed. Whereas in World War I and II Germany believed itself strong enough to dictatorially dominate Europe, this illusion is impossible today. While at that time Germany was the only important industrial country on the European continent, (not counting Britain), this is today no longer the case (France, Italy). German unification will only increase the German percentage of EEC production from 21% to 24%. Moreover, whereas the attempted German military takeover of Europe in World War I and II was only possible because of US isolationism, today US imperialism is massively and immediately present on the old continent and will take great care to prevent any such ambitions from emerging. Moreover, Germany today is militarily much too weak and possesses no weapons of mass destruction. For all these reasons, the formation of a European bloc is under the present conditions only possible if there is one force in Europe strong enough to make all the others submit. This is not the case today.
Germany's victory: A Pyrrhic one
As opposed to the 1930s, Germany today is not the "proletarian nation" (KPD-formulation from the 1920s') excluded from the world market and out to overturn frontiers all around it. As long as it is not excluded from access to world markets and supplies of raw material, the German bourgeoisie has absolutely no ambitions or interest in forming a military bloc in opposition to the USA. In fact Germany today is in a certain sense more a 'conservative' power which has 'got what it wants', and which is mainly worried about 'losing what it has got'. And indeed, Germany is a power which has got everything to lose as a result of the present chaos and decomposition. Its main concern now is to avoid its victory' being turned into a catastrophe - a catastrophe which is very likely to happen.
The costs of unification
These costs are not only gigantic enough to endanger the health of the state's finances and the immediate competitive position of Germany, what is worse, it is more than likely that the capital which will now have to be used for unification was the very instrument which was otherwise foreseen to finance the famous breakthrough to high-tech equality with the US and Japan. In other words, unification, far from being a strengthening at this level, may be the very factor destroying the hopes of the German bourgeoisie of remaining one of the world's leading industrial powers. A true catastrophe.
The costs of Eastern Europe
As much as it will try to erect a new 'Berlin wall' along the Oder-Neisse line to keep out the chaos from the east, it is certain that Germany will be obliged to make investments in the immediately surrounding countries in order to create a kind of 'cordon-sanitaire' against the total anarchy developing further east. Of course, Germany is going to dominate the eastern European markets. However, it's interesting to note that the German bourgeoisie, far from shouting triumphantly about this, is today urgently warning against the dangers this implies:
- the danger that the obligations to invest in the east will lead to permanently losing customers in the west, who are much more important since they pay in hard cash and are much more solvent,
- the danger of a loss of technical edge for German industry, since the goods Eastern Europe will order will necessarily be of a more simple and sturdy construction than that demanded by the world market.
The costs of the break-up of the US bloc
This poses the danger, in the long-term, of the falling apart of the lion's share of the world market previously held together by the bloc discipline and militarily policed by the USA. Such an eventuality would be a disaster for West Germany, as a leading export nation and having been, alongside Japan, the main industrial beneficiary of the post-war world order.
The costs of any weakening of the European Common Market
The European market, and above all the project of Europe '92 are today menaced by the increase of 'each for himself', by the wish to avoid sharing the costs of Eastern Europe, by French reactions against the loss of its joint leadership position with West Germany in Western Europe, which will now be held by Germany alone, etc.
If Europe 1992 (by which we mean the "normalization" and "liberalization" of trade, a certain organization of the battle of each against all, with rules which favor the strongest, and not an impossible "United States of Europe") were to fail, and if the European market were to break up, this would be a total catastrophe for West Germany, since herein lies its main export market. It is therefore an incorrect formulation, often put forward in the bourgeois press, that by going for a rapid reunification, Bonn has put its own interest above that of the EEC. Bonn's own main interest is the EEC. It has been obliged to make unification straightaway through the incredible acceleration of chaos.
