At the time of writing, the US armed forces are encircling and asphyxiating Iraq. There's every sign that we're heading towards a murderous confrontation for which the populations of the region will pay a terrible price. They will be made victims of privations, bombing, gas, terror. Victims of war. Victims of capitalism.
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait is fundamentally the result of the new historic situation opened up by the collapse of the eastern bloc. It is another expression of the growing decomposition of the capitalist system. And the gigantic deployment of armed force by the great powers, mainly by the USA to be more precise, reveals their increasing concern to do something about the disorder that is spreading across the world.
But in the long run the reaction of the great powers will lead to the opposite of what they intended, turning into another factor of destabilization and disorder. In the long run, it will further accelerate the slide into chaos, dragging the whole of humanity with it.
There's only one force which can offer an alternative - the world proletariat. And the name of that alternative is communism.
What was supposed to happen after the disappearance of the eastern bloc? A new era of peace and prosperity was going to begin. By working together, the USA and the USSR were going to put an end to the conflicts which have ravaged the world since 1945. Perpetuating the Stalinist lie about the socialist character of the USSR and the eastern countries, the western bourgeoisie proclaimed the victory of capitalism over 'communism' and 'marxism'. The eastern countries were going to enjoy the delights of western-style capitalism, and the world economy would be revived by this new market. In sum, the best of all possible worlds was before us. Marx was declared old hat, at best a curiosity. Lenin was triumphantly referred to as the 'great corpse' of the year. Certain bourgeois ideologues, carried away by enthusiasm, even proclaimed the end of history!
Six months. Six months was all it took to explode all these chimaeras, all these lies. As the communist groups, the organizations which really remained faithful to marxism, pointed out then and continue to do so now, capitalism is descending inexorably into economic catastrophe.
The countries of the periphery, of the so called 'third world', are daily hell for the immense majority of their inhabitants; a hell which gets worse and worse.
The countries of the former eastern bloc are sunk in the economic swamp inherited from Stalinist state capitalism; a complete and dramatic disaster for millions of human beings, without any hope of improvement, or even of any slow-down in the decline.
The USA is entering into open recession, a fact openly recognized by the bourgeoisie itself. The world's first economic power is falling and it's already dragging the main industrial countries, such as Britain, along with it.
Six months later, all the grand declarations about peace are being reduced to naught by the conflict in the Middle East. And the year's 'great corpse', Lenin, returns to affirm with renewed vigor that "in the capitalist system, particularly in its imperialist stage, wars are inevitable."
The illusion lasted six months. Now the masks are falling and the reality of the capitalist system in decomposition comes to the surface - a system of implacable barbarism, a system based on misery, hunger, catastrophes, on the seizure of hostages, on murder and repression, massacres and wars. A system covered in muck and blood, which is what Karl Marx said about capitalism when it was still in its youth; in its period of senility, it's showing itself to be far worse.
The lies are crumbling and the new historic situation opened up by the collapse of the countries of Stalinist state capitalism and by the disappearance of the two imperialist blocs, far from opening up a new era of peace, is being revealed in all its horror.
The end of the 'cold war' doesn't mean the end of imperialist conflicts.
"In the period of capitalist decadence, all states are imperialist, and take the necessary measures to satisfy their appetites: war economy, arms production, etc. We must state clearly that the deepening convulsions of the world economy can only sharpen the opposition between different states, including and increasingly on the military level. The difference, in the coming period, will be that these antagonisms which were previously contained and used by the two great imperialist blocs will now come to the fore. The disappearance of the Russian imperialist gendarme, and that to come of the American gendarme as far as its one-time 'partners' are concerned, opens the door to the unleashing of a whole series of more local rivalries. For the moment, these rivalries and confrontations cannot degenerate into a world war (even supposing the proletariat was no longer capable of putting up a resistance). However, with the disappearance of the discipline imposed by the two blocs, these conflicts are liable to become more frequent, and more violent, particularly in those areas where the proletariat is weakest." ('After the Collapse of the Eastern Bloc, Destabilization and Chaos', International Review 61, 2nd Quarter 1990).
Six months later, the reality of capitalist society, the reality of a system rotting on its feet and sinking deeper and deeper into chaos, has strikingly confirmed these lines.
Iraq's invasion of Kuwait is part of the slide into chaos
Prosperity and peace, we were promised after the fall of the Berlin Wall. What we've got is crisis and war. The war with Iraq isn't all down to the 'new Hitler' Saddam Hussein. After the events in Eastern Europe, it is another major expression of the phase of decomposition which capitalism has entered. It is the product of the new historic situation opened up by the collapse of the eastern bloc, the product of the growing tendency towards a loss of control over the situation by the world bourgeoisie, towards a war of each against all, towards instability and anarchy throughout the world.
Contrary to what we're being told, the striking aspect of the crisis in the Gulf isn't the unanimity of the great powers in their condemnation of and opposition to Iraq - we'll come back to this - but the fact that a country like Iraq is daring to defy the order established in the region by the world's leading power, without the assent or support of another great power.
Yesterday, ie a year ago, Saddam Hussein would have been led to see reason very quickly by the higher logic of the conflict between two imperialist blocs. Today, his adventure has irredeemably changed and destabilized the whole of the Middle East. Now all the countries of the region, the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Jordan, even Syria, are entering into an era of instability. The whole region is going towards 'Lebanonization.'
Inevitably, conflicts of this type, more and more numerous, less and less controlled by the great powers, and are going to proliferate throughout the world because of the economic catastrophe hitting all countries, big or small, and because of a world situation where the discipline of the two blocs has ceased to exist. As a result, small states stuck in a dead-end will be pushed more and more into military adventures.
After the war against Iran, a horrible butchery which left a million dead, Iraq found itself with a debt of more than $70 billion, for a population of 17 million inhabitants ($4,000 debt per person, including women, children and the elderly!), and with an army of ... one million soldiers.
The country was quite incapable of paying back its debts. Completely asphyxiated, it had no alternative but to play the only ace it held: the biggest army in the region. Not only did it do a bit of armed robbery with the treasuries of Kuwait, it is also trying to assert itself as the dominant power over the entire region which is so important from an economic and strategic point of view. This is the unavoidable path of imperialism which all states are forced to take by the growing economic crisis and the general decadence of capitalist society. And in the phase of decomposition, the transition from trade war to imperialist war has become all the more rapid.
Hussein isn't a madman. He is the man of the situation, a product of contemporary capitalism. He's even the creation of those who are fighting him today. Yesterday the western powers didn't have enough words of praise for his far-sightedness, his courage, his greatness, when Iraq was their instrument for bringing Khomeini's Iran to heel. Yesterday, the great western democracies themselves armed Iraq with the most modern engines of death. And they continued to do so without any qualms even when he was using these weapons to bombard and terrorize civil populations in the big towns of Iran, and gas Kurdish towns in Iraq itself.
They only stopped, or limited, their military deliveries when Iraq was no longer able to pay for them or for its debts. This is what the world bourgeoisie understands by the defense of 'international law' and 'the rights of man.'
Particularly repulsive is the cynical use of thousands of hostages by Iraq and by... the western powers. It's true that Saddam Hussein's seizure of hostages is a hateful act. It's the deed of a hunted beast, surrounded and with no avenue of escape.
But the hostage issue is being used quite consciously by the western bourgeoisie to build up a deafening propaganda campaign which is intended to justify its war aims and enroll the population behind them. If necessary, it won't hesitate to sacrifice the hostages, blaming it on the 'butcher of Baghdad' as he's now presented in the bourgeois press.
Do we have to remind anyone of the shameful use made of the US embassy hostages in Iran in 1979? It's just been revealed that this episode allowed the CIA - whose director at the time was a certain G. Bush - to get Reagan elected and increase military spending.
Let's have no illusion: all possible means, however ignoble and barbaric, and particularly terror and terrorism, are going to be used more and more in the coming conflicts by the various states involved. Because other conflicts will inevitably arise, other Husseins armed and supported by the great powers will launch themselves into wars of the same kind. Local imperialist conflicts, products of the growing chaos into which capitalism is sinking, are going to further aggravate and accelerate this chaos.
The USA alone can be the world's policeman
Faced with this irreversible tendency towards chaos, the great world powers are trying to react. Just as the western countries continue to give their support to Gorbachev in his attempts to deal with the anarchy in the USSR, so they can't remain passive in the face of Iraq's adventure and the dangers of destabilization it contains.