The collapse of the Soviet Union
As long as the USSR still stood on its feet, Eastern Europe was, on the one hand, enemy territory for West Germany and a military threat, but on the other hand, it also guaranteed a stable neighborhood on Germany's eastern borders. The terrible chaos today developing in the Soviet Union is a major preoccupation for the USA, is extremely worrying for France and Britain, but for the German bourgeoisie, which is closest to it, it is an absolute nightmare. In the new unified Germany, there will only be Poland separating it from the USSR. Genscher's Foreign Office is haunted by horrible visions of bloody civil wars, of lethal armament dumps and nuclear power stations exploding, of millions of refugees from the Soviet Union flooding towards the west, threatening to completely destroy German political stability.
But if this 'worst possible scenario' is to be avoided, the German bourgeoisie will have to accept an important responsibility to attempt to limit the anarchy in the Soviet Union - which will also represent an enormous economic burden. For example: the West German government has committed itself to respecting and fulfilling all East German delivery commitments to the Soviet Union, a promise which is politically inspired, and will only reluctantly be fulfilled.
Just as the break-up of the EEC would mean the disappearance of the first war-goal victory of German imperialism (Gropraumwirtschaft), the outbreak of total anarchy in the Soviet Union would destroy the second plank, that of Eastern Europe as a supplier of cheap raw materials. This would be all the more tragic for German capitalism, since the Soviet Union is the only suitable reservoir of raw materials not coming from overseas and therefore not depending on the benevolence of the USA.
An example of the negative effects of eastern anarchy on the ambitions of German imperialism: one of Gorbachev's favorite projects is the creation of a tax-free industrial zone in Kaliningrad, which is supposed to become the new Russian window to the west. He intends to transfer Volga-Germans to the ex-German town of Konigsberg in this area as a further incentive to draw German capital. Kaliningrad is thus intended to be Germany's window to the east: ie, a 'safe route' to Siberian raw materials, avoiding the Asiatic soviet republics. Today the separatism and midget imperialism of the Baltic republics is making a mess of such plans Landsbergis has already laid Lithuanian claim to Kaliningrad.
Counter-measures of the German bourgeoisie against chaos and decomposition
In view of the fearful acceleration of crisis, economic trade wars, decomposition and the collapse of the East, there is a real danger that:
- the German bourgeoisie's effort to make a breakthrough in the struggle for world market hegemony against the USA and Japan now takes place under much more unfavorable conditions;
- Germany may completely lose its privileged place as the surf-rider on the wave of crisis at the expense of its rivals. On the contrary, the real danger is that Germany's position may even become particularly fragile, as in the 1930s, but this time in front of a working class historically undefeated.
- the famous German political stability may be shattered by world-wide decomposition and chaos.
The tendency towards total economic ruin and complete chaos is historically irreversible.
Nevertheless, every tendency has counter-tendencies, which in this case won't stop, but which can slow down or at all events influence the course of this movement at certain moments, and ensure that it does not develop equally in all countries. In particular, it necessary to examine the measures the German bourgeoisie is taking to protect itself.
The German bourgeoisie is not only economically the most powerful in Europe, and one rich in often bitter experience, but it also has the most modern political and state structures (eg: the political modernity of the German state by comparison with the British one is just as striking as the difference at the economic level).
The German bourgeoisie has been able to combine its 'traditional qualities' with everything it has learnt from its American mentor in the last 40 years (West Germany is in many ways undoubtedly the most 'Americanized' European country).
Making unification as cheap as possible
Through monetary union, Bonn plans to give the East Germans western money, but as little as possible, thereby having the political justification to stop them coming over to the west. The aim is to transfer as much of the burden of unification as possible to the GDR itself, to the EEC, and above all (and we will return to this point) to the working class in the East and West. The beneficial aspects of this unification, on the other hand, the West German bourgeoisie intends to try and keep entirely for itself: ie sources of incredibly cheap labour power with which it can also put pressure on the western wages, or access to Soviet raw materials or high-tech such as space programs through historically developed connections of East German companies.
Preventing the EEC falling apart
If there is a tendency in this direction, there are also important counter-tendencies, so that it is perhaps premature to say, already today, that Europe 1992, in the sense described above, is condemned to failure from the beginning. These counter-tendencies include:
- the imperious interest of Germany itself to prevent this;
- the interest of other European countries who are terrified by the danger of being overrun by Japan. Even if its true that the tendency is towards 'each for himself', gangsters still do tend to club together to face up to another gangster.
- the attempt of the West German bourgeoisie to make Europe 1992 acceptable to the USA.
Europe '92 is not a new bloc against the USA. And it probably has no chance of coming into being if the Americans decide to sabotage it.
Bonn is presently attempting to convince Washington that Europe '92 is essentially directed against Japan, not against the USA. The West German bourgeoisie is convinced that one of the main bases of the fearful Japanese competivity on world markets is the fact that Japan's internal market is completely closed, and that high internal Japanese prices finance dumping on the world market. Bonn claims that when Japan is obliged, by protectionist measures, to construct plants within Europe, these plants are not more competitive than European ones, or at least than German factories. The message is clear: if Europe 1992 can be used to oblige Japan to open up its internal markets, it is possible to vanquish the Asiatic giant. Moreover, Bonn repeatedly points out that the European market, which will then be the largest unified market in the world, is the only means through which the USA can overcome its gigantic trade deficits: in effect, Bonn is offering a joint German-American carve-up of the European market. And for the moment, in relation to this project, the policy of the Bush administration does seem to be to reduce its 'special relationship' with Thatcher, and move closer to the United Germany as the new 'strong-man' in Europe, as the best guarantee, for the moment, that European policies go in favor and not against the interests of the USA.
Before World Wars I and II, the marxist left warned the international working class about the coming massacre, and formulated which attitude the proletariat should take towards it. Today it is our task to warn the workers about the world commercial and trade war now breaking out on a scale unprecedented in history, and to equip the workers against the deadly danger of economic nationalism: i.e, of siding with its own bourgeoisie. The costs of this war for the working class will be truly horrendous.
German unification and the possibility of a brutal recession
Until now we have shown the gigantic implications of the present chaos and decomposition for German capital in the perspective of the 1990s. But there is also an immediate perspective, that of the effects of economic and monetary union in particular. These effects will be catastrophic in particular for the working class and especially in the GDR itself. It is difficult to predict the immediate outcome of this adventure since it is an unprecedented situation in history. But one possibility may be that it will temporarily put a break on the trend of the world economy to open recession, but at the expense of ruining German state finances, and making the global contradictions even sharper. The other possibility, which we must not exclude in view of the great fragility of the present world conjuncture, is that the monetary and interest rate disorders, the investment and stock exchange panics which could crop up, might be the straw which break the camel's back, tipping the world economy into open recession.
What we do know is that the arrival of the German Mark in East Germany is going to provoke millions of sackings and an explosion of mass pauperization which in its suddenness and brutality will perhaps be unprecedented in an industrialized country in the history of capitalism, outside war. It is equally true that the incalculable costs of this drastic measure cannot be covered without a massive burdening of the West German workers ... western unemployment and social security systems, for example, will be brought to the verge of insolvency, since they will have to fund a large part of what happens in the east. Moreover, there is absolutely no guarantee that the main immediate political aim of the monetary union - preventing the migration of East Germans to the west - will even succeed. And still, the dilemma of the West German bourgeoisie in face of a capitalist world crumbling under its feet is shown by the fact that the economic effects of NOT achieving immediate unification will certainly be even more disastrous.
Lambsdorff was not joking when he recently claimed that if all-German elections were not held soon, not only East but also West Germany would soon go bankrupt (he was referring to the continuing existence of the East German stalinist bourgeoisie, which is now dreaming of continuing its over-40 year mismanagement, but this time directly financed from the west).
The disarray of the bourgeoisie after the opening of the Berlin Wall
When the wall fell, the bourgeoisie was caught confused, surprised and DIVIDED. There was a chain of political crises:
- Genscher originally favored a rapid but separate membership of the GDR to the EC, with only federative links to West Germany
- Brandt had to battle behind the scenes to get the SPD on unification lines
- a regional and communal SPD-CDU coalition was necessary to make Kohl end the laws designed to attract migration from the east, useful during the cold war, but now leading to disaster
- Bonn was briefly obliged to support both the Krenz and the Modrow governments as long as the power vacuum couldn't be filled.