The unanimous condemnation of Iraq by the great powers expresses an awareness of this danger and a will to limit and prevent the outbreak of these kinds of conflicts. Not because of their concern for universal peace or the wellbeing of the populations, but in order to maintain their power and their grip over the world. What they call 'peace' and 'civilization' is just the most brutal and barbaric imperialism, the power of the strongest over the weakest.
Of course it's the USA, the world's leading power, which has reacted with the greatest breadth and determination. The blockade adopted by the UN was imposed above all by the USA. The intervention of western military forces has been carried out under the inflexible leadership of the USA.
The Americans could not allow the Arabian Peninsula to plunge into war, could not let Hussein's Iraq control the world's main sources of oil. And above all they needed to call a halt to the imperialist, adventurist, war-like aspirations of the increasing number of regimes which might be tempted to imitate Saddam Hussein.
The godfather of the world's mafia doesn't like it when small neighborhood crooks think that everything is permissible and start disrupting business with unauthorized hold-ups. It also can't allow its authority, and the fear it inspires, to be put into question. Thus the formidable deployment of American military power, not only to cleanse the outrage with blood, to punish Iraq, and probably even get rid of Hussein, but also to make an example to the whole world and call a halt to the slide into chaos.
The American military force is the biggest since the Vietnam War and is backed up by the biggest logistical operation since the Second World War, according to the US generals.
More than 100,000 men already on the ground in Saudi Arabia. Two aircraft carriers in the Sea of Oman, and others in the Mediterranean. The most sophisticated bombers, the F-111 and the F-117, labeled ‘stealth' because undetectable by radar, are based in Turkey and Arabia. Up to 700 planes, 500 of them fighters. Innumerable missiles pointing at Iraq.
Although this information is supposed to be secret, the admiring bourgeois journalists, beside themselves with excitement at the joyous approach of open warfare, tell us that offensive nuclear submarines are in place around the aircraft carriers. From the Oman Sea, or from the west of. Cyprus, they could bombard Baghdad with an accuracy of up to 500 meters, we are informed. But that's nothing compared with the cruise missiles which can be launched by the American battleships also in place there; they can hit a target in Baghdad with an accuracy of a few meters. Fantastic, eh? For the journalists, a marvel of efficiency. In reality, a nightmare.
A nightmare because we know quite well that the bourgeoisie, whatever its nationality, is quite capable of the mass bombings of civilians. Because we know quite ,well that the American bourgeoisie, saluted by its allies at the time, didn't hesitate to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 - even though Japan had been asking for an armistice for a month - simply to stop the advance of ... the USSR in the Far East.
Because US aviation showed its savoir-faire about hitting human targets when it bombarded Panama (December 1989), the poor quarters especially, leaving 10,000 dead, or Tripoli (March 1986), Because we know very well that Bush and his allies could well decide to raze Baghdad to the ground - with or without hostages - to make an example, just like Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurdish population.
It's the best of all possible worlds, capitalism, which holds millions of human beings hostage and which doesn't hesitate to sacrifice them when necessary.
The weapons are now being deployed on an enormous scale and are extraordinarily destructive. Bush has threatened to respond to gas attacks with more gas attacks, and even with nuclear weapons. Horror has become a banality and the threat of using nuclear weapons has become something natural, quite in the order of things. No one takes offence at it. Not even the bourgeois pacifists who are usually only pacifist in times of peace, but as bellicose as anyone else when the conflicts break out.
But hypocrisy and cynicism don't end there.
It appears, discretely, that the USA deliberately allowed Iraq to engage in its adventure. The international bourgeois press has clearly indicated it. For example, the French intelligence "are not unaware of the fact that American intelligence services had precise enough information to prove that Iraq was preparing to invade Kuwait ... Probably they took advantage of this 'expected circumstance' (the words of a high official) to justify a military face-off. Weren't the Americans waiting for Saddam Hussein to be 'in the wrong', thus allowing the US to 'legitimately' destroy the Iraqi military infrastructures which could have been used by the Baghdad regime to produce nuclear weapons?".
Whether true or false - and no doubt it is true - this lays bare the methods of the bourgeoisie, its lies, its manipulations, the way it uses events. It also helps us to see more clearly how cynically it has used the thousands of hostages held by Iraq to prepare 'public opinion' for direct military intervention.