- Bonn had to reverse its initial policy of hesitant economic aid to that of immediate monetary union and top speed unification
- the fight of the GDR Stalinist state apparatus for a place in the new German state caused a series of crises, from the worsening of the westward migration to the blackmail of leading politicians (not only in the east) by the Stasi (state police - Staatssicherheil)
- Kohl's maneuvers on the Oder-Neisse frontier caused internal crises and international scandals
A push for stability towards national unity
The first axis of the re-stabilization offensive has been towards re-establishing the unity of the leading bourgeois currents. Despite all conflicts and chaos, very rapidly the feeling developed that this kind of historic crisis demanded some kind of national unity. Today there is a real agreement between CDU, FDP and SPD on the fundamental problems raised after the opening of the wall: rapid unification, immediate monetary union (supported politically even by the Bundesbank, although economically it considers it suicidal), anti-migration policy towards the east, continuing NATO membership, to be extended in stages to the GDR, recognition of Oder-Neisse border.
Second Round of instability: digesting the GDR
The other axis of "stabilization" simply deflects chaos from one level to another. Full speed unification is impossible without some chaos. It provokes conflicts with the great powers and threatens to further destabilize the USSR. And monetary union is one of the most adventurist policies in human history, perhaps comparable to Hitler's Barbarossa offensive against Russia. The economic massacre of GDR industry will be so bloody, mass unemployment so high (some expect up to 4 million!) that it may even fail totally in its main immediate goal - that of stopping the mass westward migration. The medicine against chaos will probably lead to ... chaos.
Despite the immediate opposition, in particular of the European "Great Powers", to the perspective of an immediate unification of Germany after the opening of the Berlin Wall, this process has also been accelerated in the meantime, particularly with the support of the United States (whose formula for NATO membership of a united Germany is above all a formula for continued American presence in Germany and Europe at the expense not only of Germany, but also of Britain, France and the USSR), and even at the risk of further destabilizing Gorbachev's regime and the USSR. Two reasons for this:
- all the major powers are frightened by the vacuum created in central Europe, which only Germany can fill
- it is the collapse of the USSR which automatically makes Germany Europe's leading power, leading to the disappearance of the imperative for Bonn to share western European leadership with Paris, etc. On the contrary, there is little evidence, and no proof, that actual German unification really leads to a strengthening of Germany as a major power. Economically, unification is certainly a weakening, and any strategic-military advantages will probably be more than compensated for by the effects of chaos from the east. It is the realization that unification does not at all automatically mean a strengthening of Germany which has helped to make it acceptable to the "allies".
After the opening of the wall, there was a nationalist explosion within the German bourgeoisie, from Kohl to Brandt - "We Germans are the greatest," etc despite the immediate warnings of more sober ones (eg Lafontaine). Panic, fear and envy among the "allies", symbolized by open opposition to unification and Mitterrand's flying visit to East Berlin and Budapest to ensure France got a slice of this delicious cake, were typical.
- the bourgeoisie awoke from its stupid illusions. The more clearly Bonn realized that 'the cake is poisoned', the more rapidly the German bourgeoisie is obliged to eat it through the development of chaos. Now it is Bonn which panics and is made furious by the new attitude of the allies, which is to leave West Germany alone with the problems and above all with the costs of this mess.
Bonn succeeds in convincing the others that it cannot cope with the problem alone and that if they don't participate actively the result may be the destabilization of the whole of western Europe.
The coming elections: an attempt to establish stabilizing structures
In November '89, we noted that in the new situation, the necessity for the SPD to remain in opposition, to better control the working class, was no longer obligatory for the bourgeoisie in view of the retreat in workers consciousness provoked by events in the east, and that the continuation of the Kohl-Genscher government depends on it sorting out its divergences. At present it seems that not divergences, but the extension of stability, ie: West German political structures to the GDR, will be at the centre of the elections: CDU remaining slightly bigger than SPD in a united Germany, the FDP remaining "coalition maker", keeping the "Republikaner" out of parliament. There is no reason to believe that a Lafontaine-led government would be fundamentally different to the present one.
One problem is tensions and confusions within the political apparatus:
- rivalries between CDU and CSU for influence in the GDR;
- rivalries between SPD and Stalinists for control of the unions in the GDR;
- sharp divergences within the Greens on unification;
- disorientation within the leftists, most of who are clinging to a GDR state and a PDS which nobody in the east (except the remnants of Stalinism's functionaries) and nobody in the west wants any more (including the workers).
However great the stabilization attempts, new waves of anarchy are already on the horizon:
- the final collapse of the USSR;
- the world economic crisis (after the USSR, the USA is likely to be the next big sinking ship to go under);
- the break-up of the NATO.
Class struggle: the combativity of the class rests intact
It's evident that Germany is no exception in the retreat, especially of consciousness, within the working class. On the contrary, the retreat began in Germany earlier than elsewhere, in 88/89, essentially through the situation in the east:
- Moscow's arms reduction proposals provoked reformist illusions about a more peaceful capitalism;
* the annual influx of 1 million people from the east;
* the enormous "failure of communism" fuss, already launched after the Peking massacre;
- a deeper impact, through greater proximity to the east, of democratic, reformist, pacifist and inter-classist illusions which in Germany today are still greater than elsewhere.
The questions of the unificat.ion of struggles and the contestation of the unions, although posed by the struggles at Krupp in December '87, were already posed less acutely than elsewhere, and thus for the moment are all the more weakened.
On the other hand, combativity - under the impact of migration from east - instead of retreating further after the opening of wall, as might have been expected, has actually begun to recover (as is shown recently by the token union negotiation stoppages). The absence of even the least sign, for the moment, of any preparedness for material sacrifice for unification on the part of West German workers is one of the central problems of the bourgeoisie. The very idea seems to drive the last vestiges of patriotism out of many workers.
Crisis and unification: balance sheet of the '80s
The crisis plays an essential role towards unification, even when the bourgeoisie can prevent its immediate concretization in the struggles. The appearance of mass unemployment at the beginning, of a "new poverty" in the middle, and of the worst housing crisis since the war at the end of the '80s have powerfully increased the potential for a unification of struggles. But this development is contradictory and non-linear.
The modernization offensive in the '80s, the greatest 'rationalization' attack in Germany since the '20s, has partly transformed the world of labor. The modern industrial worker, often supervising several machines simultaneously, is faced with such murderous demands on energy, concentration, qualification and permanent requalification, etc, that an ever greater part of the population is automatically excluded from productive process (too old, too unhealthy, mentally not stable enough to stand the strain, not qualified enough etc).
This largely explains the paradox of mass unemployment on the one hand, but simultaneously hundreds of thousands of vacant jobs in qualified sectors on the other hand - total anarchy. Millions are unemployed, not only because there is no work, but also because they cannot match the present incredible demands. This ever-growing mass is no longer useful to capital as a pressure on wages and on those with jobs, so that there is no economic reason for keeping it alive. Thus, the most radical cuts have been in this sector; that's why Bonn stopped building public housing for this sector in the '80s.
The immediate effects of German capital's rationalization-modernization offensive has not solely been favorable to the unification of struggles, but has also contained a certain tendency to divide the class into:
- those who can still match the present production demands, who despite wage discipline, today have more income than 5 years ago, due to enormous overtime work (probably the majority of employed workers), and who, through the present shortage of qualified labor, feel that capitalism needs them, favoring individualist and corporatist illusions "we are strong enough on our own";
- those who cannot match these demands, who are increasingly marginalized or outside production, who sink into ever-greater poverty, and are often the first victims of social decomposition (hopelessness, drugs, explosions of blind violence: ie Kreuzberg in Berlin), and feel themselves isolated from the rest of the class. Linked to this (though not identical with it), we have to see the failure of unemployed struggles and the absence of a link to the employed.