But whether true or false, it doesn't alter the fact that Iraq had no choice in the matter. The country was driven to it. And the USA allowed Saddam Hussein's adventure to happen, exploited it, conscious of a situation of growing chaos and the need to make an example.
The USSR: a second-rate imperialist power
Every day there is further confirmation of the fact that the USSR has fallen to the level of a second-rate power. In this conflict, despite the loss of the Iraqi market for its weapons, it has had no choice but to line up behind American power and policy. It's done this from the start, particularly at the UN. From this point of view, the USA's attitude towards Gorbachev is significant: Bush doesn't hesitate to call him when he considers it necessary. Of course at Helsinki they kept up appearances. But this has to be interpreted as Bush's way of reinforcing Gorbachev's fragile power in the USSR itself in exchange, obviously, for its support in the conflict with Iraq.
The economy of the USSR, which is in a state of incredible dilapidation, is increasingly dependent on the support of the western countries. Riots against shortages are on the increase. The absence of tobacco and vodka has given rise to violent riots, leaving many wounded. Even basic necessities like bread are in short supply. Real famines are not far off.
A large number of Republics are in a state of civil war, and most of them have declared themselves sovereign and independent: there are pogroms and massacres between nationalities, and even confrontations between rival militias in the same community (Armenia).
All this shows what a state of disorder, the USSR is in. Its main concern is that the chaos outside, particularly in the Middle East, so close to its borders and its Moslem Republics, doesn't get worse and further aggravate the already considerable chaos within the USSR. We are a long way here from the time when the USSR, at the head of the eastern bloc, tried to throw oil from the slightest local conflict in order to unsettle the status quo favorable to the western bloc.
The USSR's feeble participation on the police operation in the Gulf, whose objectives it fully shares, is due to the weakening of its military apparatus, which can't be measured by the number of ships, planes, tanks and soldiers it possesses, but by the fact that the Red Army is in a state of disintegration and is already incapable of controlling the internal situation (as for example in the problem of disarming the Armenian militia); the pathetic argument put forward by a Russian official to justify this low level of participation says a great deal about the impotence of this country ("contrary to the American army, the Red Army is not used to intervening outside its frontiers, and has never done this.")
The war in the Middle East confirms that the USSR can no longer play the role of leader of an imperialist bloc, and that it can't even have its own foreign policy. In less than a year, the former number two world power has fallen to a level below that of Germany, Japan, and even Britain or France.
The new imperialist order: the war of each against all
The breadth of the military measures taken by the USA, the intransigent attitude it has shown, testify to its intention of taking advantage of the situation created by the Iraqi adventure in order to affirm clearly its 'leadership' of the whole world. At a time when Japan or the European countries (especially Germany of course) could be tempted, given the disappearance of any threat from the USSR, to challenge the discipline they have observed up to now and make the most of their economic advantages over an American economy that is less and less competitive), the USA's timely demonstration of strength permits it to show that it alone is capable of acting as the world's gendarme.
It's already clear that this local war is going to reinforce the USA's position in relation to the other big powers, who have shown themselves incapable of maintaining the stability of the world by themselves. With the growing tendency towards the dislocation of the whole system of international relations, the USA is no longer able to count on any other country to police such a crucial zone, whose instability won't at all diminish once Iraq has been brought to heel. The USA has decided to maintain a massive military presence in the Middle East. The first official declarations already talk about staying at least until 1992.
Furthermore, America's control over this eminently strategic region, the world's biggest source of oil, is going to be accentuated. This will be a precious asset given the aggravation of the trade war with Europe and Japan.
And, to avoid any possible misunderstanding, the American press has dotted the 'i's, referring to the wheeling and dealing over who pays the bill for the USA's 'Operation Desert Shield':
"As for Germany and Japan, neither has begun to contribute at a level equal to its need for secure oil supply. To be sure, Bonn is preoccupied with reunification. Yet Germany would be shortsighted to underestimate its debt to America's sacrifice. That is even more true for Tokyo." (The New York Times from the International Herald Tribune, 31.8.90).