Crisis and unification in perspective
The most immediate effects of the historic rupture stemming from the collapse of the east include:
- illusions about a boom lasting years through;
* Eastern Europe
* Europe 92
* a "peace bonus" through a radical reduction of military spending
- fears of a new poverty through German unification, thus the situation contains not only a radicalizing effect, but also tendencies towards a division of the class (west against east);
- monetary union will at least double the number of unemployed Germans;
- a true job massacre in the sectors overproducing the most seems inevitable, especially in the car industry!;
- the costs of the '90s, the enormous investment programs, the writing off of unpayable debts from peripheral countries, etc, demand further vast income transfers from the proletariat to capital.
- if 'rationalization' continues at the present pace, by the mid-1990s, millions of workers will be faced with total exhaustion and will "burn out" before their 40th birthday - the very substance of the class would be threatened.
The main difficulties to the political unification of the class
The re-enforcement of social democracy, the unions, reformist ideology, pacifism, inter-classism. All this cannot be overcome easily, quickly, or automatically, but demands:
- engaging in repeated struggles;
- collective mobilization and discussion;
- communist intervention.
The lessons of the past 20 years of crisis and of struggle have not disappeared, but have been made less accessible, buried under a pile of confusions. So there is no room for complacency, the treasure must be brought back to the surface; otherwise the class will fail in its historic task.
The backwardness of GDR proletariat
Although the GDR was part of Germany until 1945, the effects of Stalinism have been profoundly catastrophic on the working class. There is a fundamental backwardness which goes beyond even its lack of experience with democracy, 'free' unions, the violent hatred of 'communism', etc. The isolation behind walls has led to a real provincialization of the workers. The "shortage economy" has led to seeing foreigners as enemies who "buy up everything and leave us with nothing". Soviet "internationalism" and isolation from the world market have encouraged a powerful nationalism. Whereas in West Germany, perhaps 1 worker in 10 is racist, in the GDR 1 in 10 is not racist. The command economy has led to a loss of dynamism and initiative, to sluggishness and servility, forever "waiting for orders", a certain slavishness (not even attenuated by a thriving black market such as in Poland). And the technical backwardness: most workers aren't even used to using telephones. Stalinism has left the class terribly divided through nationalism, ethnic, religious conflicts, informing (probably 1 worker out of every five regularly informed the Stasi about his colleagues).
We have to be glad that when Germany was divided after the war, 63 million ended on the western, and only 17 million on the eastern side - and not the other way round.
The Western workers' crucial role: the historic alternative is still open
The vast nationalist counter-revolutionary wave rolling from the east has, for the moment, broken on the rock of the West German proletariat. By this we do not mean that in the east the counter-revolution has gained an irreversible triumph. But if they may still participate in revolutionary movements in the future, this is only possible because the workers in the west have not been drawn onto the same bourgeois terrain which in the east today is as powerful as in Spain during the civil war. The working class in West Germany has shown that it does not for the moment have the same inclinations towards nationalism. The typical West German worker today associates nationalism with defeats in world war and terrible poverty, a certain prosperity on the contrary with the EC, the world market, etc. Every second West German industrial depends on the world market. And even the migration from the east has had strong dividing effects essentially on the weaker sectors not within the main 'battalions' of the class.
The proletariat remains a decisive force in the world situation. For example, if the German bourgeoisie, despite the unbelievable costs of unification, the battle for the world market etc, were to embark on a course of rearming to become a military super-power, the cost would be so high that it would probably lead to a civil war. The class in the western industrial countries remains undefeated, a force which the bourgeoisie permanently reckon with.
We don't know for sure if the working class can emerge from the present difficulties and re-establish its own class perspective. And we cannot even console ourselves with the deterministic illusion that "communism is inevitable". But we know that the proletariat today not only has its chains to lose - but that it still has a world to gain, and that for this it is not, yet too late.
 The economy is not automatically and immediately an antidote to the retreat on the question of the unification of struggles. But in the longer term, open recession is a powerful force towards unification. The situation of world capital today is ruinous, even without open recession.