As we can see, the unanimous condemnation of Iraq by the big industrialized countries isn't the product of goodwill as the press would have it. It's the product of a relation of force, in which the USA imposes its military domination, and in which there's no country able to play the role of leader of a rival imperialist bloc, as the USSR did in the past.
The unanimity of the great powers against Iraq isn't the product of peace, or a factor working for peace; it's the product of imperialist rivalries and in the long run will serve to aggravate these rivalries.
This forced unanimity has made it plain to the German and Japanese bourgeoisies that they may be economic giants, but they're still politically impotent. Hence the growing pressure within these countries to change the constitutions they inherited from 1945, which limit their armed forces and their field of intervention. There could be no clearer proof of what diplomacy and international policy means for the bourgeoisie: it's the diplomacy and the policy of weapons, of military force. But even if these constitutional changes are adopted, it will take money, and above all time, before these two countries could equip themselves with a military machine commensurate with their imperialist ambitions, ie capable of rivaling the USA at this level.
Capitalism is dragging humanity into the abyss of barbarism
At the time of writing, indeed since August 2, the day of the Iraqi invasion, there hasn't been any sign that the dynamic towards US military action against Iraq is being countered or held back. All the diplomatic approaches can be seen clearly for what they are: preparations for war. What's more, all Hussein's offers to negotiate have been rejected by Bush, who insists that the Iraqi army must be withdrawn from Kuwait. This is the only condition for avoiding war, and even then it's not sure.
Such a retreat would mean political suicide for Hussein - and no doubt suicide pure and simple as well. It's hard to see him bowing to the diktats of the great powers now. He can only take his adventure another step forward.
Initially, US intervention will call a halt to the destabilization of the Middle East. But this will be temporary and won't reverse the growing tendency towards the Lebanonization of the region. Similarly, it will temporarily stop the outbreak of such conflicts in the world, but without reversing the overall trend. The USA's restoration of order, its order, will be based on military force alone. But an order based on terror is never stable, and less than ever today in a period of catastrophic world economic crisis, of growing local tensions. The future is one of the explosions of local and civil wars. And the future is near. In fact, it has already arrived.
Look at the conflicts going on now. There are regular military clashes on the frontier between Pakistan and India. And both these countries already have the atomic bomb ... The war in Afghanistan continues in its murderous manner. In Cambodia. In Lebanon. The list is long. This is capitalism.
In Liberia, the population has been subjected to months of terror, rape, extortion and massacre by armed gangs, basically tribal bands, drunk with blood and killing. And all this under the unblinking eyes of western media and a US military flotilla anchored off Monrovia. But Liberia doesn't have the economic and strategic interests of the Middle East.
In fact, the western bourgeoisies are abandoning a good part of Africa to its own devices. The great powers' growing disinterest in the chaotic situation prevailing in Africa says a lot about their cynicism and their inability to counter-act the slide into decomposition.
For Africa is a particularly good example of what the rotting capitalist system has in store for us. The continent is being swept by riots, massacres, wars, more and more of them, increasingly murderous, nearly all along tribal divisions: in Liberia, in the former French colonies, in South Africa itself, between the partisans of Buthelezi and of Mandela. Do we need to remind anyone of the famines, the epidemics, both of 'new' diseases like AIDS and of ones that had practically disappeared, like Malaria? And all of this accompanied by frenzied corruption. But isn't this also happening in a number of countries in Asia, even in the USSR? And this is the only perspective that capitalism offers us.
This descent into the depths of the abyss is accompanied by a decomposition of all the 'moral' values that capitalism lays claim to. We can see this very clearly in the conflict in the Middle East. Impudence, hypocrisy, lies and corruption at every level; gangsterism on a planetary scale, millions of human lives under threat. Blind terrorism, murder, assassination have becomes principles of government. They are even a sign of an accomplished statesman: someone who takes thousands of people hostages is a great strategist. And even greater and more respected is the one who doesn't hesitate to sacrifice these same hostages on the altars of bourgeois law and principle. Whether at the economic, social, political or ideological level or even at the level of its morality and principles, this system is bankrupt and is dragging the whole of humanity towards catastrophe.
The proletariat is the only class with a different perspective
"Historically, the dilemma facing humanity today is posed in the following way: a fall into barbarism, or salvation through socialism ... Thus we are today living out the truth which Marx and Engels formulated for the first time, as the scientific basis for socialism, in that great document, The Communist Manifesto: socialism has become a historic necessity... not only because the proletariat can no longer live in the material conditions being prepared for it by the capitalist classes, but also because, if the proletariat doesn't carry out its class duty and make socialism a reality, the abyss awaits us." (Rosa Luxemburg, Speech to the Founding Congress of the KPD, December 1918).
Seventy-two years later, these words still apply. They could have been written today. Only the world working class, the proletariat, can offer the alternative to the ghastly cataclysm of capitalism in decay: communism.
The terrible open recession which has begun in the USA, and which is rebounding onto the world economy, is going to mean, for the whole world proletariat, but especially for the workers in the industrial countries of Europe, a redoubled attack on living conditions: millions of redundancies, falling wages, deteriorating working conditions, etc - and we've already seen things getting worse over the last few months.
And what's more, the world bourgeoisie hasn't lost a moment in profiting from the conflict in the Middle East to demand sacrifices in the name of the national interest, and ... the oil price rises. We've already seen this trick twice. It's clear: the workers, particularly those in the west, will be asked to pay for the cost of military intervention.
The working class must not yield to the siren-songs about national unity and the defense of the capitalist economy. It must not follow the bourgeoisie and take sides in the conflict against Iraq. This isn't the workers' fight. They have everything to lose and nothing to gain from it. The only ground on which they can fight is that of the struggle for the defense of their living conditions. Against economic attacks, against austerity and sacrifices, against the logic of capital which leads only to poverty and war. Against national unity, against the defense of the nation and bourgeois democracy in all countries. .
Today, one year after the end of Stalinism and the collapse of the eastern bloc, after the huge propaganda campaign about the victory of capitalism and the triumph of peace, it's clear for every worker that world capitalism is irreversibly bankrupt. It's equally clear that decadent capitalism means imperialist war. Crisis and war are two moments in the life of capitalism, and the one can only fuel the other. Two sides of one coin. But the new historic element is that the coin itself is decomposing, dragging humanity in a direction in which crisis and war will increasingly get melded together.
The longer the agony of capitalism goes on, the more devastating its ravages will be. The more the decomposition of capitalist social relations advances, the more it threatens to compromise the very perspective of the proletarian revolution and handicap the future construction of communism.
The massive and increasing destruction of the productive forces - factories, machines, workers ejected from production; the destruction of the environment, of the countryside, the anarchic growth of dump-cities in which millions live in atrocious conditions, mostly without jobs; the atomization and destruction of social relations; the ravages caused by new epidemics, drugs, famine, war, are so many dramas and catastrophes making the construction of communist society more difficult.
The stakes are becoming more and more dramatic. The proletariat doesn't have an unlimited time to accomplish its tasks. The victory of the proletarian revolution or the destruction of humanity - that's the alternative. For the proletariat, there's no choice but to wage a struggle that leads to the destruction of capitalism and the construction of another society, in which hunger, war and exploitation are no more.
The road to this communist society will be long and arduous. But there is no other road.
 See the article on the crisis on this issue.
 Lenin, ‘Resolution on pacifism and the peace slogan', Conference of the sections in Exile of the RSDLP, March 1915.
 A former member of the CIA recently revealed the secret deals made at the time between the CIA and the Iranian authorities, deals which ensured that the hostages would be kept long enough to facilitate Carter's defeat in the elections. (This revelation was published in a number of papers in different countries: Liberation in France, Cambio 16 in Spain...).
 As the New York Times and Le Monde Dimplomatique themselves recalled in August 1990.
 Le Monde, 29.8.90
 It wouldn't be the first time that the American bourgeoisie acted in this way. On a much bigger scale, it lured its future enemy to make the first strike in a war that had become inevitably, so that it could present it as the aggressor. We refer to the Japanese attack on the US fleet in Pearl Harbor (Hawaii) in December 1941, which provoked the US's official entry into the war. Later on it was clearly shown that the US President Roosevelt did all he could to incite Japan to take such an initiative, notably by reducing the bases' defenses to a minimum (most of the US soldiers were on leave), even though he knew perfectly well that Japan was getting ready to enter the war. Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor was used to build up ‘national unity' around Roosevelt, and to silence any dissent, both in the population and in certain sectors of the bourgeoisie.